It is night. Darkness has fallen over the September night as the half moon rises and the stars begin to fill the sky over Penobscot Bay. Sometimes the night falls so deeply here in this Maine hamlet that it seems like the Sun might never rise again. It is a darkness full of potential. The year is 1898 and you are walking along a dark path in the small coastal town of Bucksport, Maine. You are alone, quite alone. You are sure of it. In the distance, you can see the vague outline of ships in the harbor and lights in the windows of the townspeople in houses you know well, for you are worker, a cleaner, a hired servant willing to scrub and polish and shine the possessions of others to make your living. For some, this might be a happy lot, but not for you. These people for whom you work could be your friends and compatriots, but that is not the case. You are, and forever will be, from away. These people are not your people and you are not one of them, but as you walk carefully along the lane, you remember your home in Nova Scotia. Sometimes you wonder what it would have been like had you never met the man you wed. You moved from your home to his, this place, and had his children and toiled away the years. Then you divorced, and though you tried to go back to Canada, you found you didn’t belong there anymore. Where is home, you wonder as you walk the dark path on the cool September night. But those thoughts are fleeting, at best. No time for regret, you tell yourself, when there is work to do. This is your home, now.
As you move forward down the lane, you put your hand on your purse and recall the payments you have collected. You had nothing when you came here, but with hard work and tenacity, you needled your way into the homes and lives of the people, at first with an offer to work and then, as the years rolled past and you accumulated some small wealth, even the offer of a loan, of course, with interest to a few select individuals whose names you will never mention. It has been grind and scrape, working all hours, but you are independent. After all, though your children have grown, you still have yourself to support and you know that you will never be included, that you will always be regarded as ‘from away’ no matter how long you live among them. You may live there and walk among them, but they never truly take you in, do they? Still, there is recompense. Then you remember that you have one more stop before you head home. The stovemaker, the tin-knocker, William Treworgy owes you his payment. One last stop before bed.
You reach into your purse and remove the cigarillo you just purchased less than fifteen minutes ago, the final purchase at the little store on the edge of town before they closed for the night and blew out their lanterns. They’ve seen you before at this late hour, making your rounds at the only time you can, because when tomorrow comes, you will be back to work again, cleaning their houses, tending to the smallest of their needs. The wind begins to blow as you light the match and inhale. It is a small pleasure, you think, to walk alone, independent and in charge of your life, with a purse full of small change and a life in front of you full of work.
Your name is Sarah Ware and soon, very soon, something quite terrible will happen.
In 1898 Maine had less than a million inhabitants and the only cities were small in comparison with neighboring states. Even today, it is a place of long distances, of varied customs and terrain. Before the turn of the century, the coastal towns and villages featured harbors full of ships that sailed to every corner of the globe and captains and crews who had been as part of the bedrock of their communities for time out of mind. I 1898, Everyone knows everyone else and everyone seems to know everyone else’s business, too. Even the smallest newsworthy m
[Please note – some of
the descriptions in this article/episode are graphic. Use discretion
with younger readers/listeners]
You are lying in your bed on
this hot July night. It has been a long, hot summer with no rain for
weeks. The ground is turning to dust and the wind is warmer...
I know you don’t tell other people that you’ve had that experience, that one singular time when you were alone in your house and it happened: something inexplicable. Maybe it was when your parents first thought you were old enough to be left alone without a babysitter and told you that they would...
John Bowman sat inside his mansion as evening fell and the light between the Vermont hills faded into dusk as he had done hundreds of times before. He had finished his dinner early and the servants had all gone their respective ways, back to their own homes in the village. He was alone in the...