Charlie and Mr. Hine

May 14, 2010
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Charlie stepped up onto the machinery in the mill where he worked. To his surprise, a man stood next to him, and began working the machinery, too. Charlie glanced over, but looked back quickly, not wanting to lose focus and one of his fingers. The machinery could do that – Charlie had seen it happen. Though not huge, the spinning spools of cotton could suck his hand in. Charlie looked at it and could only see the gaping jaws of death… he shook his head, trying not to let that get in his mind, or else he would have another panic attack and lose another day’s pay. The man next to him wasn’t the foreman, nor was he any worker Charlie knew. Charlie’s mother had always told him to stay away from strangers, so he didn’t say anything.
“Hi, there,” the man said. Charlie continued to ignore him. “My name is Lewis, and it looks like I’ll be working with you. What’s your name?” Charlie hesitated a minute, then figured that the man was working with him, so he might as well talk to him.
“Charlie,” he said curtly, trying not to lose focus.
“How long have you been working here, Charlie?” Lewis asked, but Charlie just wanted him to stop asking questions.
“About a year and a half,” Charlie said quickly, not looking over. Lewis and Charlie grew closer as they worked together for several weeks. Lewis would sometimes ask Charlie for odd favors, like standing next to him so he could be measured by the buttons on Lewis’s vest.
“How old are you, Charlie?” Lewis asked one day, as they worked the machinery.
“Nine,” Charlie replied. His birthday had been the other day, and although he was happy for living another year, sadness seeped through. His mother hadn’t gotten to see him turn eight.
“That’s awfully young…” Lewis muttered, but Charlie just shrugged. “Do you have any other jobs, Charlie?”
“Yeah…I deliver newspapers from when my shift here ends to midnight,” Charlie said, then looked up at the clock. His shift was almost over, so he would probably stop at home and throw on a jacket then continue on his way. His father would be waiting at home, like he always did…passed out on the floor with seven or eight liquor bottles scattered around him. Finally, one day, Lewis told Charlie to keep working as he stepped off the machine and took a picture.
“Lewis…what’s all this for?” Charlie asked.
“Well, it’s illegal for you to work here, Charlie,” Lewis explained, “and I’m trying to change the fact that you’re still working here.”
“Why bother?” Charlie questioned, not understanding.
“Because it’s too dangerous for a person your age,” Lewis said, hiding his camera in his vest. “Proper laws are needed.”
Charlie laughed. “And you think your pictures will change people’s minds? You have nice hopes and dreams, Mr. Hine…”

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Msrius said...
May 1 at 10:16 pm
This is so beautiful.
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