This is meant to be a piece of historical fiction. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of history and the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely historic and a work of fiction to guide the reader through history in an engaging way .
The breeze whispered delicately in the warm evening air, the leaves gave forth their own sound, the peepers peeped, and the crickets sang. In all this, the great symphony of the night rang out, and I sat quietly brooding upon my back stoop. I’m getting too old for this weather! These storms keep rolling in over the Ohio and it’s killin my joints. I took my fedora off my head to let the breeze hit my crown. I looked down to see droplets had dripped from my jar and I whipped them off my faded green suit. I then lifted the jar to my lips and sipped on the warm clear liquor. That’s some good stuff, if I recall this has been on my shelf for nigh on ten years. I won it in a poker game once downstairs at where I worked, it’s been a long time since I’ve been down to see the ol’ girl. The town’s grown so much since I’ve retired, I can barely see her torrent anymore from my stoop.
I readjusted in my chair, taking out my pipe I lighted it in the setting sun, is this the last time I sit here and watch the majestic sun set over Julianna Street, or are there more to come? I wondered this every night as I sat here smoking my pipe remembering the gifts I’d received over the years from cigars, whisky, socks, and even a cake once. It blew me away in the beginning that people would give such gifts instead of money, I was used to a penny or a nickel. I puffed on my pipe and listened to the peepers some more. The last drop out of the ol’ jar was gone; I’d done it again, and the grandkids hadn’t even come to say goodnight. Aw dag blasted! I forgot I had promised them I would tell them a bedtime story.
Robert is going to want me to regail about the war, but with Lilly who knows what she’s going to ask about its always deep or an oddity of a question. Boy! She is growing up real fast, she is just like her grandmother, quick-witted and free-spirited. I’m going to miss all this; my time is fading fast and I have much to share about my life. I lost my son in the war and his wife was shortly behind, poor Robert he’ll never know either of them, that’s what happens in a faulty birth, like his, and that damned war.
“Grandpa, Grandpa!” the two little kids exclaimed barreling out of the back door of the house interrupting my thoughts.
“Tell us a story tell us a story!” they yelled.
“Tell a war story grandpa,” Robert exclaimed.
“NO! I want to hear a story about your first love grandpa!” Lilly said
“Now that is something I’ve never talked about with you kids.” smiling, thinking for a moment.
“What do you mean something grandpa?” Robert asked, scrunching his blond eyebrows.
“Well, my boy, my first love was never a person, it was an idea, a building, a code of honor!” chuckling as I spoke about honor, for at times in the beginning it had little to do with it. “My first love was the illustrious Hotel Blennerhassett!” booming as I spoke
It all began in the year 1889, and I looked up from the corner of 1st street as a mere shoe shine boy working for a penny a shine. In the heart of the dark and dank district of filth, my only solace was a good tip to buy a shot or two after work. Standing there in the heat and dust of the summer, sweat rolled down the back of my dirty white shirt that had turned brown after years of use. Taking off my flat cap I whipped the sweat from my forehead. Starting again on another pair of shoes my green vest flapping in rhythm alongside my pocket watch to the timing I chose to polish to. The trouble was our family was poverty stricken as were many people in my time, but I, I strove to be one day working at the Hotel Blennerhassett. I would one day rise above the muck and the grime of the red-light district I now found myself within.
Me being 16 years old and being an adult it’s all I could do was to shine shoes. It was a dirty job, but my other profession was even dirtier and it was being a bruiser for the Irish mob, but at this point in time we were at peace with the Birmingham English but not the Italian mafia. No one ever was at peace with the Italians, but with them flooding in as they were it was an uphill battle, but I was getting out today, and that was that. The problem was I said that every day and I could never bring myself to do it, I was a marked man and the Irish mob took me into the fold, and it was because my Pa died in a skirmish out west killing Indians. He had sent home what little he could to Ma and me back then, but it wasn’t enough to keep Ma from passing from the pox.
As I looked up from the shoes, the man departed from his shoe shine and he tossed me my penny. I looked up from my penny longingly gazing at the striking torrent tearing through the sky of the Hotel Blennerhassett, it was unlike anyone had ever seen this far west and an impeccable sight she was standing there with all her glory. Towering in the sky above everything else, the red brick was an imposing force, the corner entrance spoke to its powerful nature, but one day I would be there if I had anything to say about it. She stood there no more than a few months old, Chancellor naming her after the once great and mysterious Lord and Lady Blennerhassett who owned a plantation, it was clear he wanted to make the hotel a mysterious and luxurious place by naming it as such. One day I’d ask him how he’d come to name his hotel that.
It was then that I returned to the monotonous drab of the shoe line. Appearing before me was a pair of feet with expensive taste about them. Then it hit me Vittorio being the cream of the crop Italian dress shoe. I looked up slightly through the brim of my cap.
“Italian?” I said in a disgruntled voice
“What does it matter to you, you’re the filth you polish shoes, what should it matter who’s shoes you have to shine?” the Italian said through scowling eyes and speaking with his overly thick accent.
“Do you know who I work for?” I asked growling through grit teeth
“Yes, I know the Green Vests, but does it look like I care? I came to this part of town to which you all lay claim, and you all are ruffians at best. You are not organized but we are, we own everything, when you hold the County Commissioner and the Treasurer. What more could we ask for?”
Without hesitating and without mercy he yelled out “Get em’!”
It was within a flash that they came from all sides; they came like a swarm, I was thrown into the muck, urine, and filth of the alley. I swung, kicked, bit, and screamed, but it was too late. They had me, one went for my hand and smashed it into a million different ways. Another came in and cut me near the throat, and I barely managed to roll over and his knife quickly sliced up my cheek instead. It then came in waves they kicked and punched my screaming body, flesh tore, bones cracked, and blood spewed across the walk.
Was this the end?
Before I knew what had happened, I was struck by a metal pipe across my head. Waves of nauseousness came over my body like waves upon the bank of the Ohio river in a great storm. Then from what felt like an eternity all of its own, I looked up from the street which I know lay covered in my own blood, and I saw the torrent of the hotel pierced up through the sky and I knew then that this was the beginning.
The beginning of a new lifetime and a new love, a love for The Hotel Blennerhassett, she would save me from myself, and my past. Slowly, I nodded off again into the darkness of my blood, sweat, and the muck of the covered street. I thought I had seen Green Vests round the corner.
“Alright that’s it, it’s time for bed! I’ve done spent.” I said with a great sigh, wondering how I held it together this long. The shine’ was really starting to take hold.
“Aw come on Grandpa, I gotta know if you died or not” Robert whined
“Seriously, Robert how do you not know the answer to that?” Lilly said chuckling at his ignorance.
About the author:
My name is Logan M. Saho I am the Concierge at The Blennerhassett Hotel. I have been in the tourism industry since my thirteenth year of life, I started out as a tour guide at the Beauchamp-Newman Museum in Elizabeth WV. I also since that time have become an early American period reenactor (1730s-1890s.) Beyond that I have a dual-degree in History and Political Science with a minor in communications concentrating on theatre. After my college years I worked as a living historian at Blennerhassett Island Historical State park for 2 years which geared my path to be working where I am today.