Excerpt from my 1950s novel, A Woman’s Role

The excerpts I’m posting are from the “cutting room floor.” The scenes offer a glimpse into the story:

Celina thought about the job she had applied for at the newspaper; it would get her away from the boredom of the store. Dozens of times, she wondered about what it would be like to be free of her obligation to an old-fashioned family still tethered to ideas brought from the old-country. She loved her parents, but found herself less and less tolerant of their demand for unquestioning obedience. They expected their children to settle near home, purchase land, and help out until they died.

She watched the waves of heat rise from the blacktop as she followed the familiar route home, and pondered what she had done wrong to make the path of her life lead her into the series of monotonous days it had become, since she graduated from high school five years earlier.

Kenville had never been prosperous. But during World War II, the coal miners worked steadily, and they broke records for tonnage produced. The “black gold” went to the war effort. New stores opened and people talked of prosperity. But it had been ten years since Japan surrendered, and the town had fallen into its prewar insignificance: a dot on the map struggling for survival. One traffic light swung across Main Street in front of Duxbury’s. Railroad tracks skirted the rural community and carried cars loaded with dusty, black bituminous coal southwest to Pittsburgh’s steel mills and the region’s coke ovens.

As she drove, the Hudson rumbled by a few deserted dwellings choked by unmowed yards. The owners had lost their jobs in the mines and gone to Detroit or Cleveland to find work; family members who had been left behind mourned their loss. A deep sigh escaped her as she scanned the fields near their houses, where clover and alfalfa once bloomed, but had grown rank with ironweed and blackberry bushes.

A few miles on, Celina surveyed the sagging wood and corrugated metal outbuildings   of Shirley Creek Mine, where her dad and brothers worked. Dusty trucks and cars filled the staggered rows in the gravel lot. Some of the vehicles, relics from the 1930s, had headlights like giant, metal-backed glass eyes perched above their fenders. The mine precincts were quiet, but the shift was almost over; in a few minutes blackened apparitions with dinner buckets in hand would file out of the portal, climb into their vehicles, and empty the parking area.

In the distance, a mammoth gloomy structure with a missing roof and exposed interior loomed; it was a deserted tipple of an abandoned coal mine. The tall building was once the hub of a mine, where coal had been weighed and transferred to waiting railroad cars. The remnants of the tipple jutted like splinters into the empty sky. The structure sat there scowling at the low hills for as long as Celina could remember.

No coal had been taken out of that mine since twenty-five men were killed in a methane gas and coal dust explosion at the beginning of the Great Depression. The Kettlemore Company rushed the rescuers out and sealed the mine. Celina’s throat tightened and her stomach knotted in anger—the charred and mutilated bodies of her Uncle Jurek and twenty-four others were left where they had fallen. A small mountain of red dog, a burned out pile of rock, coal, and slate, stood next to the mine. A few weeds and stunted sumac trees managed to sprout on its bleak surface.

Celina made a right turn and drove up the tree-lined lane to the house. She disliked making supper and cleaning up afterward every single evening, but she’d done it every day since she was in high school. And she knew she’d keep on doing it for as long as she lived under her parents’ roof, since every able-bodied person was expected to contribute to the welfare of the entire household.

She flung open the car door and jumped out of the steaming interior, glad to be off the prickly mohair seat. She slammed the door, and on slim muscular legs, bounded to the house. The dry spell had beaten thew grass into a submissive grayish shadow of its former green. The leaves on the maples hung limp and listless in the sun.

She slowed down when she reached the sliver of shade offered by the back porch of the two-story, white farmhouse; wooden floorboards creaked and groaned when she crossed them. The humid air goaded her damp, unruly hair into clinging to her face and neck. She entered the kitchen and looked down at her white cotton blouse and printed skirt. They were damp and wrinkled and would have to be thrown in the wash.

Alone in the kitchen, she savored the coolness of the empty house, and unbuttoned her blouse, yanked up her skirt, and hopped from one foot to the other while pulling off her stockings and garter belt. Free, she scurried through the airy living room, up the uncarpeted stairs to her bedroom, and closed the door. She tossed her clothes onto an oak chair in the corner, and threw herself across the bed to lie there spread eagled for a couple of seconds.

Since there was no time to fool around, she jumped up and pulled off her skirt, tossed it onto the pink-and-white chenille bedspread, and climbed into blue cotton peddle-pushers.

Celina took a few moments to pull her wavy dark blond hair into a ponytail. She had high Eastern-European cheekbones, a smooth clear complexion, and eyes that her mother said were the color of jet beads. An unknown Tartar warrior who had invaded Poland centuries earlier lived on in her face and eyes. She raced down downstairs barefooted. If supper wasn’t ready when he got home, there’d be hell to pay.

How similar is Celina’s arrival home from work to that of young women in today’s work world?

Watch for A Woman’s Role coming soon! A Woman’s Role us an Assent Publishing, Great Romance Finalist. It will be released in October.

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