As Levy clings to a tree high above a river and tries to catch his breath, he doesn’t know what to do next. He has been a slave for Mr. Willoughby since he was little boy, and now things are changing. Unsure of what year it is, Levy escapes the jaws of slavery on the cotton plantation. He is a runaway slave without a plan.
As soon as he sees a boat floating in the river, Levy knows what he must do. With Mr. Willoughby on his tail, Levy boards the boat and hides behind the big wheel. As he somehow eludes capture, he begins a journey with a colored captain at the helm who works for none other than Levy’s former owner. As the captain takes Levy under his wing and they travel down the river, Levy finally learns what it’s like to be a free man with choices and the ability to make decisions for himself. But danger lurks around every curve, and Levy soon finds that his journey to independence will not come without challenges.
In the second installment of this historical tale, a Lincoln-freed Colored risks everything in order to realize the sweet taste of liberty and justice for all.
So I ran! Just jerked away from him and ran! Didn’t have the slightest idea where I was going. Didn’t know north from south, east from west. Just ran until the river stopped me right in my tracks. I was hemmed in! The only other way would of would of been across the yard, straight through taken me straight to the big house and into the woods where all them Indians lived. And I knew he would send for them nigger hunting dogs, and them dogs would soon be on my trail if I didn’t jump in that water.
I never paid much attention to the river before. It was just there! I’d bring my lumber down to the stacking place and leave it, never looking at the river, never knowing it was nice to look at sometimes. Like now! It was smooth and brown and just loaded with all kinds of stuff, tree limbs, boxes, even pans and just plain old stuff. The thing that got me was all this stuff was going some place. The river was taking it somewhere.
But I didn’t know nothing about where it was going. And it never mattered none to me before. I just figured if that river could take that stuff some other place, it sho could take me. How, I didn’t know. I couldn’t swim. Niggers didn’t swim, Mr. Willoughby said. What for? And to tell you the truth I ain’t never had that much water on me all at one time.
So there I was. Done run off as far as I could go on foot. I was trying to decide what to do and listening for them dogs at the same time. The only other way to go was up. So I just climbed the tallest tree I could see find not far fromthat was close to the river, hoping it would hide me for a while. But I also wanted to look at the river, see if it changed at night, and just watch how it picked up and took stuff with it. And, I have to tell you, it looked real pretty at night and quiet-like, too. Wasn’t no quiet-like anything down on the ground, for sho if you slaving.
CD Harper is a retired professor and arts administrator who holds degrees from the University of Illinois and St. Louis University. His first novel, Covenant, began the story that now continues in And Face the Unknown, the second installment of an intended trilogy. He and his wife reside in Gleneden Beach, Oregon.