This book will be published by Ring Of Fire Press and will be available via Amazon.com or directly from Ring Of Fire Press. No release date known at this time.
Death Lives In The Water – Snippet 01
Death Lives In The Water
by Shoshana Edwards
“Take a barrel of the water,” they said. “We need water from our beloved Ukraine, for the new world. It will ensure good crops.”
Yuri Harasemchuk was nineteen years old, powerfully muscled, and at the moment supremely unhappy. He loved Ukraine, loved Russia, and loved Maria Molovna. All of that was being taken away. And now he was tasked with this superstitious nonsense by his demanding and uneducated parents.
Yuri snorted. He had been to the great university in Moskva, where he learned agricultural practices that contradicted the old folk methods of farming. He had returned home, sullen and angry at being denied further education, only to find that his parents were resistant to all his new ideas and the things he had learned about crops and irrigation. And now, they were leaving. Going to America, because his parents had heard that anyone could lay claim to property if they got there first. He didn’t believe it. What he did believe was that they were going to lose their farm here to the ethnic Russians who now were at the top of the social and legal ladder, both in Russia and in Ukraine.
It was no use. He had to go to America with them. Perhaps Maria’s family would come too. He hoped so. He also knew there was no arguing with his parents over the water. The barrel must be filled, sealed, and brought along. He stood at the small pond. He had come here rather than the large pond further down in the meadow. His parents used the large pond to water their crops and the animals. This small one was never used. He didn’t know why, but today he didn’t care. It would be harder to go down the slope and then back up again with a full barrel. They would never know where he got the water, and it didn’t matter anyway as far as he was concerned.
He lowered the barrel into the water, using ropes attached to iron staves. Although it only held thirty gallons, once he had filled it today it felt much heavier. He made sure the lid was on tight and rolled it up the boards and onto the wagon. The ship captain was also old school Ukrainian and would not chafe at the additional weight. He slowly walked back to his waiting parents, trying to memorize every tree and shrub he knew he would never see again. It was spring, and the meadow was filled with sunflowers, blue bonnets, and clover. The trees were fully leaved. What Yuri could not know was that Missouri, where his family was headed, looked much the same, with dirt roads and hemlock, birch and oak trees.
He drove home to find a pile of steamer trunks and boxes waiting. He helped load everything into the back of the wagon, and glanced longingly at the only home he had ever known as he swung himself onto the packed wagon. He memorized the thatch roof rising to a center point, the small water wheel attached to the barn, the rustic wood fence that enclosed their property. In his mind, he saw the new family that would occupy the only home he had never known. Russians! Even though they looked exactly like his family, he hated them.
His father chucked at the horses, and they started the long trek to Odessa. He was overjoyed to see that Maria’s family had joined the procession of wagons headed for the docks. He would do his best to make sure they were on the same boat, bound for the same destination.
The sailing was smooth at first as the ship glided slowly across the Black Sea, through the passage of the Dardanelles and Constantinople, and then across the Mediterranean Sea toward the Atlantic. It was summer; the spring storms were over, and the autumnal squalls would not arise until after they had reached their destination, or so the captain assured them. Maria’s family was on the same ship, and Yuri and Maria spent many a happy day sitting on the edge of the deck, chatting and planning their new lives. Yuri was less resentful, happy that the love of his life would be in America too. He thought about proposing now but decided to wait until he had claimed some of that homestead land and spoken for her with her father. It was the old way, but it nevertheless appealed to him
Neither Yuri nor Maria were plagued with the seasickness that struck down most of the immigrants. Men, women, and children alike were either puking over the side of the ship or sleeping in their hammocks. A few of the children also remained unaffected, and it fell upon Yuri and Maria to keep an eye on them. No one wanted to have to stop and try to fish out a child gone overboard. Yuri solved the problem by telling the little ones stories of great sea monsters with glowing teeth and a taste for tender meat. Though Maria told him more than once he should not frighten them so, secretly she approved since it kept them well away from the sides of the decks.
Late one night, about two months into the trip and well into the Atlantic, a surprise squall came out of nowhere and tossed the ship about. This caused great distress among the seasick crowd, since they had only just become accustomed to the rocking motion of the boat and now found themselves once again sick and wretched. This time Maria felt queasy and was unable to manage moving about. Yuri stayed below deck, tending to both of their families, unconcerned about the young ones since it was nighttime, and they would be asleep.
In the morning, Yuri and one of the sailors went to the hold to make sure everything had stayed attached and secure. The suitcases, trunks, and bags were still firmly tied down. Yuri saw that the lid on his barrel had come loose. He found a hammer and refit the lid, pounding it firmly in place and testing it to make sure it was tight. He saw a small black boot on the floor near the barrel, which must have fallen out of one of the boxes or trunks. He picked it up and stuffed it in his pocket. He would ask the others later whose child it belonged to. As he turned away, he thought he heard a sloshing noise. He touched the barrel and could swear he heard something like a grunt, or perhaps a crunch. Just then, he and the sailor with him heard pounding feet headed for the decks and cries of “Man Overboard.” They ran up the stairs to the main deck.
Mikhail Sloven’s parents stood on the deck, his mother screaming and his father looking frantically this way and that. When they awoke that morning, they had discovered that Mikhail was not in his bunk. His red jacket, which he had removed before going to sleep, was missing. The parents were sure he must have wandered up on deck to look at the storm and been swept overboard.
They begged the captain to turn back and look for him, but after a while even they had to agree that he could not have survived the stormy waters and that finding him would be impossible. His mother took to her bed for the rest of the journey, refusing to eat or drink, and died of dehydration shortly before they reached the shores of America.
Her tiny body was placed in a hastily constructed coffin, made from food barrels that had been emptied during their long voyage. Mischka Sloven and Yuri carried it on deck, where a small service was conducted, and she was sent to rest in the sea where it was presumed Mikhail had also met his demise. During the ceremony, Yuri stuck his hands in his pockets and found the boot he had put there. Now was not the time to ask about it. Instead, after they were done, he went down to the hold and placed the boot on top of a stack of trunks. Surely someone would claim it.
When they finally disembarked in New Orleans, Yuri’s family purchased a wagon and team of horses for the journey north to Missouri. They found a wainwright, and a young man at the local bank who spoke Ukrainian and English helped them complete the transaction. These Americans seemed obsessed with paperwork, requiring something called a “bill of sale.” They obligingly filled out the paperwork, but the wainwright was confused by the name Harasemchuk. After several failed attempts to pronounce it, he asked the interpreter, “What does the name mean in English?”
“Musician; or perhaps, Harper,” replied the translator.
“Then Harper it will be,” he said, and completed the bill and handed over the wagon and team of oxen. Yuri and his father drove the team back to the docks, where they hauled their goods and the barrel of water off the ship and onto the wagon. Oleg Harasemchuk, now Harper, had noted his son’s affection for Maria Molovna, and he invited her family to share their wagon and travel with them in search of a new home. Maria’s parents had also noted their daughter’s attraction to Yuri. They liked the boy and his family and approved of the match, so they readily agreed to join them.
They travelled north, alongside the Mississippi River. At farms along the way, they purchased two pairs of young sheep, five brood hens and a rooster, and seeds for rye. The countryside was familiar, with meadows and birch, hemlock, and oak trees. It was late summer, and they were able to purchase a large barrel of apples, along with apple seeds. Yuri’s mother also purchased a small bag of cherry seeds.
Yuri, with his family and Maria’s, joined several others from the ship, and together they traveled to Missouri and a new life. He and Maria were married a year later, under a tree near the small pond that was part of the land his parents had claimed. A small house had been constructed for them by the families that settled in the area. They could see the house behind the priest and looked forward to their lives together. As part of the ceremony they poured the water they brought from their homeland into the pond. For a moment, Maria thought she heard an extra splash, and a menacing chuckle as the old-world water mingled with the new. But she shrugged and wrote it off to marriage jitters. A year later, Maria gave birth to their first child, Jennie.