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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 9: August 2021
Micro-Fiction: 340 words
+ Author’s Note: 120 words
By Jennifer Clark

In the opinion of this operative,
this town steams with lewdness


I awoke and went to investigate evil. First stop: Shaggy Saloon for breakfast. Proprietor was most likely intoxicated. And this, not even noon! A practitioner of incoherent thoughts, he rambled on about his sick horse while I ate cornbread and a boiled egg.

As I was leaving, a fight ensued between two fellows. Punches were thrown and teeth were knocked out. I could not obtain their names, but one of the combatants was a square-faced fellow. I left and entered another establishment, smartly decorated except for the stuffed owls. It’s run by the Widow Liddlefeld, a rather handsome woman.

Her “daughter,” a buxom young woman who goes by the name Mabel, poured me a beer. I had no intention of drinking it but so as not to cast suspicion on myself, I drank. It is clear that Mabel is eager to meet up with men for immoral purposes. There is, without doubt, plenty of intercourse to be had in this lewd city.

I continued on to a dance hall. Boys come here in bunches to do their sporting. The barmaid invited this operative to have a beer. Twenty-five cents it was. Drank the beer to make sure it was not brandy. Girls ventured in brazenly alone, wearing dresses that barely reached below their knees. Watched as couples danced the Tango and the Hesitation Waltz. Loving each other up, they were. Those frequenting this establishment can’t help but glimpse stockings as dresses swirl.

I then called upon the Why Not Saloon. I am sorry to report that the proprietor has extremely unattractive children who curse like men. His sister is the Widow Liddlefeld. I was told by the piano player—Walter, his name was—that one may procure a “date” with the widow for five dollars. I sampled several more beers at this establishment to be sure that it was beer they were pouring.

I took to my room at 3 a.m. and discontinued for the day.

Author’s Note:

In 1913, the Wisconsin Legislature, concerned about such things as alcohol, gambling, and prostitution, formed a special committee that hired operatives who went undercover and sniffed around towns throughout Wisconsin to detect these and other sundry ills.

While this report and the names of the saloons are fictional, there really was a Widow Liddlefeld who once lived in Wisconsin. Whether she had a daughter named Mabel is anyone’s guess. The intercourse line was inspired by an actual report from an operative who wrote that there was “plenty of intercourse to be had in the City of Rhinelander” (Bill Moen and Doug Davis, Badger Bars & Tavern Tales: An Illustrated History of Wisconsin Saloons; The Guest Cottage, Inc.: 2003, page 28).

Jennifer Clark
Issue 9, August 2021

is the author of three full-length poetry collections, most recently A Beginner’s Guide to Heaven (Unsolicited Press). Co-editor of the anthology Immigration & Justice for Our Neighbors (Celery City Books), she has a hybrid collection, Kissing the World Goodbye, forthcoming from Unsolicited Press in 2022. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Author’s website: www.jenniferclarkkzoo.com

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