(A fictionalized history series exploring what may have happened to the 57 Irish railroad workers believed to be buried in 1832 in a mass grave 30 miles west of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Past series have explored Polio, the Tunguska Event, the First Use of the Electric Chair, and the X-Ray Martyrs.)
John struggled with the wheelbarrow spilling dirt.
The packed trail snaked along hillsides under huge oak trees. He never saw so many trees. Horizon to horizon. America was a land of towering shadows.
Mr. Duffy’s foreman stood at the dumping point over the cut. He was counting wheelbarrows. If it wasn’t heaping, no count, and no pay.
“I had to shovel myself,” John said as he huffed under the weight. “My man ran into the forest. I think he shit himself.”
The foreman didn’t look up from his notebook.
He heaved the load up and over. The tiny addition of earth landed on a mound growing far below.
John leaned and rested for a precious few seconds. “I heard him moaning back there,” he said.
“Second one today,” the foreman said. “We’ll fetch him.”
“Not your concern.”
John didn’t like the sound of that. There were whispers about cholera on the ship. And whispers of a passenger or two helped overboard. Questions were met with tight lips. Nobody else wanted to end up disembarking early.
“You’ll be wanting more loads if you want a wage today,” the foreman said.
“I need another man.”
The foreman shrugged.
“But I need a digger!”
“That load there was skimped,” the foreman said, gesturing over the edge. “No credit.”
John slammed the wheelbarrow down.
He heaved the wooden wheels around to circle back.
“You leave that man alone,” the foreman said.
On to Part 3.