Too Close

A Rum Running Story

by Michael W.

“Dark. Wet. Cold. Miserable. What I do for money. Christ, tonight is awful, I can’t believe I’m actually out here,” Joseph thought to himself as he trotted down the path on his horse-drawn carriage. He had left the warmth house just house prior to the storm. He hated rainy weather, and thought tonight couldn’t get any worse, but he hasn’t an inkling what fate has in store for him.

Joseph grabbed the collar of his overcoat and gave it a tug, hoping to shield his face a bit more from the droplets pelting his face, but it was to no avail. “I can’t wait to get this over with and get home,” he sniffed. He shivered, thinking of his warm bed waiting for him at home, his wife, his children. He then wonders why he’s actually out here; does he really support the cause, or is he just another fool down on his luck who is trying to make a little money? He decided it was a bit of both, and smirked, staring out into the dark path before him.

After nearly twenty minutes of riding, Joseph made it to his destination: a medium-sized house which looked a bit worn from the elements. It was nine-thirty, and most of the neighboring folk of the town were in their houses, none of them were crazy enough to even step foot outside during a storm like tonight’s. Joseph walked up the cold cement steps to the front door of the building, and raped his knuckles on the door, hoping they would answer quickly. He glanced over his shoulder either way, cautiously looking up and down the street.

Shortly after, a woman came to the door. She was fairly short and a bit chunky. Her dark brown hair was tied into a ponytail, and was hanging loosely down her back. Her dress was dirty, and had a few small holes, but it was wearable. She looked at Joseph through the crack in the door, her deep blue eyes looked him up and down.

“It’s been quite a night, do you have my order?” she says, still examining him through the opening in the door.

“Yes,” Joseph responds, “and I’d like to get rid of it so I can get back home.”

“Well, bring it ‘roun back,” she responds, shutting the door as soon as she finishes speaking.

Joseph mutters under his breath, and returns to his carriage. He walks around to the back, and removes a sheet covering the goods, which were now being covered in droplets of rain. He rummages around a bit, and finally pulls out three milk canisters, taking each from it’s location on the cart, and placing it on the ground with a grunt. He then picks up one canister, and slowly carries it to the back of the house, being careful not to trip over anything hidden away in the evening’s darkness.

Finally, he makes it to the back of the house, and meets the woman standing in a doorway. She steps back, and motions for him to come inside.

“Just set it over there, in the corner,” she instructs, pointing to a spot in the hallway near an old, worn hat rack, “The boys’ll take care of ‘er.”

Joseph does as he’s instructed, placing each can next to each other. When the third, and final can has been placed where it should be, Joseph lets out a spent breath and learns against a wall, wiping the sweat from his brow. After catching his breath, Joseph looks around for the woman who had greeted him ever so kindly before, and tried to recall how he actually knew her. After a few moments of deep thought he realized that he didn’t actually care who she was or how he knew her, he just wanted to go home.

He calls out, “Miss, Where are you? I’d like to be on my way, if you don’t mind.”

The woman quickly returns, and pulls out a small pouch full of various denominations of money, handing it to Joseph. Joseph takes the pouch and thrusts it into his pocket.

“Will you be needing me again soon, Miss?” he asks.

“Yeah, probably in a few…” she was cut short when a young man ran into the room, obviously panicked, and breathing heavily.

“Mother, the Mounties are outside. David said he saw them coming. They’re just down the road!” the young man huffed as he tried to catch his breath.

“Damn!” the woman exclaimed, her eyes widening. She looked to the boy, “Take those cans down to the cellar, and hide them well, I’ll look after the bar. Go!”

The young lad grabbed a canister, and easily carried down a flight of stairs nearby, and disappeared into the darkness at the end of the steps. Joseph was stunned, but the knew what was happening, and he knew what he had to do. He looked for the woman, but she had already vanished behind a door in a small set of stairs. Shaking his head, Joseph bolted out of the door, not bothering to close it, just as the boy had reached the top of the stair for a second can. Joseph hurried along the side of the house, trying to get back to his carriage before he found himself in more trouble than he had bargained for.

While running along the darkened side of the house, Joseph finally met one of those hiding things he had been trying to avoid earlier. He slams his foot into an uncovered root, and lands with a grunt face-first into the mud. Groaning, he picks himself back up and keeps on running, not thinking of anything other than getting back to his family and the warmth of the fireplace. Finally, he arrives at his carriage. Looking down the road, he sees that there are a number of officers coming in his direction. He quickly boards the cart, turns himself around and heads in the direction from which he came.

The horse galloped as fast as it could. Joseph could hear shouts coming from behind him, but he never looked back, he was too frightened, he just kept on riding, riding toward home. Eventually the shouts subsided, and Joseph pulled his cart to the side of the road. He looked to where he had come from, to check for anyone following him, but there was only the darkness of the evening to greet him. The rain was still beating against his face, and he was breathing hard, but that was of no matter right now, all he could thing of was his family, and how he had almost been caught. The thought of being jailed and away from his family sickened him, but he knew that since he had lost his job, there was no way he’d be able to get by without rum running. Tonight had been too close of a call for him, and he knew he would have to make a choice, but not tonight, he had been through enough. Joseph grabbed the reigns, and directed his horse to continue on their journey home. Joseph glanced back at the trail he had just traveled once more, sighed, and continued on his way.

I wrote this for my History 1305 class, which is none other than 'The History of Prohibition in Canada.' Someone told me that I should post it, even though I don't think it's all that great.

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