Strange things have happened throughout history. It does not matter what city, state, or country we are from. History has a way of making us ask these questions, “Did that really happen? Are you kidding me?”
I hope the personal history that you made today was good for you. And if it was not what you wanted, do not worry too much. Mine was not either. But we do have a silver lining. We have tomorrow to take another shot at it. Enjoy PART 2 of IT’S BAD.
JAY TOLD JOANN HE wanted to know her name. But first, he asked her to give him a minute. He had to make a call.
Jay went outside the restaurant and found a pay phone. He called a friend at work and begged him to cover city hall for him. He told him about a potentially big story he was working on. But he could not afford to lose his job by not showing up at city hall. His friend told him he would do it. Jay promised to repay the favor.
Ordinarily, Jay would not think of missing assignments. But the old woman made him think. Something about her was may be worth his time. She could have a big story to tell. Then again, she may not. But he could not deny she was different and worth the chance to be heard.
Jay went back into the restaurant. He wanted to know Joann’s real name. “Joann,” Jay said. “I’m ready to find out who you really are. Can I take notes?”
She nodded for him to sit down. “It’s your dime,” she said. He told her to go ahead and amuse him. “Okay, smartass. People call me Joann Stilts. That’s the name the U.S. government gave me after I left prison to work for them.”
That piqued Jay’s interest. She was in prison. He surmised there might be a story here. He wrote down what she said.
“My real name is Arizona Donnie Clark,” Joann said. Jay wrote it down. “My friends called me Kate.”
The name? Jay thought. Where had he heard that name before? It was an unusual name.
Joann watched Jay’s face. His wheels were spinning.
“You’ll never guess,” she said. “So stop trying. Everyone knows me as Ma Barker.”
Jay stopped writing and looked at her. He looked as if he was examining her. “No,” he said. “You’re shitting me?” he said. “I’m sorry for swearing. You caught me off guard. This can’t be true.”
“Do you want to know about me or not?” Joann said.
“I do,” Jay said. “Absolutely, I do.”
“They tell me I was born close to eighteen seventy-three in Ashe Grove, Missouri,” she said. “I don’t think that’s right. That’d make me one hundred years old. I don’t feel one hundred years old.”
“You don’t look it,” Jay said.
“Flattery takes you where you want to go,” she said. “But don’t try buttering me up. Let’s stick to the story, Casanova. I got married early to a nice man named George Barker. I would end up with his last name. He was alright, I guess. But I wanted something different. More excitement. I wanted what Jesse James had. Adventure. Excitement. That looked fun. You know I saw him when I was a little girl. I saw his whole gang. They rode right through our town. That’s what made me what I was back then.”
“You saw Jesse James?” Jay asked. “The James’ Gang?”
“You’re calling me a liar?” she asked and slammed her fist on the table.
“No,” he said. “ ‘Course not.”
“Well, listen, I don’t have much time,” she said. “After we’re finished talking, I’m going to need your help to get out of town. Where they have me now is worse than prison.”
Jay humored her. “Okay, Joann,” he said. “You finish telling me your story. Then we’ll see about getting you out of town.”
“Man’s word is his bond,” she said. “And now that you know my real name, use it. It’s Ma. Or, I guess you can call me Kate.”
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I’ll see you tomorrow.
Have a good day.