Sitting at the bar, John kept looking over his shoulder at the door.
“Brady, if they catch you in here again, you’ll be flogged,” said the bartender.
With a grunt, John raised both hands as if to signal his surrender.
“Let them take me,” he announced, “Look at my hands, how do they expect me to build their prison, when I can’t even lift my beer without feeling pain!” he added.
A slight man, John was not really built for the hard labour required to move limestone blocks that formed the partially completed prison, he now called home. As a former shoemaker, he now had the task of cementing and applying a covering of lime to walls that his fellow convicts were constructing.
Clenching a fist, he watched as the skin on his knuckle ripped open along the fold, and a trickle of blood filled the crevasse. He knew the flogging would hurt, but at this moment he needed the escape that the pub and drinking allowed him, more.
Reaching down to the floor, he lifted a sack onto the bar, looking toward the bartender, he gestured him over.
“Got more of them good pickaxe handles you like. Enough for a couple more beers I’m thinking,”
Suddenly, the bartender turned away, as if he didn’t hear the plight of young John. With this, a heavy hand came crashing down on John’s shoulder.
“What do we have ere, Government property, Brady?” came a voice from behind.
Arriving in 1856, at the time the new Fremantle Prison was half complete, it’s likely that John had a part in building some of the buildings of the time. Records show that he was doing plastering work that put him in hospital having issues with his hands and eyes. Also, that he was punished for theft of wooden handles. So, I like to think that my ancestor was one of the many convicts that helped build the early Western Australian communities. Writing this, I look at how he may not have wanted to play his part, but that nether the less, he did.
Brilliant narrative woven around those facts you have researched of your ancestor. You provided a great hook to the story and seated John firmly in the context of what was happening with the construction of buildings such as the Fremantle Prison at that time in Western Australia. Excellent use of dialogue and a great last line.
Thanks for the feedback K., Glad you liked it 🙂
Quite an enjoyable short story. You managed to create an image of John and the situation he was in. I liked the way you portrayed him as hard done by, yet still, there was a touch of a scoundrel. Well Done
Starting to get a handle on how to do this. It’s fun also.
I struggled with the thought of a convict from a work gang in a pub but suspending my doubts, I really enjoyed your story… and it had an ending! (See feedback this week)
Convict John Brady was caught in the Pub on a number of occasions and his records show he drank a lot.
I really enjoyed this story. The convicts certainly missed the creature comforts of alcohol and tobacco they were formerly use too. You have woven the facts and the plight of the convict well. Convicts who were caught tippling were sometimes dobbed in for £ reward. A good climax to the story too.
John refused to give up some of the creature comforts and this got him in to trouble on more than one occasion. No doubt he was known to many for his ways, and maybe not in a good way.