Okay, this topic threw me a bit. It’s hard to pick a favorite author. I was tempted to pick Shakespeare, but there’s a topic post on that later this month, so… I’ll go with my favorite author connected with 19th century America. After all, my NaNo book deals heavily on slavery and the Civil War…
Samuel Clemens stood in the engine room and sipped his coffee pensively. He studied the stationary mechanics of the riverboat that he was learning to co-pilot, and marveled about how travel over water had changed in the last hundred years or so. But even modern marvels could not make a boat float when the water was too low. He had little doubt that he would soon see steam powered carriages one day.
He heard a call from outside, “Mark twain!”
The mechanics sprung to life. As much as he would have liked to study them while they worked, he must return to his duties now that the river was at mark twain. No matter. He was just as fascinated by the bridge and eager to learn what he could there. The cry of mark twain always meant that he could continue to persue his dream of piloting a riverboat.
On his way to the bridge, he spied a drifting rowboat. When it got close enough, he saw that there was a little boy inside, laying down with his eyes closed.
“Ahoy there,” Samuel called softly. The boy’s right eye flew open and a vivid look of terror filled his features. His left eye was swollen shut.
Samuel was taken aback by the boy’s horrified expression. He dropped his voice even lower. “Are you alright?”
The boy shut his dark eye tight as if frustrated with himself. Then he opened it and connected his stare with Samuel’s. Finally, without getting up, he looked in the direction of the riverbank.
Samuel scanned the bank trying to understand what the boy silently communicated. At last, he heard shouts, “Jim! Where you at, boy!” This was not the sound of a concerned parent and his helpful neighbors. Well, perhaps the neighbors were helpful of a sort, but they were obviously not concerned for the boy’s safety.
Samuel found the posse of about fifteen men armed with shotguns and axes as if the slave boy in the rowboat were as dangerous as Frankenstien’s monster. He looked at Jim, who again stared at him, this time pleading with his good eye which had filled with tears.
“Ahoy, you,” shouted one of the men in the posse. Samuel looked to the bank and realized that one of the posse addressed him. “You can see in that boat. Is there a runaway in there?”
Samuel looked at the men, some of whom had actually aimed their guns at him, and made his decision. “No, sir. It’s empty.”
“You ain’t seen a runaway floating down a boat at all?”
“No, sir. I’ve been in the engine room for the last few hours. Why would a slave float south anyway? He probably got out somewhere and started heading north. I’d search in that direction if I were you.”
The men muttered to themselves, and without so much as a thank you, they retraced their steps and dissappeared into the nearby wood.
Samuel looked back at Jim, dug around in his pocket and pulled out a few coins. He tossed them into the little boat before it drifted away. The boy’s good eye again filled with tears, but the look in it this time was of gratitude.
NaNo word count: 2, 145 (came down with a fever, ugh!)