Chapter 2

Written by: MatClarke

Liam stamped the initials JH, for Joseph Hennigan in the Cornish Pastee and then wrapped it in waxed paper. The smell of hot dough stuck to his fingers. He looked over at the door as a delivery boy burst inside with a sack of flour on one shoulder and vegetables over the other.

 

‘How far west have they gone now?’ Liam asked him, and had done so for the past three weeks. He hungered for news on the competing railroad companies—the first had started in Sacramento, the other in Omaha, and they would meet in the middle.

 

The boy dropped the sacks at the edge of the bench and stretched his back. ‘Layin’ track halfway across Wyoming from last summer, I hear.’

 

Liam packed another lot of Pastees for the field workers into a sack and pushed them into an increasing pile.

 

‘What about the west?’

 

‘Central Pacific Railroad with all those Chinese got through the mountains, I think,’ the boy said. ‘A lot of those Coolies have died, but they aren’t stopping.’

 

Emma came through from the back and clapped her hands and told them to hurry along, the sun would be up and the first customers would be through the doors soon. Liam only half heard her, his mind was already on getting to Wyoming to join the rail gangs. Then he hoped to buy farming land of his own, something his family never dreamed of doing.

 

He counted off how many dollars he had saved and decided it was around 32, plus what he would get for the end of this week. It wasn’t enough to get him all the way to Wyoming, but he would probably get more work while he traveled. Initially, when he had asked for refuge at Emma’s home he had intended on staying just the night, now he was getting paid and had his own place. If he was smart, his uncle would say, he would stay, do an honest man’s work and take a good Irish wife. But that wasn’t the life he wanted right now, not until he had seen the west, anyway.

 

It was dark when Liam managed to eat some left over soup and take a few rolls for the short walk to his home amongst the slaughter houses. It smelt bad, it was dirty, but it was cheap. Plus he would get off-cut meats from time to time for barely a few cents.

 

Liam called out to Thomas, a field worker, also heading home. They talked in the street and Liam asked him if he still wanted to come along when he went west at the end of the week. Thomas was about to answer when Liam’s name was called in a shrill bark. Liam turned and saw a man he never thought he would ever see again. In all the streets and in all the cities, how had he been so unlucky to come across Mr. Brown, butler of the Westerly home.

 

Mat Clarke (AUS)

Comments

Although this scene takes place in a kitchen, apart from the last paragraph, Mat drew my attention to the smell of hot dough and what Liam was doing and how excited he was to learn news of progress on the railroad. The scene did not shift away to more plot or intrigue, yet the story did move along enough to hold the reader's attention. It also shows the author knows how to write a good 'hidden' hook. It is not too dramatic in its construction but a name from the past reminds the reader what Liam is running away from and leaves them wondering what is going to happen next. A good solid chapter full of information and emotion. I couldn't quite see the kitchen or Emma but overall a well written chapter from Mat.
What are the odds…? You continued from the last chapter just the way I envisioned the story going. Liam stuck around, made a little money and is heading for the railhead with the old life on his heals. I can see and relate to his mindless production while he daydreamed his next move. The description of his situation, a cheap house by the stockyard, discounted meat, etc is realistic and convincing.

I think the term “pastee” may be a bit of showing off. I tried to find some information on the goodies and only found it referred to as “pastee” in an old Robin Hood ballad of the 1300’s. It was usually spelled “pasty” even in Shakespeare’s play In the Merry Wives of Windsor (1600). Am I missing something about pastee?
Yes, the American language - you lot raped the King's English when you kicked us out and started silly spelling just to be different.
You're a funny bugger Raymond! Hahaha
Not to be contrary,but Shakespeare spelled it "pasty" in 1600. That was way before we kicked you out and corrected your spelling.
Liam's relationships have developed over these last few chapters and being in America at this time has a lot to offer historically.
Good work Matt. Good research too. It sounds like Liam is living in Chicago but you never said for sure. Don't assume your reader knows where Laim is, it isn't any secret and it is another way to ground the story. The paragraph about him counting his money is hanging out in mid air. Where is Liam when he counts his money. If he is at work, why is he carrying all that money around with him, especially in a public place. He would also be too smart to count his money in a public place. I would think it would be a little far fetched to find a proper English butler on the south side of Chicago. It is going to be interesting to see what happens next. I like you presentation and sentence construction. If you were doing action you would want shorter sentences but this is really good for narration.
I don't think he is in Chicago since he hopped on a southbound train after an altercation with his boss in New York and got off the train the next morning. It would take much more time than that to get to Chicago and he would have needed to start out heading North. My vision is he only made it to Newark, NJ.

I have no problem with the butler showing up in any location since he is tracking the lad.
When I wrote: he counted off the money and decided it was $32 (decided, being the operative word) I hoped that that came across as him counting it in his head. Bummer that it didn't.
And as for location, I looked over the tracks back in those days and also took into account that he felt the train stop, so maybe it was the first stop? Then my research stated that trains only went a certain distance and another train would take over, and this was due to no signals in those days. So, to stop trains from crashing into each other the first train would carry a baton, much like a relay baton passed from one athlete to another. The next train was not allowed to leave until it had the baton from the first.
I thought of mentioning where the train had stopped, but I didn't want to limit the story for the next person... plus I was already at 500 words by the time I thought of it ;)
Still, I do understand that this should have been included.
And yeah, the southern route for the train - I thought anyway. Probably should have stipulated that in the story somehow.
And Raymond , you're correct, I should have described the kitchen a little more, or better - Emma I didn't care much about though.
Lastly, the Pastee! Raymond did pick up on that and questioned it. But I came across this and therefore called it pastee: http://alcoopershomecountry.blogspot.com.au/
And as for Shakespeare writings and other text recorded here and there; I guess text can always be entered incorrectly. Especially when going from paper to digital.
Just some thoughts.
At last we seem to be discussing the finer points of characterisation and researching, two of the really important issues facing any writer. We should be doing this on all chapters, questioning the author (nicely) and learning something from the discussion to help our own creative juices. I notice only one comment on Enos chapter. What a shame.
The thing that made me say Chicago was the mention of slaughter houses. At this time about the only place you would find slaughter houses would be in Chicago and of course at the rail head. In fact after thinking about it there may not have been slaughter houses even in Chicago yet. It was still pretty early in the west. So it is likely they would be in Kansas and Texas. This is a fascinating time in American history but it is almost too full of history. I am currently writing about twenty years later and am having the same problem.