The Life of Colin Phelps

London, 1855

The cobblestones felt cold and damp under Colin’s thin knees as he crept quietly under the flower stand. It wasn’t open yet. The vendor wouldn’t arrive for another twenty minutes, so it provided good cover as the boy approached a bread cart from behind.

Stealth was a talent Colin had fashioned into a true art form. By his tenth birthday he’d learned to be invisible: knew how to sneak in and out of almost any building, how to find food in any season.

He watched a large horse-drawn carriage approaching, knowing it would distract the baker, timing his moment. The vendor never noticed the boy’s swift actions as he helped himself to an armful of freshly baked goods.

Pigeons took flight around him as he turned and darted down a stone stairway to the river. He felt they were escaping together, wished he could fly.

On his right a barge drifted slowly down the Thames, its stove lit at center deck. He inhaled the scent of coffee and bacon from onboard and watched men warming their hands by its fire.

Colin had that thought again, Someday, I’ll ride down the Thames and board a real ship to Australia or New Zealand. Maybe even America.

He slowed to a brisk walk, glanced over his shoulder, breathed in the rich warm odor of fresh-baked bread and bit into the end of a loaf, savoring its taste.

Day by day, Colin made it through the winter of 1855, subsisting on what he could steal and on dreams of ocean voyages. His father had gone to sea years ago, on a trading vessel bound for New York. The boy didn’t understand why he hadn’t returned, why he wasn’t there when his mother died. Sometimes he looked expectantly at ships as they approached. Mostly he resented them and fumed at being alone.

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All proceeds from sale of this book will be divided equally between two Colorado charities:  Attention Homes, which has provided care and guidance to homeless and at-risk teens in Boulder, Colorado, for over fifty years, and the Colorado Women’s Education Foundation (CWEF), which provides scholarships to women who are non-traditional college students, often single mothers or the first woman ever to enter college in their family.