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SNOWFALL IN NEW HAVEN
© 2005 by Walter D. Reimer
(Liberty Morgenstern courtesy of Simon Barber. Thanks!)
The weather had cooperated, filling the sound between Long Island and the coast of New Haven with a fog bank so thick that not even sailors with the best eyesight could see more than a hundred yards or so. It was cold and raw, with no wind and the sea was quite still at slack tide. The Moon had just set, making the darkness even more intense.
A fishing boat made its way through the fog, risking a collision by running with no lights. Presently, at an appointed place and time, a darker shadow appeared and the crew held its breath as engine noises echoed across the placid stretch of ocean.
Running lights flashed: white, red, white.
The fishing boat flashed theirs in response: red, white, red, and the crew relaxed as the two ships nosed closer together. “Hoy there,” the boat’s skipper said. He kept his voice down to avoid allowing it to travel too far across the water.
“Hoy,” came the response. The two boats maneuvered closer, and the crews threw bumpers over the side to avoid damage. Lines were thrown, and the two craft came together.
The two captains met and shook paws as various boxes and large crates were hurriedly passed from one boat to the other. Both vessels were designed to carry large quantities of fish, so a few tons of other goods were no problem. “Fine night, eh Comrade?” the first captain asked, smothering a cough.
“Not bad,” the other said. “Fog’s in our favor, right enough.” A mate came up to him and whispered, and the captain asked, “Is that all the cargo?”
“Yeah,” the first replied, “and we also have a passenger.” Another shadow had appeared beside him, shapeless under a heavy coat with a knit cap on its head. “Here’s your ride, Comrade.”
“Thanks, Comrade,” and the second captain’s feline ears perked at the female voice. The shadow then sprang lightly over the gunwales and said to the first captain, “Long live the Revolution, and you stay safe.”
The first captain acknowledged this with a grunt as the two boats untied from each other and went their separate ways. From the second boat, dim lights appeared in the murk as the first boat started to act as if it was on a legitimate fishing trip, and not ferrying goods past the American blockade of New Haven.
When the first boat’s lights vanished into the night, the captain of the second boat asked his guest, “Do you mind a light?”
“No, Comrade,” and she took her knit cap off as a dim red light came on.
The captain blinked at the face, then recognized the half-coyote features. “Comrade Morgenstern!” he said with a grin. “It’s good to have you back home.”
Liberty grinned back at him. “It’s great to be back. I’m anxious to get a bath when we reach port.” She raised an arm and sniffed delicately, then laughed. “I reek of America and capitalism,” she joked, and the captain and first mate laughed. “How long before we get home?” she asked as she dropped her small satchel on the deck.
“About two hours,” the mate said, offering her a steaming mug of tea. She cradled it in her paws with a sigh, then sipped as the mate added, “We have to evade their coast guard. If we time it right, we’ll be back before lights out.”
Liberty nodded. The Committee of Nine had decreed two years ago that only essential services, such as the hospital, should have electric power around the clock. Everyone else would have their lights shut off at Hour 97, and power would resume at Hour 25 the next day. It was very economical, and when the Committee had put it to a vote the population had supported the measure.
When the boat tied up at the docks the lights were still on in most of the city, and after thanking the crew Liberty slung her satchel over her shoulder and started walking.
Aside from a few furs headed home from their work, the streets were deserted. She looked up as a bell tolled, and all of the electric lights went out, plunging the city into darkness. The girl smiled to herself, confident that she could find her way around the streets in the dark.
She found that she didn’t need to, after seeing a small group of furs making their way to selected lampposts along the main thoroughfares and hanging small oil lamps from hooks. Others had already started sweeping the roads clean.
“Hey, you!” At the sound of a harsh male voice Liberty turned to see a burly canine wearing a red armband on his sleeve and carrying a shotgun slung over one shoulder. “What are you doing out here, Comrade? Lose your work cadre?” He swung a short wooden baton in one paw in an implicit threat as he added, “I can help your memory along.”
The techniques she had learned at Songmark allowed her to quickly assess the heavily-built canine. Yes, she could defeat him if attacked, but he was on her side. He just didn’t know it yet. “No, Comrade,” Liberty replied as she reached into a pocket and withdrew a treasured possession, her identity card. “I’m on my way home.” She offered the card to the Rottweiler, who studied it carefully and passed it back to her.
“Sorry to bother you, Comrade,” he said almost apologetically. “Just doing my job.”
“And a good job, too,” Liberty told him. “You were right to stop me, Comrade; eternal vigilance is the watchword of the Revolution.” With a wave, she walked on toward Revolution Square.
The broad, grassy quadrangle seemed different somehow, and then she recalled hearing that the huge elm tree in one corner had been cut down. The derelict cathedral was a gloomy pile in the darkness, but a few lights still burned in the Committee building.
She made her way in after identifying herself to the guard at the door, and took the steps two at a time to the third floor. Then down the main hallway to the last door, dimly lit by widely spaced electric lights. When she reached the door, Liberty paused to take a breath before she knocked.
The young woman wasn’t kept waiting long; the sound of footsteps could be heard as someone came to the door. It opened to reveal a tall tan-furred canine wearing a threadbare sweater over a white shirt and dark trousers. He blinked at the slim girl in the heavy coat and asked, “Liberty?”
She smiled, straightening up as she said, “Hello, Father.”
“Come in, Daughter. You weren’t expected until tomorrow,” Arthur Morgenstern said as he stepped aside to admit her. As the hound closed the door he called out, “Luisa! Liberty’s here!” He peered a bit nearsightedly at his only child. “Let me look at you,” he urged. “It’s been a year since you were here last.”
She doffed her coat and knit cap, revealing that she was dressed in a nondescript flannel shirt and slightly worn denim trousers. Arthur looked at her critically as a dowdy, dark-furred canine woman came into the living room. “Luisa,” Arthur said, “here is our Liberty, back from the tropic paradise. Tell me, does she not look thinner?”
The Mixtecan looked at her daughter, then shrugged and said, “Hello, Liberty. Are you hungry?”
“Yes, Mother,” Liberty said in a quiet voice, looking back at the older woman. Luisa shook her head and went to the kitchen as Arthur set her hat and coat aside and gestured for her to go and sit down.
Liberty looked around the room. Members of the Committee of Nine, their families and several other members of the Red Fist had taken up residence in the building, converting offices and conference rooms into housing. Slapdash repairs had been made after the ransacking of the building after the Revolt, and there were signs of the wallpaper peeling in the corners.
She walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table, Arthur sitting down facing her. “So, tell us how you got here so fast,” her father said.
“I worked my passage from Spontoon to San Dingo, Father,” Liberty replied, “and from there – thank you, Mother,” she said as a bowl of stew and a mug of milk was set down in front of her. Her mother merely looked at her and went back to putting away dishes. Liberty ate some of the stew and continued, “I took a series of trains from San Dingo to Gnu York, and after that I found a comrade to ferry me through the blockade line from Shoreham.”
Arthur’s eyebrows lifted. “I hope you were not the only person ferried.”
“I was, but there was also some cargo,” she said with a smile. “And the captain of the boat wanted to pass on a message that a small freighter will suffer a mechanical breakdown and end up in our port soon.” She paused to take a drink and added, “Both food and fuel. I am sure you will have a full report on your desk tomorrow.”
He cocked an ear at her. “That’s good, Liberty. I’d hate to see a comrade in the enemy camp put himself at risk for just one person.” She nodded at that, spooning up more of the savory stew.
Arthur sat back and regarded his daughter fondly as she finished her dinner. He was the Sixth of the Nine, in charge of the Education Commissariat, and Liberty was his masterpiece as well as his only child. When she pushed her bowl away he remarked, “You are doing well at school?”
“Yes, Father. I’m learning a great deal.”
A nod. “I have read the reports you have filed with the Embassy on Spontoon. And you are always watched, my girl, whether you know it or not.” He looked at her, his gaze hardening. “You were nearly expelled earlier this year. You will not allow yourself to make that kind of mistake again, Liberty. Although you are my daughter, you are no better than anyone else, and far too much money is being spent to give you the education we felt was needed. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, sir.” Liberty sat up straighter in her seat. If she failed, her punishment would be swift and certain.
“I am glad that you understand,” Arthur said, his features mellowing somewhat. “You are probably tired; go to bed and we’ll talk in the morning. The Committee will want to hear your report in person.”
“Yes, Father. Goodnight,” and Liberty got up from the table and headed for her room.
The room was perhaps ten feet square and had a single window looking out over the old cathedral. It was small, but it was hers. She got ready for bed and pulled the blanket over her, finally allowing herself to feel the damp chill gnawing at her bones. She shivered for a few minutes, then drifted off to sleep.
“Liberty? Liberty, wake up.” Her mother’s voice, her insistent knock and the wan sunlight coming through the curtains caused the young woman to awaken. Rubbing sleep from her eyes she said, “Yes, Mother? I’m awake.”
“Buena. It’s Hour 20; you’re expected before the Committee at Hour 35 sharp.” Her mother’s footsteps receded, and suddenly Liberty found herself wondering why her mother seemed to dislike her so intensely. She set the thought aside, yawned and threw the covers off her, shivering slightly as the colder air hit her. Almost by reflex she started exercising.
By Hour 30, she had exercised, washed up and had breakfast, thinking that it was best that she adhere to her schedule at Songmark (after all, she was going back in a week). “Mother, is everything all right?” she asked as she left her room.
Luisa spared her daughter a glance before replying, “Of course everything is all right, Liberty. You are doing well at Songmark?”
“Of course, but you’re seeing the same reports that Father gets,” Liberty replied. As she spoke, she studied her mother with a more critical eye, the result of her training.
Luisa wiped her paws off, then removed her apron and smoothed out her ankle-length skirt. Her headfur had been gathered up into a bun at the back of her head; unbound, it draped to the small of her back. An uncomplimentary comparison to Mrs. Yakan surfaced, and the half-coyote shoved the thought away. “True,” Luisa said, “but allow me to ask anyway, Daughter.”
The tip of Liberty’s tail flicked. When her mother stopped calling her by her name she was not pleased by something. “I’m doing very well, Mother. We’re doing plenty of flying, as well as other lessons such as unarmed combat and survival.” She smiled. “I’m even learning to cook.”
“Good,” the older canine said briskly. “You’ll be an excellent trainer when you graduate and come back.” She glanced at the clock. “It’s nearly time. You had best get downstairs, and I need to get to the school.” She bustled into another room to get dressed, and Liberty headed for the door.
Once downstairs, Liberty sat in an anteroom of the onetime General Assembly hall to wait for her name to be called. Other furs were there as well, called before the Committee to resolve disputes or to offer ideas to make the People’s Republic run more efficiently. Since she was no better than anyone else, Liberty was content to wait.
On the exact stroke of Hour 35 a feline opened the door to the chamber and said, “Comrade Liberty Morgenstern.” The half-coyote girl stood and walked into the room, head held high.
The chamber had been stripped of any decoration or any emblem reminiscent of the old regime, including the paw-carved decorative moldings on the walls. Instead a red flag bearing the emblem of the Red Fist hung on one wall, facing about a hundred chairs arrayed in neat rows. Beneath the flag there were three long tables behind which sat the furs who ruled New Haven.
All nine members of the Committee were present, including her father. He spared her a glance over his glasses as she moved to a single chair set between the rest of the seats and the tables. “Comrade Liberty Morgenstern,” she announced herself, “and I serve the Red Fist.”
As she sat there, the nine discussed the reports of her academic progress relayed to them from the Embassy on Spontoon. Her father asked several questions concerning the political dialectic of the islands, but otherwise he stayed silent and took notes. After perhaps half an hour she was dismissed and two furs who had a proposal to make New Haven self-sufficient in energy were called in.
After putting on her coat, Liberty stepped out of the building and into bright sunlight, her breath misting in the chill air. The sky was clear and people could be seen strolling along, going to or from their work. One group, shovels in paw, marched off to do some road repairs; from their clothing they looked to be students from a nearby school. She walked over to a bulletin board set up at the edge of the square and noted that there was to be a concert that night. The concert’s location was some blocks away, in the basement of a building that housed the Fourth Dockworkers Cadre.
Liberty smiled as she read the notice, remembering that the next day was the Winter Festival, and she would very likely have to be seen with her parents. She resolved that, for tonight at least, she would be a face in the crowd.
The sound of hammers on stone echoed down one street, and as she walked around the corner she saw the source of the sound. A group of furs wearing white armbands – political criminals - were toiling away with sledgehammers and pushcarts. From the ruins of the old church, Liberty guessed that the prisoners, or some very like them, had been working away for quite some time. Most of the church’s structure had already been pulled down and most of its roof timbers salvaged.
The group of prisoners was watched by a trio of furs armed with shotguns and batons. The marble and granite monuments in the adjoining cemetery had already been rendered into gravel. As Liberty watched, several of the prisoners dragged the granite cross that had once crowned the church over to an open space, and started to shatter it with their hammers.
That afternoon Luisa Mendez Morgenstern paused in the act of washing her paws in the school restroom and stared at her face in the mirror. Once again her childhood upbringing asserted itself and she caught herself begging God for forgiveness.
Luisa had met Arthur while he was in exile in Mixteca, on the run from the State Police. She had fallen in love with the older fur and they had married in a civil ceremony. But she had never told Arthur that Liberty wasn’t his child, and the guilt gnawed at her.
They had slipped over the border into the United States in 1916, and had made their way back to New Haven. At a Red Fist meeting that fall she had met a handsome young man, a full-blooded coyote whose ancestors held a grudge against the colonial founders of the country. They had talked, and she had gone home with him. Nine months later Liberty had been born.
Luisa had been wracked with guilt, and that guilt had only intensified when she saw Arthur’s reaction. He had been ecstatic, and vowed that they would bring the girl up to reflect all of the latest educational techniques and become a model of what he expected the Revolution to create – someone well-educated, strong in both body and will, and ardently committed to the cause. Liberty would be his life’s work and, although Arthur had no idea, an abiding source of anger for his wife.
Her anger was not directed toward Liberty, except as a reflection of her adultery, but toward herself.
At Hour 60 and with the sun already setting, Liberty went to one of the dining halls for supper. Certain people, like her parents, had the option of eating in their own homes while most of the people ate either with their work cadre or in large communal halls. She fell into line behind a tall fox and asked, “What’s on the menu tonight?”
He looked over his shoulder at her, soot marking his facefur. “Fish chowder, I think,” he replied, raising his nose and sniffing deeply. “Yup, that’s what it is,” he said, licking his lips.
Liberty sniffed, and felt her mouth starting to water as she caught the scents of fresh-baked bread and chowder. She had tried to make fish chowder when cooking at Songmark, but it had never seemed quite the same to her. Probably because the fish were different, she thought as the line crept closer to the serving tables.
The meal was served on a stamped metal tray similar to what one might find in a cafeteria. She took the tray from the server, got a mug of beer from another server, and sat at an empty seat on a long table that held about fifty furs. Some of her fellow diners bore small identification tags, showing that they were from a factory, while others looked (and smelled) as if they had just come from the fish processing plant near the port. Liberty took a deep breath, savoring the varied scents of her native country before starting to eat.
To her surprise the food tasted a bit bland, but she chalked that up to the fact that when she was on Spontoon, she ate foods that tasted different and had spices in them that were not available here. The thick soup and the fresh bread was filling and satisfying, however, and the beer was tasty.
The conversations that she overheard seemed a bit superficial, and realized that people were being careful of what they said. Well, that was only right; the new state was fairly young, and enemies could be anywhere, waiting for a chance to criticize or undermine the Revolution. The Committee of Nine had said it best, five years earlier: “You are either with us, or against us.”
After dinner she walked several blocks to the building that housed the dockworkers’ cadres. The basement stairs were in an alleyway, and she headed down them to the door. A feline standing there said, “Welcome, Comrade. Fine night, isn’t it?” He looked to be about her age, or slightly younger, and was bundled up in a heavy coat and scarf.
“Yes, but it’s a chilly night,” Liberty observed. “Stay warm,” she said as she walked into the room. Inside, there were chairs and small tables set up, and candles and oil lamps provided enough light for the fifty or so furs to see by. She sat down at an empty table and a passing fur set a small glass down in front of her and poured a small measure of a clear liquid into it. She walked on before Liberty could say anything, so the half-coyote picked up the glass and sniffed.
It had a slightly astringent smell, underlying a scent of mint. Liberty tipped a tiny amount onto her tongue and almost immediately winced as the home-brewed liquor caused her taste buds to go numb. She swallowed, and the liquor blazed a trail down her throat to her stomach, making her feel a bit warm under her coat.
Applause filled the air as the other furs in the room cheered the arrival of the musicians. There were five of them, three with guitars and two with wooden recorders. There was some good-humored joking as the instruments were tuned up and the players sat. Soon one of them, a canine with the bold black, brown and tan markings of Alsatian ancestry, set his guitar aside and said, “Good evening, Comrades. Welcome to our performance tonight, and I ask that you be a little patient. Rick here,” and he nodded to a squirrel, “had a hard day today, so if he starts to fall asleep just clap louder.” The crowd laughed as the squirrel pouted, and the group started to play.
The music was like jazz, but softer and without the usual fast syncopation one usually associated with the genre. The quintet was really quite talented, and Liberty found herself enjoying the music. After all, the Revolution should not only fill the bellies of the workers, but uplift their spirits as well.
Two more tunes followed, and the Alsatian set aside his guitar and stood up, his paws clasped in front of him. The two furs with recorders started to play, and the canine began to sing in a soft baritone:
“There is a garden I know, a happy place,
A flowering grove filled with many a tree,
Yet, though all might have a sunny face
It appears to me both bare and empty.
“Beside that garden flows a placid stream,
Oft have I steered my little boat there;
To bask and revel as if in a dream
With she who makes the place so fair.”
As he sang, Liberty listened, and looked around as couples seated at nearby tables drew closer together. When he finished, she joined in the applause and took another small sip of her drink. It went down easier now, and she felt quite a bit warmer. She stood briefly, shed her coat and draped it over her chair before sitting back down.
After a few more songs, two of the musicians told jokes poking fun at the Americans who came through in their carefully watched trains. One of the guitar players did a fair impression of the American President that had most of the crowd roaring with laughter, and finally the Alsatian stood up again, with his guitar looking like a toy in his paws.
He grinned out at the audience as he strummed the instrument and said, “Friends, I’m afraid this has to be the last song of the night. I know, I know,” he said as several furs in the crowd groaned, “but tomorrow’s the Winter Festival, and you’ll see us there, probably better rested, right Rick?” There was laughter as he dodged a wad of paper thrown by the squirrel, and the crowd quieted as he began to sing again.
This time Liberty listened with all of her attention, ears canted forward as she realized with a start that he was looking at her as he sang. He really was quite a handsome man, taller than she was and about the same age, dressed in overalls and a light short-sleeved shirt. A memory of the coyote she had woken up beside on Main Island surfaced, and she found her tail wagging of its own accord. She stilled it with a conscious effort and went back to listening to the song.
The song was based on a simple metaphor, really; he compared himself to a rock, stern and alone, and that was his problem. He was alone, without someone to love. He was really quite a good singer, and Liberty felt her breath catch in her throat as he looked at her in passing.
Finally the song was over, and she joined in the applause as the singer waved and shook paws with his fellow musicians. He picked up his guitar and was lost in the crowd of departing furs.
Liberty stayed in her seat, waiting for the crowd to leave, when she turned and saw that the Alsatian was sitting at her table. “Hello,” he said. “I haven’t seen you here before.”
“Oh! Well, ah, I’m usually over in another part of town.” It was a lame attempt to cover up her embarrassment – how had he managed to sneak up on her like that? She resisted the urge to grind her teeth at her laxity.
He smiled. “It’s always good to see a new face, especially when it’s such a pretty one. My name’s Dan,” and he extended a paw.
“My name’s Liberty,” she said, shaking his offered paw. The paw had heavy calluses and she liked that – this was no soft bourgeois, but a man who worked hard for his living. She had similar rough patches on her paws, the result of the hard work at Songmark.
“A pretty name, to go with a pretty face,” he grinned. “So, did you like the concert?”
She blinked, catching herself after almost losing herself in his deep brown eyes. “Yes, I did. I liked your last song very much.”
He smiled at that. “Thank you. I worked on it for a while so I could get it exactly right. The others in the band offer suggestions, but it’s mostly all my own work.”
“Where do you find time to practice?” Liberty asked, growing more interested in this man.
“We practice on meal breaks and rest periods,” he replied, “and we’ll sing while we work. We seem to get more done when we’re singing – it makes the day go by faster.”
“That’s wonderful,” she said. “Being able to combine your work with your pleasure – I can see that you get a lot of pride out of your singing.” At his sudden blush she squeezed his paw, and blinked, suddenly aware that she hadn’t released it yet. “You mentioned the Winter Festival. Will you and your band sing tomorrow, too?”
His ears flicked, and in the dim lamplight she could see his tail wagging slowly, like a metronome. “I think we’ve got the Dockworker’s Collective convinced to let us play,” he said. “Of course, they’ll probably stick us onto the very end of the performances, so we’ll end up playing to an empty square.”
Liberty felt her own tail starting to wag as she heard herself say, “I think you’d have at least one person there to hear you play and sing.”
Dan’s muzzle split into a wide grin. “That’s nice of you, Liberty,” and before she could react he leaned close and kissed her. “Look, I seriously need to go,” he said as he stood up. “Will I see you again?”
She blinked up at him, a paw raised to touch the spot he’d kissed. For some reason, she had trouble getting her thoughts in order, but she finally nodded. He smiled down at her and walked out of the room. The feline who had been acting as the doorman started blowing out candles and that brought her back to her senses.
Liberty stood up and put her coat back on, feeling as though an opportunity had been missed. As she left the basement and headed back to her parents’ apartment, she found herself resolving that she wouldn’t let the opportunity pass her by again.
There was a note waiting for her on a small chalkboard by the apartment door, and she noted with some satisfaction that her father had arranged work for her. She was to report to the Tenth Railway Cadre at the station on Hour 26, the day after the Winter Festival. Liberty had been looking forward to an assignment to a work detail; it made her feel more part of the society and it gave her something to do that involved exercise.
She caught herself smiling foolishly while she got ready for bed, and guessed it was either because of the drink that she’d had, or the memory of Dan kissing her.
The next day, horse-drawn carts and furs on foot came in from the outlying collective farms and converged on Revolution Square for the festival. There were five in the calendar, one for each season and a fifth to mark the anniversary of the Revolution. Only essential workers were at their posts on those days, and even most of those only worked part of their usual shifts.
A small grandstand had been set up in the middle of the grassy central square, with a larger platform for bands or singing groups erected nearby. The sun was shining through a high, thin overcast as the festival began.
Liberty felt a bit self-conscious sitting with her parents on the grandstand with the rest of the Nine and their families. Her place was there with the people, and she nibbled at her lip, wondering despite herself where Dan was as more and more people filled the square. Finally the current leader of the Nine, a female beaver who walked with a cane, hobbled forward to face a microphone. “Comrades,” she said in a thin, nasal voice, “welcome to the Winter Festival. Now, I know that you didn’t come here to listen to speeches – and I see our friends from the State Brewery are almost set up – we do have several announcements to make.” She perched a pair of bifocals on her muzzle and took a piece of paper from her pocket.
“First, our comrades in Bridgeport wish all of their brothers and sisters in New Haven City a happy Winter Festival, with wishes for continued success throughout the new year.” A cheer rose at this, particularly from those whose farms were near that city. The beaver waited for the noise to die down before smiling.
“Second, I announce glorious news, Comrades. Our new radio station, the Voice of New Haven, is now on the air!” Everyone cheered at this, and Liberty’s father smiled and waved in acknowledgement. As the fur in charge of education, the radio station was his pet project. “We shall use this station to send music and news of our country to those sweating under the heels of the rich in America,” the beaver said, “but for today, my friends and comrades – let the Festival begin!” Shouts and applause greeted her words, and the first band stepped up, representing a farmer’s collective from Woodbridge.
Liberty mingled with the crowd, enjoying the anonymity. She took a hunk of raisin bread from a table and had her mouth full when a paw tapped her on her shoulder. She turned and grinned around her food at the sight of Dan, and hurriedly swallowed. She managed it without choking and said, “Dan! Good to see you today.”
“Good to see you, too Liberty,” he said, smiling back at her. The Alsatian was dressed in a heavy jacket that seemed almost too small for him, and held a mug of beer in one of his paws. “I saw you up there with the Committee,” he said, lowering his voice. “You didn’t say you were Comrade Morgenstern’s daughter.”
Liberty caught herself blushing. “Well, um,” and she shrugged. “Neither of us gave last names.”
He laughed, a happy sound that made her tail twitch. “True, we didn’t have a proper introduction.” He stuck out a paw. “Dan Vallance.”
She took it in a firm grip. “Liberty Morgenstern.” The pair shook paws, then started laughing. They started to walk along as Liberty said, “I’m no one special, Dan, and I didn’t really feel comfortable up there. My place is down here with all of you; in fact, I’m headed out with a work cadre tomorrow.”
“Not to the docks?” As she shook her head, he grimaced. “Too bad. You’d enjoy working with us, and I bet you have a good voice.” She smiled, and as the speakers on the bandstand came on with a brief howl of feedback he asked, “Would you like to listen to the music with me, or just walk around?”
“Let’s walk around a bit first,” she replied. “I want to listen to you.”
As the clock wound its way past Hour 60 the two had walked around the city, talking and occasionally stopping at some attraction or display put on by some of the cadres. One invited people to throw a ball at a target that could dunk a richly-dressed fur into a tank of stale beer. From the feline’s bedraggled look, he’d already been ducked a number of times, and the white armband he wore guaranteed that he’d make a good target. They laughed as another ball found the target, and the shivering feline was pitched into the murky fluid.
As they walked, they shared stories of their families and their experiences. Liberty told him a few stories about Songmark, while he told her about his work and his music. “After a while,” he said, “the others in my cadre told me to find somewhere else, because I started getting inspirations late at night – I made too much noise, and they were trying to sleep.”
“So where do you go?” Liberty asked.
Dan grinned at her and said, “I’ll show you after the band and I are done, okay?” She nodded and they walked on to tables that held cheese, sausage and warm cider. After eating he found a spot for her on the grass; “So I can watch your face and see if we’re doing a good job,” he joked.
He stayed by her side as no less than five performing acts came up on the stage, one after the other and offering instrumental music, songs or comedy. A chill breeze started, and Liberty surprised herself by nestling a bit closer to Dan for warmth. She’d been away from home too long for a brief chill to affect her so.
But Dan did smell very nice, and her tail almost locked sideways.
Finally he got up and joined the other four furs as they were introduced, and Liberty sat alone as they played. When Dan sang, she made eye contact with him so he could see her reaction to the songs, and his smile made her tail wag harder for some reason.
It was sometime after Hour 80 when everyone was finished, and many of the people started back to their housing units and farm dormitories. Liberty stood up and dusted herself off as Dan came up to her and asked, “So, how did we do?”
She grinned up at him. “You did great. I think you did better than all the other bands, including that violin quartet,” she enthused, and he laughed as he linked his arm in hers, the other paw holding his guitar. She felt something touch her nose, and looked up. “It’s starting to snow.”
“Yes, it is,” he said, but he wasn’t looking up at the sky.
He was looking at her.
Liberty looked up at him, the lights in the square gleaming on the snow as it drifted down. She couldn’t scent him, but her tail was almost painfully close to going sideways. “Were – were you going to show me that private room?” she asked softly.
He nodded, but instead he drew closer until their muzzles almost touched. This time she kissed him, and at the touch she felt her eyes close and her heart skip a beat. As they parted she looked up at him again as he said, “Come on, Liberty.”
The snow was falling a bit thicker, and what had fallen to the pavement glowed yellow in the streetlights as they reached the basement of the Dockworker’s Collective. Dan let Liberty hold his guitar while he produced a key from a pocket and opened the door.
Inside the room was dark, but he lit a candle and led her through the basement into another, much smaller room, possibly an old janitor’s closet. A suggestion of heat from one wall told her that the building’s furnace was nearby, and as Dan lit a small oil lamp she looked around the room.
There wasn’t much; a small table and a chair, a mattress and a pile of blankets. As the light grew in the room, she saw him shedding his coat and wondered at the pain in her paws. She looked down and saw that she was gripping the neck of his guitar in a stranglehold; the wires were biting into her palms. With a sheepish grin she laid the instrument aside and looked up at him again as he walked over to her.
He gently pulled her knit cap off, letting her short bob of brown headfur fall free and kissing her again as she removed her coat. Dan placed his paws on her shoulders, and this time her tail went sideways and stayed there. She placed her paws on his chest, looking up at him with wide eyes as she suddenly stammered, “I – I’ve never . . . “
Dan hushed her gently, a paw curling under her chin and lifting her muzzle to his lips. “I think you’re ready, Liberty.”
Sometime during the night she woke up, briefly wondered where she was and why she felt so good, then remembered and snuggled closer to Dan.
Sometime later she winced as a lamp was lit and she blinked up at a squirrel, who tsked and shook his head. “Dan, wake up, you idiot,” and a heavy work boot struck the Alsatian’s ankle. “You’re going to be late for work!”
That brought both of them wide awake. Liberty started to throw off her blanket, then suddenly remembered where she was and wrapped the covers around her, glaring at the squirrel. “Rick,” Dan yawned, “what time is it?”
“Hour 20, you moron. Look, you and your friend here need to get cleaned up before you walk out of the building smelling – well, like you two smell already,” Rick said. “And I’m sure you have work to do too, Comrade,” he said to Liberty.
“Yes, I do,” she said as she rubbed sleep from her eyes. “Is there a place where we can clean up?”
The squirrel nodded. “Right upstairs, first floor, last door on the left,” he replied. “That’s the First Cadre’s quarters; they’re still at work, so if you two hurry you can get cleaned up. Dan, I’ll see you at breakfast,” and Rick walked out, closing the door behind him.
Dan and Liberty looked at each other and burst out laughing as they scrambled for their clothes. A fast dash upstairs followed, and they got clean as quickly as they could. As Liberty put her coat on Dan asked, “Will I see you again, Liberty?”
She paused, then finished buttoning her coat before looking up into his eyes. “Every night I’m here, Dan.” They kissed; she jammed her knit cap on her head and ran from the building.
Liberty barely had time to gulp down a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of milk at a nearby dining hall before joining her work cadre. That group was assembling at the train station, and she was not quite the last one there. She checked in with the cadre leader and picked up a shovel.
The cadre leader was a short badger with a nasty scar showing whitely along his muzzle. He coughed and said, “Good morning, Comrades. I am Comrade Jacobs, and we’re assigned to work on the railway today. Our job site’s about a mile from here, so we’ll set an easy pace so no one gets too tired when we have to start working. Okay? Let’s go.” He started walking, and the twenty other people in the cadre started off with him.
The sky was still overcast, and a thin layer of snow lay on the ground. Street sweepers were already out brushing the snow from the major roads, and a group of Young Internationalists were marching toward the square to clean up the place and take down the stages.
As they walked Liberty’s ears perked at the sound of something approaching from behind her, and she turned her head in time to see a wagon drawn by two horses overtake the group. The wagon was a flatbed design but had a stout wooden cage wrapped in barbed wire attached to it. There were half a dozen furs in the cage, a woman and five men all wearing pawcuffs. Four furs wearing red armbands rode on top of the vehicle; a driver, one carrying a shotgun and two others carrying polished oak batons.
One of the furs inside the cage wore a sign around his neck that read Wrecker, and as the wagon went past the cadre Liberty asked the man driving the vehicle, “Where are they going?”
“New re-education camp outside Ansonia,” the spaniel said, shaking the reins out a bit. “Nothing like some useful work and self-examination to correct one’s bourgeois tendencies,” he said, and the fur with the shotgun laughed. Liberty nodded approvingly, adjusted the shovel on her shoulder and continued to walk.
As a result of an agreement between New Haven’s revolutionary government and the United States, a railway easement was granted that enabled trains to make the passage between Gnu York and Boston without a long detour via Albany. In exchange, New Haven received payments in goods; various items that were otherwise unobtainable. Of course, New Haven had also insisted on certain security measures.
The railway was flanked by a fifty-foot strip of raked gravel, and barbed wire fences marked the boundaries of the easement. Gates had been placed at the borders, and trains had to stop until the New Haven border guards opened them.
There were no trains expected through today, Comrade Jacobs told the cadre once they’d arrived at their work site, but the easement needed to be tended. Weeds had started to poke up through the gravel and some of the fence had to be replaced. As they got organized and started working, a small horse-drawn cart came from the other direction, bearing food and water. Two more carts trailed behind, piled high with gravel.
The work was hard, but nothing like a typical day at Songmark, Liberty thought as she bent to her task. The weeds had to be dug up, not merely pulled, and the gravel had to be shoveled in and raked over the holes left behind. The stones for the easement were obviously from another graveyard, church or unused building; bits of broken statuary were mixed with the other, more irregular pieces. One shovelful of rock had contained marble fingers and part of the shattered face of a cherub. When her group paused to get a drink of water, Liberty paused and looked at the fence.
Signs had been attached to the barrier, facing the trains as they came down the line, and they bore slogans exhorting the Americans to rise up and overthrow the moneyed plutocracy that was grinding the workers underfoot. Some were clever, others were crude, and all made their point forcefully. One in particular caught her attention, a series of signs that bore parts of a poem:
“-When you repent-
-Of all your stealing-
-It's OUR boots-
-You'll all be feeling.-
“That’s a neat idea,” Liberty said to no one in particular, and a fur standing beside her laughed.
“Yeah,” the equine said. “I heard last month that the Yanks threatened to pull the signs down, and we dared ‘em to try. They backed down, though,” he chuckled, and Liberty laughed.
“Trust the bourgeois to raise a fuss, then back off,” she muttered as she started digging up another tuft of weeds. “Spineless, that’s what they are.” Several of those near her grunted acknowledgement.
By the end of the day she was tired, but she felt good as she marched back into town with her cadre. They stopped at a dining hall for a meal of fried potatoes, ham and milk before Comrade Jacobs dismissed them. “We’ll meet tomorrow at the usual spot, Comrades,” he said. “There’s always something to be done.” The rest cheered their accomplishments, and headed back to their housing unit.
Liberty walked through the rapidly-dwindling twilight to the Dockworker’s Collective, and was a bit surprised to find the basement locked. She went around to the front entrance of the building and asked the woman at the door, “Isn’t there a concert tonight?”
“Nope,” the rat said. “Fourth Cadre’s working late tonight.”
She tried – and failed – to hide her disappointment as she said, “Oh. Well, I’m sure there’ll be other times they’ll be available.” She waved to the rat as she left the building, then paused and asked, “Can you get a message to Dan Vallance in the Fourth Cadre?”
“I suppose so. You sweet on him?”
“I’m a friend,” Liberty said firmly. “Can you tell him that Liberty stopped by?”
The rat rolled the message over in her mind, then nodded. “Sure thing, Comrade. Good night.”
Liberty went back to the Committee Building and went upstairs to her parents’ apartment, using the key her father gave her to let herself in. As soon as she closed the door she heard her mother say, “Hello. Where were you last night, Liberty?”
“Since I’m assigned to a work cadre, I decided I should sleep with the workers, Mother,” Liberty said. It wasn’t the full truth, because she had slept with only one worker, but she wasn’t going to tell her parents about Dan.
“And yet you come back here,” Luisa observed, and at the tone of her mother’s voice Liberty recalled her anger control training to keep her ears from laying back. “Well, are you hungry?” the older woman asked. “Or have you already eaten?”
“I had supper with my cadre, Mother,” the half-coyote girl replied, and she recounted what she had done that day. “I thought the signs on the fence were a great idea,” she concluded.
Her mother smiled. “We had a contest for all of the children in the schools, and the winners had their ideas made into signs.” She grinned suddenly. “Half of those winners came from the school where I teach.”
“That’s wonderful,” Liberty said enthusiastically. “Where’s Father?”
“The Committee had a meeting, and your father’s clucking over his latest idea like a mother hen,” Luisa said, waving a dismissive paw. “I think he’s worrying about what should be broadcast.”
“Music,” Liberty said suddenly. As her mother turned to her, the younger woman said, “Did you hear the bands yesterday? Some of them are really talented. Why not have a few of them perform for the radio broadcasts? Let the world know that New Haven isn’t the terrible place they’re saying it is?”
Luisa looked at her daughter as she considered the notion, then smiled and nodded. “That’s a very good idea, Liberty. When I see your father, I will tell him. You should talk to him too about it.”
Liberty felt happy that her mother liked her idea, and that realization brought her up a bit short. “Well, I’m going to bed, Mother,” Liberty said. “I have work tomorrow.” The older woman nodded and she headed for her room.
As she undressed she thought back to Dan, and smiled as her tail started to wag again. Her expression suddenly changed as a thought hit her, and she lunged for the satchel that she had carried all the way from Spontoon. She pulled a small calendar from the canvas bag and started counting off days.
As she finished doing the calculations in her head, Liberty sat back on her bed with a sigh and resolved that in the future she would remember the precautions that Mrs. Oelabe taught all of the new arrivals to Songmark. Dan was very nice, and he had been her first, but there was no way she was going to get pregnant. She had a mission, after all.
Her eyes were drawn to a movement down below on the street. A feline was running along the street, pursued by two canines waving batons. They caught up with him, and she opened her window in time to hear the thud of seasoned oak striking flesh. Her ears canted forward in time to hear one canine, a Doberman by the look of him, snarl “Saboteur,” and she closed the window and got into bed.
She woke up the next morning, ears flicking at the sound of static. After washing up and getting dressed she stepped into the kitchen to see her father bent over a small radio, fiddling with the tuning knob. He turned his head fractionally as she came in and said, “Good morning, Liberty. Come, help me with this, would you?”
Liberty moved her father out of the way and touched the tuner gently. A tiny motion to the right and the radio’s speaker suddenly blared “ –ched masses who yearn to be free from the yoke of the ruling classes. This is the Voice of New Haven, sending out a message of hope to the masses in American captivity – “
Arthur turned the volume down and said gleefully, “Isn’t it wonderful, Liberty? Now we can reach out to all of those who sympathize with us and wish the Revolution to succeed.”
“It’s wonderful, Father. I had an idea yesterday,” and Liberty quickly told him about the idea of having music on the radio. When she finished, the hound put a paw to his chin and looked thoughtful. “It’s not a bad notion, at that,” he mused. As he started thinking about the idea, Liberty slipped out to go to work.
They were a mile further down the line today, and the task was the same. While they were working ears perked at the sound of a train whistle. Comrade Jacobs started waving his arms and shouted “Train coming! Off the tracks and behind the fence!”
The cadre complied as a tiny tremor could be felt. Liberty stood by the fence and watched as the train went by. It was traveling at a moderate rate of speed, just slow enough that the passengers could gawk at the workers. One or two flashed obscene gestures, while a couple of children waved.
Liberty resisted the urge to wave back. Those were the enemy after all – the bourgeois who had it their way for too long, and prevented those who were in the lower classes from taking their rightful place in the society and denying them their fair share of resources. Well, she thought, New Haven is the great leader, a vision of things to come when the Revolution sweeps across America. Hard work and discipline would guarantee the success of the people, and transform the world.
She watched the train go by, and picked up her shovel as she waited for the signal to approach the tracks again.
After eating dinner with her cadre, she stopped by the apartment only long enough to get her things and leave a note on the small chalkboard by the door. Her mother’s comment the previous night had not been lost on her.
When she left the Committee building she scanned the bulletin board, looking for any sign of a concert. She didn’t see any new notices, so she sighed and walked over to the Dockworker’s Collective.
The feline that she had seen at the basement door was there, and he waved as she walked up the stairs. “Hello, Comrade. Can I help you?”
“Yes. Do you know if Dan Vallance is in? He’s in the Fourth Cadre,” Liberty explained.
“Vallance? Oh, yeah, the singer,” the feline said. “Sure, him and his cadre just come back in from work. You want to talk to him?”
“Yes, please,” Liberty replied, trying to get herself under control. She had trouble fathoming why her heart should be beating faster at the prospect of seeing him again.
The Alsatian appeared at the door, and he grinned as he saw the half-coyote girl standing at the door. “Liberty, great to see you! Thanks, Eddie,” and he smiled at the feline. He then walked down the stairs, Liberty falling in beside him. “So, having fun at work?” he asked as they walked around the corner of the building.
He got his reply as she grabbed him by the front of his coat and pushed him against the wall, kissing him hard. He got over his surprise quickly, though, and returned the kiss, wrapping his arms around her. Finally breaking the kiss, Liberty whispered, “I missed you.”
Dan chuckled, “I didn’t think I’d made that much of an impression. I missed you too, Liberty.” He grinned, and both of them burst out laughing.
“I was wondering if you were having another concert,” Liberty said, “and I had an idea.” She recounted what she had thought about having the various cadres offer musical performances on the new radio station. When she finished, Dan looked dubious.
“Well, I don’t know, Liberty,” he said, rubbing the back of his head with a paw, “I do this for fun, and people enjoy it. Having to write on a schedule – well, it just wouldn’t be the same.”
She nodded. “I understand, but promise me you’ll think about it, okay? You and the others might find out you like it.”
“Okay,” he chuckled, putting an arm around her shoulders as they started walking around the building. “I’ll talk to the others. Now, let’s talk about you and me.” He smiled down at her.
Liberty grinned, then her expression drew into a grimace. “I can’t stay very much longer,” she said, and he nodded. She’d told him more about Songmark, after first swearing him to secrecy. “I’d like to see you again, when I come back. If you want,” she added hastily.
He kissed her lightly on the muzzle. “Of course I’d like to see you again, Liberty, and I’ll look forward to it, too. You know where I’ll be,” and he grinned as he stretched and yawned. “Sorry,” he said. “It’s been a long day.”
She nodded. “Same here.” They had almost walked the whole way around the building, and as they rounded the corner she paused. “Look, Dan, I’ll head back to my dormitory. You get some sleep.”
“Sure, Liberty. Good night.” They kissed, and after a brief, bone-cracking hug, she walked away.
As she came out of the shower the next day, Comrade Jacobs was waiting just outside the door. “Excuse me, Comrade Morgenstern?”
“Yes, Comrade Jacobs?” she asked.
He kept his eyes courteously averted as he said, “I just got a message from the Committee building – you’re wanted there, as fast as possible.”
“I understand,” she said, dropping her towel and dressing hurriedly. “Did they say why?”
“Well, um . . . ” he started to say, his tone apologetic.
“I see. Thank you, Comrade.” She finished dressing, grabbed her satchel and left the housing unit.
She was passed into the building, and directed to the Committee’s chambers. As she walked into the empty room, the guards closed the doors behind her, and she saw three furs standing by the tables under the flag. One was her father, the second was an otter who was in charge of New Haven’s fisheries industry, and the third . . . “Yes, Father? You called for me?” she asked.
“Hm? Oh, yes, Liberty,” Arthur said. “Your information was correct, and as a result a freighter will be leaving port soon for Gnu York. Eric here,” and he indicated the otter, “has made all the necessary arrangements for you to leave tomorrow morning, around Hour 2.”
“I understand,” Liberty said. “Is there anything else, Comrade?”
The otter frowned, and looked at Arthur, who said, “Yes, well. This comrade will speak to you.” Arthur and the otter left the room, closing the door and leaving Liberty alone with the fur. She didn’t know his name, and didn’t need to.
The Committee of Nine knew that there were still those in New Haven who wanted to overthrow the Red Fist and bring the old regime back into power. The Commissariat that defended the People from counterrevolutionary elements didn’t have a name, and didn’t have a known office. But they were, as one fur said grandly, ‘The sword and shield of New Haven.’
“I am at your service, Comrade, and at the service of the Revolution,” Liberty said, standing at attention.
“Rest easy, Comrade, that your service has been acknowledged,” the fur said. He paused and coughed, a dry hacking sound. “We have a file that you need to see,” he said, and passed her a slim dossier. “You are to read this, and give it back to me the instant you have the essentials committed to memory.”
“Yes, Comrade,” she said. “So I will not be returning to my work cadre?”
The fur seemed amused by the question. “No, Comrade, although I am pleased to see that your zeal has been unaffected by your long sojourn on Spontoon. Your mission has not changed.”
“I understand, Comrade,” she said, turning the file over in her paws as if eager to read it. At his gesture, she opened the dossier and started reading absorbedly, occasionally looking up as she started to memorize the information. The fur waited as she read.
It was midmorning when she closed the dossier and passed it back to him. He questioned her about certain parts of the file, and nodded in satisfaction as she repeated them exactly. “Thank you, Comrade, for giving me the opportunity to serve the People,” Liberty said. “Will that be all?”
“No,” the fur said. “You have been observed with a certain fur, a dockworker. Now I am very aware that your life has been somewhat sheltered, Comrade, but you must exercise restraint.” He smiled. “However, I am not blind to what brings men and women together. The Revolution will need strong young people like you and Comrade Vallance.” He cocked his head in thought, tail moving idly, then said, “You are dismissed, Comrade.”
Liberty straightened, standing at attention. They knew, then, but they did not want to interfere. Good. “Thank you, Comrade,” and she left the room, closing the door behind her.
She was going to be leaving early in the morning, so she went to bed and slept a good part of the day. A light tapping on her door around Hour 80 woke her, and she called out, “I’m up.”
“Liberty?” her father said, knocking again.
“I said I’m awake, Father,” she repeated, raising her voice a bit as she started getting dressed. She paused while lacing up her boots, realizing that she needed to say goodbye to Dan before she left. Leaving a message wouldn’t do at all.
She relaxed a bit. It was only Hour 80, and the ship was due to leave at Hour 2. There was enough time, provided she could get away from her parents.
Arthur looked up from his reading as his daughter came into the living room. “Well, all ready I see,” he said, looking over his glasses at her.
“Yes, Father,” she said as she closed her satchel and looked around. “Where’s Mother?”
The hound waved a negligent paw. “She went to bed early. Her school is on an outing tomorrow,” he explained. He reached out and took her paw. “Are you going now?” he asked. “The ship doesn’t leave for a while yet.”
“I want to help load the ship, Father,” Liberty said, taking his paw in hers and giving it a squeeze.
Arthur stood up slowly, and she suddenly realized how old he truly was as he gathered her into his arms and awkwardly hugged her. “I am so proud of you, Daughter,” he said, releasing her hastily before adding, “Please take care of yourself, and come back when you can.”
“Of course, Father. You and Mother look after yourselves, please,” and the half-coyote gathered up her satchel and left the apartment. She abruptly paused, a paw on the doorknob as she turned to Arthur and said, “I was thinking, Father, about that old cathedral.”
“Well, I was thinking that we don’t need it there any longer. Why remind the people of their bourgeois past? Besides, the stones could make a few excellent schools or other buildings,” she explained.
Arthur cupped his muzzle with a paw and thought for a moment, then said, “I’ll mention it at the next Committee session. Thank you, Liberty,” and he smiled and waved as she closed the door.
As soon as she left the building she headed for the Dockworker’s Collective and rapped on the door. “What do you want?” the fur at the door asked, rubbing sleep from his eyes and glaring at her as snow drifted down. “It’s almost midnight!”
Liberty arched a brow at the beaver and said, “I need to talk to Dan Vallance in the Fourth Cadre. Is he in?”
“The Fourth Cadre’s still down at the docks,” the beaver said with an irritated slap of his tail against the doorjamb. “Now, go away before I call the militia on you.” He dangled a small tin whistle from his paw.
“Have a good sleep, Comrade,” Liberty shouted as she ran for the docks, her boots leaving prints in the snow.
Some electric lights glowed along the wharf as furs swarmed over the small freighter. The words S.S. Peabody stood out in white paint along her black hull, and smoke was already rising from its single stack. A trio of armed furs strolled along the dock, making sure that no one decided to hitch a ride when the ship left port.
It took a few questions, but Liberty found Dan warming his paws over a fire that had been built in an old oil barrel. She moved upwind of him, and when he caught her scent he grinned and turned around. “Liberty, great to see you! Coming to work with – oh, I see,” he said as she lifted her satchel.
“Can we talk?” Liberty asked, and he nodded, gesturing toward an old factory building less than fifty yards from where the Peabody was tied up.
The building was abandoned, but several of the boards covering the open doorway were loose enough to shove aside without much effort. Once they were inside Dan asked, “So, you’re leaving?”
“Yes,” she replied, her tail drooping as she gripped her bag in both paws. “I’m sorry, Dan, but I have to.”
“Hey,” and he stepped close, running a paw against the side of her face. “I understand. We all have our assigned duties, Liberty.” He smiled, and her tail started to wag as the swirling wind in the old building picked up his scent. “I’ll miss you, you know,” he said.
“I’ll miss you too, Dan,” and she dropped the satchel as she hugged him hard. She looked up at him in time for him to kiss her, and they stood there for several moments.
Liberty couldn’t understand why she was suddenly crying as she broke the kiss and stood looking up at him. He was looking intently at her, as if trying to memorize her face. A grubby finger brushed aside a tear that gleamed in the dim light. “Will you come back?” he whispered.
She drew a sharp breath, almost a sob as she replied, “Yes, I swear to you that I will, Dan.” She smiled. “I want to hear you sing again.” She blushed, ears dipping as he chuckled.
“You know where I’ll be,” he said, and he looked into her eyes again. Suddenly he looked around, then took her by one paw. “Do you want to do what we did the night of the Winter Festival?” he asked.
The look in her eyes was all the reply he needed, and the two of them went to find a suitable spot. Far in the rear of the building they found the old supervisor’s office, and after shoving the door closed they paused.
The moon was in its first quarter, shining through the clouds as the snow continued to fall. That same light slanted through a cracked and dirty window as they looked at each other, the spell finally broken as Liberty unbuttoned her coat and took off her cap. Dan spread his coat over an old desk and took her in his arms.
Later, the two walked back to the wharf, Dan holding her satchel in one paw while the other hugged her around her waist. “Well, here you are,” he said, “and it’s almost time to go.” He kissed her, ignoring the hoots and catcalls of the others in his cadre.
Liberty grinned, then grabbed his lapels and pulled him down to her muzzle. The good-natured joking and laughing from the other workers grew in volume until she released him and took her satchel from his paw. “Yes, it’s time to go. Goodbye, Dan. Goodbye, Comrades!” she said, walking over to the ship. As she walked away she glanced behind her at the big Alsatian, and flicked her tail at him. The others thought it was great fun, and were still slapping Dan’s back as she reached the gangway.
The ship’s captain, an elderly white-furred canine wearing glasses, squinted at her as she came aboard. “So, you’re my passenger?” he huffed. “Name’s Sherman Thorne. Can you lend a paw when we cast off?”
“Say the word,” Liberty said. He smiled around the meerschaum pipe in his teeth, and waved her toward the mooring lines.
As she took her place with the rest of the crew, Thorne turned to his first mate and nodded. “Okay, Killer, let’s get going.”
The shrew yelled, “Cast off! Helm, back one-quarter!” Water started to boil up at the stern of the freighter as it slowly pulled away from the dock. As Liberty helped haul in the lines she stood up and saw Dan standing at the edge of the dock. She smiled, and he waved.
She took off her cap and waved back at him, then went back to coiling and stowing the hawsers. While she worked, the few lights of New Haven dwindled and were lost as the snow continued to fall and the ship set its course for Gnu York.