Amy Patricia Meade's Blog

August 8, 2014

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

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Published on August 08, 2014 06:00 • 20 views

June 6, 2014

It’s been a terrific, but sad, and strange day for me.


On one hand, my grandmother, who’s been confined to a nursing home for the past ten years is facing her final life struggle. She’s suffered from various ailments through the years: diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, and a long struggle with bipolar disorder, although that term had yet to be invented back in the day.


On the other hand, it being D-Day, my heart and mind were focused upon the stories of my late grandfather – the time he spent as a clerk in the Philippines during WWII – as well as the tales my new husband told me of his father’s bravery during that same war. Africa, Italy, explosions – all setting the groundwork for the invasion.


In the interim, I spoke to a young writer, full of hope and proud of what he had created – a novel based upon his life experiences – which he seeks to have published. He was eager to learn about the publishing business and how he could enter it. He was obviously inspired by school, a special girl, and the prospect of a new career


And that’s what life is about isn’t it? Remembering the past, while building the future. The world and it’s people move on, but some things remain. All we can hope is that we leave it a better place than it was before and that someone out there remembers us.


In the end, life is beautiful, even with its apexes and troughs. Everyone we meet, from the lowliest guy in the gutter to the wealthy so-called snob has a story to tell and a lesson to teach us, so long as we’re able to listen.


Amy xoxo

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Published on June 06, 2014 18:42 • 12 views

September 9, 2013

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Published on September 09, 2013 08:17 • 55 views

November 19, 2011

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Published on November 19, 2011 09:24 • 40 views

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Published on November 19, 2011 09:24 • 79 views

November 18, 2011

Laura Denise Bittel of Arlington is the lucky name drawn for the "So You Want To Be In A Murder Mystery?" Raffle.


As a result, she gets a chance to name a character in the "Well-Offed" sequel to be released next year. Congratulations, Laura and thanks again for supporting a worthy cause!

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Published on November 18, 2011 19:16 • 58 views

November 16, 2011

Today’s your lucky day! You can:

1. Join me at my signing tonight. The event takes place at Mulligan’s in Manchester, VT at 6pm. in addition to books, I’ll be giving away coffee mugs and the opportunity to have a character named after you in the “Well-Offed” sequel. All proceeds to benefit the Arlington Food Shelf.


2. Check out New Hampshire Public Television’s Holiday Auction which starts today! You’ll have the opportunity to bid on titles by yours truly as well as other fabulous New England authors.


http://www.nhptv.org/auction/

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Published on November 16, 2011 06:29 • 42 views

Today's your lucky day! You can:

1. Join me at my signing tonight. The event takes place at Mulligan's in Manchester, VT at 6pm. in addition to books, I'll be giving away coffee mugs and the opportunity to have a character named after you in the "Well-Offed" sequel. All proceeds to benefit the Arlington Food Shelf.


2. Check out New Hampshire Public Television's Holiday Auction which starts today! You'll have the opportunity to bid on titles by yours truly as well as other fabulous New England authors.


http://www.nhptv.org/auction/

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Published on November 16, 2011 06:29 • 51 views

November 6, 2011

A bit darker than my latest series, but with elemenets of nostalgia, romance, and, of course, unforgettable characters


“Rose Doyle Keefe.” The petite thirty-two-year-old lifted the lapel of her tan wool coat to display the badge that identified her as an employee of the Pushey Shipyard Corporation, Brooklyn.


The uniformed military guard nodded absently as his eyes traced the outline of her coat lapel and came to rest on the open neck of the dark blue canvas coveralls she wore beneath it.


“Mrs. Rose Keefe,” she amended.


The guard hastily returned his gaze to the badge, scribbled something on a large clipboard, and, without making eye contact, nodded Rosie’s admittance.

Stepping from the cobblestones of Beard Street through the doorway of the nineteenth-century red brick building, Rosie followed the sound of male voices to the massive, windowless holding area. There, by the dim glow of the factory lights, foremen issued the day’s directives and workers waited for the horn blast that signaled the end of one shift and the start of the next.


Rosie stood in the back of the room with the other female employees. Although the still predominantly male staff of Pushey Shipyard understood that the draft was making young male workers increasingly scarce, they refused to take the new, and decidedly temporary, female hires seriously. Shipbuilding was hard, dirty work and no one of the weaker sex could ever excel at it; to infer otherwise was an insult to the profession.


Fearful that cheap women’s labor would replace them or lower their wages, and resentful of the special labor laws that afforded women longer rest periods and newer washroom facilities, even the most decent of men harbored some mistrust or animosity toward the new recruits.


And so, instead of chatting with each other like coworkers, the two genders remained separate. The women huddled together at the back of the room, watching silently as the men told jokes, discussed their families, and regaled each other with tales of their latest sexual conquests.


Even amid the din of boisterous male conversations, one voice rose far above the others, that of self-appointed political pundit Tony Del Vecchio. “Did you hear Roosevelt on the radio last night? Now he’s breaking the army into three different groups—one for air, one for land, and one for supplies. It’s like tirty tree all over again with one bunch of people doing this, another bunch of people doing that, and no one getting anything done. Next thing you know, he’ll be giving them letters of the alphabet, like WPA, NRA, NLRA . . . Jeez, if the guy worried half as much about killing Nips and Krauts as he does about naming things, the war could be over before the year is out.”


Michael Delaney, a familiar face from Rosie’s childhood, nodded his head in agreement. “You said it, Tony. The Normandie burned in the harbor just two month ago and they still haven’t figured out who did it. For all we know, it could have been a Nazi. The whole city could be crawling with them, but all FDR cares about is housekeeping. If you ask me, we New Yorkers have to take matters into our own hands.”


“Yep,” Del Vecchio concurred. “Though my old lady could learn something from Roosevelt. If she did half as good a job at putting things in order, I’d be a happy man.” Delaney chuckled in commiseration.


Rosie, meanwhile, shook her head in silence. The only “old lady” in Delaney’s life was his elderly, ailing mother. Barring a minor miracle—namely, the demise of every other man on the planet—that situation was not likely to change anytime soon. Rail thin and ratlike in countenance, Michael Delaney did not posses the genetic traits that most women considered “swoon worthy.” On the contrary, his wiry black hair, deep-set eyes, and rather prominent nose had, since childhood, garnered negative attention from both sexes, often earning him such unflattering nicknames as “Ichabod” or “Crow.”


Such ridicule might have caused a less determined or less clever child innumerable problems. But Michael Declan Delaney was a master of self-preservation. Adopting the policy of “If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em,” Delaney learned at an early age that he could ward off potential tormenters by befriending the loudest, biggest, and dumbest kid in St. Cecilia’s schoolyard. Due to relocation, rising uniform expenses, and growth spurts, the identity of that “kid” changed from year to year, but Delaney’s skill at playing the faithful lackey never wavered. Given his current friendship with Tony Del Vecchio, it still hadn’t.


“Now Frankie-Boy—oh, excuse me: “Mr. President”—is saying the Normandie might have been an accident,” Del Vecchio continued as the men, now silent, gathered around him and Delaney, their insulated work jackets engulfing the two men in a sea of blue. The women, meanwhile, remained clustered in the back of the room; however, they listened and watched with rapt attention. “Accident? You and I were both there, right, Delaney?”


Delaney nodded his head in earnest. “Sure were.”


Again Rosie silently shook her head. Tony Del Vecchio could claim to have kissed both Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable in the same night and Delaney would swear it was true.


“We both saw it, didn’t we? First the black smoke, thicker than anything I’ve ever seen.”


“Everyone saw the smoke, Del Vecchio,” finally Rosie piped up, causing all eyes to turn toward her. “It covered most of Manhattan.”


“Yeah, but not everyone saw the boat go over, did they?” Del Vecchio challenged. “It was the middle of the night, but we saw it, Delaney and me. The fire was out by then, but all of a sudden the thing lurched to the port side and kept on going. I’ve worked on the docks all my life and I ain’t never seen a ship do that.”


“Me neither,” Delaney said.


“The minute we saw it, we both said that it was no accident. Nope. No way that was an accident,” Del Vecchio repeated, much to the delight of his audience. “Mark my words: someone sabotaged that ship. That’s why the fire hoses didn’t work. Someone cut the hoses so that the fire would be out of control by the time anyone could get there.”


“Nazis,” Delaney said. “Had to be.”


“Of course it was Nazis. You can see their U-boats from Rockaway or Jones Beach.”


“The Jersey shore, too,” a man remarked from the crowd. “My sister has a place down there.”


Delaney again nodded, this time with arrogance. “What the hell is the navy doing letting the Krauts get that close? How many ships have to sink in New York Harbor before ol’ FDR takes notice and does something other than housekeeping?”


“Housekeeping,” Del Vecchio muttered. “Only thing reorganizing the military does is makes it impossible to find anyone. I got a cousin who signed up for the army and he thinks they might move him to the air force. Do you know where your kid brother’s gonna wind up, Delaney?”


“Nah. I don’t think they’ve told anyone for sure yet. But then again, with my brother you never know.” Delaney looked in Rosie’s direction. “How about you? You know where your husband’s gonna be?”


Billy Keefe had been the bane of Michael Delaney’s existence ever since their school years. Handsome, charming, and a consummate liar, Billy excelled at everything Delaney didn’t, including winning Rosie’s heart.


Reluctant to discuss her absent husband and possibly reignite a childhood rivalry, Rosie feigned deafness.


Delaney, however, was his indefatigable self. “Say, Rosie,” he persisted. “Rosie. Doyle . . . I mean, Keefe. Rosie Keefe!”


His voice, combined with the stares of her coworkers, proved impossible to ignore. She leveled a stare at Delaney that was far blacker than the smoke of the Normandie .


“Hi . . . Rosie,” Delaney grinned nervously. “Say, do you know where your husband’s gonna be when they split up the army?”


Like spectators at a tennis match, the seventy-odd employees of Pushey Shipyard turned their attention to Delaney and then back to Rosie, who stood, arms folded across her chest, at the back of the room.


“No,” she answered flatly. “I haven’t heard from him.”


“What?” Delaney put a hand to his ear.


“I don’t know,” Rosie repeated in a voice just softer than a shout. “I haven’t heard from him.”


The crowd again turned to Delaney.


He nodded. “Yeah, the mail is slow in coming. Driving my ma nuts. How long’s it been since your last letter?”


Volley. Back to Keefe.


Rosie drew a deep breath. “I . . . umm . . . I haven’t had a letter. Or a phone call,” she added.


“Huh? You saying you haven’t heard from your husband since he was called for service?”


Rosie gazed at the faces staring back at her. She wanted to run, hide, bury her head in the ground, but she knew that doing so would cause her to lose her job. “Michael Delaney, your mother is friends with my mother. You know darn well Billy wasn’t drafted. He enlisted.”


This time all eyes remained focused on Rosie.


“How long ago was that?”


Rosie scratched her head through the dark blue kerchief that covered her auburn hair and avoided all eye contact lest she break into tears. “Let’s see . . . when did we declare war on Japan?”


“Before Christmas?” Delaney replied incredulously. “Jeez, I had no idea. . . . That was over four months ago.”

F


our months, six days, and eleven hours, Rosie thought. Outwardly, however, her response was one of carefree nonchalance. “Over four months? Really? I’d lost track.”


“Hey, did you say your husband’s name was Billy?” Del Vecchio spoke up. “As in Billy Keefe?”


“Yes,” Rose answered. “Why?”


Del Vecchio convulsed with laughter, his rounded abdomen quivering violently beneath his gray cotton overalls. “The Billy Keefe I know couldn’t hold a steady job, let alone make it in the army. Every time I see the guy, he’s tying one on with a good-looking dame. Last time it was a tall, cool blonde. The time before that, it was a cute brunette. That’s why you haven’t heard from him. He’s probably shacked up somewhere with some broad.”


As the crowd gawked and whispered, Rosie felt the color drain from her face. She had always suspected that Billy stepped out with other women; so long as those suspicions remained unfounded, it was easy to push them aside and focus on the daily business of living. But now, here she was, surrounded by coworkers she had known for less than a week, listening to this odious troll of a man laugh as he confirmed her worst fears.


“Come on, Tony,” Delaney chided in an uncharacteristic display of backbone. “You don’t have to—”


“It’s okay, Delaney,” Rosie interrupted. “I’m sure Del Vecchio has my husband confused with someone else.”


“I don’t think so. This guy’s five foot nine, light brown hair, and has a big mouth.”


“That describes a lot of men,” Rosie argued.


“Yeah, but not all of them hang out at The Cannery Bar on Court Street,” Del Vecchio countered. “That’s where your Billy liked to go before he ‘enlisted,’ right?”


“I . . . I don’t know where he used to go in the evenings,” Rose stammered.


“This guy probably never worked any job longer than two weeks either. Ring any bells?”


Rose had no time to confirm or deny the statement. Bob Finch, the shift foreman, stepped to the front of the room to announce the day’s work assignments. “Miller . . . Jones . . . Murphy . . . machine shop. Drummond . . . Gaikowski . . . Phillips . . . Snyder

. . . Wallace . . . graving plate. Nelson . . . Scarlatti . . . you’ll be in the belly of the beast. Owen . . . you’ll assist them.”


“Mr. Finch,” a black woman called from the rear of the room. “I thought I was assisting at the bottom of the ship.”


“You know the rules, Jackson,” Finch admonished. “You have to weigh less than 120 pounds to be let down there.”


“But I—” Jackson began to argue.


“You heard what I said, sweetheart. Cut back on the meatloaf sandwiches, fried chicken, or whatever you people eat, and then we’ll talk.”


Rosie felt her blood boil. Although she had grown up in a predominantly Irish Catholic neighborhood in Greenpoint, childhood visits to a grandmother in the Bronx had introduced Rosie to people of different races and religions, many of whom helped to look after her grandmother when her health began to fail. It was a life lesson to take people one at a time, instead of as a group.


As Jackson, eyes wide and blinking back tears, shrank back into the crowd in stunned silence, Finch continued the morning’s announcements with the cool reserve of a military sharpshooter. “Hansen, Heater . . . Keefe, Passer . . . Delaney, Bucker . . . Del Vecchio, Riveter. Gang one, Pier number two.”


A “riveting gang,” as it was called, consisted of four members: heater, passer, bucker, and riveter, each of whom played a vital role.

At the beginning of the workday, each gang would be dispatched to their section of the ship. There, a safe distance from the ship’s exterior, the heater would lay wooden planks across a couple of steel beams placed upon the ground, thus making a platform for the portable, gas-burning forge in which he would heat the rivets. While the heater brought the forge to temperature, the three other gang members scaled the scaffold and laid planking along the area where they were going to work. Once they were firmly ensconced on the planking, the bucker and passer would drop a rope scaffold bearing the riveter into the ship and lower it until it was level with the exterior platform. Comprised of three two-by-ten planks, this rope scaffold provided just enough space for the riveter and his tools.

Once setup was complete, the passer and bucker, tools in hand, took their position on the exterior scaffold, while the riveter, on the rope scaffold, waited on the other side of the steel hull. The heater, standing on his platform, would heat a rivet until red hot. Using tongs, he would pick it from the coals of his forge and toss it to the passer, who caught it in a metal can.


Meanwhile, the bucker had unscrewed and pulled out one of the temporary bolts joining the two pieces of steel, leaving the hole empty. The passer would pick the rivet—which, at this stage, was shaped like a mushroom with a button head and a stem—out of his can with a pair of tongs, stick it in the now-vacant hole, and push it in until the head was flush with the steel and the stem protruded from the riveter’s side.

While the passer stepped aside and prepared to catch the next rivet, the bucker fitted a tool over the rivet head and held it in place while the riveter pressed the cupped head of his pneumatic hammer against the rivet stem, which was still red hot and malleable, and formed a button head on that side as well.

The process was repeated until every hole that could be reached from the scaffolds was filled with permanent rivets. The scaffolds would then be moved to a new section. The heater’s platform, however, remained in place until all the work within a seventy-foot radius had been completed.


Upon hearing her assignment, Rose sighed noisily. She had spent the previous week acting as passer to the riveting gang of Hansen, Del Vecchio, and Delaney. It was only Tuesday, but this week looked to be shaping up the same way.


Although working on high scaffolding presented its own risk to workers’ safety, that risk was far outweighed by the dangers posed by the red-hot rivets as they sailed approximately forty to seventy feet through the air. In the few days since starting at Pushey, Rosie had heard several employees speak of flying rivets that had burned through their clothes, hair, and flesh. And Delaney, a lifelong bucker, had warned Rosie against allowing the hot metal to fall into the vats of oil, varnish, paint, or any of the vast number of flammable chemicals present at the shipyard on a daily basis.


Indeed, for a riveting gang to avoid injury, it was necessary for all four workers to learn to anticipate each other’s movements, but nowhere was this truer than in the relationship between heater and passer. The best heater/passer teams in the yard not only minimized the risk of injury, but they enabled the bucker and riveter to work at maximum efficiency and speed while demonstrating a rhythm and flow typically seen only in Major League catchers and pitchers.

Rudy Hansen was one of the best heaters at Pushey Shipyard. In complete control of the forge at all times, he could heat a rivet to the perfect temperature and do so quickly, so that none of it melted away. Meticulous and highly observant, he could determine whether or not a passer would be good at his job within the first few hours of working with him. Unfortunately, the only thing Hansen could determine about this new passer was that she was female.


Rose followed the rest of her gang into the shipyard and climbed, along with Delaney, to the scaffold. Working at a height of fifty feet granted her a bird’s-eye view of the yard below and the cobblestone streets beyond, but the massive steel hull completely obscured her view of Gowanus Bay. Just as well, she thought. Catching Hansen’s rivets while balancing herself on the narrow platform was difficult enough; she did not need the added distraction of a waterfront view.

Clutching her rivet cone tightly in her hand, she waited for the first toss of the day, fully aware of Hansen’s contempt, and confident that he’d persist in the previous day’s behavior of consistently overshooting the bucket. While most of yesterday’s tosses could still be caught by taking a step backward toward Delaney, the few that had been thrown overhanded, rather than in the traditional underhanded fashion, proved impossible to either catch or dodge and had left large red welts on Rosie’s wrists.


It was, therefore, a genuine surprise to find that today, the first, second, and then a third round of rivets landed softly in the bucket.

Still on guard, yet hoping for the best, she caught every rivet Hansen cast her way that morning. Feeling herself falling into the rhythm the other, more experienced, passers had described, she finally understood their love for the trade. There was, amongst the creaks and crackles of the narrow walkways, despite the swinging of the ragged old ropes, a beautiful choreography to the process.


Rosie grabbed a hot rivet from her bucket, placed it in a predrilled hole, and smiled to herself. Perhaps this job will work out, she thought. Perhaps I’ve been too hasty—


Her thoughts were interrupted by a sudden and sharp burning sensation in the back of her trousers. Rosie turned her head to see a round hole, just about the size of a rivet, singed into the seat of her coveralls. Fifty feet below her, Hansen and another man laughed.


Furious, Rosie shouted from the scaffold, “The next rivet that hits me, Hansen, is getting thrown right back in your face.”


Rose’s warning elicited whistles and catcalls from the male workers in the vicinity.


Hansen’s smart-aleck response—“If you can’t stand the heat, go back to the kitchen”—brought down the house, prompting Bob Finch to emerge from the shipyard office.


“That’s enough, fellas. Get back to work,” he commanded. “And Keefe? You open that piehole of yours again, you’re outta here.”

Finch marched back into his office, leaving a quiet crew to return to their various tasks.


Rosie drew a deep breath and picked up her rivet bucket, hopeful that Hansen would play fair. But, in her heart of hearts, she knew that things wouldn’t be that simple—a feeling borne out when Hansen tossed the next bunch of rivets overhanded instead of underhanded, sending the white-hot pieces of metal hurtling past Rosie’s bucket and directly toward her head and torso.


Rosie shielded her face with her forearms and yelped as the rivets, reminiscent of glowing grapeshot, burned tiny holes into her kerchief and coat sleeves and sent her scuttling backward along the narrow wooden planks. Fearful she might lose her balance, Delaney rushed from the other end of the scaffold, reached around her coat, and grabbed hold of the elastic waistband of her coveralls.


“You okay, Rosie?” Delaney asked.


She gave no reply. Her anger at the morning’s events—Del Vecchio’s taunting, Billy’s lies, and Finch’s reprimands—rushed forth in a torrent. Hastily, she picked three of the hot rivets up from the floorboards with her tongs and made her way down the scaffold.


“Hey, Hansen,” Rosie called when she was a few feet away from the forge.


Hansen, his back turned to the scaffold as he laughed and joked with two other men, had been oblivious to Rosie’s descent. At the sound of her voice, he turned to confront his redheaded nemesis, his face registering both surprise and confusion.


With a quick motion of her arm, Rosie released the rivets from her tongs and launched them at Hansen’s chest. Two of them bounced off of his asbestos apron and landed on the sleeves of his heavy flannel shirt. The third, however, slipped down the top of Hansen’s apron, causing the man to scream obscenities and dance around until the metal object, finally extricated, plopped onto the ground.


A highly agitated Bob Finch exploded from his office door. “What the hell is wrong with you, Keefe? Hansen, you hurt bad?”


Hansen shook his head.


“Thank God for that,” Finch uttered in relief. “Everyone back to work. Keefe: my office.”


Rosie obediently followed Finch into the shipyard office and stood before his desk. The foreman didn’t even bother to close the door before launching into his tirade


“What the hell were you thinking? Hansen is our best heater. You could have burned him—badly.”


“Hansen could have burned me badly, too,” Rosie argued as she displayed the holes in her coat sleeves and the blistered red flesh on the arms beneath them.


“Besides, you shouldn’t yell at me. He’s the one who started it.”


“Yeah, but there’s a whole bunch of crazy broads lining up to take your place. There ain’t any men left who can fill in for Hansen. You’re fired, Keefe.”


Rosie’s anger and indignation dissipated, immediately replaced by regret and remorse. “But Mr. Finch—”


“No ‘buts,’ Keefe. Get outta here and let someone with a family to feed have your job.”


“But I have a family to feed, too, Mr. Finch. Most of us women do. That’s . . . that’s why we’re here.” Her voice cracked as she fought the urge to cry. “Please.Please, Mr. Finch. My sister and her baby moved in with me just a few weeks ago, right after my brother-in-law was killed. I need to take care of them.”


“You don’t say?”


“Yes.” She drew a deep breath. “Please, Mr. Finch, don’t fire me. I’m sorry about Hansen. I lost my temper. It won’t happen again.”


“Damn right, it won’t happen again. You think I’d let you anywhere near Hansen after what you did to him?”


“No,” she conceded. “But I’ll work anywhere else. I’ll paint. I’ll sweep up. I’ll work in the cafeteria. Anything.”


“Anything, huh?” A gleam flickered in Finch’s eye.


“Yes. Anything. I just need a job.”


Finch grinned and shut the office door. “Maybe there is a spot for you. You’re a tiny thing. . . . I never noticed it until now. What do you weigh, 105? Or 110?”


“Around there, I guess. Why?” Rosie stepped backward as she felt a wave of anxiety wash over her.


“We could send you to weld the bottom of the hull.” Finch moved closer, his eyes appraising her with every step.


Rosie took another step away from Finch only to back into his desk. “That sounds good,” she responded nervously.


“It should. It pays more than you’ve been making.” Finch continued his approach.


“That’s very kind of you. Who should I see about being trained?” she asked in an attempt to extricate herself.


Finch grabbed her by the wrist. “Not so fast.”


Rosie’s heart began racing and she wondered if she should scream. “What are you doing?”


“You and I need to discuss the terms of our agreement.”


“Agreement?” she asked as she tried to yank her wrist free of Finch’s grasp.


Finch grabbed her other wrist and pulled her closer. “You owe me, Rosie. That’s what Delaney calls you, isn’t it? ‘Rosie.’”


“Let go of me!”


Finch only tightened his grip, all the while smiling menacingly. “Come on now, that’s no way to treat the man who just saved your job, is it?”


“I don’t want the job. I don’t want this. Let me go!” Rosie struggled to break free, but Finch was incredibly strong.


“Let you go? But we’re just getting started. You said you’d do anything to keep your job, didn’t you?”


“I meant cleaning up or—or . . . but not this,” Rose explained, all the while trying to free her hands.


Finch pushed her backward against the desk. “So you’re gonna let that sister and nephew of yours starve just because you changed your mind about playing? That’s silly, don’t ya think? Especially when we both know you want to.” As Finch moved his mouth closer to hers, Rose leaned forward and gave his lip a hard bite.


Finch reared back and instinctively brought his right hand to his mouth, leaving Rose’s left hand free to grab the heavy green stapler from the desk behind her. Without a second thought, she lifted it above her head and brought it crashing down just above Finch’s right temple.


Finch cried out in agony as Rosie swung open the office door and ran into the yard at breakneck speed, bumping into Michael Delaney on the way.


“Rosie, what happened? Your face—it’s white. What happened? What did Finch do to you?”


Rose stared blankly at Delaney, uncertain of what he was saying or asking, certain only of her desire to run.


Several yards away, Bob Finch leaned out of his office door, a trickle of blood wending its way down the side of his face. “Keefe! You slut! I’ll make sure you never get a decent job in this town again!”


The area surrounding the office fell silent as all eyes fell, in turn, from Bob Finch to Rose Doyle Keefe.


“Delaney!” Finch shouted. “I’ll do the same to you if you don’t get back to work!”


Delaney took Rose’s hands and placed in them a handkerchief, a hipflask, and a one-dollar bill. “The money is for a cab so you get home safe,” he instructed before sprinting back to his rivet gun. “The rest is for you—in case you need it. I’ll check up on you later.”


Rose pocketed Delaney’s gifts, shot a vague smile in his direction, and took off through the Pushey Shipyard gates.

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Published on November 06, 2011 15:51 • 52 views

A bit darker than my latest series, but with elemenets of nostalgia, romance, and, of course, unforgettable characters


"Rose Doyle Keefe." The petite thirty-two-year-old lifted the lapel of her tan wool coat to display the badge that identified her as an employee of the Pushey Shipyard Corporation, Brooklyn.


The uniformed military guard nodded absently as his eyes traced the outline of her coat lapel and came to rest on the open neck of the dark blue canvas coveralls she wore beneath it.


"Mrs. Rose Keefe," she amended.


The guard hastily returned his gaze to the badge, scribbled something on a large clipboard, and, without making eye contact, nodded Rosie's admittance.

Stepping from the cobblestones of Beard Street through the doorway of the nineteenth-century red brick building, Rosie followed the sound of male voices to the massive, windowless holding area. There, by the dim glow of the factory lights, foremen issued the day's directives and workers waited for the horn blast that signaled the end of one shift and the start of the next.


Rosie stood in the back of the room with the other female employees. Although the still predominantly male staff of Pushey Shipyard understood that the draft was making young male workers increasingly scarce, they refused to take the new, and decidedly temporary, female hires seriously. Shipbuilding was hard, dirty work and no one of the weaker sex could ever excel at it; to infer otherwise was an insult to the profession.


Fearful that cheap women's labor would replace them or lower their wages, and resentful of the special labor laws that afforded women longer rest periods and newer washroom facilities, even the most decent of men harbored some mistrust or animosity toward the new recruits.


And so, instead of chatting with each other like coworkers, the two genders remained separate. The women huddled together at the back of the room, watching silently as the men told jokes, discussed their families, and regaled each other with tales of their latest sexual conquests.


Even amid the din of boisterous male conversations, one voice rose far above the others, that of self-appointed political pundit Tony Del Vecchio. "Did you hear Roosevelt on the radio last night? Now he's breaking the army into three different groups—one for air, one for land, and one for supplies. It's like tirty tree all over again with one bunch of people doing this, another bunch of people doing that, and no one getting anything done. Next thing you know, he'll be giving them letters of the alphabet, like WPA, NRA, NLRA . . . Jeez, if the guy worried half as much about killing Nips and Krauts as he does about naming things, the war could be over before the year is out."


Michael Delaney, a familiar face from Rosie's childhood, nodded his head in agreement. "You said it, Tony. The Normandie burned in the harbor just two month ago and they still haven't figured out who did it. For all we know, it could have been a Nazi. The whole city could be crawling with them, but all FDR cares about is housekeeping. If you ask me, we New Yorkers have to take matters into our own hands."


"Yep," Del Vecchio concurred. "Though my old lady could learn something from Roosevelt. If she did half as good a job at putting things in order, I'd be a happy man." Delaney chuckled in commiseration.


Rosie, meanwhile, shook her head in silence. The only "old lady" in Delaney's life was his elderly, ailing mother. Barring a minor miracle—namely, the demise of every other man on the planet—that situation was not likely to change anytime soon. Rail thin and ratlike in countenance, Michael Delaney did not posses the genetic traits that most women considered "swoon worthy." On the contrary, his wiry black hair, deep-set eyes, and rather prominent nose had, since childhood, garnered negative attention from both sexes, often earning him such unflattering nicknames as "Ichabod" or "Crow."


Such ridicule might have caused a less determined or less clever child innumerable problems. But Michael Declan Delaney was a master of self-preservation. Adopting the policy of "If you can't lick 'em, join 'em," Delaney learned at an early age that he could ward off potential tormenters by befriending the loudest, biggest, and dumbest kid in St. Cecilia's schoolyard. Due to relocation, rising uniform expenses, and growth spurts, the identity of that "kid" changed from year to year, but Delaney's skill at playing the faithful lackey never wavered. Given his current friendship with Tony Del Vecchio, it still hadn't.


"Now Frankie-Boy—oh, excuse me: "Mr. President"—is saying the Normandie might have been an accident," Del Vecchio continued as the men, now silent, gathered around him and Delaney, their insulated work jackets engulfing the two men in a sea of blue. The women, meanwhile, remained clustered in the back of the room; however, they listened and watched with rapt attention. "Accident? You and I were both there, right, Delaney?"


Delaney nodded his head in earnest. "Sure were."


Again Rosie silently shook her head. Tony Del Vecchio could claim to have kissed both Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable in the same night and Delaney would swear it was true.


"We both saw it, didn't we? First the black smoke, thicker than anything I've ever seen."


"Everyone saw the smoke, Del Vecchio," finally Rosie piped up, causing all eyes to turn toward her. "It covered most of Manhattan."


"Yeah, but not everyone saw the boat go over, did they?" Del Vecchio challenged. "It was the middle of the night, but we saw it, Delaney and me. The fire was out by then, but all of a sudden the thing lurched to the port side and kept on going. I've worked on the docks all my life and I ain't never seen a ship do that."


"Me neither," Delaney said.


"The minute we saw it, we both said that it was no accident. Nope. No way that was an accident," Del Vecchio repeated, much to the delight of his audience. "Mark my words: someone sabotaged that ship. That's why the fire hoses didn't work. Someone cut the hoses so that the fire would be out of control by the time anyone could get there."


"Nazis," Delaney said. "Had to be."


"Of course it was Nazis. You can see their U-boats from Rockaway or Jones Beach."


"The Jersey shore, too," a man remarked from the crowd. "My sister has a place down there."


Delaney again nodded, this time with arrogance. "What the hell is the navy doing letting the Krauts get that close? How many ships have to sink in New York Harbor before ol' FDR takes notice and does something other than housekeeping?"


"Housekeeping," Del Vecchio muttered. "Only thing reorganizing the military does is makes it impossible to find anyone. I got a cousin who signed up for the army and he thinks they might move him to the air force. Do you know where your kid brother's gonna wind up, Delaney?"


"Nah. I don't think they've told anyone for sure yet. But then again, with my brother you never know." Delaney looked in Rosie's direction. "How about you? You know where your husband's gonna be?"


Billy Keefe had been the bane of Michael Delaney's existence ever since their school years. Handsome, charming, and a consummate liar, Billy excelled at everything Delaney didn't, including winning Rosie's heart.


Reluctant to discuss her absent husband and possibly reignite a childhood rivalry, Rosie feigned deafness.


Delaney, however, was his indefatigable self. "Say, Rosie," he persisted. "Rosie. Doyle . . . I mean, Keefe. Rosie Keefe!"


His voice, combined with the stares of her coworkers, proved impossible to ignore. She leveled a stare at Delaney that was far blacker than the smoke of the Normandie .


"Hi . . . Rosie," Delaney grinned nervously. "Say, do you know where your husband's gonna be when they split up the army?"


Like spectators at a tennis match, the seventy-odd employees of Pushey Shipyard turned their attention to Delaney and then back to Rosie, who stood, arms folded across her chest, at the back of the room.


"No," she answered flatly. "I haven't heard from him."


"What?" Delaney put a hand to his ear.


"I don't know," Rosie repeated in a voice just softer than a shout. "I haven't heard from him."


The crowd again turned to Delaney.


He nodded. "Yeah, the mail is slow in coming. Driving my ma nuts. How long's it been since your last letter?"


Volley. Back to Keefe.


Rosie drew a deep breath. "I . . . umm . . . I haven't had a letter. Or a phone call," she added.


"Huh? You saying you haven't heard from your husband since he was called for service?"


Rosie gazed at the faces staring back at her. She wanted to run, hide, bury her head in the ground, but she knew that doing so would cause her to lose her job. "Michael Delaney, your mother is friends with my mother. You know darn well Billy wasn't drafted. He enlisted."


This time all eyes remained focused on Rosie.


"How long ago was that?"


Rosie scratched her head through the dark blue kerchief that covered her auburn hair and avoided all eye contact lest she break into tears. "Let's see . . . when did we declare war on Japan?"


"Before Christmas?" Delaney replied incredulously. "Jeez, I had no idea. . . . That was over four months ago."

F


our months, six days, and eleven hours, Rosie thought. Outwardly, however, her response was one of carefree nonchalance. "Over four months? Really? I'd lost track."


"Hey, did you say your husband's name was Billy?" Del Vecchio spoke up. "As in Billy Keefe?"


"Yes," Rose answered. "Why?"


Del Vecchio convulsed with laughter, his rounded abdomen quivering violently beneath his gray cotton overalls. "The Billy Keefe I know couldn't hold a steady job, let alone make it in the army. Every time I see the guy, he's tying one on with a good-looking dame. Last time it was a tall, cool blonde. The time before that, it was a cute brunette. That's why you haven't heard from him. He's probably shacked up somewhere with some broad."


As the crowd gawked and whispered, Rosie felt the color drain from her face. She had always suspected that Billy stepped out with other women; so long as those suspicions remained unfounded, it was easy to push them aside and focus on the daily business of living. But now, here she was, surrounded by coworkers she had known for less than a week, listening to this odious troll of a man laugh as he confirmed her worst fears.


"Come on, Tony," Delaney chided in an uncharacteristic display of backbone. "You don't have to—"


"It's okay, Delaney," Rosie interrupted. "I'm sure Del Vecchio has my husband confused with someone else."


"I don't think so. This guy's five foot nine, light brown hair, and has a big mouth."


"That describes a lot of men," Rosie argued.


"Yeah, but not all of them hang out at The Cannery Bar on Court Street," Del Vecchio countered. "That's where your Billy liked to go before he 'enlisted,' right?"


"I . . . I don't know where he used to go in the evenings," Rose stammered.


"This guy probably never worked any job longer than two weeks either. Ring any bells?"


Rose had no time to confirm or deny the statement. Bob Finch, the shift foreman, stepped to the front of the room to announce the day's work assignments. "Miller . . . Jones . . . Murphy . . . machine shop. Drummond . . . Gaikowski . . . Phillips . . . Snyder

. . . Wallace . . . graving plate. Nelson . . . Scarlatti . . . you'll be in the belly of the beast. Owen . . . you'll assist them."


"Mr. Finch," a black woman called from the rear of the room. "I thought I was assisting at the bottom of the ship."


"You know the rules, Jackson," Finch admonished. "You have to weigh less than 120 pounds to be let down there."


"But I—" Jackson began to argue.


"You heard what I said, sweetheart. Cut back on the meatloaf sandwiches, fried chicken, or whatever you people eat, and then we'll talk."


Rosie felt her blood boil. Although she had grown up in a predominantly Irish Catholic neighborhood in Greenpoint, childhood visits to a grandmother in the Bronx had introduced Rosie to people of different races and religions, many of whom helped to look after her grandmother when her health began to fail. It was a life lesson to take people one at a time, instead of as a group.


As Jackson, eyes wide and blinking back tears, shrank back into the crowd in stunned silence, Finch continued the morning's announcements with the cool reserve of a military sharpshooter. "Hansen, Heater . . . Keefe, Passer . . . Delaney, Bucker . . . Del Vecchio, Riveter. Gang one, Pier number two."


A "riveting gang," as it was called, consisted of four members: heater, passer, bucker, and riveter, each of whom played a vital role.

At the beginning of the workday, each gang would be dispatched to their section of the ship. There, a safe distance from the ship's exterior, the heater would lay wooden planks across a couple of steel beams placed upon the ground, thus making a platform for the portable, gas-burning forge in which he would heat the rivets. While the heater brought the forge to temperature, the three other gang members scaled the scaffold and laid planking along the area where they were going to work. Once they were firmly ensconced on the planking, the bucker and passer would drop a rope scaffold bearing the riveter into the ship and lower it until it was level with the exterior platform. Comprised of three two-by-ten planks, this rope scaffold provided just enough space for the riveter and his tools.

Once setup was complete, the passer and bucker, tools in hand, took their position on the exterior scaffold, while the riveter, on the rope scaffold, waited on the other side of the steel hull. The heater, standing on his platform, would heat a rivet until red hot. Using tongs, he would pick it from the coals of his forge and toss it to the passer, who caught it in a metal can.


Meanwhile, the bucker had unscrewed and pulled out one of the temporary bolts joining the two pieces of steel, leaving the hole empty. The passer would pick the rivet—which, at this stage, was shaped like a mushroom with a button head and a stem—out of his can with a pair of tongs, stick it in the now-vacant hole, and push it in until the head was flush with the steel and the stem protruded from the riveter's side.

While the passer stepped aside and prepared to catch the next rivet, the bucker fitted a tool over the rivet head and held it in place while the riveter pressed the cupped head of his pneumatic hammer against the rivet stem, which was still red hot and malleable, and formed a button head on that side as well.

The process was repeated until every hole that could be reached from the scaffolds was filled with permanent rivets. The scaffolds would then be moved to a new section. The heater's platform, however, remained in place until all the work within a seventy-foot radius had been completed.


Upon hearing her assignment, Rose sighed noisily. She had spent the previous week acting as passer to the riveting gang of Hansen, Del Vecchio, and Delaney. It was only Tuesday, but this week looked to be shaping up the same way.


Although working on high scaffolding presented its own risk to workers' safety, that risk was far outweighed by the dangers posed by the red-hot rivets as they sailed approximately forty to seventy feet through the air. In the few days since starting at Pushey, Rosie had heard several employees speak of flying rivets that had burned through their clothes, hair, and flesh. And Delaney, a lifelong bucker, had warned Rosie against allowing the hot metal to fall into the vats of oil, varnish, paint, or any of the vast number of flammable chemicals present at the shipyard on a daily basis.


Indeed, for a riveting gang to avoid injury, it was necessary for all four workers to learn to anticipate each other's movements, but nowhere was this truer than in the relationship between heater and passer. The best heater/passer teams in the yard not only minimized the risk of injury, but they enabled the bucker and riveter to work at maximum efficiency and speed while demonstrating a rhythm and flow typically seen only in Major League catchers and pitchers.

Rudy Hansen was one of the best heaters at Pushey Shipyard. In complete control of the forge at all times, he could heat a rivet to the perfect temperature and do so quickly, so that none of it melted away. Meticulous and highly observant, he could determine whether or not a passer would be good at his job within the first few hours of working with him. Unfortunately, the only thing Hansen could determine about this new passer was that she was female.


Rose followed the rest of her gang into the shipyard and climbed, along with Delaney, to the scaffold. Working at a height of fifty feet granted her a bird's-eye view of the yard below and the cobblestone streets beyond, but the massive steel hull completely obscured her view of Gowanus Bay. Just as well, she thought. Catching Hansen's rivets while balancing herself on the narrow platform was difficult enough; she did not need the added distraction of a waterfront view.

Clutching her rivet cone tightly in her hand, she waited for the first toss of the day, fully aware of Hansen's contempt, and confident that he'd persist in the previous day's behavior of consistently overshooting the bucket. While most of yesterday's tosses could still be caught by taking a step backward toward Delaney, the few that had been thrown overhanded, rather than in the traditional underhanded fashion, proved impossible to either catch or dodge and had left large red welts on Rosie's wrists.


It was, therefore, a genuine surprise to find that today, the first, second, and then a third round of rivets landed softly in the bucket.

Still on guard, yet hoping for the best, she caught every rivet Hansen cast her way that morning. Feeling herself falling into the rhythm the other, more experienced, passers had described, she finally understood their love for the trade. There was, amongst the creaks and crackles of the narrow walkways, despite the swinging of the ragged old ropes, a beautiful choreography to the process.


Rosie grabbed a hot rivet from her bucket, placed it in a predrilled hole, and smiled to herself. Perhaps this job will work out, she thought. Perhaps I've been too hasty—


Her thoughts were interrupted by a sudden and sharp burning sensation in the back of her trousers. Rosie turned her head to see a round hole, just about the size of a rivet, singed into the seat of her coveralls. Fifty feet below her, Hansen and another man laughed.


Furious, Rosie shouted from the scaffold, "The next rivet that hits me, Hansen, is getting thrown right back in your face."


Rose's warning elicited whistles and catcalls from the male workers in the vicinity.


Hansen's smart-aleck response—"If you can't stand the heat, go back to the kitchen"—brought down the house, prompting Bob Finch to emerge from the shipyard office.


"That's enough, fellas. Get back to work," he commanded. "And Keefe? You open that piehole of yours again, you're outta here."

Finch marched back into his office, leaving a quiet crew to return to their various tasks.


Rosie drew a deep breath and picked up her rivet bucket, hopeful that Hansen would play fair. But, in her heart of hearts, she knew that things wouldn't be that simple—a feeling borne out when Hansen tossed the next bunch of rivets overhanded instead of underhanded, sending the white-hot pieces of metal hurtling past Rosie's bucket and directly toward her head and torso.


Rosie shielded her face with her forearms and yelped as the rivets, reminiscent of glowing grapeshot, burned tiny holes into her kerchief and coat sleeves and sent her scuttling backward along the narrow wooden planks. Fearful she might lose her balance, Delaney rushed from the other end of the scaffold, reached around her coat, and grabbed hold of the elastic waistband of her coveralls.


"You okay, Rosie?" Delaney asked.


She gave no reply. Her anger at the morning's events—Del Vecchio's taunting, Billy's lies, and Finch's reprimands—rushed forth in a torrent. Hastily, she picked three of the hot rivets up from the floorboards with her tongs and made her way down the scaffold.


"Hey, Hansen," Rosie called when she was a few feet away from the forge.


Hansen, his back turned to the scaffold as he laughed and joked with two other men, had been oblivious to Rosie's descent. At the sound of her voice, he turned to confront his redheaded nemesis, his face registering both surprise and confusion.


With a quick motion of her arm, Rosie released the rivets from her tongs and launched them at Hansen's chest. Two of them bounced off of his asbestos apron and landed on the sleeves of his heavy flannel shirt. The third, however, slipped down the top of Hansen's apron, causing the man to scream obscenities and dance around until the metal object, finally extricated, plopped onto the ground.


A highly agitated Bob Finch exploded from his office door. "What the hell is wrong with you, Keefe? Hansen, you hurt bad?"


Hansen shook his head.


"Thank God for that," Finch uttered in relief. "Everyone back to work. Keefe: my office."


Rosie obediently followed Finch into the shipyard office and stood before his desk. The foreman didn't even bother to close the door before launching into his tirade


"What the hell were you thinking? Hansen is our best heater. You could have burned him—badly."


"Hansen could have burned me badly, too," Rosie argued as she displayed the holes in her coat sleeves and the blistered red flesh on the arms beneath them.


"Besides, you shouldn't yell at me. He's the one who started it."


"Yeah, but there's a whole bunch of crazy broads lining up to take your place. There ain't any men left who can fill in for Hansen. You're fired, Keefe."


Rosie's anger and indignation dissipated, immediately replaced by regret and remorse. "But Mr. Finch—"


"No 'buts,' Keefe. Get outta here and let someone with a family to feed have your job."


"But I have a family to feed, too, Mr. Finch. Most of us women do. That's . . . that's why we're here." Her voice cracked as she fought the urge to cry. "Please.Please, Mr. Finch. My sister and her baby moved in with me just a few weeks ago, right after my brother-in-law was killed. I need to take care of them."


"You don't say?"


"Yes." She drew a deep breath. "Please, Mr. Finch, don't fire me. I'm sorry about Hansen. I lost my temper. It won't happen again."


"Damn right, it won't happen again. You think I'd let you anywhere near Hansen after what you did to him?"


"No," she conceded. "But I'll work anywhere else. I'll paint. I'll sweep up. I'll work in the cafeteria. Anything."


"Anything, huh?" A gleam flickered in Finch's eye.


"Yes. Anything. I just need a job."


Finch grinned and shut the office door. "Maybe there is a spot for you. You're a tiny thing. . . . I never noticed it until now. What do you weigh, 105? Or 110?"


"Around there, I guess. Why?" Rosie stepped backward as she felt a wave of anxiety wash over her.


"We could send you to weld the bottom of the hull." Finch moved closer, his eyes appraising her with every step.


Rosie took another step away from Finch only to back into his desk. "That sounds good," she responded nervously.


"It should. It pays more than you've been making." Finch continued his approach.


"That's very kind of you. Who should I see about being trained?" she asked in an attempt to extricate herself.


Finch grabbed her by the wrist. "Not so fast."


Rosie's heart began racing and she wondered if she should scream. "What are you doing?"


"You and I need to discuss the terms of our agreement."


"Agreement?" she asked as she tried to yank her wrist free of Finch's grasp.


Finch grabbed her other wrist and pulled her closer. "You owe me, Rosie. That's what Delaney calls you, isn't it? 'Rosie.'"


"Let go of me!"


Finch only tightened his grip, all the while smiling menacingly. "Come on now, that's no way to treat the man who just saved your job, is it?"


"I don't want the job. I don't want this. Let me go!" Rosie struggled to break free, but Finch was incredibly strong.


"Let you go? But we're just getting started. You said you'd do anything to keep your job, didn't you?"


"I meant cleaning up or—or . . . but not this," Rose explained, all the while trying to free her hands.


Finch pushed her backward against the desk. "So you're gonna let that sister and nephew of yours starve just because you changed your mind about playing? That's silly, don't ya think? Especially when we both know you want to." As Finch moved his mouth closer to hers, Rose leaned forward and gave his lip a hard bite.


Finch reared back and instinctively brought his right hand to his mouth, leaving Rose's left hand free to grab the heavy green stapler from the desk behind her. Without a second thought, she lifted it above her head and brought it crashing down just above Finch's right temple.


Finch cried out in agony as Rosie swung open the office door and ran into the yard at breakneck speed, bumping into Michael Delaney on the way.


"Rosie, what happened? Your face—it's white. What happened? What did Finch do to you?"


Rose stared blankly at Delaney, uncertain of what he was saying or asking, certain only of her desire to run.


Several yards away, Bob Finch leaned out of his office door, a trickle of blood wending its way down the side of his face. "Keefe! You slut! I'll make sure you never get a decent job in this town again!"


The area surrounding the office fell silent as all eyes fell, in turn, from Bob Finch to Rose Doyle Keefe.


"Delaney!" Finch shouted. "I'll do the same to you if you don't get back to work!"


Delaney took Rose's hands and placed in them a handkerchief, a hipflask, and a one-dollar bill. "The money is for a cab so you get home safe," he instructed before sprinting back to his rivet gun. "The rest is for you—in case you need it. I'll check up on you later."


Rose pocketed Delaney's gifts, shot a vague smile in his direction, and took off through the Pushey Shipyard gates.

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Published on November 06, 2011 15:51 • 34 views