Title: The Calling of Amos Puckett
Author: Clabe Polk
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amos Puckett, an orphaned Florida farmboy, grows up to be a protestant missionary in late 19th century Cuba, a Spanish Catholic Colony. Unconsciously following in his father’s footsteps, he encounters a series of potentially fatal experiences and learns to use a natural gift, an interest in herbal medicine, to heal the bodies and souls of others. His defeats teach him about winning and losing, and about his faith. His wins teach him that God is in control. At times, he feels he is the biggest sinner of all. At times, he hangs by a thread and prays for an end to the diseases that cause "his people", including his loved ones to suffer and die. Will putting feet to his prayers help end the disease he dreads?
Two months later, Miriam and Angelique came to Morgan City on the train. Amos met them, showed them around town, and got rooms for them at the hotel. Understandably, the Morgan City ladies of the evening did not welcome the competition. However, Miriam and Angelique stood their ground quietly, helping the local girls out when they could and not challenging them openly for regular customers. Soon, they began to be accepted.
Amos, who was oblivious to womanly ways, ignored the social adjustments that were taking place right in front of him. Gradually, he and Miriam spent more and more time together, and before long they were sharing a bed.
Not to be outdone, Angelique set her hooks into Emmanuel Sanchez, a strong, rugged creole fishing captain who ran a small but successful fleet.
Jacques found Miriam and Angelique charming and soon he was involved with another of their friends from New Orleans, Delila Laroux. With the addition of Delila, every night the men were in town was a party.
Most of those nights the men drank and gambled. Sometime in the standing poker game with the ladies looking on, and sometimes by themselves; sometimes the ladies joined in. Amazed at how often the women won, they never realized the more they drank, the more often the ladies won.
Things were good for several months; the women leaning on each other when the men were at sea or on business. The men winning their share at poker, but never more than their share. Life unraveled on Amos’ nineteenth birthday.
A half-dozen hands into the evening poker game, Ellis and Sloan were systematically dealing from the bottom of the deck ensuring the two of winning hands. Both were slick, but after the sixth hand, Jacques became suspicious and demanded a new deck. Uncertain of what they were doing, he watched closely as they took their turns dealing. Abner Bell, the town’s doctor, suddenly cried foul.
“Him,” Abner said, pointing at Ellis. “He’s cheating…dealing off the bottom and double-dealing both. Stand up and show us your hands!”
“Callin’ me a cheat, little man?” Ellis growled.
“I saw you cheat,” Abner said standing.
Ellis pulled a cocked .45 from his waistband. “I’d think twice, little man, before I called a man with a .45 a cheater.”
Jacques eased a two-shot derringer from his pocket covering Ellis. Amos stood slowly backing against the adjacent table near Ellis’ gun hand. The ladies suddenly found a need for fresh air on the porch.
“Where’s your proof, little man?” Ellis demanded. “Show me, or shut up!”
Abner looked around the room for support. “You’re not just a cheater, you’re a damned cheater!” he said forcefully.
Ellis brought the gun to bear on Abner, Jacques raised the derringer to shoot Ellis, when Amos hit Ellis’ gun hand knocking it sideways, spoiling his aim. The gun roared like a cavalry cannon in the barroom. Jeremiah Sloan’s face blanched in disbelief as he reeled back and fell from his chair.
Jacques’ face blanched too. He grabbed Amos’ arm and pulled him close. “Out the back door, now!” he commanded. Amos started to protest. “Now, Amos, now!” he whispered urgently dragging Amos toward the door. Somehow, Amos got his shocked feet moving and followed Jacques. He could not understand what had happened. How did the gun go off? Crap, Ellis fired. If Ellis shot Abner, why was Sloan the one on the floor?
“Come on, hurry, “ Jacques said when they reached the alley, “Hurry or you’ll stretch a rope as sure as I’m a Frenchman!”
“I didn’t kill anybody,” Amos protested.
Jaques rounded on him, “Do you think Sheriff Joe Sloan cares whether you intended to murder his brother or not? It was your hand that made Abner’s bullet hit Jeremiah! Joe Sloan will not care. He will lynch you and Ellis both! Now, get moving!”
“Where are we going? I have to defend myself,” Amos said.
“To the Warlock. She’s leaving for Galveston at daybreak. You can hide on her until you’re at sea tomorrow. It’s the only chance you have against Joe Sloan. In Galveston, you can work at the chandlery until this blows over.”
“I have to say good-bye to Miriam.”
“You have to stay alive. She’ll understand. She’s seen worse things. When it’s safe, I’ll tell her where you are.” They arrived on the dock. “Now, get on board, hide in the bilge as far aft as you can, and for God’s sake, keep quiet until you’re out of sight of land. I’ll tell Captain McDonough about you when he casts off tomorrow. Good luck, mon ami!”
Oh shit! Amos thought. He hugged Jacques, “Good luck, and thank you for everything. Maybe one day God will show me what’s happenin’, but until then, “merci, mon ami”! Turning he climbed down into the schooner’s bilge, and bent over from the low overhead, he stumbled over ribs making his way aft. Eventually, he lay between two ribs, stringers pressing his lower back and neck. Cramped and uncomfortable, he lay awake replaying the evening in his mind trying to understand what happened.