Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: WILD (11/16/17)
- TITLE: A Barmy Day
By Francie Snell
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Fog was lifting from the harbor ships revealing their towering masts, reaching for the sky as if in celebration of a new day. It was his celebration. Finally, after enduring five months of hell on the turbulent sea, he had reached his destination.
The experience had been a nightmare. Cramped together were over a hundred passengers, like trapped animals, confined to narrow berths stacked to the ceiling of the steerage section of the ship. This is where the immigrants lived, this is where they contended for survival, and this is where many of them had suffered and died.
Strife broke out on a continual basis as hunger and disease took their toll. Allotments of time and space to cook the daily meals were never adequate, and often, many went unfed. Moaning and crying from the suffering all around him racked his memories.
However, as he stepped off the ship and left his old life behind, he looked forward to the new world awaiting him.
A steady chatter of various languages tickled his ears as he walked along the busy pier where every shade of skin and dress colored the landscape of the harbor with a festive atmosphere.
Seagulls cried from the blue sky above before swooping down to the fishmonger markets that lined the water’s edge. Like a swarm of oversized locusts, they converged on the bony carcasses to pick and greedily gobble whatever they could get down their throats.
Brimming with curiosity, Jack ventured further along the street where he passed a tavern. Loud voices with slurred words erupted through the open doorway. Then, like an explosion, a mob spilled out into the street in a rowdy brawl, drunken men blindly flinging fists at anything in arms distance.
Amongst the onlookers were a group of women clad in provocative attire. They whooped and hollered while placing bets on who would be the last man standing.
“Aye, I’ll bet ye 6 pence on Henry,” one said in a guttural tone, brushing her tousled red hair from her thickly painted face.
“Count me in the same for Joseph. He’s a real fighter that one is. Blarney be, if he weren't such a scallywag, he’d be my husband,” she said, with hands on hips and a cigar clenched between her teeth.
All the women joined in raucous laughter.
Included in the spectators, were the wild-eyed miners, a group of men notorious for their preoccupation with alcohol and a lust for gold. They stood wavering on their feet while looking on with toothless grins as they heckled the fallen warriors.
The melee continued for some time until, at last, only a few stood, bloody and bruised. They tottered as they glared at their remaining opponents. They lumbered closer to one another, circling their fists in the air. Then in one last pathetic attempt, they blindly threw their final punches with a swish, missing their marks, spinning them around in circles until they all collapsed on the hard ground, unconscious.
The audience cheered, and the gamblers collected their winnings while debating over who actually won. Then after a short while, as if nothing had ever happened, the crowd quietly dispersed, and everyone casually went their own way.
Confused, Jack shook his head as he considered the scene. These people are bloody crazy.
About that time, a young man and woman, elegantly dressed, strolled along the sidewalk toward him. The man wore a tall felt top hat, and the woman, a blue silk parasol that matched her gown, carried above her head.
“Excuse me,” Jack said as they passed.
They stopped and turned to him. The man touched the brim of his hat.
"Oui monsieur. Do you need some assistance?"
“Yes. Might I ask you a question?” Jack nodded towards the cluster of men still lying on the ground. “I’m new to this town, and wonder, are things always this barmy ‘round here?”
"Barmy? What do you mean monsieur?"
"The fights, the people, the commotion!"
The woman smiled, and the man chuckled.
"Mon Amie, you must be new to San Francisco. If you think this is chaos, perhaps you have yet to witness a greater mayhem known in this city." The man cocked his head."Allow me to ask, have you ever experienced an earthquake?”
Jack looked puzzled. “Earthquake?”
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