Characters: James, Marsha
Rating: PG for subject matter
Summary: James is never too old for a scolding
Notes: Canon. Total spoiler for the next chapter, considering that’s what I wrote it for.
Word Count: 946
James opened the front door as softly as he could. It was late, very late, past three in the morning to be exact. It had been a rough night at the club. It started with an unexpected visit from their Prohibition agent, demanding his monthly bribe money early. Luckily, James had enough cash on hand to satisfy the man, and he skulked out, looking the other way as so many of the agents did.
Then there had been the fights. Plural. The first had been when Carlos hadn’t gotten the gin poured fast enough for the liking of one rather large man. James and the infamous Stanley who’d once refused James’ entrance into the speakeasy had thrown him out with much ceremony – they wanted the other patrons to see what happened to those who didn’t follow the rules. The second fight, the bigger one, was over a flapper with short black hair, an even shorter black skirt, and a turned-up nose. It had been later, and the crowd was drunker, and James had ended up getting punched twice in his efforts to break it up. He’d managed to wipe the blood from his split lip away, and soothe it with one of the creams in Cindy’s dressing room (he thanked himself for giving the new singers different rooms and keeping his wife’s intact). His eye, on the other hand, was still throbbing and he was certain that had already turned a lovely shade of purple. That would take a little more creativity to explain.
He paused just inside the door, and took off his coat and shoes. There was nothing he wanted more than to crawl into bed, snuggle up to his beautiful wife, and sleep until he wasn’t tired anymore. Luckily, there was a full moon and he could see his way up the stairs easily. He grinned; sleep was just moments away.
“You’re home awful late, James,” a voice spoke from the darkness of the parlor.
James jumped about a foot. “Mama?”
He heard the sound of a match, and one of the small lamps on one of the end tables burst to life.
“Goodness!” she gasped, seeing his face in the light. “What happened to you?”
“This? It’s nothing,” he said. He made an exaggerated yawn. “I’m pretty tired, Mama…”
“Then you shouldn’t have stayed out so late. Where were you?”
“I was at work.”
“James, I’ve been very patient with you and your vague descriptions of your goings on…”
“Mama, I’m a grown man with a son of my own. I don’t answer to you!”
“I’m still your mother, James, and I worry about you. Why won’t you tell me what it is you do? Are you ashamed of it?”
“No, but you don’t want to know.”
“Of course I want to know!”
“No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Fine. I run a speakeasy, Mama. I make my living selling illegal liquor to dames and drugstore cowboys and by bribing Prohibition agents to look the other way. Tonight, I had to break up a fight over some flapper and that’s why I’ve got a black eye and a split lip.”
Marsha stumbled backwards, gripping the back of the sofa for support.
“You don’t,” she insisted.
“I do,” he replied with less conviction as he watched the horror of his mother’s face.
Her grip on the back of the sofa waivered, and James rushed forward to take her arm. “Come on, Mama,” he muttered as he guided her around to sit on the sofa.
“Why James?” she asked.
He shrugged. “I was never like the rest of them, knowing what I wanted to do. Russ, who owns the place, offered me the job, and I took it.”
“She sang at the club. Brought in good business, too. I wish you’d heard her, Mama. She sings like an angel.”
“James, how could you? It’s immoral, it’s unethical, and it’s illegal! How would you explain what you do to your son? Do you want him to be the child of a criminal?”
“First, Mama, you’re about the only person left who thinks prohibition was a good idea. Second, it’s a dumb law. If the government really wanted to enforce the law, they would have funded the agency better. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything wrong, and I wouldn’t be ashamed to tell my son what I do.”
Marsha leveled a look at her son. “If you’re so proud of what you do, why have you been lying about it?”
James sighed. “I didn’t want you to be disappointed in me.”
“James, I might not approve of what you do, but I’m not disappointed. You’re providing a good life for your family. I just wish you had found a more respectable way of doing it.”
“I don’t plan on doing it forever. When Prohibition ends – and it will, Mama, even you must know that – I’m seriously considering buying the old tavern and running it with Taddy, and Sterling will provide legal advice. I know you don’t approve of alcohol, and I’ll honor your wish that it not be in the house. But there’s good money to be made in the booze business, Mama, and I aim to get my share of it.”
Marsha sighed. “I guess we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this, James. Alcohol is a product of the devil. But I suppose if you’re just meeting the demand, I can look the other way. Now, let me get you something for that face of yours. I’ve got a salve that will heal your lip right up, and I’ll find a cold compress for your eye.”
“Thank you, Mama.”