Hammersmith: Reckoning Up (part two)

Posted by ractrose on 4 Mar 2022 in Fiction, Novels

Pastel drawing of 1800s farmhouse


Chapter Thirty-Nine
Reckoning Up
(part two)






The dilemma had a straightforward logic to it, supposing a father a little overbearing, a little inclined to take things for granted, could be ushered—

To the hilltop perspective, to see his daughter through the eyes of an interested friend.

Aimee put out a left palm, and a right palm. “June is happy. June is unhappy. Let’s see. She’s happy looking after your house, you think? Shopping for your larder, sending your shirts out for laundering, cooking your dinners, hoeing your vegetable patch…?”

“That’s her own, that patch.”

“I’m not arguing.”

“No. You’re up to putting me in the wrong, ma’am.”

“Really, Vic.”

They locked eyes. And when she saw him smile, she conceded the point. “For your own sake. And…minding the office when you’re away, helping Chilly tie up his bundles, keeping your cash accounts on the books, working your linotype machine.”

“June understands the Clew’s got to go out. She’s a good, helpful daughter. She knows money doesn’t grow on trees. If you’re telling me she hasn’t been happy…”

“She would’ve complained. Like Mossbunker might have said about his factory hands. Vic, I’m proposing. A thesis…yours. June is happy with her life the way it is. But you’d bring a second wife into the house she’s always managed by herself. What happens?”

“You two sort it out.”

“Oh, do we? What have you got in mind?”

She saw him try a shrug, choose limiting this to one shoulder. She tapped a warning fingernail. “In some gal fashion you can’t be bothered to think about?”

“Now, see. Let me get a word in first, before you make me take it back.” He poured a second cup of coffee, and reached for the marmalade.

“Listen. Having me here makes things tricky for June. I’m the lady of the house now…do I take over the cooking? Do I sit in my chair and let her cook? Do I go through all the cupboards and arrange things the way I like? Do I tell June, run next door and borrow a potato? Reach down my company pitcher and give it a polish? If two people are doing a job, one is in charge, and one is taking orders. You were in the army.”

“I could get along with people.”

“Hmm. I’ll ask Chilly, when he stops by. So, that time you stumbled into the enemy camp, it never occurred to you to just…?”

Befriend them, she might have finished. But Vic, draining his cup, said, “When have you and June not gotten along? Don’t you always say hello? You mean you can’t think of how to split up the chores, without getting in some kind of tangle every day?”








“Why, yes. Hire someone. Couple with good references wanted for general work and housekeeping. Apply this office. Vic, I know you have a better mind than that. Let’s try my thesis. June is unhappy. She hates that vegetable patch. She’s sick of your shopping. She curses your linotype. I move in…and I bring Mrs. Frieslander, of course.”

“That’s understood.”

“And Carey. And Jane and Cynthia.”

“I never said you couldn’t. Carey better find himself some work and stick to it.”

“And your daughter can’t find an empty chair, to be off her feet and think for two seconds. Maybe she can walk across and sit beside you in Derfinger’s window?”

“Why wouldn’t she like a little bustle? She’s always been alone.”

“You’re speculating about what June might like, when you know already what she does like?”

This Nico reference produced a gloomy sigh.

“Change of subject. You haven’t forgotten the Warples?”

He had, his face said, and that the reminder invoked further gloom. But Warples, of themselves, were less material than the idea of Warples. “From that little stretch along the river, what’s it called?”

“I don’t know. Hurleyville?”

“Picture the Daily Clew becoming the Valley Clew. McKeefe doesn’t take your paper either. Why not? Because he doesn’t come up to town, so he never drops by your office…”

“Because he’s got nothing to advertise…legit.”

“But he’s got news. The same kind of news a ‘correspondent on the scene’ will share with our readers in our exclusive piece on the untold story of the factory rebellion. Mysterious figure with close ties to Mossbunker directs clandestine rescue effort. Brave show of defiance by hostages. Workers led by Emma Goldman-like figure…”

She rooted in Ralph’s pockets for Oldfield’s propaganda. “Stop frowning, Vic. Famous names fascinate. It has nothing to do with June. We should, actually, print at least part of his pamphlet. We need the workers’ side of things, too. Why don’t the hands buy your paper, Vic?”

“Cause I don’t cater to all creation. And far as that nut fringe you’re aiming at…”

“There’s no catering about it. If the Warples can read about the Warples, and the McKeefes can read about the McKeefes, and the hands can read about the hands, none of that means the Clew is taking an editorial stance. The only thing you need, is to start writing your Sunday piece about the war, and what a makes a good patriot. Zipping lips, no doubt… But knowing a pig in a poke when someone tries to sell you one. Carey will start making his rounds with Chilly. He’ll interview the people in the little valley towns, and they’ll buy the paper because they’re in it. Because someone cares about them for once.”

Vic stirred. “Sky’s lightening up.”








“June is happy. June is unhappy.” She said these words again, with a prosecutorial penetration. “And a handsome man comes along. Not that he has to be handsome. But a man in any case, Vic, who wants to talk about an interesting thing. He’s not a wag, not a roué, not Selma Bott’s nephew Clarence, who thinks it’s a Christian woman’s duty to marry him if he asks her…”

She lifted an eyebrow. Vic didn’t know everything. “Interesting to June especially, because she feels it, that her life is hers and she has the right to decide, and no one has ever allowed it. I hope you realize we might as easily be talking about a traveling salesman. Hogben! And June’s stepmother is going to disagree with her father if he claims he’d rather have Hogben for a son-in-law than Nico. But see how either side of the coin leads to the same outcome. If she’s happy, upending her life makes her unhappy. When she’s unhappy she’s ripe for leaving. That part of June is gone anyway, that you could drag back home and say, ‘from now on, behave yourself’. If you love your daughter, you’ll see her on her own terms, and when you head out in a minute for the town hall, the first thing you’re going to say to her is…”

He had gone to the front hall mirror, to see about the state of his clothes.

He muttered, passing back through the kitchen, “Better go upstairs…”

“Vic! The first thing you’re going to say to her is…?”

“Ma’am, you said a Philadelphia lawyer?”













Reckoning Up

Virtual book cover for novella HammersmithSee more on Hammersmith page
Epilogue (part one)















(2019, Stephanie Foster)




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