Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Daily Life on a Canal Boat - LOCK READY @JimRada #Historical #Fiction #Authors

This excerpt gives a picture of the daily life on a canal boat and it features two of the favorite characters in the series, Tony and Thomas Fitzgerald.

Tony rolled off of the bottom bunk in the family cabin before the dawn and stoked the fire in the small pot-belly stove. It was difficult to cook a family meal on its flat top, but space was at a premium in the cabin and a full-size stove would have put out too much heat in the small room. Tony had to admit, though, on cold nights, this stove didn’t put out enough heat to keep his toes and nose from freezing while he slept.
He stepped quietly past the door to Mrs. Fitzgerald’s cabin. It wasn’t really a door, but a curtain made of a piece of blue fabric with white stripes. He didn’t hear her moving around on the other side. Hopefully, she was asleep. She had been crying late into the night and he had had to pretend that he hadn’t been able to hear her.
Tony could feel the cold of the floor boards through his thick socks. He only wore his socks when he slept specifically so he wouldn’t have to worry about his feet freezing on the floor in the winter.
Lucky for everyone Tony needed to make water. They would get to wake up in a warm cabin because Tony had decided to drink a cup of water before going to bed. He wrapped his wool blanket around himself and crept outside to empty his bladder into the empty canal basin. As he did, he wondered how many canallers would have to be doing the same thing at the same time to fill up the canal and float the hundreds of boats now stranded along its length. Just thinking about it made him feel like he had more water in him to get rid of.
By the time Tony went back inside, Mrs. Fitzgerald had come out of her small cabin. It was really just a smaller room partitioned off from the family cabin and just barely large enough for a small bed. Even Tony and his birth mother had never stayed in a room that small no matter how little money they had had. At least the partition gave the captain some privacy. She and Mr. Fitzgerald had shared the cabin before he had been killed in Shanty Town. Then she and Elizabeth had shared it until Elizabeth had decided to stay in Washington to learn how to act like a lady. Now Mrs. Fitzgerald slept in there alone.
It struck Tony as sad. He wasn’t sure why. She certainly had more room now that she wasn’t sharing the same small bed with someone.
Mrs. Fitzgerald began pulling out breakfast ingredients from the pantry tucked away under the Freeman’squarterdeck…canned fruit, flour, eggs. It was a storage area that you could enter through doors in one wall of the cabin. Though the pantry was nearly as large as the family cabin, it was only half as tall since it was under the quarterdeck. Some larger canalling families used it as another cabin. Tony had discovered that the Fitzgeralds had used it not only as a pantry but also as a place to hide slaves they had helped on their way to freedom along the Underground Railroad.
“Good morning, Tony,” Mrs. Fitzgerald said. She sounded too happy in the mornings, especially a morning after she had been crying half of the night.
“Good morning,” he mumbled. He, on the other hand, was still half asleep and wishing he was fully asleep.
“I thought I would make pancakes for breakfast.”
“Thomas’s favorite.” Tony liked them, too, but doughnuts were his favorite breakfast.
Mrs. Fitzgerald grinned. “It will probably be the only way to get him up this morning. On cold mornings, it’s like he’s frozen to the bed.”
“I’ll throw a coal from the fire in bed with him if you want,” Tony said with mock seriousness. “That ought to thaw him out and get him up pretty quick.”
Mrs. Fitzgerald rubbed her chin as if she were considering the idea. “I think the pancakes will work fine. If I’m wrong, we can try your idea.” Then she grinned at Tony.
As she poured batter into the frying pan a few minutes later, the small cabin quickly filled with the scent of pancakes frying. Sure enough, Thomas began stirring in his bunk. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. Then he took a deep breath and smiled.
“You two need to feed the mules,” Alice said. “By the time you finish, breakfast should be ready. Oh, and make sure that George and Da…” She stopped and the smile slipped from her face. “Make sure George is awake when you come back.”
“Flapjacks, yea!” Thomas said.
“Then you can get ready for school,” Mrs. Fitzgerald said.
“School, no!” Thomas said and he flopped back in his bunk and pulled the blanket over his head.

The Civil War split the United States and now it has split the Fitzgerald Family. Although George Fitzgerald has returned from the war, his sister Elizabeth Fitzgerald has chosen to remain in Washington to volunteer as a nurse. 

The ex-Confederate spy, David Windover, has given up on his dream of being with Alice Fitzgerald and is trying to move on with his life in Cumberland, Md. Alice and her sons continue to haul coal along the 184.5-mile-long C&O Canal. It is dangerous work, though, during war time because the canal runs along the Potomac River and between the North and South. Having had to endured death and loss already, Alice wonders whether remaining on the canal is worth the cost. She wants her family reunited and safe, but she can’t reconcile her feelings between David and her dead husband. 

Her adopted son, Tony, has his own questions that he is trying to answer. He wants to know who he is and if his birth mother ever loved him. As he tries to find out more about his birth mother and father, he stumbles onto a plan by Confederate sympathizers to sabotage the canal and burn dozens of canal boats. He enlists David’s help to try and disrupt the plot before it endangers his new family, but first they will have find out who is behind the plot.
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Genre – Historical Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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