Saturday, 11 August 2018

An excerpt from The Alexanders - 1916.




The Alexander's - The First Decade, is 85% complete. So far I've spent the last two years writing this story; a morning here, an afternoon there, whenever I can and I love it!

I'm happy to share parts of the story with you as it progresses and look forward to your comments.

I've shared several sections already and you can find them by doing a search on the left sidebar in Search This Blog. Type in Alexanders and they will all come up. 







Dominic Alexander makes a new life for himself when he immigrates to Canada, to Moncton in New Brunswick . Everything has been going smooth until 1916 when Dominic suffers his first set back.





1916


The fifth day of March is overcast. Sprinkled across the belligerent blue of the skies are clouds stretched thin by shifting winds and they yellow from the promise of sun. Snow clings to the edges of buildings and lies brown and crusty in the ditches knowing it’s no longer wanted. Last year’s stubble of brown grass is visible and people talk of an early spring. The air carries an odd scent, seasoned by the surrounding industry of railways and a busy river and the warming earth. Dominic can smell it when a cool breeze ventures through the open window that brings with it the morning whistle at the repair yards reminding everyone that it’s 8 a.m. This is the only day he sleeps late. He loves his new home and ponders for a moment of how fortunate he is.
Stretching and tossing the bed covers aside, he sits at the edge of the bed rubbing the night from his eyes to gaze out his window. He’d hoped it would’ve been nice today but he gathers that the skies look mean and it might rain. That’d be okay too, get rid of the last of the stubborn snow. Either way, he’s off today, Sunday being the only time he gets to himself. He has plenty to do with the business but he keeps this day to himself to do whatever he wants. The only plans he has right now is to fry the rest of the ham that Nick’s mother sent him and fry some eggs with fresh bread from Bailey’s Bakery. While he’s eating, he’s going to paste in the last five entries to his scrapbook he collected since the beginning of the year.
When he washes up and shaves, he decides to grow a moustache. He likes the way the stubble looks under his nose while imagining it thicker. Freshly polished, dressed in his every day dungarees and brown flannel shirt, he sits with a plate of steaming vittles at the table where he’s left his open scrap book and loose cut outs. While he chews between bites, he dabs some glue on the newspapers sections and pastes them in on different pages.


The Yankees buy Frank “Home Run” Baker from the Athletics for $37,500. Canada’s original Parliament Building in Ottawa burns down. The first bombing of Paris by German Zeppelins takes place. Military conscription begins in Britain. Germany begins to attack ships in the Atlantic.




While he dabs the bread crust in the molten yolk on his plate, he considers the last news story. Ships being sunk in the Atlantic. It must be scary to travel cross the waters that are rife with U-boats. He’s glad he has no need to travel although he yearns at times to return to see his family and friends. It’s not as often now but missing everyone remains as intense. Popping the last bite into his mouth, he closes the scrapbook and finishes his tea. He pushes his plate aside and elbows the table while holding his mug in both hands. He stares across at the window in the kitchen to see the barren field next to his house and the Ingersoll’s farm in the distance. There is activity in the yard and he expects the family are getting ready to drive into the city to attend church. Reflecting upon his own spirituality, he feels that he should be attending church too. He knows they go St. Bernard’s Catholic Church on Botsford Street and even though his family are Protestants, he might visit one day, but not today.
Thinking of what he might do, he decides to work on his latest sketch of his new home he’s doing to send to Gloria. Now that he thinks of her, he hasn’t had a letter from her for quite a while. He answered her last one in February and she is usually quick to respond. He guesses she is busy at school and helping her parents at home or at the bar. One thing he must do is compose an ad for the Transcript to find someone to help in his shop. Part time for now at least. In fact, he’ll do that first.
He cleans up his dishes and the frying pan and puts everything away. Digging a notepad from a drawer in the kitchen and a pencil, he returns to the table to write the ad. While he thinks of the right words, he’s pushing the hair out of his eyes reminding him he needs a haircut soon. Twenty minutes later after a few attempts he comes up with what he feels is the right wording.




Help wanted. Alexander’s Jewellery Repair is looking for a part-time assistant to assist with the public. Must have retail or office experience. Please apply in person before March 15th.



Satisfied, he sets the papers aside. He will take it to the newspaper offices tomorrow during his lunch. He will leave a sign on the door for when he will be back. Donning a light jacket and his boots, he ventures out to the barn where he has set up an area for his sketching. He and Nick have installed a wood stove in the main floor where the hay was kept and he will light a small fire because even though the weather has been milder, it’s early March and the air still holds a chill.
Entering through the man door, set in the larger door, he walks into a wide common main level, open to the top lofts and enclosed by wooden walls on each side. Nick and Dave Ingersoll hauled old hay and debris from inside by the wagon full and the place is spotless. The rooms to the left are the old stables and storage, which Dominic has left for the same purposes. The rooms on the right are where the carpenter keeps his things in one and the other two are empty. Five feet from the back wall is a pot-bellied stove, sitting on a metal plate which rests upon a wooden floor comprised of heavy beams on their narrow side, strong as steel. Along the back wall away from the stove is a pile of split wood and sawmill tailings. Using old sections from newspapers, he soon has the dry wood ablaze.



He’s tired when he finishes the sketch. Only stopping for a quick sandwich at noon and a couple of short breaks he’s been at it all afternoon. From the two windows in the back wall, he’s noticed the faint light move shadows across the floor as the day passes and he knows it is close to supper time, his growling stomach is telling him the same thing. Putting away his pencils and things, he stops to admire the drawing. From the perspective of standing at the end of the driveway, the house is finely detailed as in reality, each shingle is meticulously placed, the flowers of summer decorating the base of the porch, the small sign by the door, the sparkle of the bevelled glass on the windows. The barn is half visible behind from this angle but the detail is the same. The edges of the picture fades out to empty fields. He likes it. He straightens out a few thing on the old desk he uses and remembers the stove. Thinking to check on it, he opens the iron door when a gnarled knot in one of the wood pieces boils inside with sap and when it becomes steam it bursts, shooting sparks out upon the metal plate. It startles Dominic who has jumped back from the stove. Seeing the sparks on the floor, he starts stamping them out with the sole of his boot. There’s a half a dozen pieces smouldering and they are soon extinguished by the stomping. Dominic is sweating from the scare. Looking around to see lf he got them all, there is no sign of any more errant embers. He closes the stove door, takes his sketch and leaves.
There is one spark he missed. The one that rolled off the edge of the metal plate and lodged in a crack between two beams. It fell on its dark side, it went unseen. The glowing portion, however, is turned downward. As hard as the men worked to clean the floor, there is still remnants of old hay that has been pressed through the cracks over the decades. The hot ember finds some and there’s soon a gathering of flame and dry wood. Dominic’s barn catches fire. 








I'm aiming for a 2019 publication of my historical fiction novel. I hope you'll want to read more. Thanks for visiting the Scribbler. 


If you haven't read Wall of War yet and met Dominic's grandson in 2014, it's available on Amazon. Hard copies available from me. $25.00 plus shipping.



Saturday, 4 August 2018

Guest Author Jorja Dupont-oliva of Florida.


Jorja has been a guest before on the Scribbler and she's back to share some wonderful news. Her novel Sisterly received the finalist award at the American Book Fest


No automatic alt text available.


If you missed Jorja's previous visit, please go here





Buy Sisterly here




ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Jorja DuPont Oliva, author of the Chasing Butterflies Series, has created another realm in her writing quest. Sisterly is her first psychological thriller, with twists and turns like nothing you have read before. A unique plot that will have you addictively turning the pages.



BLURB

Two sisters, one love.
Confined to one town.
One mistake,
and one house.


To a perfect town where nothing changes, not-so-perfect Janie returns. Determined to make amends with her sister, Brea, Janie finally reveals the hidden reason she left thirty years ago to her first love, Dillon, who is now married to Brea. To add to the chaos, Janie rents a room from a mysterious old black woman only to find unusual guests and a fenced-in backyard that is strictly off limits—with a supernatural legend attached to it. Struggling to make things right while questioning her own sanity, Janie realizes the unbreakable bond with her sister remains and those on the other side of the fence hold the secrets.

DESCRIPTION
Janie Edwards has a dark calling on the verge of revealing itself. She sets out, returning home after thirty years, to make amends with her sister, Brea, and her first love, Dillon McCrane, before they discover her skeleton in the closet—or it discovers them. But there is a problem standing in Janie’s way: Brea and Dillon are husband and wife.
While bracing herself to face Brea, Janie rents a room from Ms. Francis, a mysterious old black woman. Ms. Francis consents to give Janie the room only if Janie helps take care of her guests. Janie agrees—with the assumption these guests are just regular people.
Many perplexities linger around Ms. Francis’ big yellow house, with its odd guests, Janie, and an ever-reliable train passing in the night. Even Ms. Francis has buried secrets of her own. After Janie returns from an unsuccessful visit with her sister, Ms. Francis reveals the biggest secret of all, the sacred back yard.
Guest—or ghost?—Janie struggles to find her own sanity but is desperate to reconcile with her sister before her own secret is exposed.

EXCERPT
There is something sacred about that soil in my back yard. When I bought this place, there weren’t no fence.” Ms. Francis shook her head. “Just a story handed down from the town’s old white folks, a supernatural legend. I had to put that fence up to keep people out. People who had lost their loved ones. My house kept filling up with guests.” 


She turned to wipe down the dresser where Marva kept all her jewelry. She stopped again to explain, “They weren’t just guests, which took me a while to figure out; they were the people’s lost loved ones.” She grabbed an unruly blanket from the top of a nearby chest of drawers, neatly folded it, and returned it to the chest’s top. “They were burying the remains back there — mostly their ashes, but sometimes it would be something as simple as a lock of hair.” She chuckled. “One woman even buried her husband’s underwear, and sure enough he showed up, too.” She solemnly added, “I’s not sure why or how, but I knows God always has a reason for it…”


Congratulations Jorja. It must be a terrific feeling to have your work recognized. Thanks for telling us about your book and the excerpt.




Jorja's website- here

Facebook author page - here



Hey there dear readers, please leave us a comment. Thanks for visiting!


Sunday, 29 July 2018

The Ship Breakers - a short story by allan hudson



This story received Honourable Mention in the Writers Federation of New Brunswick's short story competition a few years ago. It has been published in SHORTS Vol.1 (a limited edition printing). on commuterlit.com and will be featured in the upcoming short story collection - Boxes of Memories - to be published in the fall of 2018.


Ship Breaking has to be one of the most difficult jobs in the world. There are three major ship breaking yards in the world. One of them is in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Injuries and death are always around the corner and yet, there is a line up for the jobs.

I was inspired to write a short story based on my research of the yards for my novel, Dark Side of a Promise.





The Ship Breakers



The Neptune Giant is a VLCC, a very large crude carrier. When it was completed in 1979, it ranked among the largest oil tankers in the world. From bow to stern, 75 Cadillacs could park bumper to bumper. The crews used bicycles to travel the elongated deck. With a beam of nearly two hundred feet, five bungalows could be placed lengthwise side by side across the deck; her keel is six stories underwater. The raw steel is covered with over fifteen hundred gallons of paint. She’d been given a lifespan of thirty years; instead, she had sailed every ocean of the world, berthed at every continent, rode many storm’s fierce waves and trolled the endless seas for thirty-five years. Today is her final voyage.

Her last port of call, two weeks ago, was Saint John, New Brunswick, with two million barrels of Venezuelan crude. Now, the tanker cruises the Bay of Bengal at fourteen knots. At that speed she requires five miles to come to a dead stop. The ship breaking yards of Chittagong, Bangladesh, are only four miles away. The captain brings the ship to starboard, aiming the aging tanker directly at the muddy beach. The tide is high, which is necessary to allow the gargantuan machine to ground itself like an aged sea lion, as near to the shore as possible, where it will die.

The engine that powers the ship is eighty-nine feet long and forty-four feet wide with twelve massive cylinders – one of the largest engines in the world. It weighs two thousand metric tons costing more than the rest of the transport. Its thirst for fuel demands over fifteen hundred gallons of crude every hour. Its last chore will be to power the vessel onto the tidal mud banks, where humans who are dwarfed by its immensity will eventually take it apart, by hand, piece by piece. The work is extremely dangerous, with an exceptionally high mortality rate, and yet there is no shortage of men.

Of the approximately 45,000 ocean-going vessels in the world, about seven hundred per year are taken out of service for dismantling. Many go to Alang, India, the world’s largest ship breaking yard, or to Gadani, Pakistan, the third largest after Chittagong. Where the ships go, the jobs go. As difficult as the work may be, ship breaking is part of the momentum powering the economy of a young Bangladesh. The owners of this particular ship-breaking yard paid three million dollars for the Neptune Giant


     With torches, sledgehammers, steel wedges, brute force and painstaking drudgery, it will take six months to dismantle the ship; one man will die and two men will be injured by a thousand pound slab of steel cut from the behemoth’s hide. It will net the owner millions more than he paid when he sells the scrap metal and he will provide no compensation for men that can’t work. They toil fourteen hours a day, with two half hour breaks and an hour for lunch, six and a half days a week. The men will eat their supper when their work shift ends. At least one quarter of the workers are illiterate; one quarter are children. The average wage is $1.25 per day.


*



Azhar Uddin is gently woken by his father. It’s 4:30 a.m.

Come, my little man, you must join your brother at the table. You must leave for work soon. Come now.”

Hafiz Uddin turns from his son, supporting himself with his only arm grasped upon a homemade crutch; the other arm is buried beneath the muddy beaches where he once toiled, severed by falling steel at the same crippling yards where he now sends his two sons. He wobbles even with his lopsided support; the left knee and lower leg, the same side as the missing arm, were wrecked in the accident also. Unable to find meaningful work with only a single hand, one strong leg and a defeated spirit, he remains dependent upon his male children: Nur is fourteen; Azhar will be thirteen next week. Because they are exceptional workers, they earn two hundred and sixty takas a day, just over three dollars.

Rising slowly, Azhar sits up on the side of the bed and rubs his shoulder. The dull ache in his muscle reminds him of the steel pipes he helped carry all day. Long straight bangs of the fiercest black hang over his narrow forehead. His brown boyish skin is smooth and untroubled, not yet marked by the lines of struggle. A slight dimple on the end of his nose balances the squareness of his jaw. The man’s work he does has not taken the childish shine from his eyes. Blinking the sleepy fog from his brow, he rises to find his work clothes neatly folded at the foot of his bed. His father washed and hung them to dry before he retired for the night, as he would have done for Azhar’s older brother, Nur, also. There are no women in the house.

Azhar slips on his red and blue striped shirt, the collar and cuffs worn thin bearing unravelled threads. Wrapping a green and yellow lungi around his slim hips, he ties a double pretzel knot to keep it secure. He often wishes for trousers to protect his legs, but they would be too hot for work, and he knows there is no money for such luxuries. Every spare taka is sent to his mother, Naju, in Dhaka. He ponders a moment, thinking of her and his sisters. Rayhana is eleven and works with his mother; and Tasleema is six. He hasn’t seen them for over four months. It is for Tasleema that they all work and save whatever is possible so that she can go to school. As he thinks of her glowing eyes and tiny face, he remembers her promise.

When we are together again, Azhar, I will teach you to read.”




The thought causes him to bend down to retrieve the tattered comic book from under his bed. In the dim light of the bare bulb from the kitchen, he scans the torn cover. The masked man with the flowing cape, he knows, is called Batman. One of his first jobs when he was only ten was to retrieve any usable items from the grounded ships that could be sold to the recyclers: rolls of unused toilet paper, cleaning supplies, pots and pans, furniture, bedding, tools, discarded books, coastal maps, light bulbs, cans of paint, rope, wire. The comic book had been in a waste basket; it was torn and thick with many readings. Azhar had seen other comics before, but he wondered where this one came from and how far it had travelled when he found it. His boss Mojnu told him to keep it, otherwise it was being tossed out. He was always impressed by the colored pages, the photos of cars, tall buildings, fancy clothes, fight scenes, smiles and scowls – and he longed to know what the squiggly words mean. More than anything, he wants to read.

Tossing the book under the bed once more, he tugs the frugal sheets into place neatly, as his father expects, before joining his brother at the table. Their home is corrugated metal divided into two rooms with few possessions, its shape a replica of the many shanties lining the dirt street where he lives. Theirs is different because their father keeps it clean. The walls are painted a bright blue inside and out; their roof doesn’t leak when it rains.

The smell of oatmeal greets him as it drifts from the boiling pot his father is bent over, stirring, on the Bondhu Chula, a cook stove. Oatmeal for breakfast is not common in their home or their neighbors’ for that matter. Most breakfasts are rice, sometimes with red or green chillies. Or paratha, a pan fried unleavened flat bread. Yesterday Old Angus Macdonald, the burly Scotsman who visited them sometimes, had dropped off a bag of rolled oats. They have no idea where he lives or where he comes from. They only know him from the story their father has told them. 

The man was almost seventy when he commanded the Atlantic Pride, one of Canada’s largest ferries, to the yards in Chittagong when it was retired four years ago. He stepped onto shore after he grounded the ship and he never left. When the torches cut a section of aged steel from the nose of that very ship, a huge chunk crashed to the ground beside Hafiz, pinning his arm to the sand and breaking his leg. Had the piece fallen several inches to the left, Hafiz would`ve died. Maybe that was why the elderly man stopped by once in a while with a bag of oats or some other staples and a few taka notes. He never stayed long, spoke very little Bengali. Always laughing, always a mystery.

Nur sits in front of a dish of flatbread, resting on a makeshift table, which is a piece of discarded plywood his father has sanded, painted and polished. It’s the same teal that decorates the home, the same teal Hafiz got for free. Nur looks up with his usual wide grin.

Good morning, little brother. Will you be having paratha or paratha for your meals today?”

Hafiz has his back to his boys, cooking their breakfast. He doesn’t turn around when he scolds his oldest son.

 “Be thankful you have food, Nur. There are neighbors who may not have any today, or tomorrow. Don’t make fun. And Azhar, wash up, do your morning duties, and hurry. This is almost done.”

Both boys answer in unison, “Yes, Baba.”

The man that owns the property their home sits on is the same individual who owns the breaking yard the boys work at. Not totally without empathy, he provides running water and outhouses. Perhaps it is benevolence that has him supply these accommodations; it’s also his desire that his employees should be healthy so they don’t miss work. Hence the covered latrines and cold, life-giving Adam’s ale. Azhar goes to the sideboard, where water heated by his father steams from an old porcelain basin that is storied with nicks and scratches. He washes the sleep from his face, tames the cowlicks on his head, before taking the bowl outdoors to discard the soapy residue. Setting it on the doorstep, he rushes to the outhouse to complete his morning ritual. Returning to the kitchen, he finds Nur bent over a smoking bowl of hot porridge with the grandest of smiles.

Azhar, we have brown sugar this morning. Our Baba is good to us.”

Hafiz sits at the opposite end of the table, his own porridge barren of anything sweet. There is only enough for the boys, he feels. The used plastic bag that sits on the table holds about three tablespoons of crumbly dark crystals. Azhar sits at his seat, an upended orange crate padded with a cushion his mother made.

Eat up boys. Divide that between you.”

As Nur digs into the bag, Azhar watches his father stir his breakfast to cool it, knowing such a treat is rare.

What about you, Baba?”

Nur halts his sprinkling to look at his father.

No, no, I don’t want any. Take it. And hurry, Ismail will be along soon with the truck to take you to work.”

Suddenly the kettle’s steam whistle erupts. Hafiz sits closest to the cook stove and twists about with his single arm to lift the heated pot to fill the three mugs for tea. When his father turns his back, Azhar hastily reaches into the bag, pulling out almost half of what is left. He stretches to sprinkle the sugar about his father’s bowl. Nur grins and tosses in what is left on his spoon. The boys are giggling as Hafiz turns around with the first of the mugs. 

He stops mid-swing when he sees what they have done. He guesses it to be Azhar, so much like his mother. He holds his youngest son’s gaze for a moment before looking at Nur. Mistaking the look on their father’s face, thinking him upset, the boys grow quiet. Hafiz briefly studies his sons, soon off to do men’s work, still childlike in their hearts. He yearns for them to run free, not to need their strong backs to survive. He is overcome with this simple gesture of love; a glistening tear zigzags down his haggard cheek. 

Thank you, my sons. You are fine men.”

With everyone shy, the meal passes in solitude. The boys hastily finish so they can get ready for work.


The End


Thanks for visiting this week and I hope you enjoyed the visit to the yards and family of Bangladesh. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

4Q Interview with Williston Payne - Lawyer, Defender and Master of Information.



Is Williston Payne a Vigilante?

Life for Mr. Payne had been quite normal until tragedy struck in 2001. His sister, Amber, and her best friend, while on holidays in Venezuela, died at the hands of one of the world's most evil men. (photo credit - Rene Bohmer. Upsplash.com)

It took three long years to find the man that did it. The law was ineffective in bringing him to justice. Payne turned to his friend, Drake Alexander, a former Canadian Commando, to find Bartolo Rizzato. Together, with the help of several ex-soldiers, a French ex-pat and a Bengali cop, they found him...and they killed him (Dark Side of a Promise)

From that day forward they vowed to scour the Earth for men or women that escape the law, evil people that the world would be better rid of! (Wall of War)

So yes, Payne and his cohorts are vigilantes.

Williston Payne has agreed to an exclusive interview on the Scribbler.



4Q: Are you a vigilante?



Photo credit: Thomas Tucker. Upsplash.com
WP: Do I take the law in my own hands? Yes. I have great respect for the justice system in most countries, I mean I'm a lawyer after all, but there are too many criminals that escape their due punishment. When my sister was murdered, it changed my life. There was too many law enforcement agencies involved because Rizzato was an international troublemaker plus he was very clever at hiding. There came a point when I had to turn to my best friend to help. He's the soldier, I'm an information man but I'm no hero. Drake Alexander is a good man, deadly and afraid of no one.

I eventually found out through my contacts that Rizzato was in Bangladesh. Drake and his team did the rest until we trapped him in Panama. Unfortunately, we couldn't arrest him. He ended up being lunch for a carnivorous beast and I'm not the least bit sorry.

Once we got a taste for revenge, we were hooked. Now we look for trouble.


4Q: Running a team of ex-soldiers and searching the world for criminals must be expensive. Who foots the bill for all this?

WP: As for myself, I've been fortunate throughout my career as a lawyer. Over the years I built a successful company of  law offices in the US, Canada and several countries in Europe dealing with international tax issues. Needless to say, I've become quite wealthy. During the search for Amber's killer, I retired from the business which is now under control of my brother and other trusted managers. We moved our command center to my Yacht. We have our own aircraft and can move anywhere, anytime. I'm an info addict. I love collecting other people's secrets. I have contacts all over the world and if I need to know something, I can usually find it.

Photo credit: Kony Xyzx. Upsplash.com
As for the rest of out team, Drake in an heir to a jewellery company that his grandfather established in 1915 in New Brunswick and his father managed in his later years. His mother was the only child of another jewellery family and she met Drake's father at a buying show in New York. Together they established a chain of stores in Atlantic Canada and New England. Normally Drake would've taken over the business but he's not interested. All his life he only wanted to be a soldier. But he still owns the majority of the business and money is no problem.

As for the others, there are two more retired soldiers. Dakin Rush, is a co-owner of a security firm and he's free to travel. Isaac Glass and his father own a helicopter company that pretty well runs itself, so he's good to go. His girlfriend, Plum, is an ex-convict and she goes where he goes.

No, money is not an issue.


4Q: What was the latest caper you and the team have been involved with?

WP: Recently, a man very close to Drake, a priest actually, discovered a strange document and an ancient gold dagger while renovating the church he was in charge of. The information it reveled got into the wrong hands. It wasn't long before Miguel Pisconte was in trouble. He accidently killed a young man and was kidnapped by a Spanish raider. Pisconte was unwilling to talk until his sister was taken prisoner by the same sinister people. We tracked them down to Peru, discovered a strange monument built of solid gold by the Inca hidden in the Andes and set a trap for the bad guys. Drake rescued them and Turi Salcedo is dead. 



4Q: Wow. That's heavy stuff. I'm afraid to ask what's next?

Photo credit: Annie Spratt. Upsplash.com
WP: Interestingly enough, one of our team members, Mireille Lambert, was with the Securite National in France until she met a Bengali Police Officer and fell in love. They married and she moved to Bangladesh with him and together they formed a private investigation company. She led us through the labyrinth of rivers there and the city of Dhaka. She died during the search for Salcedo and his men. When we attended her funeral in France, we met the master vintner of her parent's estate. His daughter was killed by the Monteau brothers on their bank robbing spree in the early 1980's. That's over twenty years ago and they've never been caught. We're going after them. It's been tough so far, it's almost as if they disappeared completely but not to worry, we'll find them.




Thank you Williston for being our guest this week. You certainly lead an interesting life.




And thank you dear readers for joining me this week to meet Mr. Williston Payne.


**Note: Williston Payne if a fictional character. As a tribute to one of my dearest friends whose last name is Williston, I've dedicated this character to him.



Feel free to leave a comment. Would love to hear from you!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

An excerpt from The Alexanders - The First Decade



The Alexanders - The First Decade.
1911-1920


This is the working title of my work-in-progress (WIP) and I'm having such fun in writing this historical account of Dominic Alexander (Drake Alexander's grandfather) who immigrates to Canada in 1915 and establishes himself in Moncton.

One of my main character's is a young lady that come to work for him and as nature would have it, they fall in love. Her name is Maria Desjardin, from Notre Dame, New Brunswick.

Maria is normally an easy going lady but there's a feisty side to her.

In 1917, during the First World War, there is a shortage of men for many factories and workplaces. The cotton mill in Moncton hires many women. They don't make the same wages, for the same work, as men do.

Maria Desjardin doesn't stand for that.



An excerpt from The Alexanders. (Copyright is held by the author)



The tower of the cotton mill looms menacingly, like a fist, above the small crowd gathered in the shadows of the office door. The last Friday of September has not started off peacefully in the east end of Moncton. Odors from the workings of raw cotton float in the light autumn breeze. The sun barely crests the horizon yet a cluster of shouting woman and several men are waving and demanding that the owner, Baylor Crosswaithe, treat his female employs fairly. They make a glut along the driveway so no one can exit or enter without running over them. It came to light that female weavers are making three dollars an hour less than men doing the same work. Young children also labor at the mill for very low wages. The crowd is angry.
 
 

It is unlikely that Crosswaithe will show his face, mainly because he doesn’t care. He has stated publicly that the mill is his business and he will run it as he sees fit. If the workers don’t like their wages, they are free to look elsewhere. The truth of the matter is that the mill is in financial difficulty and Crosswaithe is scrambling to keep the business operating. There is an abundance of cotton mills throughout the country driving the prices down.

Maria Desjardin decides that enough is enough and against Dominic’s wishes that she not be involved she makes phone calls and organizes rallies. It has a mild adverse effect on the business and it is the first heated conversations they have in their relationship. He agrees with her but wants her out of sight. Today she is at the forefront of the protestors. She is also the loudest.

“It’s not fair that your ladies work so hard for wages that are unequal”

The other women, Emma included, along with twelve of their friends and acquaintances and a handful of husbands are making a racket and waving hand drawn placards, demanding equal rights. Denise wanted to be there but had to work at the store, especially since Maria organized the rally and she hasn’t told Dominic. The suffragette movement has been slow to reach Moncton, but these are the same ladies that are most vocal for equality. Other woman are afraid of their husbands, or their employers or their disagreeable families to be involved publicly, some write letters of protest, others say and do nothing.  The bunch gathered are just as verbal as their leader.

“Give woman the same money as the men!”

“Tell Crosswaithe that we demand an audience!”

“How can you sleep knowing women are treated so unfairly?”

“We want some answers!”

 

The commotion is being witnessed by people on the periphery, not involved but intrigued by the uncommon sight of woman creating such a disturbance. Most of the protestors are in everyday wear but one is with elegant jacket and skirts of the latest fashion, namely Mildred Van Geist.  Van Geist is not as boisterous but her presence lends gravity to the cause. Much to her husband’s chagrin, she too has an effect on his banking business.  Men in delivery carts, people walking to work or going to the hospital up the street, are watching. Not everyone is sympathetic, especially domineering males.

 At the opposite end of the building, so too is a loose group of workers staring, lingering at the worker’s entrance, fronted by three burly men glaring at the woman with hateful glazes who are shaking their fists at them and yelling abuse. Maria shakes her fist back at them, as do others. The men take offence and advance on the crowd but are only a few steps away when the shift whistle blares calling them to work. More fist waves and the workers disappear in the side entrance while those ending their workday hustle away from the crowd, knowing what’s going on and have been warned by their supervisors to give no heed to the disruptive behaviour out front, to ignore the ideas they are spreading. The women especially are reminded of how fortunate they are to have a job.  None hang around.

From the front doors comes a portly man, tie askew, trousers bagging at the knees. Angry eyes bulge from a hairless head except for a few wisps around small ears. The mouth is almost a snarl. Behind him is two ruffians that work in the warehouse. They’re known for their quick temper and heavy lifting has made them strong. The mill manager, Wade Flanagan, is a misogynist and finds aggressive females annoying, especially this troublesome Desjardin woman that has been disrupting their peace. Stepping closely to Maria he waves for attention. The crowd quiets except for their leader. Maria has arms akimbo, a folded umbrella hanging on one arm and an unhappy expression.

“Where’s Crosswaithe?” she demands.

Flanagan flips his hand as if the idea is absurd. His voice is raspy and pompous.
 
 
 

“Mr. Crosswaithe does not have time for you troublemakers. Nor do we. I’d advise you to leave the premises at once, you are on private property. We’ve called the police as well and they should be here soon, so it’s better you go peacefully.”

Pointing his finger at Maria, his voice lowers, more spiteful. She hears him quite clearly amidst the clamour of the crowd.

“I know who you are Miss Desjardin, I’d advise you to be more careful. One can only wonder what your fiancĂ©e must think. Perhaps he should remember who buy’s his jewellery and pays for his services, certainly not these peasants you care so much about. Mr. Crosswaithe is a very big part of the financial community her in Moncton and can be influential. Do you know that word, influential, as in advising his associates to buy elsewhere? Hmm?”

Maria is about to let loose with a barrage of unkind words when a deeper voice calls for calm.

“Quiet everyone, quiet. People stop your yelling. You two in the back, un-ball those fists. Stop waving that umbrella so threateningly young lady. Mr. Flanagan, perhaps you could step back a bit and tell me what’s going on here.”

The police officer is thick chested and tall, authority and a shiny badge makes people stop their fidgeting and they close in to hear what is being said. Officer Melanson steps between Maria and Flanagan who are staring darts at each other. Maria starts to complain when Melanson holds a hand out to wait her turn. Nodding at the manager, he prompts him once more.

“What’s all the fuss about her now, Flanagan?”

Chin in the air he points at Maria.

“She’s egging this bunch of rowdies on, Officer. It’s disrupting our business and they are on private property as well. We’d like them to disperse as soon as possible. They make such foolish demands, asking for Crosswaithe of all things, as if he has time to deal with these troublemakers. I’d like it if you and your fellow officer I see over there to get this crowd moving. In fact I demand it!”

Melanson doesn’t like the manager’s attitude and knows a few of the women here. He is also aware of the unfair labor practices in the factories but he must uphold the law. Turning to Maria, he tries a half smile begging her indulgence.

“So its troublemakers you are, ladies and gents? You know we can’t have that. You’ll need to go home now. You’re holding up traffic and there are delivery carts waiting to get in and you are on someone else’s property.”

The group lower their cards and their shoulders, some starting to move on wending through a crowd of gatherers, some of which are not friendly. Maria respects the law and doesn’t want any trouble, only to be listened to. She watches Flanagan beam a smug look at the thinning assembly and she sees all the rottenness in his manner.

“You’ll not get away with this much longer Mister. The indecent way you treat your women.”

Flanagan can see that the police are moving people away and feels he has won. Only she can hear him.

“It’s better than most deserve. Humph!”

Despising him so much, she doesn’t even think. Running forward with umbrella raised, she whacks him on the head. Before Officer Melanson can contain her she’s hit him several times. One of the blows from the long stem of her weapon hit him on the nose and made it bleed. Another to the side of the head makes it on the next day’s front page of the Transcript. The flash from the photographer’s camera apparatus catches another of Maria being escorted to the police car.

Flanagan rushes into the building with his blood stained handkerchief held tightly to his nose. The two bodyguards block the entrance. Putting Maria in the back seat, the other officer drives and Melanson sits beside her, his manner abrupt, asking her questions while taking notes. What’s her name? Where does she live? Etc. They take Maria home. Since Dominic has been back, she moved in with Emma where they were going to take her but she convinces Officer Melanson that she is needed at work and he will know where she is. She promises to go directly to her aunt’s place after work. Melanson can be a soft touch sometimes for a pretty girl. Trusting her to her word he does as she asks. When they arrive, before she is allowed out of the car, she is chastised severely by Melanson for her actions, it’s possible that Flanagan may lay charges against her for assault. There’s a tinge of sympathy in his voice when he reaches over to open the other car door so she can get out.

“You’ll not able to do any protesting if you’re sitting in jail. Stay off their property. Don’t go anywhere until we tell you to. You could still be in a lot of trouble. Otherwise the day is still long, I hope the rest is more peaceful Miss Desjardins.”

Maria knows enough to keep quiet, the realization of what she’s done sinks in. She begins to worry about Dominic’s reaction. She hopes he’s outback doing repairs. Lifting her skirts to slide out, she steps carefully onto the driveway, waving over her shoulder.

“Thank you Officer.”
 
 
 
 
 
Thank you faithful reader for joining us this week. I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. I would love to hear your comments.