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Will Jamison and The Black Swan Mine Chapter 3 Gran's News

Story ID:1811
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Fiction
Location:Medlin Iowa USA
Year:1895
Person:Will Jamison
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Chapter 3
Granís News

Will's grandmother folded her plump arms. Her deep blue eyes, so like his own, held no smile. Her mouth remained firmly set. She wore a plain dark dress with a long starched apron over it, the apron clean and snowy white.

Seeing Gran's expression, Will's stomach tightened, but he stepped forward and forced a smile across his face. Maybe Gran would forget her anger at his tardiness when she heard his news. "You'll be pleased as punch when you hear why I'm late, Gran. Miss Duncan wanted to talk to me after school. I've won first place in the school essay contest. Isn't that great?"

Gran's eyes widened at his news and a smile appeared, only to vanish in seconds. "Well now, I am pleased for you, Will, but it's getting late. You'd best be getting the tub ready for the men." She handed him a wooden bucket and turned back to the pot on her cook-stove.

Will placed the bucket in the deep sink under the pump. He poured a bit of water kept nearby into the top of the pump to prime it, getting the flow started. "The best part is, I'm going to read the essay at the Spring Festival." He imagined reading his words aloud on Festival day. The people of Medlin would listen and, when he finished, they would applaud loudly for a long time. So long that maybe their stomachs would rumble from hunger, and he would hold up his hands to ask them to stop so everyone could eat supper. What a day it would be. A shiver of happiness crawled from his toes to the top of his head.

Gran raised her head a little. A look of surprise crossed her round face when heíd told her about reading his essay, but her hands stayed busy at the stove. Now she said, "There won't be any reading at the festival. You won't be a student at Medlin School anymore. It's time you go down in the mine with your da and Freddie."

Will froze. The water stopped with the bucket only half-full. What was Gran saying? "No, no, I have to stay in school. I don't want to work in the mine, not now, not ever! You canít make me!" He shouted the words, something he'd never before done in Gran's kitchen.

Gran pointed to a chair. "Sit down! Now, you listen to me, Will Jamison. Times are hard, and a dollar doesn't go far. It's up to me to clothe and feed the lot of us. We need another pay envelope, and you're the one to get it. You're the only person left in this family that doesn't contribute." She started to get up, then sank back onto the chair. "I've already talked to Mr. Rollins down at the mine, and it's all set. You start tomorrow."

Granís hands trembled as she brushed off her spotless apron and fixed her gaze on the cook-stove. "I'll send a message with Emily tomorrow so Miss Duncan will know you aren't coming back to school."

A lump in Willís throat blocked his words at first, then he finally found his voice. "But Gran, I'm only eleven, and you know I'm not very big. I have to stay in school, I just have to!." Will sprang from the chair, hoping against hope. "Does my da know? Does Freddie know?" If Gran had socked him in the stomach, he couldnít have felt any worse.

"I know, and that's all that's necessary. Now, finish filling that bucket, and we'll hear no more about it." Gran clenched her fists and set her mouth firmly. There would be no more talking.

Will's steps dragged when he went back to
the sink. He pumped furiously, fighting to hold back tears. He filled bucket after bucket and carried them out to the back porch and poured them into the big tub. He tossed the cold water in so fast that some sloshed out on the floor. Water heating on top of the cook-stove would go in after his father and brother arrived.

Da and Freddie would change her mind, he told himself. It would work out. Will knew one thing. He wasn't going down in that mine the next day. He would be in Row 2 Seat 4 in Miss Duncan's class. Emily would be across from him and Mike two seats ahead exactly like every other school day.