Excerpt: The Alexanders 1921-1925 Vol. 2 by Allan Hudson

In 1924, Dominic finally decides to do something with the vacant part of the lot where his store is located on St. George St. His intentions today is to cut the long grass and other weeds. His wife Maria will decide what kind of shrubs she wants to be planted later. When he stops to estimate how much work is left, he meets a boy looking for work. The lad will bring much more to Dominic’s life than an afternoon of labour.

The Alexanders Vol. 2 1923, Chapter 3.

Stopping to wipe the sweat from his brow with the cuff of the rolled-up sleeve, he’s leaning on the scythe handle, taking a short break. He estimates he’s better than a third done. Scanning the rest of the yard, he figures another four hours cutting. In the left corner at the back, he notices large shoots from elm seeds which have taken root. There’s a dozen more sticking up over the grass. As he goes to uproot them, he hears a high-pitched voice behind him.

“I can help ya, Mister. I’ll work cheap.”

Turning around, Dominic sees a skinny lad, his frame no wider than three pickets with a shorn head and shoulders taller than the fence. His two missing front teeth and oversized ears give him a cartoon-like impression. He’s working the smile to seem friendly but his eyes are begging. Dominic guesses the boy who would come up to about his chest, as tall as a healthy ten-year-old, but the missing teeth and high voice put him at a younger ages of seven or eight. His chin and fingers resting on the tips of the pickets are bedecked with brownish smudges.

Dominic admires his spunk and humours him.

“Aye, so how cheap is cheap?”

“You talk funny.”

“Insults won’t help you find work, young man.”

“Aw, I didn’t mean it that way, just different ya know.”

“When I came from Scotland, I thought you all talked funny. Now, answer my question, how cheap is cheap? What’s your time worth, if… I think I need help.”

The eyes brighten up with hope.

“I figure I’m worth twenty-five cents an hour.”

“You do, do you?”

Dominic knows an average wage is a lot more than that, and he’s not much for child labor. He doesn’t know this boy but senses something innocent, not naïve. He’ll test him. He waves at him with a curled hand.

“If you’re as valuable as you say, maybe we can adjust that hourly rate a mite. Come around then. Go to…”

“I know how to get there.”

He’s off faster than a spooked squirrel. Twenty seconds later he’s standing beside Dominic with a look like someone who won his first foot race. He’s wearing a stained shirt with a tear in the left shoulder, and a pair of short pants with loose threads dangling at his knees that were obviously cut from a longer pair. His boots are shoddy with no laces and the toe on one of them is worn away. He has no socks. Freckles dot his arms and cheeks in a cheerful manner.

“What’s your name, little man?”

“David, but people call me Konnie.”

“Connie? Isn’t that a girl’s name?”

“With a C it is, but I spell it with a K, like Konnie Johannesson. He’s my favorite hockey player.”

“I know who Johannesson is. Plays defence for the Winnipeg Falcons. They won the gold medal at the 1920 Olympics.”

“Yeah, him.”

“Why him?”

“I’m going to be a hockey player too someday. Maybe not as good as him but I’m gonna try, and he was an aviator during the war, and I want to be an aviator someday too. Miss Porter at the library lets me look at the hockey books. I can only read a little bit but she told me who he is.”

Dominic smiles at the boy’s enthusiasm. He’d like to tell him about his plane but decides to wait. No sense getting too familiar.

“Well, I like your confidence, Konnie. Now here’s what I need you to do.”

Dominic waves him along and they walk to the back corner of the lot where the elm saplings are taking root. Dominic grabs one and bends it back and forth. They’re about two to three feet high with bases as thick as a fat pencil.

“I need to have these rooted out.”

Konnie is anxious to show his worth and starts tugging on the nearest shoot to no avail. It stays firmly in the ground. His hands keep slipping off the slim top and he offers Dominic a frustrated look. Dominic grins at the boy’s earnest attempt.

“I tried that already, Konnie and it doesn’t work well that way. The roots have taken hold and need to be cut.”

Dominic swings the boy around until he’s facing the carriage house at the back of the property on the other corner by the parking lot.

“The side door is unlocked and when you go in, you will see a long string hanging from the ceiling with a short piece of chain tied to it. Tug on that and a light will come on. Go to the workbench in the back and on top you will find a hatchet. Bring it back here and don’t forget to shut the light off and close the door.”

“All right Mr… what do I call you, sir?”

Dominic can’t help but like the boy. It’s clear that he’s poor but his circumstances do nothing to dampen his spirit or forget his manners.

“Name’s Dominic.”

“Fair enough Mister… I mean, Dominic. I’ll be right back.”

Growing up in South Branch, Allan Hudson was encouraged to read from an early age by his mother who was a schoolteacher. He lives in Dieppe, NB, with his wife Gloria. He has enjoyed a lifetime of adventure, travel and uses his many experiences as ideas for his writing. He is an author of action/adventure novels, historical fiction and a short story collection. His short stories – The Ship Breakers & In the Abyss – received Honourable Mention in the New Brunswick Writer’s Federation competition. He has stories published on commuterlit.com, The Golden Ratio and his blog - South Branch Scribbler.