What seems like an age ago now, I lived in England with my parents. From what I remember, it was a hard life; one filled with hunger, thirst, abuse, and sorrow. My father’s main source of income was begging; he would return with scraps of cheese and bread occasionally, sometimes he would bring nothing at all. My parents gave most of what they had to me, and while they wasted away, I survived; I wouldn’t say I was comfortable, but I survived.
Around ten years into my miserable existence, my father somehow arranged for us to travel to America; he told us that he had agreed to work on a fishing vessel, in return for safe passage. The next week we set off to Dover – where we would meet our vessel – on a horse-drawn cart; it’s difficult to recall the journey now, but I remember the cold, the bitter, biting wind gnawing on my skin. Tears stung my cheeks the entire journey.
After days of travelling south from Morecombe we finally reached Dover; I remember feeling horrified by the sheer extravagance expressed by the rich people’s suits and frocks, and the utter desolation of the poor. Some looked worse off than we did; torn clothes, boils on their skin, the smell of death surrounded them.
The boat was already waiting for us when we arrived so we boarded quickly, avoiding the stinking buckets of chum piled near the port side. We were away almost as soon as I had sat on the rotting bench; the white cliffs of Dover faded into the distance as we followed the coast west. Soon we were clear of England and on our way to the new world.
It wasn’t long before I noticed the other sailors, great, beastly men with arms and thighs like small tree trunks; I avoided them as much as I could, as did my mother. However my father, who worked the ship with them, began to befriend them. I saw them play games of chance together; I saw my father lose, a lot. When the last of our money was gone he bet our clothes, my toys, and my mother’s broach. When everything was gone, even our rations for the night, he bet a pocket watch; a pocket watch he said was made of silver, one he said had been in his family for many years, one he didn’t have.
Once he had lost, and the men had found out he had lied, they were very, very angry. They began to shout, and my father begged for another chance. He told them they could have anything, they just had to name their price; one of them pointed at my mother. She was terrified, beginning to whimper, she told me to hide. I was paralyzed by fear and so when I didn’t move, she held me close; it seemed my father had refused and a fight broke out between him and the other men.
My mother took me into her arms and hid the violence from my eyes, I heard scuffles and shouts. Finally there was a noise like the slitting of a lambs throat, a guttural noise which entered my ears like the devil’s laugh; my father was dead. Then they turned on my mother.