Phantom Island-Story 8-Part 3-“Mr. McCray”

Duncan paused his story while the waitress refilled their coffees. He looked at the lady in front of him. He couldn’t believe he had finally found her; and not a moment too soon. He could tell she was truly interested in his story and would likely be saddened when it came time for him to go.

“Please do continue, Mr. McCray.” Kelly said as the waitress turned to attend other customers.

“Just Duncan, please.” He replied through a smile.

“My apologies. Please continue your story, Duncan.” She responded through her own smile.

“As you request, my lady.” Duncan said as he bowed his head.”

Kelly laughed then. She liked the company of this man and that he spoke in the old way. She missed the way people used to speak.

“Now, where was I?” he pondered.

“The happy shipyard.” She said.

“Oh, yes.” He said as he chuckled. “That is a good name for it; and it was a good life for the year and a half I got to live it.”

“It had been a morning just like any other. I had gotten up and dressed for the day, tagged the union flyer on the wall and headed out to start the day.”

“Union flyer? Wow!” said Kelly. “I remember those.”

Duncan laughed. “It was a cause I was thoroughly excited and honoured to be a part of. Being a child at the time meant that I didn’t have rights; which kept me angrier than a bull in a red room. The men I worked with had included me anyway they could; declared me one of them, a hard-working man.”

This last thing he said with pride.

“How incredible a feeling that must have been.” Kelly stated.

“Oh, yes, miss. It most certainly is… was.” He corrected himself with a chuckle. “Even though it was a while later when unions actually started catching on, it succeeded in unifying like-minded workers from the onset. I sure was proud to be part of it all. Still am.”

“I was also proud to have that job and to know those particular men. When I walked out my door to begin work that morning, it was with pride and joy. I was walking toward the ship I was helping to build, when I saw a familiar face at the gate.”

“There was a fence around the place to keep people from coming in and stealing tools and things. The gate was for security and always had a man on guard.”

“I kept walking as if I hadn’t seen him until I got to a good look out spot. When I turned and looked back to the gate I saw the man arguing with the guard to let him in. He was pointing in my direction and yelling.”

“I pulled back and tried to catch my breath, as I realized who the man was. It was the same guy who had come to the workhouse for me a couple of years before; the one who wanted to buy me.”

Kelly’s eyebrows drew in at that but she remained quiet.

“As I stood there remembering that day, I began to feel a rage boil up inside me. Whoever that man was, he had no right to follow me around and ruin my life this way.”

“You see, by the law, I didn’t belong to anyone. If I were to be turned it, I would’ve ended up right back at the workhouse. There was nothing the men I worked with could do, short of adopting me; which none of them could afford to do.”

“Besides, we all could see that the man was wealthy. If anyone else would have tried to take me in, the council would have laughed in their face. They would take the one willing to pay the most, you see.”

“While I stood there thinking through all this, I heard several men yelling. It sounded like a fight would break out. I risked a glance back toward the gate and what I saw chased every bit of my rage right out of me.”

“The man had called the law to come and force me to go with him; but the men I worked with weren’t having it.” Duncan chuckled. “They had all swarmed the gate to keep that man and the law from me.”

“I was standing there laughing about it when someone laid a hand on my shoulder. I spun around, ready to fight, until I saw that it was the boss. He had packed up all the things from my room and brought them to me.”

“He kept his hand on my shoulder as he turned and pointed to a docked cargo ship. “Run to that ship, stay hidden and don’t come out until the ship docks in its last port.”

I looked up into his eyes and nodded as I took the pack he had made for me. He had tears in his eyes and seeing them brought tears to mine.

I dropped my head and started to walk in the direction of the ship he had pointed to, when he squeezed my shoulder to hold me in place. “I tried to tell them that my wife and I had already adopted you.” He said sadly.

I shook my head to indicate that I understood; he had tried. I patted his arm and turned to go, but he stopped me again. “I wasn’t going to tell you this but it wouldn’t be right to keep it from you. The man at the gate claims to be your father; your real one.”

That rage started to make a come-back. After the way he had treated my mother while she carried me, he wanted to come and pick me up now?!

I looked the boss square in the eyes and said, “In that case, when you go back down there, punch him once for me.”

The boss grinned. “Will do, son. Will do.”

He gave my shoulder one last squeeze before letting go. As I turned to leave, the realization that I may never see him again slammed into my heart like a hammer.

With tears now pouring from my eyes, I dropped my pack and ran back to throw my arms around him. He wrapped his around me so tight I thought I might break, but it was the best feeling I’d ever felt.

“I’d never hugged anyone before, you see. And I had learned early on not to ever let anyone see me cry. Yet, here I was hugging a man and crying at the same time. He gave another small chuckle.

“When I pulled back he grabbed my face between his hands. I could tell he wanted to say something to me but was worried about how I’d react. Since I had a good idea what it was, I spoke instead.”

“You’re my real father.” I told him.

“He pulled me into another hug. When the sounds of the brawl at the gate got louder, he released me. He then unfastened his watch from his pocket and thrust it into my hand.”- “It was my grandfathers, then my fathers.” He said.

Just then one of the other men ran in to announce that the police were threatening to arrest them all if they didn’t turn over the boy at once.

“Go now, son.” the boss said. “I’ll tell them I couldn’t find you.”

I ran as hard as I could and snuck onto the ship. When I was sure I’d found a safe place to hide, I sat with my knees drawn up to my chest and cried myself to sleep.

Duncan reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a handkerchief for Kelly.

She accepted it with a sad smile. “Thank you.”

He smiled back at her. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Not long after the ship departed, the crew started coming down with fever. It wasn’t too long after that I came down with it myself. While I was in search of a drink, I met you.” He smiled. “And you saved my life.”


End of Phantom Island-Story 8-Part 3-“Mr. McCray”

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Copyright©2020 Jennifer Treece

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