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The Golden Compass

By
The Golden Compass
The heavy raindrops clattered on my dark skin. A cold breeze passed, running up and down my skinny bare legs, giving me small, round bumps. Mama called them goose bumps. I walked by the Adam’s house, but then turned around, and decided to see what they were up to. I could just barely see through the heavy fog, as the smoke burst out from the chimney, and into the dark and dull night sky. When I had passed Abigail at the market, I overheard her tell Miss Martha Washington that John was in Philadelphia again. She had a lonely expression on her face, and I sure was worried about her. I stepped close to the red bricks, and looked into the clean glass window. Miss Abigail always kept the house spotless. She did not have a maid, because she felt it was her house, therefore her responsibility. Miss Abigail was sitting in a chair, reading some documents and books. She looked up, caught my face, and kindly asked her son, John Quincy to answer the door, and welcome me in. She told John she would be there soon. John Quincy came to the door, looking clean as ever, and slowly opened the door.

“Hello Christopher,” John Quincy greeted.

“How do you do?” I politely said back.

“I have been well, thank you. Father is in Philadelphia again, we have no recollection for how long he will be staying there.” John Quincy looked upset, for his father had always worked endless days, and endless nights.

“I hope he arrives safely, and enjoys his stay there. Your old man is a wise and strong one. You should be proud to be under his name.” At that moment I had realized that I was jealous of John Quincy, he was in the highest class, and most importantly had a kind mother and
father. We stood there for what seemed a few hours. Then Miss Abigail stood up and came to the door.

“Hello, dear Christopher. When I overheard you talking to my son, I noticed from your attitude lately that you are speaking more politely, and more mature. Maybe you should think about going to school one day. I can see you’re a true learner.” Miss Abigail then shook my hand. Her hands were always soft, for she had rubbed shay butter on them.

“Oh Lordy! Forgive me, my dear Christopher! Please do come in. You’re drenched to the tip of your chin child! And where are your shoes? Have you had something to eat, you look like a skeleton! Did you have breakfast…lunch…DINNER? She seemed to be angry, not angry with me, but with herself for not taking care of me. I stepped into the doorway, feeling the soft, warm wooden floor underneath my bare feet.

“Father ran away ma’am. The master mistreated him. Beaten. Abused. Hurt. But what got father was that nasty man’s mouth. Rotten old mouth. He had what mama said an emotional breakdown. He ran. As fast as he could. Sprinted through our puddle of land, through the neighbor’s, and into the forest. Who knows if master caught him? Probably did, and had his vicious man eating dog drag his sorry body to the grave. Who knows, actually who cares, about us? You know, us Negroes? Were treated like ox, dragging, working, planting, carrying, and doing every possible work known to man. Miss Abigail, I am sorry to be a Negro. In fact, I wish I was never born at all.” Tears were racing down my face now, making strips of my face shiny, standing out from the rest of the dirt blended into my cheeks.

“Christopher child, never be ashamed of what God gave us. You were gifted to be dark skinned. Don’t let anybody stop you from what you do. Christopher, listen to me real closely
now, someday, when my man John becomes the head of our country, me and him, together now, will teach the world about freedom and equality. You know what equality is son?” She was talking words of wisdom, some that I didn’t even understand.

“No ma’am,” I responded quickly, “I ain’t the smartest.”

“Sweet child, equality is everyone being equal. Everyone, not one person, or culture left out of the equation. Someday everyone’s gonna be free. Free to do whatever they want. And you Christopher can grow up to be anything! You can even be a doctor and help all kinds of people. Wouldn’t that be nice ehh?” Miss Abigail brightened up my face.

She spoke again, “Christopher dear, I will be right back. I’m going to get some clean and warm sleeping clothes from John Quincy’s room. You are staying in our extra room tonight. We’ll get you all cleaned up, smelling like all types of fruit. After you’re all cleaned up, you can get all cozy in bed, and I shall read you a nice story. Bright and early tomorrow we’ll go to the market to get you a nice pair of shoes, some extra blankets and some clothes for you and your mother. You shall be treated like royalty, for tonight you’re gonna be a king! We will feed you with the finest, and tastiest foods, and you will be part of our family. Now let’s get you all washed up, my king Christopher!” Abigail’s voice was mirthful. She was the nicest white woman I had ever met.
At first I couldn’t believe what Miss Abigail was saying. She sure was a kind woman. She led me into the washing room, gave me all the soaps, and I cleaned myself. When I came out, rapped in a towel, she led me to my room. She closed the wooden door, and I started to dress myself. The warm cloth felt amazing against my skin. I was only used to wearing dirty rags that mama washed the dishes with. Slowly and carefully I took my golden compass out of my rag pocket. Father had left it for me, for he said one day I would go on a brilliant trip, far, far, and away. I sure would like that, but mama and I couldn’t even afford to live in our one room cabin anymore. The landlord came by a few nights ago and told us we had to move out. Mama and I would be living on the streets now, searching for money. Mama brought up the idea of selling my prize possession. I told her there was no way I would let go of the treasure. When I was done dressing, I walked into the shining kitchen. I felt like I was in a castle. Miss Abigail had set the table for me; on one plate was a nice big juicy chicken, in some seasoning that smelled like heaven. In a bowl was a nice vegetable broth that had steam coming out of it. In a cup was some tea, which smelled like apples and cinnamon. I raced to the table and stuffed my face. Boy was that meal delicious. After my feast, Miss Abigail washed my face, cleaned my teeth, and led me to my bed. I sat down, swinging my feet over the bed, and pulling the quilt and thick blanket over my body. I squirmed down, under the covers and closed my eyes. Miss Abigail turned off the lights, and read me a story, seeing the words with only a candlestick. After what seemed a few seconds, Miss Abigail must have blown out the candle.
Å“

Bzzzzz. I awoke to a fly whining in my ear. Bzzzzz! I shook my head to try to get it away, but it wasn’t afraid of me. The noise continued in my head and my ear. I stretched my legs, expanding them as far as I could. I sat up, cautiously and quietly. I slowly crawled out of the blanket and stepped onto the wooden floor. I opened the door, trying to avoid the creaks. I poked my head out of the room and saw John Quincy sitting at the kitchen table. I pulled my head back out of the doorway, and opened the door completely open. I strutted into the kitchen and sat down across from John Quincy. Abigail brought me a bowl of oatmeal with sugar, a bowl of fresh washed blueberries, and a glass of punch. I dug in. I stuffed everything into my mouth at the same time. I switched off spoonfuls of blueberries and oatmeal, and to wash it all down, I chugged some punch. Everything dripped down my chin, but I ignored it. It was like I was force-feeding myself. Sometimes I didn’t even chew; I just swallowed the huge pieces of food. Abigail said she was going to treat me to another cleaning. My lips curved to reveal a huge grin.

Right when we finished cleaning up, Miss Abigail took me uptown to the market. We rode in a wagon, with a really nice man in the front. He was telling us funny jokes about and the government. Miss Abigail sure did buy a lot of things. Everything seemed really expensive, but Miss Abigail didn’t care. That gave her motivation to buy more! We bought blankets, clothes, shoes, pillows, newspapers, food, candles, and my favorite, a hat made out of the finest material. Right after we bought it, I shoved it on my head. People started looking at me in a classier way, and nodded their heads kindly at me. I took off my hat and bowed. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. I felt like my heart shined through my shirt, gleaming with happiness. I must have said thank you to Miss Abigail about one million times. She said it was her pleasure. After the market, Miss Abigail brought me to the doctor. He checked out my throat, eyes, ears, and nose. He said I wasn’t the healthiest, but that if I gained some more pounds, I would be healthier. Miss Abigail kept trying to shove food down my throat, but I was already so full from the morning meal. We got back in the wagon and rode off to where mama and me were living. We picked a spot underneath a Tailor Shop where there was shade. Mama was just sitting there, staring at the ground. I jumped off the wagon and said hello to mama. She didn’t saying anything back. You could tell by the deathly glare she was giving Miss Abigail. Miss Abigail was just smiling back at mama. Then mama spoke.

“Christopher Lawrence Jones! What in the Lord’s name are you doing with this…this…this atrocious woman?” Mama seemed real upset with me. I hate when she used the word atrocious. She only said it when she was real angry or upset.

“Mama, I can explain. Miss Abigail is the most nicest woman. She bought all of these things to try to help us mama. Look!” I couldn’t help but smile, and mama seemed angrier because of my happiness.

“We will NOT accept anything from this lady.” She placed everything right in front of Miss Abigail’s feet. Miss Abigail just smiled, picked up everything, and put it right back in front of Mama’s feet. Then Miss Abigail smiled, and got into the wagon. She didn’t even say goodbye. Night fell quickly, and mama was sound asleep. Mama did not use any of the new items, so I built my own fort using everything. I rested my head on the soft pillow, and cried myself to sleep. I felt like a girl, definitely not a young man.
Å“

Mama didn’t talk to me for the next month. And after that month, exactly 3 days later, she moved. I didn’t know where, but she had left me. Mama taught me that Cuckoo Birds left their babies before the baby was born. Sometimes they would fool other birds and drop their eggs into another bird’s nest. Then the bird would fertilize the wrong egg and the Cuckoo bird would grow up on its own. I felt like a Cuckoo baby-left all alone in a huge and discriminatory world. Now I am homeless, worthless, and parentless. Why did the Lord make me if there was no point in me living? I had eaten all the food Miss Abigail supplied me with, and her family had gone to France. The Adams’ were sick of being separated from John, so they all moved to France. I wonder how they would feel if they were me. Every night I wouldn’t fall asleep because of the hunger pains in my stomach. In fact, I could have almost been dying if it hadn’t been for that newspaper article. I remember the exact situation. It was a Sunday, and I would have gone to Church with mama, but mama was no longer considered my mama. I swear the Lord sent down an angel to save me.
Å“


“Stupid blacks.” I opened my eyes, squinting at the site of a rich white man. He threw his newspaper down, and the second he left, I ran to pick it up. I saw another man reading a newspaper, and walked over to him. I asked him what the headlines read, and he told me it said “ESCAPE SLAVE FOUND ALIVE. NAME: PAUL ROBERT JONES. REWARD: $300.”
I could not believe it. My father’s alive, and is in this exact town! I jumped in joy, for my father is here! I went to where my father would go first: the market. I sprinted through the each column, looking down.

“Whoa their little boy!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry Sir. I did not see you there. I will be more careful next time.”
I slowly looked up at the man’s body. His arm muscles were bulging through his rag shirt, and I looked at his face. His strong face structure was dripping with sweat, and his crystal blue eyes were staring right at me. I recognized him from somewhere, and when I remembered, my mouth hung open in awe. It was my father.

“PAPA!!!!”

“CHRISTOPHER?!”

We then embraced each other. Oh boy was I happy! I told papa what happened to mama, and he just shook his head in disappointment.

Papa and I spent every day together. In fact, I was putting back on some weight. Papa got lots of money from his neighbors in New York. He ran away, met some of his family in New York, and then came back to Massachusetts. After about a week with papa, he had taught me many things. He taught me how to read, write, talk like a brave man, and how to really be happy in life. On May 4, 1813, papa had told me the most heartbreaking news. He said it was getting more dangerous for him. He also said he might have to travel back to New York…alone. I tried to be brave, but I just couldn’t hold back the tears. That night, papa took me to a bar to have dinner. I had turkey with some sauce, and papa just had red wine. After dinner, as we were walking our to “house,” papa said he had to go to the forest real quick. He also said that if he wasn’t home before tomorrow at noon, to go to the forest. Not any forest, but the forest we used to play ball together at. The words that were coming out of his mouth stung my ears. I didn’t want to hear it, but I knew it was real important.

“Son, do you understand?”

“Yes papa, I understand real well.”
“I am so very proud of you Christopher. You have grown up to be such a strong man.” I hugged papa, and sat down on the corner of the street.
Papa ran across the street, and walked to the forest. Papa hadn’t come back. But that wasn’t the only bad news. My golden compass was missing. The only part of father left with me was gone. Gone forever. I tried not to think about it, and at noon I went to the forest, walking real quietly and slowly. I saw a tree, with a man sitting up against.

“Father?” No answer.

“Papa, is that you?” Again, no answer.
I saw it right then and there. Right in front of me. It was father. But I couldn’t call him father anymore. He wasn’t my father. My father is dead. Master shot him. Right in the heart, and it felt like my heart too. Except Master didn’t drag papa’s body to the grave. He dragged his body to me. Tears were dripping down my face, more than one racing, and jumping off my chin. And then I saw it. My golden compass, in father’s hand. I slowly picked up the compass, and noticed a note. It said that I am a “strong young man” and that I could “handle this.” One day—he claimed—we will find each other. Finally, he said he loved me and signed his name. I screamed all the bad words I knew. I was so hurt. I picked up father’s body, getting blood all over my hands. I wiped the blood on my shirt, for I did not care. In fact, who cares? NO ONE. The Lord does not care, Mama does not care, Master does not care, and now I did not care. The only people who actually seemed to care were the Adams. But they were gone too. That night I fell asleep. Right next to papa. And in the morning when I woke up, he was still there. His body was there, but not his soul. His soul meant the most to me. His soul made a difference. Made a difference to everyone. Ever since that newspaper article, slaves were running away, and standing up to whites. We wanted our freedom, and as Miss Abigail said, we want equality. I made papa a funeral. No one came except the Lord and me. A few birds stopped by, and that meant a lot to me. I dug a nice big hole, and carefully placed Papa in it. I put the note in my pocket, and put the stained golden compass in my pocket too. The hole was almost closed when I forgot to do one thing. I kissed father on the cheek, and carefully placed the golden compass in his right hand. I looked up to the sky, squinting from the brightness of the sun. I then took his left hand, all dirty with blood dripping down his fingernails, and carefully placed it on the open side of the compass. I covered the hole and put a big sign on it. Some birds were sitting on the sign, but I knew they wouldn’t do anything to father. They were there to protect him. Just like the golden compass.





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