eBook Details

Spirit of the Pacific

By: Walter L. Williams | Other books by Walter L. Williams
Published By: Lethe Press
Published: Feb 04, 2013
ISBN # 9781590213919
Word Count: 110,000
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EligiblePrice: $8.99

Available in: Epub, Microsoft Reader, Palm DOC/iSolo, Adobe Acrobat, Mobipocket (.prc)
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Categories: Romance>GLBT>Gay Romance>Historical America Romance>African-American

Description
Whaling ships in the Aleutian Islands, Confederate raiders and Union naval vessels in Maui, sloops and skiffs in the Hawaiian Islands--ships sail into the unknown and change lives. This is the story of Eddie Freeman, an African American slave from South Carolina, who escaped slavery in 1860 and got involved in the Civil War in a way that he never would have expected. Eddie learned not to be afraid of change and the unknown. Eddie was attracted to his own sex, and in 21st century nomenclature would be called gay. But in his day he was just a young man trying to find love and give affection. This is a story about the unexpected twists and turns of life, and how sometimes a person must travel one way to get to the other, become a sailor to find solid land, go to the Arctic to get to a tropical paradise. It is about giving up one’s home to find a better home. It is a story about learning to transcend the polarities of slave and free, sacred and profane, love and hate, human and animal. Most importantly, it is a story about learning to transcend the polarity of life and death to become one with nature, experience limitless love, gain absolute happiness, and achieve true spiritual freedom.
 
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Excerpt:
Chapter 2
South Carolina
Sea Islands

The sun was bright and warm, but a cool breeze was blowing from the Atlantic shore just across the lagoon from the Helms plantation’s barns and carpentry shop. The rice paddies stretched out the other direction. In the shade of the overhang of the carpentry shop, Eddie was whistling to himself, thinking he didn’t have a care in the world that beautiful morning. The staves of the barrels he was building were straight and held tight against the metal hoops. The barrels that Eddie made were going to be packed with rice from the plantation, for shipment to Savannah. The staves of the barrel had to be shaped just right or the grain would trickle out all along its circuitous route to the dining tables of the North. Eddie had never been to Savannah, and he had no idea where “The North” was, as they called it. All he knew was what one slave had told him, in sworn secrecy, that the North was in the direction to his left when he stood facing the seashore. And that was the way to head if you could get away.

Every slave back then knew about The North, but all they knew about it was that black people were free there. That’s all Eddie had ever heard about The North. None of the other slaves had ever been there and nobody knew anything about it. The white folks knew, of course, but with all the controversy around the issue of slavery these days they stopped talking in front of the black folks. They never told the slaves anything that might give them any ideas of escape.

This fine morning Eddie was certainly not thinking about escaping. If anything he felt fortunate that he was assigned to work in the plantation’s carpentry shop, instead of being a fieldhand in the rice fields. From the time Eddie was a small boy, his assigned tasks were to build the barrels and sometimes to repair furniture or fixtures in the fine house the Helmses lived in up on the rise above the slaves’ quarters. Master Helms always seemed to have favored Eddie.

Eddie liked Master Helms, though of course the plantation owner was an entirely different kind of person. He was master; Eddie was slave. When Eddie was very young he was impressed with the master’s handsome face and good physique. Young Helms had been quite a good-looking man with high cheekbones, sharp features, and beautiful green eyes. Eddie used to like to just look at his eyes because they were the exact same color as Eddie’s own eyes. But sometimes he got in trouble for doing just that. Helms would come lurching at him, “Keep your eyes down, boy.” As a child, he didn’t understand why Master Helms was so insistent that Eddie should look down when speaking to him. Only later did the true reason become apparent to him.

The bell outside the winnowing sheds where the rice was cleaned and prepared for packing suddenly began to ring. Eddie almost cut himself on the sharp blade of the plane he was shaping the wooden staves with. The peal of the bell itself was not unfamiliar. It was rung throughout the day to call the slaves to work, to eat, and to go back to work. But it didn’t usually ring frantically. Eddie wondered if there was a fire and started to run to see if he could help.

But coming around the back of the shed, he saw this was not a call for help, but a command for attendance. Master Helms stood with his arms crossed and a stern glare on his face while one of his overseers roughly held a black man down at the Master’s feet. Eddie recognized the trembling slave as one of the recent additions to the plantation workforce.

“This man was caught trying to escape,” Helms pronounced. “He was breaking the law of the land and sinning against God, you hear. All of you are going to watch his punishment. Let this be a lesson to you.”

Eddie felt his stomach turn. He didn’t want to see this. He knew it wasn’t his fault. It had nothing to do with him. He’d just been thanking God for his good luck in being one of Master Helms’ favorites. But now he felt revulsion toward his master. Eddie realized this was a big change for him; he was no longer just an innocent child. Eddie was becoming more aware of the realities of life.

After that day, Eddie did not like looking at the Master anymore. Helms had lost his handsomeness in Eddie’s eyes. It was as though being a master had ruined his life too—that and that marriage of his to the socialite lady. Helms’ now puffy face and bleary eyes, the slaves all agreed, made it apparent he was drinking too much. They never saw Master Helms happy. He was either sad or mad. Now he was mad.

The overseer stripped the poor soul naked, who pleaded with the master that he was only trying to get back to his woman whom he missed so much since he had been sold away from the plantation of his birth. Despite the pleas, the master remained unmoved. Helms stood, holding the overseer’s rifle aimed at the terrified man’s chest. The overseer tied the man’s wrists together and then threw the rope over the limb of a sturdy tree. He then hoisted the man up so he was hanging from his twisted arms. The escapee screamed from the pain. Shouting profanities, the overseer lashed with a bullwhip. The slave screamed even louder as the blood dripped down his legs to the ground. After that Master Helms left him hanging there.

“You can cut him down in a couple of hours,” Helms ordered. “But if I hear any grumbling from any of you,” he threatened, “he can just hang there till he rots. I’ll have no violation of the rules of man and God on my land. If any of you try to escape, God will damn you for all eternity.”

As the other workers slunk away, Eddie went back to his barrel-making. He didn’t want to cause that poor man any more pain by upsetting Master Helms. But he couldn’t stop thinking about what he had witnessed. He wished he could go back and cut that rope himself.
Seeing that kind of punishment was enough to kill any thought Eddie might have of escaping. Only once had he ever left the plantation at all. Master Helm’s carriage had broken down on the way back from church one Sunday, and he had sent his driver to get Eddie to repair the broken wheel. Eddie was terrified the whole way there, scared that some slave patrol might seize him as a runaway. He couldn’t wait to get home, back to the plantation where he was born and where he belonged.

As far as he was concerned, Eddie felt lucky to have two things that most slaves lacked. First, he had carpentry skills, which kept him out of the rice paddies. Fieldhands almost always developed severe back pains from bending over so much; they aged fast and died young. The other thing Eddie felt lucky to have was the sea. The Helms plantation boundary went all the way out past the lagoon, to the sandbars and the beach. As long as he stayed on Helms property, Eddie had the run of the place. After he had finished the day’s work, he would sit on the beach, fishing and watching the ocean waves come in.

Later that afternoon word went around that the punished slave had been released and that he had survived the ordeal; maybe he’d be back at work in a couple of days. By that time of the afternoon, Eddie had used up all the wood he’d hewn for staves. He knew Master Helms had gone up to the house and wasn’t likely to come back down to where the slaves all dispiritedly finished their day’s work. Eddie put his tools away and went out to the ocean beach to escape the pall of rage that hung over the plantation.

Sitting on the cool white sand, Eddie remembered stories he’d heard about the land across the ocean, the land his people had been brought here from. He often strained his eyes to see if he could make out that land over there, but he never could see anything but water.

Spirit of the Pacific

By: Walter L. Williams
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