#52 Iron Worker Blues (500 words)

Inspired by: North Country Blues

Alice Jones grew up in a small borough in eastern Pennsylvania called Catasauqua. When her parents moved there in 1850, it was known as Biery’s Port and led the industrial revolution in America.

Shortly after Crane Iron Works opened up in the borough, it became the leading producer of pig iron nationally. A record it has maintained for decades. 

Along with her brother, Albert, the young family grew prosperous in the valley. Her father, John, worked for Crane Iron Works, and when Albert was old enough, he joined his father. 

In 1876 Albert came home without John. Alice’s heart sank when she saw him walking up to their house alone. She knew what he was going to say. 

“Dad had a heart attack at the mill,” Albert told Alice and their mother, Jennifer. 

Alice took her mother to her room and tried her best to console her. John had been her rock for so many years. Her mother was inconsolable.

“What has this family done to deserve this!”

“What are you talking about, mother?”

“No men in this family have lived past 50 since my great grandfather! My uncle died at 45, my brother at 42. They were good men. Why is this happening to us?”

“He worked a strenuous job. He provided for us and lived a beautiful life, he wouldn’t want you to be upset.

“He shouldn’t have been doing such strenuous work anymore. His 50th birthday was next month. I begged him to retire. We could have gotten by.”

Jennifer buried her head in her pillows and didn’t say another word for the rest of the day. Alice left her alone.

Years passed, Alice and Albert started families of their own. For a while, life was excellent, but gradually the demand for steel rose, and iron declined. 

Albert took to drinking as soon as he got home from work. Soon he began while walking back, and then while at work. Eventually, there wasn’t a time he wasn’t drunk. 

One day, he showed up at her house, completely sober. She had never been more relieved to see him. 

“Alice, I’ve been let go, but I already have an offer at Bethlehem Steel. Will you watch Katherine while Juliette and I look for a house?”

“That’s fantastic, Albert! I’m so pleased you’ve cleaned yourself up.”

“I let the situation get out of hand. Thinking about what father sacrificed and so many men have sacrificed for the ironworks. But the world wants steel now, nothing can be done about that. We must go where the work is.”

“Of course! I’m so proud of you.”

Days passed, and Albert didn’t return. There was an unexpected knock at Alice’s door. Katherine answered, excited to greet her parents. 

“Excuse me, darling. Is your aunt home?”

“Alice! There’s someone at the door!”

Alice knew what they were going to tell her. Her brother and his wife were in a carriage accident, and both dead at 39. She knew then the curse was real.

Published by einquin

Writing personal exploration flash fiction as well as building the foundations for a comic book universe.

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