Out in the street, there was shouting and the sounds of people hurrying. Anna had been right: The railroaders had started a fight with the men who ran the shell game.
“Do you want to go watch?” Jake asked. “We can stay out of the way.”
Anna shook her head. “If you can see what is happening, you are in the way. Let’s go here.” She started down the alley away from the noise. “I have to go to Lawrence Street anyway.”
“That’s where we live!” Tommy said. “Do you live there, too?”
She shook her head. “No, I have to go to Daniels and Fisher’s store and buy some thread for my mother, this color.” She turned one of her cuffs of her sleeve inside out and showed them a bit of thread sewn onto the underside. “Then I have to go meet my father and go home. We have a farm outside of town. I come in with him when he comes to work each day so I can go to school.”
“You have a farm but your father works in town?” Tommy asked.
“He didn’t used to,” she said. “But now he has to run the farm and also work at the feed store, Harris Brothers.”
“I know that store,” Jake said. “It’s by the train station. Our father – my new father – works at the lumber yard, McPhee and McGinnitty’s, just across the way and up a little.”
They turned onto Lawrence Street and began walking towards Daniels and Fisher’s department store.
“He comes home so tired at night,” Anna said. “It is not fair. My older brother is very nice but he is like a baby. He is like that railroader back there. He was so easy to cheat.”
“Oh,” Tommy said. “That’s what you meant about a bad man taking money?”
“Ya,” Anna nodded. “They saved money for years and years so that Dennis could buy his own land and have his own farm, but he didn’t do it. Instead, he bought a gold mine without any gold in it. He was cheated and now all the money is gone. So now our father has to start all over again.”
“He tried to get rich quick,” Tommy nodded.
“He’s very nice but he’s so foolish!” Anna said. “My mother – I mean, my mother in New York – she would always say, ‘Ohne Arbeit gibt es kein Brot.’”
“That’s just what our father was telling us yesterday,” Jake said, but the other two stopped to look at him.
“How did you know what she said?” Tommy asked.
“She said ‘Without work, there is no bread,’” Jake said, but his face grew red. “I don’t know. I just … well, that’s what you said, right?”
“You never told me you spoke German!” Tommy said.
“Verstehst du, was ich jetzt sage?”* Anna asked him.
Jake shrugged. “Yes. I guess. I don’t know!”
“I’ll bet you’re German!” Tommy said. “Didn’t you even know you were German? You’re German!”
“Leave me alone!” Jake said. “I don’t remember! I don’t know!”
He looked like he was about to cry, but now Anna was curious and kept asking him questions. “You don’t remember? How old were you when you ran away?”
“I didn’t run away,” Jake said, in an angry tone. “I didn’t run away. My old man threw me out after my ma and my brother and the baby died, because I wasn’t good for anything. Because he couldn’t sell me the way he sold my sister.”
“We figure he was about four,” Tommy said quietly.
Anna glanced over at Tommy, then stopped walking and looked Jake in the eye. “He sold your sister?”
“He sold her to a cigarmaker,” Jake said. “But I was too little to work, so he just took me downtown on the streetcar and dumped me off and left me.”
“Who was the cigarmaker? Do you remember?” she asked.
“No,” Jake said, and he sounded almost angry. “I told you, I was little. I don’t remember some Bohemian woman’s name! I only saw her that one time.”
“She was Bohemian?” Anna asked. “How do you know that?”
Jake shrugged. “Cigarmakers are Bohemians, right? Anyway, she spoke a funny language. Everybody in her tenement spoke funny. Papa had to make signs to her about how much money he wanted.”
“Where did you live?” she asked.
“I don’t know. But it was an awful place, worse than anything. There were no windows. It was dark and people were always yelling. Then my ma got sick and then the baby got sick, and then my big brother, and they all died, all but me and my sister and our pa,” Jake said. “And he was awful. Mama was nice, but Papa used to stay in the beer place downstairs all the time, and when he did come home … he was awful.”
“What were their names?” Anna asked. “Wie waren ihre Namen?”
“I don’t remember!” Jake insisted, but now Anna took hold of his shoulders, and her eyes were filling with tears.
“Jacob,” she said, but she pronounced it in the German style, “Yah-kobe.” She looked at Jake carefully as she said, “Jacob Metzger.”
And looking at his startled face, she knew she was right and she began to cry. “Your sister’s name was Anna. Oh, Jacob, I thought you were dead!”
* “Do you understand what I’m saying now?”
Text c. 2010, Mike Peterson - Illustrations c. 2010, Christopher Baldwin