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Set in Steel

By , Shoreline, WA
Chapters:   « Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ... 9 Next »

Chapter 4

he new neighborhood we arrived in did seem better than the last, although they looked almost exactly the same.  The main difference was the people.  From just arriving a minute ago, I was already hit in the face with the fast chatter from multiple dialects. 
Here, the dirt surrounding the tenements was replaced by patches of dry, brown grass.  Gathered around the grass are dozens of barefoot people and children, speaking their native language while going about their tasks.
We approached the front steps of another identical, tall red brick building with a herd of people sitting outside.  Through the front door was a narrow corridor with a large set of stairs. There, an elderly woman sat on an old, plush chair in the corner with a segment of velvety fabric and some large needles in her lap. 
She didn’t seem to notice us as we stood waiting in front of her, and I hesitated to say anything because of the odd silence in the room.  Suddenly, someone came sauntering down the stairs while yelling,
“Mrs. Thistle! Helen, do wake up now Mrs, we’ve got guests.”  with a slight chuckle.
The woman in the chair sat up straight hurriedly, and looked around until she saw Mr. Baker and I standing stiffly in front of her with the man who ran down the stairs, who was leaning against the stair post.
“Jaysus! Cop on Frank, I’m absolutely bushed!”  She yelped with a thick Irish accent.
“I’m sorry Mrs. Thistle, but we’ve got some company here!” He replied as he gestured over to us.
She finally turned to look up at Mr. Baker and I, and her demeanor switched completely as she smiled warmly.  She got up creakily while setting her sewing supplies down, and suddenly embraced me with a big hug.  She gave a quick handshake to Mr. Baker while saying,
“Thank you for bringing dear Nina.  I hope you two have made good company and have been safe in your trek here.  It’s always nice to see you Mr. Baker.”
“Same with you, Helen.” He said.  Then, he turned to me and added,
“I’ll see you on Monday in the office Nina.  Please come dressed appropriately in your business wear.  Goodnight.”
“Goodnight.” I replied.  The comment about my attire made me look down at what I was currently wearing, a slim bell skirt that my mother gave to me right before I left.  It was old and well-worn, but it had been used by my mother when she was working too, but decided that I wouldn’t let Mr. Baker change who I was.
“Nina? Hello?”  said the man which snapped me out of my thoughts.
“Oh yes, sorry.  Hello, it’s nice to meet you.”
The man laughed and said, “I haven’t even introduced myself yet.  My name is Frances Dunn, but most just call me Frank.  What I was saying was that Larry has already left, and Mrs. Thistle can show you your room.  I live just above you two if you need anything.”
“Well thank you Frank.  I’ll be seeing you later then.” I said with a smile.
Mrs. Thistle made a hand gesture for me to come follow her through the corridor.  I followed, and we walked a short distance to one of the doors at the end of the hall.  With each footstep, the wood floor creaked and relaxed.  Mrs. Thistle fumbled around with her keys for what seemed like ten minutes, and then was finally able to pull out a small dull key which she then twisted into the rusted doorknob.
“Well, it’s not the biggest place, but it sure does seem more comfortable than those tenements on the Lower East Side.  And plus, we get deployed more summer doctors than any block.”  she mumbled.
As soon as we entered, I was hit with that same musty smell.  The apartment consisted of two rooms, and felt very cramped.  One larger “great room” and a second, much smaller “dining room”.  In one corner of the great room was a mess of what seemed to be dress making supplies.  Mannequins, needles, fabric, and jars of thread, buttons, and scraps were stacked on top of each other without any sense of order and the floor and walls were lined with unorganized jars, taking up a large chunk of space.  In the other corner, sat a small cot which would soon be my bed.  The lack of windows was apparent, which must’ve added to the musty smell because almost no sunlight hit the inside of the apartment at all, and there was no ventilation.  Yet, another thing was missing from this tiny cramped apartment-  a bathroom. 
“Mrs. Thistle,” I muttered, “where do we… where do we uh-”
“Oh don’t be silly.  It won’t do much good rooting’ around for a water closet.  There’s shared toilets out the back in the courtyard, all the apartments share them and when you’re done, you mustn't forget to remove your waste and rinse in the basins.”
“Oh, alright.” I reply in shock, not used to these strange ways of living. 
“I think that I’ll be going to bed now Mrs, I’ve had quite the long trip you see.” I add.
“That’s nonsense child, I haven’t gotten to learn anything about you yet! I’d like to learn a bit more about whom i’ll be sharing my apartment with!”  She replied with a laugh.
“I see, I see. I'm sorry.”  I say while grinning with embarrassment.
“Well, there’s not much to know about me.  I’m a plain Jane.  Born and raised in Illinois, my parent’s have a family business selling butchered goods, so I guess you could say I grew up on a farm.  Although, we never had the pretty ponies to play with.”
She chuckled, then said,
“Well I’m sure you’re enjoying city life now.  I guess I should tell you a little about myself.  I was born in Dublin, and left for America some years ago now… I can’t seem to remember.  Anyways, I brought my family with me, my two sons and husband.  Unfortunately, my youngest son and husband passed during one of the hottest summers New York City.  It just gets too hot here in the tenements for the young and old, but I’ve managed to fight off the heat sickness.”
She stopped then and looked down at her hands.  I felt bad for her, and slightly awkward.  I grabbed her hand firmly and gave it a pat.
“Well, now I’m with you.  And I’d also like to get to know the others on our block.  But tomorrow.  I’ll be going to bed now Mrs. Thistle, you take care.”
“All right, goodnight Nina.”
She retreated to her “room”, which was really just the dining room.  I retreated to my cot in the corner, and it squeaked in displeasure as I laid down.  My thoughts drifted to everything that has happened today, from embarrassing myself in front of everyone at the cable car stop to walking through the blocks and blocks of tenements… A place I now call home.

Chapters:   « Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ... 9 Next »


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