All Safe Bets Off: Hammersmith (thirteen)

Pastel drawing of 1800s farmhouse


Chapter Thirteen
All Safe Bets Off






“Doesn’t seem so long ago.”

Mack, unable to do anything about Aimee’s arm hooked through Hogben’s, though it pleased him to see Hogben once or twice give a mild tug, ill-at-ease…had got next to Shaw behind them (he ignored Shaw), and was throwing out chatty comments, in a louder than natural voice.

“Curach, the man I’m telling you about, was orderly for Captain Rubillard…loved him like a son. Rubillard got himself killed with a sabre in a street brawl…town of Goldsboro, when we were down there with the 14th corps, keeping order near the armistice. Does more for the G.A.R. now than he did back then, since he got to be Lord Piggott’s lieutenant. I mean Curach. That’s how Piggott’s called, Lord. Ward boss…south side. Putting together a color guard…Curach, I mean. Carry a wreath to the grave. For the patriots’ parade…course that’s only electioneering. Early yet for Decoration Day. But Piggott’s men’d like it, seeing war declared. I guess there’s a few things the ring can do to keep in, getting folks stirred up, taking subscriptions. So I figure…”

He figured, for one thing, that he hadn’t elaborated quite enough…whereas, on the other hand, he had elaborated far too much. The eye Aimee shot him over her shoulder was eloquent, for all its mute appeal.

“Vic B. Mack, will you go chase yourself up a hill?” it seemed to say.

“Mr. Shaw.” Mack slid two fingers through the wire ribs of the bird-cage. Shaw had been allowing an irritating ting, ting, ting, to bounce with this, off his thigh. “You expect to be on your way tomorrow, along with Hogben.”

Over his own shoulder, Shaw darted a hunted glance. Mack looked too. He saw his daughter frown at him. He saw that commie, Raymond, swing out of his offices and speak…then Mack saw only, from the back, June’s posture. She’d gone round like a whip. His daughter cocked herself a little askew, a kind of “you might get a favor if you ask nice” demeanor, that made something—the voice of his late wife, perhaps—whisper to Mack, “Put a stop to it.”

Instead, he had to listen to Shaw, since he’d got Shaw started. He told himself he really might take this up with Curach. Mack wasn’t certain he’d ever done a muckraking piece…or rather—local forms of patronage viewed natural as breathing—fairly certain he hadn’t. He didn’t know if Mossbunker’s ilk had to do with the Philly ring. He didn’t know if he’d look like a mosquito to them, that needed swatting. People in Hammersmith dropped by with news…and their own was the kind they liked best.

Shaw had started a desultory back-and-forth with Aimee, who was saying, no, don’t be silly. I’ll be gone for a night, probably. If Shaw wasn’t there, there’d be no man in the house at all…one, that was to say, who could get up and around.

And not that it mattered.




All Safe Bets Off
Virtual book cover for novella HammersmithMore of this piece on Hammersmith page
Want Nothing Will Write (excerpt)














(2017, 2018, Stephanie Foster)


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