Cora Bennett

Mary Magdelene, Patron Saint of the Strippers

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Faith is the constant in Cora’s life.

Teenage Cora would gather her fellow addicts and lead them in prayer before shooting up. Prayer always before casing a joint, she insisted, and thanking God before splitting up the loot. “Jesus loves me, like he loves you, like he loves the pastors and the priests, the rich, the poor, and the orphans and all sinners,” she’d tell her friends, her victims, passersby on the street taking pity on a dirty woman with a cardboard sign.

And when they threw her in prison, she led many to see the light. So many, that she started to see it too. She cleaned up her act. She got straight, she swore to follow God’s word as laid out in the Holy Book.

But then they let her out. And her vices came calling, and her sins started gathering and she fell into a string of bad relationships and worse decisions, and God loves all of us anyway, she’d tell herself, needle in her arm filled with drugs she bought with stolen money, given to her by a man whose name she didn’t even know. In the end, Cora found herself pregnant and alone.

Elliot. She decided to call her Elliot. And Elliot kept Cora on the straight and narrow.

Real life, the way you were supposed to live life, was hard. Steady employment was hard. Swearing off drugs and booze and gambling and men was hard. Elliot kept her sane.

God led the way. From job to job, always moving up, always shielding Elliot from the harsh world. When a dilapidated strip club came up for sale, Cora scrounged together enough money to buy it. The hopeless teenage addict had become a business owner. And that was hard too. There was barely enough money to keep running, pay everyone a fair wage. But Cora loved her girls, and she treated them well – even if it meant some days the difference between being in the black and the red was a single dollar.

The Alaskan Bush Company started filling up, getting noticed. Eventually by the wrong people.

She didn’t like his look. She didn’t like his talk. He wanted to buy the place, and she said no. He raised the price, and she wouldn’t back down. She stood her ground, God on her side, nothing could stop her.

And then business started drying up. Sales started falling. He was buying out the block.

Foreclosure was imminent, and when he offered her a loan, letting her keep the name and the building, but living under his finger, she declined.

Until the photos showed up on her doorstep. Elliot at college, Elliot with her friends, Elliot asleep.

A pen, some papers, and she signed her life away, in exchange for safety for Elliot.

Cora Bennett

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