Post 67: Excerpt from The Rooming House Diaries

The second novel by Bill Mathis will be published in August 2019 by Rogue Phoenix Press. Available for preorder through Amazon as eBook or paperback around mid-July, 2019.

Diary 3

Hank Sawicki – continued

Arrival of Arnaud, 1934


February 15, 1934

To: Eugenia Johnson, Bar X Ranch, Hawk Springs, Wyoming

Fr: Hank Sawicki

French sun arrives Friday, 1:00 pm, Cheyenne train. He will explain. Dad fine. Thanks

~ * ~


February 19, 1934

To: Hank Sawicki

(Hold for pick up, do not deliver)

Fr: Eugenia Johnson

French SON arrived safely Saturday with telegram. Has your eyes. Will write.

~ * ~

February 28, 1934

My dear brother Hank,

I have waited these eleven days to write. I, actually we—Harry, the five kids and myself, plus Arnaud—needed some time to adjust to the shock of a fourteen-year old French boy appearing at our door shortly after a blizzard, arriving in the big mail truck whose driver also carried your telegram notifying us of a French Sun arriving Friday. Obviously, the Chicago telegraph operator misunderstood you or mis-keyed the word son.

That Saturday, the big girls were out repairing fence and trying to start the Dodge Powerwagon, our truck. One of them was on a horse, checking for early-born calves. She found one and her father was helping her get it to the house because the mother apparently died in the blizzard after birthing it.

Everything converged at once, the truck driver waving a telegram, Arnaud trying to tell us something in French about his father Monsieur Hank Sawicki, Harry and Marti lugging in a baby calf barely able to bawl, the little girls rushing around to gather warm blankets for the calf and fill a calf-bottle. Everyone talking like the tower of Babel. It got quiet for a second and Arnaud said in understandable English, “I think I will like it here.” He sat down by the little girls and began helping them feed the calf.

“Who are you? Why are you here?” I finally gasped as everyone stared at this kid.

The truck driver handed me the telegram. The driver said, maybe it meant French son instead of French sun. I wanted to wipe the smirk off his face. Plus, I knew by the end of the day, all the other ranchers and town folk in the area would know we had a French son. Smoke signals travel fast out here.

Arnaud smiled and politely said, “My name is Arnaud Sawicki Aubuchon. My mother died two weeks ago. Her name was Simone Aubuchon. She had a love affair in nineteen-nineteen with Monsieur Hank Sawicki who could not take her to United States of America with him. He left without knowing she was pregnant…

“My mother always told me about Monsieur Hank. How kind he was, how loving, how smart, how good at fixing things. How sad he was his mommy died and he had to go back to care for his father and couldn’t take her with him.”

His English is accented, but surprisingly easy to understand…He looked around at us and smiled again, like he belonged here and was perfectly comfortable.

His smile was enough to melt me, it’s like yours, Hank, but even more like our mother’s. His fine features remind me so much of our mother too.

Next, he asked, “Do you burp a calf?”

Next week Wednesday, another excerpt! Sign up to have them emailed directly to you.