That’s the first thing the box heard as it rolled flatly down the round rollers in the small but productive factory. The words of Stardust echoed in the high concret walls overhead as the brown cardboard box came to being and slid down the ramp. Women, newly inroduced to factory work, had their hair pulled up in red hankerchiefs and sang along the words of Stardust. Dreaming about when their men would come home. When they wouldn’t have to worry about an unnanouced visit from a general on the factory floor. When they would be able to go home and not have to tell the kids that daddy was still in Europe fighitng a war that he didn’t start. Women with the weight of the world in 1945 shouldered on their delicate white and sweaty shoulders were folding and packing cardboard boxes in a factory in Boston.
Ernestine worked in the Boston Cardboad Manufacturing plant. Her job was to direct the cardboard boxes off of the rollers and onto a waiting wooden pallet. Here the pallet of boxes was taken to a room where they were wrapped and loaded onto trucks to be delivered to different faciities in the United States. There were international orders, but the factory owner was a staunch patriot who was a war vet himself. Loosing his leg to gangreene from a Charlie shot that wasn’t ‘too bad’ and later quickly rotted his leg to the extent that it had to be amputated. Taking money his father had saved and some inherited wealth, he started the Boston Cardboard company in the spring of 1940.(dates?)
Ernestine was a dutiful wife, perfect in every way. Her husband Vic, had volunteered to go to fight in the war because number one work was hard to find coming out of the great depression. Number two was that they had an extra mouth to feed. And number three he had always dreamed of travel to far away lands where food tasted better, the air was cleaner and the water bluer than the cold, steel waters that murked around the Boston harbor ports that he had grown up around. Vic was deeply in love with every crevice that existed in his dutiful and perfect wife Earnestine. But even that love, as deep as it was, became challenged by the stress of life, bills and war. The bedroom had fallen quiet and routine. Comfortable.
Vic was a man with a healthy sexual appetite and he longed for that wild, sweaty romance that they once had. As he kissed his wife goodbye and boarded that train, one side of Vic was sad and already missed the comfort and predictiabiity of the smell of Earnestine’s hair. The way she tended to everything he ever even thought about wanting. How she was always there. Always, no matter what. No matter how he came home ill. How he was stressed and short with her. How she would always just do whatever he asked and never thought second bout standing up for herself. Like she had died inside.
But the other half of Vic secretly wanted to imagine the waiting brunette at the nextvtrain depot. The one with the pouy red lips and breasts as big as you’d ever seen and a waist the size that you could hold onto while you made love to her. The middle of that hour glass that men crave for.
Vic imagined meeting this Italian woman who spoke no English at the train station. Vic imagined them going for a walk and not speaking but just laughing. And laughing. And laughing and tickling each other like children on a playground. Vic imagined her smiling and spinning around in her dress to just taunt him and make him more needy. Vic imagined her speaking Italian to him and him not knowing what in the world that she was saying. He imagined her kissing him deeply and without caution or predictability as he tasted her smoky breath with the beer they had shared from the depot.
The breathless noises as they had sex on the whiskey barrel in the alley went completley unheard by anyone except Vic’s conscience. Afterwards, as they reassembled themselves, Vic saw Ernesine in her young years, wild, untamed, dancing naked before him in the bed. He saw his perfect wife before the war and before life.
After collecting himself, wiping the sweat from his brow and pulling his pants up Vic light a cigarette and then for some unknown reason, Vic offered her money for her services.
She slapped him open handed and clicked her black heels away down the bricik alley into the night and Vic could hear her crying.
Vic had already hurt two women and Vic hadn’t even gotten on Vic’s train yet.
Vic had an incrediblly vivid magination and Ernestine loved that about Vic.
Vic loved that Ernestine loved that about him.