Wednesday Writing Prompt: The Telegram

Happy last week of summer vacation! I hope you all had a lovely break from school and are refreshed to begin another year of study. 😊

Here is this week’s prompt.

T.J. opened the door to a smiling Western Union delivery boy. 

“Here you are, sir. Have a great day!” With a tip of his hat, the boy was off. TJ wandered back into the kitchen where his daughter was stirring a pot of boiling water. 

“I think it’s ready, Dad. Should I add the eggs?” 

TJ nodded, his mind on the telegram in his hand. He ran his fingers around the edges, then flipped it over, his thumb hovering over the seal. The telegram held either good news or bad news. Either way, his life would change forever. He took a deep breath and opened the envelope. 

As usual, finish the story and post your answers below! Share to allow more friends to enjoy our stories.


*** The Western Union telegraph photo is the work of RedKnight7 and is available for public use. 

10 thoughts on “Wednesday Writing Prompt: The Telegram”

  1. Pulling out the small paper with his trembling hands, he steeled himself and read the words written upon it.

    “We found him STOP He is alive at St Johns Hospital STOP”

    T.J sank to his knees on the kitchen floor and sobbed tears of relief. After this time, after all these long months, Sam had been found. He was going to see his brother again and hug him tight.

    With a puzzled expression, Daisy sank to the floor next to her father. Her hand slipped into his and gave a small squeeze.

    “What is it, Dad? Is Uncle Sam okay?”

    T.J enveloped his daughter into a warm embrace. He was so choked with emotion he could only nod yes in reply. Daisy held her father tight and breathed a sigh of relief. Suddenly, she pulled away with a look of surprise on her face.

    “Does Aunt Mary know? We have to tell her! Oh, Dad, this is wonderful news! When Sam’s plane went down behind enemy lines I was so worried we would never see him again!” Daisy got up from the floor, pulling her Father up with her. “Come on, Dad! I can’t wait to see Uncle Sam! When can we the trolley to the hospital?”

    They both turned with a start at the sound of the egg timer’s bell ringing loud and clear.

    “Eggs are done!” Daisy exclaimed cheerfully with a grin.

  2. TJ turned his back to Penny as he unfolded the small sheet of paper inside. If the news was bad, he didn’t want her to read it on his face. “It was so foolish of me to let Maggie go on that trip in the first place,” he thought. “Doc was against it. If anything’s happened it’s all my fault.”

    The small black print swum before his eyes for a few seconds, then steadied.

    “It’s a boy! Maggie fine.”

    TJ turned to his daughter, a grin splitting his stubbled face.

    “You have a baby brother!”

    Penny dropped the eggs.

  3. T.J. slid his finger under the flap of the envelope and pulled, breaking the wax seal on the envelope. He took out the yellowed piece of paper hesitantly.
    “Boiler Explosion last Saturday STOP Fifteen killed forty injured STOP Please come immediately Newbottle Waggonway STOP”
    T.J.’s eyes widened. He was a doctor who was known in Philadelphia not for his skill as a medical doctor, but for the speed with which he could get something done. He was also known because he came from the U. S. of A. But he suspected that they called him because he was the closest doctor to the crash site. He had heard how a few people were testing out an experimental locomotive they called “Brunton’s Mechanical Traveller.” Forty injured? Not good.
    “Will you be fine ‘ere, hon?” T.J. asked his daughter.
    Her eyebrows furrowed. “What’s the matter?” she asked.
    “Boiler explosion on a locomotive,” her father answered. “Be back as soon as I can.”
    “Be safe, Daddy,” she said. He saw that tears were sprouting at the edge of her eyes.
    “Don’t cry, hon,” he said. “I will.”
    Packing his medical bag, T.J. rushed out of the door and rode east on his horse to the Newbottle Waggonway. He rode as fast as he could, prodding along his black horse, Coal. He didn’t believe in spurs, as he was a doctor and hated the idea of causing physical harm to any man or beast, but his horse seemed to be getting old and slow.
    “C’mon, boy,” he said to her. “We’ve gotta get there afore any other man dies.”
    They finally reached the site, where the engine, also known as Steam Horse, was lying, blown to pieces. Most people there had burns, some had been hit with debris.
    A man walked up to him.
    “Doctor Timothy James Williams, I presume?” asked the man. “We’ve got a critical condition with three guys heah, but the others will live, I ‘ope…”
    “Glad t’ be of yer service,” T.J. replied. “Where’re the the three?”
    “We got un over heah,” the man said, walking quickly to a young man who had a large burn covering the right side of his chest and his face. Most of his shirt had burned off.
    “This is terrible,” he said. “Doubt he’ll pull through.”
    “Aye, this man heah was aflame fer a second afore we got ‘im put out,” the man said.
    T.J. shook his head. “‘E’s not gonna make it, I don’t think, but I’ll see wot I kin do,” he said. He had already been unpacking his bags, getting out some utensils, but he didn’t have what he needed.
    “Do ye ‘ave any water?” T.J. asked the man.
    “Aye, I’ll get ye some, we got it over heah,” he said, running to fill a few pails with water. He ran back after a few seconds, with two full buckets of water that were sloshing around.
    T.J. had some bandages and towels, and he dunked a towel in the water, letting it soak. When it was sufficiently wet and dripping with water, he pressed it to the young man’s burn.
    He screamed out in pain, an ugly bloodcurdling shriek that echoed across the crash site. T.J. took the towel off, but but it back on again. He held it there for a while, letting the man gett used to it, then took it off. He dunked it in the cold water again, then put it on the man’s huge burn again. He got another towel and covered the man’s burn.
    A few minutes passed, all the while T.J. making sure the man was comfortable – relatively. Then he took the dripping towels off and applied a salve to the burns, covering them all with the ointment. This made the man start screaming again, and he tried to sit up, but then thudded back down on the ground, pouring with sweat.
    “Stay still, blast you!” T.J. told the man as he tried to but the salve on the man. He struggled again, breathing hard, then fell limp and quiet. He stopped breathing.
    T.J. sighed. “‘E’s in a better place,” he said. “The other two don’t quite as bad, though.”
    Two hours passed, and finally T.J. finished dressing the injuries of the wounded, with the help of other doctors and medics. No one else died that day. Exhausted, T.J. returned home late at night, with many thanks from the people at the crash site. He tied his horse to a post outside his barn and then walked inside, sweaty and filthy.
    “Daddy!” his daughter cried, rushing to him and hugging him, despite the dirt and sweat covering him. “The eggs are ready, by the way.”
    He smiled, then sat down at the table, shoveling them in. His daughter brought him some bread as well, and some meat.
    “You must be real ‘ungry,” his daughter said.
    “Yep, I am,” he said. “These eggs are wonderful, darling, no matter ‘ow cold they are.”
    “They’re cold?” asked his daughter, wearing a concerned expression on her face.
    T.J. laughed. “Yep, they are, an’ you better believe it!”

  4. T.J. unfolded the letter as he walked to his office, then sat in his chair. He took a deep breath, then started to read.
    Report to Lab STOP Emergency STOP
    T.J. sat there, unsure of what to do. Should he get in his car and drive to the city to find out what was wrong, or was it something that was not that urgent and could wait until the next day?
    T.J. shook his head. The telegram was clear. If it said it was an emergency, it was.
    He went in the kitchen and grabbed a cheese stick. “Sorry, Maddie. I have to go somewhere.”
    “But you said you did not have work tonight and we could do something special,” Maddie said.
    “I know, but sometimes plans get changed.”He said. “Make sure to go to bed before ten o’clock.”
    He hugged her, then went to the garage. T.J. hopped into his sedan and turned the key. As he drove, a new thought occurred to him. Why would the person use a telegram? Phones were faster. They may have used a telegram because they were not sure if T.J. had a phone or not. Or, it could have been a kid who did not have a phone, so he sent a telegram.
    T.J. pulled into the parking lot that was closest to the Lab, then he got out of his car, and walked.
    The Lab was a building where scientists and doctors made medicines. T.J. was a scientist who worked in the Lab. He was also the one who came to the Lab if anything wrong happened.
    The building which had the Lab in it also had some offices where people worked, but today there were no people.
    “We made a big mistake.” A scientist rushed to T.J.
    “Where are all the people?” T.J. asked.
    “They all left when the fire alarm went off. But, really, it wasn’t a big explosion, just a small one,” the scientist said.
    When T.J. heard the word explosion, he started to jog down the hallway. “And you stayed in the building when the fire alarm went off?”
    “Yeah.”He said.
    “What about the fire trucks?”
    “We told them everything was fine, so they left.”
    T.J. pushed the Lab door open and saw the remains of the explosion. Glass and redish-pink liquid was all over the floor.
    “Let me guess. You were making pills and you–”
    “Yes, and then the big glass jar that held the liquid broke,” the scientist said.
    “Just clean up the mess, that is all you have to do,” T.J. said. “How did that telegram get to me so quickly?”
    “We delivered it ourselves.”
    They swept the glass and mopped up the spilled liquid, then T.J. went home to eat his eggs.

  5. P.S.
    There is no record of a Timothy James Williams, but there was an experimental locomotive called “Brunton’s Mechanical Traveller,” AKA “The Steam Horse,” that crashed on Saturday, July 15 of 1815 due to a boiler explosion. Some reports say it killed 13 people, but I believe most say 16. It was the first railway accident causing major loss of life – the death toll was not exceeded by any railway accident until 1842. It also killed more people due to boiler explosion than any other accident of all time. It happened in Philadelphia, County Durham, England.
    There was artistic license in this response mixed with a historical event, but I tried to keep it as realistic as possible.

    1. Thanks for the historical context! I was confused by the comment “from the US of A” if the setting was Philadelphia, but now it makes sense. Great job!

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