Trinity House

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Narrow tree-lined street in the Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia where many Trinity Houses are located. (Photo: Joe Strupek)


Trinity House: three floors, one room per floor—Father, Son and Holy Ghost. That’s how the design unique to Philadelphia got its name in the 1700s. Today Trinity Houses are in demand by investors and homeowners who rehab and update them with modern materials, appliances and luxuries.

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Alfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia, where homes date back to the 1720s. (Photo: Norman Maddeaux)

In my short story “Trinity House,” Manny is a young construction worker with ambition and a strong work ethic. His respect for the craftsmanship of a bygone era puts him at odds with a young investor who hires him. The story begins with Manny pedaling his bike through a drug-infested neighborhood to work rehabbing a Trinity House. A late model BMW nearly runs him off the road and he rams the bottom of his work boot into the door. To find out what happens next read Trinity House.

Trinity House appears in the latest edition of Prime Number Magazine published by Press 53.

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Jim Brennan philadelphia authorMy earliest memory of writing was in third grade when a stern-looking woman with a five o’clock shadow and wearing a long blue robe sentenced me to scribble “I will behave during class” one hundred times for some frivolous infraction. Since that moment decades ago, I’ve written mostly nonfiction–industry reports, magazine articles, blog posts about this and that–until I had a brainstorm to translate notes I’d kept while training for a marathon into the memoir Twenty-four Years to Boston.

I joined the Bucks County Writer’s Workshop to have the memoir critiqued, and found myself surrounded by writers of fiction. Then one day I read a quote by a fellow named Hemingway, who said, “Most of the people in this story are alive and I was writing it very carefully to not have anybody identifiable,” and a light flickered inside my brain. The blue-collar, row house neighborhood of my youth, where churches were outnumbered only by Irish pubs, was the fertile soil where stories grew like wildflowers. And the years I worked on the Philadelphia waterfront, loitered in squalid saloons, and witnessed bare-knuckled brawls from many points of view added depth and realism, those close cousins of humanity and romanticism, to the stories of the working class.

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So begins my stories, some truer than others. If you find my fiction resembles my nonfiction, it is because my fiction is merely nonfiction viewed in one of those funhouse mirrors. The characters, however, are fabrications, composites, or extractions, of people I’ve known, worked with or observed, or at least that’s how I remember them.

My first work of fiction is Once A Welder, a collection of eleven stories about the men and women who labor for a living; in other words the infrastructure of our society. My characters—welders, carpenters, ironworkers, bartenders, roofers—are flawed and endearing, fragile and resilient, and their lives are lessons about hard work, hard living, love and redemption. They work arduous jobs, raise families, battle their demons, coach Little League, and then congregate at pubs in the evening. The stories are set in Philly shipyards, warehouses, construction sites, pubs and homes, but are relevant to any urban environment.

Once A Welder is forthcoming, and I will post periodic updates of the process to publication.