Chapter 3

Written by: Ken Burns

Liam was never averse to a chase. He knew Mr Brown had no respect for the Irish. He gave the man the slip and that night, grabbed his sack of clothing, his savings and some cake.   Whilst he wanted to say goodbye to Emma and Thomas, he decided to disappear as fast as he could to the rail yard. His timing was good. The first engine he saw was pulling a massive freight train going west.

Liam walked across the top of carriages and climbed into the last wagon. There was a strong smell of mule manure and whiskey. He immediately stumbled over a hobo asleep in the straw. The man jumped up, wide-eyed.

  Later, while they sat together eating cake, the hobo introduced himself. “I’m an actor really,” he blurted.  “I have a bullet hole in my back that I can show you. Come closer and see for yourself.” He beckoned Liam.

Liam did not feel safe. He always made sure there was a screwdriver in his back pocket.  He learned that in a fight knives often broke, screwdrivers did not. Always a keen adventurer, Liam moved forward to take a look at the bullet hole.  He placed the index finger of his right hand on the scarred pink tissue.

“It is a real bullet hole,” exclaimed Liam.  ‘What coward would want to shoot anyone in the back?”

“Well…,” the hobo slowly revealed,… "I’m John Wilks-Boothe, the man who shot President Abraham Lincoln while he attended a play at the Ford Theatre in Washington DC two years ago. I jumped over the balcony of the box he was in to get away.”  

Coming from the South, Liam knew Wilks-Boothe had an aversion to the North.  The North had won the Civil War and freed the slaves.

“I was held up in a barn,” Wilks-Boothe continued.  “One of the Union troops put a bullet in my back. They torched the barn and left me to die. I crawled into a drainage pit and hugged myself into a ball. They assumed I was dead and left the building to burn. Since then I’ve learned how to live with that bullet in my back and the pain it gives me each day.”

Liam, a little sympathetic, confided with the assassin. “My mother was shot by the British in Ireland.  Our cottage was destroyed so I guess both of us are seeking revenge.  I came to California to mine gold and buy guns so I can go home and kill the British.”

Liam had found another tortured soul. As the train went slowly through the next city they both got ready to jump.  John leapt first but Liam held back, determined to go west. 

 

Ken Burns (NZ)      

Comments

This is an interesting take on the death of a president although I'm not sure it works enough to be beleivable. None the less we can see more of Liam as a cautious but generous young man. We also see that he is still driven by memories of the death of his mother and a deep hatred of the British soldier. Ken has created a memorable meeting along Liam's travels that the lad will always remember. Meanwhile, Liam travels on west to seek his fortune. Interesting chapter Ken.
Interesting idea but since this is not a science fiction story and it does not take place in a parallel universe it does not work. This is a very good example of what happens when you do not do your research. If you don't want to do research don't do historical fiction. One of the absolutes about this genre is you never fudge on the facts when they are widely known and extensively documented. Abe Lincoln was the first president assassinated. He is also one of the great icons of US history. The facts around his assassination are known to almost every school child in America. When you casually decide to rewrite history you loose your credibility with the reader. Your sentence structure and transitions are stiff and wooden. It does not read smoothly and causes the reader to focus his attention on understanding what you are writing rather than enjoying the story. This reads a lot more like a rough draft than a finished piece. Did you let what you wrote "cool-off" for a day then go back and read it out loud? These are beginners mistakes and can easily be avoided by following the guidelines and instructions for this serial. I hope you learn from this and I look forward to your next write. By the way, try keeping a journal, even if it is just four or five lines. To learn to write you must write, a lot!
Hiya Ken, the dude that shot Abe! Wow, that threw me a mile. I'm sure Mrellan has a point, I unfortunately only know what I've seen in movies and the odd doco about him, so I can't comment on how accurate it all is.
When I wrote the previous chapter I was hoping hLiam would stab the butler and be on the run for murder, but running is as good. It means we might yet see the butler again?
Don't stress about the comments on your writing, it's quite difficult to write a great story in the 500 word limit while also following someone else's chapter - hell, its hard enough just to write an average story!
Persistence seems to be the key when trying to write better and better.
Most of all, enjoy!!
AND that is what it is all about. Well said Mat. Enjoy because writing really is a labor (american spelling) of love. Mrellan is absolutely correct in her comments but note she too says, "I look forward to your next write." We are beginning to gel so I say bring on the comments, the more the better please. We need to talk to each other, not just here but through E mail and the forum. Get chatting writers.
I don't take any criticism personally. Most fiction is based on fact somewhere in history and artistic licence is there to make the most of it. Not everybody has to like your work but if it provides a reaction either positive or negative then it's working to get noticed.
It would appear that Ken did do his research correctly. There is historically documented controversy that John Wilkes Booth may have survived the fire in the barn when the Union soldiers shot him then tried to kill him by burning down the barn he was in. The body that was found could not be positively identified as that of Booth because it was so severely burned. Several member of his family later swore he survived, the body found was another member of the group who conspired to kill Lincoln. This is a very good example of why all research should be verified at least twice.
This could present some interesting possibilities for future chapters.
Well said. Look at any well known author who used history to their own artistic ends and you'll find controversy. Having said that, one must be fully conversant about the subject in order to fictionalize it in a professional way or you can fall flat on your face. Before we try to be ambitious creatively we have to learn the basics. As always, learn the rules and practice them first - then bend them when you know what you are doing.
My favourite line in this story is Liam eating cake with John is a dirty boxcar.
Read that as "in a dirty boxcar" not "is a dirty boxcar" from above.