- Vol. 02
- Chapter 11
Uncle JoeI watched him, standing proud and tall. Lean and muscular like a soldier. Taking the poor people away to a better place.
I had lots to do of course, what with going back to school soon, and shells to collect right now, before the best ones got washed away. Jellyfish had to be cut up too, in case they stung somebody.
And soon, soup to warm up.
Rosemary didn't want to play on days like this.
She wanted to go with him.
"Daddy why are you going away again?"
"Daddy where are you going to take them?"
"Daddy, why can't I come?"
But she'd never get an answer. He'd just stand there, like a soldier, waiting for the last one to get into the boat, like he didn't hear her.
I know now how he must have felt.
I know the twisting gut when my little girl hugs me before the warder pulls her off, crying, and I avoid the child's eyes and ignore her tears.
But she musn't know that I feel the loneliness, tolling my death each time, I have to hide it. I think I do.
Uncle Joe did, every time.
Once, I saw him shiver. It meant nothing to me at the time, but now I see that memory just as sharp, and in it, as he pulls his jacket tighter, I see Rosemary, knee deep in the water, straining up for a hug, and falling back, sobbing.
I close my eyes, and hear her splashing out on to the beach, the crunch of the shingle and breaking of the waves, the shouts of the poor people and the roar of the wind flapping the sail, and the irregular slapping from the waterline, the whole chorus of them failing to drown her bellydeep sobs.
But what of the poor people? Did they make it?
Some time ago I looked into my genealogy. It sparked curiosity for in the old suitcase in the attic.
There was a newspaper clipping, torn along the fold lines.
There was a picture of uncle Joe.
I'm in it.
So is Rosemary.
It could have been taken just before that very moment.
Underneath it, the text was torn, but some could be made out.
"People smuggler Joseph - - -
...embark from small jett - - -
...flotilla of small boats bou - - -