Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Thanksgiving story, focusing on contentment

Hello dear readers!!

Well, we have been extremely busy.  Becca and Josh headed out on Tuesday morning to spend the rest of the week with grandparents.  Daddy, Momma, Caleb, and I headed out on Wednesday afternoon for Thanksgiving at our grandparents house.  We had a very nice time and got several good visits in with family that we don't get to see very often.  We came home right after lunch on Friday, rushed around to get ready for our square dance that was being held that night, and enjoyed an evening of fun (pictures coming, just as soon as I get some from Ink Slinger...). 

Ok, so here is my Thanksgiving story. I couldn't think of a title for it, so I would love suggestions! (It's only 3,580 words!! Yeah, "only"....)

The pale moonlight shone down through a small opening in the cramped cabin.  Amanda strained her eyes to see the diary page in front of her.

January 3rd, 1621
  The weather has been horrid.  Poor Mother has been beside herself trying to watch little James.  I believe he is teething and cannot sleep at night.
   I do so wonder if the Lord has forsaken us.  We have landed hundreds of miles from where we were supposed to. Now we are in an uninhabited land. I sometimes wonder if we will make it where we were originally supposed to go.  Eleven passengers and two crewmen have already died of the illness that has struck this ship, and no wonder for we have no pure water.  By now whatever water we have in the barrels has gone rather stale.  We are also on food rations.  I do not mind this too terribly much, but Paul is starving all the time.  Though I suppose a growing boy is likely to do that, even with all the food in the world.

Amanda stopped and smiled to herself.  Paul was her older brother by three years.  Being at the age of fifteen, he suffered from “hungry illness”, or being hungry all the time.  Amanda didn’t know where he packed all the food he used to eat.  He was so limber, lanky, and thin!
    Once more the scratching of the quill pen on paper sounded in the small room.

Paul and I have tried to enjoy ourselves on this trip, but it is rather hard.  We have explored most of the places we are allowed to venture to already and now have nothing to do but try to spot whales during the day and listen to them at night.
   Papa has been rather concerned lately, I think.  He walks around with his brow furrowed most all day long.
  I do not understand half of the things the men decide on their weekly meetings. Paul tries to sneak in and listen, then relates things to me later.  Still, I am afraid I frustrate him with my candid interest.  I am very glad he is excited about this new country we are going to, but quite honestly, I am terrified.  What will we find when, and if, we get there?

Just then the short door that led into the cabin opened, squeaking on it’s hinges.
   “Mandy, you in here?”  Paul’s voice called out softly.
“Yes, over here.”  Amanda answered, setting down her pen and blowing on her diary page to help the ink dry.
   Paul made his way over to her and bent over the makeshift desk she was using.
“Writing in your diary again?”
    “Yes.  How was the meeting?”  Amanda gently closed her beloved diary and held it in her lap while she waited for Paul to speak.
   “Well, I am not sure.  To tell you the truth, even I am starting to get confused.  Some of the men are with John Alden to keep sailing, and others are saying we should just stay here. I think the majority have voted to stay here and conquer this untamed land.  I have been looking at the maps in the Captain’s Cabin.”
   Amanda sucked in her breath.  “You went in there? I thought…”
Paul held up his hand.  “Don’t worry. I asked if the Captain would mind if I took a look at the maps.  Any how, I was looking and from where he says we are, we are miles and miles away from where we were supposed to go.”
    “What will we do, Paul? I mean, do you think we have many more days until we can build houses and move off of the ship?”
   “Days?” Paul snorted.  “More like months.  It will be a long time until we are able to build.…. For one thing, it is too cold. The ground is frozen solid. We couldn’t dig proper holes to put support beams in.”
    Amanda clasped her hands together and licked her lips.  Her heart started beating a little faster and she felt somewhat dizzy at the thought.. no, surely not, but then again…
   “Paul, you don’t mean… surely you can’t mean….”
“That we will stay on this horrid ship? Yes, I do mean that.”
   “But Paul! We can’t, we just can’t!  Mother has almost gone out of her wits keeping up with James, and Father is worried about who knows what…”  Amanda stopped when she noticed the look that passed over Paul’s face when she mentioned their father.
    “What, Paul? What is Father worried about?”
“It isn’t just Father, Mandy. All the men, and some women who know about it, are worried. Worried that we won’t have enough food.  They were working out stricter rationing plans this evening at the meeting.”
    Amanda clamped her hand over her mouth and stared wide-eyed at Paul.  Paul stared calmly back at her for a moment.
  “I suppose you shall suffer most, Paul.”  She smiled and giggled slightly at the thought, but quickly sobered again.
   “What will everyone do?”
“Amanda? Amanda where are you?”
   Amanda sighed.  “That would be mother. I best go help.”  She stood to leave.  Paul stood and opened the door for her, then followed her out.
   “I will see you later,” he called as he went in another direction.

January 15th, 1621
    The weather hasn’t changed much.  It is so cold that we are wearing almost all of our clothes to keep alive.  This of course means that we cannot wash, not that there is any water to wash with any way.  The constant spray of sea water that hits us everyday doesn’t help either.  Any time I enter our small sleeping cabin I gag at the smell. However, we learn to live with it. I suppose it is better to stink with everyone instead of stinking by yourself. Still…
    We have been put on stricter food and water rations. Quite honestly I haven’t the slightest idea if we will survive.  Five more people have died. I almost cannot bear it. To have some one die every three or four days is awful. Little James got dreadfully ill and both Mother and I lost plenty of sleep taking care of him. Even when we could sleep, we didn’t for worrying over him.  He seems to be pulling through, but he is so weak and frail now. I suppose hard stale bread is good for his teething, though.

Amanda held her diary open for a few moments to let the ink dry before shutting it.  Replacing it in her secret hiding place for it, she ventured out onto the boat.  Land was just right there and yet they couldn’t get out onto it. Only the men who went on scouting parties could do that. It was too dangerous, they said, for women to go along.  Paul had been longing to go, but was also denied as he was still rather young.  Secretly Amanda was glad.  Only one week ago the scouting party had had a run in with Indians and had lost two men.  She hated the thought of Paul being put in those dangers.
    Leaning over the railing Amanda breathed in the air.  She loved the fresh salty smell, but not when it was sitting on clothes for days on end.
   “Hey! Stay away from the rail!”  A nearby sailor shouted at her.
“Sorry!” Amanda moved away from the rail and wandered around a bit.  Finding a large coil of rope, she first sat on it, then noticed she could fit inside. Why, it was big enough to two small people.  She looked around, saw no one was watching, then hopped in.  It was a little warmer there, being blocked from the wind and all. 
   Amanda leaned her head against the rope and closed her eyes.  She was so very tired. Tired and hungry. She had never known hunger before. Although she didn’t eat much, she did get her fill, or used to any way.
    “Good morning, sleepy head.”
Amanda’s eyes flew open as she started.  Looking up, she saw Paul’s mischievous black eyes and boyish face looking down at her.
   In a moment he had climbed in beside her.  “Well, not bad. So, will this get added to your list of hiding places?”
    Amanda smiled.  “The fact that my hiding places are always getting ruined means that I never have a list, and you know it.”
  “Well, I suppose hiding behind crates that you knew would eventually get moved wasn’t the brightest idea in the world, if that is what you mean.”
    Amanda playfully smacked his arm.  “Paul Roberts, I don’t know what I will do with you.”  She frowned when she heard a strange noise.  “What in the world was that?” She whispered.
   “My stomach, what else?”
She covered her mouth to keep from laughing out loud.  “Poor Paul, starving yet again. Oh, I do wish we weren’t on rations, but I know we must. I hate this horrid ship dreadfully.  I feel caged in. Three months wasn’t so bad, especially since I knew I couldn’t go any where. We were surrounded by water.  But when land is only a few feet away, it is almost unbearable. I wish we were off this horrid, horrid ship!” She breathed deeply to calm herself.  At least the biting wind helped to cool her burning cheeks.
   “Paul, do you remember when we first set out on this journey?”
“Of course I do! How could I forget. Most exciting day of my life, you know.”
    “Even when you knew you were leaving your friends?”
“Well, that was hard, but I was excited about starting a new life in the New England Colonies.”
     “But, what if.. what if we don’t survive long enough to build houses to live in?”
“Well, we didn’t exactly know this would happen, so I didn’t think much about it.”
     “I remember all the flowers Holland had. All those tulips.”  Amanda breathed in as if she were smelling the fresh scent of those tulips right there.
    “I miss all the color.  All the people in Holland wore such lovely clothes!  I do wish we didn’t have to wear such drab colors.”  She sighed as she smoothed her brown skirt over her knees.
     “I suppose, being a girl, that you would worry about colors of clothes.  Well, to be honest, I kind of liked it myself. I wouldn’t mind going around in a green jacket and sky blue waist coat.” Paul chuckled, stuck his thumbs in his vest and acted like a very highly stationed man.  Amanda, once again, had to cover her mouth to keep from laughing out loud.
    Paul put his arms down and looked seriously at her.  “What else do you remember?”
Amanda closed her eyes and leaned back, imagining she was standing on the threshold of their Holland home, looking out over the lovely fields of tulips.  She could almost feel the fresh scented breeze playing with her dark brown hair as if it wanted to pull it out of the strict braids, which were commonly worn by girls her age, and let it blow freely.
     Younger children were playing in the field of corn just a little ways off, and Paul was with a group of older boys playing kick ball.
    Amanda herself was standing next to her friend, Brenda.
“Brenda,” She had said. “I do believe this is the happiest day of my life.  Everything is almost perfect.”
     Brenda had only smiled, nodded her agreement, and squeezed Amanda’s hand she was holding.
    It was that night that Amanda and Paul found out they would be sailing away from Holland and go live in the New England Colonies.  Amanda had been dumbfounded.  She had heard this sort of talk going around, but she never paid much attention to it, supposing it to only be disgruntled men speaking their opinions.  Paul had been ecstatic.
    The next month was filled with cooking, baking, canning, sewing, packing, and all other sorts of things.  Amanda had never worked so hard in her life.  Her poor diary had suffered with no entries for that whole month, for she was too tired to write in the evening and didn’t have time to during the day.
     Then suddenly everyone was hugging and saying good bye to friends and family that were to be left behind, and then everyone was on the ship.  Amanda had waved and waved to Brenda for as long as she could while tears coursed down her cheeks.  Brenda was brave enough to smile for as long as Amanda could see her face so that she could carry the memory with her forever.
      When the docks were just barely visible, Amanda let sobs pour out of her very being.  She was grateful to Paul for comforting her.  He had come up, dropped an arm around her shoulders, and said nothing.  He knew exactly what she needed when she was like this.  Paul was so very good to her. She was thankful, oh so very thankful, that he was coming along. Several families had to be split up. Mostly the older children were left behind with friends or relatives.  Amanda was so frightened she would be left behind too, but Father and Mother made sure all three of their children were on board the ship when it sailed.
      Amanda opened her eyes and saw that Paul had just about fallen asleep.
“Paul, wake up, you goose! It is the middle of the day.” She shook his shoulder.  He roused for a moment and looked at her.  Amanda’s hands went cold and clammy as she noticed a strange look in his eyes.  That same look that all the other dead passengers had gotten right before they were seriously ill.
   “Paul? Paul speak to me, please!”  Amanda shook his shoulder again.
“I’m… ok…Mandy,” He said slowly, right before a spasm of coughing shook his whole frame.
    “How long have you been coughing?” Amanda asked trying to help him stand.
“It started three…. Days ago.”  He coughed again. Amanda had to hold on to him to keep him from falling over.  “But it has.. never been this bad…”
     “Come, I will help you to get to your bunk. You just need some rest. I suppose you haven’t gotten enough sleep, what with all the exploring and running around that you do.”  She tried to speak cheerfully as she clambered over the tall coil of rope they had been hiding in.  She was trying to help Paul over it when he slipped and fell.  Amanda started panicking. He couldn’t be getting this weak already, could he?  It seemed to take others a long time until they were weak enough to stay in bed.  However, she had heard the doctor say that it could come as quickly as the storms they had faced out on the Atlantic.  One moment the day was beautiful, the next a large, dark, menacing storm was threatening to crush the ship with it’s fury.
    “Help! Some body, please help me!”  Amanda called out, coming close to screaming. A nearby sailor and a few passengers rushed over.
   “Oh, please help him. He is too weak to stand.”   A sailor grabbed Paul and lifted him over the coil as if he were a small bag of flour. 
   “No wonder he can’t stand, he’s light as a feather.”  The sailor motioned for Amanda to lead the way to their cabin as he followed with Paul in his arms.

January 19th, 1621
   Paul has been so very ill. He seems to be recovering one day, and then gets worse the next.  I have heard the doctor telling Mother and Father that he may not have much longer. Oh, I cannot bear the thought of Paul dying!  He has been such a good brother to me. I dread the thought of them sending him to his watery grave. 
   Life is terrible here! Why did we ever come? I hate it here and I wish we could go back.  Dear Holland would be so much better than this, even with it’s restraints. We had a good life there, why can’t we go back? I hate this horrid ship. I hate the sickness that surrounds us and takes so many lives. I hate everything about this new country. So many are ill that there is hardly anyone to attend a Sunday service. What was the point of coming here, if not to die?
Amanda set her pen down, let the ink dry on the page, then slammed the book shut.  She hated life here.  She stood and paced to the little window in the small hut.  She had been talk that this was the sailor’s cabin.  In bad storms, sailors, or passengers, could run to shelter here until they got a better chance to get in the hull.  Sailors, of course, stayed on top to see things went well, but some could come in to get out of the weather for just a bit to catch their breath.
    Amanda remembered the storm that they had gone through.  As soon as any storm started to threaten to burst, all the women went down stairs to the cramped cabin.  Once, Amanda had hidden in one of her secret places and then crept out once no one would notice her.  She might have gotten thrown overboard if a sailor didn’t catch her peeping out from around some crates then told her to get down into the hull. 
   Paul had somehow stayed up on deck without being seen.  He then later related the whole thing to Amanda.  She loved it when Paul told stories. He was so good at painting vivid pictures into the listener’s mind.
   Now Amanda frowned.  Perhaps he would no longer be able to tell any stories.  If he was going to die soon, what was she to do? Poor James would never know his wonderful older brother!
   Amanda rushed out the door, flew down the steps, and entered the small bunk cabin.  Her Mother was there, sitting by Paul’s bed keeping his head cool with a wet cloth.
  “Here, Mother, let me take a turn.”  Amanda offered, anxious to be by her brother’s side for as long as she could.
    Mother smiled gratefully and got up.  She wrapped a warm shawl about her and headed out to get some fresh air up on deck.
    Amanda gently rewet the cloth, wrung it, and patted Paul’s face. 
His eyes fluttered open and he smiled softly when he recognized her.  “I thought I knew that gentle touch.”  He said, almost in a whisper.
   “I’m here Paul.  Do you need a drink?”  He nodded so Amanda fetched a glass and poured out the tiny bit of water that was rationed out daily.
   After Paul had had just enough to wet his throat, Amanda sat down again and held his hand.
    “So, I here they say I won’t make it,” intense coughing followed this statement.
“Yes, Paul, they are.” Amanda said with a slight tremor in her voice.
Paul smiled at her and squeezed her hand.  “Don’t worry, Mandy. I will make it through.”  he coughed again.  Amanda watched as his whole frame was wracked with the motion. 
    Tears started coursing down her cheeks.  “Oh Paul! I am so sorry, so sorry you have to suffer like this.”  She bent her head down and let the tears flow.
    “Mandy, look at me.”  Amanda slowly raised her head and brown eyes looked into the sunken ones.  Even in their dullness, there was a slight twinkle coming from the depths.
     “Mandy, I don’t mind being sick.  I’m actually thankful I am.”  Mandy opened her eyes in surprise.  “Means I get a little more to eat. But honestly, it has taught me patience. I used to get frustrated waiting on other sick folks, and here I am receiving tender and gentle care without a word of complaint passing from either yours or Mother’s lips.”  A violent cough forced him to stop for a moment. Then he paused a little longer to catch his breath.  “Thank you,” was all he could manage. 
   “Rest, Paul, and get better. I will stay here, so if you need anything…”
Paul closed his eyes and soon his labored breathing filled the room.

February 21st, 1621
    The funeral was held today.  Two men, three woman, and one baby. We all stood together on the deck watching the procession to the shores.  Now that the weather has been turning a little warmer, they have been able to dig graves to bury the coffins instead of rowing them out to sea.
   Paul, who is now almost his old self, and I watched it with the most solemnity, but him more than me, I think.  I was so sure he was going to die, but the Lord has been merciful.
   I used to hate this horrid ship. I used to hate this new land, but somehow I feel differently about it all now. Now I am grateful. Grateful that we were able to make this journey over to this new country as I now see that it will be much better.  Grateful that Paul is living. I believe the Lord has taught me one of the greatest lessons in my life. To be content with what I have, thankful for it, and to not covet those around me and things I cannot have. Perhaps this journey wasn’t just a journey on a ship, but my own personal journey as well.

So, there ya have it! What do you think?  Did I scare you with her last journal entry? This was definitely new for me. Not the short story part, but the way I wrote it.  I have never written something where I used journal/diary entries but for this, that was the only thing I could think of to help the time pass in the story.  Instead of saying in every other paragraph "5 weeks later" or trying to include that in a sentence so people weren't confused, is somewhat difficult for me.  I have to say that I like how it turned out, but I suppose that sounds like a prideful writer!! Any way, please, please, PLEASE give me your thoughts/suggestions/etc. I am trying to learn and want as much help/suggestions as I can get!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with the Lord's blessings!

In Christ's Service,


Anonymous said...

Wonderful story, Sarah!
Yes, you had me worried for a moment with your last entry!!
I thought it was really good. It flowed nicely and was quite interesting.
I'm not much for a writer, so I can't give you too many suggestions- you are already much better than I am!

YourFavSister said...

Great story!!! I have only one comment for you. The first is that I think it would be easier to read if you would either put quotation marks when she is journaling, or don't put her thoughts in italics. Otherwise it took a moment to realize that she was thining/ talking with ehr brother and that it wasn't a journal entry.
Nice story, the ending was dramatically ended. :wink: Made my heart heave a sigh of relief. :)
You know who

the Ink Slinger said...

Well, I read it... and I'm impressed! :)

The story flowed nicely, and the theme you chose was a good one. Thanks for sharing! Hopefully you'll be posting more of your stories in the future!

Chloe~Jane said...

I just thought I would let you know that I love your blog. It is so encouraging!
Love In Christ,
P.S Here is my blog:

Carolyn said...

Wonderful story Sarah! I loved it. Even though you did give me a scare at the end!

Sarah said...

Thank you every one!! I really appreciate your comments.

Ink Slinger, yes I hope to post more in the future. :)

Cloe~Jane, Thanks for stopping by!

My Favorite Sister, Thanks for the suggestions.. I have my text set to italic and couldn't rememeber how to change it. Any way, I put the journal entries in bold, if that helps a little.

Thanks again everyone!!

Martha Joy said...

Great story, Sarah!!! You gave me a scare at the end, too...I said to myself: "OOOHHH!" I got all sad, then I thought, "Oh!," once I read the rest of it! ;)
Love you,
Martha Joy