“Listen, Frank, I appreciate what you’re sayin’ but the Giants don’t stand a lick of a chance against the Superbas this year. I can feel it already, back to back to back pennants,” Daniel said, tossing some dusty rocks into a wheelbarrow. He was a younger man in his early 20s and gave off an energetic aura. He was smiling wide as he often did, his bright blue eyes alive with excitement and youth.
“Daniel, you’re a regular bonehead, you know that? The Giants have the pennant in the bag with Davis at short. A solid defensive shortstop is all a ball club needs,” Frank replied as he wiped his calloused hands on his crusty overalls.
“Ah, my dear older brother, though I will agree that a hanging defense is a necessity, what respectable ball club doesn’t have a decent pitcher?” Daniel shot back, holding an index finger up in the air then pointing it accusingly at Frank’s chest to emphasize his point.
“Mathewson is a killer pitcher, you goop. His fadeaway is gonna have your precious Keelerhit and the rest of Brooklyn fanning all season. He’s twice the pitcher than that double crossing Rusie,” Frank responded, slapping Daniel’s hand away from his chest.
“Pardon me, but that is a load of bunk. Mathewson isn’t worth a jitney. At least with Rusie the Giants presented a challenge. No, Mathewson is no Rusie, and he is certainly no McGinnity. Now there is a pitcher worth talking about. Truly the Lord in Heaven has touched that boy’s arm. A true Superba. A true Dodger.” Daniel said, making a sign of the cross over himself and closing his eyes as if in mock deep prayer.
Frank shoved him in the shoulders, “Dammit, Daniel, you shouldn’t be sayin’ things like that, you blasphemous louse!”
Daniel stumbled backwards as he was much smaller than Frank, and tripped over a toolbox, landing hard on his back. He glared up at Frank, “Lay off, no need to go getting so snarky about it, you schumck. I didn't mean any offense by it, you religious nut.” Daniel held out his hand for Frank to help him back up, “All I’m saying is that 1901 will be another winning year for the Brooklyn Superbas. That’s all there is, there ain’t no more.”
As Daniel was helped up he looked up into the air, squinting from the painful brilliance of the summer sky. He ran his eyes over the steel rods that were the framework of the building that he and Frank were on construction for. They looked like bony fingers reaching up from the earth, trying to grab the sun. “I can’t believe anyone thinks ol’ Burnham’s Folly will stay up, it’s a God damned triangle for crying out loud. Nothing that high will ever stay up. ”
“You shouldn't take the Lord's name in vain like that. Mom wouldn't like it and you know I hate it." Frank added with a tone of grave seriousness.
Daniel, realizing the sudden turn in the conversation, squinted his eyes at his brother."Don't bring God into any of this, Frank. I can't believe you still buy into that crap. God is dead, everyone knows it."
All the joviality of the previous conversation was gone now. "Shut up with that bunk. If Mom, God rest her soul, heard you talking about that she'd call you out on the carpet."
Frank had never understood Daniel’s outlook on religion. He wasn’t anything like the rest of their Catholic family. He didn’t just go to church on Sunday and say his prayers at night. Ever since he had started reading Nietzsche he had become completely defiant of the church and anyone who associated with it. He stopped attending church all together a few weeks back, saying he no longer had a need for that house of false hope.
Frank turned his back on his brother in frustration, returning to loading the rubble into the wheelbarrow.
They both worked in silence for an hour, too bitter at each other to be the first one to break the silence. After many trips of moving the endless supply of bedrock Frank looked up and saw an unfamiliar figure walking towards them. “Aw shit, here comes the new guy, I forgot we had some more hands comin' on today."
Daniel looked up as well, putting his hand over his eyes to block the sun, "Probably some just off the boat mick whose gonna slow us down like hell.”
The man walked up to them in his yet unstained work boots, overalls, and undershirt. His appearance was plain in almost every way other than a bright red cross with golden vines growing around it that was pinned to his overalls over his heart. Daniel and Frank both watched him approach, analyzing what kind of worker he would be from his demeanor. His face was soft yet focused looking as he took short, awkward steps towards them. He looked as if his body was completely new to him and was still figuring out how to work it right. A look between them expressed their collective concern. As he drew nearer they both noticed the man’s powerful eyes that seemed to stare right past them. Daniel hesitated a moment, then stuck his hand out towards the stranger.
"Name’s Daniel Avery and this here’s my side kick and brother Frank,” Daniel introduced, shaking hands and nodding his head towards Frank who was still looking at the man’s eyes. “Pretty much all we do is take all this rumble here, and wheel it over there out of the way. It’s nothing hard and it’s good honest work for a man at 15 cents an hour. So what’s your name, fella?”
“John,” the man answered simply, in a quiet reserved tone.
“Well it’s nice to have you on, John. Now how about you help me and Frank toss some of these stones into the wheelbarrow and break our backs for the sake of progress?”
The three men went back to the pile, loading up rocks, and wheeling them over to another pile further off site and dumping them. Back and forth for hours as the sun rose higher into the sky, escaping the grasp of the rigid steel fingers of the Fuller Building. As the sun moved overhead the heat intensified and pushed heavily upon the construction workers, causing sweat to drip from their brows and their movement to become sluggish. The heat added more weight to each rock that needed to be lifted, and made the wheelbarrows harder to push. The wood of the handlebars grew white hot in the light making each back and forth trip a rite of passage for the workers.
Once while Frank was at the pile on the other side of the site, Daniel leaned against the cool dark side of a steel pillar that was near where he and John were working. He pulled his handkerchief from his pocket to wipe down his face then once again stared up into the blue sky.
“So what do you think of all this, John?”
John kept his eyes down, focusing on piling more stones into his cart, giving no indication that he had heard Daniel.
“People sees this building going up and think it’s a regular humdinger, people like Frank who are too close minded to see it for what it is. 'A lollapalooza, a crowning achievement of modern society.' they say, but I don’t see that at all.” Daniel looked back over to John to look for a response, but received nothing.
Daniel continued, speaking to the sky. “No, I don’t see at all what they see. This skyscraper is exactly that, it’s grating against the world. Once we finish this building it will tear a hole in the sky, like a knife pressed against soft flesh, and all Hell is gonna pour out. All this industrializing isn’t good for man’s soul. False prophet tycoons with their material goods are corrupting society. Rockefeller’s oil and Judah’s railroad, new avenues for slave-morality. The loss of human dignity as we all come to America and are sent into the industrial shops is horrifying. Men falling into meat grinders, children losing fingers to harsh chemicals, it’s unnatural. Godless cement spreading out of the cities like blood from a dead deer. But no one gives a shit; everyone’s letting their eyes adjust to the darkness of the machine as they move out of God's light. Everyone’s become worse than the most brutal tribes of the wild, more ruthless than jungle law. Everyone is biting and scratching to get one more penny ahead in life at the expense of every paddy and ginzo that stands in their way, the will to power. Manifest Destiny and the American Dream have become man’s dying words, the words that killed God.”
Daniel heard that John had stopped piling rocks and turned looked back to him for his reaction. To Daniel’s surprise John was standing erect, staring directly at him with his powerful, ethereal eyes. Daniel opened his mouth to continue but lost the air in his lungs. He stammered, slack jawed, then fell silent. They stared at each other for a few moments before Frank returned and broke the intense silence.
“Hey Daniel, quit chewin’ the fat and let’s hotfoot up to Hanley’s and get a pint before headin' home.”
Frank set his barrel on the ground and walked away, leaving John and Daniel to continue staring silently at one another. After a moment, John slowly nodded and turned away, walking into the distance. Daniel fell to his knees, his eyes still unblinking as small tears begin to drip down onto his cheek.