The following historical fiction was written by Sarah Cline, a fifth grader. This piece is based on the story of John Howland, a Mayflower pilgrim who fell overboard during a storm and managed to be saved.
The boat of the Mayflower rocked, making Mary Anja sway. However, she tried very hard to resist the urge to kneel down on the floor and throw up, for she was holding her five-month-old sister. Besides, she knew if she did throw up, her mother would not spare her another meal, and she needed her strength. She remembered the day she had boarded the ship with her mother, father, and younger sister. Then, it had looked small. Now, it looked miniscule.
The rocking became steadily worse and rain began to pelt the deck above. The boat tilted once more. Mary sighed and sat down on a crowded bench, for she knew she would fall and drop her sister if she did not. She bit her lip, wanting to cry out in pain, for the bench she was sitting on was splintered, uneven and profusely painful to sit on. Yet she dared not complain, for children were meant to be seen and not heard, and if she yelled she would wake her sister, then be spanked soundly by her father. So she suffered quietly. A man walked by her and she wrinkled her nose. He smelled like a combination of sweat, feces and ground in dirt. Truthfully, Mary didn’t smell much better, since there was know way to bath on the boat. Then, Mary’s sister woke. She blinked up at Mary sleepily, then, seeing she was safe in familiar arms, and since she was used to the horrid smell and the rocking, she closed her eyes and attempted to fall back asleep.
Suddenly, Mary saw her mother struggling against the swaying boat and the many people to get to Mary. Mary stood up, only to be pushed hack onto the seat by a particularly rough wave. When her mother reached her, she took the baby from her.
“I’ll feed her. You sit here and try your best not to complain or make trouble.” Then her mother hurried away.
Soon after, a man passed her, complaining loudly about being cramped down in the hold for so long. She didn’t remember his name, for the journey was new and she was still learning all the names, but the one thing she did know was this man was extremely ungrateful. She was so angered by this that she made a ghastly face at him. He didn’t see, which probably was a good thing.
The truth was, Mary was slightly jealous that he could complain, for she could do nothing of the sort. Mary looked down at her feet, and felt ashamed of herself for being so rude. When she looked up again, the same man who had complained was walking up the deck stairs. Mary wondered, “What is he doing, going on the deck in a storm like this! I guess I’ll have to discover that myself.” So she got up and walked up the stairs, trying not to attract undo attention. She knew it was too crowded for anyone to see, hear, or even care what she was doing, but she couldn’t help looking every which way whenever she heard a strange noise. Even her own footsteps sounded loud to her.
Before she climbed the last step, she peeked around the corner. She squinted through the rain. The cold, hard rain pelted Mary’s face with extreme force. A bolt of lightning flashed in the distance, illuminating the same man who had climbed the stairs. How he could stand such weather, Mary never knew. Suddenly, the boat tipped so violently that Mary collapsed. She wasn’t the only one, for she heard a loud and pained scream. Her eardrums nearly burst!
She scrambled up, looking for the source of the noise, but from the little that she could see through the rain, there was no one except her. Though Mary strained her eyes, she still saw no one. The boat swayed once more, making Mary drop to her knees.
“Help! HELP ME!” cried a voice that sounded small and distant through the rain and crashing waves. Mary looked around desperately, but could see not a single soul. Just then, a group of men came running. Mary shrank into the shadows, crouching down and trying not to be hurdled around like a ping-pong ball.
“John! Is that you?” cried one of the men. “Speak, John!”
“John…. John….” Mary thought. Oh yes, I remember him. When father was introducing me, he was that smudgy, bored looking fellow. What was his name? John, uh… John Howland. Mary was whooshed back to reality when she heard a muffled cry.
“I’m here! Here, you fool! GET ME OUT! HELP ME!”
Mary’s eyes widened with fear as she watched the men thunder across the deck to where the terrified voice was heard. Mary waited with baited breath as the many men attempted to pull poor John aboard.
Finally, after many minutes that seemed like hours, the soaked, scraggly, half-alive John was dragged on the deck. All the men held him up, steadied him, and then let go of him, to see if he could stand on his own. For a second, John just stood there, starring blankly at nothing in particular. Then he dropped to his knees, looked up into the heavens above and began to shake. He uttered five words. “The Lord bless my soul!”
As the men helped John to his feet, Mary crept down the deck stairs to go tell her mother her newest and most thrilling adventure yet.
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