Introducing Annette

Have you ever done something rash thinking you were fearless, but really your act played you for a fool?

I created a character named Annette who is in 1900 and an orphan train rider. What do you think of her?

Study of a Girl c.1910 by Maxwell Gordon Lightfoot 1886-1911

Annette awoke in the cold night and flinched. She turned and saw Scott’s back lying next to her. Then she remembered. She had dreamed about her escape to Chicago. She dreamed she was on the train. It was she, not Casper, who was a stowaway, hiding in a boxcar. She replayed the escape and recalled it all. The clear night exposed a half moon made brighter by the reflection off the snow. Sitting in the shadows, Scott’s head rested on her thigh, his shaggy hair the color of hay, and it bounced rhythmically to the wheels riding the rails. His breath puffed steam as he slept. She smelled straw, soiled with horse dung and urine, and across the boxcar, a hobo lay half exposed. Propped up as though someone had chopped his body in half, the itinerant’s face and shoulders were lost in darkness. Annette stared at his stumpy legs attached to wrinkly boots and felt disgusted. The smell of his greasy-bourbon body odor intermingled with the foul straw. She thought she would be sick. Annette looked at the passing trees whipping by and realized her life was repeating itself. Her impulse to run away from the Moriarty farm had been all consuming. The satisfaction for outwitting Mrs. Moriarty by escaping her control inflated her and she smirked and thought, “I’m almost fifteen. I have a man, and I’m free!” But then Jonathan’s screams for her popped her smug expression until she drooped like a deflated balloon. She heaved a sigh and closed her eyes. Her hand fisted and she punched her other thigh. In her dreams, the escape plagued her for months.

When they arrived to Chicago two weeks later, Annette worked as a beer maiden. Scott followed through with a plan to get them both a job working at his uncle’s brewery. Annette hated it but did not complain. The men were rowdy and grunted German commands she did not understand. They grabbed her around the waist when she walked by, and some grabbed more until she adapted by wielding the tray in front of her or on her hip like a shield. She requested working behind the long walnut bar in order to create more space from their hairy, chaffed hands. She felt nauseous from the yeasty smell of the beer and the tangy harsh mustard. The soft pretzels, slightly sweet, combined with cigarette and cigar smoke made her stomach flip. She began her day at the beer hall of the brewery at seven. She helped shape and boil the pretzels with a grumbling Oma. She refilled the mustard crocks, washed the tin cups, and vomited until her senses readjusted. By noon, the men from the bottling plant came into the beer hall for lunch, and each worker received a large pretzel and a healthy serving of beer. They had a half an hour to smoke, eat, and drink their beer.

In the evening, at seven, after she finished washing three hundred tin cups, and the massive vats of sauerkraut and knockwurst were refilled or hosed clean, she shuffled tiredly into their room on the fifth floor at the brewery rented to them by the uncle. Scott had lit a couple candles. He was frowning, and his shadow, garish and askew on the gray wall exaggerated his agitation. Annette noticed with growing frequency he resorted to an evening tirade about the indignity of working at a brewery in the bottling plant. His uncle was the founder and his father a silent partner of Mueller Brewery. Why wouldn’t they give him a better job in an office instead of working with the immigrants who spoke little English and were brutes? Why shouldn’t he be learning how to be a meister?

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