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1: Copper. San Francisco, April 18, 1906, 5:00 a.m.
It’s early mornin’ and I’m walkin’ up the bricks to Market Street. Loudest sounds is Da’s clunky squeakin’ two-wheeled pushcart and me boots on the pavin’. Bloody dumb damn cart swayin’ in me face; I’m the bloody dumb damn donkey harnessed in the poles behind it. Me mouth tastes o’ whiskey and smoke from last night. Where is that cigar stub? Shirt pocket? Ah, I feel it. Smoke that later.
Where the hell did Da’ say I was goin’? Flood Buildin’. No, think. Merchant’s Exchange on Montgomery. Off to empty the trash bins filled the day before by the Titans o’ Commerce. They get all the gold and we get all the garbage. Ain’t it always an Irishman’s share?
Da’s right about gamblin’. Lost all night, nothin’ to show. Not a nickel, not a dime, not even carfare for poor John Law Copper. Gamblin’ is risky business.
Market Street. Turn right. Sky’s palin’ behind me, street lamps fadin’ out. Ferry Buildin’ blocks ahead, way down at the end o’ the street. I can see it peepin’ into the daylight. Wish I was goin’ to the Ferry Buildin’.
Goin’ to the Ferry Buildin’ and gettin’ on a ferry! I’d like to go over to Oakland today. Me and Suzy McMillan had a fine picnic there. Suzy give me the sweats. Wonder what she’s doin’ now? Married that office clerk Jack Somebody-or-other. Maybe I should ha’ married her. Naw. I’d rather fish than be the catch.
Bloody dumb damn cart won’t hold straight! Fightin’ bloody bastard!
Damn, I’m smokin’ me cigar!
Where am I? Junction o’ Turk, Mason and Market. Slip the bloody harness off. Fumble the stub. Less than I recall. Heat o’ the match on me face makes me wish I was warm all over, it’s so chilly, and here’s a pleasant puff. I should really be a man o’ leisure, I got the taste for it, and it ain’t my fault for bein’ born indisposed.
Farmer’s and Merchant’s Bank across the street. Columns and curlicues. There’s all the money in the world. If I had any, that’s where I’d keep it.
What’s that terrible sound? A deep rumblin’.
What the bloody hell is that?
Long, low moanin’!
Jesus Christ! The ground’s movin’!
2: Monograph by Frederick W. Handles, Sr., Esq., Sergeant SFPD.
I am Frederick “Fred” W. Handles, Sr.
I am a native of San Francisco, California, the Golden State, born in that resplendent city in the Year of our Lord 1876. While the earliest years of my life are unremarkable (and shall therefore go unremarked), I must note that I joined the City Police Force in June 1896. Through hard work and loyalty, I had risen almost to the rank of Sergeant as this narrative begins.
As to the narrative, I am a simple policeman, ill at ease in the world of letters. However, friends and relations prevailed upon me to commit my views to print for the moral edification of youth (which task I take as bounden duty, since they – the youth – are the future, as others more notable have remarked).
John Law Copper (whose name is a misnomer, if ever there was one) was born on May 5th, 1880. This made him seventeen days short of his twenty-sixth birthday on April 18th, 1906. Later that year, the mad millionaire Harry K. Thaw jealously shot and killed noted bon vivant and architect Stanford White for a rumored dalliance with Thaw’s wife; Japanese seal poachers were killed in Alaskan waters; a group of hot-eyed Cubans staged an aborted revolution; and President Theodore Roosevelt went to Panama to look at the Big Ditch. It was a busy year, and I enumerate major events to underscore the triviality of what some call: “The Copper-Handles Affair”.
However, on April 18, 1906, the City of San Francisco had an earthquake. That is where John Law Copper was at 5:12 in the morning. That, also, is where I was, exactly at the corner of Davis and Washington streets where I was chatting with one Mr. Michael Ryan, a young Irish produce man. Yet, I precede myself, for my morning actually began earlier that fateful day. It was precisely…

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