Going Home – A Fine Chance Christmas Story

 In Being An Author, Bluestocking Belles, Follow Your Star Home

I’m so thrilled to be part of the Bluestocking Belles 2018 Christmas anthology, Follow Your Star Home.

They are beautiful, original stories, but we decided that we wanted to do something more, so each of us have an extra little story for you.

Mine takes place in 1921 during Robert Fairmont’s two year journey from Toronto, where he found the magic ring, back to San Francisco where his future and his destiny lay.

I hope you enjoy this tale as well as those by the remarkable Bluestocking Belles.

Check them out:

December 1921

You’re going home
You’re going home
You’re going home
You’re going home

The four beat rhythm of the rolling train had lulled Robert Fairmont to sleep a hundred miles back. But he awakened as the train slowed to manage a wide sweeping corner.

He had dreamed of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate, the precipitous streets and bustle of the city where one could walk six blocks and hear a dozen different accents.

Home.

You’re going home
You’re going home

Even the long wail of the train whistle seemed to cheer him on.

He’d been on the road for nearly a year and had got no further than Iowa. Perhaps it was Nebraska now.

Robert wasn’t be certain. He had hopped a lift on the freight train with three other men two days ago, other hobos like him – bearded and dishevelled – who had risked their lives to hitch a ride on the moving train. None of them could afford the fare and all of them had places to be.

Robert sat up, resting against the edge of the door – one of two open either side of the car – and watched the blur of green from the trees as they went by. He savoured the warmth from rising sun, which caught and reflected on the gold signet ring on his right hand.

He knew he was foolish to wear it openly but last night he was close to the edge of despair, destitute and hungry. The ring reminded him of why he started his journey from Toronto all those months ago.

What a foolish young man he’d been all those years ago. He couldn’t remember what he had argued with his father about. War had a habit of changing a man – reorienting his priorities. What he had seen on the battlefields of France would haunt him for a lifetime.

He wanted to go home back to the large mansion townhouse on Nob Hill, back to the life of privilege and wealth he’d so carelessly scorned. Robert would ask for forgiveness and, if nothing else, at least that side of the ledger would be squared.

You’re going home
You’re going home

The hypnotic sound of the train threatened to lull Robert into another doze. Movement caught his eye but he was not quick enough. One of the men grabbed his arm.

“What do we have here, then boys?”

With his free arm, Robert swung a punch into the man’s middle and pulled his arm free. When he turned, two other men had taken his satchel and were rummaging through his meagre belongings.

“He’s hard up like the rest of us, Jim,” said one man, aged in his late forties judging by the grey in his hair.

“Not a nickel,” the other man confirmed.

Jim was a big man, two inches taller than he was. While Robert was no slouch, he knew from his time in the army there was a time to fight and a time to walk away.

“There’s that fancy ring of yours,” the large man growled, rubbing his gut from where the punch connected.

Robert glanced down at it. It was gold with a multi-pointed star on its flat face. He picked it up off the street in Toronto. He’d handed it in to the police instead of pawning it. Three months later, it hadn’t been claimed, so it was his.

He’d seen it as some sort of omen, a sign, a small Christmas miracle. God knows he needed it then and it needed it now.

“Hand it over.”

“No.”

Three against one were bad odds.

Robert dove for his satchel as the train slowed further. He snatched it from one of the hobo’s hand and leapt through the other side of the freight car’s open door without thought for what lay on the other side.

He fell heavily on the stone ballast and slid down an embankment into the midst of a lightly wooded forest. His clothes ripped at the knees and at the seam of his sleeve. It was his last good shirt.

He breathed in the frigid winter air scented with cedar from the trees around him. Robert threw an arm over his eyes to shield them from the sun and laughed bitterly. How ironic that he, heir to the Crusader Shirt enterprise, had no more decent clothes.

Merry-damn-Christmas!

Well, there was nothing for it. If he journey was not to end here, freezing and starving to death alone in the wilds, he would have to get moving. Robert got to his feet, every joint aching and swung the pack across his back. If he kept following the rails in the direction of travel, he’d surely come to a township.

After a walking a mile he heard the unmistakable sound of chopping wood. It sounded some distance off. Perhaps it was a logging camp? If so, he could work a while until he’d earned enough to continue his passage westward.

Light streamed through the trees as the afternoon wore on. The warmth of the day ebbed as clouds closed in the sky. The winter chill touched parts of his flesh still bruised and raw from the leap from the train. Robert felt hunger gnawing, but worse still was the thirst. He smelled smoke and picked up his pace. The sound of chopping, the smell of smoke… habitation had to be nearby!

Robert entered the clearing. He saw a small wooden cottage with smoke drifting from a stone chimney. A woman, youngish with dark brown stood before the wood pile, she raised a axe high above her head and heft it on a log, a splinter flew off but otherwise appeared undamaged.

“Mama!”

A child, no older than four ran from the house.

“Come on baby girl, time to round up the chickens and get them inside. There’s going to be snow tonight.”

The little girl called out, “chook, chook, chook” and entered the little henhouse and through the open door. Robert saw her scatter a measure of corn and, as if on cue, four hens emerged from their hiding place and ran towards their shelter.

“Can I help you, mister?”

The voice that called to him was not a friendly one. Robert turned his attention back the woman. She was lean and her working clothes, a pair of men’s trousers rolled up to the ankle and a large flannel shirt which swamped her frame. She brandished the axe like a weapon. He knew what he must look like and could not blame her.

“I came off the train a mile or so back,” he called across the clearing. “Is there a town or a village nearby?”

“Cedar Creek is ten miles farther, but you’re not going to make it before nightfall.”

Hell! Robert fought to quell his disappointment. Perhaps he should have just stayed on the ground back where he fell and died.

“Can I spend the night in your barn? I’ll finish the chopping the wood for you.”

The woman looked uncertain for a moment before nodding once decisively.

Robert felt it safe to approach. The woman placed the axe on top of the wood pile and backed towards the house.

He wearily dropped his pack and examined the chore ahead, paying no attention to the woman or the child, who asked her mother about him in hushed tones.

It felt good doing something physical after days of inactivity in the freight car. The exertion added to aches from his fall but he no longer cared, keeping his attention on chopping the pile of logs until they were usable for the fireplace.

By the time Robert had stacked the last of them under the shelter of a lean to, the sun had settled low into the west.

He eyed the barn and imagined it was Palace Hotel in San Francisco with its stained glass dome and crystal chandeliers.

“Hey Mister!”

The woman’s harsh call brought him back to reality.

“Bring in an armful of that timber and you’ll get a meal.”

That was incentive enough.

He got as far as the mudroom when the woman held out her arms for the timber. Robert thought he should say something, offer to carry it into the house, but this woman seemed to pride herself on her self-sufficiency.

The outside of the cottage might have looked weather-worn but from what he could see, the inside was neat and well-kept. On a bench a large jug of steaming water and a bowl waited for him.

The woman stood in the door way barring entrance to the kitchen where the aroma of something delicious was cooking on the stove.

“They your best clothes?” she asked.

Robert nodded.

“Wait there,” she ordered and closed the connecting door. In the weak lamplight he opened his pack and found his shaving kit and began to wash. If he could manage it, he would try to shave without cutting himself.

It would feel good to be clean again. Robert stripped down to his trousers and washed his upper body. The woman opened the door and hesitated before turning her head. In her arms were folded garments that smelled of cedar.

“Here. These belonged to my late husband.”

“Thank you,” he said, taking them from her. “You never told me your name.”

“You never told me yours,” she countered.

“My name is Robert… Bob Quinn.”

Robert used the name on his identity papers and stencilled onto his army-issue duffle bag. It had been his mother’s maiden name and he used it to enlist in Canada. He wouldn’t call himself Fairmont until he attempted to reconcile with his father.

“My name is Mrs. Green. Eliza Green.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Green, your kindness is truly appreciated.”

The woman closed the door and left him to finish washing. After he did so, and changed into the new clothes and knocked on the internal door to the kitchen.

He stood at the threshold, waiting for approval, wanting some of the delicious stew he could smell and it was mixed with something else.

Robert glanced down at the ring. It was a dress rehearsal of sorts. If he could show himself worthy of being welcomed to this woman’s table, then perhaps he may be welcomed at his table at home.

The door opened and Eliza Green appraised him.

“Come in if you’ve washed your hand.”

Already seated was the little girl, her legs swinging beneath her.

“This is my daughter Melanie.”

Formal manners instilled in him as a boy came back. He gave her a bow.

“Dinner’s ready, you just sit yourself down.”

“Thank you again for helping a stranger,” he said, choosing the chair closest to him.

“Well you know what they say, ‘some have entertained angels unawares.’.”

Eliza set down bread and a large bowl of stew in front of him then returned to the stove to

The meal passed in uncomfortable silence, Eliza Green wary of him and little Melanie taking a cue from her mother.

The food was delicious and he nearly wept with gratitude when Eliza refilled his bowl for seconds without asking.

“Do you read, Mr. Quinn?” little Melanie asked.

“I do.”

“It’s Christmas Eve, will you read us the Christmas story? Papa used to.”

Eliza glanced away. Robert  felt the rawness of her grief.

“I’d be glad to.”

Eliza left the cozy little room and returned with a big black Bible and set it before him.

He opened up the book and found his way to the Gospel of Luke and began to read.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

After a while, Eliza put her daughter to bed and returned to the table and place a cup of black coffee before him.

“Mr. Quinn, if you’ve got nowhere else to be in a hurry, I could use a hand around here for a few months until my brother and his wife arrive in the spring.”

“Two prayers were answered today, Mrs Green,” said Robert. “I’m glad to stay until spring.”

The relief on the young woman’s face touched him deeply.

“Thank you. You were the answer to a prayer. A miracle,” she whispered, fighting back emotion, “I couldn’t pay much more than room and board, but it might be enough to get you the next stage of your way home.”

The signet ring on his finger glinted in the lamplight.

Yes, he was going home, but not tonight.

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Showing 11 comments
  • Catherine Maguire
    Reply

    I enjoyed this story and this blog post.

  • Lori Dykes
    Reply

    Loved the story and of course Follow your Star Home was wonderful!!

    • EE Carter
      Reply

      Thank you so much Lori! I’m humbled to be part of such an amazing group of authors like the Bluestocking Belles!

    • EE Carter
      Reply

      Oh, thank you so much Lori! <3

  • Roxane Twisdale
    Reply

    I bought the new anthology the other day finally. I haven’t read it yet but I will. I enjoyed the others so much. This story was awesome , maybe you can come out with a new book about him seeing his father again.

    • EE Carter
      Reply

      Hi Roxane,
      Then you’ll love this anthology! Robert meets his father again – and finds love along the way. <3

  • Geralynn Ross
    Reply

    I love Bob Quinns’ story ! Thank you 🙂

  • Deborah Ohara
    Reply

    That was beautiful. Thank you for writing it.

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December 2018 of Love's Great adventure Magazine