The Coffin Ship

The first chapter from a novel I began a while back but never got around to finishing. maybe posting it here will motivate me to continue it!



The little boy clutched his teddy tight and took his mom’s hand as the crowd began getting restless.

“Mommy I’m scared” he said in his little voice.

“It will be fine baby... don’t worry” his mother told him.

The boy was Joseph Butler. He was six years old and had a closely cut crop of blond hair. He was about four foot and was quite a small build, wearing a white shirt with brown pants and a small brown hand knit jumper. He was casting nervous glances at his mother and brother. His brother smiled encouragingly back.

The boy’s brother was Patrick Butler. He was twelve years old and since their father had passed away, the man of the family, the main breadwinner. He was around five foot three and also had closely cut blond hair, wearing a white shirt, black pants and a green hand knit jumper which had a few patches on it.

Joseph heard a shrill whistle and a loud voice yelling, but the yells were drowned out by the agitated crowd who were now pressing forward. They were all waiting to board a ship, the ship that would take them to America and the promise of a better life. The boy’s mother had saved their money to buy the tickets.

“It’s our turn now Joe” she said to Joseph. “Patrick you take the bags”.

 Patrick went up the ramp and deposited the bags on deck. But Joe was stopped at the bottom of the plank, frozen in fear. Patrick made his way to the end of the plank and took Joe’s other hand. The noise level from the crowd grew, people pushing and shoving, tired and impatient. The officers tried to get them under control but they were failing. Patrick picked Joe up and carried him to the deck, the younger boy was shaking in his arms. He set him down and looked him in the eyes, soothing him. He looked back down the ramp at his mother.

She put one foot on the ramp, and then all hell broke loose. The crowd got out of control, pushing their mother so that she nearly fell. She took her foot off the plank to steady herself, and then, the officers withdrew the plank!

“NOOOOOO!!!!!” Patrick yelled “MOM...HEY YOU...LET MY MOM ON”

“Sorry son, can’t” the officer said. “My orders are to cast off... that means the plank doesn’t go back out”.

Patrick looked from the man to his mother and back again. Then he punched the officer in the face.


The man wiped the blood from his nose, and pushed Patrick over.


Patrick felt a tugging on his shirt. It was Joe.

“Patrick...Where is mommy... and why are you and the big man yelling”? he asked, his eyes welling up with tears.

“Mommy can’t come with us Joe...I’m Sorry.”

The boy burst into tears, crying his little heart out.

“MOMMY...MOMMY...Where ARE YOU?” he screamed.

Patrick pulled him across to the gap where the plank had been and pointed out their mother.


The officers started firing shots into the crowd as the boat pulled away. Patrick’s heart stopped as his mother was hit in the chest. There was a look of surprise on her face for a moment as the tell-tale red stain spread over her clothes... then she keeled over and fell forward into the water. People began throwing themselves at the boat trying to get on as it moved away, most fell... one or two got on...but none of this registered with Patrick who burst into tears himself and huddled with his brother...mourning the loss of their mother.

The End

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