Just a Scrap of Life
I crouched in the small barrel, my knees up to my chest in the small space. I had to be incredibly quiet, for staying hidden was the top priority for the time being. It was unbelievably cramped, and I found myself longing to get out and stretch my legs. I shook my head and mentally tossed the wish aside, for I knew that I couldn’t afford to be caught. All I could do was hide, and pray that no one would even think of looking inside.
I looked up at the peaceful blue sky, which was perfectly framed by a wooden circle. Sighing, I gently blew a wisp of my carrot-orange hair out of my eyes. Although my life hadn’t really been all that fortunate before, I couldn’t believe that it had finally sunk this low. But it was either hide aboard the SS Primella in an attempt to find freedom, or stay on Krawk Island and be wrongly arrested. Scowling, I huddled further down into the barrel, experienced a strange feeling of déjà vu, then cursed the thieves for ruining what little peace I had left in my life.
I could feel the boat bobbing up and down in its slow rhythm as the waves carried it along. This gentle motion makes most people seasick, but to me, it is soothing, like an infant being rocked in its cradle. I was even beginning to feel a little sleepy. I leaned my head against the wall of the barrel. My hiding place brought back a memory that I will never forget. Never in my life...
I let my eyes close; allowing the gentle bobbing of the ship to lull me to sleep and let my memories take me back...
A hurricane is approaching. People are running away from the shore as the frenzied wind and rain moves in. Mothers are gathering their children close to them. Men race to pile bags of sand between the homes and the shore to protect the town. This storm looks to be a really big one. I’m only four years old.
“Mommy?” I shout over the frenzied screams and the howling winds. “Mommy, where are you?”
“Son!” I turn to see my mother racing towards me. A few waves began to crash onto the shore, growing bigger and bigger each time. She trips on her dress and lands in the sand, slowing her in a time where speed matters most. “My son,” she cries, “go! Find a place to hide!” I watch a very big wave crash onto the shore... directly over my mother.
“Mommy!” I cry, but my voice is drowned out over the wind. The water recedes... and my mother is gone.
Someone runs up to me. It is my father. “Son?” he asks, crouching to my level, “are you all right?” I rush towards him and throw myself into his arms.
“Mommy’s gone!” I sob. “A big wave fell on her!”
My father’s eyes become distant. “Kristy...” he whispers, looking at the place where his one true love used to be. When a huge crack of lightning splits the sky, he goes into action. Without wasting a moment, he picks me up, and then runs as fast as he can. He soon stops and drops me gently, but quickly, into a barrel. “Son,” he says, “no matter what happens, stay in here! I don’t want you lost to the storm.” He prepares to put the lid on, but takes one last look at me. My father sighs in sorrow, then takes off his navy-blue cap and plunks it on my head. It is a little too big for me. Giggling, I look up, and for the first time, I see tears in his eyes. My giggling ceases.
“Daddy... you’re crying,” I say.
“Son, I love you.” And with that, my father closes the lid and seals it shut.
I can’t remember what happened after that, but I never did see my father again.
Time passes. I am five. I have no family or money, so I have been forced to resort to sleeping wherever I can. I eat whatever I can find that won’t make me sick. Some nights, I cry over the loss of my family. Some nights, I curse the storms for taking them away. Some nights, I just look up at the stars, cling to my father’s hat, and wish for something good to happen.
I see someone dressed lavishly, holding a fresh loaf of bread, walk past me. It’s a Cybunny. She stops and looks down on me. When I offer her a polite smile and hold out my hands for a small piece of bread, she throws me a twisted scowl of disgust.
“Forget it, kid. You ain’t more than just another worthless scrap of life,” she sneers. A few laughs erupt. That hurts me badly. I had always wanted to be fancy, but if fancy people were that snooty, it wasn’t worth it. I decide never to become rich, no matter how hard life gets.
I am about eleven in this memory. I sit, huddled in an abandoned crate, sick. I don’t know where I caught the cold, but I’m completely miserable. I watch people's feet as they pass by; nothing else to do. I sneeze, and one pair of feet stops. They have fancy-looking boots on them, and I tense, remembering what rich people were like. A pirate Kougra bends down and looks inside. He slightly recoils at finding such a young face in the crate, but gets a hold of himself.
“Well, ain’t ye just the tiniest little scrap of a Gnorbu t’ be found ‘round these parts?” he mumbles. “Looks at ye... ye’re sick as a dog.” It’s almost as if he’s taken pity on me. He holds out a paw. “C’mon, little guy,” he murmurs as I reach for it, “I have a place for ye t’ rest up a bit...”
He carries me to an inn and drops me onto a bed. As I crawl under the covers, he says, “Ever since the hurricane a few years back, I’ve opened this inn t’ anyone in need of a place t’ rest up a bit. ‘Tis the least I can do for ‘em...” I don’t hear the rest of what he says, because I fall asleep.
When I wake up, I don’t feel as sick. I actually feel better. The Kougra is still there, grinning at me. “Good sleep, lad?” I nod, then yawn. “Great. I was startin’ t’ worry ‘bout ye; ye were out for nearly two days!” He laughs long and loud. When he settles down, he looks back at me. “So, kid, ’ave ye got a name?”
This catches me off guard. Did I even have a name? My parents had always called me “son”, so I can’t really remember if I do. I recall what the Cybunny had called me many years ago... then what the Kougra had said when he first found me... I decide that will be my name to this Kougra.
The Kougra scowls. “What kind of idiot names their kid ‘Scrap’?” he mumbles. He then shakes his head like a wet dog. “Er, never mind. Listen, Scrap, ye got a family?” I shake my head. He’s taken aback. “Any money?” I shake my head again. The Kougra frowns. “Hmm... ye’re gonna need t’ get a good job, kid; earn some money. Ye’ll need it ‘round these parts.” He thinks a bit, then gets an idea. He glances at me. “Hey, Scrap, ‘ave ye ever thought about sailing?”
Many more years pass. I have been called “Scrap” for so long now that I forget what my true name was; the sad part is that I have no hopes of ever finding out.
Ever since I was twelve, I’ve occasionally been finding work on sailors’ vessels. I am now seventeen. My arms have become strong over time from hauling lines. I have developed good skills for work around Krawk Island. Even though I work a lot, I am never really paid. I still have no home. I only have a few neopoints; not even enough for a decent meal. I often find myself wondering what my family would think of me. Every time I do, I always feel ashamed.
I am tucked back behind a few crates behind a shop. I think I am just dreaming, but I think I feel someone sliding something under my cap. There are a few sinister chuckles, then the sound of people running away. Groggily, I sit up and stretch a bit, only catching sight of a few people with sinister gleams in their eyes before they disappear. It is hot; I reach up to take off my (er, my father’s) cap and wipe the sweat from my eyes. As I pull it off, I hear a ‘chlink-chlink’ of metal rubbing together. Curious, I peek into it to find it filled with jewelry and gold. Although it isn’t much, it’s already beyond my wildest dreams.
As I sit there, puzzling over how it got there, I am instantly surrounded by officials. A few bystanders shout about catching “the thief”, although I have no honest idea what they are talking about. A crowd forms. The jewelry is snatched from my cap, and I am hauled to my feet. A few cries of “smite him!” and “slit his throat!” arise from the crowd.
Panic and instinct take over. I pull my cap back on, break free from the guy’s grasp, and run as fast as I can. Three men chase me; the crowd rushes behind shouting things about slitting my throat. I race down the streets. Not smart; more people join the mob. I become tired, but something keeps me going. Maybe it’s adrenaline; maybe it’s fear; I don’t know, but it keeps me going. Soon, I turn onto a dock and hide behind a few crates. As the crowd passes over, I catch my breath; I know I’m going to have to hide if I want to live. That’s when I see the S.S. Primella in the harbor.
Wordlessly, I slip aboard the vessel and hide in a barrel. Searching for a lid, I catch sight of people boarding. I duck back inside. Peeking through a knothole in the wood, I watch a group of what appears to be archaeologists board the ship. A sharply dressed Tonu keeps thanking the captain (who doesn’t look too thrilled), and a pretty Xweetok looks around the ship. She appears to be kind; I think I like her already. I catch sight of a Lutari trying to appear sophisticated around the captain. It isn’t working.
Someone passes by. They pause right in front of my hiding place. My heart begins to pound in my chest; I hold my breath and shut my eyes tightly. Go away, I think, leave me be. They soon leave, and, with a gasp, I remember to breathe again. I am frightened, and I almost begin to doubt if I can actually stow away, but with a loud blast of a ship’s horn, the S.S. Primella sets sail, and there’s no turning back...
These words awoke me from my sleep. Startled, I snapped awake to find myself still in the barrel. I didn’t have much time to react, for before I knew it, the barrel tipped backwards.
My hiding place fell apart; whoever built this barrel didn’t really take the time to make sure it was sturdy. I rubbed my head. Dang, that hurt... Dazed, I shook it off and found a JubJub, also dazed, nearby. He had been trying to carry a few boxes, but lost his footing and knocked into the barrel I was in. Now, there was no place for me to run.
The Xweetok from before ran over. “Werther, are you all...” She stopped short upon seeing me. Her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh my...” I looked up at her, and gave a nervous chuckle.
“Should we get the captain?” she asked the Lutari. He looked at me, then at something behind her, and shook his head.
“Nah, I think he’s figured out already.”
“What’s this?!” a voice boomed. I looked up to see a green Ogrin, the captain, looking down on me. His eyes glittered with anger. I could tell that he wasn’t very happy. “A stowaway!? On my ship?!”
I scrambled to my feet. “They call me Scrap, sir.” Trying to think of a way out of this mess, I remembered my sailing skills. I offered him a salute. “A-at your service!”
“Why, you impertinent little twerp...”
“I-I-I can explain...” I quickly told him about my being framed and having to run away. This didn’t go over well, for he threatened to throw me in the brig. I almost thought there was no way out of this, but that’s when the Lutari came to my rescue.
“Now, now, Captain. He seems to be a fine young lad.” The Lutari grinned slyly and ruffled my hair a bit. “Let him stay aboard; I’ll take responsibility for him.” The captain looked at him, then back down at me, then back up at him.
“Fine, but he’s going to have to earn his keep.”
“Oh, I will, sir!” I said, saluting. “You won’t be disappointed, sir...”
“Quit wasting time, boy, and go store the supplies!”
“Right away, sir!” I saluted, then raced off to do my tasks. I knew that the captain wasn’t exactly a friendly fellow, and I knew he wasn’t going to make things easy, but at that moment, my future seemed a bit brighter. I began wondering yet again what my parents would think of me now.
And for once, I didn’t feel ashamed.