historical fiction

Work Sketch

destitute_man_vacant_store

The nubs of my blunted fingers rub my shirt. Seems I do this more often without thinking. I can’t tell if it’s from the crazy itching where the fingers use to be, or if from trying to soothe my rumbling belly.

Hunger has kept me from bothering to look for work anymore. I’m too hungry to work. When my fingers parted ways with my hand, they took my chances of paid work with them anyway. Like a weary wife who takes away the children and all hope of a future. Why hire a man with six fingers, when there are plenty with ten? Ten fingers get the job done better. Seems awfully nit-picky to me. But I suppose bosses can afford to be picky in times like these.

I’ve learned to be careful where I loiter. An empty storefront is best. Plenty of those around. No one complains so long as I don’t block any signs. I don’t see how it matters. Most of the signs entice folks to buy nonexistent food. The ghost of food lingers on empty counters in empty diners. I have a wild desire to fill my empty belly with it. But that’s just my imaginative youth trying to take over. I don’t blame my youth. Someone’s got to provide.

My buddy Jeb thinks I should keep my hands out of my bibs. Show everyone my mangled hand. I’d get more coins tossed my way. “Sympathy money” he calls it. But every man has some shred of dignity that he won’t let go of. It’s bad enough to stand here waiting for a coin to fall on the walk. I won’t even put my hat down in a silent plea for change. Besides, if a boss happened to be walking by, I would want him to think he’s seeing a whole man in case he needs a worker. Begging is beneath me.

Almost.

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historical fiction

Robert Todd Lincoln: Again

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     My ears go deaf. Before the ringing starts, I get the whiff of gun powder. These sensations are all too familiar. We made our way to our respective ship cabins to settle in for the journey when it happened. The gunman barely caught my eye before he moved in close to aim at Mayor Gaynor’s throat.
     Now it comes to it, I did feel a slight perception of fear, perhaps the result of the villain’s sneer. But without the knowledge of a gun, my fear felt misplaced.
     Blood squirts from my friend’s neck. I hear the click of a camera. I cannot move fast enough to help William lay on the ship’s deck, while calling for a doctor. I’m not sure I’m heard.
     What was before excited chatter of people embarking to Europe, has turned into a flurry of panic. Women scream. The rapid clacking of shoes race around me. Men roughly disarm and subdue the gunman. I remove my coat to cushion William’s head and note the metallic scent of his blood. Whether my cries for a doctor are heard or one volunteers regardless, help arrives. I leave my friend in his care. My hands shake as they always do at times like these.
     But why must I experience so many of these times?
     A mere four days ago, I’d mourned the 45th anniversary of my father’s assassination. Why must fate be stubborn to me? Why be rescued by the brother of my father’s killer at the tender age of 20, only to spend a lifetime witnessing assassinations? Father, President Garfield, President McKinley…and even my friend, the New York City Mayor.
     How many more?