Fiction by Rosie Etheridge
Mount Clarewa was founded in 1872 by the intrepid Cecil Clarewa, a man of infamous character and an even more infamous moustache. It was said the thing was his good luck charm and that in difficult times he even spoke to it. Twice daily he coated the bushy beast in a special beeswax he had shipped from far overseas. In fact, when he arrived in Mount Clarewa he had only a few scant tools and an extraordinary amount of beeswax to speak of. Cecil, like many young men at the time, had set out to make his fortune extracting oil from the desert that surrounded the mountains of the West. Through extraordinary and perhaps suspiciously good luck, Cecil struck oil in a matter of months.
Mount Clarewa stood a few miles from rocky, sand covered mountains where only cacti and lizards survived. It was the only man made structure for tens of miles except from the railroad that chugged along in the distance beyond the swarming mountains. The closest stop, at the outpost of Gerrotsville, was practically a hut which on many occasions trains passed without notice. This was especially common on gloomy desert nights when the precise location of the stop was almost impossible to decipher. The few who used the spot recounted being dropped off a number of miles away after the conductor had suddenly remembered its existence. Gerrotsville consisted of a few scattered wooden buildings including a church, single shop and a number of homesteads. The trains travelled on into the largest town this side of the desert, Limeton. On Mondays Cecil rode his great bay horse Lincoln to the train stop at Gerrotsville and caught the train into Limeton.
It almost always took exactly 35 minutes for the train to make its way to Limeton. On occasions when a herd of buffalo lazily stumbled across the tracks it could take hours. You simply had to wait for them to move on while the dust they churned up filtered in from the open windows. On these occasions there were a number of unfamiliar passengers who descended into a wild hysteria at the belief the train had been stopped by “outlaws”. Cecil usually dozed on these occasions, the panicked voices muffled by the walls of the compartment, with a stained paperback over his eyes. The blazing midwestern sun left the outline of it tattooed upon his face.
Mollie Sable worked at Western Brothers bank in Limeton. She had pin-straight dark hair that she took twenty minutes brushing each night before bed. Each morning on her walk to work, she bought Dr Amel, the owner of the Opticians over the road, whatever sweet or savoury creation she had baked that week. Her cheese scones were the doctors’ particular delight. Mollie cherished Mondays. Each week she waited for the slumbering sun to awake her on those precious mornings. At exactly 9:15, the lithe figure of Cecil Clarewa would appear against the grand double doors of the bank. He would remove his black hat and look around. Mollie had noticed the light that dawned on his face when his eyes fell upon her.
“Mr Clarewa, fine morning.”
“Indeed. The weather always seems to be fine on Mondays.” Mollie looked down and smiled secretly. “Depositing again today, please.”
“Another one? Why, someone is doing well.”
He handed over the notes he had received just fifteen minutes earlier. “Business is good.”
“And what exactly is your business, sir?” Mollie counted the notes.
“Ah- well that would be oil, I suppose.”
She raised an eyebrow, “You mean you don’t know?”
“I dug it myself. Found it in an area near those mountains over there. The ones shaped like a sleeping dog. There-” He pointed out the windows and she squinted to follow his finger.
“You have your own town?”
“Built it. Just need a few fellows for company now. Monday morning I get the train in, trade my oil, deposit my money and buy whatever it is I need. It’s amazing what they’ll let you take on a train.”
She had lost count. “Is it far?”
“On the train?”
“No, no it’s not.”
That Monday morning at exactly 9:30 Mollie Sable crossed the street to Mr Amel’s Opticians to say goodbye. Through the window of the glasses shop, you may have just been able to make out a tall figure in the background leant against the wall. There was a glistening to her eyes and a metal lunchbox in her hand when she came out. The only other place they stopped before the station was her insubstantial house on the edge of the city. As Mollie stuffed her few clothes and belongings into a case, Cecil talked of the Clarewa he wanted to build. The little white church, a sky-blue school and as many houses as there were in Limeton.