A Daughter’s Sense of Duty: Hammersmith (twelve)
Her father hadn’t seen the host of faults, communicated in his offhand errand, the one he’d promised Mossbunker he would do himself.
“Stage name, that’s the phrase you want. Ask her if it’s one.”
Minnie Leybourne, Mossbunker the patriot would like to know whether you’re Jewish or Catholic…Lebanese or Sicilian, possibly. She’d said this to herself. But June had then stymied her father, telling him, “Fine, I’ll go up to the castle tomorrow.”
“Nn…oo…” he’d answered, deciding on his feet. “Mossbunker won’t know what to make of it. Better stay here and hold down the fort.”
She was always holding down the fort. At the moment, she was seeding the window boxes, with the marigolds she attached no blame to, but did not like as a type of woman’s fancy. June was not partial to flowers. She was not good with them. Her father was inclined to tell this thing to other people. His daughter’s green thumb. Her busyness, with her tomatoes and her sweet peas. Couldn’t grow anything, himself. Well, the sweet peas were for the hummingbirds. The hummingbirds were free and lighthearted, pleasant, she thought, to look at.
And, of course, these window boxes were a sort of civic duty. Derfinger had them. Mrs. Toucey had them. Bott had, for his bereaved customers, an elaboration of front garden. A contemplation garden, so called by Selma Bott.
“Yes, no time like the present,” June had told her. Selma had returned a squint of wary doubt, then decided to pity Mack’s daughter, shaking her head.
June had spent the morning down below, where the old press was, and the new, rented Linotype. And after slugging out, for the Sunday edition, such speeches and posturings of the Congress as her father had picked up from yesterday’s telegrams, she’d climbed the basement stairs to mind the store.
“Chilly, if you want to take off now…”
Chilly told her again what he enjoyed saying, that nobody got the Signal until he came to give it to them. Her father was there, across the street, sitting in Derfinger’s window with Abel Bard. Biyah’s news that morning, that Mossbunker was gone, had made nonsense of his command.
“He didn’t,” her father had asked, “leave you any message to pass along? By word of mouth? Or,” he’d added, as Biyah, on the verge of saying no, stopped himself for the sake of politeness, and in the way of a man taking a moment’s thought, fingered his chin, “didn’t suggest you oughta carry one back to him?”
“No,” Biyah said.
A Daughter’s Sense of Duty
More of this piece on Hammersmith page
(2017, 2018, Stephanie Foster)