Lost At Sea

Author: Tipper

Disclaimer:  I don’t own them.  Also, the map at the bottom is used in a beautiful book called Mapping Boston.

Parts: One

AU: OW AU, I guess.  This is mostly from a nine year old Ezra’s perspective.  I like the idea of his having traveled everywhere, not just in the South.

Notes: Response to Katherine’s June Challenge to create some parental/ancestral history for the boys outside of canon.  Or, as she puts it: “Our boys weren't hatched from eggs, and I want to know something about the people who brought them into this world (Figuratively speaking).”  I chose Ezra.  D-uh.  Like you didn’t see that coming.


Description:   Chance meetings in Boston before the civil war….


Boston -- 1853


Ezra let his mother drag him along Tremont Street from the rail terminus, his small hand gripped in hers by a vice like grip.  She moved ahead of the nine year old boy swiftly, her pink and yellow petticoats making her stick out amongst the black streets and even blacker buildings as she veered down a dirty alley towards the docks.  He let his mind imagine what she must look like from above...a shining pink light drifting through the muck of downtown Boston, a beacon of beauty glittering amongst the sludge of....

"Pay attention!" his mother commanded, yanking on his arm and pulling him closer to her.  "You can daydream when we get to your aunts’, but, right now, I need you to stay with me."


Ezra nodded – he knew the rules.  They were on the run again, escaping to Boston after a particularly hard time in New York City, hopping the first train they could afford out of Manhattan – and ending up here.  As for his "aunts," that meant his mother's friends Sophia and Molly who ran a tavern on Long Wharf.  Maude had worked there before he was born, he knew.  He’d only met them once, when they’d come to Boston five years earlier….


"How...how long are we going to stay with them?" he asked quietly. 

"I’m staying only for a few hours.  I’m going to head down South on the first ship I can find.  I will send for you as soon as I’m settled again."


She yanked his arm again, and he quickened his steps.

They arrived in Dock Square, and Maude turned around in a circles a few times, turning Ezra along with her, trying to get her bearings.  She glanced only vaguely at the large brick hall down the hill named after someone named Faneuil, her memory kicking into gear as she tried to remember which direction hid the small tavern.  Damned city was a maze.  They kept filling in the river and the wharves with earth, making it bigger…everything always looked different, and she was sure the streets moved.


People knocked into them, so thick was this place with activity.  An easy place to get lost…or to hide.  The streets around them were wide and covered with crates and boxes of goods; men in longshoremen outfits moved around and a handful of gentlemen businessmen gave orders, pointing at things with their long handled silver tipped canes; women too wandered around – the older ones trying to entice the sailors, the younger just serving food or selling items such as matches and sweets; and horses, oxen and donkeys pulled wagons filled with men, tools and other items to the various wharves all around this, the busiest port city in the northeast.


Ezra felt both at home, and completely out of his element.  He wished he were taller.  He stared at the gentlemen walking busily past him, talking about letters of credit and weather readings and muttering acronyms like “FOB” and other incomprehensible things with other men who looked like ship captains, bankers and insurance agents….


He wanted to be one of those gentlemen, with the silver tipped canes, bossing everyone around, lording over the docks. 


Mother had once told him that life wasn’t for him.  She said land was where the money was, not ships.  She was going to find them a place living down south, on one of the big plantations.  Land was reliable, she said, it didn’t sink in bad weather, it didn’t require so many middlemen to make it run, and, in the South…well, they didn’t have such disagreeable winters.


“Are you lost ma’am?” a man asked, a gentlemen in a bowler and a gold tipped cane.  Maude flashed him a smile.


“Why, thank you sir,” she replied, her accent as flat as his, faking a bit of upper class Bostonian.  “I am indeed a little lost.  Tell me, can you point me in the direction of the Custom House?”


“The Custom House?” the man’s eyebrows lifted, “of course.”  He pointed towards the obvious clock tower towering over all the surrounding buildings.  Maude giggled, feigning perfect female stupidity. 


“Oh how silly of me!” she gushed. “My father told me it was a tower, but did I listen?  Of course not.”


The gentleman nodded, then looked down at Ezra, who blinked shyly back.


“My littlest brother, Earnest,” Maude said, blushing. “I’m dropping him off with my father so that I might do some shopping and father can teach him some of the skills of the trade.”


“Really, so young?” the man sized Ezra up, who stared calmly back.


“Oh, he’s older than he looks – nearly twelve, believe it or not.  Sadly, he’s a bit of a runt for his age.  Father is sure he’ll grow, though.”  Maude gripped Ezra’s hand a little tightly, and the young boy flashed a smile at the gentleman, well used to being described equally as son, brother, cousin and nephew by his mother in front of prospective marks, and at having his age vary from about seven to about thirteen.  Water off a duck’s back, so they say.   


The gentleman’s eyes glittered again as he once more looked at Maude, “Ah, I’m sure he will!  But a lady such as yourself can not possibly navigate these busy streets on your own.  What say I take you and your brother to the tower, we’ll drop the boy off…and I’ll buy you some brunch at the Parker House?”


“Why sir,” Maude blushed again, “that would be most agreeable.  Thank you.”  She looked down at Ezra, “you can find your way once we reach the Custom House, right Earnest?”


Ezra stared at her…knowing it didn’t matter if he could or not.  So, he just nodded.


Maude smiled.  Good boy.


He didn’t see his mother again for nearly a month.



Three days later, Ezra was walking down by the docks again, heading towards the bridge that would take him over to Charlestown, skipping over puddles and avoiding the clots of longshoremen and sailors working the many long wharves.  He was looking for a dice game, so that he could bolster the money Maude had paid Sophia and Molly.  Sophia had hinted that what she’d paid had not been enough, and had suggested to the boy that he either start working to earn his keep…or find a way to make more money.  So, he was headed towards something called the Warren Tavern that Molly had said was a favorite amongst bored navy officers.  


But until then, he was just having fun.


He jumped over a big puddle, thinking he could probably jump over an even bigger one if he’d wanted.  Looking around he, he saw a bigger one and headed for it, not thinking to look up as he skipped over to it.


And he ran right into a policeman – literally into the man’s legs.




Ezra fell backwards, into another puddle, his eyes wide as they traveled up the man’s uniform to the angry piercing look in the man’s eyes.


“Hey!  Guttersnipe!  Look out where yer goin!” the policeman growled, reaching for the boy.  Ezra instantly crabbed backwards in the muddy road, well trained to avoid the law.  The policeman saw the fear, and his eyes narrowed even more.  C’mere, you scamp!  Get back here!”  He jogged a few steps, grabbing for the back of Ezra’s coat as the kid turned over and scrambled to his feet….and caught him.


Ezra cried out, turned around…and kicked the officer in the shins.


Aaacch!” the policeman let go Ezra’s jacket to grab at his leg, then furious eyes turned on the boy.  Ezra had already turned around again and was sprinting off.  “Oh no you don’t!” the policeman shouted, taking up the chase.  “You’ll pay for that boy!”


Ezra didn’t even think…he ducked between crates, jumped over boxes and under horses, and ran as fast as he could down every shadowed alley he could find.  He slid between slats in fences, through holes in walls, and shimmied through every small space he could find – using his size to his advantage.  For what seemed like hours, he could hear the man running behind him, yelling curses and shouting for the people Ezra ran past to help catch the boy, but, eventually, the sound of pursuit faded. 


Crawling under a tall gate, Ezra found himself running down a dark alleyway between two brick buildings.  Feeling safe for the moment, he threw himself into an empty crate lying against the side of the alleyway and held his breath.


After a few seconds, he allowed himself to start breathing again.  He couldn’t hear anyone chasing him anymore.  All he could hear were the usual shouting and calling of the longshoremen, the water lapping against the docks, the crashing and booming of everyday movement on the wharves.  Somewhere a dog barked.


Slowly, green eyes peered around the edge of the box, looking in the direction he’d come from.  He didn’t see anyone.  Ever cautious, he edged a little out of the box and took a few steps towards the mouth of the alley and listened for anyone on the other side of the closed gate.




A smile creased his face and he released a shaky breath.  Then he finally allowed himself to really look around.  He didn’t recognize the alley, but he knew if he could find the water, he could find his way back to Long Wharf, where the tavern was.


Gearing up for a long walk, he headed down to the other end of the alley from whence he came, feeling the breeze from the ocean coming from that direction, and walked out into the open….


And found thirty men staring back at him…all wearing chains around their ankles.


Ezra took several hasty steps back…he’d run right into a prison barracks.



The boy turned around to run back up the alley he’d come from, only to find his way blocked by a pair of police officers, looking at him curiously, one of whom was holding onto the leash of the biggest dog Ezra had ever seen.  It growled at him and he backed away again, back out into the open with the convicts. 


“Now, where’d you come from?” one of the officers asked him, stepping forward, an amused smile on his face.


Ezra didn’t answer, just kept moving away, trying to keep as much space between himself, the convicts and the policemen as possible.  His eyes took in every face, measured each man, trying to judge who would help him and who would hurt him.


That’s when he saw him.


The man had been sitting on a crate, watching with amusement with the rest of them, when Ezra’s eyes landed on him.  All color drained from the man’s face the moment they made contact, instantly recognizing the face of the boy he had last seen five years before.  He stood up, chains clanking, matching green eyes mirroring the stunned expression of the boy.




Ezra stumbled backwards, right into a brick wall.  The convict moved forward, his eyes bright.  He wasn’t that tall – perhaps five foot nine or so – with green eyes and a square jaw.  Shaggy black hair framed a grizzled and bearded face, one that hadn’t seen soap in weeks.  He smiled, revealing teeth that were yellowed from tobacco and lack of care.


“Ezra, son, is that you?”


The boy shook his head, and looked left and right…there had to be a way out of here.


“Yes…son…it is you!  I recognize your face!  My God…son…what are you doing here?”


“This is your boy, Standish?”  There was disbelief in the officer’s tone as he addressed the convict.  The boy was too well dressed, to clean looking, to be the son of a murderer.  Plus, the kid looked terrified.


The convict was still smiling, moving forward, “Yes…my boy…so grown up…,” and suddenly he was right in front of Ezra, grabbing the boy’s arms in his worn hands, gripping them tightly, “Where is she, Ezra?  Is she here?”


“Get off me!” Ezra shrieked, pulling away…hitting the wall.  “Help!  Get him off me!”


“Where is she!” the convict gripped tighter, “Ezra, tell me!  Where is your mother?  Where is Maude?”  He was about to start shaking the terrified child when one of the officer’s grabbed him from behind, pulling back on his arms.  The other one had pulled his colt and, still holding the now ferociously barking dog, started yelling for more help as he pointed the weapon at the other convicts.  A few of them had made a couple of abrupt moves, as if thinking about using the bizarre distraction, but they seemed to calm down as a horn started blowing somewhere and more officers poured out of one of the buildings.


“Help me!” Ezra screamed, kicking at the man holding him and trying to free his arms.  “He’s mad!” 


“Let him go!” the officer pulling on Standish shouted, “Leave ‘im alone, Standish!”


“No, he’s my son!  You’re my son!” the convict didn’t want to let go, his eyes tearing as Ezra continued to fight. 


“I don’t know you!  Let me go!” the boy fought with everything, even his head, trying to loosen the man’s hold on him. 


“Please, no, he’s my boy, my….Ezra…!” And suddenly he was pulled off, and three officers were pulling him away from the terrified child, hitting him with sticks and dragging him towards the opposite building from which the officer’s had come from.  The convict continued to cry out Ezra’s name, pleading to be allowed to talk to the boy, and finally ending with “That’s my son!” just as the door shut behind him.


Ezra had pressed himself against the wall, breathing heavily, still in shock.  It took him a few seconds to realize that someone else was kneeling in front of him, trying to talk to him.  The other convicts had been moved back, being watched now by several new officers.  The one with the dog watched them from a distance. 


He blinked, finally understanding that it was a police officer kneeling in front of him…asking his name.


“My…my name?”  the boy looked at the officer, focusing on the man’s blue eyes.  They seemed kind.  “Earnest…my name is Earnest….”


“Earnest what?”


“Sullivan…Earnest Sullivan.  My aunt…Molly…runs a tavern….”


“Molly Sullivan, yeah,” the officer nodded.  Everyone knew Molly.  He looked up at another officer hovering nearby, “Go see if you can fetch her.”   Blue eyes looked back at Ezra, and crinkled up as the officer smiled, “now…Earnest…perhaps you explain how you managed to get inside a prison barracks?”


“What’s…what’s that man here for?”


“That man?” Blue eyes looked towards the brick warehouse, “You mean Standish?”  He shook his head, smiling again, “Nothing you need to worry about, Earnest.  He’s being sent far away from here by ship tonight.  You’ll never have to see him again.  Now…how about you tell me how you got here, hmmm?”


Ezra’s mind was flying, but he was aware enough to spin a good enough tale of running from bullies and getting lost in a strange city.  It seemed to answer any questions they had, most of which were reinforced when an angry Molly arrived and corroborated his story.  She grabbed him by the upper arm and dragged him out of the fort, pulling him back down Commercial Street towards the lower wharves.



“What were you thinking?” Molly hissed as they got far enough away for her anger to really boil over.  “Bringing me out here like this, bringing my name to the attention of the police like that?  You are getting locked in the garret for a week, you hear me?  And you are going to earn your keep when you get out, so help me….”


“Is my father still alive?”


This stopped her.  Literally.  She let go his arm and turned him round to look at her.




“Is he alive?”


Molly’s jaw muscles tensed, “Did you see him?”


“I don’t know.   I thought…mother said he’d…he’d been hanged…back then…that…but a man there…they called him Standish…and he…he….”


Molly knelt down, the anger on her face completely gone.  Instead, she just offered pity.  He looked away.  He hated pity.  Mother said it meant you were pathetic, and gentlemen were never pathetic.  Molly ignored his discomfort and took his chin so that she could look him in the eye.


“Your father was only imprisoned for taking part in those riots, Ezra, not hanged,” she told him softly.  “Maude probably didn’t know that, since hanging was what everyone expected.  She left before the trial, so you and she wouldn’t have to see it.  But she was wrong.  And we didn’t know how to find her to tell her.  Truth is, he was supposed to be released soon, but something happened.  Word is, he killed someone in there – another one of the inmates.  I don’t know why.  All I know is that the mayor has made a deal with the British and they are shipping everyone convicted of murder to some island somewhere…I think on a whole different continent.”  She shrugged, “They don’t usually survive, from what I’ve been told.  So…you won’t have to worry about him anymore.”


Ezra just blinked, absorbing the information without really hearing it. 


“Do you understand?” she asked, seeing the unfocused look in his eyes.  “Ezra?”


The boy blinked.  Slowly, he nodded. 


“Good.”  She smiled at him and stood back up.  Taking his hand, she led him back to the tavern, all thoughts of locking the boy in the garret forgotten.



He slipped out a again later that evening, when the sun had dropped low to the horizon behind him and the sky over the ocean horizon was turning from purple to black.  Quietly, keeping to the shadows, he made his way to the end of Long Wharf and settled himself against one of the large iron pillars to watch the ships leaving the harbor.


Horns called across the water, and flashes from the lighthouses warned the sailors to stay clear of the islands in the harbor. 


Ever since he’d seen him, Ezra had tried to remember what had happened five years before.  It seemed a strange memory, like a dream.  He remembered mother had brought him to Boston, almost against her will it seemed.  That’s when he’d met him…apparently for the second time, but Ezra had no recollection of any earlier meetings. 


His father had scooped him up and swung him around, and Ezra could still remember laughing uncontrollably.  Patrick…that was his first name…wasn’t it?  Or maybe Peter?  It began with a P.  He was pretty sure of that. 


He recalled taking a walk through some large park, and his father explaining about the public meetings that seemed to take place there.  Lots of people yelling about something.  They were marching in Europe, his father had said.  Workers demanding their rights.  They could do that here, his father had said.  And…don’t tell his mother…but he was helping organize an assembly….


He wasn’t a worker himself.  Patrick Standish was a gentleman and a gambler.  He had met Maude at a casino on one of the islands in the harbor that he once had a stake in.  But…times changed.  The casinos were shut down, and though Maude moved on, he’d stayed, still believing Boston would make his fortune.  When nothing he tried his hand at succeeded, he’d turned his attention to “causes” like those of the dockworkers…men and women he’d met at places like Sophia’s and Molly’s tavern.   Maude’s return was just in time for him to prove what a big man he’d become.  If the assembly worked…he was going to try politics.


It had turned into a riot.  He’d been arrested.  Maude had taken Ezra and they’d left.


All in all, Ezra figured he’d had all of about a week that time to meet and lose his father.


And now he was losing him again.


He stared at the ships moving slowly out of the harbor, looking to settle somewhere out in the bay before heading out in the morning for parts unknown.  One, a large dark clipper, emerged from what he guessed was the right direction, and he watched its slow progress out of the busy port. 


“Goodbye,” he whispered to the ship.


“Hello,” a woman’s voice said, almost as if in response.  Ezra jumped almost a foot, and nearly fell off the dock.  He turned to look at the intruder, then held a hand to his chest to calm his breathing as he saw an obviously pregnant woman standing next to him.


She wasn’t very tall, in fact, she looked barely older than a child herself.  He reckoned her to be about sixteen or seventeen.  She smiled sweetly at him.


“Can you give me a hand?” she asked, and held her hand out him.  He stared at the hand, then looked up at her, his eyes confused.  Her smile grew, “I mean with sitting down.  I’d like to sit on the dock with you, but I have some trouble sitting without help these days.”


“Oh,” Ezra stood up, blushing.  Taking her hand, he did his best to help her as she managed to squat down, and then sit on the edge of the dock.  He frowned as she settled down and took a bag off her shoulder.


“Um,” he still stood nervously, watching as she started pulling what looked like bread and an apple out of the bag, “should you be out here?  I mean…like that?  You know…with child?  It may not be, um,” he looked around at the darkening wharf, “safe….”


She turned and looked at him, smiling still.  She was actually very pretty, with dark brown hair and dark eyes looking at him from behind a pale face.


“Oh, I’m fine.  I come out here most nights these days,” she turned her eyes to the harbor.  “I’m waiting for a ship to return.”


“Oh,” Ezra nodded, looking out again at the water.  That made sense.  “Which ship?”


“My husband’s,” she said, her tone wistful.  “He was supposed to have returned two weeks ago, but he’s not returned yet.  Every night, after work, I come down here to eat my dinner and watch for his ship.”  She sighed, ripped a hunk off the end of the bread, and handed it to him.  Ezra stared at the bread a moment…then took it and sat down next to her.  She smiled again, “So…who are you waiting for?”


Ezra looked at the clipper, noticing it was already beyond the end of southern wharves.  He shook his head.


“No one,” he whispered despondently.


She frowned at his tone, but didn’t question.  She followed his line of sight to the clipper, wondering why it should interest him so.  Shrugging, she grabbed the wedge of cheese and ripped off a hunk of it.  She handed it to him, and this time he took it without hesitation.


“What’s your name?” she asked.


“Ezra,” the boy responded.  He paused a moment, then smiled, “Standish…Ezra Standish.”  He looked at her, “And you, madam?”


She giggled at his formality and shrugged, “Kate Dunne.”  She gave him her free hand, and he shook it.  Then she touched her stomach, “And this, if it’s a boy, is John.  Named after his father.”  She smiled up at him again.  Ezra smiled kindly, but blushed again, and turned his eyes back to the clipper.  It was almost out of sight now.


She watched the ship, then turned back to the boy. 






“Thank you for keeping me company.”


He looked at her, then lowered his eyes, smiling.  When he looked up again, she saw he had tears in his eyes. 


“I’m sorry,” she said, thinking she must have said something wrong, “I didn’t mean to….”


“Will you promise me something?” he asked suddenly.  Kate frowned, pursing her lips.


“I…if I can.”


“Never leave him.  Promise me that.  As long as you can.  Let him know you love him.”




“Your son.  When you have him.”


She grimaced, looking down at her belly.  When she looked up again, he was staring out to sea again.   


“You know,” she said, smiling again, “it could be a girl.”


Ezra didn’t answer.  He was watching the edge of the clipper disappear behind an island.


Four Corners – 1876


“He was a sailor,” JD said, stirring his coffee, “that’s all I know.  And I’m named after him.  He died before I was born…lost at sea, my mother said.”  He shrugged, looking up at the gambler.  “Why do you ask?”


Ezra was staring at JD, the wisp of a memory crossing his mind.  He’d learned earlier that day from Buck that the kid’s mother was named Katherine…Kate.


“And…how old are you…really,” Ezra said.


JD frowned, and shrugged.  A stupid smile crossed his face, “Guess.  Bet ya can’t….”




The smile disappeared. “Damn,” JD said.  “No one ever says 23.  They think I’m 18…or 20 at the most.  You’re real good, Ez, you know that?  Yeah…I’m 23.  How old are you?”


Ezra smiled, leaning back in his chair.  “Nine years older than you.”  He took a sip of his own coffee, tasting the brandy lacing the brew that he’d tipped in it.  JD’s brow furrowed, waiting for the punchline.  When it didn’t come, the kid just smiled, confused.


“Well…you know about my father.  How about yours?”


Ezra’s smile faded, and he looked at his mug.  Then he shrugged, “Just like yours,” he said softly, looking up to meet JD’s brown eyes, “he was lost at sea.”



The End


Hope you liked it!  Email, if you’re so inclined….


Thanks to Lisa, who has more patience with the web these days that I do, I learned that the Boston Police force was established in 1838 to help deal with the growing civil unrest in the city (mirrored by similar gang riots in NYC and Philly).  At first they were terrible disorganized and outnumbered by the gangs, but, by the start of the civil war, they’d established themselves and the cities were fairly calm.  (I didn’t see Gangs of New York – was this the time that that movie is intended to depict?  Anyone?).


Also, as an aside, Boston was once pretty much an island, and was gradually filled in over the last two hundred years.  In the 1850s, and the map below is from 1855, you can just make out the beginning of the Charles River…and of the Mystic River (to the west of Charlestown).  The Mystic River is mostly wetlands now.  They filled it in and built a highway over it (Route 38). Gotta love this city.  Most of the wharves you see below are also gone, though, outlined in red on the bottom right side, you can see Long Wharf.  It’s still there, though it is shorter now from the landfill (plus, there’s a Marriot there now <bg>) and Central Wharf and the T. Wharf, to either side of it, are gone.  From this, it is my theory that Boston has ALWAYS been a bitch to navigate.  I thought the Big Dig was bad.  Turns out its just par for the course! LOL!