This is meant to be a piece of historical 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 following may contain mild language and references to historical traumatic events. Reader discretion is advised.
Time, what an exquisite masterpiece she is, all about and infinite in her own way, ticking on and on never ceasing. It is not a morbid thing nor a joyous thing, just a simple yet vast and finite thing. Time cannot be explained or justified, yet we half attempt to quantify it by the spinning of gears in a watch. Watches that sit on the wrist, watches that hang from the walls we call clocks, and watches which hang elegantly from vest pockets. Chains which hang and sway much like the pendulum that is upright in the grandfather clock. Time is inevitable, but memory is here forever as long as the story is told. The sound of a trench whistle echoed. Mud was all about. The smell of earth, sweat, urine, blood, tobacco, and burnt shells. Bombs exploded around us. We were going to retaliate. We had to. That’s what Americans do. Then guns cocked, and the Seargent bellowed “attention!” “Prepare to go over the top, Boys!” I stood frozen in time, and for what felt like the last time I checked my pocket watch in my muddied green uniform. Tick TOCK tick tock TICK tock tic tic TICCCCK…………………………………………..
Awaking with a start, I noticed I was covered in a cold sweat. It was early evening and I remembered that I had laid down for a nap, it was an unusually cool day in summer. It had only reached 70 degrees today, and that was unusual for August. I squinted through my tired eyes and started to wipe the creases and the crust that was about them. I don’t feel well, my dreams have been rough lately, all about time and never having enough. I arose from the patio couch, which was hand-caned many years ago by a friend of mine from Ireland. He had to walk away from his farm and was forced out by famine and couldn’t keep up his rent. He decided it was best to never look back, and due to that, he found a new profession that he was great at. It just so happened to be woodworking especially when it came to hand cane furniture.
“Grandpa? Are you okay? You seem to be tired today,” Lilly said empathetically.
Realizing that I was not alone, I turned towards her. I smiled and chuckled a little.
“Lilly, I’m fine, I’m just not sleeping well. I never sleep well in the summer, it just takes me back,” I paused and said “The war.”
“Not to pry, Grandpa, but why is the war so hard to remember? You all won; shouldn’t it be a celebration, not a scar?”
“Lilly,” I paused to force myself to think about it, “it is one thing to watch your country win a war and it’s another to win that war for your country.” I paused once again “Eventually, it’s not your country, instead, you find that you are fighting for yourself and yourself alone. It becomes about the bloody, rigorous, fight for your survival. War is hell. Lilly, you can celebrate the survival of this country, but do not celebrate the acts of man to obtain it.”
“I understand Grandpa, I’m sorry, I’m so stupid sometimes,” Lilly said frowning and looking away.
“Never apologize for ignorance, only apologize when you willingly know you’ve done wrong,” I said sighing. I was proud that Lilly was learning in her time the harsh reality of the world. “Remember this, Lilly, a wise man once told me that ‘as you think, so you shall be.’ If you think you’re smart, you are smart, and Lilly you’re like your grandmother, and she is always smart and has a fire in her that is so enigmatic that no one could ever take away.”
About that time Robert came out to the patio. Trailing behind him was our dog.
“He’s always following you, Robert,” I watched them march right up onto the patio like soldiers.
“Maxwell and I are soldiers, I’m the Seargent and he’s the Private. I’m telling him how to march.” Robert said in his best Drill Seargent voice.
As I sat there, I watched our Bassett Hound with his big ears trail behind my grandson. From time to time my grandson would attempt to order him around but Maxwell decided that he was done, and he just wanted to lounge around the patio and be lazy. To me it was simply hysterical and I couldn’t contain my laughter.
“Alright you two, I’m going to tell you more of my story at the hotel,” I said, breaking Robert’s concentration on getting Maxwell to follow his orders.
I sat in Mr. Chancellor’s office and it was ornate in its woodwork. I knew that he had money – everyone knew that – but this nailed it home that he was rich. Since the hotel had opened I had wanted to work here, but I really felt as though I had really messed it up with my anger.
“Mr. Monroe, that was quite the stir that you caused in the lobby. There are many important people that stay here, from politicians to Oil Barons,” he said while puffing on his cigar. “So why is it that you have come here to inquire for a job, I know what you are, and I know that The Green Vests are always up to something.”
“Mr. Chancellor, sir, I really do want to work here. I no longer associate myself with any affiliations, not anymore. I have been wanting to work here since you opened, even if it is just to shine shoes. I still can shine up a pair of shoes nicely, even if in my past I have busted a few heads here and there.” I was becoming very nervous; I’ve never talked to anyone this important or been inside a place that was so fashionable.
“No, that’s not the full truth, now is it, son? I know that you were asked to do something, but since you are not being forthwith, then you are denied employment here at my hotel.” There was silence in his office.
“I’m sorry sir, but don’t call me son!” I snapped, almost coming up out of my chair. “I can only tell you why I am here,” I said with that sinking feeling in my chest. Would I ever leave all of this anger behind me? “Others may think or assume I am here for another reason, but I am not!” I said with that fiery tone once again.
Chancellor smoked on his cigar while he thought. “Son, I like you,” he said, not to me, per se, but simply to the room.
“Why is that Mr. Chancellor?,” I asked gritting my teeth at that word. No one was allowed to call me son except my father and he has since passed on.
He continued, readjusting in his chair, lifting his chin, and sitting very stoically, “As you think, so you shall be.” He paused and puffed on his cigar allowing me time to gestate his words. “I see why Ms. Campbell sent you this way, she knows the type of people that I like to keep close.” He paused briefly to smoke on his cigar and then he began to sip his Early Times Bourbon. “Ahh,” he smacked his lips while he let his bourbon settle “That’s one of the oldest bourbons in America.” He cleared his throat and said “Continuing on, instead of what motives you may have, what are the motives of other people, Mr. Monroe, to which you’ve been selected by them to partake in?” He lifted his glass once again and drank, awaiting my response
“Mr. Chancellor, again, do not call me son!” I said in a rough tone
“Mr. Monroe, to be frank, I did so without even thinking. You are rather young compared to me and it is a fickle habit that I have developed, isn’t it?” he said clearing his throat and appearing slightly uncomfortable. “Please answer my question and I shall let you go about your day.”
“Thank you, sir, for your hospitality, I am sorry myself for being so forward about that word,” I said sighing.
“Mr. Monroe do not apologize unless you have willingly done something worthy of guilt. It was my mistake and I will take the blame for it. We all have a past in which we all have limits about,” he said.
“Mr. Chancellor, the only thing that I can tell you about your question is as follows: The Green Vests sent me to be on the inside of your business. To share information and to figure out the inner workings of the Blennerhassett,” the words just rolled off my tongue and it hit me that for the first time in my life I had given up information on The Vests. My heart sank a little, my future was, for the first time, unclear.
Chancellor put his cigar in his mouth and left it there for a time. He then began to stroke his chin as if he was thinking. He sat there for a while just thinking, he removed his cigar from his lip.
“Mr. Monroe you will report to me in the lobby tomorrow.” He puffed on his cigar and continued, “Mrs. Goldfinch was right that most people go to the servant’s entrance to apply, but there are a very select few that never apply through Mr. Campbell. They come directly to me, and those that come through me have a more behind-the-scenes approach to working here. There are always moving pieces on a chess board and not all of them can be solved on the surface.” He proceeded to become really quiet and sipped his drink. The silence was about his office, and I felt as though I was overstaying, I shifted my weight in my chair.
“Keep in mind Mr. Monroe you’re not just a shoe shine boy anymore, you are a Blennerhassett Hotel employee, on your official paperwork that is all you will do is shine shoes, but you will be doing other things which more closely align with your skills. Furthermore, I will provide lodging nearby for you during your first week so that you can save enough money for a small flat of your own. I will not allow gang colors in my hotel, with that being said a new vest will be provided for you that is burgundy, which is my favorite color. My tailor is down the hall, make sure to never put that green vest on again while you work for me.” He sipped his drink and puffed on his cigar “Oh, Monroe, one last thing,” he pulled a box from his desk and pulled from it a premium cigar and handed it to me.
“I cannot accept this you’ve already given me so much,” I said all nervous-like
“Yes, you will, I want you to go about town smoking this cigar, wearing the clothes I have provided, in time it will all make sense to you my boy. It is all in the moving pieces Mr. Monroe.” he sipped his drink “While you work for me in this capacity you will not be allowed to wear your flat cap.”
“No, Mr. Chancellor! This was my father’s when he came over from Ireland. I will continue to wear it!” I snapped at him quickly.
“So be it, you may leave the hat I have provided for you with the tailor.”
“Have a good day Mr. Monroe” he said with a slight smirk on his face, he reached over his desk and began to refill his glass from an ornate decanter with a large B carved on its face.
“See you tomorrow Mr. Chancellor,” I said while nodding to him as I left the room.
After I left his office, I went down the hall and was greeted by his tailor in a nearby room. His tailor was a very tall, thin man who very rarely ever spoke to me, as quickly as I entered, he started to tailor my new vest and a shirt which he mumbled quietly about and said he was throwing it in for free. Something about his clothes were too expensive to be fitted with a shirt that had been bought out of a cheap catalog. After a short time, the dark burgundy vest was finished. I buttoned up the polished brass buttons which almost appeared to be dull gold in color.
The tailor handed me my flat cap but told me to hold on a minute and within a few seconds, he had returned, and in his had he held a half-top hat. It was almost black, but every once in a while, when the light hit it just right it had burgundy undertones. The ribbon around it had intricate designs that were prevalent in the woodwork in Mr. Chancellor’s office. The ribbon was also bright burgundy and gold. It felt as though I was joining another gang with all the bold color choices, but it probably felt that way because of my past. I didn’t care because I was so enthralled by the whole experience. I looked at the half-top one more time and placed it on the table next to me.
“Sir” The tailor spoke in a very thin, wiry, British accent “There are a few things that you must know” He paused and he began to clean up after himself starting to fold the fabric.
“The Campbell woman told Mr. Chancellor months ago about you when you were in her care at The Infirmary, she heard your mumblings in your dreams about working here. She also spoke to him about your past, of which you had violent dreams about while you were unconscious. Chancellor, being a man of puzzles, found great interest in you and saw that you would be profitable, as you know he is a banker and saw value in someone like you.” He paused to place his fabric in his bag and started sorting his needles.
“Also, good sir, that hat that you are refusing was Mr. Chancellor’s first hat that he bought with the first check he received from working at The Bank of Northern Virginia. He wasn’t always this rich, much like you, a poor child born from nothing, destined for nothing. But, maybe this is your shot, don’t mess it up like a fool.” His tone was condescending and bitter.
He paused to clasp his bag, he then lifted it and started for the door, picking up the hat as he went.
Just outside of the door he turned and said “Some people get a chance that others may not. This man is giving you a chance. You should leave your past behind and put on the damn hat!” He threw the hat at me from the door, turning away, he left not saying another word.
I stood longing, looking down at my father’s flat cap. I just stared at it thinking about him and everything that hat stood for. I turned his hat over and pulled the slip of paper from the inside and read to myself once again my father’s last letter:
“Son, if I don’t make it back from this one, don’t choose my fate. Go and be better than I ever could. I’m no better than an outlaw, they just condone what we’ve done through the government’s legislations on manifest destiny. Violence is in our blood, Son, break the cycle! Be not like me but find your own way.”
I sighed a little and decided in that moment if I was ever going to have a better life now was the time and I folded up his flat cap and put it in my back pocket. I went up to the mirror and placed the half-top on and tilted it to one side, I looked at myself and I appeared different, like I never had before. I finally saw someone looking back at me that I could be proud of, and at once I turned towards the door a new man.
“Well, that’s enough for tonight!” I said stretching my old bones and heading into the house.
“Grandpa, I thought he was going to punch you or something for yelling,” Robert said.
“Robert, not everything has to deal with violence!” Lilly said before she stormed off.
“She’s never been like that before” Robert said moping a bit
“Well grandson, people change and view the world differently, and one day you might just understand why she reacted that way,” I said patiently, then I placed my hand on his shoulder as we walked inside away from the patio.
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.