This is Chapter Four -- "The Paradise."
Go back to "Wayfarers -- Chapter Three -- The Sleepers" the previous chapter in the series.
The other stories in the "Wayfarers" series.
Other recent stories in the "Queer Theories" series.
Features Brian Kinney, Madame Heloise, Flora, Siobhan Kinney, Sean Kinney, Others.
Warning: Be aware that this story reflects the reality of life in the mid-19th century and NOT contemporary mores and beliefs. Life was often short, violent, and crude, especially for the lower classes and immigrants. Sexual situations involving minors were not merely common, they were the norm, unless you were a member of the privileged class. What people did to survive might shock us, upset us, and even disgust us, but that was the nature of the time. If this bothers you, please do NOT read this story.
Summary: Brian finds his way to the Paradise Hotel. 1835 - 1843.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
Ireland to Pittsburgh, 1835 - 1843.
"The Child is father of the Man...."
William Wordsworth, 'My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold.'
Brian's earliest memory was the ocean. How it heaved and roiled in concord with his belly. Vomiting on the deck and in the dark hold, crying as his head throbbed and his belly lurched. He remembered the smell of the people packed into the stalls like animals. The creaking of the ship. The brackish water they drank from a dirty barrel. He was five years old and his sister, Sorcha, was eight.
And then his mother keening. Wailing louder than the noise of the waves crashing against the keel. Siobhan Kinney was holding a bundle of dirty cloth in her arms -- his brother, Padraig, barely a year old and now stone dead. He, too, had vomited, but he kept at it for days on end until he was still. Siobhan Kinney had already given birth to seven children, of which Sorcha, Brian, and Padraig had been the only ones to survive their first meager months on this Earth. And now this one was also gone. Finally, Brian's father, Sean, came and took the small bundle away. The boy heard one of the other women say later, as she crossed herself, that the bundle was thrown overboard. That's what happened to you when you were dead, Brian thought -- you were thrown away, into the black, cold water.
The boat was fearsome, but the city where they disembarked was a true terror. The child, who had known only quiet fields and the faces of family, stared with dismay at the surging streets, the transports and carriages pitching, the horses snorting, the noise and dirt, the people screaming. He didn't recollect how long they stayed in that filthy stew, but next there was an open wagon jolting down dirt roads. A howling wilderness of trees and mountains. And, finally, a muddy wood-built town at the convergence of three great rivers.
His father had no skills, but, like all Irishmen, Sean Kinney was tall and strong as an ox -- and he did an ox's work. By day he was a laborer and by night a drinker and brawler. Sometimes he'd take his stance in the boxing ring and punch until both he and his opponent were bloody and one was carried out -- usually the other man. Sean did that for drinking change. He rarely brought home more than a few coins to keep his family alive.
Brian's mother did what she could to keep her family together in this God-forsaken city. She did laundry and scrubbed floors in the houses of Society. She went to Mass every morning and dragged Brian and his sister with her, praying for their souls and for their futures. Siobhan saw that her only remaining son was clever and good-looking. He was made for better things than digging ditches or idling his life away in low taprooms. She warned Brian that he must learn to read and write so that one day he could be a priest and not an illiterate good-for-nothing like his handsome, but worthless father.
But the day came when Siobhan Kinney could no longer wash and scrub floors. Instead, she coughed all night in the damp room near the river where they lived. The curse of the Irish, who were regarded as little better than animals, was drink and consumption. Brian's father was already in the grip of the first, while his mother slowly succumbed to the second. The priest came to the room often, bringing small coins to keep the family alive. But finally he came to anoint Siobhan Kinney with Holy Oil and hear her final Confession. Siobhan was only 28 years old and her son, Brian, was 10.
Sorcha, at 13, was already calling herself 'Claire.' That was a better name for a maid in a fine house uptown than a foreign name carried only by despised bogtrotters. She had escaped home gladly and never looked back. So, with his mother dead and his sister out at work, Brian was left alone in the room, terrified of the dark, but with no money to buy oil for the lamp. A neighbor took pity and gave him scraps of food. His own father seemed to have forgotten his very existence. Once, a few weeks after the burial, Sean Kinney returned to retrieve his good boots. He promised to come back and retrieve his son, too, but he never did. Finally, the landlord arrived at the door and told the boy to get out. September of 1840 was just ending and October beginning.
First, Brian tried begging, then stealing, but found he was good at neither pursuits. Even when he did manage to procure a coin from a generous soul, larger, rougher boys, more hardened to the streets, took it from him. Brian then survived by sleeping in doorways and alleys, and by picking through the refuse behind the many saloons and brothels that had sprung up on the riverfront of the bustling town. But Winter was fast approaching and Brian knew that with his thin form and thinner clothes the first snowfall would be the finish of him.
Madame Heloise was not a Parisienne, but in Pittsburgh she was the closest thing to one. She was actually from a tiny village near Montreal, but at an early age she had found her way south into the States. Her French accent, her curly black hair, and her charming manner helped her to attain a high level of mastery at her chosen profession. And now, at the age of 35, when she would have been at the end of her working career, Heloise was instead the proud owner of the finest whorehouse in Pittsburgh, the Paradise Hotel.
Madame Heloise's French business sense was put to good use in making her 'hotel' a success. Her girls were personally selected by Madame for looks and proficiency. They were clean, friendly, and reasonably priced. Her house was one where a man was assured he would not be robbed or cheated. Madame Heloise also prided herself on receiving all gentlemen in her parlor -- travelers, boatmen, politicians, miners, merchants, men of Society, and even lawyers. As long as they could pay the going rate and followed the house rules, they found a welcome. But no rough-housing was permitted and no boots were to be worn in the beds, which boasted genuine feather mattresses instead of the usual straw ticks. Yes, the Paradise Hotel was top of the line for Pittsburgh and would not have been out of place even in Philadelphia or Baltimore where tastes were more refined.
Madame was going over the books at the desk in her boudoir one afternoon when Flora, the housekeeper, came and told her that there was a boy sleeping in their alley.
"Get rid of him," Madame said immediately. "He is doubtlessly waiting to steal something from the house."
"I think you should see him, Hel," Flora insisted. "He's an Irish boy. He's in the kitchen, eating a mess of stew."
Madame snorted. "If you feed him then we will never be rid of him! They are like rats, these Irish!"
But Flora set her dark eyes on her mistress and waited. She was a short, dark-skinned Freedwoman who had been working for Madame since Heloise was only a lowly girl in a large New York house. But together they had moved up the ranks of the profession and now managed this hotel together. While Heloise kept the books and the girls, Flora ran the house and saw to furnishings, food, and all the extras that made their business a go. And Madame trusted Flora's judgment as she trusted no other living person's. So now Heloise was curious. Very curious.
What met her eyes was a filthy urchin, gobbling down a plate of food with his hands. And off of one of her good China dishes! Heloise was about to unleash a rain of French curses on both the urchin and on Flora, when the child looked up at her. Even through the dirt on his face and through the tangle of uncombed hair she could see that he was beautiful. The pointed chin and the straight nose, the full lips, the large, deep eyes with curving brows -- he looked like an ancient statue come to improbable life. Yes, those eyes -- muddy green flecked throughout with gold, framed with long, black lashes. They gazed back at Heloise with intelligence and a melancholy understanding of his probable Fate on the cruel streets of Pittsburgh.
Madame Heloise thought for a long time, watching the boy eat. Looking at his face, his chestnut hair, his long limbs, his straight torso. He didn't look diseased or misshapen. And his eyes told her that he wasn't simple-minded. She made up her mind at that moment.
"Flora, when he is finished with his victuals, take him directly to the bathhouse and see that he is cleaned thoroughly. And find him some clothing other than these disgusting rags," Heloise instructed, sniffing delicately. And Flora smiled.
Thus Brian, at the age of 10, became the runner for the Paradise Hotel. He ran errands for the girls by day and in the evenings he trolled the saloons, steering likely men to the Paradise for their entertainment. Madame provided Brian with clean clothes, a pallet to sleep on in the warm kitchen, and all of his meals. And he was allowed to keep any gratuities offered by the men for leading them to Madame's establishment.
The girls enjoyed having a pretty boy in the house to pet and play with. They taught him whist and checkers while they waited for customers, and some of them sang songs or told stories from romantic novels they had read. Or they told the stories of their own lives, which were much more enlightening. These stories always, without fail, began with the words, "There was this man I met who I thought I was in love with...." Yes, even Madame Heloise's story began that way, with the man who had seduced and ruined her at the age of 13 and set her on the road to her present position.
This way Brian came to know the girls very well. They enjoyed his company. Sometimes the girls pulled the boy into their beds when he came to deliver Turkish cigarettes or sweets or a message from an admirer. They stroked his pretty hair and his soft, girlish skin and sometimes even reached into his britches and touched his peg. That made it hot and hard and the girls would giggle and push him away. Then Brian would have to run to the privy and pull at himself until he found relief.
The boy was also congenial to the men who came to the house. He always had a polite smile as he opened the big front door to admit them or offered them a light for their cigars. And Brian was very good at taking the measure of a man, suggesting which of the ladies might best suit his mood that night. For his discernment he always earned a few extra pennies to add to his hoard, which he kept in an old cigarette box that he had hidden behind the woodbox in the kitchen.
Some of the men who came to the Paradise Hotel patted his head or slapped Brian on the back as they handed over a penny for his trouble. Other times they gave him a cigarette or a gambling token or some other small prize. And a few of the gentlemen put their hands on his bottom and squeezed it, or rubbed his neck, or ran their fingers along his smooth cheek. This also made the boy's peg feel hard within his britches.
Brian had been at the Paradise Hotel for almost a year when, one night, one of these nice gentlemen was leaving Corry's room. Corry was a pretty little blonde, but the other girls did not like her. She was petulant and pouty and thought she was too good for Pittsburgh. She thought she was fine enough for New Orleans or Savannah, but she didn't have the gumption to leave Madame Heloise's and try her fortune elsewhere. So instead she complained. And sometimes the gentlemen who visited her complained as well, saying that she didn't give them satisfaction or that she rolled her eyes or made rude remarks about their manhoods. Madame had warned Corry about this again and again.
The gentleman leaving Corry's room seemed decidedly disgruntled. Brian noticed that immediately. Perhaps they had quarreled or Corry had made a comment and the fellow hadn't finished his job. That happened sometimes -- but the gentlemen still had to pay the same as if they had finished. That was the rule.
The man saw Brian sitting on the backstairs. He looked the boy over and abruptly took hold of his arm, pulling him into the yard behind the privy. And then the man opened up his trousers and brought out his member and put the thing into Brian's hand. The boy was astonished, but he didn't draw back. Instead, he stared at the man's large peg in confusion.
Then the fellow began stroking the boy's hand up and down his cock's thick length, first slowly, then quicker and quicker. Brian had pulled his own peg often enough, but never another man's or even another boy's. He had never even thought of such a thing! But as he was doing it, he vaguely understood that it was a sin. A secret thing that should not be spoken of. Something very shameful. Something that Madame Heloise would not like to know about. But then just about everything that occurred within the walls of the Paradise Hotel was sinful, so Brian was even more confused about what to think.
The man seemed like he was about to spend when suddenly he forced Brian to his knees and shoved his hard, crimson member in the boy's face. The man's fluid squirted over the boy's pale face and down the front of his clean cambric shirt. Brian gaped up at the gentleman, lost for speech. And then the man wiped his hands on a fine linen handkerchief and handed Brian two bits! The biggest tip he'd ever received! The fellow patted Brian on the head, put his shriveling prick back into his trousers, and went back up the stairs, whistling. Brian ran to the pump, scrubbed his face and hands, and rubbed the sticky fluid from his shirt as best he was able to. He did not tell Madame what had happened.
The next time this particular gentleman came to the house he purposely searched out the boy and did it again. And then gave Brian another two bits! Brian began to look forward to the fellow's visits and his strange desires. It was becoming a regular thing between the two of them. Except that eventually the man wanted to put his large peg into Brian's mouth. That made the boy balk. But the man had the coins and Brian found that he enjoyed pleasing him. So he learned how to do the deed better. The man showed him what to do with his lips. How gentle or how firm the man liked him to be. How fast or how slow. How to take a little of the hard member at first, and then the entire thing, sliding it in and out until the man was ready to spend. How to change the movement in time with the man's release. And then the fellow pulled it out and spewed on his face, as he had that first time. And then he gave Brian the two bits.
Brian was collecting the man's coins in his cigarette box. At night he counted them and thought about buying himself a hat or a pretty coat or fancy waistcoat like some of the sporting men wore.
Then one night a different man gestured for the boy to go down the backstairs. This fellow had heard from the first one about the boy at Madame Heloise's who had "the sweetest mouth in the whole house -- and more talented than any of them stuck-up bitches in the parlor." Because Madame Heloise's girls would not perform such an act. Most whores would not. To put a man's prick in their mouths was lower than low! They had their pride and their standards and such a thing was not in their accepted repertoire. Madame Heloise would have been incensed to find that one of her girls was allowing such a thing, even for an extra charge. Her establishment was first class! Let the man who wished such a service go to the riverfront for it! And he was welcome to stay there!
But when this new fellow beckoned and led him into the backyard, Brian knew exactly what was expected and he went to it with growing expertise. Now both men regularly sought out the boy. And then a third one, another friend of the first two. And Madame was puzzled because at times these clients came to her establishment, they drank, they caroused -- and then they did not partake of her main offering. That certainly was curious.
One of the men came to the house one Friday night, played a hand of cards and drank some claret in the parlor, but made no move to take a lady upstairs. Around 10:00 he excused himself to use the privy -- and Brian, who had been passing around sugared peanuts to the girls and lighting the men's cigars, put down his little tray and disappeared after the man. Madame Heloise followed the pair and witnessed the man take her servant boy by the arm on the backstairs, push him to his knees, and make him perform an act that disgusted her so that she saw red. The man gave the boy his coin and then he went on his way.
Heloise didn't take after the man. He was a customer, after all, and paying clients weren't to be trifled with. But this boy -- she grabbed him by the scruff of his neck like a dog and dragged him into the kitchen and locked him in the pantry until the evening's business was concluded. But first thing the next morning, Madame Heloise and Flora unlocked the pantry door and Brian knew that he was in deep trouble. Flora held the boy down and Heloise whipped him with a leather strap. He woke up every girl in the place from their morning slumbers with his howls. After that, Brian was banished to the kitchen, scrubbing pots and hauling water. He was forbidden to enter the parlor and forbidden to speak to customers. All the girls in the house felt bad for him, but they knew that what he had done was something ugly, something that none of THEM would ever do in a hundred years!
But then something odd happened. The next week the first man returned and it was obvious that he was looking for the boy. Madame confronted him -- and he left her establishment without spending even a dime. No, he didn't even wait to have a drink or play cards. And, to her surprise, a second man came a day later, also looking for the boy. Madame confronted HIM also, although she hadn't known that this one was also using Brian's services. But this man was more upfront. He offered four bits -- double the rate he'd paid before -- to use the boy. And when Madame refused, the fellow offered to buy the child outright!
Heloise was incensed -- but she was also intrigued. This was something she had not considered. That the boy's service had an actual value. These two men obviously valued it. And then, later, the third man came to find the boy and went away in disappointment. Yes, Madame recoiled at the act, but she was a businesswoman first and foremost. After all, many people were judgmental about what she and her girls did for a living. Perhaps she should not be the same way -- especially when there was money to be made. Heloise knew of houses in New York and New Orleans and even a place in Cincinnati where boys were featured, but such a thing in Pittsburgh was unheard of. Unless....
She conferred with Flora and then had Brian brought to her boudoir as she sat at her desk, looking over her books. The boy was cowed and dispirited. But Madame Heloise asked him, point blank, if he minded performing the distasteful act? And Brian answered, truthfully, that he did not. And he didn't mind it. In fact, he actually liked doing it! And he liked even more the money that the men gave him, too. But Brian didn't mention his cigarette box hidden in the kitchen. He was afraid that Madame would want her cut of his savings.
Madame sighed heavily and dismissed him. The next evening Brian, washed and dressed in his best britches and a new shirt with a lace collar, sat in the parlor with the girls. He still passed around sweets and lit cigars, but he was also available for the gentleman who had an interest in what he offered. Madame didn't advertise this new service, but she was astonished at how the word spread about her boy. Soon she assigned Brian his own room -- the smallest room in the place, barely a cubicle, but it was his. And Madame upped Brian's rates steeply from the two bits he had been charging on the backstairs, but still there were plenty of takers. Many new gentlemen came to her house, certainly, but a goodly number of her steady customers also tried out the boy and some of them came to use his unique talents regularly.
The ladies of the house, who were at first merely amused by their new compatriot, came to appreciate the boy's contribution. Although none of them was tempted to try Brian's special technique, they could see the value of it. When one of the girls had a gentleman who was having difficulty mustering his soldier into battle, she summoned Brian, who usually managed to get the recalcitrant member to stand at attention forthwith. Then the lady could take over from there. Of course, an extra charge was incurred, but most gentlemen did not mind, as long as things came to a satisfactory conclusion.
By the time he was 13 years old Brian was a fixture at the Paradise Hotel. He no longer had to troll the saloons or run errands or sleep on the kitchen floor. Instead, he now had his own clientele, a larger room, and a wardrobe of lace-trimmed shirts and velvet jackets that Madame Heloise had made for him with her own hands. She often sat in the parlor in the evening with the boy on her lap, combing his long chestnut hair with her fingers or feeding him treats. Brian was her special pet, but none of the others minded because he was so good-natured and cheerful. He was on good terms with all the ladies, but especially with Mae, who at 15 was the closest to Brian in age and experience.
And then Madame Heloise brought in a new girl, Marie. She was a tall mulatto from New Orleans who was making her way to New York City and agreed to stop in Pittsburgh for a few weeks while she replenished her purse enough to continue the journey. Of course, the promise of trying out this exotic flower brought in a new influx of gentlemen to the Paradise Hotel. The other girls -- and Brian, as well -- made the most of this development and enjoyed the fruits of it. The Paradise had never been so busy as it was that June of 1843.
Which was when William Reynolds, gambler and sporting man, who was passing through town from Philadelphia on his way to Cincinnati and beyond, made a stop at the Paradise Hotel to see what was on offer. And what he found was Brian Kinney.
Continue on to "Wayfarers -- Chapter Five -- The Princeton Rub" the next chapter in the series.
©Gaedhal, May 2003.
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions. I welcome all of your comments on "Wayfarers." Without your feedback I don't know if you are enjoying this new series!
Posted May 4, 2003.