CHAPTER SEVEN

Monday morning, November 27, 1899

Caleb’s eyes won’t move from last clump of oatmeal stuck in bowl. Feels Stella 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 real hard.
Oma grabs Nana’s fry pan and yells at Man-in-Black.
“You finish eating. I’ll be right back.” Stella’s voice lets eyes move from bowl.
“I’m done.” Slides off chair, keeps spoon. “Nana? Papa?” Didn’t say Caleb couldn’t follow. Does slow walk to office door left open. Sees Buddy on Papa’s chair going round and round. Papa looks angry at him.
Emma shows Nana thing to hit people.
Oma tells the policeman, “In my house, you keep that billy club 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 rushed in to take it away.”
Holds spoon behind back where Nana can’t see.
Emma looks back at Nana. “Then, Father left in a huff.”
Tiptoes inside office.
Papa should tell Buddy to get off chair.
Steps closer to Buddy. Pushes Buddy’s feet to make chair go around fast. Giggles.
“Look, S-stella.”
She 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.”
Papa sits and pulls chair close to desk. “I wanted you to know Ben York has replaced Felix on the council. You never liked hearing your husband’s name read aloud at meetings, but today you seemed really upset.”
Buddy’s tongue makes spoon handle hit his nose. Stella takes it away. Buddy sticks out tongue.
Papa’s eyes still on Emma’s club.
“Oh, this.” Emma taps the floor like a cane.
Man-in-Black with shiny shoes tells Caleb, “Important church people use a walking cane.”
“I’m going to get it welded, and I wanted to know if Stella and Caleb would like to walk along. The blacksmith has some interesting new gadgets that might fascinate the boys.”
Oma says, “Don’t play on those darkie kids’ jumping thing next door.”
Papa looks at things on his desk.
Stella tells Emma, “I’ll need to be back to prepare Father’s lunch.”
“Father’s lunch and Caleb’s lunch, S-stella.”
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. “Won’t be following rules of order.”
Father moves an ink bottle from one side to the other. “What time will you be serving?”
“From noon on, but most of the council members will be busy until after five.”
“I could use the occasion to introduce Ben York as the newest member of the church council. Will he be attending?”
“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.”
…Virgil’s altar?
Emma squeezes Buddy’s arm, and he glares at her. “It’s nothing formal, just a get together. People might think it’s a village council meeting, because most are members of both groups. Except you and Frank Lorenz.”
…Cigar and pointy beard.
She chuckles. “Lorenzo.”
“As a priest, I shouldn’t get involved in local politics, and Frank is too busy at the bank to participate in both groups. His being Spanish has nothing to do with it.” Father points at Stella. “She’s half Irish and the congregation loves her.”
Oma says, “Who would ever suspect that of an Irish priest?”
“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 away from Stella and runs closer. Man sits on stool behind Nellie holding her hoof on his 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 Caleb.
“Be with you as soon as I fit Dowdy’s mare with a new shoe.” He pounds until nail peeks back out. He bends tip and pounds it into side of hoof.
Eyes make tears. Lifts foot and touches Caleb’s and Nana’s secret place.
“This might sting.” Woman in white coat sticks needle into Caleb’s foot.
Stella says, “Don’t take off your shoe out here. It’s cold.”
Teardrop sticks to Caleb’s cheek. Doesn’t wipe it with mitten because man sees him.
“Better stand back young fellow. She might stomp 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.”
Darkies have a fun jumping thing, but Oma says, “Don’t play with them.”
“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 horse won’t mind. She deserves a little treat for standing so still.”
…Eyes can’t move from hoof with new shoe. Nail still hurts.
Buddy comes back with two apples. Mr. Wentzel tells him, “Hold 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 he won’t get bitten.”
Grabs apple from Buddy. Before Stella can say stop, holds it to horse’s mouth. She eats off Caleb’s hand, forgets about nail in her foot.
Buddy gives Caleb other apple. “Do it again.” Shows Buddy how to hold the apple. Buddy says, “You do it.”
…Dowdy’s horse likes Caleb.
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 leads them to his shop and opens door. Smells like Oma’s stick matches. Makes tears. Blinks them away. Inside, dark dungeon from Oma’s book of fairy tales.
Oma tells Nana, “Reading those stories will give him 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 pointer. “It’s about this size.”
He grabs Emma’s hand, finger aiming at his work bench. He slides a letter “C” 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 slaps bowl against his palm. 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 washes a path down his cheek.
“Did he die in the fire?” Doesn’t want Mr. Wentzel to cry.
The blacksmith nods and smears wet spot with his thumb. Their eyes meet. “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, Caleb’s butt sits 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.” His hand covers a lever. “It takes two of us to get everything whirling.” He yells, “Hit it.”
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.”
The ceiling comes alive with things moving. Eyes travel from one spinning wheel to another.
At the cinema after the ballgame, black and white pictures move across a wall.
Mr. Wentzel sets Caleb down. “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, Caleb.”
Whirring noise. Chunks make smoke, turn orange. Sparks burst up. Everything glows red. 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 the handle out of fire. The hole is gone. He sets red hot end on a table and steps on foot thing. A 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.” Albert picks twisty thing from workbench and slides it through the letter “C”. He laughs. “This is about the size of Emma’s finger.” He pushes twisty thing up into another thing and holds Emma’s pump handle under it. He pulls lever down and curly things fall on floor.
Mr. Wentzel lifts gray lever on black wall. Whirring, screeching, silence. He peeks through hole. “This looks about right,” and gives it to Emma. “Might be a little stiff until it wears itself loose.”
Stoops to pick up curly thing.
“Careful, they’re still hot.” Mr. Wentzel pulls tin box from shirt pocket and snaps it open. He empties brown tobacco into pipe bowl. He packs it with thumb and lights it with stick match. Pipe makes puff of smoke.
Man-in-Black with shiny shoes lights pipe in Nana’s kitchen. Oma likes tobacco smell. Not cigar smell.
Mr. Wentzel taps the tin box upside-down, Few specks of tobacco fall out. “Might smell a bit like tobacco, but you can use it 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.
Tiny clicks as three curly things drop into tobacco can.
…Feet won’t follow Stella to the door. Face of Man-in-Black with shiny shoes won’t come out of dark place in memory. He sat next to Caleb at ball game and cinema. He smoked pipe, not cigar.
Blast of outside cold air takes away picture in his mind. Runs to catch up.
Posted on
October 14, 2018

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