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Camellias Have no Memory:   Excerpt from Book

Eugene was standing on a bank of green, green grass strewn with flowers of white. He felt a happiness and peace he had never known. Before him was a large blue ocean. A huge ship with clouds for sails appeared on the horizon. Somehow he found himself on the deck of the ship. Three people began to walk in his direction. Behind them was a bright light. Eugene tried to walk toward them. He couldn’t move his feet. He shielded his eyes from the light with his hand. As the trio grew closer Eugene recognized his mother, Maggie, and Sam. They were smiling at him. He reached out to touch them. Maggie tried to speak but a violent gust of wind came from nowhere. It blew the figures to pieces like petals from a flower. Eugene felt himself being blown backward from the ship into darkness.

Eugene began to regain consciousness. He struggled to remember, what had been a dream and what had been real? Were Maggie and Sam really dead? Where was he?


Camellias Have no Memory

He began to collect his thoughts. The room was dark and dank. It smelled of urine and vomit. In the dim light Eugene could see shapeless forms lying all around him. He couldn’t tell if they were animal or human. He could hear the sound of breathing punctuated by an occasional inhumane moan. There was another sound, a creaking sound, like a rocking chair moving slowly on an old wooden floor.

A bent figure dressed in rags moved among the shapes that surrounded Eugene. The figure was muttering to itself. As the figure walked methodically through the room it would stop to poke one of the shapes with the staff it carried.

The figure moved closer to Eugene. Eugene began to comprehend his surroundings. The shapes surrounding him were human bodies. The figure moving among them was an old man with a cane. The old man was dressed in rags as gray as the dusty light filtering through the cracks overhead. He had a long beard that came to the middle of his chest. He would pause intermittently, between his rounds to spit a wad of tobacco on the floor between the bodies.

The apparition bent over the body next to Eugene. He kicked the body. It didn’t move.

“That’s too bad, another one to feed the fisheys. Well let’s see what you got in them pockets. You won’t be needing anything where you’re going.”

Suddenly the reality of his situation came to Eugene. He was in the belly of a ship. A million thoughts raced through his mind. Where were they taking him? Were they selling him into slavery? What was he going to do? For a moment he was frightened and panicked.

Then he heard Sam’s voice saying, "If you have the element of surprise you have the advantage." Eugene remembered what happened the last time he had let his emotions get the better of him.

He lie as still as he could. He waited until the old man came up to him. The old man poked Eugene with his cane. Eugene didn’t move. The old man bent down to examine Eugene more carefully. Just as he came close to Eugene’s face, Eugene reached up and grabbed the man by his chin whiskers. As the man lost his balance he fell forward. He cried out in pain and surprise.

Eugene looked around for anything to use as a weapon. There was nothing anywhere that he could grab. Eugene began to choke the old man with his bare hands. The man sputtered and cried for help. A door at the end of the room sprang open and two men came running to the old man’s aid.

With one man on each side, they grabbed Eugene and pulled him off the old man.

“Well, looks like we got ourselves a scrapper,” said one of the men.

The other man laughed, “Little Jack‘l beat the scrapping outta him.”

Both men laughed together. They hauled Eugene across the room and through the open door into the fresh salt air. Eugene blinked in the light.

They dragged him across the deck to the foot of the main mast. A short powerfully built man dressed in a fine wool frock coat was giving orders to several men on deck.

“Hey Cap’n we got a live one here. Thought you might like to see this one. He nearly took old Woolsy out.”

Eugene struggled against the men who held him.

The captain assessed the young man before him with great interest.

“Well, well, let’s have a look at you,” said the captain as he smiled at Eugene.

The men holding him released their grip on Eugene. Eugene brushed the hair back from his eyes.

Sam’s voice whispered in his ear, “Never let them see the fear in your eyes.”

Eugene stood defiantly with his fists clenched and his feet apart. He met the captain’s gaze eye to eye.

The captain walked around the boy. He looked him up and down as he smiled to himself.

“Well I’ll say this for old Frank he sure delivers the best merchandise. So tell me boy, what’s your name?” asked the captain.

Eugene just looked at the man and said nothing.

“Cat got your tongue huh?”

He took a step toward Eugene. He stood so close Eugene could feel the man’s breath on his face.

“Let me explain something to you boy. Your time on this ship can be very pleasant or it can be very hard. It’s up to you. Now, I asked you a question, what’s your name?”

Once again Sam whispered to Eugene, “Know when you’re beat and wait till your opponent makes a misstep.”

“Eugene,” said the boy.

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