Red Mountain

Free Red Mountain by Dennis Yates

Book: Red Mountain by Dennis Yates Read Free Book Online
Authors: Dennis Yates
young man, he’d dropped out of school and began unloading freight from ships that made their 80-mile journeys up river to Portland’s docks. The work was strenuous, and Charlie struggled to help his tubercular father by keeping food on the table for his seven younger brothers and sisters.
    On the night Charlie turned drinking age, his father was too sick to even get out of bed. He felt guilty at seeing his son’s youth being eaten up so quickly by work. He had wanted to take his eldest out on the town for his birthday and educate him in the ways of the adult world. Most of all he wanted Charlie to know he still had a future.
    During the day when Charlie was at work, his father composed a mental list of everything he’d wanted to share with him. A sense of urgency was haunting him day and night. He slept very little, and thoughts about the cold ground next to his departed wife’s grave caused his bones to ache all the more.
    When Charlie returned from the docks that evening, his father called him to his room. He told Charlie how sorry it was that he couldn’t take his own son out for a few pints on his birthday. Charlie didn’t seem to mind, having never cared much for the smell of liquor anyway. He told his father he’d be just as happy playing games with the younger children or reading to them. His father disagreed, insisting a man of Charlie’s age needed time to mingle with other men, maybe even buy himself a whore if he felt like it. He’d pressed some money into Charlie’s hand and told him not to come home until he had some stories to tell. He said that the pain he felt for his son had become unbearable. Charlie deserved a chance to experience freedom once in awhile.
    There was no sense in arguing with the dying man, so Charlie thanked his father and left, confused about where he should go. As he walked the darkening streets, he thought about concocting some stories to tell his father so he could save the money for his family. His younger siblings were growing so fast. They needed new shoes and warm jackets for winter. Yet Charlie never lied to his father, and he knew if he came home with a few made up stories, his father would certainly be able to tell if his was lying.
    He passed near a small tavern where a friendly crowd standing in the doorway waved at him to come inside. Charlie didn’t recognize anyone—they were all strangers, merchant sailors who told him they’d only been in Portland for a few days.
    Charlie had never been in such coarse surroundings before and was stunned by the forward women and the drunks. A man who wore a silver plate for a nose laughed when he observed the shock on Charlie’s face. When Charlie glared back, the man apologized and asked him if he could makes amends with a bit of rum. His name was Captain Greeley, and he claimed to have sailed the world nine times over.
    Several rums later, Charlie found his surroundings had much improved. He and Captain Greeley were later joined by some of Greeley’s crew. Stories were traded and songs were sung at the tops of their lungs. Throughout the night, Captain Greeley continued to take Charlie’s cup and refill it with more rum. Charlie made many attempts to leave, but his new friends kept stopping him at the door and begging him to stay a little longer.
    By the time he drained his final cup, Charlie was overcome with an intense dizziness. Since he’d never been drunk before, he had no clue that he’d also been drugged. After his head struck the table and he was out cold, two giggling crewmen picked Charlie up and followed Captain Greeley through a door behind the bar. Showing the way by lantern, Greeley took them down a staircase to a dank tunnel where they passed below several city blocks. If Charlie had been conscious he would have seen the cages of female sex slaves and Chinese opium dens. The tunnel finally ended at the docks where ships floated gently on the black Willamette, decks busy with the movement of

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