CHAPTER EIGHT

Monday Afternoon, November 27, 1899

Caleb listens for tingle-tingle when Stella opens the door to Emma’s café. Eyes find shiny bells when door closes. Two ladies stop talking and look up. They like bells too.
Stella pulls Caleb to ladies’ table. “Hello, Mrs. Cunningham.” She pushes Caleb too close. “Hello Mrs. Sturgis.”
“Please call me Betsy. I’ve been plain ole‘ Betsy for over seventy years. Mrs. Cunningham and I just came from a Christian Mother’s wake.” Her eyes find Caleb. “Poor woman left an adult son that isn’t quite right in the head.”
…Did he get Mother’s quilt, too?
Other lady says, “You and the boy may join us until our husband’s arrive.”
…Stella doesn’t say his name is Caleb.
Stella takes off Caleb’s coat and cap. She pulls out a chair and reaches.
Climbs up by himself.
Lady slides purse away from Caleb.
…Wouldn’t touch it.
“You must be the orphan Mary Gerhard told us about.”
“His name is Caleb.” Nana sits. “Say hello to Mrs. Cunningham and Mrs. Sturgis.”
Counts fingers touching each other. “Hello.” Nana pushes hands off table.
“You can call me Grandma Betsy. Mary told us how well you got along with her children.”
Puts hands back. “I rode Earl’s calf.”
“That’s nice.” Grandma Betsy’s eyes go away. “It’s a shame Matt won’t let Mary keep Caleb.”
“I stay with Nana.” Ladies look surprised at him.
“Nana?” Mrs. Cunningham shows sour face.
Nana is his sometimes nickname for me”
“Interesting.” She looks at door.
…Mrs. Cunningham doesn’t like Caleb.
“Walt and Hank should be here by now.”
Emma holds three plates of food. Nothing falls off. “Where’s Father?”
“Said he had some stops to make.” Nana’s head turns one way and then back. “May we save him a place with us?” Emma doesn’t hear.
Betsy says, “Oh, he’ll sit wherever he takes a notion.”
Mrs. Cunningham says, “Without the boy would be better. He might want to discuss what our husbands learned at the convent in Harrington.”
…Adults have secrets.
Emma comes back without plates. “Come with me. Buddy needs help.” Buddy stands holding bowl of potatoes. “Table number three, Buddy.” She hands Caleb basket of bread. “Follow Buddy. I want you to take this to the same table.” She gives little push. “You know Melvin Trask and Frank Lorenz. The woman is Mrs. Lorenz.”
“I don’t…”
“If they talk to you, just say hi.”
“Buddy can do it.”
Emma says, “I see Father joined the women and their husbands. Take the bread to Stella’s table.”
“Okay.” Carries basket with both hands.
Man with white beard at table asks, “What have we here?”
“Bread.” Looks down. “No apple butter and jelly.” Finds man’s eyes. “I rode a calf.”
“Did you, now.” Hand reaches out. “I’m Grandpa Hank. What’s your name?”
“Caleb.” Shakes his hand.
…Man-in-Blue at the meeting Caleb would like Hank as a grandpa.
…Wants Grandpa Hank to hold him.
Father points. “Other tables need their bread, too.”
“Buddy will do it.”
Nana says, “You better help him. The adults want to talk.”
“Okay.” Looks at Grandpa Hank. “I’m the ginker bread man.”
Mrs. Cunningham opens her purse. “Other documents—”
“One moment, Clara.” Father waves his hand. “Scoot. Your friend needs help.”
Follows Buddy with baskets of bread to three tables. Looks for Nana’s table.
…Chair is empty. Voice won’t talk.
Father holds brown packet. “I agreed to this meeting with the Franciscans about the orphanage, but not at the Rectory.” He gives packet to Mrs. Cunningham. “The boy has caused enough of a scandal.”
“Here you are, Caleb.” Nana’s voice from behind. “I lost you in the crowd.” Makes face smile. “Sit, Mr. Gingerbread Man. Your food is getting cold.”
Father smiles too big. “Hello, Caleb.”
…Already said Hello.
Mrs. Cunningham puts packet in purse. “One more thing, Father—”
“Tomorrow at the Rectory would be a better time and place to discuss the matter.” His eyes play dodge-ball. “You may bring Mrs. Sturgis along, if she makes you more comfortable, Clara.”
Mrs. Cunningham tucks yellow strand of hair under comb stuck there. “I do not need support of a friend to speak to the pastor of my church.”
Mrs. Sturgis says, “I would love to go with you, Clara. After all, we Christian Mothers have supported the bishop’s plan from the start.” She glances at Clara. “At least most of the women do.”
“But none have stepped up to the plate.” Clara peeks into purse and clicks it shut.
Grandma Betsy puts her hand on Grandpa Hank’s hand, She looks at Caleb.
…She likes Grandpa Hank, too.
“He made some building blocks for you to play with. I’ll bring them to the Rectory when Mrs. Cunningham and I come to see Father.” She looks at Father. “When would you like to meet?”
“If tomorrow, I’m busy all afternoon.” Mrs. Cunningham didn’t wait her turn.
Father says, “Morning will be fine. Perhaps ten o’clock.”
Mr. Cunningham shows big teeth. “I think I can find a cast-iron horse and wagon from our boys’ toy collection.”
Mrs. Cunningham shows him sour face.
He smiles back at her. “Caleb can use them to haul Grandpa Hank’s blocks around the Rectory.”
“Not in the office.” Papa and Nana talk together. They laugh.
“I like horses.”
…Hopes the wagon is white.

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER NINE

Caleb sits with Grandpa Sturgis’ blocks between his legs. Four walls stand ready for the roof. Checks for Stella watching from the kitchen. House doesn’t fall down. She stopped looking. Follows her eyes to see Sister-in-Brown coming from Father’s office.
…Different kind. Not black. Not white.
She stops and peers down at his house.
“Mother Superior!” Stella’s loud voice makes ears mad. She kneels and kisses Sister’s ring.
…Mother Sister even more special than Father?
Knocks house down. Sister-in-Brown looks little bit.
“Stella, my dear, I had to take this opportunity to visit with you.” She finds Caleb’s eyes. “You must be the problem orphan I’m here to discuss.” Her eyes go away.
Stands. “Nana’s house broke.”
“Nana?”
“When Caleb gets stressed, he sometimes calls me Nana. We think it means grandma.”
“Quite an honor, I must say. Especially since you’re not yet twenty one. What about his mother?”
“Oma. A name Caleb bestowed on the mother of an older boy he plays with. It’s an ethnic version of Mother. Irish, I believe.”
“You needn’t lecture me on Irish ethnicity.” Her eyes find Caleb again. “Has the Foundling Hospital determined his nationality? Or, even that he is an immigrant?”
“No, but he could pass for my brother.”
“So I see.”
…She doesn’t see Caleb.
“We’ll be settling such matters as soon as Mrs. Cunningham arrives. Father and Mrs. Sturgis are waiting in his office.”
“This morning, Grandma Betsy delivered those blocks that Grandpa Hank made.”
Picks up two blocks to show, but Sister’s eyes stay on Nana.
“Grandma Betsy! Grandpa Hank! Seems everyone is intimately involved.” Sister-in-Brown looks at Caleb little bit. “Except serious adoptive parents.”
“I stay with Nana.” Drops blocks back on pile.
Sister-in-Brown turns away and hides Nana. “Tell me about yourself, Stella. Almost a year since Father Busch selected you as his housekeeper. He seems pleased. Are you content?”
“Yes, very.”
“With an orphan to care for?”
Whispers, “Caleb.” Foot kicks blocks. Lips say “Caleb” without making words.
“He’s no trouble. My brother—”
“Yes, I am familiar with your family. Your mother and I decided the Herrington Franciscans would be a better match for you than any in your home city, Chicago, or even St. Paul. We have ten years of history and a convent of sixteen sisters. Unfortunate that you didn’t fit to become number seventeen.”
Builds house again.
“Perhaps there is still hope for your vocation. God works in mysterious ways.”
“I am serving God in this capacity.”
“For now, you are serving the parish of St. Alphonse. But, I suppose, God indirectly.” Sister-in-Brown moves but Nana’s eyes don’t see house. “Well, our convent has a new mission as of the first of the year, a matter I’m here to discuss with your pastor.”
“I’m sure you will meet the challenge, Mother Superior.”
“Not for you to assess.” She glances back toward Father’s office. “Yesterday, Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Sturgis suggested we meet at the convent, but I surprised everyone by having the hospital’s driver bring me here this morning.”
Oma says, “The hospital’s driver brought me home for Caleb’s birthday.”
“I wanted to see how you are doing. I still communicate with your mother.” Sister-in-Brown hides hand behind front curtain with other one. “I hope Father will accept my invitation to Thanksgiving dinner at the convent.” She turns and goes back toward Father’s office.
“How about some cookies and milk?” Stella doesn’t pick Caleb up. “You didn’t eat much for breakfast this morning.” She lifts Caleb onto chair at table.
Sticks finger and thumb into the glass for broken cookie. Looks up. Mrs. Cunningham stands looking down.
Nana said Oma’s Face eats lemons when Caleb is naughty.
Cookie slips back into the milk Wipes hands on pant leg.
…lips think go away.
“Stella, Father Busch wants Caleb in his office. You may come along.” Mrs. Cunningham walks away.
…Gets what Caleb wants.
“Tell him we’ll be right there.” Stella’s eyes follow Mrs. Cunningham and come back. “Want to peek at Caleb again?”
“Okay, S-stella.”
She takes Oma’s locket from apron pocket. “Except in Father’s bathroom for shaving, mirrors aren’t allowed in this house, but my little man needs a touch of vanity.” She opens it and asks, “Is Caleb happy or sad?”
Holds Stella’s hand. “Not sad.” Blinks. “Not happy.” Face in mirror tries to smile.
“We’ll call it frowning when you’re between feelings.” She pulls locket away and sad face goes back into apron.
…Face wants to cry.
Stella stops Caleb outside office door. Mrs. Cunningham’s brown envelope from cafe sits on Father’s desk.
Father says, “I’m sure the bishop will understand our difficult situation with placing a New York orphan.” Looks at Caleb and does make-believe cough. “Stella, bring Caleb in and set him on the chair between Clara and Mother Superior. Stand by to interpret if needed.” Looks at Sister-in-Brown. “The boy speaks broken English.”
Climbs up chair by himself. Fingers touch and count each other.
Mrs. Cunningham asks, “Caleb, are you sad that your Mommy died in the fire?”
Oma, please don’t make me blow out the candles.
“Do you ever wake up crying in the middle of the night?”
Nods head. Sleeve wants to wipe snot.
Stella comes close and wipes Caleb’s nose.
Mrs. Cunningham’s lips curl into smile. She writes on piece of paper. “I think the boy’s own words will support our opinion.” She slides the paper into brown envelope and gives it to Mother Superior. “Just in case the bishop should happen to question our decision.”
Grandma Betsy says, “Won’t he just send another boy not as nice.” She wipes her eyes with a white hanky. “If only Hank and I weren’t too old to be parents.”
…Grandpa and grandma?
Eyes find Caleb. “Are you sure there is an age limit?”
Father says, “Unstated but certainly implied.” His eyes meet hers. “If your son and his wife are interested in another family member…”
“Oh, gosh. Already six kids and counting. Hank and I had to move to town for want of a bedroom at the home place. And everyone busy with the farm and the dairy business.”
Father’s eyes move from Betsy to Mother Superior. “We’ve contacted the most likely candidate families and were turned down cold. Isn’t that right, Stella?”
“I guess so. I made the list of rural families fitting the criteria you requested last week.”
“List? I requested?”
“At the church council. It’s on your desk.”
Father nods. “Ah, yes. Those families with means to support an orphan. I don’t believe any of them came forward.”
“Forgive me, Father. I wasn’t aware you wanted me to contact them.”
Mother Superior stands. “Perfect. That gives us some wiggle room while you prove to the bishop that you are still looking. Our mandate from the diocese to accept orphans is not effective until nineteen hundred, year-of-our-Lord, and we need time to prepare the facilities. That is, if our contractors live up to their commitment. Nothing ever goes as planned anymore.”
She faces Caleb. “Little Lamb, you will have the honor of being our first resident. Doesn’t that sound exciting?”
Slides down from chair. Creeps away and hides behind door.
…Wants Nana.
Father yells, “Stella, go after him.”
Mother Superior says, “Don’t bother. His presence isn’t needed here any longer.”
Father says, “See that he is punished for his attitude.”
Mother Superior raises her voice. “Not only the boy who needs correction in that department.” Her head peeks through doorway. “This behavior is not helpful for any second chance at your vocation, Stella.”
Nana hugs Caleb. “Thank you.”
..Nana is happy.
“What do you say when someone thanks you?”
“You’re welcome.”
Brown sisters aren’t nice like black ones and white ones.

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER TEN Wednesday, November 29, 1899

Caleb sits up on the couch. Rubs his eyes. Peers into kitchen. Stella and Father eating breakfast.
…Has to pee. Goes to bathroom.
Stands behind Caleb’s chair at table.
Stella says, “Good morning, Caleb. You’re awake just in time for breakfast?”
Father shoves plate back and takes paper from pocket. “Yesterday after the meeting, Mrs. Cunningham and I went through the list of country folks you submitted. She decided to present Caleb to… I better check my notes.” He squints at the page. “Yes, one Sylvester Rastner, recently married, no children, but an adult retarded brother. Sounds like a good home for Caleb.”
Looks at Nana and shakes head. Lips want to say no.
Father says, “Sit down and eat so Stella can get you dressed.”
Sits. Watches Nana put bacon on his plate. Looks at it.
Nana pours Caleb’s milk.
Father holds out cup. “We need to demonstrate to the bishop that we are pursuing adoptive parents.” Nana pours Father’s coffee. He sips and his eyes find Caleb. “Mrs. Cunningham could be here any minute to take you to meet some nice people.”
…Doesn’t want to go with Mrs. Cunningham.
Father shakes head. “It’s probably a fool’s errand.”
“Is Emma going along?” Nana cuts Caleb’s bacon into bite-sized pieces.
“Of course not. Whatever gave you that idea? While they’re gone, you can catch up with your duties without the boy distracting you.”
…Nana didn’t remind him to say Caleb.
She looks at her feet. “Please tell me which duties I have been neglecting since Caleb moved in with us.”
“He hasn’t moved in, just a temporary stop; certainly not beyond the first of the year.”
“Please, may I accompany Mrs. Cunningham and Caleb?”
…Nana goes too. Lips won’t make words.
“She suggested you not go.”
“Why, may I ask?”
…Nana’s eyes want to cry.
“No, you may not question my decision.” Father peers into coffee. “As a matter of fact, Clara was quite clear…”
Stabs bacon with fork.
Nana closes eyes and folds hands. “My vow of obedience is being tested.”
Father makes squishy face. “What’s that all about?”
“I’m still bound by obedience, but to you not Mother Superior.”
…Nana likes Father more than Sister-in-Brown.
“Then obey my demand to explain how you are being tested.”
“Caleb left our meeting with Mother Superior without being excused.
…Sister-in-Brown wants to take Caleb away from Nana.
Father says, “And I told you to punish him. Did you?”
…Nana’s eyes want to hide.
“I might have rewarded him with a hug.”
“Why would you do that?”
“I felt bad about Mrs. Cunningham’s cruel and unnecessary questions.”
…Nana and Caleb feel bad.
“What was cruel about her line of questioning?”
“Her asking about the disaster.”
“Those were relevant facts. Caleb suffers permanent psychological damage. He witnessed his mother and grandmother burn to death.”
“Don’t make me do a terrible thing.”
Hand drops fork.
“Caleb! What’s wrong?”
Hears Nana’s voice. Can’t see her. Arms won’t move.
Fire eats Nana’s dress.
“Nana, come with me.”
“Jump!”
Men below hold kids’ bouncing thing.
Oma scolded, “Never play with those Darkies’ toys.”
Men yell, “Jump, we’ll catch you.”
Too scared.
Nana crawls to the window. Pushes Caleb.
Bouncing thing comes up to catch him.
He goes up and up, sailing wind on Nana’s magic carpet over Hudson River.
Holds Nana’s hand?

“He’s waking, Father. Squeezed my hand a little.”
A blurry face. “Papa?”
“Not Papa. I am Father Busch.”
Blinks. Another blurry face. Closes and opens eyes.
…Mrs. Cunningham?
“Caleb sometimes confuses my title. Papa instead of Father.”
…Father remembers Caleb’s name.
“Lie still for now.” Nana kneels by couch. “At least until you’re fully awake.” She looks up at Mrs. Cunningham. “He passed out at the breakfast table.”
“A tantrum. I’d recognize it anywhere. Wally Junior had them when things didn’t go his way.”
…Mrs. Cunningham’s eyes scold.
“Press a wet towel to his forehead and give him a drink of water. Dowdy’s Nellie is hitched outside, and I’m prepared to take the boy to the Rastner place.”
…Eyes stops looking at Caleb.
“I’ll join Father for a cup of coffee while you dress the boy.” She talks to Father. “Mr. Cunningham needed our horse and buggy for sales calls.”
…Nana looks sad at Papa. Doesn’t want Caleb to go.
Father shrugs and follows Mrs. Cunningham into the kitchen.
…Mrs. Cunningham doesn’t like Caleb.
***
Caleb leans forward from the back seat as the buggy slows and turns. Mrs. Cunningham steers horse into drive way. Not Earl’s farm. Dog barks and Dowdy’s mare rears. Man pulls horse’s head down and whispers in her ear.
Milk Man told his horse to be nice to Caleb.
Mrs. Cunningham says, “Thank you, Mr. Rastner. I have control now.”
Man spits and walks fast into barn.
“Well, that was rude. I’ll just wait. Mrs. Rastner must have heard us arrive.”
Different man comes out of barn door. “Hello, Mrs. Cunningham. What brings you out this way?”
“So, you are Sylvester Rastner. I’ve seen you in my husband’s shop from time to time. It’s nice to finally meet you.”
Crows caw-caw and fly away from top of barn. “That’s just my brother, Arnie. Hides up in the cupola some times when he’s agitated. Promised Ma before she died that Elizabeth and I would take him in. I apologize for his behavior.”
“No need to be sorry. After we Christian Mothers said the rosary at your mother’s wake, we discussed our concern for your brother Arnie.”
…Arnie wants a Mother’s quilt, too.
“My family appreciates your support. Ma had been ill for a long time, but it’s still hard to come to grips with her being gone.” He glances at barn. “Arnie misses her the most. He was her special child. Of course, he’s a grown man now, couple years older than me, but there’s still that child inside.”
…Can’t have Caleb’s quilt.
Man’s eyes find Caleb. “Who have we here?”
“Caleb, this is Sylvester Rastner.”
Man’s eyes smile. “So, you’re the orphan I’ve been hearing about.”
“I’m Caleb.”
“My friends call me Svez.”
…Tongue can’t say Svez.
“My wife tells me you guys are having some trouble placing Caleb.”
…Sister-in-brown wants Caleb in home for orphans.
“Elizabeth and her sister go to Sunday Mass when the roads are open.”
Dog shows teeth. Svez kicks frozen horse poop at it. Dog barks and jumps, wants Svez to do it again.
“Just bought the farm this fall. Lots of work to get ready for spring planting.”
Mrs. Cunningham reaches for Caleb. “I get down by myself.” Feet on ground, dog jumps on Caleb. “Help.”
“Rex won’t bite, just being friendly.” The man rubs Rex’s neck.
Reaches for Svez. “Hold me.”
Svez points and Rex goes into little house. He lifts Caleb onto shoulders.
“Look at me, Nana.”
…Forgets Father didn’t let Stella come with Caleb.
“Who’s Nana?”
“Occasionally, he says and does strange things. Has some issues from his background.”
“Well, this horsey will help you forget your problems.” Horsey Man waves cap and gallops. Rex comes out and joins fun.
Grabs Horsey Man’s hair. “I like horses.”
“My kind of boy.”
“Like dogs, a little.” Rex jumps and tries to bite toes. “Giddy up, Horsey Man.”
Horsey Man trots to house. Rex and Mrs. Cunningham follow. Caleb ducks head through doorway. “Liz, look what I got here.” Sets Caleb down. “This one ain’t but half grown.”
Mrs. Cunningham closes door so Rex can’t come in. She puts hands on Caleb’s shoulders.
Horsey Man combs hair with fingers. “This is Mrs. Cunningham. She was here with the Christian Mothers to say a rosary at Ma’s wake.”
“My sister, Martha, told me they arrived after we left with Arnie. He’s joining our family, too.” She pats big belly.
Mrs. Cunningham gasps. “I didn’t know.”
Wild Horsey Man says, “Just nature’s way of making up for people we lose, Ma this time.”
“I’m sure you can assume why we are here.” Mrs. Cunningham opens Caleb’s coat. He wiggles free, and she holds it.
“I rode Wild Horsey.”
“I think he means me.”
…Tongue looks for right place to say Svez.
“Well, what do you think of…” Mrs. Cunningham looks at big belly. “An older brother for your child?”
“Your Little Sister died when she came out of Oma’s belly.”
Svez smiles. “We’re from the old school. Want to build our own family.” He looks at Caleb. “But you are welcome out here any time to ride this wild horse around the yard. Stay overnight, if you like. Maybe even ride a real horse. Play with Rex.”
Reaches up. “Horsey ride, S-thez.”
Svez smiles. “Put your coat and cap back on, and I’ll rough-ride you to the barn and back to your buggy.”
Caleb grabs coat from Mrs. Cunningham. Slides arms through sleeves and faces Svez.
Svez buttons coat and pulls cap over Caleb’s eyes.
Yells, “Can’t see.” Pushes cap up. “Does Arnie talk to horses?”
“Well, let’s go out to the barn ask him.” He puts Caleb back on shoulders. “He’s in the barn, probably talking to the calf born just this morning.”

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN NOVEMBER 30, 1899: Thanksgiving

Huffs and puffs to see steam come out of mouth. Snuggled under Mother’s quilt in buggy back seat tells Stella, “I can see my breath a little bit.”
She tucks quilt tighter. “If your nose gets cold, I’ll cover your face with the scarf Earl’s mother knitted.”
“Nose won’t make steam.”
“On the way home when the sun goes down, you’ll be thankful for the scarf.”
Horse stops in front of café. “I knew Emma wouldn’t be ready.” Father reads sign on door. “Closed. I don’t know why she should ride along to Harrington in the first place.”
Stella leans forward. “Mother Superior’s invitation specified not Mrs. Cunningham but hopefully Mrs. Sturgis. Both are spending Thanksgiving with their families.”
Sits up. Hopes to see Buddy.
“But, why Emma?”
Emma is Stella’s friend.
“She’s available. The café is closed and Buddy’s going hunting with his father.”
Buddy is Caleb’s friend.
“Why anyone?”
Stella leans forward. “Mother Superior invited four of us to join an equal number from the convent for a Thanksgiving dinner. She’ll have her table set for eight.”
Mother Superior is nobody’s friend.
“I better pull the rig around back where Emma can see us from upstairs windows.” Father snaps the reins.
Stands and hold on to front seat. Looks for Buddy. Smells smoke. Pinches nose.
Man-in-black lights cigar with stick match. Oma gets mad.
“Cigar bad.”
Stella pulls him back. “Hush.”
Father yells. “Hello, Bud.” He chuckles. “Clearing a path to the outhouse?”
“Morning, Father. Just a dusting of snow from last night. Gets me out of the house. You know how Emma feels about cigar smoke.”
Father chuckles again. “Her same complaint with Walt at our meetings.” He waves to Caleb. “Come up front and let Emma sit with Stella.”
Looks surprised from Papa to Stella.
She says, “Father wants you to sit with him. Must be the holiday spirit.”
“Just an awkward situation. I can’t drive off right in front of a man with his wife by my side.”
Crawls onto front seat. “Hold these reins, Caleb, while I visit with Bud.”
Buddy can see Caleb driving horse from upstairs window.
Horse jerks buggy. Stella jumps up and grabs reins.
“I can do it, Ma!” Shakes head. “I can do it, Nana.” Not Nana! “S-stella.”
She laughs. “You think you’re Buddy now?”
Wants to talk something different. “Do you like cigar smoke?”
“Not really. Smoking is something men do when they get together.”
“I don’t want to smoke cigars when I grow up.”
Man-in-Black blows smoke at Oma. “And a little holiday wine won’t hurt the boy.”
“Or drink wine.”
“I should hope not.”
“Hello, Caleb.” Emma looks up at him. “Should not do what?”
Morning Emma. “Caleb and I were just discussing men’s vices.”
“I can add a few to that conversation.” Emma puts foot on buggy’s front step. “Just ask me.”
“I sit up here with Papa.”
“Now it’s Papa again.”
“He’s just excited. Father will correct him if it matters.”
Emma climbs into back seat. “Men up front just as God created the world.”
“Papa wants me up here with him.”
“First Papa, and now God?”
“Emma don’t tease.” Stella leans forward and covers Caleb’s nose with scarf and ties it in back. “Come back with us it gets too windy.”
Papa climbs onto seat and snaps reins. “Hang on. About an hour’s ride to Harrington.”
Nana says, “When the big hand moves to this number, Oma will be home from hospital.”
Closes eyes and sees hands on Nana’s clock. Horse’s feet make clock’s tick-tock on the road. Pretends to drive horse.
Stella’s voice. “Are you getting cold up there?”
“I stay with Papa.”
“Please call me Father, and I’ll call you Caleb.”
Says what Papa wants. “I stay with Father.”
“Good boy.”
“Good Caleb, Father.”
“We each forget sometimes, Caleb.”
Pulls cap down to eyes. Watches birds and looks for animals. Eyes want to shut.
Father puts an arm around Caleb and slows the horse. “Since we’re a little early for Mother Superior to receive us, let me point out some of the highlights of Harrington.”
Wants to hold reins again.
“Would you like that?”
“Yeth.” Reaches for reins.
“Good boy.”
Father forgets to say Caleb.
“Over on the left, see that big building?”
Not tall like New York.
“It’s the county court house.”
Oma says, “I’d take you to court if those nuns would let me out.”
“This is where legal matters are settled and records over the past century are kept.” He makes a Jiminy Cricket sound and horse moves.
“Is there a statue of ‘iberty?”
Father frowns. “Not that I know of. Look over there. The Barney Burton Clothing Store. Much bigger than York’s, don’t you think?”
“Bigger than New York?”
“I mean Ben York’s Mercantile back in Bovine.”
Nana says, “New York is too big. Not like town back in Ireland.”
Emma yells from back seat. “I think you missed the turn back there, Pap—Father.”
“I want to show Caleb the new Northern Pacific Railroad Bridge.” Father stops buggy. “There she stands. If time permitted, we’d wait for cars filled with lumber or grain to cross on their way to St. Paul and points east.”
Emma says, “Two or three trains a day. Could be sitting here a long time.”
“Would be worth it, Emma, for something Caleb hasn’t seen.”
“He rode trains all the way from New York, Father.”
“Yes, but not a four-four-two workhorse pulling cargo cars loaded with Minnesota products.” Father snaps reins and Caleb slides back on seat. “Maybe a single Pullman car attached. I still don’t know why the Orphan Train couldn’t have stopped here in Harrington rather than force me to chase all the way to St. Cloud.”
Remembers Sister Mary on orphan train.
“Had to drive all night to get back in time for Mass.”
Peed in buggy on Mother’s quilt.
Emma talks loud and Sister Mary goes away. “The bishop is located in St. Cloud. That’s why, Father.”
“Then the boy should be his problem, not mine.”
Papa’s eyes find Caleb’s sad face. “Some problems are nice problems, Caleb.”
Caleb is a nice problem.
Father points. “See the water over there? Looks like a lake but it’s the river backed up from the dam.”
Oma said she wouldn’t give Man-in-black a dam.
“In spring, logs float from up river and completely cover the water. A man could walk across just like over the ice in January.” Father turns his head and talks loud. “We have one of very few dams on the river all the way to the ocean.”
Eyes open wide. “Is this Hudson River?”
Nana says, “Hudson River flows into the ocean and goes all the way to our real home.”
Father says, “Something like that.”
Emma says, “It’s the Mississippi River, Caleb.”
Father says, “I was sparing our ears the boy’s pronunciation.” He pulls one rein and horse sidesteps until buggy faces other way. “That building over there is where we get our electricity.”
“Does a ’letricity man bring it in a wagon like Milk Man and Ice Man?”
Father chuckles. “It comes through a very long cord strung over wooden poles.”
“Nana hangs my clothes to dry on a long cord.”
“Stella does?”
Stella says, “I think Caleb means Nana back in New York. I’ve seen pictures where women hang laundry on rope strung through pulleys between tenement buildings, sometimes even across the street.”
Nana lets negroes use her rope.
Nana says, “Don’t tell Oma. She doesn’t like dark people.”
Father says, “Let’s keep it simple so not to confuse the boy. The river goes all the way to the ocean, and Bovine gets its electricity through a wire.”
River goes to Hudson River in New York, then to Nana’s real home across ocean.
Father points. “Those mansions are where rich folks live. Their trees block our view from the road, but they can enjoy the river from their upstairs bedrooms.”
“Do they smoke cigars up there?”
“Why, I suppose they probably do. What made you think of that?”
Emma laughs. “I guess you guys will have to find some other attic to pursue your bad habit.”
Father does make-believe cough. “The convent is coming up. It’s the three-story brick building on the left.”
Sits between Stella and Emma on chair propped with pillow at Mother Superior’s table. Three sisters-in-brown across table looks at their hands. Mother Superior tells Father at other end of table, “It is indeed an honor to share our Thanksgiving meal with you and your friends, Reverent Busch.”
Doesn’t say Father.
“Too bad Mrs. Sturgis and more of our sisters couldn’t join us, but our patients require twenty-four-hour care. Father, if you would be so kind to give thanks to God for our food.”
Father reads without book.
Sits in tug boat to Hudson River and across ocean to Nana’s real home.
Sister keeps hands folded. “I would like to add to that blessing a thanks for the opportunity to create a home for God’s orphans.” She hides her hands and talks loud. “Now, if our resident volunteers would be so kind as to serve our dinner.”
Man and woman come in carrying trays of dishes. “Are big-people orphans, too? Points at red berries on Caleb’s plate.
Emma says, “Cranberries, Caleb. Don’t see them too often back home.”
Mother Superior’s eyes find Emma. “I hope we didn’t violate some local tradition by having our cook carve the turkey in the kitchen.”
Emma raises fork. “As long as we get the food along with something to eat it with.”
“I’m disappointed Mrs. Sturgis was unable to come.” Mother Superior puts napkin on her lap. “It’s nice that you could get away from family to join us, Emma.”
Emma says, “I take every opportunity that comes along.”
“Of course.” Mother Superior lowers eyes. “God works in mysterious ways.”
“Mystery solved.” Emma sips coffee from cup, not saucer. “Betty Sturgis and I are both against putting Caleb in your new orphanage. Her mind might be easier to manipulate than mine.”
Father says, “I apologize for dragging our local politics into your presence. I hope after dinner you will show us the facility in progress.”
Mother Superior’s face pops back up. “We received some exciting news from the bishop just yesterday.” She looks from Father to everyone at table, eyes stop at Caleb.
Spoon busts dam Stella made in Caleb’s mashed potatoes. Gravy spills onto red berries. Takes bite of turkey. Makes sour face.
Nana says, “In America, turkey with wine is special for Thanksgiving.”
Turkey, no wine. Only Father drinks Jesus wine in church. People eat bread without apple butter and strawberry jelly.
Emma asks, “Does your exciting news have anything to do with your orphanage?”
Mother Superior’s eyes move to Emma. “As a matter of fact, yes. The official opening date is still scheduled for the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision, but the bishop will allow us to accept a few orphans as of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.”
“And, according to the calendar ordinary people use?”
Emma doesn’t like Mother Superior.
Mother Superior smiles. “Emma, ordinary Catholics would understand that we can accept orphans on December eighth, and the dedication of the orphanage will occur January first of the new century.”
Mother Superior doesn’t like Emma.
“Will your facilities be completed that soon?” Father pushes his empty plate away.
“We’ll use the new wing added to the sisters’ dormitory. Perhaps God will deliver both populations, orphans and novitiates, with increased numbers.” Her eyes find Stella. “More vocations to meet the need of increasing numbers of orphans.”
Emma says, “God sends orphans by the train load, much faster than girls with vocations.”
“Couples like Hank and Betsy Sturgis could serve as volunteer grandparents. Mother Superior looks at Emma. “Something we could have discussed if she were with us today.”
“Instead of the thorn in your side?” Emma smiles. “I believe the image is Biblical.”
“One thorn does not a crown make.” Looks back at Stella. “We may reconsider your vocation, especially since you will have experience working with an orphan.”
Not orphan no more.
Father says, “Take away Stella, my housekeeper?”
Nana stays with Papa and Caleb.
“Let God do the calling. We can only facilitate.”
“But….”
“God will tell Stella what is in her heart.”
“God talks to Nana?”
“I believe Nana…” Mother Superior’s eyes find Caleb, “The boy’s real grandmother, cooperated with God’s plan when she saved Caleb’s life. Through her, we will have our first God-sent orphan.” She faces Papa. “You’ll still have a full week for the child to be adopted. Be advised, Harrington has ten times the potential for enlightened parents than Bovine will ever have.” Her eyes find Caleb. “If you could have one wish, what would it be?”
“To drive the horse home.”
Mother Superior makes Oma’s sour lemons face.
Papa talks to ceiling, “Oh, that my wish were that easy to achieve.”
Whispers to Stella. “Will Papa let me drive?”
Papa says, “Yes, we can manage with Caleb until the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.”
Caleb is happy.
Emma glances at Sister-in-Brown. “Just one of God’s too many feasts.”
Emma is funny.
***
Clip-clop of horse makes Caleb’s eyes open. Sees fire. Blinks. Flame won’t go away. Squints at red sun peeking through Emma’s hair. “Where’s S-stella?”
“I’m right here. You fell asleep across both our laps.”
“Father let me drive the horse. Just a little bit because I was tired.”
Father says, “Whoa.”
Slides off Emma’s and Stella’s laps and tries to stand.
Legs want to lay back down.
Father says, “Stella, take Caleb into the Rectory while I give Emma a ride back to the cafe.”
Caleb whispers. “I helped Father drive the horse.”
Stella doesn’t listen.
Emma says, “Father, you’ve done your duty for the day. I’ll drive myself home and Bud can return the rig to Dowdy’s. The walk back will do him good.”
“Bud’s been in the woods all day. He’s as exhausted as any of us.”
“Then, Buddy will take care of it.” Emma stands behind front seat.
Father doesn’t look at her. “I cannot pass my responsibility on to a child.”
“You are passing the responsibility to me, and I will take care of it.” She climbs over and sits next to Father. She takes reins from him.
Father steps down. “I am relinquishing control confident that you and Bud will use common sense. He turns to Caleb. “Come buggy driver.” He lifts Caleb off seat and down to ground. Holding Papa’s hand, they follow Stella into house. “Please make Caleb and me sandwiches with the turkey Mother Superior sent home with us.”
Whispers to Stella. “Don’t like turkey.”
Stella says, “I’ll spread some honey from Grandpa Hank’s bee hives on the bread. I think you will like that with a glass of milk.”
Papa says. “That sounds good. I’ll have the same.”
Stella makes sandwiches and empties the milk pitcher into two glasses. “I’ll have to walk to the dairy before breakfast tomorrow. Sturgis doesn’t deliver on Fridays.”
Papa says, “After we eat, I’ll take you upstairs to your new room. Mr. York delivered a nice little surprise while we were gone.” He picks up his sandwich. “Driving back home certainly builds an appetite.” Papa takes a bite. “Doesn’t driving the horse make you hungry, too, Caleb?”
Grandpa Hank’s honey makes turkey taste good.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Friday Morning , December 1, 1899

Eyes open and pinch back shut. Pulls bed sheet over face. Light sneaks in. Dark under Mother’s quilt. Ears don’t hear Stella singing in kitchen. Tosses covers away. Not on couch. Sun shines bright through window. Curtains hide sun on living room window.
Caleb’s bedroom! Father, not Stella, tucked Caleb in new bed last night. And desk and dresser, Father said Mr. York’s surprise. Foot steps into slipper. Giggles.
Nana teases, “I’m going to find your secret place.”
Walks to desk. Wiggles toes on foot without slipper. Floor cold.
Nana Sings, “One shoe off and one shoe on. Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my grandson Caleb.”
Opens desk drawer. Mr. Wentzel’s tobacco tin with three curly things. Stella put in drawer when saying goodnight. After Father tucked Caleb in.
“Caleb. Are you awake?” Father’s voice from the stairway. “I need you to meet someone in my office.”
Looks down stairs at Father. “S-stella?”
“I wish Stella were here, but she went to the dairy to get milk for breakfast.”
“Gotta pee.”
“I’ll wait for you by the office.”
Not a dream. Father let Caleb drive Dowdy’s horse. Holds out arms. “Giddy up.” Makes clicking noise. Trots down stairs to bathroom.
Father stands outside office door and points. “That man in there knows something about your family.”
Nose remembers cigar smell. Finds foot without slipper. Whispers, “Diddle, diddle, dumpling.” Eyes see man’s black shoes. Not shiny! Go up to black pants. To black shirt. To black hat. No cigar.
Oma says Man-in-Black always stinks like cigar.
Black hat hides man’s eyes. He points to chair. Caleb sits. Man’s eyes move to chair behind desk. Father sits.
“Caleb, this is Mr.—”
“As I told you, just Sean.” He lifts black hat. “My only name for now.”
Oma’s Man-in-Black!
“Well young man. Now that you know my name, tell me your name.”
“Caleb.”
“Is that your full name? What about a last name?”
“Don’t remember.”
Father’s hands on desk. Sees Papa’s ring first time. He says, “We aren’t even sure he’s been baptized. Can you supply us with that information?”
Sean-in-Black keeps eyes on Caleb. “Tell me about your mother.”
“Oma.”
“Where is she?”
Papa yells. “Are you sure that’s necessary, Sean?”
Oma says Sean is Caleb’s mean uncle.
“Please answer, Caleb.”
“In heaven with Nana. With Little Sister.” Eyes want to cry.
“A little sister?” Sean smirks.
Oma tells Mean Uncle to wipe smirk off his face.
“What about your little sister?”
Eyes go to black shoes, not shiny.
“You do know something about the girl.”
“Oma says pray for her.”
“She died?” Mean Uncle Sean pushes coat open and shoves hands in pockets. “What about your father?”
“Don’t have papa.”
“Do you remember a baseball game?”
“Man in uniform hit the ball real hard.”
“Who bought you a baseball cap at the ball park? And took you to a cinema?”
Face hurts. Papa should make Sean go away. “Papa?”
“You said you don’t have a papa.”
“I think Caleb means me. He sometimes confuses my title of Father with Papa.”
“Was he a priest like Father Busch?”
Remembers only shiny black shoes.
“Tell me about the fire.”
Papa says, “That’s going a bit too far.”
Pinches eyes shut. Shiny black shoes won’t go out of Caleb’s head. Looks around. “Where’s Tella?”
“Who is Tella?”
“Stella, my housekeeper. She’s taking care of Caleb until he finds a permanent home.”
Eyes open. Find white envelope on Papa’s desk. Mrs. Cunningham has brown envelope. Policeman had black envelope.
“I presume she is away. Does she leave Caleb alone often?”
“Never.”
Man-in-Back looks around. “Never?”
“Except when I’m here to watch him.” Uncle Sean’s eyes stay on Papa. “Unless accompanied by an adult.” Papa sits back down. “For instance, yesterday Mrs. Cunningham escorted Caleb to a prospective family.”
“Cunningham? The Implement dealer here in Bovine?”
“Yes, his wife. I don’t see what that has to do with—”
“Did the fire burn you, Caleb?”
Shakes head.
“I’m afraid I have to confirm that.” Faces Papa. “Note that I did not touch the boy.” Eyes back on Caleb. “Please stand and lift your shirt for me. I want to see your back and stomach.”
Glances at Papa. Lifts shirt.
Uncle Sean makes circle with finger.
Turns around and pulls shirt down.
“Lower your pajama bottoms and turn around.”
“I most seriously object.” Papa tries to stand.
“Very quickly, Caleb.”
Loosens string and pajamas fall down. Urge to pee again.
“Thank you, Caleb. You may pull your pajamas back up. Now, I need to see your feet.” He looks at Papa. “May I?” He sets Caleb back on chair and lifts foot without slipper. He shakes head and takes slipper off other foot. He smiles.
Points and giggles. “My strawberry.”
Nana says, “I’m going to find your strawberry and tickle it.”
Uncle Sean puts slipper back on foot. “Caleb, I want you to show me where you sleep?” He glances at Papa. “With your permission, of course.”
Papa stands. Man-in-Black stares but Papa doesn’t sit down.
“Father Busch, I want you to understand that I am a professional. I will in no way harm this boy. There are certain conditions that go with the stipend. You’ll find them in the envelope with the bank draft. Feel free to look them over while this young man shows me his bedroom.”
Papa drops to his chair. “I’ll be right here, Caleb, if this man frightens you.” He picks up envelope and sets it down. “No, I will follow you to the stairway.”
Man-inBlack doesn’t scare Papa.
Slides off chair and takes man’s hand. Hears Papa humming as they climb stairs.
“So, this is your room. Where did you get the nice quilt?”
“The Mothers.”
“What mothers?”
Counts on four fingers. “Mrs. Cunningham, Grandma Betsy, and Earl’s mother.” Lowers his pinkie. “And Arnie’s mother but she died.”
“I see. Mothers. You miss your Oma?”
“And Nana.” Tears form.
I want you to think real hard. “Who put you out on the window ledge?”
Shakes head. Picture won’t go away.
“Your grandmother?”
Nods and tears burst out. “Nana.”
“Where was Oma?”
“Oma on fire.” Runs and bumps into Papa on steps.
Papa yells, “I regret that I allowed you time alone with this boy.”
Can’t pee no matter how hard Caleb tries. Wants to look at sad face in Oma’s little mirror. Nana hides locket in apron pocket. Kicks off slipper. Giggles through tears.
“You can tickle my secret place now, Nana.”
Peeks out bathroom door. Runs to Stella’s bedroom and looks in. No one in kitchen. No one in living room. Outside office door, Mean Uncle Sean grabs Caleb’s arm, bends down, and whispers, “Look under your mothers’ quilt.” He puts his finger on his lips. “Our little secret.”
Papa comes out of his office. Sean smirks again. “I’ll be back some time next year. I’m aware of the new orphanage. Not a good place for Caleb.” He pulls black hat down over eyes and walks out.
Curls up in corner. Chews on pajama string. Papa sits at desk. Writes.
“Caleb?” Stella calls from kitchen.
“The boy’s in here.”
Stella stares. “Caleb, are you all right?”
“He’s had a difficult morning. Take these notices to the Council members. We need to meet immediately.”
“Yes, Father. Immediately?”
“This afternoon at one o’clock. It’s written right in front of you.”
“What about Caleb?”
“Take him with you.”
“Your breakfast, Father?”
“I’m in no mood.” He reaches into his pocket and takes money out. “Get him something to eat at the cafe when you deliver Emma’s note.”
Nana helps Caleb stand. Kisses his hair. “Where are your slippers?”
“Caleb doesn’t know.”
Papa scratches head. “He came down stairs with them on.”
“I’ll find your slippers later. Right now you need get dressed for outdoors. The sun is shining but the air is still cold.”

A bell jingles when they open cafe door. Emma comes from kitchen. “Hello, Caleb. You’re just in time to help with the noon rush.” She glances around empty tables. “Well, maybe it’s still coming.”
Stella takes off Caleb’s coat and holds it. “We’re here on Father Busch’s order to deliver this message.” Hands Emma folded paper. “And to buy Caleb breakfast.”
“I think Caleb earned pancakes and maple syrup after working at the venison fry last Monday.”
“Father gave us money.”
“In that case, I better pay up.” Emma takes nickel from money drawer. Gives it to Caleb.
In New York Nana saves nickels for Milk Man and Ice Man.
“Do you have a safe place to put this?”
“My desk.”
“Wow. A young clerk.”
“Mr. York’s idea to get him ready for school next fall. He furnished Caleb’s bedroom furniture. I’ll make some curtains.”
“Sun hurts Caleb’s eyes.”
Emma asks, “What else do you have stored there?”
“Three curly things from Mr. Wenzel. Maybe something else. Don’t know.”
Our little secret.
Emma says, “All boys have a secret stash.”
Stella says, “Bring out Caleb’s pancakes. We have one more message to deliver this morning.”
Emma glances at paper from Father. “Emergency meeting. What’s that all about?”
“Man looked at Caleb’s strawberry.”
Stella sets coat on chair. “A birth mark on his foot.”
“This is a meeting, I don’t want to miss.”
“I better deliver this last message to Ben and get back to make Father his lunch.”
“Breakfast first, S-stella.”
Bundled back up after pancakes, Stella tells Emma, “Our next stop, York’s Mercantile.”
“Giddy up.” Makes clicking noises. Trots out the door
Stella looks at Emma. “We have Father to thank for that.”
Inside York’s store, man takes milk bottles out of box and puts them on shelf. Talks to them. “Customers have to see you guys before they’ll buy.” Claps the dust off hands. “What can I do for you, Stella?”
“We have a message to deliver.” She hands him the paper. “And Caleb has something to say to you.” She nudges Caleb. “What do you say to Mr. York?”
“Thank you, Mr. ‘Ork, for my desk.”
“And your bed and dresser.”
“My secret place.”
“I charged the parish for the bed and dresser, but Caleb can keep my children’s desk as long he stays. I’m sure the parish will want to purchase more adult furniture when the bishop arrives for confirmation. You’ve taken the guest room since he was here two years ago.”
“I expect to sleep on a cot in Father’s office.” She glances around the store. “I would like to buy Caleb a small toy.”
Mr. York puts his hand on Caleb’s shoulder and points to shelf of toys. “Go see what you would like?”
Turns and points. “Caleb wants milk bottle.”
“A strange toy and quite breakable.” He looks at Stella. “Sturgis dairy only delivers bulk milk, but some of his customers want it in bottles. He agreed but won’t furnish the containers.”
“Please?”
“I’ll take one. If I need to walk to the dairy again, I’d sooner carry a bottle than a pitcher.”
“They come in pairs, an empty to exchange for a full one.”
“Just one for now.”