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Historical Fiction Drama

(Write a story about someone who’s famous for something they never actually did.)


He didn’t know this before, or at least he never consciously thought about it, but there are things better left alone. In other words don’t dig too deep or you may not like what you discover. He now thinks “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie” is a good phrase to remember.


As long as Harvey could remember, someone in his family was always dragging up the fact that his great grandfather or maybe it was his great great grandfather was the founding father of this town. A strong, brave, intelligent, forward thinking man who planned this town. He would build a business here. To provide the essentials for a community. He thought that community would lead to town, then city and eventually a place of value in the history of a great state. He was a true leader among men! 


We, as a family, needed to carry forth this leadership role and maintain the image. We, the collective family, were cornerstones in this community. This was the family mantra!


He was Harvey Carpenter, the fourth, and he did live in Carpentersville, but he sure didn’t feel like a cornerstone of anything.


As a kid growing up, he had lived in the white frame house, next to the church and across from the general store. His house was the biggest in town, but no one really lived in the second floor rooms and the attic was stuffed full of every imaginable thing the family had ever owned. The house interior needed serious repair, it was cold in the winter and hot in the summer, the plumbing leaked and banged and rattled, but one thing you could count on was it got scraped and painted every summer. It was a landmark house, the original home of the founding father of Carpentersville.


The sign attached to the general store across the street read, “Carpenter’s Mercantile” established 1888. It stood on the corner of Main Street and Commerce Avenue. It was the first structure built at the crossroads and it was part general store, post office, police station, and a tiny corner housed a very limited library.  


It was just random bad luck that his ancestors settled here. It was where the single ox had given up and died that had been pulling his early family’s belongings going west. They lived in a tent like structure for two years trading with passing folks heading west for a new life. They traded furs from trapping and vegetables they grew. Eventually one of the offspring of Harvey Carpenter opened a forge nearby and the town was begun.  


Harvey’s family was big on talk but not so big on solid action. They liked to maintain a facade of historic respectability but all of the dynamic leadership they were credited with currently was all smoke and no substance, it had petered out years ago.


For the last generation it seems, they could manage to produce enough resources to almost make it year to year but someone at one time or another started mining the attic for collectibles and antique things, selling a couple a year to keep up the facade of normal prosperity.


That was how Harvey the fourth happened to be in the dusty stuffy attic. He was now looking to see what might be left up there of any value to sell or pawn or even trade. His hope was that one of the dusty ancient boxes stuffed under the eaves might contain an item or two which could appeal to a historian or collector of some sort.


~~~~~


The first box he had pried open was full of moth-eaten woolens, things that might be of interest to historians but not of much value. There were small boxes inside of bigger boxes, leather pouches with old shaving gear, an interesting pocket knife he slipped into his pocket, and packets of old circulars and letters. Printed material by the box full. Curious old calendars with bucolic scenes, or some patriotic and a very pretty one with all gardens.  


Between sneezing and blowing his nose Harvey was getting tired of finding just “stuff”. No big find to bring in enough cash to really matter. He felt he was digging in a fairly worked out mine. 


In the very back corner was an old roll top desk. Not very elegant or ornate but very well used and practical looking. The kind of thing a man might use for his personal business. Pushing aside a few old lamps with very dusty lampshades he finally reached the desk. It was locked! The roll top firmly in place. Harvey took a large rag from his back pocket and wiped over the surface looking for dings and mars and damage to the wood. This piece could sell, he thought to himself.


Above the roll top was a row of square open cubbies or receptacles for random things, stamps or letters or any small things. He dusted each one in turn trying to see if this desk is sound and sale-able. Just inside the trim on the left most cubby he found a key. The key to the roll top. He pulled a wooden crate over to sit on, he tried the key in the lock and just as smooth as butter he heard the familiar “click” of a lock opening.


He pushed gently upward on the slatted roll top and it slowly opened. It was chuck full of ledgers and letters. Dried up ink wells and old pen nibs, a ruler and strange looking fasteners. A few old coins lay in the carved in recesses in the wood frame, a thumbtack or the predecessor of a thumbtack, a smallish nut, bolt and washer, and a few other odds and ends. On the right side were a few hooks with key rings hanging just as they must have hung in his grandfathers or great grandfather’s time.


Harvey thought he had inhaled about enough dust for this visit so he quickly looked through the letters, not reading them, just sorting out personal looking from business looking. It was at this time that Harvey noticed the cubbies in the center were shallower than the ones on the ends. He tapped on the wood and thought he might have discovered a hidden compartment. On the bottom of the center cubbies he felt a slight finger groove. He pushed one way and nothing happened, he pushed the other way and the wood moved, opening the hidden compartment behind the center cubbies. A leather bound book fell into his hands. Harvey wondered how long it had been since this book had seen the light of day.  


Harvey closed the roll top and locked the desk. He placed the key in his pocket with the pocketknife he had found earlier and left the attic with the leather bound book.


Later that evening at his own desk he opened the leather book to see why it had been sequestered away from viewing by anyone but a person with knowledge of

the secret compartment in the desk. What he found amazed him!


~~~~~


March 1, 1886 - Carpenter, Marshall and Jones...rode East to find the nearest wagons coming west. Stole 2 horses from this first group heading west.


March 13, 1886 - sold two horses to the third group passing through town. Split the money three ways.


March 15, 1886 - removed the money from a drunk miner at his camp on the edge of town. $212.00 plus a small amount of gold particles. Left the miner $46.00. This was split two ways , Carpenter and Jones.


March 23, 1886 - Carpenter, Marshall, Jones - Rode over to Nobel County to the railroad and barricaded the track just beyond the slow curve outside of town. Robbed the railroad - $1123.00 - Jones horse threw him in the rush to escape, he didn’t make it. Split two ways Carpenter and Marshall.


~~~


The listings continued, one petty theft after another. Harvey thought about this for a second, heck maybe those were not petty thefts in those days! The page was full of recordings of activities.  


~~~


April 20, 1887 - Enough saved to start construction of a general store.


The listings were continuous...small and large thefts of money, gold and livestock. All transferable to money to build a life on, to start being respectable!


June 3, 1887 - Marshall died of snakebite. Just me now! Maybe time to quit pushing my luck!

~~~

August 11, 1887 - Money going fast need to refill my account. Keep my ear to the ground for some easy pickings that one man can do.

~~~

September 6, 1887 - met Abigail McCreedy! Gotta finish the building of the general store. Live upstairs, expand the size, Gotta have that woman for my wife.

~~~

November 25, 1887 - she has accepted my proposal. Wedding in the spring!

~~~

January 13, 1888 - Rode East for two days. Rumors were true. Railroad payroll at the local bank. Went in alone and surprised the teller! He pissed himself and gave over the money! I rode west at full speed to get back and look surprised when the law rode it. We all pointed west as we assumed that was the way he might have gone. $5,006.00. Enough to finish and stock the store. Now I’m done!


~~~~~


You must be able to see why Harvey started his story with “Let sleeping Dogs Lie”. He is shocked and dismayed! But what can a man do after the fact? He could never make things right! Those cheated and maybe ruined were long gone! His own relative was long gone!   


He did build the first major structure in town and have the town named after him, he did some good, I’m sure! I hope!


He was famous, at least in the surrounding areas, for starting a town. A town that thrived but it was all built on a lie. Not strong and forward thinking but a conniving thief….a road man, a train robber!   


Harvey wonders how this new information will color his thoughts now.  


The family mantra of carrying forward the leadership, of trying hard to be a cornerstone in the community, yes what about the mantra?


Well they hadn’t really done any leading in years!  


Maybe this was just life being life.  


Maybe every glowing success story has hidden things someone did to create a better life for the greater good!


Harvey no longer felt sad that he didn’t feel like a cornerstone of the community. He felt the pressure was off to pretend they were more than they were in actuality.  


He wondered about painting the house exterior this summer and maybe do something practical instead, fix the heating and insulation, or the plumbing! Something real for his family instead of just fixing their public face.  


It was good enough!



August 31, 2020 20:40

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24 comments

23:38 Sep 01, 2020

Wooooow, I loved this story! It was really intriguing, and I liked reading about what Harvey did in the 1880s...sooo interesting!! A very enjoyable read, awesome job! Keep writing!

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P. Jean
00:21 Sep 02, 2020

Thank you for comments that indicate you actually read the story. Will all the likes I never know who actually read the works of the writers. I enjoyed writing this one. Thanks again!

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Cal Emery
22:06 Sep 09, 2020

This is really good and super interesting! The tone is very particular, it really kept you wondering what was going to happen, I liked it a lot. Only one thing- ‘’They liked to maintain a facade of historic respectability but all of the dynamic leadership they were credited with currently was all smoke and no substance, it had petered out years ago.’’ It might be just my tired brain, but I’m not sure I quite understand that sentence. Super well done though on the whole!

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P. Jean
22:20 Sep 09, 2020

They tried to maintain the image of leadership, that’s all I was trying to say. Historically Carpenter and offspring had been credited with leadership. Now the remaining Carpenters just maintained the exterior of the original family home. ??? And they were selling off their heritage piece by piece. I hope you liked it on the whole. I enjoyed writing it! Thank you very much for reading it with enough interest to frame an excellent question!

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Cal Emery
11:14 Sep 10, 2020

Makes sense now! Thank you for the clarification!

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Princemark Okibe
15:54 Sep 05, 2020

Brilliant. I haven't ever writing with third person on reedsy before. I am thinking of imitating this voice you used. Keep up the good work. I particularly enjoyed this pun ( an interesting pocket knife he slipped into his pocket). PS: feel free to check out my latest stories on the lights out contest. I will appreciate any criticism or feedback.

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. .
04:23 Sep 04, 2020

Awesome story! !!

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P. Jean
18:02 Sep 04, 2020

Thank you. Have you any other constructive comments to help me improve?

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. .
22:48 Sep 04, 2020

Hmm, I don't read much history so I don't really know much about how it all works. I'm not sure if this would help but when you said 'maybe' for some of them you could add a comma after them like- Maybe, every glowing success story has hidden things someone did to create a better life for the greater good! I'm not sure it'll help but I hope it would.

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P. Jean
23:07 Sep 04, 2020

Thanks Sarah. Every comment helps me look at things differently!

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Black Rose
21:19 Sep 03, 2020

I especially loved how you capture moments in time with the dates. The recording felt like I was reading a diary. You placed the reader effectively in the 19th century. I've read historical novels so, I can relate the with historical time.

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Black Rose
21:19 Sep 03, 2020

I especially loved how you captured moments in time with the dates. The recording felt like I was reading a diary. You placed the reader effectively in the 19th century. I've read historical novels so, I can relate with the historical time.

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P. Jean
21:26 Sep 03, 2020

Thank you. If you write historically you should try to make the period seem genuine. Thanks for your time and comments!

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Black Rose
21:32 Sep 03, 2020

Let me know whenever you upload stories. I like your stories but I'm not here so often. I think you've got a great personality too. 😊❤️

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P. Jean
21:43 Sep 03, 2020

I’m not sure how to let you know but I write three or four stories each week for the prompts!

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Black Rose
21:51 Sep 03, 2020

Okay, I'll try my best to check up every week.

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Amaya .
18:09 Sep 03, 2020

Hi! I really like your writing style and was wondering if you could check out my newest stories and give me tips/feedback. It would be amazing if you could!

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P. Jean
19:08 Sep 03, 2020

I would be delighted to read and critique your stories if you would give me some real comments about my work. I get the feeling many do nor even read they just solicit comments for their stories!

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Amaya .
22:12 Sep 03, 2020

Of course! First off, I love how you kind of incorporated the quote "let sleeping dogs lie" in the beginning. One thing I would say, is maybe add more details? For example, when Harvey noticed that some cubby's were shallower, it seemed kind of fake because in real life, people probably wouldn't notice that so quickly and without looking closely? I don't know if what I'm saying makes sense but basically like instead you could say something like "Harvey rechecked all the cubbies, when he realized that one seemed to be a bit shallower than the...

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P. Jean
22:16 Sep 03, 2020

That is a great comment. Yes I see I took a bit of a short cut in the detail. Thanks for commenting. I will go take a look at yours

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Doubra Akika
10:04 Sep 02, 2020

I loved this! Loved the way you introduced the story! Sometimes when you dig too deep, you really may not like what you find! You must be able to see why Harvey started his story with “Let sleeping Dogs Lie”. I don’t think this is necessary because of the way you started the story and the title. But that may just be my opinion. Just wanted to let you know that I loved this! The words you used throughout the story were great for the historical fiction theme you were going for. The ending was great as well. He wants to do something rea...

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P. Jean
11:36 Sep 02, 2020

Thanks for your time..I know that is precious. Also thank you for thoughts and observations. Much appreciated.

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Doubra Akika
12:32 Sep 02, 2020

It was honestly my pleasure! I love reading your stories!

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P. Jean
23:24 Oct 06, 2020

Hey thanks everyone for the likes on this story, I enjoyed writing it so much!

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