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Will Jamison and the Black Swan Mine Chapter 20 Will Makes A Decision

Story ID:2559
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 20

Will Makes A Decision


Will finished the chores Gran gave him, then rushed outside to join Uncle Jack on his walk to the mine.

Uncle Jack breathed deeply, tipped his head back and closed his eyes. He let his breath out in a rush. "Aah, the scents of the season are upon us, Will. The honey of the lilacs—pure Heaven. Try it, lad."

Will took in a great breath. Then he closed his eyes, following Uncle Jack’s example. “I can smell the damp soil. The shower we had makes it easy. There’ll be worms for fishing soon."

Will opened his eyes and studied Gran’s brother. "You keep track of everything, don't you, Uncle Jack?"

"For sure, I do," Uncle Jack answered. "I've been keeping track of how long my visit has become, too, and maybe it's about time I move on. I think I'll leave on the morning train the day after the festival. I want to be here when you read your prize paper, Will."

They strolled in friendly silence. Will hoped Uncle Jack wouldn’t ask about his decision. He’d made it but saying the words out loud wouldn’t be easy. After awhile, Will spoke. "We should get to the mine about the time Da and Freddie are ready to walk home. Perfect timing."

Uncle Jack's steps halted. He laid his broad hands on Will’s narrow shoulders. The sun's rays bounced off his ruby ring, making it glow. "You've been avoiding the issue, Will. Are you coming with me or not?" The big man leaned closer and locked eyes with Will. "I'd like nothing better than to have your company. We can travel this great country of yours together. Medlin, Iowa is only a beginning for you."

Uncle Jack's offer was a way out. He'd never need to go down the big hole again if he accepted. No more boring days in the damp darkness, opening and closing the ventilation door. His days would be filled instead with new sights and people of all types. Chicago wouldn't be a picture on a post card any longer, and he would ride on trains and river boats from one fascinating place to another. But one thought always marred the tantalising picture Uncle Jack had painted with words. School. How much would he miss school and his studies? It had always been the best part of his day. Every new book, every new math problem, every new discovery delivered a rush of pleasure. It was always on his mind during the days underground in the mine.

Will's answer came in a rush. "I've thought about it, thought about it a lot. I thank you for the offer, but I'm going to stay here in Medlin. I'm back in school now, and my shoulder's doing better every day. I want to finish school here in Medlin and go on to Iowa City, go to college someday.”

Uncle Jack’s hands fell to his side and curled into fists. "But that's only for a little while. Soon as your shoulder is fully healed, your Gran will have you back down that hole. You'll come up covered with coal dust every night, and you'll become miserable all over again. Besides, traveling with me would be an education, too."

Uncle Jack's face turned red, and his voice grew louder as he argued. He whirled around and stomped away from Will, heading back toward town.

Will trotted to catch up with him. "Don't be angry, Uncle Jack," he called. "Wait a minute, wait for me. Hear me out. Please!"

Uncle Jack slowed his pace and rubbed his forehead. He turned around and continued in the direction of the Black Swan. "Ah, it's my temper that always gets me in trouble. Your Gran and I are the same in that. Quick to anger and too often slow to smooth the trouble again. We're both stubborn and hardheaded." The fierce expression vanished. "I asked you to make a decision, but I got angry when you didn't make it the way I hoped. I'm sorry, lad."

"I'm sorry, too. It was hard to decide what to do. Traveling with you sounds like a great adventure, but it could be years before we returned to Medlin, and there'd be no school you said." Will shook his head. "No, I'm going to stay here, and I'm staying in school for good."

"You are?" Uncle Jack's eyebrows rose. "How are you going to accomplish that?"

Will spotted Freddie walking toward them. "Can't tell you now, but maybe before you leave. Let’s not say anything to Freddie or my da.”

Freddie's weary voice interrupted them. "What's so serious?" he asked. His face and clothes were black as pitch, and his broad shoulders drooped.

Uncle Jack ran his hands through his hair. "I was, uh, I was telling Will about my plans. I'm going to leave after Spring Festival. Don't want to outstay my welcome. No sir, don't want to do that."

"Here comes Da," Will said. "Let's get on home. The Boardman’s cook gave Gran a chicken today, and she’s making chicken and noodles for supper." He rubbed his stomach and made bug-eyes at his brother until Freddie laughed at him.

Uncle Jack patted his round stomach. "Oh, how I'll miss Maggie's cooking. In fact, I think I might miss a lot of things here in Medlin, but there's a world out there waiting for me. I need to move on so I can send post cards back to Will." He reached out, messed up Will's hair, and then did a little dance step before they started toward home.

"Would you really send post cards, Uncle Jack? I'll save every one if you do." Will swallowed twice before he added, "We'll miss you when you leave."

Freddie leaned toward his younger brother while still keeping an eye on their great uncle. In a soft voice he said, "Might not be so bad, ya know. There'll be more cookies for you and me!"