How Sentiment Was Discouraged in Sim
by Charles Hoy Fort
There were three vessels at the pier. Up six gangplanks, bustling, hustling, shouting stevedores were rolling barrels. Along the pier and out in the street were mountains of these barrels, between towers that touched the wharf's ceiling ran a canyon, and in this canyon flowed a stream of carts, up on the right side and back on the left into a chaos of trucks that choked West Street to the farther curb. Hubs of wheels crashed together and locked, causing a surge and a backflow as if oncoming carts were held by a dam. Horses reared, and stevedores, rolling barrels, darted under their heads, becoming locked themselves with stevedores trying to crawl through from the other direction. Confusion, hustling, bustling, shouting, loud swearing! Surely you would wonder what was in those thousands of barrels. You would wonder what it was that New York was struggling so tremendously for.
Sim Rakes was the "header" at the gangplank where I, as clerk, was trying to hold down wind-caught bills with one hand and check off items with the other.
"Say," remarked Sim, with the dreamy drawl that comes upon him now and then, "this does please me! New York can't be such a wicked city as they say. When I look around at all these barrels and know what's in them it sorter touches me. There's something most innocent-like about them barrels coming down from the country and being so eager sought for here!"
"Where does barrels for Brown go?" shouted a dozen stevedores. "Where are they loading for Lummox? For Petrie? W.G. Mullins? Hopkins Brothers? Who's header here, anyway?"
"Coming down from the country," continued Sim, with his exasperating drawl, "the country always seems good and innocent to me. New York wants lots of wicked and intemperate things, but it does seem to me it can't be so very bad when it also wants these barrels so much--"
"Brown! Leonard! Smith & Whoppling!" roared the stevedores, like a vivified city directory.
"Well, see you again!" said Sim. "Just the same, it does move me, because the country--"
At this point outcries from drivers and stevedores were so passionate that the superintendent ran from his office, taking so long, however, in winding and crawling and leaping his way among crowded carts that, by the time he had reached the gangplank, Sim had reduced the congestion.
There was nothing in those barrels but apples.
Again there was unusual excitement. A heavy truck was being backed into the river, pressed by a stream of carts in front, crushed by a mass of carts behind. The superintendent again ran up, the gateman with him, both screeching for Sim Rakes to do something, a dozen stevedores roaring to Sim to direct them with their barrels. Sim ambled over to me and sat on a barrel of Baldwins that all morning he had been eying as if there were something unusual about it.
"Don't you feel that way?" he asked dreamily. "Apples seem such innocent berries, and it does seem so sorter innocent of great and wicked New York being so anxious for them--"
Terrific splash! Cart backed into the river! Whirlwind of shouting and swearing!
"--so anxious for them, and I do like to see them going into so many homes instead of beer and whiskey. I like to think of an honest laboring man working hard and his wife having a nice apple pie for him, in the evening, instead of squandering his wages. And they gather by the fireside and eat apples, which is such homelike vegetables--"
A horse dabbed a hoof at the back of his head. All along the pier entangled and frightened horses were rearing and struggling, driver hopping down and jumping upon one another.
"Who's loading my cart, anyway?"
"Here! Come on here with my thirty barrels of Juniper & Stoddard and let me out of here alive!"
"Down from the orchards," drawled dreamy Sim. "I can just see the farm these Baldwins in this here barrel come from! There's little children picking up apples that has fell in the high wind last night, and there's a girl in a pink dress beating the branches with a long pole, which I'm afraid is too heavy for her. She's a nice-looking girl and sorter slim and--"
"Oh, Gawd!" shouted a brawny stevedore, overhearing this nonsense. The boss ran up, his fist doubled, crying:
"One word more of such trash out of you, Sim Rakes, and I'll let you have it in the lug!" Then Sim grabbed up his bills and began shouting orders, working steadily until noon, mountains of barrels shooting up all around us and the stream in the canyon becoming more and more of a raging torrent. But at noon the pier was cleared somewhat.
"I wonder!" said Sim, coming back to the barrel that seemed to attract him and sitting beside me, as desperately as I was trying to catch up in my accounts. "You know how them country girls writes letters on eggs, don't you? Well, I wonder if that nice-looking girl in the pink dress didn't write such a letter and put it in with the apples! I ain't superstitious, but there's surely something about this barrel that is attracting me. I'd like to get that letter that sorter romantic way and answer it. I will, if there's a letter here, and she'll write back to me--where's my cottonhook?" And Sim knocked in the head of the barrel, which was consigned to McCurdy Brothers.
"Look at them!" he cried, pointing to the apples. "You say I'm too sentimental, but ain't it good to see something so nice and innocent, from the country, right here, and the gin-mills and wickedness of a big city all around us? Oh, beegee, a note! I'll answer it! She'll write back--say, all my life, I just been dying for a romance like this!" Under the first layer of apples Sim saw a sheet of notepaper. Eagerly he seized it and read it.
"Oh, beegee, this is fierce!" cried Sim, looking despairing at me. Then he burrowed into the barrel, scattering apples out on the pier. For the first time I permitted myself a moment to see what was interesting him. I read the letter, while Sim was groaning:
"Oh, beegee, I'll never again believe in anything I think's got romances in it!"
"Deer Mr. McCurdy, the revnoo officers is getting
too hot after us and we must shut down the still till
spring and not make no more shipments."
Unhappy Sim lifted a big jug of whiskey from the innocent-looking barrel.
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