A Sticky Business and Short Stories

A Sticky Business and Short Stories

by Mel King

ISBN: 9781681110271

Publisher Wasteland Press

Published in Christian Books & Bibles, Religion & Spirituality, Nonfiction

Are you an AUTHOR? Click here to include your books on

Book Description

A Sticky Business is a fact-based story with two fictional protagonists so as to raise a question that is the theme of the novel. A young priest in Boston witnesses a tragic incident in which several blocks are destroyed and many righteous are killed or injured. He begins a quest to learn why God permitted such a disaster to befall innocent people while two Mafia Dons lead long, prosperous lives.

Sample Chapter


Chapter One: The North End

January 19,1919 was a cold but sunny Sunday morning in the mile square area of Boston known as the North End. Thousands of its residents flocked to the St. Leonard Church. The pews, aisles and other standing areas were filled to capacity. Hundreds of other parishioners were standing outside, oblivious to the cold, straining to hear the mass and to pray for the twenty-one men, women and children who lost their lives, and the one hundred fifty people injured, in one of Boston's most tragic incidents.

In the early decades after the founding of our nation, the North End had been the home of wealthy Protestant Americans. But by the late 1800s, they had moved to Beacon Hill and other areas as waves of Irish Catholic immigrants moved in and commercial expansion occurred. The North End became densely populated with mostly Irish Catholics living in dingy small wood frame houses, in near slum conditions. For a couple of decades beginning in 1890, most of the Irish moved to nicer areas, like South Boston and Jamaica Plain, as thousands of poor Italian immigrants moved into the North End and many of the small wood frame houses were replaced by three story tenements with small apartments. A large church, St. Leonard, was constructed, becoming the first Italian Catholic church in New England. But the majority and wealthiest of Bostonians were still the Protestants.

About that time, someone summed up Boston society with a ditty that went:

"Boston, the home of the baked bean and the cod,

Where the Cabots talk only to the Lowells,

And the Lowells speak only to God."

A century ago, Boston was not only the home of the baked bean. New England, and especially Boston, was also the nation's largest producer, as well as the largest consumer, of rum.

In 1915, molasses shipped to Boston from the West Indies was a popular sweetener used in baked beans as well as the main ingredient in the manufacture of rum and alcohol. Purity Distilling Company of Cambridge, Massachusetts, was one of the largest such manufacturers in New England. To store the enormous amount of molasses it used annually, the company decided to build a giant storage tank on a lot it owned on the harbor side of Commercial Street in Boston's North End.

Its draftsmen prepared the plans for a huge steel drum, 58 feet high, 90 feet in diameter, with half inch thick curved steel plates riveted together, set into a concrete base, capable of holding 2,300,000 gallons of the gooey liquid.

Commercial Street was a main artery in the North End, running from the Charlestown Bridge to Atlantic Avenue, partially curving around part of the base of Copp's Hill with its cluster of old wood frame houses. On the Boston Harbor side of Commercial Street, across from the foot of Copp's Hill, the storage tank and its adjacent pumping station were constructed. The Paving Division of the Boston Public Works Department had a barn-like storage structure and stable for a dozen horses nearby. A dozen or so feet away was the Fire Department's wharf by which were docked its patrol boats. On the other side of the storage tank were the freight office and spur tracks of the Boston and Worcester Railway. High above Commercial Street were the tracks of the Elevated Railway, supported by evenly spaced steel girders.

A couple of years after the storage tank was built, due to political pressure from the WCTU and other groups determined to eliminate the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in this country, it seemed likely that an amendment to the constitution would be passed, prohibiting such activities. Motivated by that possibility, Purity Distilling sold its facilities to the United States Industrial Alcohol Company. The manufacture of alcohol for industrial use was not prohibited under the proposed constitutional amendment.

Monday and Tuesday, January 13 and 14, 1919, were among the coldest on record in Boston. The temperature both days reached only about two degrees Fahrenheit. The Paving Department's horse-drawn carriages were spreading salt and sand on icy patches of busy Commercial Street. On Wednesday morning, January 15, the bitter cold suddenly departed, as the temperature rapidly rose to forty degrees Fahrenheit.

At the foot of Copp's Hill, across the street from the storage tank, sixty five year old Bridget Clougherty was reprimanding her son, Stephen:

"Son, please don't go to the pool hall today. It's several blocks away and in this cold weather the sidewalks may be icy. It's dangerous for you to walk there using your crutches; you could slip and fall and be unable to get up."

"Mom, I've had to use crutches for years 'cause of my disability. I'm used to it. It ain't snowing and the Road Department's been out throwing salt on the streets and sidewalks.Ma, I promise I'll be careful. Cross my heart and hope to die. But this afternoon I gotta go to the pool hall. A couple of the guys challenged me to a game of billiards."

Frustrated, but realizing her son wanted to be treated like a normal young man despite his disability and hoping her son would be careful, Mrs. Clougherty went about her business, cleaning the house. It was old. She and her husband purchased it thirty five years earlier, when the North End was inhabited by the Irish. Now, mostly Italians lived there. But the North End was where the scenic Charles River flowed into the Atlantic Ocean, and she loved the view, especially of Old Ironsides, docked in Charlestown Navy Yard across the Harbor. The outside was deteriorating, but she did her best to keep the interior of her house in immaculate condition.

A short distance away, at the DiStasio's house, ten year old Maria was at home, having just recovered from a cold. Her brother and three sisters were at the nearby school. Her mother handed her a burlap bag.

"It's warmed up a lot, Maria. Take this bag and go across the street to the railroad tracks. There's always some pieces of wood there. Pick up about five pieces, put them in the bag, and bring them home so we can use them in the fireplace tonight. Be careful crossing the street."

On the Harbor side of the street, in the City's paving yard, forty three year old John Callahan and three of his co-workers were stacking bales of hay to feed the horses. At about 12:15 p.m. they intended to break for lunch. Since the weather was a balmy 45 degrees, they would have their lunch outdoors.

Nearby, in the Boston and Worcester Railway freight yard, workers were loading freight onto the boxcars on the spur track, near where little Maria DiStasio was gathering wood for the fireplace. By fifteen minutes past noon, there was considerable traffic on Commercial Street. The road was crowded with horse-drawn wagons, motorized trucks and automobiles. Every fifteen minutes, an elevated train passed overhead. The sidewalks were crowded with pedestrians sorting through the vegetables and goods for sale at the carts and stands lining Commercial Street. On the land side of that street, the sidewalk was busy with children walking home from the nearby school.

(a) A Sudden Tsunami of Destruction and Death

John Callahan and his co-workers were sitting on the ground very close to the storage tank, eating their lunch, chatting about the veterans of the Great War who would be returning home within a few weeks, and especially the upcoming baseball season.

"In just a couple of months, it'll be baseball season. I think the Red Sox 'll be able to win the pennant and World Series again this year, if its owner, Frazee, lets the Bambino play in more games by using him in the outfield as well as a pitcher. The Babe's a powerful hitter—the best in baseball. Hope Frazee doesn't decide to sell him to finance his money-losing Broadway shows. It'd be a real dumb move, breaking up one of the game's winningest teams."

At that moment, the men were startled by a deafening rumbling sound, as the tank full of molasses ruptured, followed by loud popping sounds as rivets shot through the air. Pieces of steel burst off and rocketed out in all directions. The thick, brown, gooey liquid burst forth from the tank in tsunami-like fast moving waves as high as fifteen feet with such force that buildings were toppled and washed away, and the streets were flooded for several blocks. Moments later, the vacuum resulting from the explosion sucked portions of nearby buildings, vehicles, people and animals back towards the remnants of the storage tank.

Callahan and his co-workers were killed instantly, blown to pieces by the force of the exploding tank. Mrs. Clougherty's small wood frame house across the street was crushed by a thirty-five mile per hour wave of thick molasses, instantly killing the poor woman. Her son, walking on the sidewalk going towards the pool hall, was drowned in a sea of the thick, sticky liquid. The railroad employees who had been loading the boxcars were forced to the ground and smothered by waves of molasses. The freight cars were pushed off the tracks and toppled onto their sides. Little Maria DiStasio dropped her burlap bag filled with wood, as the force of the wave of molasses pushed her to the ground, covering and asphyxiating her. The nearby Public Works Department shack and stable were crushed and the horses drowned. Carriages, trucks, automobiles and fruit and vegetable stands on Commercial Street were tossed like toys in the hands of an angry four year old having a tantrum.

A large chunk of the steel plate wall of the storage tank flew up the street, striking and severely bending one of the steel girders that supported the elevated railway. A forty foot span of the tracks collapsed, bending down in a V shape to within a few feet of the street below.


Excerpted from "A Sticky Business and Short Stories" by Mel King. Copyright © 2015 by Mel King. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Thanks for reading!

Join BookDaily now and receive featured titles to sample for free by email.
Reading a book excerpt is the best way to evaluate it before you spend your time or money.

Just enter your email address and password below to get started:


Your email address is safe with us. Privacy policy
By clicking ”Get Started“ you agree to the Terms of Use. All fields are required

Instant Bonus: Get immediate access to a daily updated listing of free ebooks from Amazon when you confirm your account!

Author Profile

Mel King

Mel King

Mel King is a graduate of Bates College and Harvard Law School. After spending five years as a professor at a California law school and over forty years as a successful trial attorney, he retired. Recalling many unusual incidents in the lives of famous people that he learned while taking history courses in college, as well as news items and articles that he read and researched over the years, he turned to writing short stories in a style reminiscent of the late Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story". He hopes they will not only entertain the reader, but also stimulate readers' interest in history. For history does repeat itself, and those who do not know about the past are destined to make the same mistakes in the future.

View full Profile of Mel King

Amazon Reviews