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Will Jamison and the Black Swan Mine Chapter 19 Time For Healing

Story ID:2517
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 19
Time For Healing

Will raced down the schoolhouse steps ahead of Emily. "Take a deep breath, Emily. Feel that fresh air, and look at the sunshine."

Emily frowned when she caught up to him. "The sun shines the same way every day, Will. Why should I look at it? You've acted strange ever since the accident. What's wrong with you?"

"Wrong? Nothing's wrong. I'm back in school and out in the daylight and air. Everything's right, not wrong."

Will pushed the tip of his nose up with a finger, and stuck out his tongue at the same time. He repeated the gesture until Emily giggled.

"Stop that, Will. You always know how to make me laugh, but I don't know what you're talking about half the time."

"Be glad for the fresh air and the sun, Em. I'll never take it for granted again. Some days down in the mine I couldn't breathe, and I hated the darkness more than anything."

An open carriage, drawn by two black horses, rolled by. "Will, look. Ooh, look at the dress Cecily Boardman has on today." Emily sighed.

Will turned to see what had caught Emily’s attention. The mine owner’s daughter wore a dress a shade lighter than coal dust, topped by a lacey white collar--the kind Gran wore only on Sundays. Cecily's plump wrists ballooned out of the sleeves.

"She looks like a whale to me, Em. A great gray whale. Your dress looks much nicer on you." He tugged Emily's arm. "Come on, we'd better go. I’m suppose to stop at Doc Pettle’s office right after school."

Emily swatted the skirt of her plain brown dress and scowled at Will. "You're only saying that about my dress to make me feel better, aren't you?"

"No, I'm not. It's not the dress, you know. Think about the person in the dress," Will said.
When they passed the company store, a familiar voice stopped them. “Will. Wee Will, hold up there.”

Leo Fenton leaned against the open door, his broken arm tied up in a sling like Will's. His face appeared cleaner than usual, but he was wearing the same dirty clothes he’d had on the day of the accident.

Leo ambled over and planted his feet directly in front of Will. "Can I talk to ya; I mean, talk to ya alone?"

When Emily opened her mouth to speak, Will shook his head and gestured to her to move ahead.

Leo pulled his cap down. His lower lip thrust forward. "I wanted to say you don't have to go around acting so satisfied 'cause you're the big hero now. I could've got out myself if you hadn't butted in."

Gran always said honey attracts more flies than vinegar. He’d try to be nice and see if Leo would calm down.

"I'm glad it turned out all right, Leo. You and I've never been exactly friends, but I wouldn't wish anything bad to happen to you."

"Never been friends! That's putting it mildly, ain't it?" Leo smirked. "I ain’t never done nothin’ to you, but I plain don’t like you."

"Why Leo? Why were you mean to me? And to everybody else?" Will asked. "You aren't mean to the mules. That very first day in the cage, you patted the scared mule and sweet- talked in its ear."

Leo ducked his head. "Mules are nothin' to be afraid of. No animal is. It's people who do bad things to ya." He moved in closer to Will. "Why'd you help me? You hurt yourself doing it. That's dumb." He poked his finger into Will’s chest.

Will backed away. "Leo, if you'd be nice to people like you are to the mules, they might treat you better. You never give anybody a chance to be a friend."

"No, and I ain't going to neither." Leo turned his back to Will and stalked away. He turned back and shouted, "Some big hero! I'm not through with you either. My pa hates your pa, so I’m gonna keep hating you, too."

“You’re a big lunkhead, Leo!” Will kicked a stone in the road so hard dust flew up making him cough. Why did Leo’s pa hate Da?

Will hurried to catch up with Emily who waited farther down the wooden walk.

"What happened?" she asked.

Will kicked another stone wishing it was Leo his foot connected with. "I thought he might want to say thanks, but he acted like he always does. Somebody told me that Leo's father is mean to him, and that's why Leo's so nasty. He said some crazy thing about his pa hating my da.”

They’d reached Doc Pettle's office, which was connected to his home.

Emily opened the door for Will. "Now I can help you like you always do for me."

Will's answer came quickly. "Only until my shoulder heals."

Will sniffed. Some new smell was mixed in with the disinfectant Doc used. It tickled his nose, but he couldn’t determine what it was.

"Ah, here's the hero of Medlin, Iowa himself." Doc Pettle grinned at them.

The word hero sounded altogether different when Doc Pettle said it. Hearing the way Doc said it made him stand straighter and feel good inside. The way Leo spat the word, he’d felt like running away.

Doc rubbed his eyes and sighed. "Will didn't die, did he, Emily? I said he wouldn't, and he didn't!"

The smile faded from Emily's face. "People do die at the Black Swan, you know."

"I'm sorry to say, you're absolutely right." Doc Pettle said.

Will scanned the titles of the many books visible through the glass doors of the doctor’s bookcase.

"Like books, Will?" Doc Pettle asked.

"Oh, yes, sir. I like them a lot."

"Tell you what," Doc said. "Those books need dusting. Turning page after page blows the dust away. I don't find much time to read these days, and I sorely miss it. How about you take them one at a time until you finish the whole case. Clean them up for me. What do you say, Will?"
Will edged closer to the bookcase. "You mean it, Doc?"

The doctor turned to Emily. "Go on into the kitchen. I think Mrs. Pettle needs some help getting the children ready for their tea. Smells like gingerbread just popped out of the oven."
Emily nodded and limped to the kitchen next to the office.

Gingerbread! That’s what he’d smelled earlier. Now, his stomach growled, and he hoped Mrs. Pettle had made a big panful.

"Will, come over here, and let's have a look at your shoulder," Doc said. "The books aren't going anywhere."

Will turned to the doctor. "You sure have a lot of papers around here, Doc."

"I know it.” Doc untied the sling Gran had fashioned. "Seems like I can never get to this paperwork. It piles up, and I never know where anything is. I wanted to be a doctor, but nobody told me you had to be a businessman as well." He studied the piles of paper on his desk, on top of the bookcase, and on some of the chairs. "It really has piled up, hasn't it?" Doc tugged at his beard. "Let's check your shoulder so you can have some of that gingerbread, too, but make sure you save a piece for me.” Doc moved Will’s arm a little, poked and prodded his sore shoulder.

Even Doc’s poking was gentler than Leo’s finger in his chest.

Doc retied the sling before he said, “Will, you take one of those books home with you. Don’t forget now."

How could he forget the treasure Doc offered? He’d read his own two books over and over until he nearly knew them by heart. "Don't worry, Doc. I’ll remember."