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Will Jamison and The Black Swan Mine Chapter 18 A Talk With Gran

Story ID:2481
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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The last chapter was posted nearly a month ago since I have been traveling since that time. To catch you up--Will had just rescued Leo after he'd been pinned in the coal cars in the mine. Will had been injured during the rescue. Chapter 17 ended with Will collapsing in his da's arms as he went to get his injuries seen to. Chapter 18 finds Will at home in bed.





Chapter 18

A Talk With Gran



Emily’s voice trembled. "Is he going to die?"

Will’s eyes were closed, but he peeked only enough to catch sight of the six people clustered at the foot of his bed. He shut his eyes quickly. Maybe he was going to die. Why would they all be gathered around his bed unless he was about to die? Why didn’t somebody else say something?

Then, Doc Pettle said, "Die? Who said anything about him dying? He's not even close to dying, but that shoulder's going to be sore enough to make him wish he would."

Will managed to peek at his family a time or two while pretending to be asleep. Da’s arm curled around Emily's shoulders. Gran wiped her hands down the sides of her apron skirt. Her skin was almost as pale as Emily’s. Uncle Jack peered over Freddie's shoulder. For once, neither of them laughed or joked. The last person studying him was the short and very thin doctor. He wanted to smile seeing them all bunched up like baby chicks, but he wasn’t ready yet for all the questions he knew they’d ask. He needed a few more minutes of silence, so he feigned sleep.

Two deep creases formed over the bridge of Doc Pettle’s gold-rimmed spectacles as he ran his hand over his neatly trimmed beard. He rolled up his sleeves, picked up his bag, and moved to the side of the bed. "Out! All of you, out!" He waved his arm toward the door. "Too many people in this little room. Give the patient some air to breathe."

Freddie stepped to his right and opened the window farther.

Doc raised one dark eyebrow and smiled from the side of his mouth. "That wasn't exactly what I meant."

Soft laughter and the shuffle of feet answered Doc. From the sound, Will determined the order in which they descended the stairs from their footsteps.

Despite her weight, Gran moved lightly down the stairway. Da’s feet hit the steps only a little harder. Uncle Jack hit each tread hard and heavy, and Freddie's steps were quick, barely touching each stair. Emily left last, one soft step at a time.

Doc Pettle closed the door. "You can open your eyes all the way now, Will. They're gone."

Will’s eyes opened wide at Doc’s comment.

The doctor rocked on his heels, thumbs behind his suspenders.

Will moved in the bed and winced. "Why were they all here?"

Doc moved closer and examined Will with strong but gentle hands. "This might hurt some," he cautioned. He raised Will's right arm and probed the injured shoulder.

Will shut his eyes and bit his bottom lip. "Hurts more than a little, Doc."

The doctor cleaned and bandaged Will's scraped hands. "Your hands will heal up pretty fast, but that shoulder is going to take awhile. You stretched and tore some muscles and ligaments in it. Best thing for it is Tincture of Time, my boy." Doc patted Will's good shoulder, cocked his head and rubbed his bearded chin with his thumb. "I’ve known you all you life, Will. If I was a guessing man, I'd believe there was something more wrong with you than these injuries." He rummaged through his worn leather bag.

Will remained silent.

"This bag's a mess," Doc continued. "I'm a good doctor, Will, but I'm totally disorganized. Seems I can't ever find anything in here or in my office either. He held up a paper packet. "Here it is! This will help the pain a little. I'll give them to your grandmother." He sat down on the side of the bed and picked at a loose thread on the quilt.

The curtains brushed against the open window frame, and outside leaves rustled in the strong breeze.

"You did a fine thing helping Leo out of a bad spot."

"Is Leo all right, Doc?"

"Broke his arm and twisted some muscles here and there, but he's a tough one. Both of you will be back to work before you know it."

Will sighed and closed his eyes again. "You can go now. I'm fine, just awful tired."

Doc closed his bag. "Will, you don't want to go back to the Black Swan, do you?"

Will hesitated before he answered. "No Doc, I don't ever want to go back there." He turned his face to the wall.

"Where's my coat? Where did I put that coat?" Doc Pettle said. "See what I mean? I can never find anything. Boy like you shouldn't be working in a mine. Total waste if you ask me, but nobody ever asks me much. Sleep now, Will. You've earned it."
* * * * *

When he woke, Gran was smoothing the quilt.

"So, you finally woke up, did you? Doc told me to put your arm in a sling. It'll keep that shoulder steady and help it heal faster." She perched on the side of the bed and pushed Will's hair off his forehead. "He told us that you were about the most unhappy eleven-year-old he'd ever seen."

Will struggled to sit up, and Gran helped him. "No, Gran, I'm fine, really fine."

"You don't sound very convincing to me." Gran's face appeared softer than usual. "I know how you feel about the mine, lad. It's hard for a person to know what to do. We need that bit of money you earn to save up for the strike that's coming."
Her voice broke, and she blinked repeatedly. She picked at the same thread on the quilt that the doctor had found earlier.

"What strike, Gran? I don't know anything about a strike."

Gran breathed in deeply. "Oh, there'll be one, lad, sooner or later. Always is with owners like Oliver Boardman. Men like him think about what the mine brings him, never about the miners. The men get fed up. They ask for more wages or more safety precautions. The owner says no, and so they band together and quit working. It's the only threat they have."

"But, what's the money I earn got to do with that?"

Gran sighed. "I always put aside a bit every week, to have a little to tide us over if there is a strike. Times have been so bad lately I never have a penny left for my strike fund. That's why I needed you to help out. When the men strike, we no longer have credit at the company store. Cash only, they say, even put a sign on the door with those words. You may not remember what it's like when the men are on strike. Last time, your dad spent his days fishing and hunting rabbits so we could eat. It's a worrisome thing."

Will curled his hands into fists. Why hadn’t Gran ever told him about the strike money before? Before he could ask, she explained further.

Gran's shoulders sagged. "I never wanted to make you leave school, but I knew no other way to get the extra for the strike fund. My baking for the Boardman's didn't bring in enough extra money. All that went for everyday things."

Will winced as he struggled to sit up. “Why can’t Uncle Jack give you the money? He talks about being rich all the time.” A flicker of hope welled within him.

Gran picked up a piece of cloth and fashioned a sling. “Your Uncle Jack is a lot more talk than action. He counts what he has carefully. It will take care of him, but not much more than that. So get that idea out of your head, lad.”

Gran always said to not be too proud to ask a friend to help you, even though she seldom did it herself. The tiny flame of hope he’d felt sputtered and died.

Gran gathered the rest of the cloth and got slowly to her feet. “You can't go to the mine until you're healed up. That's a fact. You might as well go back to school until you're able to work again. Better than being underfoot here all day."

She was the Gran he knew again. "Do you mean it, Gran?" He threw the quilt back and moved to the side of the bed, grimacing at the sudden shot of pain his action caused.

"I don't say things I don't mean, do I? But you get back in that bed for now. School will wait a day or two."

Gran waited until Will obeyed before she started out the door. She turned back to him. "There's one more thing. Emily told your da about the prize paper and Miss Duncan wanting you to read it at the festival."

Will held his breath. His eyes locked on Gran's face.

She raised her chin a fraction. "Your da laid down the law to me. He said you are to read your paper at Spring Festival, and we are to be there to listen to you."

Will leaned forward. "And, you agreed?"

"Not often your da stands up to me," Gran answered. "Seems like I had little
choice." A small smile softened her face again as she gently closed the door.

Will's heart beat faster. Gran sounded happy that Da had stood up to her. Gran talking to him like a grown man, Da layng down the law to Gran. What might happen next? His head swam with possibilities.

Gran opened the door and put her head around the doorframe. "You'll still need to go back to the mine when you're healed up, so don't get too excited about this little turn of
events."

Will sank back on the pillow. There were things to think about, but he was too tired to consider them now. His last thought before he slept centered on Miss Duncan and school.