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Will Jamison and the Black Swan Mine Chapter 22 A Serious Talk

Story ID:2637
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Fiction
Location:Medlin Iowa USA
Person:Will Jamison
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Chapter 23
A Serious Talk

Very early on the morning of Festival Day,Will sat on the steps in front of Doc Pettle's office waiting to talk with him. He jumped up when he spied Doc’s small carriage rounding the bend in the road.

“Mornin’ Doc.”

A look of surprise crossed Doc Pettle's face. "Will! What in the world are you doing here so early? And on Festival Day?" He tossed the horses' reins over the hitching post and wrapped them securely. "Surely you're not here to borrow another book this early."

"No Doc, not today, but I wanted to talk to you. I came early because Festival Day is busy for everybody, and I wanted to catch you before you left on calls, but you must have gone before the sun came up."

"Don't look so disappointed. I'm here now. What is it you wanted that can't wait? Mrs. Timmon's new son couldn't wait this morning either. That's where I've been, out to the Timmon's place delivering a baby. Took his sweet time in coming once I got out there, too." Doc tossed his bag on the path, eased himself onto the top step, and rubbed his eyes. "Talk to me, Will, so I can go in and get some breakfast and a short nap before the day begins. You talk, I'll listen."

Will's plan seemed almost perfect when he'd devised it one night in his bed. The plan would work. He'd convinced himself the next morning. He'd achieve his goal of staying in school, and he'd be helping others, too, if Doc would agree. But now doubts rose in his mind, and his stomach tightened. Maybe he should leave now. No, too much depended on his plan to give it up.

Will paced while he talked, his feet moving faster as the words flew. "You know I don't want to go back to work in the mine now that my shoulder's better. I want to stay in school, but I need to help Gran save money for her strike fund, too. Doc, your office is a mess; you said so yourself, so I thought of a way to help both of us." He paused for breath.

Doc held up a hand. "Hey, slow down, you're so excited you're about to explode. Let's take this a little at a time. I got the part about you wanting to stay in school. I'd like that for you, too, but what is this about my office? Start over, son, so I can follow along."

"Sorry Doc, I'm kind of excited today. I'm to read my paper at the festival and...

"I know that, and I hope to witness the occasion, but back to this office part of your
tale, please."

"You said yourself you weren't a very good businessman, that you couldn't keep up with your paperwork in the office, didn't you?"
Doc nodded his head.

"Doc, I can help you. I could come in after school and on Saturdays. I'd keep all your paperwork sorted out and up to date. Show me what you want once, and I can do it. I'm good at figures. Ask Miss Duncan. I'd work hard. I know I can do it, if you'll only let me try." He wiped sweaty palms down the front of his pant legs and waited for the doctor's reply.

"I don't doubt that you could do the job for me, but you're only eleven years old. What would people say? Not seemly, hiring a boy for a clerk, is it?" Doc Pettle left the steps, and he began to pace exactly as Will had done. He answered his own question. "So, who cares how old my clerk is? If I think he can do the job, that's all that matters. Yes sir, that's all that's important." He stopped next to Will and gazed at him for only a wink of an eye. "All right, I'll give it a try. I'll pay you the same wage you get at the mine to start. If you do a good job, and something tells me you will, there'll be a raise at the end of the summer. If you can't do it to my satisfaction, you'll go back to the mine or find some other way. Take it or leave it."

Will's heart beat fast. "You bet, Doc. I'll start tomorrow, if that's all right with you." He put out his hand. "Can we shake on it?"

The doctor pumped Will's hand up and down. "Tomorrow's Saturday. Go fishing or something. Be a kid, Will. You can start to work on Monday after school. Maybe by then, I'll have this whole thing straight in my head." He yawned and turned toward his house. "Now get on home and have some breakfast so you're ready for the festival."

"Thanks, Doc, thanks a lot." Will bounded down the path and sprinted toward home to tell his news.

He rounded a corner and almost knocked Miss Duncan over. "Sorry. I didn't see you."

"I should think not. You were running like Leo Fenton was after you."

"Miss Duncan, I've news to tell you. I'm…"

Before he was able to tell her about the new job, Miss Duncan was halfway down the block. She called back to him, "Not now, Will. I have many things to finish up at school before the festivities begin."

He raced up the back steps and burst into the kitchen, where the scent of apples and cinnamon filled the room. "Gran," he said, "listen to this... "

"I don't have time to listen to anything now. I've got things to do before we leave for the festival." She was packing a wicker hamper with picnic foods while she talked. "Hurry now, it's a cold breakfast today. Where have you been so early?" Gran flitted from the cook-stove to the sideboard and back again. "Never mind, I don't have time to listen."

Will tried again to get his grandmother's attention. "But Gran, let me tell you... "
Gran lifted a golden brown apple pie from the sideboard. "No lad, eat quickly and go up and change into the new shirt I made for you."
Will hurried through the cold biscuit and glass of milk and raced up the narrow
stairway to his room "Good, you're still here," he said when he bumped into Freddie. "Listen to this..."

"No time to listen to anything now. I'm on my way to pick up Becky Thompson. See you at the park later." Freddie buttoned the last button on his shirt, stuffed it into his pants and flew down the steps. Will kicked at the rag rug in his room and put on the blue shirt Gran had left on the bed. He combed his hair and hurried downstairs.

"Where's Da?" he asked Gran.

"Outside," she answered with a quick wave of her arm.

He found his father in the backyard, his arms full of kindling for the cook-stove. "Where have you been, Will? You should have been here to take care of this, not me."

"Da, listen. I have something to tell you," Will said.

"Not now, lad. Gran's in a snit getting everything ready to go this morning. We'll talk later," he said, disappearing into the house.
"Mornin' Will," a familiar voice called out.
He turned around to see Uncle Jack, who had a wide smile on his round face. Here was someone who would listen.

"Uncle Jack, I have some great news. Wait until you hear...

"Jack, Jack, come in here a minute and help me, will you?" Gran beckoned from the top
step. "There's a lot to carry."

"I better go. She's a terror today, my lad. She'll calm down once we get to the park. At least, I hope so." Uncle Jack chuckled and hurried to do Gran's bidding.

Will sprinted down the back path in time to see Emily and her mother and father heading across the lawn. Tom Scott carried a wicker hamper, and a blanket was draped over Mrs. Scott’s arm. The blue ribbon Zena had given Emily fluttered from the back of her hair in the warm April breeze.

Will waved to Emily as he passed. “See you at the park, Em.”