(This is a story I’m currently working on. I haven’t enjoyed writing this much in a long time)
The fog covering the Brooklyn docks in May was thin and made the world look three shades greyer than usual. The sight was something Fionn McMillan was used to seeing every spring morning, and something he looked forward to every cold winter morning. May mornings were the most comfortable in all the twelve months, and as he pulled on his worn black work-boots, he thanked God for the cooling fog to combat the shoulder-to-shoulder human heat of New York City. He pulled his worn blue suspenders over his shoulders and exited the bunk-room of the boarding house; the rustle of waking boys had just amplified behind him. Fionn loved lonely May mornings at the docks more than anything, even if it meant waking up an hour before anyone else to be the first to get there.
His walk was short. He stopped at the large brick building marked World Newspaper Distribution Center Number Three and bought his papers to sell for the day. He hurried down to the docks as soon as he had the papes in his hands, almost running the whole three blocks. He immediately sold half of his papers to the educated dock managers and spent an hour watching the fog burn off the surface of the water. The main reason for Fionn’s ritualistic morning visits was the fact that the experience filled him with deep, yearning nostalgia. These mornings with the fog and the pale, warm yellow sun rising over the edge of the city reminded him of his home in Ireland. He could almost feel something akin to waking up on the family farm and looking out the window at the pasture, the deep grey of the gloom contrasting starkly against the vibrant greens of the patchwork landscape.
Fionn ached for home more than anything in the world. He missed his parents, of course, and he missed Moira (replace name, Bridget? Maureen?), his childhood sweetheart; most of all though, he missed Ireland.
New York was so compact and crowded and impersonal. In Ireland he had known all of his neighbors and their children and families. He knew Farmer O’Reardan’s sheep apart from each other and always had enough room to run down the street without being jostled or almost run over by carts or carriages. Not in New York. Brooklyn was a bustling mess of crushing crowds and people always rushing to be somewhere they currently weren’t. The only reason he was here was the famine, of course. Half of his country was in America because of the famine. Most of them remained trapped in New York after their hellish stay on Ellis Island, too new and curious to want to leave just yet.
Only his Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Joseph had managed to get out of New York right away. The only reason for the family’s escape being his Uncle’s steady job laying railroad tracks. Fionn, too thin to build railroads and too clumsy to work in a small grocery store had become a newsboy. He peddled papers for a penny each all over the city, but usually he stuck close to the docks. All sorts of people came to the docks and most of them (except the boat hands who were only good for the grunt work of loading and unloading cargo) could read decently enough to want a paper every morning. Hell, some of the illiterate ones bought papers because they could afford it and it made them look a smidgen more intelligent. Some of them, he knew, only bought it for the race reports from over at Sheepshead Bay.
“Oy, bucko,” a familiar voice called from the Blue Star Line cargo dock, “Bring them papes over ‘ere.”
“I’m coming, Greg, calm down,” Fionn laughed, jogging over to his friend. The grey-haired man with spectacles kept diligent reports of two things: Blue Star Line’s food rations and the Sheepshead Bay reports for a horse named Clover Brand. “Alright, that’ll be one penny, sir.”
“Knock it off with the fancy words, bucko,” Greg chortled, tipping his flat cap back and out of his range of vision, “Ye know me well enough te stop with the ‘sirs’.”
“It’s just a habit, I s’pose,” Fionn shrugged. Greg tousled his hair and Fionn rolled his eyes, smiling.
“Don’t roll yer eyes at yer elders, Fionn McMillan,” Greg intoned, “If ye know what’s good for ye.”
“How have you kept your accent all these years?” Fionn asked suddenly, feeling rather naked with his Irish brogue hidden beneath not-too-shabby New York accent he’d learned at the boarding house.
“I live with a strong red-headed, red-blooded Irishwoman,” Greg winked, “I dinna live with a group of boys who jabber all day in their Brooklyn high-hat brogues.”
“So I should just find myself an Irish girl and I’ll be set for life?” Fionn questioned.
“Not just any Irish girl, lad, you must find yourself the Irish girl.”
“You mean Moira?” Fionn sputtered, “I haven’t seen her since we were wee children together.”
“Ah, but whenever this lass comes up in conversation you turn a bright shade of pink, laddy. I think you remember her better than she actually is,” Greg teased.
“Oy, she was beautiful. I’m sure she’s even more so now,” Fionn leaned against the wooden dock railing and sighed, “And she could dance like no other girl in our town.”
“See, laddy? You’ve got it worse than you’d like to admit,” Greg chuckled again. “I’ve got to get back to me numbers, but I wish ye good luck in yer search.”
“Good day, Greg,” Fionn tipped his head to his friend before rushing off to finish selling his short stack of papers to the dock workers further down.