Coal Dusters: Book 1 is now available as as PDF – this covers the first 35 chapters – 65540 words – send $1.99 to paypal.me/TOpoet
in the Trees
The O’Dowell rally to protest the back-to-work legislation was at the North Sydney arena. After what one newspaper called ‘an armed insurrection’ an emergency sitting of the federal government had been called and a bill ending the strike was passed. BritCan had been granted all its conditions for reduction of tonnage payments. Most of the miners had returned to start the work getting the collieries ready for use.
The stands at the area were three-quarters full when Birk and Clancy arrived.
“Not many left to show up for the other candidates’ rallies tonight.” Clancy said looking around. “O’Dowell knows how to play his cards.”
They got some free cheese sandwiches and tea and pushed as close as they could to the raised stage area in the middle of the auditorium.
“I hope he’s stronger than this tea.” Birk said pouring his paper cup out before crumpling it to toss it away.
“Tea’s never right in anything but a mug.” Clancy said. “I hope he’s stronger than the bunch that caved in to BritCan.”
The near by church tower rang the hour and at the last of the seven peals Steve O’Dowell came out from beneath the stands to rousing applause. He was followed by Gus McLelland, his campaign manager, his sister and Lillian McTavish. As they walked through the crowd he, or Lillian, stopped to shake hands with various people.
When Steven got to the stage, the audience stood and continued to applaud. Gus went to the microphone. “Thank you all for coming out. It’s been a short but hard fought campaign and from the turn out here tonight I’d say we’ve already elected our new member of the legislative assemble. Steven O’Dowell.”
Another roar of approval came from the crowd.
Steven stepped up to the microphone, adjusted his tie and motioned for the silence. “I don’t want to count my votes before they are cast. All I want to say is that we proved we can stand the gaff. Once the tories are in power we’ll see if the BritCanada Coal Company can stand the gaff when we force them to listen to us, to listen to the people who live and die here and not to their fat board members in Montreal and Toronto and London. Strike breaking laws have no place this country.”
The audience was back on its feet, stomping on the floor boards, whistling and yelling their approval.
Steven unbuttoned his vest and signalled for silence again. “I have to thank Gus for all he’s done, for my sister whose faith in me has kept me going and my fiancee, Lillian McTavish, whose promise of marriage as given me another goal to aim for.”
“When’s the date?” someone called from the audience.
“A week after the mines fully open again and you take home your first pay packs. Only then. Once you’ve had your just reward then I’ll deserve mine.”
“She sure looks fine up there.” Clancy said to Birk.
“More than she ever did before.” Birk hardly recognized the Lillian on the stage. He was used to seeing her in her plain shifts, her hair tucked away under a hat or a shawl. Here she wore a form-fitting dark blue dress with a hat that allowed her hair to fall to her shoulders.
“Sorry you didn’t fall for her.” Clancy nudged him.
“No! Us poor miners could never give her the things she deserves.”
“When BritCan said let’em starve we won’t negotiate because the workers can’t stand the gaff, we proved them wrong. We’re going to take the gaff and shove it into their faces. I’ve learned from the mistakes of my my worthy opponent. I’ve seen where he’s refused to change, to actually listen to the people and do what has to be done.
“He’s done a valiant job but he’s trapped in a party that won’t listen. The Tories have listened and have already promised you to put an end to this strike breaking legislation. That is their first matter of business once they are elected. And mark my words we will be elected.”
Brik and Clancy pushed their way out while the cheers continued.
“You going back to your ma’s on the mainland to vote?” Birk asked as they walked back to the ferry dock.
“Haven’t given it much thought. Neither of us can cast a vote for O’Dowell, no matter how good his sandwiches are.”
“Old enough to starve but not old enough to vote.” Birk said.
They sat on the railing of the Dingle Dandy back to Castleton Mines.
“Steven sounds like he’ll get things done.” Birk said lightly tapping the deck with the heel of his boot. “Blackie says it’ll make little difference who wins the feds hold the cards.”
“Yeah, the cards BritCan dealt them. Here take a tug of this.” Clancy pulled a flat bottle out of his coat pocket.
“Where you come by that?”
“While you was taking the piss behind the arena.” Clancy unscrewed the top and took a swing before passing it to Birk.
“Not sure if I ought to.” Birk took a small sip. It had a sour apple taste that burned as it went down. He shuddered, took another swallow and passed it back to Clancy.
“A bit strong for ya?” Clancy took another gulp and put back in his pocket.
The ferry docked and the passengers exited.
“Warming up.” Birk said as they walk up the short rise that lead to the main street.
“That happens in June.” Clancy said. “This’ll warm it up faster.” He took another swig and passed it to Birk.
Birk glanced around to see if anyone was paying them any attention.
“Go on! No one cares. Birk it’s as if your ma was always hovering around you somewhere.”
Birk moved into a shadow between two buildings and took a bigger swig. He coughed as it went down. He took another one before handing it back to Clancy.
“You’re getting the hang of it.”
“Not old enough to vote, but old enough to drink bootleg.” Birk said.
“Old enough to fight and die for your country too, if you had to.”
“Dodging that machine-gun fire was enough war for me.” Birk said. The moonshine made his head spin a little. “I was never so scared in m’life.”
“Not even when the little nun first smiled on you.”
“Not even then. That weren’t fear anyway.” He swung his fist playful at Clancy. “She got what she wanted and it sure weren’t me.”
“Sure weren’t me either.” He grabbed Birk in a headlock.
Birk slipped out of it and darted up the lane that lead to his house. Clancy followed. The street light didn’t go as far as Birk’s house at the end of the lane.
Birk hid in a shadow and his eyes adjusted to the dark. He saw Clancy stop to peer around for him. He skirted behind two houses till he was at his own. Peeking out from around the corner he gave a little whistle to let Clancy know where he was.
“Got you my slippery one.” Clancy grabbed him from behind. “Two can duck around in the dark you know.”
Birk elbowed Clancy into letting loose his grip. He scrambled to the back of the house and out into the field behind it. He stopped by the tree where he did his thinking.
The sky was clear.
“You out here?” Clancy said quietly.
Birk gave another little whistle. Clancy made his way over to the tree.
“Nice view of things from here.” He sipped from his flask.
“Yeah.” Birk took the flash, took the last swallow and tossed as far as he could. “There’s that empty.”
They leaned against each other shoulder to shoulder.
“We should go fishin’ again soon.” Clancy slurred. He grabbed Birk in another headlock.
Birk grabbed Clancy around the waist to break free and they fell to the ground. Even when Birk broke free of the headlock neither was willing to let go their hold. They rolled in the grass attempting to get the other to submit.
“Say uncle.” Birk grunted as his pinned Clancy beneath him.
“Not until you do.” Clancy heaved and pushed till he was on top once again.
“You may not want to,” Birk wrapped his legs around Clancy and held him between them. “But your little fella sure feels he’s ready to give up the battle.”
“Yours too.” Clancy muttered.
“Not as much as yours.” Birk stopped squeezing with his legs.
He sagged on top of Clancy, enjoying the closeness, the urge of the hardness trapped in their pants.
“Quick.” Clancy pushed him away, kicked off his shoes and yanked off his trousers. “Don’t want to muss these up anymore than need be!”
Birk did the same, tossing his overalls and shoes in opposite directions. “Ma’s got enough washing up to do with me adding these to the pile.”
Flesh to flesh. Face to face. Clancy spit on his hand and slicked their members as he pulled Birk to press on him.
In a few moments it was over.
They rolled away from each. Clancy’s hand rested on Birk’s hip.
“What do think of?” Birk asked
“Yeah. When we was … rubbing?”
“Can’t say as I think of anything ‘cept what we’re doing. How good it feels and that I want it to last longer.”
“The … spark at the end you mean? I try to hold off but I can’t.”
“Not only that but all of it. The wrestling, the holding, the …. the closeness of us. Even when you needs a good wash up I don’t mind.” Clancy moved his hand along Birk’s rib cage.
“You saying I stink?”
“When was the last time you were in the tubs at Mrs. Franklins?”
“Last time we was there. That Colonel Strickland won’t any but him use the tubs. ” Birk stared up at the stars. It was as if he could count them individually.
He dozed off till Clancy’s snores woke him. His back ached from where he had fallen asleep in the grass. It was still night. He wiped himself as clean as he could with a handful of grass and put his clothes back on while he watched Clancy sleep on the ground. Clancy’s shirt was open and his nearly naked body glowed in the darkness.
“Clancy?” He whispered, then repeated louder. “Clancy” He gently toed him in the soft of his belly. “Clancy.”
Clancy woke with a start. “Wha!”
“It’s Birk, you drunken fool. Get yer pants on afore it rains and washes your little fella away.”
“You taking advantage of me in my sleep.” Clancy joked as he reached for his clothes.
“No more ‘an you do when I’m awake.”
“Were are m’boots?” Clancy pulled on his pants.
“I think I heard one of them hit the tree over there. Don’t know where t’other one ended up though.”
“You’r ma mind if I kip over tonight.” Clancy put on the shoe he had and hopped over to find the other one by the tree.
“You must be some drunk.” He put his arm around Clancy shoulder and pulled him close. “You’ve been kipping since I don’t know when.”
“Good drink that.” Clancy said. “M’name’s Clancy, innit?”
The next day Birk accompanied his father when he went to the poll to cast his ballot.
“You comin’ Ma?” Birk asked his mother.
“No. It’s not fittin’ a woman should cast her vote.”
“But it’s allowed. Mrs. Mc.” Clancy said.
“What’s allowed and what fitting are two different things Clancy. I was not one of those who wants women to be able to do everything and anything a man can do. Politics is no place for a woman. No place.”
“Can’t say as I blame you.” Clancy said. “Sometimes it doesn’t aim to be a fitting place for men either.”
Outside the polling station miners were gathered, smoking and talking about who they were going to vote for.
“Even if wasn’t going to vote for O’Dowell I sure wouldn’t say so in front of these guys,” Birk said to Clancy.
“At least you could read which one he is on the ballot.” Clancy joked. “I hope his soon-to-be missus must have taught you to read that much.”
Mac went in and came out ten minutes later.
“It’s pretty simple boys. There I was thinking I’d have to write me name down somewhere at least or even his but all I had to do was mark an X and put it in the box.”
“Let’s pray that X makes a difference.” One of the miners said. “Sometimes out with the old doesn’t mean much if the new broom can’t sweep what the old broom couldn’t sweep.”
“New broom might it hard to sweep this mess up.” Clancy said.
The next afternoon word was out that it had been a clean sweep of the old government. Birk hoped the new broom would do some good.
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