"Yeah, I'm Joe. Whad'ya want?"
"Please sir, I was told to speak with you. My name is Jesse, and I'm lookin' for a job. I know I'm not big, but I can lift pretty heavy stuff. I've helped in a lumberyard, and I ain't afraid've hard work."
"Well, I could use an extra boy around here. The last one stowed away on a freighter going to America. You won't try anything foolish like that, will ya, boy?"
"Well then, you can start on that ship over there, the Sally B. She's bein' loaded now. Than man in the stocking cap, 'enry, 'e'll show ya the ropes. Just don't be falling asleep on the job, or you'll be the worse for it. Well, go on now, what're ya waitin' for, the ship to come to you? Get to work."
"Y-y-yes, sir," the boy stammered. "Th-thank you, sir." He turned toward the ship, and Joe watched him for a moment, then turned back to his work with a shrug of his shoulders.
Sweating under the midday sun, Jessie pushed back a strand of her shorn hair, then resumed her struggle with what must ahve been the heaviest crate yet. Finally it clunked against the gangplank, and she striaghtened up and leaned against it, panting.
She looked around for Henry, but he seemed to have disappeared. And good riddance, she thought. The way he looked at her made her nervous. It reminded her of her uncle.
"Hey! You, boy!" Joe's voice made Jessie jump. "Are you slacking off?" He laughed as Jessie quickly threw her wieght against the box. "It's all right, boy. Take a break and 'ave some dinner. Can't 'ave you fallin' down on the job now, can we," he added with a chuckle as she wearily walked over to the warehouse.
"Did you bring anyting to eat, boy?" Joe asked as Jessie sat down heavily on a smaller crate. Jessie blushed and ducked her head, mumbling "No, sir."
"Well, you can 'ave a piece of my bread today, but you'd best not be forgetting again or you'll get no pity from me."
Jessie accepted the thick, fresh slice gratefully. "Thank you, sir."
"And stop calling me 'sir.' Ev'ryone around here calls me Joe."
"Y-yes, sir--I mean, Joe," Jessie stammered, blushing deeper. Joe laughed again.
The dinner break was short-lived. A young man was walking purposefully towards them.
"Which one of you is Joe?" he asked.
"I am, sir," the warehouse manager replied. "'ow can I 'elp you?"
"I am David Gray, and I have two passages booked on the Sally B. I would like to leave the trunks here. They're in the carriage."
"Johnson, 'enry, Jesse, you heard the gen'lman. Go get the trunks."
Jessie forced herself to her feet and stuffed the rest of her meal into her mouth and she made her way to the carriage, followed by Henry and Johnson. Johnson was 16, about 20 years younger than Henry, and was constantly following the older man around like a lost puppy. Jessie almost felt sorry for the boy for picking such a role model.
Henry lifted one trunk by himself, and Johnson tried to follow suit. Jessie impatiently grabbed at a handle as the boy staggered under the wieght, and he reluctantly let her help him carry it to the ship. Ahead of them, Henry had stopped. He pushed away the crate Jessie had left by the gangplank with a muttered curse at her.
An impatient female voice called to the young man from the carriage, and he imediately left his conversation with Joe to join her. As they disappeared from sight, Jessie and Joe followed Henry up the gangplank and towards the cabins that Joe had indicated. Before they had reached land again there was another "gen'lman" waiting to "request" that his belongings be stowed.
The rest of the day was spent loading crates in the hold and trunks in the cabins. Three other parties dropped off their belongings for the coming voyage, and Joe urged the workers to load as many crates as possible, since more and more people would be dropping off luggage as Monday drew nearer.
Finally Jessie started home, too proud of herself to be tired. When she reached the shack, she happily tidied it up a bit, humming to herself. She was lost in thought when a loud howl caused her to jump. She laughed at herself when she recognized the noisy mongrel as Bruno, a stray that had befriended her. She had been so out of it, she hadn't heard him scratching to come in. She opened the door and gave him an apologetic smile as he entered, sniffing and nosing around the small room.
"Here you go, boy," she said, handing the dog half a piece of bread. She was feeling generous tonight. He gulped it down and licked her hand, then trotted out the door.
Suddenly Jessie's day of hard work caught up with her, and she quickly closed the door and lay down, asleep as soon as her head touched the blankets.