Tuesday, July 4, 2017

July 5, 1892 Excerpt "Waiting"

125 years ago. The idled steelworkers continue to be on high alert, on the lookout for the arrival of police or scabs. The town is rife with tension as the national and international press gathers at the Bost Building, strike headquarters for the union. The steelworks, surrounded by a high white fence, is dark and quiet.

EXCERPT from Darkness Visible

Dr. Oesterling sat at the table, his toast and poached egg growing cold as he pored over the Pittsburgh paper for any news about the situation in Homestead. It seemed that he already knew everything the reporters knew. He had decided it wasn't worthwhile holding office hours today, and he had posted a notice to call in case of emergency.

     The strike was dramatically affecting the entire town. Those who weren't on alert were keeping out of the way of the pickets. Everyone from striker to company management was on tenterhooks, waiting for something to happen.

     The telephone rang twice, the signal for their number on the party line. Oesterling pushed away from the table and went into the hallway to answer it. Expecting it to be a call from a patient, he was surprised to hear Carrie's voice on the other end.


     His heart contracted. "Yes? Is anything wrong? What's going on?"

     "Papa, you need to leave Homestead right away. You can come over here to Point Breeze for a few days."

     "For heaven's sake, why?"

     "Oliver just left for the office. He says that Philander Knox, the head corporate attorney, gave Sheriff McCleary the go-ahead to come to Homestead and post orders for the strikers to cease their occupation of company property."

     "That's ridiculous," said Osterling. "The workers are not even on company property."

     "Yes, but they're stopping others from entering it."

     "I don't understand why this situation calls for us to leave town."

     "Don't you see?" Carrie said. "There's going to be a confrontation soon. Oliver says it may get nasty."

     "Posting handbillls can get nasty?" Oesterling asked. "I doubt it."

     There was a pause.

     "Please, Papa, you must leave." Carrie's voice broke. "The Sheriff isn't the only one who will be coming."

     "What? Even if he brings a few deputies, it doesn't. . ."

     "I don't mean deputies."

     Oesterling was trying to figure out what Carrie meant by this, when a loud click came through the receiver, signaling that another on his party line had picked up.

     "I must go," said Carrie. "Think about what I've said." She hung up.

     Oesterling placed the receiver back on the hook, and walked out to the front porch. What did she mean, not deputies? Who was coming? His gaze moved over the mill and town, downriver toward Pittsburgh.

     Abruptly, it came to him: Pinkertons. He shuddered. Now it was more necessary than ever that he stay in town.

    He looked down at Cerberus. The dog cocked his head at Oesterling and wagged his tail.

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