One Man's Meet
A Chance Encounter
Gilbert Stuart is a man in a big hurry. He needs to make it on time to this important appointment, but he also needs to make a good impression on his future employer. He has heard that things are a lot better out West than they are on the East Coast. Sure, the Depression has reached its stretched its wicked arm west of the Mississippi River, however the impact didn't seem as bad. Therefore, Gilbert decides that it is time that he leave his life in The Big Apple for greener pastures. While he walks the streets of the city he makes an unforgettable encounter.
“How much for a shoe shine?” Gilbert asks puffing nervously on his vintage pipe.
“A buck and a quarter, bud.” The grimly looking fellow answers giving Gilbert the once over.
“Seems a little steep, my friend. This is the depression.” Gilbert replies fishing around in his pocket and coming up with only eighty-five cents.
“Look buster, it’s hard for everybody so don’t sing me no sad song.” Pigeon replies wiping his mouth with a slender hand after expelling a wad of chewing gum. “I got a wife and a young son.”
“What’s your name?” Gilbert asks with interest.
“They call me Pigeon because I like to roost in this here spot.” Pigeon states and for the first time he shows a set of perfectly straight pearly white teeth a shocking contrast to his otherwise motley appearance.
“My name is Gilbert, Pigeon and how would you like a real job. By the way I don’t mean to pry but how’d you get those pearly whites?” Gilbert cocks his head to one side.
“Well Gilbert, I used to be one of the most successful dentist this town ever had. I extended a lot of credit to some of our more prominent businessmen. Had a right good thing going on until the bottom fell out of the stock market.” Pigeon recalls his successful practice. “Then people started jumping out of windows … over bridges … hell you’d thought it was Judgement Day.”
“Couldn’t you have just moved your practice to another city?” Gilbert is intrigued.
“If they don’t have money in New York City … where the hell will they have money?” Pigeon wants to know losing his “poor man’s rhetoric.”
“I’m going on a job interview. This is why I need the shine. I hear that there is money in California. I’m down to my last eighty-five cents. But, if you give me your address I will send you and your family a ticket when I get established. I’m sure they’re hurting for qualified dentist in California.” Gilbert offers.
“And what makes you think that I’m so qualified?” Pigeon inquires.
“If you can have teeth like that … you GOT to be kidding. What do you say?” Gilbert extends a well manicured hand and grips Pigeon’s. Pigeon looks into Gilbert’s face as if seeing him for the first time. He notices the light blue eyes, the well combed blonde hair but most important the sincerity in his face. Then for the first time he smiles.
“I may be the biggest fool in The Big Apple but I believe you. I’ll shine ‘ya for nothing. Here’s my card from better days.” Pigeon handles him a small white business card.
A Surprising Revelation
SIR OLIVER WENDELL WORTHINGTON III, DDS
“Hey, isn’t your father ...” Gilbert begins.
“Yes, and I would rather shine shoes than take his charity, so don’t ask. Anyway, if you are a man of your word ... and I believe that you are...I won’t have to worry about this. It’s been awhile since I’ve been with my wife and son; they’re with my father, you understand. Mary didn’t want to leave me and neither did Ollie but I refuse to go back to London. A man’s got nothing if he don’t have his pride.” Pigeon returns to his more familiar rhetoric.
“I understand Pigeon. Just where are you staying right now?” Gilbert asks.
“I got me a spot in the subway. I sleep with one eye open and as long as I got a place for my toothbrush and Double Bubble ... I’m ok.” Pigeon replies somewhat embarrassed.
“My room is paid up until the end of the month so you can bunk down there. Nothing fancy but it’s a clean boarding house. Momma Kelly doesn’t take to rough-housing and I don’t mean any harm but you’ll have to bathe.” Gilbert finishes and now it was his turn to feel embarrassed.
“Hey, this is just my street look ... you know for the general public. I wouldn't want the folks to recognize their dentist.” Pigeon smiles again sporting those beautiful teeth.
“Ok, Pigeon … why don’t you get yourself cleaned up and meet me here at about 5:30 pm.” Gilbert replies as Pigeon finishes up the shine.”
“You’ve got yourself a deal. Oh and by the way—nice meeting you.” Pigeon says then watches Gilbert as he vanishes into the shadows.
The potentials that this short story has are many. It can become a series, a novel or you could just add more to the short story itself. More characters can be introduced and many more locations can be added. I cannot stress the need for research. Some considerations would be: what impact did the Great Depression have on the West Coast? Was England affected in any way by the Depression? What types of perils are involved in traveling across country?
Hopefully, this will give you some ideas on creating a fictional historical short. You don't have to go all the way back to the Victorian Era but if you do remember two things: outline and research!
© 2014 Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS