What is the Hankering?, you might ask. Well, it is a 1900’s juke joint or jook joint that sells bootleg whiskey, fried catfish, fried hushpuppies, potato salad, and, of course, Miss Carmelia Faye Lafayette’s own homemade brew, Cherry Whiskers.
There is a lot of fighting at the Hankering: “The Hankering provided a release for the locals, but it wasn’t immune to one particular effect of the patrons’ overindulgences: a knockdown, drag out, drunken brawl. Usually, one patron would test his limits, knocking back as much liquor as his week’s wages would allow, and wanting something or someone to vent his frustrations on, he’d seek out anyone whom he believed crossed him, the often unsuspecting offender assailed upon. The bouncers earned their night’s keep, pulling the two combatants apart and discharging them outside where often they’d continue their altercation, or more than likely, sober up a bit and squash the issue, often unsure of what led to the dispute in the first place.
Fights happened on a regular basis at the Hankering, but a colored man fought only if he had something against someone. The men rarely fought for the sake of fighting. If someone got his ass whipped, it was a deserved ass whipping. Showing interest in a woman already taken led to an ass whipping. Calling a man a liar warranted an ass whipping. However, cheating a man at gambling set off an ass whipping that could last for days. A man could dismiss a play for his woman or being called out of his name, but he couldn’t allow another man to cheat him, his very existence marred by a racist and corrupt system that cheated him on a daily basis, pervading every aspect of his life from his wages to his self-respect and even to his freedom.”
There is also much drinking of bootleg hooch: “Locals made their way to the Hankering in a variety of ways: on horseback, by horse-drawn wagon loaded down with patrons, and even on tractors on loan for the evening from their employers, which pulled flatbed trailers filled with men and women desiring an evening of unbridled pleasure and unadulterated entertainment.
The deputy of Wayne County and some of his officers would sit in their Model T Ford squad cars, watching as the colored folk made their way to the barrelhouse. They’d wait until an hour before midnight to raid the place, when most folks were tore down from drunkenness, and as they put it, involving themselves in all manner of sin and debauchery.
A piano player beat out tunes on the old Steinway piano as colored men and women in their best going out clothes—women in fitted dresses designed to attract the attention of their male suitors and men in clean shirts and dungarees, worn only for a night out on the town—strutted their stuff on the wooden plank dance floor, jiggling and twisting, bopping and dipping, their unrestrained dance movements ignited by the lightning bolt effects of the bootleg liquors and wines they consumed.
The owner would set out a barrel of bootleg whiskey and a chock barrel of the homemade wine, and men and women with tin cups would dip them in the barrel and partake of the mind-numbing, sense-altering brews. One or two cups would set them up right, but more than that would knock them out. Most folks could handle one or two cups, but not too many could handle much more than that, although many had tried. Those crazy enough to test their mettle would fall prey and be sidelined against the wall of the barrelhouse until the effects wore off; oftentimes, it’d be late the next day before they would make their way back home.”
There is also a great deal of lovemaking. “The Hankering was located down by the railroad in Wayne County, open only on weekends, the only time most coloreds had off work. It was a place for them to get away from the weightiness of the workweek and, particularly, from their white employers, to enjoy a night or two of drinking, of course, but gambling, a little sex, or rather a lot of sex, and dancing also satisfying the desires of the patrons.”
Check out the full story of The Hankering (A Short Story) today at Amazon.