Even if you can't give me your feedback in time for the due date I would love to hear it anyway.
Before the man came to town Michael often found himself wondering what his life would be like in a few years time. Most boys his age were already getting married and starting families of their own. He realized long ago that his family was not well off. His mother had just lost her baby in child birth and it wasn't that long ago that his siter had died. She had been sick for a long time, they all knew that it was comming, but he was still shocked and cried for days after she passed away. Michael was the eldest in the family and was well aware that if anyone was going to do it, he would be the one to carry on the family legacy. His two brothers looked up to him more than he knew. Ever since their father died, Michael, being quite a bit older than his two brothers had become the obvious father figure.
It was spring 1632 when Mr. Hunt came to town. He was looking for young men to join his company's plantation in Virginia. Michael knew beforehand that there would be several men like Mr. Hunt comming to town asking for boys his age to go work in the fields and fisheries in the New World. He had never imagined that he would go. It seemed like something someone else would do. Michael's life was not filled with adventures and travel. He and his brother William spent their days working as shoemakers as their father had when he was alive. His father hadn't had time to teach him all the tricks of the trade, but Michael was managing to teach himself as well as his youngest brother, George. He spoke of America with his friends as if it were some far away fantasy land to which he could escape with his family when he was older. He would get married, make lots of money someday and buy his mother a little cottage in the New World. He would make his family proud and he saw America as his final destination. Recently, however, he had been hearing of opportunities arising which would allow people like him to go there soon; now even, requiring hardly any money at all. Michael, however, could simply not imagine these opportunities applying to him. Ever since he was old enough to understand his surroundings and the way in which english society worked, he had accustomed himself to the idea of spending his life the same way his father and grandfather had generations before him.
It came as a shock to him when he found out that he would be going to Virginia. Mr. Hunt had put up posters all around the city telling young english boys to visit his offices and send in their applications for a fullfilling work opportunity in America. For a few days Michael had been walking past those posters, never imagining that he would apply. He had a life in London, however drab and monotonous it may be, and leaving everything he knew had never crossed his mind. One day, however, a group of boys passed him in the street. They were running around, laughing loudly and hugging each other. There was a joy in their eyes which Micheal did not often see amongst people in his part of town. He was immediately jealous of them even though he did not at first know what they were talking about. They seemed to have just come accross some life changing fortune. Maybe an inheritence from an unheard of until then uncle, or perhaps a lucky hand of cards. Whatever the reason was, Michael couldn't help but curse those boys for running into the kind of luck that he would never come accross himself.
When he heard one of them mention America and the English Virginia Company he thought he had misheard them. How could the prospect of a long, gruelling voyage to America followed by rigorous work under most likely terrible conditions, bring them so much joy?
“You lot aren't going off to Virginia are you?” he asked them as they crossed paths.
“That's exactly what we're doing mate.” One of them said. He was a small boy, at least a couple of inches shorter than Michael and didn't look as though he could lift a shovel, let alone work on a fishing boat or in fields for months on end.
“Well you boys enjoy yourselves over there” Michael answered. “I'll be here with my family where my life won't be put into the hands of any random governor.”
“You keep telling yourself that. Truth is you have no future here. You may control your own life, be your own boss so to speak, but to what end? The New World is where our futures really lie. There's nothing left for us here. Nothing but religious oppression” Michael stopped and watched the boys as they danced and skipped their way down the rest of the street.
He went home that night and thought about their encounter as he lay in bed. The more he thought about Virginia and the New World, the more he realized that he should go. He thought about the life he was leading, and more importantly about what his future had in store and realized that a life in the New Wolrd might be exactly what he needed. The hierarchial system of England was not leading him anywhere. The reality was that he was born into a poor family and would therefore be poor for the rest of his life, as would his children and their children as well. But all the way overseas, he thought. How much control could England possibly have over colonies that far away? It would take him months to get there, so it must take the same amount of time for any message from England to reach New England or vice versa. In Michael's imagination this meant that a completely new form of society could end up developing over there. A society where a poor shoemaker could work his way up to a sucessful businessman. He would also be free to practice religion as he wished. Lately, King Charles had been attempting to impose strict conformity on the Anglican church. Michael and many other would jump at an opportunity to rebuild Christianity from its roots and worship as protestants were meant to. As he lay there in bed that night, he came to the decision that all these risks were ones he was willing to take.
The decision, however, did not come so easily to his mother.
“ Don't be selfish boy, you would leave your old mother here by herself? I cherish the work you do for this family more than you must realise Michael.” She said.
“You won't be alone, mamma. William and George will be here to help you out. George is growing up very fast you know. He'll be able to do my work before you know it. And I'm not leaving you mamma. I'll make money in Viriginia. More than I could ever make here. I will come back for you and my brothers. Just give me some time to put some money together.”
She never did agree to let him go, she just accepted that he would do it with or without her consent. All he ever wanted was to see her and his brothers happy. They pretended they were satisfied with their lives and needed nothing more than family, but Michael knew that with every passing day, his mother especially, became more and more depressed. She wanted to be able to give her sons so much more than she could afford to and it pained Michael to see her working as hard as she did for them every day. He also wished he could do something to help himself and his brothers, and that was why whether his mother realized it was a good idea or not, he would go to the new world.
The next day he visited Mr. Hunt's office. He waited in line for five minutes behind a few other boys also looking for work in America. When it was finally his turn, Michael nervously entered Mr.Hunt's office and sat down opposite him at his desk.
“What is your name, son?” Mr. Hunt asked him.
“Michael. Michael Walker sir.” he replied.
“And how old are you Master Walker?”
“I'm 18 sir.” Mr. Hunt scribbled some information down on a form in front of him.
“And your trade Master Walker?”
“I'm a shoemaker sir”
“Your father's apprentice I'd imagine?”
“No sir, my father passed away.”
“Very well. I need you to sign here Michael. There will be a list posted outside this office in fortnight. If your name is on it it either means the Council of New England has approved my list or I never bothered sending any papers in the first place. Never mind all that. If your name is on the list bring all your papers and be ready to leave at the listed date and time. Thank you Master Walker, send the next in line in after you will you?.”
“Yes sir, thank you very much sir.” Michael said and walked out.
The days passed as slowly as ever and by the time a fornight was up, Michael had almost forgotten about America. It was William who woke him up one morning telling him he had to go to Mr. Hunt's office.
“What are you talking about William? Why?" had been Michael's immediate answer.
“The list Michael, to check the list. To see if you are going to America! Come on, get up.”
Michael's brain immediately sprung to life at the mention of America. “God in heaven I'd almost forgotten!”
He quickly dressed himself, slipped on a pair of shoes and with his brother by his side, walked hastily out the door. Any other day it would have taken them half an hour to get there, but that day they made it in just over 15 minutes.
“You go check it”, Michael said to his brother.
There were about 10 other boys crowded around the list. William being as polite as he always had been, waited for everyone else to take their time in geting out of his way. Michael stood back and cringed as his brother's finger slowly made its way down the list. By the time his finger had made it to the bottom of the page he had convinced himself that he hadn't made it. He began to think positively, telling himself how happy his mother would be when she heard the news. He told himself that it was great that he would be there to watch his brothers grow up. Being a shoemaker wasn't that bad. He passed people much worse off than him in the streets everyday. When William turned around he looked upset. He slowly walked over to his brother and began to speak.
“It's alright, Will” Michael said. “You don't need to say anything, I could always read you like a book. You don't need to feel bad for me though, nothing's changed. I would have missed you too much anyway.”
“No” William said. “You're on the list. Your ship leaves in five days”. A tear ran down William's cheek as he threw his arms around his brother. “I can't believe it Michael, you're actually leaving us.”
The two boys didn't talk much on the way back home. George was talking to a customer in the front of the house, which they used for their shoe shop, when they arrived. Michael walked to the back of the house into their makeshift kitchen where his mother was cooking vegetables. She looked up at him without saying anything. Michael imagined that she didn't want to hear what he was about to say. She had lost her husband three years ago to a sailing accident, her only daughter had died that year from the flu and now her eldest son was about to tell her that he was leaving her and her two other sons so that he could travel to unknown lands in the hopes of leading a better life than she had been able to provide him with.
“Mother. My name is on the list.” Michael recieved no reply.
“Please answer me mother. You know, after five days I may never see you again. I don't want to leave you like this. I wouldn't go unless I knew you would be fine without me.”
“It's fine Michael.” She said. “You do whatever it is you have to do.”
Everyone was quiet during dinner that night. Nobody wanted to be the one to break the silence and end up saying the wrong thing. The next morning, however, Michael's mother came into the store as he was working. He had began work earlier that day, presumably as a way to make peace with his mother and to make up for the time he would need to spend visiting various royal agencies to acquire all the paperwork he would need to be allowed out of the country and into New England. They talked for hours and did the same each morning for the rest of the week. She apologized for not listening to him before and made him promise that they would see each other again. They laughed while thinking back to all the good times they had had and even fantasized about the future that Michael said he would eventually provide for him and his brothers.
When the time came to leave, Michael was far from ready. Physically, he had everything prepared. Everything he owned fit into one small bag and all his papers were in order. Mentally, however, he was ready to leave this future behind and return to the world he was used to, but he knew that it wasn't possible. He had comitted to this voyage and the last thing he was going to do was give up on it. If he did that, he would spend the rest of his life regretting this opportunity that he had passed up.
He kissed his mother and his two brothers goodbye and turned his back on them before he saw them crying. Their shrivelled up faces and eyes welled up with tears was not the last image of them he wanted to have in his mind. He queued up for his quick health check and showed his information to all the right authority figures. Michael then took one last look at London, the quay crowded with beggars and artisans running back and forth and the ground littered with mud and bile. He took one last breath of London air deep into his lungs and boarded the ship.