The foundry consisted of several buildings that were a cold grey, smudged with black. One small red brick, slightly more modern looking, was the pattern shop, where the work was started from a series of drawings and blueprint that would later be manufactured in the main building as the finished motor part or railroad mechanism to further the trains to their destination. Discarded patterns and core boxes piled haphazardly around the yard only served to enhance the shabbiness of the surroundings. A few wooden core boxes, in somewhat better condition, were stacked more neatly near the pattern shop. On a more productive day they would be packed with a sand mixture, then filled with molten metal for a wheel, or pump shell or diesel engine block.
A large wooded area surrounded the buildings. The trees had already been stripped of their leaves by October rains, and the ground held the residue between the close underbrush. A chill wind blew across the woods and closed buildings. With the gust, a small stream of black smoke was carried into oblivion in the grey sky. At that moment an elderly man walked between the buildings, looked over the pile of core boxes, then disappeared into a low cement building behind him. Again, all was quiet.
Near a small parking lot, one building stood apart as the office, recently painted, with blinds at the windows, and a small sign above, identifying it as TAYLOR FOUNDRY. Inside, one of the venetian blinds had been raised to the top of the dirty window, and a man could be seen twirling the cord in his hands as he made gestures and voiceless conversation with someone else in the room.
“I don’t know why the old man insists on holding on,” Rawley was saying. “We all know it’s a matter of time until he folds. What’s your angle, Martin? I hardly think you could buy him out. What were you promised for your loyalty?”
Jim Martin answered hotly, “Damn it, Rawley, if you feel like that why don’t you just get the hell out of here now? Mike doesn’t need a cut throat like you hanging around. I’ve checked the books and we’ve been losing money ever since you started working here, and it’s been worse ever since you found out Mike was in trouble.” He ran his hand across his dark hair “You expect to draw your full salary, too. I think you’re working against us.”
Rawley threw the cord he was knotting and it dangled across the panes. “Don’t accuse me of anything you can’t prove. Just because the old man can’t pay his bills, doesn’t mean I don’t want to pay mine. As soon as I’ve made a few contacts, you won’t see me for dust.” He shook his finger, “I’ll tell you this, Martin, when I decide I’m ready to leave that old man won’t owe me a cent. I’ll take everything I’ve got coming to me. You can make all the prissy promises you want, but what you will have in the end?” A lot of overdue bills, a second mortgage on your house, and a rotten taste in your mouth. When Mike Farrell’s foundry goes down, so will you and that will be the end of good intentions. It won’t be the first business to fold in a hick town like this.”
The door opened and the man who had been checking out core boxes brought his steam into the office. His leathery face was flushed and he pointed to Rawley. “I’ve heard enough outside to know the general topic of conversation. Rawley, you’ve got until next week till your time runs out, so I think you should be able to shake a few more job contracts.” Mike Farrell was small and wiry but he commanded the room. “What Jim failed to mention was that there are two hundred men depending on a regular pay check. If we go under it will affect the whole area. That fancy house you were so quick to buy, won’t be so easy to sell,” Mike made his point and went into his small private office, sat heavily in his swivel chair and closed his mouth and his watery blue eyes. The discussion was over.
Rawley sat down at his desk declining further comment. His expression was grim. He ran a manicured hand over his bald spot, then shuffled some papers. That he was only in his early forties was not apparent, because his face was lined, and a heaviness in his jowls already foretold the advancement of age,
Jim stood at the edge of Rawley’s desk and leaned over to look squarely into his eyes, Very quietly he said, “Just you remember to keep your mouth shut about this little discussion. If there any rumors flying around town I’ll know where they came from.” He walked to the small enclosed office at the rear of the building and rapped quietly. A voice barely whispered and he went inside.