Pop Goes the Weasel (Short Story No. 45)
These short stories will be part of the sequel to my novel The Lady Who Loved Bones. Any suggestions for improvement or for future stories are welcome.
Mountain man turned gold mine owner, Hex Hawkins, and Irish dwarf and recent paraplegic, Tiny Tim Leary, had covered about half the distance to their destination Cripple Creek when they heard loud music as they rode. The sun was just setting, and it was time to camp for the night on this hot and humid evening in 1867 along the Bozeman Trail in Montana Territory.
“I recognize that tune,” Tiny Tim said.
“Yup, sounds a mite familiar to me too,” Hex agreed. “What is it?”
“‘Pop Goes the Weasel,”’ Tiny Tim replied as he began to sing some lyrics:
Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.
“Them words don’t make much sense to me,” Hex complained.
“That is because you don’t work in London’s textile industry,” Tiny Tim responded. “Or in tough times pawn your coat on a Monday and claim it back before Sunday.”
“Yup, that makes it perfectly clear for sure,” Hex muttered sarcastically. “I will say that losing your legs hasn’t hurt your singing voice any.”
Tiny Tim lamented, “I’d run away to join the circus again, but unfortunately I can no longer run. I was taking that steamboat that exploded to go off and join P. T. Barnum.”
As they got closer they heard “Pop Goes the Weasel” being shouted about every thirty seconds. They came upon a strange group of people dancing a jig to the tune as they sang along.
Up and down the City Road,
In and out the Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.
Tiny Tim said to Hex knowingly, “The Eagle was a London pub near the City Road. These people likely spent all their money on drink in the pub and then pawned their coat to raise some more money for spirits.”
The dancing stopped and the ladies in the group eagerly approached the two strangers.
“These two are handsome gents,” one of the ladies observed.
“At least compared to the freaks we got with us,” another lady added. She pointed at the circus dwarf and the other young women giggled.
The handsomest man in showbiz
“Oweya the day lassies?” Tiny Tim greeted.
“Jumping Jehosaphats, it’s a fucking leprechaun!” Wee Willie Wilson the dwarf and circus clown blurted.
“That’s exactly what Shorty said the first time he set eyes on Tiny Tim,” Hex said.
The sensual circus bearded lady Anne Hope said, “We know Shorty. He’s also known as Leslie Baxter, the sheriff of Helena. Sometimes he performs as a clown for the Great Western Circus.”
“That’s our pal, Shorty,” Hex said.
“Yup, we heard he became sheriff of Helena,” Tiny Tim said. “I bet he don’t catch many outlaws. He’s so dumb he can’t tell skunks from house cats. He has a ten-dollar Stetson on a five-cent head. Talking about singing, his singing is enough to make a she-wolf jealous. His voice sounds like someone forgot to grease the wagon.”
“Why don’t you tell us how you really feel, but that sure sounds like the Shorty we know,” Anne Hope concurred. “He sure can’t catch that murdering Captain Taz. Neither can the sheriff of Virginia City Hiram Brown, Marshal Neil Howie, Pinkerton agent Helen James, or famed bounty hunter Thomas Tate Tobin. Shorty is on the way to Cripple Creek right now along with Lady Hannah Monroe and others to again try to apprehend this serial killer named Taz. We were along with them but separated so they could go off and investigate a mass murder. Taz used a Gatling gun to massacre the children at a schoolhouse outside of Virginia City. He kidnapped the young and pretty schoolmarm, Priscilla Wilson.”
Hex said solemnly, “I intend to kill Captain Taz if I see him. He’s stole his last woman.”
Anne Hope and the others invited Hex and Tiny Tim to make camp with them. The group gasped as Hex helped Tiny Tim off his horse, and they noticed he had no legs.
Anne said sweetly, “Timmy, you remind me of a fella back in New York City who had no legs. He worked for P.T. Barnum, as I did. His name was Eli Bowen, and he was known as ‘The Legless Wonder’ and ‘The Handsomest Man in Showbiz.’ Eli was the only legless man in the world with feet protruding from his hips. This was due to a rare birth defect. He was the very best at acrobatic tumbling, such as cartwheels, somersaults, and backflips.”
“Could he walk on his hands like this?” Tiny Tim questioned, as he demonstrated proudly.
“Sure he could,” Anne answered. “Can you do any tricks? With your pecker perhaps? Maybe you can join our Great Western Circus.”
Tiny Tim pulled the .36 caliber Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver from under his kilt. “Just like Wild Bill’s,” he said. He proceeded to shoot the outline of an Indian head in bullet holes and cigarettes from the mouths of volunteers.
Anne Hope convinced Tiny Tim to join them after they went off alone for an hour. Hex, in a hurry to meet up with Hannah Monroe, went off on his own.
# # #
Another one bites the dust
Butch Baker, Captain Taz’ right-hand man, persuaded his boss to make a gift of the pretty schoolmarm to him. Taz finally relented, but only after having had his way repeatedly with the young woman, who constantly screamed the word “No.”
“She’s rode hard and put up wet,” Taz muttered as Butch dragged her away. “I want to get that blonde bone hunter Lady Monroe or whatever her name is back. I never got the chance to make her choke on my bone. I want to make her squeal like a stuck pig. Then maybe I’ll cut her up and eat her liver and other delicacies.”
# # #
Butch Baker, along with two other outlaws and the schoolmarm in tow headed toward Cripple Creek and a rendevouz with Captain Taz, more of the gang, and the fighting animals. After a day of traveling the rough route, they stopped for the night.
Soon Tiny Tim, Anne Hope, and their group approached Butch’s campfire and stopped. Rifles were menacingly pointed at them in greeting.
“We’re friendly,” Anne Hope insisted. “We just saw your fire and stopped to say howdy.”
“Howdy,” Butch said about as unfriendly as you can say that word. “Lady, you look like Jesus with that beard. Who is that doggynobber with you?” he asked, nodding at Tiny Tim.
“She looks just like Wilgefortis,” Wee Willie suggested. “Who was crucified, like Jesus,” he added, “Just like in our circus.”
“What the hell is a doggyknobber?” Anne asked.
Butch answered, “A man who has sex with an ugly woman. One with a beard like yours qualifies.”
“Shaving is for pussies,” Anne snapped. “Literally.
“Yup,” Tiny Tim agreed.
Butch snarled at Tim and spat, “Hey cripple, you are so stupid it makes me want to stab my eyes so I never have to look at you again.”
Tiny Tim noticed the naked and bloody Priscilla Wilson restrained to a wagon wheel. “What did you do her?”
“Yup, yer as dumb as a box of rocks,” Butch snorted. “We pretended we was Injuns and did to her what Injuns do to white wimmin.”
“And you massacred all those children at the schoolhouse,” Anne Hope accused.
“Yup,” Butch nodded. “That was like shootin’ fish in a barrel. Why don’t you bring them back from the dead, Jesus? And while you are at it, give yer boyfriend there some legs. He looks real foolish floppin’ around with no legs.”
Anne Hope said, “Freaks, offend one and you offend them all.” She reached under Tiny Tim’s kilt and grabbed the second hard object she could find, his revolver. She pointed it at Butch’s balls. “If I were Jesus, you’d go straight to hell.” And then she pulled the trigger and shouted, “Pop goes the weasel!”