There aren’t many animals in these streets except for the hairless horses that hall the heavy loads through town. The dust and soot must choke them out. Every once in a while a bird, like a pigeon, will swoop in and land. How strange a bird like this looks in this universe! Yesterday, as I was walking to the creek, I saw one swoop down from the hemlocks. There he sat, gray and feathered on the muddy ground, his head jutting from side to side, as if to question what sort of place he had landed in.
“Poor bird,” I think, “you got no idea what you got yourself into.” Of course I’m not really talking to the bird, I’m talking to myself. I’m talking to all the girls who fly in here unawares and don’t know what they’ve gotten themselves into.
When she walks up the path, her eyes are down cast toward the ground. As if she is walking very carefully. As if she is afraid she will step on the wrong stone. I see her coming up the path from the house. I’m still smiling when I see her, smiling from that poor fool who tried to propose to Emmy Ricketts once he realized she’d struck oil. She sure showed him! Don’t think he’ll be coming round again unless it’s to fill her orders for equipment. Something tells me he ain’t the last one that’ll be botherin us either. That’s one thing men can smell around here, oil. They always looking for it. Hell if there’s a woman who’s got it, she start to look like a real attractive woman, alright.
When I see her walking up the path though, my smile fades. I know that’s not the way to greet her. She a shy girl. She had it hard. We got to ease her back. Funny thing is, I can’t remember the last time I smiled before today. Seems like that fire gone and burned away all the darkness I thought was swallowing me. Burn it off into the dark night.
I walk down the path to meet her. “Glad you decided to come,” I say. “You know Widow Rickets?”
“I heard of her.” She says in her quiet voice, almost a whisper.
“You looking for work?” I ask.
“Yes, I am now”.
“My name’s Diana, what you called?”
“My names Jane.”
“Nice to meet you” I say. “I’ll bring you up to the house to meet Emmy”
I don’t ask a lot of questions because I know she don’t want me to. It’s one thing to talk about your life here, but the life you left, or the one you lost before you got here, that is private and something that is unspoken around here. The unspoken rule is you don’t ask questions you don’t want somebody asking you.
When we walk up to the white-washed house, Widow Rickets is bent over the well, arms slick with oil to the elbows. “Get over her,” she hollers, and we rush over fast. “Can you girls help me set up this line? We spilling oil all over the place. We might as well tearing up bank notes at this rate.”
So, before I can even introduce Jane we jump in and help her set the line to collect the oil. Once it’s set, the pump rises and falls like a heartbeat. “Let’s go in and get cleaned up,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you,” she says, extending her arm to Jane and then looking at it covered in oil, thinking better of it.
“Hi,” Jane says quietly. “It’s nice to meet you. My name is Jane. Diana here said you was looking for girls to help you work. I’m looking for work.”
“Well you’re in luck because I’m just about up to my ears in oil! Let’s go on into the house and get some lunch and talk about how we gonna set up this operation.”
With that, we follow Emmy into the house. Just as I reach to close the door, I see the pigeon rise up into the air and take flight. He gone. Smarter bird then I thought! I think and smile to myself.