Survivor: A City of Heroes novel


Chapter 28 - "Tin-type"

"....Norman...." Jon breathed.

"Zeb had two kids, both boys," Wellborne commented, watching Jon's face closely. "One of them was named Jonathan, he was the wild one that ran off, I don't remember the name of the younger boy."

"Jonathan Norman....Jon Norman...." Jon rolled the names around his mouth experimentally, whispering them softly, hoping against hope that the sound would force some shred of memory to reappear.

The elder man got up, took the papers from Jon's hands, replaced them in their drawer, sat down again, embraced his drink. "Does that help you, son?"

"Yes, sir, yes, it does...." Jon hurried to reassure him.

Wellborne stared at the curtained window, his thoughts obviously elsewhere.

Jon dared to speak up. "Sir....can you tell me who was in that other farmhouse, the one on the Hendersons' farm, before the Hendersons bought it?"

"Oh, that? This was all one big farm back then. This was the main house, then old Zeb built a honeymoon cottage for his younger son and his wife. After they moved out some years later, that house was torn down when a fire broke out and they had to save the barn and silo."

"They moved out?" Jon fastened all his attention on the older man. "Where did they move to? Do you know?"

"Well, I didn't really keep up with the kids, you know. They might have moved to the city, Paragon, I think, looking for jobs. Farming didn't really seem to suit them. They did come back sometimes, though, on holidays, to visit Zeb. Up until the time that Zeb divided up the farm and sold this half to me. His health wasn't good, and he couldn't work the farm no more. I guess he always hoped that one of the sons would come back to farming, and he kept ownership of the other half until he died, but they never did." He glanced pointedly at Jon's glass. "Bourbon not good enough for you, son?"

Jon flushed. "Oh, no, sir, I'm very grateful for all your help, and your fine hospitality." He quickly picked up the glass, drank it down, immediately wishing that he hadn't.

Wellborne relaxed, even allowed himself a rough approximation of a smile, nodded to Jon, finished his own drink.

"I guess that's about all that I know about the Normans," he commented. "Nice family, the older boy was trouble, but the rest of them were salt of the earth."

"Show him the picture," Mrs. Wellborne urged from the doorway, wiping her hands on a dishtowel. She had moved so quietly, Jon had completely missed it when she came to stand there, listening to the men talk.

Wellborne stood, went back to the desk, rummaged through a different drawer, pulled out a thick greyish-tan piece of cardboard. He handed it to Jon before sitting down again.

It was an old tin-type photo, perhaps 3 inches by 4 inches, pasted on a card with a decorative scrollwork border. The image was a farmhouse, and with a start, Jon realized that it was the very house he was sitting in. The people, however, were strangers....not the Wellbornes, who were both dark complected and somewhat on the short side, but a family of tall blondes, standing in two rows on the front porch steps, staring seriously into the camera.

"That was taken when the house was first built, oh, maybe 1910 or thereabouts. That's the Norman family that built it."

Jon stared at the silver-and-grey photo, trying to memorize the faces, the clothes, the way the house had looked when it was new and freshly painted.

"Now show him the other one," Mrs. Wellborne admonished.

"Oh....yeah, I forgot." He returned to the desk, rummaged, pulled out a curling square of photographic paper, the edges rick-racked, the word "Kodak" emblazoned diagonally across the back in a repeating pattern, handed it to Jon as he handed the tin-type back.

The photo was a color shot of the front of the same house, almost the same image, except the faces of the blonde family were subtly different, the clothes from another era, and the men and boy were smiling at the camera.

"That's them," Wellborne told him. "That's Zeb and his family."


Copyright, November 26, 2012