Chapter 1

Written by: Joe Labrum

Liam steadied himself against the doorway as the train snaked through the switchyard out to the main line. Picking up speed, it rolled past a yard shack where workmen loaded tools into a wagon. Liam froze when he saw one of the men studying him as he passed, and retreated from the open door. The excitement of making plans faded into fear.  He pushed the door partially closed, allowing enough airflow to remove the livestock smell. As he left the city behind, the scenery changed to rolling hills. Exhausted, he sat and watched the countryside go by, calmed by the gentle motion. With hunger gnawing at him, he thought of the abundance he had left behind. Shortly after, he fell asleep in a pile of dung-smelling straw.

 

Liam woke to the sound of boxcars clanking as the train rolled to a stop. Loud mechanical sounds filled the air along with the smells of coal smoke and hot grease from axle bearings and burning brakes. He looked up the line of cars and saw the locomotive had stopped at a water tower. Three husky men in uniform were walking toward him, stopping at each car.

 

The guards were less than a hundred yards away and getting closer by the second. Liam’s heart pounded as he waited and watched for his chance to escape. When they stopped at a boxcar four from his, he made his move. He lowered himself to the ground and ducked beneath the car. Sweat streaked his face as he crawled to the other side and peered out. He could see a clear opening to a row of buildings on the edge of the yard. He dashed for it and crouched in the shadow of a small storage shed behind Emma’s Kitchen.  Clutching his chest, he wheezed. His chest rattled as he coughed. A shadow fell over him, making him jump. He looked up. An overweight, gray haired woman wearing a soiled apron stared at him.

 

“Where ever did you come from, lad?” she asked. 

 

Warmed by a hint of Gaelic, Liam answered, “From the tracks”.

 

“Why, you’re a mere boy,” she said. “What are you doing on your own?”

“Aye, ma’am,” he answered. Relaxed, he told this motherly stranger his story.

 

She introduced herself as Emma Anderton, the proprietor. Then, she led Liam into the soup kitchen through the back door next to the shed. Liam asked if there was work he could do for a bit of food, and Emma agreed.

While Liam washed up, Emma prepared a large plate of bacon and eggs and sat it on the table for him. Liam plopped down and shoveled in a forkful. As he did, he glanced at the morning paper lying by his plate and read, The indentured servant of Isaac Westerly, prominent New York businessman, fled after savagely attacking Westerly’s son, James. A reward is offered for information leading to the servant, Liam Fahey’s capture.

 

Joseph Labrum, USA

 

Comments

Joe has certainly had a go at letting us see, smell, feel, and take a look at some of the characters. I like the ending as this now sets the stage for all of Liam's adventures. We have a character getting up to all sorts of good/bad experiences as he travels out West, set against a backdrop of hardship and unfair justice.
Very nice, Joe. I was in the train, watching Liam sweat bullets and make his move. I could taste the bacon and eggs. This story is going to be very exciting.
It's a chase which is even better than a tourists journey through America on train. Very readable and sparked my interest to what comes next.