Winter’s Quarterly: Violet

Winter's Quarterly - Jan 2015The original plan for Winter’s Quarterly was to post a story every month under Get Into Jim’s Shorts, then take the previous three months’ stories and publish them in a quarterly zine. That’s still the plan, but since I started in September, I thought it’d be a bad idea to give you stories for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in a zine published in January. As a result, “Violet” is the only short that appeared on this site. The other two shorts are originals that I’ll talk about in the coming weeks.

“Violet” is a harrowing tale that has some strange beginnings. Part of it comes from my habit of starting with song titles as the germ of a story, possibly the title. I once recall a rather obnoxious fanficcer who demanded everyone one the usenet forum change all the titles based on songs because “That was clever exactly once.” To which I said, “OK, sweetie. When you’re Kurt Cobain or Patty Smith or Paul McCartney, you can lecture me on clever. In the meantime, why don’t you work on your writing, such as it is.” For this story, I found myself putting Hole’s “Violet” into playlists quite frequently. The lyrics do not sound like a woman trapped in anything more than a relationship she’s clearly putting behind her. (In this case, Courtney Love was venting at former boyfriend Billy Corrigan, a man with no love for Nirvana or the Foo Fighters to begin with.) But the chorus sparked an idea.

When they get what they want, they never want it again

In other words, the singer feels disposable, at least in the eyes of someone else. Around this time, a coworker at Medishack told me about her husband, a Cincinnati Police officer who had worked a couple of prostitution stings around town. These were starting to make the news quite a bit then. Both WXIX and NBC ran stories about women coerced or lured into prostitution as virtual slaves. Song title plus dark lyrics plus horrific situation = really dark short story.

And this one really is dark. The situation Violet finds herself in is one repeated over and over around the world. One local church has partnered with an organization in Mumbai, India, to get girls there out of that system. It has a side benefit of leaving a trail for the police to come smashing in doors. So sections of Mumbai are getting cleaned up. Unfortunately, it happens all too often here in America, and they use the cover of “slavery ended in 1865” as one weapon to hide it all. You might have seen the ads. They disguise themselves as personal ads, get the johns to come to a hotel where they think the girl they’re about to sleep with is no different than the one on the web cam. We still, in our society, have visions of call girls pulling down thousands of dollars a night (and they do exist) or street corner girls in short skirts kicking back a cut to a flamboyantly dressed pimp. The latter seems to have gone the way of the VCR and Plymouth cars. In reality, some girls are lured by men who “have a job.” While the most common scenario is a woman illegally in the country and little fluency in English (or even Spanish), women who would otherwise lead a normal life find themselves as easily trapped. The modern “pimp” uses blackmail, coercion, and even outright abduction to force the women to perform. And how much do these women make?

Zip. Nada. These women are slaves. Which last time I checked, had not been legal since, as mentioned earlier, 1865.

So I put the girl Violet into this situation, tried to get into her mind. There’s an Irishman named Paddy, whom her captor clearly fears. Violet decides to let Paddy do whatever he wants because he treats her decently and whispers promises, however false, of taking her into his home for his own. It’s still servitude, but she sees it as a way out, or at least a way to something like a normal life. She fears John more, the man who “owns” her and holds her captive in a place where she can’t tell what part of town she’s in. He’s already killed a girl and made Violet help dispose of her body. So imagine her joy and horror when her father finds her by posing as a john and carrying a pistol.

The ending is horrific. The story, set in a section of the fictional Monticello, may be incorporated into the follow-up to Holland Bay as Paddy is a planned character for the next chapter. It’s dark. That’s why I put it first in this issue.