Monday morning, November 27, 1899
Eyes won’t move away from clump of oatmeal stuck in bowl. Feels Stella’s eyes watching. Father rushes into kitchen and yells, “Emma’s gone mad. She’s in my office with a club and her kid has a knife.”
Squeezes spoon handle. Wants to hit table.
Oma grabs Nana’s knife and yells at Man-in-Black.
Stella points to oatmeal. “You finish eating. I’ll be right back.”
Eyes move from bowl. “Done!” Slides off chair, keeps spoon. “Nana? Papa?” Didn’t say Caleb couldn’t go too. Does slow walk to office open door. Buddy sits on Papa’s chair going round and round. Papa looks angry at Buddy.
Emma shows Nana thing to hit people.
Oma tells the policeman, “In Caleb’s house, you keep that club stuck in your belt.”
“It’s only a handle from the kitchen pump.” Emma lowers hitting thing. “I just stuck my head in to ask if you were available, and Buddy runs to Father’s desk and grabs his letter opener.” She looks at Papa. “I’m sorry, Father. I doubt the kid even knew what it was, but it looked nice and shiny. I ran to take it away.”
Hides spoon behind back where Nana can’t see.
Emma looks at Nana. “Then, Father left in a huff.”
Tiptoes into office. Papa should tell Buddy to get off chair.
Moves closer. Pushes Buddy’s feet to make chair go around fast. Giggles.
“Look, S-stella.” Shakes head. “Not Nana.”
Stella stops chair and pulls Buddy down. “Both of you behave.”
Sticks spoon in Buddy’s mouth.
Emma says, “Father, you started to tell me something before you ran off.”
Father, not Papa, sits and pulls chair close to desk. “I wanted you to know Ben York has agreed to replace Felix on the council. You never liked hearing your husband’s name read aloud at meetings, but at the meeting you seemed really upset. And today…”
Buddy’s lips make spoon handle hit nose. Stella takes it away. Buddy sticks out tongue. Father’s eyes still on Emma’s club.
“Oh, this.” Emma taps hitting thing on floor like a cane.
Man-in-Black with shiny shoes tells Caleb, “I use this cane because of my leg injury before we came to America.”
“I’m going to get it welded, and I wanted to know if Stella and Caleb would like to walk along. There are a bunch of new gadgets that might interest the boys at the blacksmith.”
Oma says, “Don’t play on those black kids’ bouncing thing next door.”
Father looks at papers on his desk.
Stella tells Emma, “I’ll need to be back to prepare Father’s lunch.”
Caleb’s lunch, too.
Emma says. “My second reason for stopping, Bud shot a buck yesterday, and we’re having a venison fry at the café.” She switches cane to other hand. “After I drop this off and let Albert show the kids his new machines, I have to get back. Bud is frying but me and Buddy will be serving.” She faces Father. “We’d like you, Stella, and Caleb to eat with us.”
Father stammers, “The three of us in public. I hardly think…”
“The rest of council will be there, so it could be considered an informal meeting.” She grins. “Cunningham won’t insist of the rules of order.”
Father moves ink bottle from one side to other. “What time will you be serving?”
“From noon on, but Cunningham and Trask are busy ’til after five.”
“I could use the occasion to introduce Ben York as the newest member of the church council. Will he be attending?”
Emma laughs. “Not if Cunningham is there. They’re even careful to stagger coffee breaks. Not much time for each other.”
Stella puts spoon in apron pocket. “Walt said at our last meeting that they would bury the hatchet.”
Father says, “Ben accepted the position. No need for the committee to vote.”
Buddy whispers in Caleb’s ear, “Behind the altar—” His mother jerks him away, but his lips say, “Wine.”
Emma squeezes Buddy’s arm, and he sticks out tongue. “It’s nothing formal, just a get together. “Can Stella and Caleb walk with me and Buddy to Wentzel’s shop?”
“Don’t let the boys get in Albert’s way.”
Caleb sees Dowdy’s mare. Pulls hand from Stella and goes closer. Man sits on stool with only three legs with Nellie’s back foot on lap.
Stella yells, “Caleb, stay back.”
Man smiles with nail between lips. Mouth talks sideways. “Don’t worry Stella. A horse standing on three legs can’t kick.” Sticks nail into horse’s foot and pounds with hammer.
Wants eyes to close but they don’t obey.
“Be with you as soon as I fit Nellie with a new shoe.” He pounds until nail peeks back out. He bends tip and pounds into side of foot.
Eyes make tears. Lifts Caleb’s foot with secret place.
“This might sting.” Woman in white coat sticks needle into Caleb’s foot with strawberry.
Stella says, “Don’t take off your shoe out here. It’s cold.”
Teardrop sticks to Caleb’s cheek. Doesn’t want man to see Caleb wipe away tear.
“Now you better stand back young fellow. She might stomp her hoof a few times in the slushy snow.” He sets horses leg on ground and stands. “Just like when you get new shoes, they don’t feel quite right for a while.”
Swipes snot with coat sleeve. Looks at smear and then at Stella. She didn’t scold.
The man faces Emma. “Now tell me, which one of these boys is the orphan?”
Buddy backs away and points. “Caleb. He’s from New York.”
Emma ruffles Buddy’s hair. “This one who resembles Bud Kroft is my son, Buddy. Boys, meet Mr. Wentzel. He’s a blacksmith.”
Not black like negro men catching Caleb in bouncing thing.
“See that apple tree, boys?” Mr. Wentzel points. “Run over and dig a couple of windfalls out of the snow. They might be a little black and squishy, but the mare won’t mind. She deserves a little treat for standing so still.”
Eyes can’t move from nail peeking out of hoof. Still hurts.
Buddy comes back with two apples. Mr. Wentzel tells him, “Set one on your open hand in front of her nose.” Buddy doesn’t move.
Milk Man tells Nana, “Bring an apple next time, and Caleb can feed it to her. I’ll show him how so the horse won’t bite.”
Grabs apple from Buddy. Holds it to horse’s mouth before Stella says stop. Nellie eats off Caleb’s hand, forgets about nail in foot.
Buddy gives Caleb other apple. “Do it again.” Shows Buddy how to hold the apple. Buddy says, “You do it.”
Buddy can drive Nellie pulling buggy. Caleb feeds Nellie apples.
Mr. Wentzel says, “Now, what have you two ladies brought me to fix?”
“The pump handle from our kitchen cistern.” Emma gives it to him. “The hole is wallowed out.”
He opens door to shop. Smells like Oma’s stick matches. Makes tears come out. Blinks them away. Inside, dark dungeon from Oma’s book of fairy tales.
Oma tells Nana, “Reading those ghost stories will give Caleb nightmares.”
Likes scary stories.
“Did you bring the pin, Emma, so I can fit it?”
“I didn’t want to yank the entire pump off the kitchen stand.” She sticks out her pointing finger. “It’s about this size.”
He grabs Emma’s hand, finger aiming at his work bench. He slides letter “C” thing from Caleb’s name over finger. “Here or your knuckle? There’s quite a difference.”
“Halfway between. Can you do it today? That pump gets a lot of use.”
“Right now if you want to wait.” He pulls pipe from shirt pocket and hits hand with bowl. He blows away ashes and wipes hand on pants.
Oma tells Man-in-Black with shiny shoes, “I don’t care if you smoke a pipe, but do that outside.”
Mr. Wentzel points stem of pipe at ceiling. “My son designed this system before he set up his own shop. Before he got caught in the Hinkley fire.” A tear makes path down his cheek.
“Did he die in the fire?” Doesn’t want Mr. Wentzel to cry.
The blacksmith nods and thumb smears wet spot. His eyes find Caleb’s. “Guess we both know what that feels like.” He faces Stella. “Is it okay if I pick him up?”
Caleb reaches. Didn’t wait for Stella to say okay.
Scooped up, butt on blacksmith’s arm. Mr. Wentzel points. “That’s the electric motor. All those belts drive different size pulleys, each does a certain job. I’ll show you.” He carries Caleb to gray box on black wall. He looks back at Buddy. “Get ready. Caleb is going to make a lot of noise.” He puts hand on lever. “It takes two of us to get everything whirling.” He yells, “Hit my hand.”
Caleb slaps the back of the man’s hand. A loud crack and then a roar.
Man in Blue-and-White uniform hits baseball. Crowd roars. Man-in-Black with shiny shoes yells, “Jack knocked the skin off that one.”
Everything in ceiling starts to move. Eyes travel from one spinning wheel to another.
At cinema after ballgame, black and white pictures move across wall.
Mr. Wentzel sets Caleb on other arm. “Now watch how I make this hole smaller.” He jams iron pin inside hole. He sticks that end of the handle into black chunky things. “Who wants to start the fan?”
Buddy says, ‘Let Caleb do it.”
Stella says, “Thank you, Buddy. That is very nice of you.”
“I done it many times.”
Emma tells Buddy, “Albert can see your nose getting longer.”
Emma thinks Buddy is Pinocchio.
Albert says, “Push this lever, and we’ll see what happens.”
Whirring noise. Chunks make smoke, turn orange. Sparks burst up. Everything glows red from fire. Hot blast hits Caleb’s face.
Fire follows Nana and Caleb to the open window. Air is cold.
Mr. Wentzel sets Caleb down, and takes handle out of fire. The hole is gone. He sets red hot end on table and steps on foot thing. Hammer without handle pounds, lifts, and pounds many times. Hot end dunked into bucket of water sizzles like Nana’s tea kettle just before it whistles. “Now to drill a new hole.” He slides letter “C” over twisty thing sticking out of machine. He laughs. “This one’s about the size of Emma’s finger.” He holds pump handle under twisty thing and pulls lever down. Curly things fall on floor.
Mr. Wentzel lifts gray lever on black wall. Didn’t ask Caleb to help. Whirring, screeching, silence. He peeks through hole and says, “Looks about right,” and gives it to Emma. “Might be a little stiff until it wears itself loose.”
Caleb stoops to pick up curly thing.
“Careful, they’re still hot.” Mr. Wentzel pulls tin box from shirt pocket and snaps it open He shakes brown tobacco into pipe bowl and thumb packs. He scrapes stick match against butt to start fire. Pipe makes puff of smoke.
Man-in-Black with cane lights pipe with Oma’s stick matches. Oma likes pipe smell. Not sinking cigar.
Mr. Wentzel taps tin box upside-down, Few specks fall out. “Might smell a bit like tobacco, but you can use it to take home some of the metal windings.” He holds cover open and points to pile of curly things. “They’re cool by now, but be careful of the sharp edges.”
Looks for Stella to say okay.
She nods. “I can wash the can with the dishes tonight.” She walks away.
Three tiny clicks as curly things drop into tobacco can.
Feet won’t follow Stella to the door. Man-in-Black with shiny shoes won’t come out of dark place in head. He sat next to Caleb at ball game and cinema. He smoked pipe, not cigar.
Blast of outside cold air takes picture out of Caleb’s head. Runs to catch up.