The Farm Boy
William O’Malley was brought into this world under ordinary circumstances, in the hay-stuffed bed of the two-roomed farmhouse under the watchful eye of his father and the local midwife. The babe was of slightly extraordinary size and weight and had a full head of hair, things which the midwife said were signs of a healthy baby who would grow to greatness. The experienced woman was not wrong.
Tessa and David O’Malley had no other children after William, although not for the lack of trying. Other farming families about the community made gossip about whether or not their land would be able to be worked to its full potential with only one child, but it seemed as if young William’s existence was to prove them wrong. By the age of ten, William had grown to surpass the height of his father and had learned to operate all of the farm equipment and deal with even the most ornery of the animals on their land.
At the age of twelve, William’s mother, Tessa, passed to a bought of what was likely Malaria, although the availability of doctors to confirm that far away from the city was rare. William and his father buried his mother in the backwoods behind their farmhouse and attempted to push on from there. It was clear, however, to David that times were changing, and that a life as such would be a waste for the still young William’s potential.
Many kilometers away, the city was abuzz and bursting with growth. Travelers passing through spoke of grand buildings and masses of people and workers growing fat from hefty paychecks, allowing families to prosper and children to grow fast to split off and create families of their own. To someone who had lived his entire life in hand-raised shacks upon fields tilled by smelly, dirty animals, it seemed to be an unparalleled paradise.
The truth of such developments came upon them one day, advertised by a strange man from parts not their own. The businessman, in his fine, pressed clothes, went to the O’Malleys and their neighbors, offering fat sums of money in exchange for their land. The amount being offered was more than enough to move away to the city and buy a home in what was called a high-rise and begin a job in one of the many bustling factories.
William, still young, did not know what to make of the strange and proper businessman’s words, but his father knew what was to be done. David saw himself aging, and the prospect of being able to continue the work upon his farm dwindling. The only way to make sure his son had a future was to accept the offer and bring them both to the city. The O’Malleys were not the only ones, either, to agree and take the one-way ticket to the city to the south, a place called Manchester. With their sole remaining oxen pulling a cart full of their belongings, they began their journey into the unknown.
The city was as told and more. Buildings made of timber and stone and masonry pushed into the murky sky, turned the color of ash by great smokestacks that burned coal for the furnaces of the city’s industries. The streets lined by these buildings were packed with people; on foot, on horseback, or in carts drawn by animals. Building supplies could constantly be seen transported to new sites for new structures, or workers for said projects, or food was coming in from the modernized production at the limits of the city, or refuse being taken to some other distant corner to be dumped, burned, or hidden away.
With the money from the sale of their farm, as well as that of their oxen and cart, William and his father were able to purchase an apartment in one of the newer establishments, a boxy single room on the second of four floors. The chamber was slightly smaller than the farmhouse, but just enough for the two of them and their meager amount of belongings. The space smelled of tar and other tainted building materials, and the neighbors spoke loudly through the thin walls to either side of their room, and the din outside never seemed to cease. The floor upon which they treaded was rife with splinters, but William’s father promised that they would get a proper rug, of which he said he had seen many of for sale about the city.
While William’s father became acquainted with the process of playing the market about the great many stalls and stores of food and home goods, William went to work. Even at the age of thirteen, the boy could pass as someone several years older, and as a young man with an adaptable mind as well, was able to handle any task he was given. The factory he was hired at was only a few blocks away from the apartments he called home, as well.