Mountains of Memories
Copyright © 2015 by Parker Sheaffer
Lucas was weary of the train by the time he arrived in Boston. It had been a four day trip and he had slept in his seat each night so he was happy when he got off the train and was able to walk out of the station and explore his new home. He laughed at the way he had once thought Knoxville to be a huge city. Boston dwarfed that town and made it seem rustic by comparison. The buildings were taller than any he had ever seen and he couldn't imagine how so many people could live in one place without constant friction. They certainly made a lot of noise.
Lucas really had no plan of action beyond his arrival because he didn't know what to expect to find in this great city. For four days on the train he had been trying to think of something he could do, some sort of work, some way to live and avoid having people notice that he didn't age. He realized that he didn't yet know enough about the city to make any decisions so he had to wait and see what opportunities lay ahead.
The first thing he needed to do was to find a hotel or boarding house and something to eat. He wandered along a few streets, half dragging his heavy satchel filled with his clothing, and came upon a small brick hotel tucked in among the taller buildings on either side. It looked as good as any other hotel and, since evening was approaching, he entered.
A young man with a friendly smile stood behind a large wooden desk. Behind him was a cabinet of sorts, but without doors. The shelves were divided into squares and under each one hung a key. Some of the boxes held what looked to be letters.
"How may I help you?" the young man said to Lucas. He was patient and accustomed to seeing strangers with luggage, although this one was particularly young. From his clothing he appeared to be from the southern states. Southerners were a more frequent sight since the war had ended and not everyone welcomed them. Still, hotels could not afford to be too picky about their guests.
"I need a room," said Lucas, setting his bag down with obvious relief.
"And how long will you be staying?" the clerk asked.
"I'm not sure; at least a week, maybe longer."
"That will be two dollars a night for a regular room or three for a deluxe room," the clerk said, expecting the boy to leave and try somewhere cheaper.
Instead Lucas felt like splurging a bit and said, "I'll try a deluxe room then." He fished into his money belt and gave the young man a twenty dollar note and a silver dollar.
"That should cover me for a week," Lucas said with a smile. He knew that the clerk was not expecting him to stay and he felt a sense of satisfaction when he saw the surprised look on his face.
"Uh, very well, Sir. I think you will be comfortable in room 210. It faces the back of the hotel so it's quieter. If you will just sign the register, please." Reading the signature he asked, "Will your parents be staying with us as well, Lucas?" The clerk handed him a key.
Lucas said, "No. I'm traveling alone. Thank you."
"Wait and I'll have Frederick help you with your bag," the clerk said, ringing a bell on the desk.
Immediately a tall, thin fellow in a red jacket and cap came from a side door and paused to look at Lucas.
The clerk said, "Frederick, please help this young guest to his room. It's 210. And Lucas, if you should need anything, please let me know. My name is Silas."
It was the best room Lucas had ever been in. The walls were covered in pretty floral wallpaper and the polished floor had a colorful rug on it that was barely worn. There was a shiny table with real flowers on it and two upholstered armchairs as well as two fancy wooden chairs. The bed had a spring mattress covered with clean sheets and thick pillows. The room even had a fireplace, although the need for a fire was over since spring was almost gone and warm weather had arrived. Lucas locked the door and leaned a chair against it so no one could force it open. Then he slept. He was so exhausted that he slept through the evening and into the morning.
Finally he woke, got dressed and decided to go out to find breakfast and to see the city. First there was the problem of hiding his money. The distrust of big city people that he had shared with the folks back home still made him feel uneasy and he worried that someone would rob him so he knew he had to hide his gold. He looked for loose floorboards, but there were none. He was able to remove the top from one of the steel bed posts and thought about putting the money inside, but it was too deep. If he dropped it he would have a hard time getting it out. Finally he stuck his head inside the fireplace and looked up. There was a narrow shelf formed by the bricks on one side and he managed to get the small sacks up on it. He felt better. Lucas kept several dollars on him and went out to enjoy himself in a splendid new city.
After finishing off a big breakfast at a café around the corner, he wandered around the Commons and was amazed by the Jordan Marsh department store. Earl's store would have been lost inside that great structure. Later he took a stroll down to Faneuil Hall to look around before he strolled toward the harbor.
His first sight of the ocean was overwhelming. Lucas stood and stared for several minutes in disbelief and wonder before he walked closer, almost in a trance. The vast watery plain that lay in constant sparkling motion before him was beautiful and so unlike the mountains and hills of home that it left him speechless. Delighting in the salt air, he breathed in deeply and wondered if this was the place to find the adventure he had always hoped for. He wandered along the wharfs taking in the sights and smells of people, fish, tar, and horse dung. It was a very noisy and crowded place, but he found it entertaining. The most wonderful part was the tall ships with their big white sails and tree-tall masts. They glided silently into the harbor like gigantic versions of the swans he had seen in the pond on the commons. Much later he returned to the hotel to rest and to process all that he had seen.
He was falling in love with the sea so Lucas returned to the wharfs every day for a week. Finally, he was approached one morning by an older man who was nicely dressed, but obviously a sailor.
"You there, lad," the man called. "I've seen you lurking around for a few days, admiring the ships. Are you looking for a seaman's life? Hankering after a little adventure?"
He had never thought about being a sailor, but it suddenly seemed like a great idea. "Yes, sir. I suppose I am," Lucas replied cautiously.
"Well, we lost a cabin boy. He's tired of sailing, I guess, and he's run off. You ever sail before?"
"No, sir. It looks like a fine thing to do, though."
"Aye, there's nothing like the life of a seaman. I reckon we can teach you what you need to know about ships. You want the job?"
"Cabin boy? What does a cabin boy do?"
"He helps the cook, serves the captain and the officers. He sees to the passengers in the staterooms and takes care of a few other little chores that may come up. It's not hard work and you get to see some exciting and foreign places."
"I think it sounds fine. It's a big decision though. Is it all right if I think about it for a bit?"
"I reckon so, but we sail in three days so make up your mind quick. We have to get someone else if you don't want it."
"I‘ll let you know tomorrow. Who should I ask for?"
"I'm Simmons, the first mate. I do most of the hiring aboard this ship."
Simmons was a nice looking man in his early fifties. He had a neatly trimmed beard that was only barely touched with gray and a muscular build, earned by years of hard work at sea.
This could be the perfect solution to his biggest problem, Lucas thought as he strolled back to his hotel. Every few years he could change ships when he himself did not change, and before people began to notice, but there were many things to consider. First of all what could he do with his gold? If he took it with him how would he hide it? There was no one he could trust.
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