Sojourn In Brooklyn
By Jeff Baker
(A Bryce Going Story)
I hadn’t ever expected to see the Brooklyn Bridge again, let alone be back East but the job I had didn’t question my fake I.D. and they were paying me so I rode along in their truck to unload all the stuff. It was all legal (except for me) and they were paying me under the table so I was fine with it. I hadn’t been to New York since I was a little kid, driving up here one summer with my Mom and Dad when I was about nine. That had been about seven years ago, and I doubted we would run into anybody who knew my name wasn’t really Bryce Going. I wasn’t sure where any of my family here would be, as long as we didn’t go back to Philly.
“Too bad we weren’t here for the Bicentennial,” I said.
“Too bad, nothin’,” my boss said from the driver’s seat. “Bumper to bumper traffic, streets closed off, all to buy a cheap tri-corner hat from some cheap sidewalk salesman or a button from some girl who wants to sell ya something else. Trust me; you were better at home watching it all on T.V.”
Nat, the older guy lounging in the sleeper berth, laughed. They had taken turns driving since we left Colorado and I could have had worse company. Besides, they didn’t bug me with questions about “my girlfriend” so it was all cool. The job was pretty cut-and-dried; pick stuff up, drive it across the country and unload it at the destination. We did the loading and unloading ourselves. I wasn’t being too picky about pay but the money was good. We had won the bid, something that was new to me, and I wasn’t really ready to settle down anywhere. I’d slept through the part of the trip after loading all the boxes on the truck by hand. I was a little more used to it than I’d been a couple of months before when I’d started the job. But this was my furthest trip out from the home base in Boulder, Colorado, even though the boss I drove with had been out here in July, the month before.
We got there in the early morning and started unloading in the August heat. Fortunately, the loading dock had an awning and fans and there was a kind lady who kept us supplied with water. We were done by the late afternoon, and I sat on the dock with my shirt off, taking in the breeze and sipping water while my boss talked with the warehouse foreman and signed papers. I glanced around; some of the buildings in this area were probably about a hundred years old. Some of them even older.
“Okay, guys, here’s the news,” my boss said, folding papers and sticking them in his pocket. “We’re going to eat and take it easy and head back tomorrow, but we’ll have to sleep in the truck again tonight. And we’ll be in this yard all night, they’ll lock the gate behind us but we’ll be safe.”
No problem for me; after being on the road for about a year, I was happy with sleeping in the truck, even if I’d had my turn in the sleeper berth the night before. Dinner was at a greasy spoon but it was turkey with all the trimmings as far as I was concerned.
The three of us sacked-out in the cab of the truck shortly after dusk, the windows partly open to let in the cool night air. I sunk down in the seat and dozed.
It must have been after midnight when I though I heard a noise. For an instant, I wondered where I was. I sat up groggily, just enough to look out the passenger side window. I thought I’d heard something. Then I saw a flash of moonlight on metal.
A rifle. Sticking up just a few feet from the window. I’d heard there were rough areas near where we were: Red Hook, somebody had said. That’s when I heard the noise again, that had woken me up. A gunshot. I saw a reddish flare in the dark. I ducked down and hit the floor of the cab of the truck. For the next few minutes I cowered there as I heard gunfire echoing all around us. It didn’t sound like it did on the T.V. shows; like a truck backfiring. It sounded, well, thicker somehow. Like it was coming from far away, but it was right outside. I glanced over at my boss; he was sound asleep. I heard Nat’s snoring from the sleeper berth. The gunfire went on.
When the gunfire stopped, I looked out the window and saw a couple of men in tall hats, carrying rifles running right through the fence.
I shuddered and huddled back down on the floor as the gunfire resumed again. I wasn’t sure how long it was before I fell asleep.
In the morning, I checked the truck. No sign of bullet holes. No sign of any disturbance at all. The Warehouse Foreman had arrived before we woke up and unlocked the gate. We were going to grab breakfast on our way out of the city.
“Hold up a minute,” the foreman said and walked back into the warehouse, emerging a minute or so later carrying three bottles of water. “My wife would never forgive me, she worries!” he handed us the water and my boss asked if he’d seen the celebrations for the Bicentennial.
“Yeah, Bryce here said he wanted to be here,” my boss said.
“They sure made it into a big production,” the Foreman said. “Traffic snarled up, half the city brought to a standstill. I’m just surprised they aren’t making a big fuss over the Battle of Brooklyn.”
“There was a Battle of Brooklyn?” Nat asked.
“Yeah,” the foreman said. “My Grandmother used to talk about hearing about it from her grandfather who heard about it from his grandfather who heard…oh, well. There was fighting all over this area for a while, right about this time of year and then they fought the big Battle of Brooklyn right at the end of the month, little more than a month after the Fourth of July. Then our troops retreated to Boston or somewhere. Exactly two hundred years ago.”
We drove back West and I stared out the window, wondering about ghosts that still fought long-ended battles with phantom weapons.