OK, since I am trying to put more time and energy into the attempt at “real writing” I suppose I should at least share a little of it here. Enjoy! And if you don’t, please keep it to yourself.
From the window of his third floor office, Rowell looked out and saw the wagons, and carriages moving down the dusty Main Street. In the middle of the day the village was alive with activity. The whistle of a train leaving the station echoed off of the brick buildings, and reminded him that the city was crisscrossed with tracks likes iron veins on the back of a hand. Batavia was a cross roads. Long before the railroads were built, or even the streets, the Iroquois nation beat footpaths through the woods here. By the muddy banks of the Tonawanda Creek, the trails from the Genesee valley crossed the trails leading to Lakes Erie and Ontario.
There along the great bend where the creek turned toward the west, was a grassy clearing in the midst of the virgin forest. When colonists began to move west of the Catskills they followed these Indian footpaths, clearing the trees, and widening them until they became roads. At their junction, just steps from the banks of the creek, stood the stately gray limestone courthouse its cupola rising above all like an axis around which the town revolved.
Batavia soon stood as the largest of the towns in this part of the state, but the ground was too high, and when the canal was dug from Buffalo to Alban, it passed through muck lands to the north. For a while it seemed as if the village would fade, and become a sleepy backwater on a shallow un-navigable creek. But the same geography that made it the natural cross roads for the Seneca, came back to save it. When the first tracks were laid in Western New York, they followed the same valleys, and firm soil of the footpaths.
It was the railroads that saved the town, and it was the railroads that had brought Newt and Palmer to relocate here from Utica. From the station in Batavia, a traveler could be in New York, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, or Ontario in a day. From this central point, they could call on companies all over the Northeast, shipping their boxes and cartons to the heart of North America’s industry. As he sat at his desk, Newt thought about the other reason they had moved the business.
Their marriage had begun with the usual nervous excitement. The wedding was quickly followed by children. As he worked hard to provide a home for their burgeoning family, it hadn’t been easy on Jennie. Soon she was alone with two small children, as Newt traveled with the elder Palmer, and learned the box making business. In retrospect, he should have been more attentive to her needs, but he had trouble making her understand that his time away from home was for the good of the family.
When the elder Palmer died, and he bought into the business things began to improve. Money became a little easier to come by, and the girls were growing. Jennie could afford to make trips to Albany and shop for fashionable clothes. Soon, the associations that Rowell began to make among the young professional class of Utica led to new opportunities. There were parties, and social events, and these seemed to please Jennie greatly. Even though Rowell wanted to fade into the wallpaper at these events, it heartened him to see Jennie so happy. Unlike him, she was in her natural element in a crowd. She sparkled like a chandelier when there were others around. He was content to stand in the shadows and watch her as she floated from group to group, talking, and laughing with such ease. Her beauty was undeniable. When she entered a room the men stopped their discussion, and she became the focus of their attentions.
Soon the rumors began to circulate. Perhaps it was the jealousy of the older woman, as she insisted, but he couldn’t help but wonder if there was some truth to the rumors. Eventually, they became so prevalent he didn’t know what to believe. There was no denying that certain men seemed to find their way into her path time and again. When he returned from a trip one evening, Palmer pulled him aside, and informed him that he’d seen Jennie on the arm of a young lawyer strolling the shaded streets. When Rowell brought it up to her, she did not deny it. Instead, she seemed injured by his distrust, and in the end he felt sorry for not believing her. She claimed him to be a dear friend, and someone that she felt she could speak to when he was away. She swore to him it was nothing more than companionship that she sought in him.
But the rumors persisted, until they were no longer welcome at parties and social events. Invitations mysteriously became lost, and when they did attend, the silence that greeted them was unnerving. It began to tear at Jennie to be so isolated where once she had been the center of attention. She began to spend more time with Lynch, the young lawyer, and became more brazen about being seen in public, until the whispers behind Rowell’s back became too much for him to stand.
This move would be a fresh start, and a chance for them to reinvent themselves. They had no history here, and Rowell hoped that whatever had happened in Utica could finally be forgotten. A new village, a new house, and new acquaintances, everything would be different here. Already their business was increasing, and even Palmer agreed that the new location was already paying dividends.
A breeze from the open window, rustled the papers on his desk, and brought some relief from the heat. Standing, he walked out of the office door to check on Palmer and the others. The factory took up the top floor of the building, and the skylights in the roof provided not only light for the workers, but some ventilation as well. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he walked into the production room where Palmer was busy adjusting the machinery while the women removed the cut pieces of cardboard, screen printed the markings on them, and folded them into the packing crate.
“How is it coming?” Rowell asked, as Palmer adjusted the cutting blades with a wrench.
“I think I’ve got it figured out.” Palmer responded, his white shirt soaked with sweat and sticking to the center of his back. “This infernal heat must have expanded the tension rods, and caused the blades to slide loose. We’ll have to remember to adjust them back when the weather cools off.”
The slight breeze from the windows could barely be felt in the stifling heat of the production room. Rolling his sleeves down, Palmer walked across the room to speak with the women.
“That’s it girls. We’ve got three more crates to fill to complete this order. Keep an eye on those cut lines, and let me know if anything changes” Palmer instructed. Picking up his coat, he followed Rowell back to the front office.
“The Lilly order will be ready to go by tomorrow, so you can go ahead and arrange the shipment” Palmer told Rowell.
“Four shipments this week already,” Rowell observed, “If we keep up at this pace, we might have to think of hiring an office girl.”
“Perhaps, but I doubt we’d be able to find one as pretty as you.” Palmer joked, winking at Rowell from behind his glasses.
They had known each other since they were children, having grown up just a few doors apart from each other. At times Rowell thought of him as a second brother. When he had bought into the business after Palmer’s father died, Rowell was concerned that it would create tension between them, but they had found that their personalities, and skills complemented each other. In addition to his mechanical skill, Palmer was more comfortable talking with the women on the shop floor, and giving the directions. Rowell spent most of his time in the office, keeping the books, or making sales calls to visit with the drug manufacturers and designing the latest cartons.
“I trust that the trip went well, and your family has arrived?” asked Palmer
“Yes” answered Rowell, sitting down in his chair, across the room from Palmer. “The children were quite excited about move.”
“And Jennie?” asked Palmer
Rowell was silent for a moment, then answered “Yes, I think Jennie will appreciate the move too.”
“Newt, you know how I feel about the situation,” said Palmer “I just can’t stand to see her making a fool out of you again.”
“It wasn’t her fault” Rowell replied quickly.
Palmer removed his glasses, and wiped his face with a handkerchief.
“I know that Lynch is a scoundrel Newt, but you cannot place the blame solely on him”
“I don’t” Rowell answered. “I place some of the blame on myself as well. If I had paid more attention to her needs it never would have happened.”
“Newt, she should have never let it get to that point.”
“I don’t want to have this discussion again.” Rowell responded, slamming his hand upon his desk. “He seduced her, and we have put it behind us. It will not happen again.”
Palmer paused, then placed his glasses back on his face. “Newt. I am only telling you this as your oldest, and closest friend. I don’t want to see you mocked behind your back here as you were in Utica. That’s why I suggested this move. That’s why I have supported you throughout this. All I ask is that you not be naïve.”
Rowell closed his eyes against the memory of the humiliation, then nodded his head in silent agreement.