Welcome to “Sneak Peek Sunday,” when writers share six paragraphs of their work. Today’s snippet is taken from my work-in-progress, tentatively entitled SCATTERED SEEDS.

But first, a bit of backstory:

It’s 1755 and Edward McConnell is facing poverty. Leaving his debts unpaid, he flees Ireland with his son, Henry. In this scene, they board a brig called The Charming Hannah, bound for Philadelphia. Enjoy!


Henry was unprepared for the chaos in steerage, which reeked of the smoke and vinegar used to fumigate and clean it. Passengers shimmied past one another with their meager belongings, choosing berths among the tiers lining the sides of the brig, one atop the other. Each berth barely accommodated two people, but families of six were squeezing into them with everything they’d brought on board. They had little headroom; a man could not sit upright, and even in the center aisle, the tall had to stoop to avoid hitting their heads on the deck beams. The brig’s sway rocked the lanterns hanging above the tables and benches jamming the aisle.

“We’ll find our way frae here, sir,” Edward said at Thomas’s back. “I’ll trouble ye no mair.”

Thomas turned to face them. “I suppose I’d best be on my way. Sarah will be awaiting word.” He nodded and smiled. “She’ll be in a state, I’d wager. I’ll see to her.”

Edward said to Henry, “Stay here,” and walked a few paces away with Thomas. He placed a hand on the younger man’s shoulder and muttered something that included Sarah’s name. Thomas nodded his understanding, patted Edward on the back, and was gone.

“Come,” Edward said to Henry, “we need to find a place to lay our heads.”

As they searched for a free berth, the odor of humanity overpowered the scent of vinegar. Babies and women wailed. A man hunched over his lap and recited the “Our Father.” Families huddled together in their berths. There was no laughter, no joyful anticipation of a great adventure, only fear and sorrow.

As Henry searched for unoccupied space, he was struck by the condition of his own people. Their eyes peered from hollows in their grimy faces. Neck tendons were ropey and raised, and knuckles and knees prominent. The brig’s main cargo seemed to be desperation. He could see nothing charming about Hannah, nothing at all.

Current word count stands at 101,000 with about 10,000 to go before I take a chainsaw to it. Feel free to visit me at:  www.juliedoherty.com Now go see what the other writers are up to. Shoo! https://sneak-peek-sunday.blogspot.com/2014/03/april-6.html

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