Thursday, June 30, 2016

Thursday Novel Excerpt (to Jamestown)

Well I started my fifty-fourth novel this week (it's actually more than that, but who's counting). It's meant to be a cross between Roots (my roots ;-) and A People's History of the United States. It takes my family tree research and then novelizes it.

I'd first intended to write it as a farse, but it's mostly not coming out that way. In any case, it's something I'm motivated to write and that makes a difference. I won't write it all here, but maybe once a week I'll post an excerpt. Here's an excerpt from the first chapter, where in 1608, Thomas Shelburne surprisingly finds himself on a ship to the New World.
... Thomas had never been on a ship before. The idea of being surrounded by water was not a particularly pleasant one. Wales had just been devastated by flood waters. He peered down the hole to see a dark, damp space that looked entirely unpleasant to him.

Captain Wynne's quarters were at least on deck level. Not so bad. They were not terribly large quarters, but Thomas had never had his own room before. The thought of having your own space was almost unbelievable.

"What is this huge book?" Thomas asked in Welsh. "Is it a Welsh Bible?"

It was indeed a Bible, translated into Welsh by William Morgan in 1588.

"Yes," Wynne said. "Can you read?"

It was fairly obvious that he couldn't, even though his answer was, "A little."

"You know I could teach you to read on the journey to Jamestown," Wynne said. "I could take your wool as payment for passage."

Thomas wasn't quite sure what to say. He had no plans. He didn't know what he would do with the money once he had it. But the Americas sounded very far away. He was afraid of the ocean.

"And how would I live once I get to Jamestown?" he finally asked.

"You can serve as my page. You can write letters for me, run errands for me. And when it is all over, you can have your own land. You can go from a homeless boy on the streets to an important person in the New World."

You don't normally expect someone you just met to ask you to go to the New World. There was something enticing about the thought. As Thomas looked around the cabin, there were things he had never dreamed he could ever have. Captain Wynne was a gentleman, the first he had ever met. His clothes, his shoes were beyond anything his father had ever owned. He had never touched a book before. His local parish certainly didn't have a Welsh Bible, although he had heard of them.

"And you'll be able to come back to Wales with me when I return, maybe with gold!"

That statement caught his attention, the possibility that he might return home one day to his father's house rich with gold. Imagine how jealous his brothers would be then!

But his fear of the sea kicked in. "No," he said. "That sounds very tempting. But I am afraid of the ocean. What if you take a wrong turn and fall off the earth? What of Leviathan?"

Wynne laughed so loud they could hear him on deck. "Come now, boy! Surely you don't still believe that the earth is flat! It's round boy, round like a ball. We've known it for thousands of years!"

Now Thomas was sure that Wynne was crazy and that he should have no part of this madness.

"Well, I'll take my leave of you now," he said. "Might I have the money for the wool?"

Wynne smiled wildly. He had heard familiar sounds from the deck, sounds that Thomas did not have the experience to recognize. Finally, there was a jolt that troubled Thomas, but Wynne interrupted his worries.

"Fine, lad. What weight of wool would you say is here? Twenty pounds?"

"That sounds good to me," Thomas said. "Would that be, would that be? Is it ten shillings?"

"You're not wrong, boy. Exactly right." Wynne opened a drawer and pulled out a pound. "How about a full pound?"

Thomas was astounded. A full pound. He took the coin and stared at it. What might he do with a pound?

"My offer stands," Wynne finally said. "If you should by chance change your mind, you're welcome to join me on this adventure. I'll get a mat and you can sleep right here on the floor, a better lot than the other cabin boys."

"Thank you very much," Thomas answered, "but I think I'll have to pass." Then, after another moment's silence, he continued. "I'll be going now."

So Thomas went to the door and emerged from the cabin. Things were much quieter on deck by now. Most of the men, along with the two women, were lined along the side of the ship, looking at something.

He would have asked what they were looking at, if he knew English. But he realized the answer soon enough. The ship had already embarked, and it was gliding east along the Thames.

"Glad to have you as my cabin boy," Wynne said in Welsh, now leaning himself against the edge of the ship lighting his pipe, watching London go by with the others.

"Don't worry, boy," Wynne continued. "Getting stuck on this ship is the best thing that ever happened to you. You'll have generations of grandchildren who will be thankful that you don't know the sound of a gangplank being drawn back onto a ship." And with a chuckle, Wynne retreated to his cabin.

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