Monday, May 2, 2011

Placing Out excerpt by P. A. Brown

Placing Out by P. A. Brown is an historical romance set in 1932 Los Angeles. Ben Carter is a 6 year veteran of the LAPD, deeply in the closet. Dylan Daniels was a placed out kid sent from New York's Five Points at 10 to a family in Nebraska until he ran away at 18 when he realized he preferred boys and didn't want to be a farmer. In Hollywood he ends up as a popular hustler with a number of wealthy clients. In a bar raid he meets Ben who is instantly attracted and repelled by this beautiful man. Between them they struggle to overcome the barriers that keep them apart, including Ben being in a brutal squad that frequently raids pansy bars and beats the patrons. This tears Ben apart. Will he let Dylan's love heal him or destroy him altogether?

The New York Times headline is based on a real headline I found in the archives of the Times. The actual date was in the 30s. But much of the wording is the same.

Placing Out
Amber Allure (2011)
ISBN: 978-1-61124-093-1 (Electronic)



Thursday, May 15, 1919


Two children named Daniels, aged respectively two and eight years, last night sought shelter in the 6th precinct station house and told the Sergeant in charge that their father turned them into the street, and told them to help themselves. The children will be sent to the Almshouse.

Five Points, New York, 1919

I always remember the train. A black dragon, it smoked and roared, throwing up sparks that burned my face and left spots on my brand new shirt. The one the lady from the Five Points Mission got us so we'd be ready for our placing out. She told Da we had to look good for our new family. Every time I hear a train whistle now, I think back on that day. And all the days that followed on my trip west and the new life I had there.

Don't remember Ma and Da much. Ma wasn't there at all in the end and Da was gone most of the time working, out looking for work or in jail when he got pinched working for the Five Pointers or the Gophers. I barely remember Ma at all. She died in that big fire at her job in the garment factory when the owners locked all the doors and no one could get out. Da was never the same after. Only a year later, the fever took Flora and Mary, our little sisters. They were both sweet girls. That only left me and Sean who was only two. Moira, the oldest, was always a bitch. Even Ma said so, calling her a witch and born slattern.

Didn't matter, after Ma died, Da said it was up to Moira to take care of us. She got out of that when she run off with Jimmy Paglia, that no good Eye-tal-yan Wop. She married him. Da nearly had a fit when she did that. But it was worse when she told us she wasn't gonna mind me no more. She called me a no good street rat who should have been drowned at birth. I slugged her and ran away. No one caught me. No one ever could when I didn't wanna be caught. They call me Jack because I was as fast as a jackrabbit.

I ran with Ding Dong for a while, helping him and other Dusters with their hustles. Until the coppers got me cornered behind Old Bailey's saloon. I'd run off with a bottle of gin. Stuff tastes like piss, but I can sell it for two bits and ain't that sweet. Except this time the coppers caught me and tossed me in the hoosegow. I figure Da would come around and get me out. He did, then he turns around and put us out, sayin' we were too much trouble.

Sean was the one took us to that police station. They sent us away too. I was still expecting Da to come get us, instead this wrinkled old dame showed up carrying a Bible. Tells me she's from something called the Five Points House of Industry. Her skirts were all black and crinkly and rustled whenever she moved. I don't remember Ma wearing anything so fancy. This lady said her name was Rose Marie and she was a woman of God, doing God's work. When I ask her what that is, she say it's saving lost and fallen souls like me.

"I ain't lost," I told her. "And I ain't fallen nowhere. I'm standing right here."

"You are indeed, young man. You're a poor orphan boy who has taken to the dirty streets to survive. You have fallen into that vast and stinking den of iniquity. Arrested stealing a bottle of the devil's drink."

"Ain't no orphan neither."

"Your ma died. You live in squalor among the most base humans. You're father can't take care of you. He told me as much." She patted the folds of her big dress and touched my head. I jerked away from her, wanting to tell her not to touch me. Instead I batted her hand away when she tried to touch me again. "We're going to take care of you, Dylan Daniels. You and your brother. We're going to take you to a place where you can learn to be a man."

"A man?" I snorted. "I'm ten years old. I ain't no man."

"Nonetheless." She was all stuffy and stiff. I didn't like her. She didn't care. "You are going to be placed out."

"I don't know what you're talking about, lady. I ain't going nowhere."

She looked around the filthy cell they had put me in. It smelled like piss and shit. There was a sparkle in her brown eyes when she looked back at me. "No, young man, you aren't. For now."

I still didn't know what she was talking about it. I didn't know until Da came with a bag I recognized as belonging to Ma, all tied up with twine. He also handed me a silver dollar.

"You be a good, boy. Make your mother proud."

I stared down at the bag and the dollar glittering in the palm of my hand. I'd never had that much money in all my life. I still didn't get it.

"They haven't told me where you're going to, but Missus Matthews says they're all good homes. You're getting a real chance if you behave and mind your betters."

It hit me like I got kicked by one of Tony Gambol's big bay Clydesdales. Da was sending both of us away. "I won't go," I said, folding my arms over my chest. "You can't fuckin' make me."

He slapped me across the face. I didn't see it coming and fell back, landing on my ass on the dirty, rough floor. I threw myself to my feet but he backed away, going to the jail cell door.

"I don't like doin' that, Danny-boy, but you ain't got no choice in this. I can't be your ma and pa both. With your ma gone, I gotta do what's good for both of you."

I argued and yelled but no one listened. Da left and I was alone. I stayed alone until the Five Points lady came for me and took me and my bag and silver dollar, now carefully hidden in my shoe, to the train station. Sean was there with Da. He clung to Da 'til he shoved Sean at me. Then he hung on to me so tight my hand fell asleep. He was already wailing when I dragged him into the belching monster. It shuddered and grunted as it pulled away from the station. I looked at the platform through a grimy, soot-covered window but Da was already gone.

I got so I could sleep in the dragon's belly. I met other kids like me. Over a hundred of us. Some were real orphans, some were like me, picked up by the cops, others volunteered to be placed out. They fed us, mustard sandwiches and sometimes jam. In Omaha they divided our four cars up into cities. Our car was going to Nebraska. Someplace near North Platte. The resident agent, William T. Elder, took us out in a horse drawn wagon to introduce us to our new family, the Chatterfields.

As we drove away from the still belching train, I watched until we turned a corner and headed on a dusty road out of town and I couldn't see the train no more. Then I turned in my seat and stared straight ahead, knowing I ain't never gonna see Da or Moira agin. Sean kept at me about when Da comin' to get us 'til I slapped him.

Folks ask me later if I cried. 'Course not. I don't cry. What do they think I am? A baby? Sean was the baby, not me.

Placing Out is part of a PAX collection called Crime & Punishment. The story can be purchased separately or in the anthology. To purchase, click here


Victor J. Banis said...

Pat, this is the best thing of yours I have read, it's truly wonderful! I think you have found your real niche.

P.A.Brown said...

Thanks, Victor!

It's funny. For years I would have told you I'd never write historical fiction. I now think it was because I hadn't found a time that interested me. Now I love it, including the research. Of course there was a lot of research with the crime books too, to get the cop and forensic stuff right.

Rick R Reed said...

I agree with Victor--I've read most of Pat's work and this is my favorite among a lot of favorites. The writing in this book, as I've told her, is superb. I highly recommend the novella, having just finished it myself this past weekend.

P.A.Brown said...

Thanks, Rick. That means a lot. Both your and Victor's comments.

I guess this shows an old leopard can change its spots. LOL

Lloyd Meeker said...

Can't wait to get a copy - sounds wonderful. But in the meantime I'll just join the chorus about how satisfying all your work is, Pat - great stories, great writing.

P.A.Brown said...

Thanks, Lloyd. Since I just got a Kindle, I'll be buying your book soon.