HUDSON SCHOOL – Chapter 1
HUDSON SCHOOL: a novel
(Copyright, 2020 by SK Figler)
HUDSON SCHOOL is a novel of two young brothers parked in a boarding school while Mother and Father do battle in divorce. Jacob is nearly 12; Henry is 6 … and has just started to stutter. The year is 1947, and the story begins at—You guessed it—Hudson School in the small town of Wykagyl just outside of New York City, This story is about surviving and growing in a world of only occasional kindness and much anger.
I’m in what I hope to be the final version of HUDSON SCHOOL (a working title) which I’ll be presenting here, chapter by chapter, free for your enjoyment or concern. Comments are welcome. Follow Jacob and Henry through their trials (literally), tribulations, and growth. I plan to post a new chapter every week, aiming for Fridays. Here is:
Mother leans very close to the man. Her hands are on his big desk. She looks ready to crawl across all the papers and the penholder and the little gold horse statue and the black telephone to get to him. I’ve seen her look at me that way and I behave.
Henry watches mother, too. He has squirmed to the front of our chair twice, trying to get down, but I pulled him back both times.
Mother says something to the man very quietly that makes him lean back. When she talks to me like that, she wants a promise. The man takes off his glasses and pulls a tissue from a box. He wipes his glasses and says, “Yes, of course,” without looking at her. Whatever he is promising, I don’t believe him.
Mother believes him, because she sits down in a chair like the one Henry and I are in, only we’re in the corner of the room away from them. The chairs are red and gold on the seats and arms and backs. They have curved legs with eagle’s feet, each claw holding a small ball. The long, thin spikes of Mother’s shoes dig into the red and gold carpet.
The man is still wiping his glasses. He looks around Mother to me and Henry, then at her again. He puts his glasses on and pushes them up his long, thin nose. He picks up a pencil and wiggles it. Mother talks louder, in the voice she uses when she wants things.
The man says, “Of course,” again. He almost looks scared. Father looked
scared of her before he moved away.
Books are everywhere along the walls, all the way to the ceiling, except for the windows with dark red drapes pulled back and tied with gold cord and a space on the wall behind the man’s head where there are pictures with fancy paper in the frames. In the corners behind his desk are two large Chinese urns like the ones Mother showed Henry and me this morning at the museum in Central Park. The urns might be as tall as Henry if he stood next to them, but I’m big enough to look down into them if I go over there. I want to look at the paintings on them, but I don’t because Mother has told me to keep Henry in the chair.
The man makes a noise in his throat, then he says, “If you don’t mind my asking, why, when your boys are so young, especially Henry, do you want to place them in a boarding school?”
Henry says, “What’s a boarding school?” I don’t know either, and I don’t know what ‘place them’ means.
Mother doesn’t answer Henry. She doesn’t turn to look at us. She doesn’t like to be interrupted. She says to the man, “Up here in Westchester, you may not have found out that the war is over. The soldiers are returning, Dr. Israel. There is an extreme shortage of housing in the city. A woman with young children is at a disadvantage finding an apartment.”
The man stares at her. She says, “I have offered to pay for the entire year even though my boys would be coming in two weeks late. There are other boarding schools.”
Henry says, “What’s happening?” I think I know.
The man says, “No, no, yes, of course. I was simply wondering. That will be fine.”
Mother stands. She reaches across the desk and shakes the man’s hand before he can stand. She picks up her small black purse from the corner of the desk. She turns and stares at Henry then at me. She says, “Dr. Israel promises he’ll take good care of you. Jacob, your main job is to watch out for Henry, make sure he’s well and safe, and of course, to do your studies.” She is gone before I can get out of the chair.