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Hick, Darling

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Lorena “Hick” Hickok is a badass lesbian reporter who leaves Minneapolis after a tough breakup and gets a job at The Associated Press, becoming one of two women working in the New York office. It isn’t hard to choose her professional life over her personal life; work comes naturally to her. She’s soon assigned to cover Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the country’s top candidate for president. As she interviews Eleanor, the two grow an intense personal relationship that quickly becomes physical. Euphoria turns to anguish when Eleanor must leave New York to live in the White House, and Hick must choose between personal happiness and ethical journalism.

Romance / Drama
LeeAnne Lowry
Age Rating:

Lady Bits

It was dark in there. Dark like you can’t see, but also dark like the devil lived there. When the cops came through and illuminated the walls of the cave, the beacons revealed little etchings. Etchings clearly carved by boys, but boys with deep troubles.

The weak, city-funded flashlight beams brought to light a den that would do credit to a prince: automobile rugs covered the floor, walls and ceiling. The room was decorated with just about anything that could be removed from an automobile. Little things served as a reminder that this den belonged to a group of kids. Cigarettes, cards and a crystal radio set sat on a flimsy card table. Back then, in 1931, it was more common for boys to maintain their obsession with vehicles into their teenage years. Now, decades later, I feel a sense of relief when I see a teenage boy trying to soup up his hand-me-down Buick. It’s like at least a little bit of the world is the same.

Not that I really, truly want the world to be the same as it was back then. I was almost 40 at the time, and I’m not a woman who thinks much about appearances. I care about good work. Who cares if I wore goddamn pantyhose as long as I’m getting my byline on the front page?

That’s another problem of mine. I don’t give a shit if what I say is appropriate for your fucking kid. I’m a newsman, just because I’ve got lady bits doesn’t mean I’m here to nurture the children of the world. Speaking of children…

Gangs of young boys were gathering in these caves—so-called shacks—to play cards and lay plans that’d get them in trouble later on. That year, hundreds of boys were arrested. Some were as young as nine.

I was reading these details back to the man-in-charge, Captain J.F. Little, when his superhuman peripheral picked up on something.

“OUT OF YOUR MOUTH,” he said in a sudden outburst.

I was so thrown off I started coughing. Not the most logical reaction, just what my body chose in the moment. I asked, “excuse me?”

He stormed away and up to a young, asshole-looking officer who had snatched the cigarettes from the card table. His tone became quieter, and yet somehow more agitated.

“Y’may not want to put evidence in your mouth. You don’t know where it’s been.”

Captain Little was as Minnasotan as it gets, yet he still managed to come off a little Southern. I think it has to do with powerful, manly jobs. Men with power tend to skew a little Southern or English, depending on the type of role. Or, I suppose, Italian if we’re talking mob.

The officer was a little bitch. He sniveled something like “reckon it’s been in a cave” and the captain gave him this look. That “you sure about that?” glance that most of us only earn from our mothers.

As the boy defiantly lit a cig, he dug his hole even further.

“Gang’s a bunch of boys, boss. Just a few years younger than me. Not gonna be laced,” he smirked.

Captain stepped in so close they coulda kissed, and then placed a finger on the simmering cigarette. He pushed it all the way into the young officer’s mouth, and the boy’s eyes widened as the embers died on his tongue.

Captain whispered, “now you’ll never forget to watch your tongue.”

The young cop stood wide eyed, bearing the pain.

The captain ordered: “chew.”

The boy chewed.

The captain ordered: “swallow.”

The boy struggled to keep it down, but under the heavy eye of his commander he pushed through. As tears filled the officer’s eyes, the captain assured him, “now you understand what it takes to be a man.” It was one of few moments in my life I was glad I don’t deal with the pressure of being a man.

The young officer broke down entirely, pushing the captain’s patience to its end. He ordered the boy to go home, suggesting he might be more adept at ladies’ tasks.

That stung a little. Early in my career I was boxed into lady tasks. Working in a newsroom was radical on its own, let alone writing the stories I do. At the beginning they reserved me for society columns. I’d go to these schmancy events and be expected to keep the conversations—and my writing—light.

Problem is, I have kind of a super power. I ask good questions. That’s the key to being a great reporter. I’d go to these parties, grab some finger sandwiches and start some casual conversation. Butter ’em up through the night until I can finally ask: “How many taxpayer dollars are paying for this party?” or lighter fare such as “do you think your husband’s affair with your sister will affect the campaign?”

Captain Little pulled me away from the group and his demeanor changed, like an actor who just went backstage. He apologized to me of all people, said he’s unhappy with the recent recruits. Said he has to take whoever he can get.

He offered me one of the cigarettes.

“I thought you’d never ask.”

We walked over to his cruiser and sat inside with the windows down, sucking our cigs.

Then he got chatty again. He said, “Stealing is among the least serious of the charges. This ain’t apple snatchin’. This is burglary. Loot ranging from radio aerials to automobiles.”

He took a long, slow drag.

“Two awaiting trial for murder.”

He hadn’t told me this yet. I held back from taking notes. Didn’t want to make him too nervous to talk. Sometimes, it’s less about the good questions and more about allowing space.

The captain kept talking, more to himself than to me.

“Boys as murderers,” he muttered.

Then he looked at me with frenzied emotion. His teary eyes both broke my heart and frightened me until he finally confessed what was on his mind.

“I never got to say goodbye to poor Willy Pellatt… I can’t believe he’s gone.”

A few tears escaped. I’ve encountered my fair share of tricky situations with powerful men, but the crying was a new one. I started to panic. I had to fill in the space.

I asked: “A friend of yours?”

“Like my brother,” he shakily replied.

I couldn’t help myself, and reached out to hug him. He welcomed it, and we embraced for several long moments. I kept wondering: is this ethical?

He pulled away, still enveloped in sadness: “It’s all true. What a shame, it’s all true.”

Then, all of a sudden, he entered the real world again. He saw me clutching my notebook and then looked me dead in the eyes, “Thank you for covering this. The people need to know what’s going on.”

Captain Little shifted in his seat, perhaps feeling strange about the moments we shared. He asked, “We done?”

My focus zoomed back to the other story. I responded, “Actually, I wanted to talk about the staffing issues you mentioned.”

He got quiet, then said, “That’s not what we agreed to talk about.”

“A little press could help you out.”

He took a moment to consider, then said, “It’s damn cold out. The boys can finish here, let’s head out and then we can talk.” This made me nervous, but I went with it. If a man invites you to another location, something fishy is usually going on.

When we got to the station, we went into his office. The day’s newspaper sat on his desk, with the headline: “Will One of These Be The Next ‘First Lady?’” with three photos below: a large image of The White House and below it images of Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mrs. Dwight D. Morrow. Some ladies marry into success, others work for it. I prefer the latter.

Captain Little leaned back on his precinctive throne, a piece of him still in that cave. I prompted him and he snapped to.

“Not much to it,” he said. “We don’t have enough men interested in the job. I don’t know if we’ve gone out of style or what, but crime sure hasn’t.”

I pushed for more information about why things had changed, but men are easily confused. He got this scrunched up look on his face. “Huh?”

I clarified: “Men used to want to be cops, and now they don’t.”

He replied: “Men didn’t used to be afraid, now they hide in offices.”

“Do you ever consider hiring women?”

If he had a drink, he would have spit it out. Instead he just spit.

“Wait, you’re not joking?” He straightened up. “Even if a woman could handle it—maybe a lady built like you—she’d be a temporary solution.”

I asked, “Now why’s that?” and received an incredulous look in return.

The captain didn’t answer me right away, like he thought I needed a moment to figure it out. As if I didn’t already know what he was about to say.

“Marriage, Hick. Babies.”

I gave him a little grimace, which he likely interpreted as a smile. He went on, “Even an ace reporter like you can’t stay in the working world forever.”

“I’m 38.”

The look in his eyes shifted. Became predatory. He moved toward the door, muttering, “why don’t I shut this for a little privacy.”

My cue to leave. I darted toward the door and got there at the same time as him.

“What the hell?” He blocked off the door. “I just wanted some privacy,” he said, placing a hand on my waist.

“Great, I’ll give you some privacy.” I twisted his wrist and moved out the door, and as I walked down the hall, I heard a gun cock.

Without turning back I retorted, “Don’t kid me. You’re not ousting a reporter for a quick thrill. Goodnight, Jeffrey.

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