A New Job for Tim
So Red Galvin wanted both his job and his daughter, did he! Old Tim Corkery would show ‘em — and show them, he did
WILLIAM ARTHUR BREYFOGLE
RED GALVIN’S long arm jerked him back. Red Galvin's hand on his shoulder dragged him up. kept him from falling. The five-ton truck trundled through the gate, and one of its huge tires neatly obliterated the last print of Tim Corkery’s old boot. It was a matter of inches. The truck jerked and slid to a stop, astride the crosswalk, and the driver tumbled out of his cab. His face was white. "Did I hit him?” he gas¡x*d.
Red said. "No, he’s here. He’s all right .”
The driver’s face, from white, turned turkey-red. He clenched a big fist. “All right, is he? Listen, you if you’re so keen on getting smashed, just coax me an’ I'll do it for you! I won't need no truck. What you think this is the Old Folks’ Home?”
Tim Corkery recover«! his voice. He was still shaking, in spite of all he could do to stop. “Well, and what do you think it is - a speedway? I’ll re|x>rt you for this.”
“If you don't reix>rt it, I will! You ain’t fit to lxout alone.”
"Y’ou got a horn why don’t you blow it?"
“G'wan. you couldn't hear Gabriel’s horn! 1 stopp«! there at the sign, like it says, and I her three times.” He appealed to R«1 Galvin. "What about it? You heard the horn?”
R«! nodded. “I heard it. yes.”
“Lucky for him you did.” The driver was a little placat«!. His fists had stopjxxl opening and closing. “Y ou think my record don't mean a thing to me? Twenty years I been rolling these babies, and never even flattened a cat. Y’ou want to keep Gramp out in the grass,” he told R«l, “where it's safe for him to play.”
“That’s about enough out of you.” Galvin’s voice harden«!. “I heard your horn, and maybe you did stop at the sign. Just the same, you took the gate at twenty, and that's too fast. On your way now, fellow. If you want to make something out of it, you know where to come.” They glared at each other. Then, grumbling, the driver climbed back into his cab and trod viciously on the starter. Tim Corkery discovered, to his high indignation, that the
younger man's hand was still clamped on his shoulder. He sliixik himself free. His voice was shrill with belated fury.
“What call have you got to be pawin’ me? Who told you I couldn’t look out for myself? I did it for a long time before you showed up, and I can do it still.”
Red Galvin had taken his hand away. He had an exemplary patience with the old man. "I’m sorry, Tim. I only thought you didn’t know the truck was coming.” “How should I know it? He didn’t give any sign.”
“Iíe blew his horn.”
“He did not blow it!” Tim cried, furious. “Want to make out I’m deaf? I'd have heard him, wouldn’t I? I'll report that driver to the lx>ss. It’s a rule they’ve got to blow their horns.”
"He did blow it, Tim. I won’t see the man lose his job.” “Rather see me lose mine, would you?”
Red shrugg«l. "Let’s forget it. Maybe it’s the heat.” Side by side, they resumed their way toward the machine shop.
In his office, Mr. James Porter turned away from the window. He had had a gcxxl view of the whole incident. He didn’t hear what they said to each other, and didn’t need to. He hadn’t been general manager of Gall-Porter. Inc., for thirty years without learning a gcxxl deal about his men. A factory wasn’t all profit and loss, manufacturing and sales. Mr. Porter was something of a specialist in human understanding.
npiM CORKERY' was a widower and Nora, his daughter, kept house for him. They were thrifty people. When Red Galvin came to work at Gall-Porter, they took him as a boarder in the house Tim had built with his own hands, a short walk from the factory. Galvin’s given name was Peter, but his nickname was generally held to be both physically and mentally a better description of the man. It was the combination of flaming thatch and easy belligerency which had first recommended him to Tim Corkery's notice. He liked the boy. and he considered himself a gcxxl judge. Nora liked him too, to the extent of commandeering his help with the dishes in the evenings, and going to a dance with him now and then, or to the movies. Under this treatment. Red Galvin came along nicely. He wasn’t quite so rebellious against instruction as he had been, not quite so prompt to take offense. The fact was, as Tim reported to the boss, it was the first steady job the bochad ever had.
“I was the same way myself at his age. before I’d had sense knockcxl into me. It's often so, with a man going from one job to another. There’s some will take whatever’s
given them, and take it lying down. No credit to them, if they’re made that way. The other kind, you take a chance of trouble when you hire them. But if they’ll fight for themselves, maybe you can train them to fight for you." "Galvin’s that kind, eh? How do the others like him?” “Real well, sir. He did have a bit of a fight with Tiny.” James Porter grinned. “Who won?”
“Well, sir, Galvin’s the faster on his feet. But they shook hands afterward. Twasn’t in company time, Mr. Porter. They had it out in the noon hour.”
“I’m glad it’s over. Y’ou might keep me posted about Galvin, Tim.”
“I will, sir,” said Tim Corkery.
'KyfR. PORTER was recalling that earlier conversation •*•*■*now. It was time they had a younger man on Tim’s gang. Tim himself was nearly seventy, and he had led a life of exacting physical toil. The others—Walt and Tom, Chuck and Tiny—were past middle age, and the hard work had told on them all. They were the yard gang, the bull gang, and the apple of Tim’s old eye. They specialized in the jobs that had all others stumped. They loaded the cars and mended the roof. They piled the lumber and painted the smokestacks. They worked with sledge and crowbar and block-and-tack le. They were trouble shooters and, now and then, trouble makers.
Porter didn’t hold that against them, particularly. If they were cantankerous, jealous of their independence, they were dependable too. Porter himself had a name for independence among his associates, and a secret liking for it in others. The bull gang exasperated him at times, but he never had to complain of them as yes-men. They regarded him as their equal, which was their mark of preferment. When they had an especially difficult job to do, it was common for the boss to come and watch.
That day, when he turned away from the window in his private office, he was deeply troubled. There was more to it than a near-accident. If the truck had hit old Tim, it would not have been the driver’s fault. Nor Tim’s, since he didn’t hear at all well. Y’ou had to shout at him now to make him understand. He gave Red Galvin full credit for saving Tim’s life. But that wouldn’t make things any easier, if he knew Tim.
Tim was getting old. The work hadn’t suffered seriously yet. but the temjx) was slower and the superintendents were impatient. Always independent, Tim Corkery had begun to show the cranks and crotchets of age, too. Hardly a day passed without complaints of him, and James Porter knew
that he couldn’t put off making a change much longer. The bull gang needed a new foreman, and Red Galvin was the man for the job. But it wasn’t going to be easy. The work was old Tim’s pride. In the whole world, he cared for nothing but that, and Nora. The problem, as Porter saw it. was to get Red installed without making bad blood between him and the old man. He had intended to take his time over solving that, but the episode of the truck frightened him. It might be the truest kindness to get the change made at once.
Largely because he disliked his own part in that change. Mr. Porter acted promptly. That same afternoon, he sent for Tim Corkery. “You remember what we were talking about a few weeks ago?” he began.
“What was that, sir?" Tim was uneasy.
“It was just after Sandy Bell died. We were talking about someone to take his place on the gate. The boy we’ve got there now does pretty well, but we ought to have an older man, one who knows more about the plant. I think you’re the man, Tim.”
“Me? On the gate?” The grey mustache bristled. “And what’s to become of the gang? Without me to tell them what wants doing, they’d only stand around with their hats on their heads.”
“They’d have to have a new foreman,” said James Porter patiently. “I was going to ask you about that, too. What about this Red Galvin you’ve been bringing along? He’s had a fair schooling.”
“He’s nearly thirty. You gave me good reports of him.”
“He’s a good worker.” Tim admitted grudgingly. “But ’tisn’t schooling that job wants, Mr. Porter; it’s the experience. Galvin’ll maybe do nicely one day, but that day isn’t yet.”
‘‘I’m not so sure of that. It was you who hired him, and you don’t often make mistakes.”
“I didn’t hire him to be foreman. I thought.” said the old man miserably, “that that was my job.”
“Well, I’m sorry, Tim. but none of us gets any younger. I’m not asking you to quit. I’m simply moving you to Sandy Bell’s job, because we need a man like you there. The pay’s the same as you’re getting now, and you won’t be asked to change again. Not in my time.”
Tim Corkery said stubbornly that it wasn’t a job for a man. “There was old Sandy with only the one leg to hold him up, after that time the punch press fell over on him.
when we were moving the new machinery in. It was all right for him, maybe, to sit there and tell them no help was wanted today, and him smoking his old pipe and taking it easy. But I’ve still got my strength, sir. I'd take it hard to have to give up the job I've got."
There was no use telling Tim the new job was just as important as the old. Mr. Porter was nearly as unhappy about all this as Corkery himself. But he said, "We might as well face the facts, whether we like them or not. It’s no good putting off what we’ll have to deal with before we're through.”
Staring straight ahead of him, Tim said, “But not right away, sir! Can’t you give me time to be getting used to the idea of it?"
James Porter considered. “I suppose sty if you think it will lx* easier that way. Tim, you’ve worked hard all your life, and you deserve a rest. Take a month olï and go for a trip. Take Nora.”
The old man snorted. “Devil a step the girl’d go with me, when Galvin’s here in town !”
Porter was interested. “It’s that way, is it? She’d make him a good wife.”
“No blessing of mine on it,” said Tim sourly. "But you'll give me maybe another year on the job, sir?”
“I will not ! I'd much prefer to see you make the change now. But. at most. I’ll give you until after the summer clean-up. That’s about six weeks. When the plant begins turning over again, after the shutdown. I want you on the gate. Tim. You can be showing Galvin some of the fine points of the job he’s to have. Don’t be too hard on him. Remember, he’s had nothing to do with this. He won't even be told about it until we’re ready to make the change. Nobody will be told. It’s between the two of us.”
SUPPER that evening, as far as Tim Corkery was concerned, was a silent meal. The one subject filling his mind wouldn’t bear discussion, least of all with Nora and Red Galvin. Anyway, the two of them didn’t pay much attention to him. For all they cared, he might be dead and buried.
He studied them covertly, as if they had been strangers. Nora had her mother's eyes and wide, shapely mouth. She was taller than her father, almost as tall as Galvin. If the girl got anything from old Tim. it was the bit of a temper she had. It went with the lift of her chin, the straight line of her back. Slic'd be a match for Galvin there, but she
was throwing herself away on him. she was! Maybe he’d get the job her father had had. but he wouldn’t lxthe man lier father had been. It was only because Tim Corkery had stood up for him that he’d got the chance to cut the ground out from under Tim Corkery's feet now. Mr. Porter was impressed with him, but Tim saw Galvin from close at hand, and with the sharp eyes of resentment. You couldn’t expect him to like what he saw. Red Galvin was going to take his job and, so it seemed, his daughter. And Mr. Porter told Tim Corkery not to be too hard on him !
Later, when lie was sitting on the steps, they came out together and stopjx-d in front of him. “Come to the movies with us. dad?” Nora asked.
He shook his head. "I'll stop here.”
The girl peered at him through the gathering darkness. “Do you feel all right? You haven’t got a headache?”
"I feel fine," he told her sharply, resentful of any mark of solicitude. “Don't worry about me. I'm not in my grave yet."
She put her hands on her hips. “There, now ! And when you are. like enough you’ll find fault with the gravedigger, Tim Corkery, and have a short answer for any friendly ghost.” She took Galvin’s arm. “We’ll bid you good night.” she said regally.
He didn't answer that, nor Galvin’s, “Gcxxi night, Tim.” He sat there and watched them go down the walk, arm in arm. The prettiest girl in the south end. Nora was. The old man's pipe was hot and bitter, and he knocked it out. For a little while the still-burning tobacco glowed brightly under the lilac that grew beside the steps. Then it went out, and he had not even that for company. He sat there until nine o’clock, and then went stiffly into his house and to bed.
IN SPITE of Mr. Porter’s injunction, he piled the work on Galvin, in the six weeks left to him. It was one way of showing him the fine points of the job. Galvin didn’t know about the job yet, but it wouldn’t hurt him to take orders, even if he had known. In his heart, Tim Corkery hoped for an explosion, a showdown between them while he still had the upper hand, the authority. Galvin disappointed him. 1 íe did what he was told to do, and did it well. He accepted rebukes without arguing, and not all of them were deserved. The patience he displayed was so little characteristic of him that it surprised them all. Rashly presuming upon it, Tiny ventured an insult or two, and had to back down hastily to save himself another beating. Evidently R(xl was making an except ion in favor of Tim. and Tim only.
It didn't cx'cur to anyone, even to Tim. that this might be Nora's doing. I íe could explain it only by sup|x>sing that Galvin had got wind somehow of the plan to make him the new foreman, and was determined not to s|x>i! his chances in the little time he had still to wait. But if Galvin had heard of the im|x-nding change, none of the rest of them knew. Tim was sure of that. I íe hadn't been their foreman all these years for nothing. They could never keep such a secret from him.
For Tim Corkery himself, it was a morose, unhappy time. He might have felt better if he could have provoked Galvin into a quarrel, but even that was denied him. The weeks stole past. Before he knew it. it was August. The factory closed down, as it did for two weeks every year. But those two weeks were the busiest of all for the yard gang. They had to give the place a general overhauling, from cutting the long grass at the back of the lot to washing the office windows. This year, when it was over. Tim would tx> through with the job that was his pride. He would take old Sandy's place at the gate.
Rebuilding the foundry furnaces was a hard, hot job. Sr) was painting the smokestacks, with a blistering sun beating down on the men in the ho’sun's chairs. But the hardest, dirtiest job of the lot was cleaning out the buried tanks that held oil for the furnaces. It had to be done each year, to keep the feed lines from clogging. There was no way to do it but. bv hand. A man climbed down the iron ladder, slippery and black with sludge, and sank above his ankles in the ooze at the bottom of the tank. The place stank of oil, and every stroke of the shovel made the reek worse. It set you coughing, and the least sound, flung back hollowly from the tank's glistening steel sides, confused you. Because it was the hardest job the yard gang had, Tim Corkery had always kept it for himself. To his mind, that was one of the obligations of being a foreman.
He was ten minutes late for work that morning, for the first time in years. He didn't know how he had come to oversleep. He had lain wakeful for a long time when he went to bed, staring into the darkness and thinking that he wouldn't have much longer on the job. The house was quiet , for Nora had gone out to a dance with Galvin. Old Tim had the darkness and silence to himself. But long after they came in. he was still tossing fretfully, without once closing his eyes. When he did fall asleep at last, probably he'd slept heavily. He hurried, to make up the lost ten minutes, but he was the last man through the gate. The yard gang were gathered around the mout!) of one of the tanks. They had the cover off. Tim Corkery saw that they hadn't waited for him.
He laid that to Galvin, and it was to Galvin he spoke when he came up to the group. “You don't need me any Continued on page 27
more. You’re well able to go on for yourself. Was it you took the cover off the tank?”
GALVIN nodded. “That’s what you told us to do today, Tim. Everything else is done up, anyway.”
“What about them rotten ties in the north siding?”
“Put them in last thing yesterday.” Tim Corkery glared at him, while the others watched in curiosity. It wasn’t like Tim to blame a man for getting on with the work he’d been told to do, but lately, for some reason, he was bad friends with Galvin. He said now with elaborate sarcasm, “And what were you thinking of doing next, Mr. Galvin, if it's a fair question? Don’t let me interfere, but I’d just like to know.”
Red said, “I was going down and clean out this tank, Tim.” His voice was sober, patient.
“And did you happen to hear that it’s a job I’ve always done? I had it in mind to do it again this year.”
Red looked at him. “I’m dressed for it and ready to go down,” he said slowly. “I’d take it as a favor if you’d let me do it.”
“I’ve no doubt you would!” Tim knew he was saying too much, but he couldn’t stop. The mystified faces of the gang were a warning that he disregarded. This was the worst job of all they had to do, and. as such, belonged to the foreman. He couldn’t let another man do it, when he had only a few days of his pride left, at the most. To him, it was a question of prerogative, not, as Red Galvin thought of it, a piece of work far too hard for a man as old as Tim Corkery, for Nora’s father. Tim’s voice rose toward shrill anger. “Well, you’ll get no such favor from me. Get out of the way, while I go down!”
Galvin didn’t move. He was standing beside the manhole. “It’s a dirty job, Tim, and the air’s bad down there.”
“Is it you knows all about that? Wasn’t I doing this job years before you came? Do you think you can do it better?”
He felt, half in fear, half exultant, that this might be the open quarrel with Galvin he had sought for the last six weeks. Galvin stood his ground. He looked stubborn. Behind them, Mr. Porter’s voice said, “Tim !”
He turned, reluctant, a little apprehensive. Mr. Porter said, “I want you to come and have a look at the west wall of the boiler house. There’s a crack there I don’t like. We may have to tear out some of the brick.”
Tim said, “Could I come when I’m done here, sir, please? It won’t take me long.” “Done with what? Cleaning out the tank? That’s no job for you, Tim. You’ve done your bit at it, and it’s time the others took their turn. Come along with me. I want your opinion of that wall.”
Tim swallowed. “I’d like to make sure of the tank, sir. It’s a ticklish job. If it isn’t done right, the feed line’ll clog, sure, and there’s the furnaces gone out. You know that, sir.”
“I know I want you to come and look at
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the wall. When they’re finished with the tank, you can go down and satisfy yourself that they’ve done a good job." He glanced at the others. “I think you can trust Galvin with it. You come along with me.” Smarting with the huge injustice of it, the blow to his pride, Tim set out across the hot factory yard. It wasn’t much consolation, this time, that the boss wanted his advice. It left Red Galvin with the last word, a victory he hadn’t deserved. It meant that Tim wasn’t really foreman any more, even in his own eyes. He was glad that Mr. Porter didn’t speak to him. on the way across the yard. The old man couldn’t trust his voice.
HE CRACK in the wall of the boiler ' house kept them for twenty minutes. ! It was only a crack; the wall hadn’t started to bulge yet. They could shore it up, and put in new brick where that was needed. But Tim Corkery’s heart wasn’t j in it, even while he was chalking an outline j of the part to be rebuilt. And as soon as j Mr. Porter returned to his office, he ! hurried back to the tank.
Tiny stood idly by the open manhole. | He had a bucket beside him. with a rope j tied to the handle. A little mound of j sludge showed that he had been working, | but now he had stopped. Tim asked sharply, “That’s how you go at it, is it, ; when I turn my back for a minute? That’s j what you get paid for?”
Sure of his excuse. Tiny said placidly, j “He hollered up to me to get the bucket j out of his way till he got the sides scraped clean. I’m only waitin’ till he asks for it.” ! “And how long ago was that?”
“I drew up maybe six-seven buckets. It might be ten minutes ago he asked me to wait for his word.”
Tim Corkery couldn’t think of any very gexxl answer. If Galvin wanted to work that way, it was his right. But, standing there over the opening in the top of the j tank, it occurred to him that everything was very quiet below. He bent over the manhole. A heavy reek of oil came up to him, but not a sound of any kind. He said quickly, “Did he speak again, after that time?"
“Devil a word, Tim. He won’t have breath for talkin’.”
“I’m thinking that . . .” He bent over and shouted, “Galvin! Red Galvin!”
The hollow echo came back to him, but no other reply. Tiny said, with the beginning of uneasiness, “Is he asleep down there? A dead man ought to hear the like of that yell. Here, what’s up, Tim?”
Tim Corkery was tearing the rope from thebucket. “I’mgoingdown. Keeptheend of the rope up here. You may have to pull him up. He’s been overcome by the bad air, that’s what’s happened. I’ve known my own head swim, on that job.”
“But you can’t go down there; it’ll be the death of you too !”
“Got a flashlight?"
“Galvin took it down with him.”
Tim peered down. “It’s gone out, then, I or he’s let it drop. Run and get me one, ' Tiny. If you see the others, bring them j along. Hurry up. man! I’ll be down below. I’ll maybe find him, even without a | light.”
He had tied one end of the rope to a | pipe. The free end he took down with him. ! As he went down through the manhole, ; the jolting, dull sound of Tiny's running , died suddenly away. Tim gripped the ! slippery Rings hard. He wouldn’t think of the foul air, though it caught at his throat. Once at the bottom of the tank, he took care to keep the rope held fast in one hand.
It was dark down here, and the footing was bad. He moved cautiously, feeling about amid the slime with his right hand. He found nothing, and, away from the circle of light at the foot of the ladder, he saw nothing. Not to weary himself to no avail,
he decided to wait until Tiny brought the flashlight. Galvin hadn’t answered, though Tim called his name several times. He must be unconscious, if he wasn’t already —Old Tim avoided thinking the word. That wouldn’t help him, any more than it would help Tim himself to grope about blindly and give panic a chance at him. He had to wait.
ANOTHER man might have chosen to wait up above, in the air. Tim stayed stubbornly where he was. Too old for a job like this, was he? No match for Red Galvin, when it came to mean and dirty work? He'd show them ! He waited, holding fast to the rope. It seemed hours since Tiny set out at his clumsy, shambling trot. Heaven’s sake, didn’t they know there was a man down here, waiting to be brought up? The man Nora Corkery was likely going to marry, at that! Thinking of Nora helped to keep Tim’s head from swimming. He’d get the boy out, for her sake. She needn’t fret about that. Tothat end, he took shallow, stinted breaths, holding his face turned up to the sweet daylight above him. He was looking up when Tiny bent over the manhole. “Tim,” he roared. “Are you still down there, Tim?”
“Throw me the flashlight.”
“Come up out o’ that, man. You’ll kill yourself!’’
“Throw it down, before I climb up there and murder you!” Tim cupped his hands and caught the flashlight. “Tiny, are you alone there?”
“Walt’s here with me.”
“Stand by, then, to haul Red up. I’ll get the rope around him in a minute now. Be ready !”
Tim swept the yellow beam around the tank, and saw Red Galvin at the far end, where the air would be worst. He lay on his back, with an arm flung up across his eyes. In spite of his excitement, Tim forced himself to move slowly. He couldn’t risk slipping. Lucky the boy hadn't fallen on his face, in that thick, smothering ooze. Tim didn’t wait to make sure that Red was still alive. He took a hitch about his body, under the arms, with the rope, and, for the siike of his stubborn pride, dragged Red to the foot of the ladder before he gave the rope a jerk. He couldn’t have dragged him another foot. His head reeled, and he was choking.
"Haul him up!” he croaked, and found somewhere the strength to keep the boy’s
head from bumping against the ladder. A foot at a time, they pulled Galvin up, while Tim clutched the ladder, with a roaring in his ears. When daylight showed above him again, he set himself heavily to the task of clambering out. It wouldn’t be any too soon. “Catch hold of the rope,” Tiny cried, and flung it down. Tim raged at him. “I'll ask for help when I need it. Take the rope away, you fool !” The flare of anger helped him up the first few rungs. But the last ten feet were a blank in his mind. He had an illusion that the round eye of daylight overhead was pressing down upon him, a dead weight he had to struggle against. None the less, he had spirit left to snarl at Tiny’s proffered hand when he came within reach of it. “Save it for them that need it!” he gasped, and hauled his white head up into the generous air. In another moment, he was out of the manhole. By keeping his eyes fixed on the straight lift of the smokestack, he was able to stand upright, to save himself from falling. That w-as a point of pride. That was important. Mr. Porter called at his house that evening, and sat on the steps talking with the old man. “He’s coming along all right, then? The doctor said another five minutes would have finished him. He’s got you to thank, Tim.” “For nothing,” said Tim Corkery, but the note of challenge was gone from his voice. He sounded at peace, contented. “He doesn’t owe me anything. If I’d had my way, he’d never have gone down into the tank. You’ll remember that, sir?” “I will,” said Mr. Porter meekly. “Just the same, he didn’t hesitate, and he didn’t send one of the men in his place.” “Oh, he’ll make a foreman,” Tim conceded. “He’ll settle down too, .sir, once him and Nora’s married. I was thinking ..." “Yes?” “There’ll be times, like enough, when he’ll want a word with me about the work. Some part of it that’s new to him, d’you see? I know what a foreman’s job means, and he’ll get no advice from me without he ask ; for it. But if he does . . ” “I hope you’ll help him all you can. You can always get off from the gate for an hour or so.” “Thank you, sir,” said Tim Corkery. “ ’Tisn’t for myself, but I’d like to see the boy get on. I took a liking to him, from the first. Nora, she’s the same.”