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Euclid - Mature Content (1 Viewer)

Ddesmond

Senior Member
Euclid was a restavek. A slave. The irony of being a slave in a country founded by the only truly successful slave uprising in world history was, however, lost on her.

She was not captured in a war and transferred to a foreign land in chains, nor was she forcefully removed from the clutching arms of her screaming, tearful mother. No, her mother saw the servitude of her daughter as the only way her daughter could survive the misery she was born in to. Her mother actively sought out a family that could take Euclid in and feed her and provide her shelter.

In return for this largesse, the seven year old girl must work taking care of the home of her benefactor.

Implicit with slavery, but not written in any contract is humiliation. Euclid’s day was filled with humiliation, both great and mild, especially at the hands and mouth of the “madame”.

Each day, Euclid was presented with a new rule and very often these rules contradicted previous rules so she could never tell if she was following the rules or breaking them. If Euclid was allowed to achieve an education, she would have made an excellent tax attorney as her mind was trained at an early age to memorize and follow (and sometimes get around) enough rules and codes to fill a library.

Once the Madame began to suspect that her husband was visiting Euclid’s tiny room at night, the humiliation ramped up from domination to outright abuse. Like many terrible things in life, people can even get used to abuse as bad as having boiling water thrown at you, or being struck with heavy objects, and Euclid accepted all this because she believed it was her station in life.

She also believed it was her station not to complain, or mention to anyone the night time visits to her room of the monsieur or his friends.

It wasn’t until she was about fifteen (She never knew her actual age or birthdate) that she was able to break free from the home she had hardly ever left for eight years. Euclid asked the Madame why she had not gotten her regular menses in a few months and the Madame just stared at her with bulging eyes. An hour later the Madame stood in the kitchen with a small valise containing Euclid’s clothes and told her she was free to go as she had obtained the services of a new restavek. She handed Euclid her clothes and about 50 Haitian Goudes (About $5 at that time) and opened the kitchen door.

Euclid walked out the door sobbing and not knowing exactly why. She was free from the dungeon but had nowhere else to go. The last she heard, her mother was living somewhere in Cite Soleil, the vast slum on the waterfront created by Madame Duvalier as a refuge for Haiti’s poor, but Euclid had no way of finding her.

Euclid wandered aimlessly in a daze for about an hour, dodging the city traffic as cars were known to drive up on sidewalks while attempting to scuttle past jams.

She saw an open area with a bench under a shade tree so she sat down, protected from the fierce Haitian sun and allowed herself to cry. Euclid wailed into her hands as her body shook like a leaf on a tree. The tears flowed as freely as a brook until her dirty, torn blouse was damp with them.

After she could cry no more, Euclid wiped her eyes, sniffed her nose and vowed that that was the last time she would indulge in self pity. She sat on that bench and came to the understanding that she would now have to take care of herself as no one else would.

But how?

She decided to sleep on the park bench that night as she knew it would be very dark here and she would not be seen so she waited until complete darkness, laid her head on her small valise and slept soundly for the first time in years.

Euclid awoke early the next morning to the sound of heavy trucks rumbling down the road and the sun in her face. She breathed deeply and sat on the bench for about ten minutes before she arose and began to embark on the next stage of her life.

In one of the few strokes of good luck in Euclid’s life, she was able to find work at a hotel in Petionville after only about a month on the street. She actually received money for this work even if the pay wasn’t consistent and the abuse was far, far less than she was used to. It was usually just yelling and humiliation but that was easy to handle as she was used to it.

Her only real trouble at this job started when her pregnancy began to be apparent.

Euclid was again handed her valise, a little bit of cash and was shown the door, but this time she was prepared.
She had heard from other chambermaids at the hotel about boats departing for the United States so she decided that her future lay there. She began to horde as much money as possible and would go a day or two without food (not easy to do when pregnant) just to save an extra ten cents.

Euclid walked the ten miles to the port carrying her valise. Once she arrived, she spent several hours trying to find a boat heading to the US. Finally she met the captain of a fifty foot cabin cruiser who said he will be departing for Miami in ten days.

For the next ten days, Euclid slept in various places around the boatyard, eating fish and rice and trying to stay out of the hot Haitian sun, watching her belly grow and feeling her baby more and more inside her womb.

On the tenth day, Euclid eagerly walked to where the pastel blue and yellow boat bobbed in the water. She was told to come back again late that night when the journey to America will begin.

Late that night when she returned, she couldn’t believe the number of people she saw trying to get on the boat in the darkness, she didn’t think that many people could fit on such a small boat.

Fortunately being so obviously young, pregnant and alone, many people helped her find a comfortable spot on the overcrowded boat and made sure she had enough food and water.

The boat embarked from Port Au Prince and sailed north around the Northern peninsula of Haiti. As the sun was rising, they could see Bahia (Bay) de Mole and Mole St. Nicholas beyond just as the seas started rising.

The next two days will always be remembered by Euclid as the most torturous of her entire tormented life.

The ship was so crowded that it was literally impossible to move. A passenger could stake out a tiny piece of real estate on the deck, just large enough to accommodate her feet and stay there. Thus, it wasn’t long before the ship stank of every possible smell the human body was capable of producing. Euclid was so small that it was impossible for her to even see the water over the heads of the other passengers until on the second day the boat started to list badly. Now Euclid wished she could go back to not being able to see the water again.

The passengers responded to the boat tipping by rushing to the other side en mass nearly crushing Euclid and she could hear the splashes as nearly a dozen people, including some children were forced over the side where they drowned.

The boat began to tilt to the other side and when a wave washed up onto the deck the screaming and panic kicked into high gear.

Euclid felt the deck tip up to 90 degrees and saw the water rush to meet her and the other two hundred and three people on board. Instantly Euclid was ten feet below the surface with hundreds of kicking feet and a capsized boat above her head.

This was one of the few times in her life when she was grateful for a childhood experience because at this time she instantly recalled a sadistic game one of the children of the Kay (House) where she was enslaved would hold her head below the water when she bathed, cruelly teaching her how to hold her breath.

She did not know how to swim so this only bought her a few seconds but it was enough.

As she stared up in wonder at the sun through ten feet of seawater, an upside down boat and dozens of people drowning above her head she, felt a powerful arm reach over her left shoulder and grab her under her right arm and tug her upwards toward the surface.

Her head broke through the surface into a dazzling light as she gasped for salty air. She was dragged through the waves toward the capsized boat and when she reached it, she looked over to see one of the friendly men who helped on to the boat three days ago and he shouted “Kenbe la!” and dove back under water.

Euclid held on to the capsized boat as instructed listening to the panicked screams slowly die out.

The friendly man brought three other people back to the capsized boat before he slipped below the waves never to be seen again.

Of the thousands of sights, sounds and sensations that would be scarred on Euclid’s memory forever from this experience, easily one of the most horrible were the full throated cries of the survivors for their families, of young children for their mothers and of mothers for their young children. This was a sound no one could ever get used to.
As this was going on, Euclid stared straight ahead stoically because she knew her baby was safe in her womb as long as she could remain alive and she never knew her family enough to miss them now.

Finally the cries subsided as people began to turn to the business of survival. A few of the more hardy survivors were able to climb up to the top of the hull but Euclid was too weary for that so she just held on to the side and floated in the saltwater.

Euclid did not know how long she could continue this way but she knew she was not going to give up easily, not after what she had already been through.

Finally someone shouted “Avion!” and everyone looked up searching for the airplane. Euclid saw it about two miles out and in a steep descending bank. The plane descended to just a hundred feet above the water and flew directly at the overturned craft as people on top of the boat waved their arms. The plane circled around and did it again to more cheers and waving.

When the plane came back the third time, Euclid caught a flash of reflected sunlight off a small metal canister as it was dropped into the water from one hundred feet up then the airplane climbed high, banked to the right and flew out of sight.

Euclid and many other people felt abandoned until someone shouted “Gade bagay sa!” pointing to the buoy that was dropped from the plane as bright orange smoke poured out of it. Euclid wasn’t sure what it was but she correctly surmised that they would be rescued soon.

About two hours later, with the orange smoke still streaming from the buoy and just as some of the survivors were beginning to suspect maybe they really weren’t going to be rescued, one of the men atop the capsized bout yelled “Bato!” and pointed off in the distance where two tiny dots could be seen heading in their direction.

This gave Euclid enough energy to hold on in the rising seas until the two white ships with a slanted red stripe on the side pulled up beside their overturned boat.

The crew on the ships immediately began throwing orange life jackets to people in the water and those holding on to the side of the capsized vessel. Someone speaking Creole through a loudspeaker on one of the white ships began instructing people how to put on the life vests.

Men dressed in black rubber suits and masks jumped into the water and helped some of the Haitians closest to drowning onto an inflatable raft which was dragged over to one of the ships and the Haitians were helped on board.
Euclid watched all of this in awe.

Finally it was her turn to get on the raft and when the man in the black rubber suit saw how big her belly was when she got out of the water he spoke into his radio and the raft was pulled over to the white ship right away even though it was only partially full.

As soon as she stepped foot onto the white ship, two women and two men, one of them Haitian, all dressed in a uniform with stethoscopes around their necks came up to her, smiled gently at her and the Haitian man said they want to take her to a room downstairs where they can check to make sure her baby is okay.

Once downstairs, a woman felt her belly and listened to it with a machine Euclid had never seen before. After a few minutes, she nodded her head and smiled and the Haitian man said Euclid and her baby will be alright. All but one woman left the room and she helped Euclid to a shower and gave her clean clothes and fresh water.

She then led Euclid back up to the deck where the rest of the group had been assembled under an awning to protect them from the hot sun and given food and water.

No one was sure exactly how many people were on that boat when it capsized, but less than eighty were rescued.

Euclid did not know this, but if she had made this same journey just one year previous, the Coast Guard cutter would have simply driven all of the survivors back to Haiti. But since President Aristide had been ousted in a coup and political violence in Haiti had reached near unprecedented levels, the US government had stopped repatriating Haitians rescued at sea. They were not, however being taken to the United States, unlike Cuban migrants rescued at sea at this time.

Instead, Euclid was taken to a place that ten years later would become the site one of the world’s most infamous prisons and torture facilities. Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Once the group was on dry land, they were led to large area with a high fence and loops of wire on top. Inside this area already were hundreds of Haitians under large green tents. Euclid found a cot in one of the tents for women and sat down and stared off into the distance wondering what emotions she should be feeling right now. If a Zen Buddhist were to see her at this time he would say she is in the deepest level of meditation.

Labor pains have a way of snapping a woman out of one form of meditation straight into another. Euclid was taken to a small building inside the large fenced in area where her son was born.

She named him Hamilton after the Coast Guard ship that saved her life and his.

When the baby was less than a week old, and Euclid was in the large tent showing the baby to the other women there, one of the guards called her name. Carrying her baby, she followed the guard to the little building where the baby was born. He led her to a tiny room with an exam table not unlike the one she was on when her baby was born.

As she sat and waited in the tiny room, she wondered why she was here. Are they going to tell her she can’t keep her baby? Is the baby sick? He looks fine and he eats like a normal baby. What could be wrong?

The door opened and a man in a white coat over a military uniform (She didn’t know what kind) along with a Creole interpreter entered to room.

The man in the white coat spoke and the interpreter said “Euclid, we tested your blood when the baby was born and it tested positive for SIDA.” Euclid had seen people in Haiti with SIDA and she knew it was the worst kind of death imaginable where people just wasted away to nothing.

After that, she had a hard time listening to what the interpreter said, but she caught a few words like medicine and hope. She refused to let herself cry again but she felt like she was in a daze until she heard the interpreter say “Pitit ou – your baby.” and she snapped to attention.

He explained that it won’t be known for several months if the baby has SIDA or not and there is a good chance that he doesn’t but they want to give him a medicine anyway to take as a precaution.

“Ki le n’ap kone si li geyen SIDA” she asked, still fighting back those tears. The interpreter asked the man in the white coat when they will know for sure if the baby has HIV and the man in the white coat said “Six months”.

The interpreter smiled at her kindly and said she will be moved to another part of the camp with other people who have tested positive for this virus. This is mostly for her protection and comfort as they have seen people with the virus are sometimes shunned by the rest of the group.

Euclid was aware of this as she had often seen people removed from the rest of the group when they are found to have SIDA.

She was led to another part of the camp that had a slightly smaller tent but the beds looked more comfortable and it was less crowded.

Many of the people in this tent looked sick, some too weak to even get out of their beds and one woman even wore an oxygen mask on her face. For most people, it takes a while to come to grips with a life altering diagnosis like HIV, but Euclid was forced to accept the diagnosis with no outside support.

Also, within minutes of being told that she now has SIDA, she realized that she would be living, for the foreseeable future with dozens of women, all of whom have HIV. It was a tremendous shock for anyone but Euclid was used to tremendous shocks. She had had more than her fair share in her fifteen years on this earth.

Even though her next year was spent in a prison, Euclid remembers it as being one of the more tranquil and stress free times of her life. She grew close to many of the other women in the camp and they were very helpful with her baby. Most parents draw on their own childhood experiences as a guide to raising a child, but restavecs are deprived of a childhood early and thus need much more guidance when they themselves become parents. Euclid received much of that guidance from some of the friendlier women in the HIV camp.

Just two weeks prior, she had witnessed the deaths of hundreds including children, she had survived by clinging to the side of an overturned boat, but learning that she now had a terrible disease, that her new baby may also have that same disease brought her to near despair. What prevented her from just emotionally breaking down completely was the promise she made to herself back on the park bench in the other world that she would not indulge in self pity.

She would handle this in the way her forefathers handled the indignity of their slavery, with fortitude and resolve.

When Hamilton was six months old, Euclid was called back to that same little room where she learned her own fate.
She knew she was here to learn the fate of her son.

The same man with the white lab coat and the same interpreter walked in. She could never forget their faces, nor every detail of the moment she learned she had SIDA.

The interpreter said “Euclid, it is with great relief that we can tell you that your son does not have SIDA.”

Euclid felt like dancing. Of all the bad luck she had had in her life, she was tremendously grateful for this very important bit of good luck.

Euclid smiled broadly as she walked back to the camp and was greeted warmly by many of the women there, some of whom had every reason to resent Euclid’s good luck as they themselves had given birth to children with HIV.

Among the many difficulties anyone with a terminal illness has, being forced to watch nearly a dozen people with the same terminal illness waste away and die within a year is among the most difficult. Many people compare it to being on death row and watching other prisoners being led, one by one to their doom in the execution chamber.

In the year that Euclid spent in that camp, eleven of the seventy or so women in her section died of AIDS. Some of those women died right there in the tent before they could be removed to the hospital.

The first death occurred within a few days of Euclid learning her status and moving to the AIDS tent. Euclid did not meet the deceased woman before she moved on but the emotions of the other HIV positive inmates upon learning of her passing affected Euclid deeply.

Euclid had little knowledge of the political turmoil in her home country, but that turmoil would be instrumental in her fate. Because of the instability, US Immigration could not send the migrants back to Haiti but instead had to treat them as refugees. This allowed Euclid to come to Miami after more than a year in a prison camp.

Euclid had never had many belongings, nothing more than can fit into a small valise but arriving in a huge new country where she doesn’t speak the language and carrying a year old baby and nothing else can create a sense of fear and anxiety in the hardiest of men.

Euclid managed with aplomb and dignity.

She was placed in the care of a church, where she and young Hamilton lived with a Haitian American family for a few months.

Because of Euclid’s poor parenting skills, she was only allowed supervised visits with her son for the first four years in her new country. After attending what seemed to be hundreds of parenting and English classes Euclid was slowly allowed unsupervised visits and eventually full custody. By this time Euclid had secured a job again cleaning rooms in a hotel and she now wasn’t worried about losing her job, and through her classes learned how to obtain and maintain her own apartment, pay bills and enroll her son in school.

Now Euclid’s primary task is to stay alive long enough to raise her son.
 
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Cran

Da Boss Emeritus
Patron
Again, a difficult subject well handled in the art, but we'll need to work on the more advanced craft.
The simple stuff, spelling and grammar, seems to be good; the focus now is on the formatting -
punctuation and finding the optimal amount of tightening that still maintains the voice.
 

Ddesmond

Senior Member
Thanks Cran. I never took any writing classes (music major), so I don't really understand the mechanics of tightening up a paragraph.

I've done a little of what I thought was tightening up the story by trying to ensure each paragraph had a good flow and kept the story going in one direction.

Do you have any suggestions on how I can go about cleaning this up?
 

Cran

Da Boss Emeritus
Patron
The direction is single and logical, Ddesmond, and yes, there is a flow.

When it comes to tightening, we don't look at the paragraphs, but at the sentences, and the optimal tightening depends upon who your reader is.

When we write, we are communicating to an audience of one - even whilst hoping that it is a million ones. So, the first thing many writers do is picture that one person, and write in words and phrases that one person will appreciate and understand.

For instance, if you are communicating with a child, you would use words and pace your sentences so that a child will understand. But if you used the same words and pace to a police officer, or a teacher, or a mechanic, you would not get the same sort of appreciation, would you?

OK - that's the theory. Assume that your reader is another you - your mental twin - and look at each sentence again.

Here's one: Implicit with slavery, but not written in any contract is humiliation.

If you understand what implicit means, then so will your mental twin reader.

What does that mean for this sentence? It means that the clause but not written in any contract is superfluous, almost tautological (saying the same thing in different words).

The optimal tightening for this sentence, then would be: Implicit with slavery is humiliation.

But is that the best way to say what you want to say? Is there a simpler, stronger, way to put this?

With slavery comes humiliation.


Slavery implies humiliation.


Slavery is humiliation.


At which point in this tightening series is your message, or your voice or flow, lost to your reader?

Here's another: If Euclid was allowed to achieve an education, she would have made an excellent tax attorney as her mind was trained at an early age to memorize and follow (and sometimes get around) enough rules and codes to fill a library.

First, does your reader need to know what is in the brackets? Yes? Then why put it in brackets?
If Euclid was allowed to achieve an education, she would have made an excellent tax attorney, as her mind was trained at an early age to memorize and follow, and sometimes get around, enough rules and codes to fill a library.

Are there any unnecessary words or phrases?
If Euclid was allowed an education, she would have made an excellent tax attorney, as her mind was trained at an early age to memorize and follow, and sometimes get around, enough rules and codes to fill a library.

If allowed an education, Euclid would have made an excellent tax attorney, as her mind was trained at an early age to memorize and follow, and sometimes get around, enough rules and codes to fill a library.

If allowed an education, Euclid would have made an excellent tax attorney. Her mind was trained at an early age to memorize and follow, and sometimes get around, enough rules and codes to fill a library.

If allowed an education, Euclid would have made an excellent tax attorney. She was trained at an early age to memorize and follow, and sometimes get around, enough rules and codes to fill a library.

If allowed an education, Euclid would have made an excellent tax attorney. She learned at an early age to memorize and follow, and sometimes get around, enough rules and codes to fill a library.

With an education, Euclid would have made an excellent tax attorney. She learned at an early age to memorize and follow, and sometimes get around, enough rules and codes to fill a library.

Euclid would have made an excellent tax attorney. She had learned to memorize and follow, and sometimes get around, enough rules and codes to fill a library.

Again, at which point in the tightening is your message, or your voice or flow, lost to your reader?

Two examples are enough for now.
 
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qwertyportne

Senior Member
Yes, tightening would make it more powerful -- less is often more. The narrator knows alot about Euclid: what she did, said and thought. Ordinarily I enjoy stories more if the author is invisible. There are exceptions of coure, such as memoirs or first-person adventures. In this story, I think the narrator has more presence than Euclid, the main character. One of the reasons is that the narrator is mostly telling the reader what happened. You might explore ways to give your readers more presence. Dialog would help. There is almost none. Would it be possible to rewrite the story from Euclid's point of view? A first-person account, in other words. That might make it more likely for readers to identify strongly with Euclid. Just some ideas you might consider. Do you plan to post a sequel? That would be inmteresting.

Bill
 
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