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Arthur

By Maxwell A. Gillmer, Contributing Writer

Day 1: This day they bought 11 men, 6 women, and 3 girls. They bought me. I still hold onto his face.

Day 5: This day they bought 7 men, 3 women, and 4 boys. None are him.

Day 6: This day they bought 13 men and 4 women. They were very good negroes. They were ugly, dirty, and strange. It is easy to forget what you look like. I wonder in the quiet if he knows I am gone.

Day 8: This day they bought 5 men and 5 women. Few of us can speak together. It is dangerous to be alive. I wonder in the quiet if he misses me. In the dark a woman died. In the light a man died.

Day 12: This day they bought 0 men and 0 women. I look at the faces in the dark with me. They cry silently. I cry silently too, for him. I wonder in the quiet if he is gone. They bought provisions. It was an afterthought.

Day 15: This day they bought 12 men, 11 women, and 1 boy. He is not him.

Day 17: This day they bought 1 man, 4 women, and 1 boy. He is not him. I seek colors through the cracks. Blue is what I see. Blue is what I love. Blue is how I see him, the one I love. In the light a man died. They said he had not been sick 12 hours before. They said.

Day 32: We awake above the water. I do not know for how long I have been below the light. I do not know for how long I have been above the water. The floor rocks differently. The air tastes differently. I wonder in the quiet where he is. In the mystery a man died.

Day 33: They counted the lives. 175 men, 135 women, 9 boys, and 10 girls. I wonder in the quiet if he lies in the dark. I quickly stop. I do not want to wonder what I would do if I knew he did. A boy comes to me. He looks at me. I look away. He looks like a small animal. Fragile. In the mystery, one man and two women died.

Day 39: No life today. No death today. I do not know if I can smell the wretchedness or not anymore. I wonder in the quiet if his fingernails are caked too.

Day 67: Their negroes were now for the most part in health. Are we their negroes? The boy returns. He needs what I need. My son is still here. I hope.

Day 70: I do not see the boy today. Water leaks through the wood above that keeps away the light. We do not move. When still, there is no hope. When still, I wonder in the quiet if I will forget him. In the mystery, two men and one woman died.

Day 76: Water leaks through wood again and mixes with the wretchedness and makes people sick. I no longer feel sick. I need to survive for him. The trick is to hide. I hope he hides. Take from the boy and hide. I wonder in the quiet if he knows I need to survive for him. In the mystery one man died. They said he had been sick a long time.

Day 79: The boy looked sad today in my memory. I did not see him today. I was worried. He looks sad every day. I do not look at anything. I would rather see him than see myself. I do not need to see myself if I cannot see him. I wonder in the quiet if he forgets what I look like. In the dark, two men and one woman died.

Day 82: In the dark and then the early light, two men and the boy died. I see my son in his face. His face is now gone. It is thrown in the water. It is too dark to see myself. I do not want to see myself. There is no me without him. I cry loudly in the dark for him. I know he will never come again. I do not live for myself. The water entices me, but it does not invite me. I look to the blue. I cry out for his smile.

This morning, the wind is gone. I no longer wonder. There is nothing to wonder.

Voyage ID: 9978

— Maxwell A. Gillmer ’21’s column “Death Business” is an anthology of short stories, recounting fictionalized narratives inspired by true entries from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. Each installment follows the story of a new individual — some named, some unnamed — on a different voyage from Africa to the Americas. This installment is based on the vessel “Arthur.” Voyage ID: 9978

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