This post is a scene from a book that I am writing. The characters are based on real life people from a scandalous major event in the history of my hometown. Oddly, this story has never been novelized, or turned into a Hallmark Movie, so I am rushing to fill the void. I may, or may not, post further excerpts in the future depending on how good they are.
The noon day sun glints off of the steel rails, and shimmers on the horizon until the tracks disappear in an illusive pool. The smokestacks of the Johnston Harvester factory spew out lazy black plumes into the cloudless sky. On the loading platforms along the tracks, Irish laborers are loading harvesters into the box cars. Rowell stands waiting on the platform. The station is quiet, save for a few wagons waiting to meet the train. Passengers sit in the shade of the platform, fanning themselves. There is no sound but the buzzing of flies around the swishing tails of the horses. He pulls his watch out of the pocket of his vest and checks the time. The train is late, but he has waited this long to see his family a few more minutes seem hardly to matter.
In the distance the bells of St. Joseph’s ring out the Angelus. He wonders if the Irish will stop their work to pray, but they keep to their task. Perhaps he should mention this to Palmer the next time they discuss hiring one. For 6 months he has been renting a room as they have been getting the factory running. The transfer of the equipment from Utica has gone smoothly, and production has been picking up. The inventory has gone quicker than their calculations, and he is glad of it. He has been working long hours keeping the books, while Palmer has been tending to the manufacturing. Rowell puts his watch back into his pocket, and removes a handkerchief. Lifting his hat, he wipes the sweat from his brow.
He has only seen Jennie and the girls twice in that time. This time they are coming to stay. Just a few finishing touches and the house will be complete. It is larger, and more spacious than the one they have been renting in Utica. He has been busy setting up the furnishings as they have arrived, and just this morning has placed a large bouquet of lilies in a vase in the front parlor. He hopes that Jennie will be pleasantly surprised. This is a chance for them both to have a fresh start, away from the scandals, away from the worries, away from the temptation of that man.
Across the tracks on Ellicott Street, people hurry between the storefront awnings to escape the sun. The population is already over 10,000 souls and seems to grow by the day as immigrants arrive, and move into the tenements of the South Side. Labor has proven cheap compared to the wages in the Mohawk Valley, and land is plentiful. This move may prove more profitable than he had hoped.
Looking up he sees the train emerge from the mirage, slowing as it crosses the switch yard near the factories, and approaches the station. The people on the platform stir to life. Reaching into his coat pocket, he pulls out the paper bag with the peppermint sticks that he bought on the way to the station. They will be sticky and soft from the heat, but the girls will be thrilled to have them. In his heart he feels the ache of their absence from his life. He has had nothing but work, and the fellowship of Palmer and the others in the Eagle tavern. How good it will be to have their vivacious company to fill the hallways and rooms of the new house with laughter. How good it will feel to hold Jennie in his arms.
The black iron beast steams from every opening. Rowell can feel the heat of the engine on his face as it rolls past the platform. He scans the windows of the coaches as they pass looking for their faces. The conductor steps down onto the platform, as the train rolls to a stop in a long sigh of steam.
Searching the crowd of passengers stepping off of the train he hears the girls scream “Daddy!”. Turning he sees them running towards him across the platform. He kneels down, and catches them in his arms.
“Oh Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!”. Clara says, “We missed you so much! We didn’t think we would ever get here.”
“You will have to tell me all about the journey.” Rowell says, holding out the candy, “Look here, I brought you something.”
The girls squeal with delight, as Rowell turns his gaze toward the train to see Jennie stepping from the coach onto the platform, her long blond hair tucked up under a wide brimmed white hat. Even in this infernal heat she seems a center of calm, untouched, and unfazed by the commotion around her. She smooths the folds of her dress and looks down the platform at Rowell and the girls, huddled together in the crowd. Despite all that has happened, and all the troubles that have come before, he has never felt more in love with her. Meeting his gaze, she smiles and looks upward and to the side in that way of hers that says “You are the most absurd thing I have ever seen”. Rowell feels a laugh swelling in his chest, and in that instant he knows that this place will do them good.