Peter   by Fae Gabriel

Thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk, the solitary sounds heard a short distance away. Thu-thunk, th-thunk, th-thunk, th-thunk, the echoes from a fading sound neglected from the homes surrounding the large lonely park.

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Though he spent most his time on the ship sitting and napping, as he was made by his parents, he did find some time to run, play and be the cause of some aggravation for some of his fellow passengers. No discipline, despite how harsh, was able to deter James from his entertaining activities, which caused the reason for him being the only one of seven siblings that joined his parents on this trip. His disciplines on this trip included endless stories from his father about how long this trip was before the engines were made and about how all passengers had to participate in some way to ease the burden of the travel on these harsh seas, so James should be grateful. James wished at times he would be spanked instead of listening to his father’s lectures, and wondered if a boy can die due to boredom.



His parents spent summers in America with his aunt and uncle so his family can acquire beyond their means, as weavers in Scotland, so his parents were, do not typically earn beyond necessities. Peter cared for his parents but could not help but wonder if they were beyond cruelty in their punishments in bringing him to this small fish town.

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During the weekday in the first few weeks James was extremely bored, as his cousins were almost adults and working alongside their parents, so most of his time was spent reading and staying out of mischief, as what his parents intended. There were very few kids in the neighborhood where he stayed or anywhere he went with his parents, and the kids his own age were typically reading and could not be swayed into mischief. However, Sundays were an exception to his boredom.



After church, James, his parents, aunt, uncle and cousins went to the markets along the water in Trenton, NJ. The markets to James were amazing, as the merchants displayed items that captured his interest such as strange toys, sculpted silver, colorful fabrics, and interesting food. James took food samples from any vendor offering them despite occasional discomfort such as his tongue stinging or his lips burning, as long as it was something new. But what he enjoyed the most was fish from a particular restaurant, where the cook was a captain of a mercantile ship and the owner of the establishment. James liked the idea of someone else of having his saintly name, which he shared with the owner.



Captain James was a quiet man and spent most of his time in the kitchen cooking for his patrons. He didn’t mind the boy named James sneaking into his kitchen to see his activities. For there is no harm for a child to witness him hanging fish on hooks, cooking them in a large heavy wrought iron pan, or looking at a plaque that bore his name. James also reminded him of his son.

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There were reports in the local paper on murders and disappearances of children in the inner city, but was very rare news. The children that were murdered or disappeared were typically homeless and involved inner city gangs, which was enough for Peter’s parents to forbid Peter from going to the inner city. However, despite the threat of never going to the market again, it was not enough for Peter to ignore the possible excitement.



Looks of disinterest and pretending to ignore any information of the inner city was enough to persuade his parents to believe he was not interested. With the children he practiced this also, whom he increased his time with as a further persuasion for his parents. However, everything was remembered and an impression was gathered of the place he intended to secretly visit.

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For weeks he tried to spend less contact time with his parents on the days of his peak excitement, and made sure he went to his parents each time following. He consistently asked for something as to convince his parents he was still excited and intrigued with the market. Then finally, he avoided his parents for the whole day and was not questioned for his absence. It worked!



The city was as bustling with activity, and there were more children than his home in Scotland. He was a bit worried that much time was spent on the travel to the inner city, and he had to make his way back eventually. There was some regret in that he did not take enough time to learn more of the city, as he did not know what to see first, until he heard a mother scold her son.



“Stay out of the park. That’s where those kids got murdered.”



After some directions and warnings of the park, he arrived at the infamous place that must have been in the papers his family read of. He was already beyond the time it would take for his travel back, but he did not care as there was only a few weekends left in this country anyway. He was hoping for some excitement to make up for the trouble he would be in. And with this thought he turned to see a group of children without parents walk in his direction with fiery intensity in their eyes.



They began pushing him cruelly in a way to almost make him fall to the floor. But James did not run as he found this somewhat entertaining, scary and new. Suddenly they stopped and began to walk away as though interest was lost, but as curiosity and excitement was the most James desired he followed the path of natural law, to take the easiest path of what is most desired, to follow the boys.



"Hey," the biggest of the boys said as he noticed James.



"What! Are you going to follow us," as he put James in a head lock, who fell to his knees due to the pain.



"Okay, but you need to listen to me," followed by agreements and encouragements from the surrounding boys.



Peter had a use for James right away.

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Peter and his boys were from an orphanage run by the church, but Peter was the leader of the boys, the biggest and cruelest. However, over years he learned how to take punishments and whose presence he should behave in. Eventually, he built trust from the church in that almost all the boys in his presence were allowed to roam the city without adult supervision, but only the boys in his gang he allowed to join him. In the world outside the walls of the church he learned how to perfect his skills in stealing and using behavior to acquire much of what he desired. When he saw he could take something by force he did, which he preferred as this was much easier than the longer way in building trust with strangers then looking for an opportunity. He learned not to steal from the local vendors twice or nearby to another. This knowledge and Peter\'s cruel behavior was eagerly absorbed and mimicked by the boys who followed him, as they knew if there was something taken that Peter did not want or got tired of they would have a chance of owning it, which was more than they ever had.

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James was filled with excitement. He knew what he had to do as told to him by his new cruel friend. In front of the vendor he stood and began asking for help.



“You got to leave,” the man responded.



“Please,” James said in a sad innocent voice.



“I’m late and far away from my family, and I know they are worried about me,” James begins to cry and a crowd begins to form.



The vendor leaves his stand as James was hoping and wonders if this was enough for Peter to get what he wanted. But the tears that fell and the words he spoke affected him in a way that he didn’t expect. He thought about how much trouble he would be in, how much his parents would be worried about him, how lost he really was, and how exhausted he was from the long walk and the excitement. Within the crowd that gathered he cried himself to the ground, unable to move. After some time he felt hands grab his body and carry him in a direction he could not see, strong were the hands but gentle enough not to cause him harm. When he opened his eyes he saw a face he barely knew but warm it was and safe he felt ... Captain James.

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Whether the fish were caught or bought they were still cooked and delivered to the families who loved their food. Michael, James and his wife worked tirelessly for the vessel they deserved. James would finally be a captain instead of being a first mate, Helena would be able to hire for the business she ran, and Michael would finally be at sea as he dreamed. James and Helena were well respected in their community, but their son Michael was spoken of the most. He was known for the delicious fish he cooked on occasion in a heavy wrought iron pan and his charm for those people who knew him. When it came close to the time of purchasing the vessel, Michael worked extra hard, including the days he was to have off, for a gift for his father.

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James was not allowed out of his parent’s sight but what he desired the most he had a taste of and wanted more. He tolerated listening to the story of the person who helped him, and may have been more attentive to the story from a person that knew the captain well, but he had to get back to Peter and the boys. And without any regard for his safety, his punishments, his parents worry or their words, he ran.



Peter and the boys, he screamed in his head, as though they were heroes of the world.

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"Oof," James breathed heavy as he fell on the dirt ground in the park in front of the boys.



The malicious gang laughed as Peter brushed the dust from his face.



Tink tink, a sound came from the movement of Peter.



"What\'s going on? What\'s that?" James said.



"This is the bell I took with your help," pulling a shiny silver bell with wings of an angel.



"It looks like a girls little faerie toy," a younger boy from the gang said.



Before James could finish wiping the dust from his face the younger boy was bleeding from his nose and mouth, and before James escaped from the sounds of thuds of kicks the elder boys placed on the young child on the floor, the cries of the young boy ceased abruptly. James turned to see the boys still kicking and all in a cloud of dust.