In my dad’s very brief memoir, he had this to say about the first Christmas in the Almont hotel his mother operated. It was 1922, Webb was eleven years old and he was learning a bit about the birds and the bees.
In six months the hotel was doing well, so all the relatives and their hired help, the boarders and some friends came to the hotel for a two day Christmas party. The rafters rang with merriment and in a dark room upstairs, a Russian girl, who worked for my uncle, and I played a new game that was new and pretty exciting.
Following is my interpretation of what happened:
The bedroom had a couple single beds, straight backed wooden chairs, a small dresser, and a table with a kerosene lamp, which they lit. Webb closed the door, grabbed the key hanging on a hook close by, stuck it in the lock and made sure he heard the tumbler click into place.
“Just makin’ sure we aren’t bothered by some drunk,” Webb offered as an excuse for the locked door, hooking his thumbs over the top of his belt, not sure what to do next.
“I can teach you game,” Alina offered in broken, but teasing English. She smiled. The small gap between her front teeth made her seem even more playful and inviting. Her honey blonde hair was pulled back with a scarf tied around her head, Indian style. There was no reason for her to follow fashion and wear a cropped do like some of the women in town. There were a couple downstairs. Even Toots was wearing her hair shorter these days.
It was also obvious Alina wasn’t wearing the breast flattening, hide-every-curve kind of corset he’d seen his mother cinched into a time or two. As a hired farm girl, that get-up wouldn’t have been practical and she couldn’t afford it anyway. He was happy about that. He had ogled her curves all evening.
Alina sat on the edge of the bed, hazel eyes glistening with anticipation of what she would be showing Webb. She inched up the hem of her long-sleeved, drop-waist wool dress, revealing shapely legs in dark stockings. Earlier as Webb followed her up the stairs, watching her hips sway from side to side as she climbed, he’d counted what seemed to be about a hundred buttons down her back. He was up for the challenge – in more ways than one.
“What kinda game are you talkin’ about?” Webb asked somehow knowing it wasn’t going to be kick the can.
“You take off …” she paused to think of the word. “Clothes. Not all. One first. Then I do.”
Webb hesitated a moment. Under his shirt and pants, he had on long handled underwear with a long row of buttons down the front and a flap in back, the same kind he’d been wearing as long as he could remember, especially in the dead of winter. The only difference – now they were his own. He’d outgrown wearing Ray’s hand-me-downs and thank God, his mother wasn’t making him wear his dad’s left overs.
(To be continued in Cat Skinner)