Hugh’s Story

Hugh McNair illustration


You step back and peer at your work critically. Nodding, you move on to the next barrel. “Hugh!” Father calls out. “What did you just pin to that barrel?”

“A helpful label.”

“A helpful label? Hugh, I—” Your father stops. “Very funny.”

You grin. “I thought so, yes.”

For affixed to the barrel is a note proclaiming: O.I.C.U.R.M.T.

“Quicker than writing it out in full,” you explain. Father sighs, and you deflate. You’d hoped it would cheer him up. Sometimes he works more than 12 hours: at the factory, and here at the cooperage. Sighing yourself, you take a broom and start sweeping. You hate seeing him look so worn-out.

“All right, Hugh. Time for school.”

Your parents want you to stay in school as long as possible, so that you can get a good job: one where you’re not run off your feet for most of the day. But right here, right now, your father needs help.

Do you go to school or keep working with your father?