We set out to find local and regional writers who wanted to build a writing community here in Kansas City and beyond. With help from interns and volunteers, we put out contests on Submittable so we could share your creativity! While we had to shut down our anthologies and contests last year due to Covid, they are back up and running this fall.
What did continue through? Our local 2021-2022 Writers group, who met at AfterWords Tavern and Shelves in rain, sleet, or hail, masked and unmasked, who came to write and talk about our best story ideas. Thanks to this group who juried this 2020-2021 Short Fiction Contest. The C-Note Contest celebrates 100 years of short fiction! And you delivered! You sent work celebrating the styles and genres of great classics in short fiction like F. Scott Fitzgerald. Here and now, our third place winner with a short historical fiction collage, Kimberly Horg!
You know how old rotary phones had a "T" on the "8" key; and "an O" on the six key? If you pressed T and O together, it stood for T-O, to “throw out.” Shortened to the numbers, the term "86" is rumored to have originally been a bartender's slang. In the Old West, when serving 100 proof alcohol, they often needed to "eighty-six" a patron who was too drunk. Or maybe they would serve him something watered down, 86 proof liquor, instead, thereby 86'ing him. Whether you are eighty-sixed, cast aside, cast off, chucked out, discarded, rejected, thrown away, or tossed out, you are getting called out by the bartender for being too drunk.
In 1905, The Seelbach was the only fireproof hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. Two brothers, Otto and Lois Seelbach imported marbles, bronzes, hardwoods, linens, and rugs from around the world to make it so. In 1907, the brothers added the famous Bavarian-style Rathskeller adorned with rare Rookwood Pottery. It remains to this day as the only one of its kind.
It was also the place where a famed author, F. Scott Fitzerald, wrote an American classic. Inspired by his experiences in The Seelbach's elegant rooms. There on 4th street, the Seelbach was where celebrities, politicians, and upper-class society were often seen at grand galas (similar to the parties in Fitzgerald's classic novel, "The Great Gatsby")
Fitzgerald frequented the hotel on weekends when stationed at Camp Taylor, conveniently located near the Seelbach. People say they spotted him there in a dark corner of the elaborate bar. Set off by the arched tile ceiling and dark woodwork, the room took on a presence of its own. He often sipped Kentucky bourbon and smoked expensive cigars. The military man had a reputation for drinking and carousing, spending his time drunk and disorderly, writing and talking to himself.
Fed alcohol and politics by the elite, Fitzgerald often brought in an instrument to play while writing his book. One night the strings broke, and Scott was out of control...
86: “You’re out of here,” the bartender said.
F. Scott: “What?”
86: “You heard me.”
F. Scott: “You can’t kick me out. I’m a regular here.”
86: “I don’t care what you are; you need to leave.”
F. Scott: “I am serving my country, and this is the way that I am treated?”
86: You had one too many, Scott, and you got to go.”
F. Scott: “Come on!”
86: “Get your act together.”
F. Scott: “Do you know who I am?”
86: “Get over yourself. You are a drunk.”
F. Scott: “I am F. Scott Fitzgerald.”
86: “You, sir, are a drunk.”
F. Scott: “I know what I saw.”
86: “What did you see, Scott?”
F. Scott: “I know of the secret passageways that Capone uses.”
86: “You don’t know shit.” The bartender called for the bouncers and told them to 86 him.
F. Scott: “You are going to do what with me? Eighty-eight me did you say?”
“Eighty-six, Scott, that means you are getting thrown out.”
F. Scott: “I am the one who makes up words, not you,” Fitzgerald said.
86: “Go ahead, Francis, make them up outside.”
F. Scott: “Nobody calls me Francis! You’ll see one-day old sport my book will be big and you will
be sorry you did this.”
Bouncers: “That day isn’t tonight, and you are 86ed.” The bouncers grabbed Scott by each arm and escorted him up the stairs and out of the building. Scott stumbled across the floor, almost carried by the two men on either side.
F. Scott: “What does a man have to do to be able to have a little fun?”
Bouncers: “We are just doing what we were told to do.”
F. Scott: “Do you always do what you are told, Old Sport?”
Bouncer 1: “You are drunk, sir, so maybe you need to sober up,”
F. Scott: “And so we beat on, boats against the current, born back ceaselessly into the past, Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald got up the next morning and tried to go back. Maybe the night bartender left and hopefully didn't relay the message about his drunken behavior from the night before. He could be that lucky. He walked up to the tall beige stone structure and entered through the mahogany doors. Upon entrance, he spotted the manager standing by the marble pillar by the stairs, so he made his way across the white marble floors.
“Get out, Scott,” the bartender whispered.
“Oh, come on.”
“Go back the way you came in. You have been put on a list.”
“You can’t just chuck me out.” His head still hurt from the night before. He didn’t want to go back to the Army training base at Camp Taylor, so he pleaded.
“You can say it however you want, but you upset a lot of people last night.”
Scott turned around and nodded to gangster George Remus.
“Old Sport,” Remus said. “I am surprised to see you here after last night.”
“Georgy boy, I am just leaving.”
“Where are you going?”
“Where there is Bourbon and babes,” Scott answered. “We are leaving this establishment since I have been cast aside."
“Just lay low for a while,” the hotel manager interrupted.
Interestingly enough, George Remus became the model for Jay in "The Great Gatsby." Like Gatsby, George was a wide-eyed dreamer. Wherever George went, Scott would follow. He marveled at the lavish elegance of parties that George held in the grand ballroom.
After a couple of months, Fitzgerald made his way back to The Seelbach. He found his old barstool and talked nonsense to the bartender about his new fictional character.
“Gatsby's real name was James Gatz." Scott rambled on. "His parents were dirt-poor farmers from North Dakota, but he never accepted them as his parents at all. In his own imagination, he was a son of God, destined for future glory.”
The main character in Scott's book, Jay Gatsby, was a millionaire known for hosting amazingly extravagant parties in his mansion. Throughout "The Great Gatsby," Jay's catchphrase is "Old Sport." Some can’t help but wonder if was based on George. F. Scott Fitzgerald made his narrator, Nick Carraway, a down-to-earth guy, expose wealthy characters like Tom and Daisy Buchanan for their selfish privilege. In the novel, Gatsby becomes infatuated with Daisy even though she is married to Tom. [Spoiler] This tangled situation eventually leads to their demise...
“You can’t repeat the past? Why, of course, you can!" George said.
“You think so?” Fitzgerald asked.
“Old sport, I know so.” Both of them laughed, glancing around at the beautiful woman in the bar.
“You see that woman over there?” George asked.
“How can you miss her,” Fitzgerald said.
“I left with her last week, and I will leave again with her tonight. George slipped the bartender a twenty. "Serve another of whatever she's drinking and tell her it's from me."
The barkeep delivered the drink to the woman, and she turned to George Remus and smiled while she held up her drink.
“You see, old sport, you can repeat the past, and I plan to do just that tonight.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Fitzgerald said. Both of the men laughed.
“I knew that when I kissed this girl, I would be forever wed to her. So I stopped. I stopped, and I waited. I waited for a moment longer. Then I just let myself go.” As George talked, Fitzgerald got out a pen and a small pad of paper and wrote down what he said.
One of the most well-known gangsters of the 1920s, Al Capone, used to frequent The Seelbach around the same time as Fitzgerald. Those visits were frequently for blackjack, poker, and bootlegging. Some say he had a friendship with the other gangster (named George), who may have been the inspiration for the main character of his book, but others are unsure about the relationship between Capone and Fitzgerald:
“Hello there. You are Georgy’s friend, Scott?”
“F. Scott and you are….”
“Al. What does the F stand for?”
“Forget about it,” he said, and they both started laughing.
“Yes, I heard of you. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“Likewise, why don’t you join me for a game?”
The upstairs of the hotel had elegant touches, small windows, and chairs off to the side of the stairs, which led guests to the Oak Room. Guests can still dine in a small alcove where Capone would play cards. His favorite room also has two hidden doors behind special panels leading to secret passageways. The famous gangster sent a large mirror from Chicago (that is still there) so that he could watch his back. Visitors wonder who he actually saw in the mirror....
Taken down a secret passage, a thin man is blindfolded and told in quietly that he was to take a leave of absence from the hotel....
“You are 86ed,” a gangster said.
“That means leave and don’t come back.”
“Why do I have to leave?”
“Al doesn’t like you.”
Fitzgerald ended up getting to the hotel too late to dine in The Oak Room, so he made his way down to the basement to his favorite bar...
“The hotel is breathtaking,” a lady said, passing him as he made his way down the stairs.
“You, my dear are breathtaking,” Scott answered.
“You are cute,” she said.
"Cute, I don’t know if I have ever been called that, and I have been called a lot of things.”
”You are. Cute and funny.”
“Would you like to accompany me to the bar?”
“I am sorry, but I have a previous engagement.”
“Maybe if that engagement doesn’t work out, you can join me later.”
Both of them smiled at each other, and Scott knew he had a memorable line for his future best seller:
“I hope she'll be a fool. That's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool."
Kimberly Horg earned her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with a concentration in News/Editorial from Humboldt State University. In the past 20 years, she has had hundreds of articles published both regionally and nationally on a wide variety of topics. Recently, she went back to school and graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Publishing and Editing where she had the opportunity to work as the online nonfiction editor at California State University, Fresno's literary magazine, The Normal School.
She has had the opportunity to work as a contract editor for Dover Publications as well as for Flowerpot Press. In 2020, she was awarded a Diversity Fellowship to the 2020 Investigative Reporters & Editors Conference. Six chapters in her thesis have recently been published in literary magazines including Dove Tales, Writing for Peace Literary Magazine, The Abstract Elephant Magazine, Iris Literary Magazine, Sterling Clack Clack Magazine and East by Northeast Literary Magazine. Kimberly has also written, self published and globally marketed two children’s books. To read more of her published work, visit: www.kimberlyhorg.com
Guest Juror, thanks to our 2021-2022 Writers group who met at AfterWords Tavern and Shelves and Sara Kaminski, who juried this 2020-2021 Short Fiction Contest. The C-Note Contest was about celebrating 100 years of short fiction!
Sarah Kaminski teaches high school math, but her real joy is to tell corny jokes to her students to make them cringe. Sarah’s short fiction has been published in several Of Words anthologies, as well as Running Wild Anthology and At Death's Door. Her contemporary YA novels and short fiction fiercely tackle the gamut of tough issues that affect real teenagers. You can find her in Kansas City with her two boys and her husband, where she’s often crocheting, singing aloud to music or snuggling with her dog, Loki.
Tales from the Deep, Short Fiction illustrated by Alex Eickhoff, Holloween 2022
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Sprouts Meditations: Artists, Poets & Writers, Summer 2022
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