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Sample excerpt from AGAIN, compliments of self publishing author, Marc Kuhn…

Part 1

­­­Isaac And Anna

True love is a uniquely human experience.  It can lead you to a well-heightened state of euphoria or crash you into a bottomless pit of misery. The choice is not always yours, but the outcome is.

Chapter 1

­­­The Immigrant

So then, where to begin? That would be aboard the steamship SS Patricia as she sat anchored just outside of New York harbor on a chilly February morning in 1906.The very slightest hint of a silhouette of the Statue of Liberty peeked through the morning fog. As obscured as the vision appeared, it was enough to have just about every immigrant aboard the Patricia up early and out on deck. There, they stood, some jostling for a better position at the ship’s starboard rail where they could peer into the mist in hopes of catching even the faintest glimpse of Lady Liberty.

Three decks above, 18-year-old Isaac Solomon Becker sat cross-legged on the deck, just behind a forward bulkhead that pretty much kept him out of sight. Being a steerage passenger, it was highly irregular that he had managed to make his way to the upper deck undetected. It was a testament to his prowess for accomplishing most any difficult task. What made the feat even more remarkable was that he had been coming to this same location every day since the ship departed Hamburg, Germany 11 days earlier. He had been spending several hours each day in this very spot, not once being noticed, even by a crewmember occasionally passing by. He figured the worst that could happen, if he were to be discovered, would that he’d simply be escorted back down below decks where he belonged. But until that were to happen, his private top-deck seat gave him a spectacular view of the Patricia’s bow plowing into the oncoming ocean and persistently pursuing the fine-lined horizon always dead ahead in the distance.

But Isaac had selected this private hideaway for more reason than to just gaze out to sea. In his hands every day he held a small tattered notebook, the contents of which he had mastered, practically word-for-word, during the entire length of time the steamer had been at sea. The notebook was a gift from Isaac’s Uncle Joseph who had immigrated to America two years earlier. It contained information about most of the conditions and events Isaac would encounter during his voyage to America. Of particular importance, especially now that the ship had reached New York, was a description of the procedures he would face at Ellis Island, where most immigrants were processed before being admitted into the country. These included passengers who traveled 3rd class and in steerage, or Zwischendeck as it was referred to in German

First- and second-class passengers were able to bypass Ellis Island. These immigrants had the means and funds to secure superior accommodations for their journey and were considered less likely to be a burden to their new nation. Isaac had saved enough funds for second-class passage, but he anticipated a greater need for that money to get established in America and opted to suffer the discomforts and indignities of steerage in return for longer-term benefits.

Like every newcomer on the Patricia, Isaac strained to to see the Statue of Liberty. He had not envisioned the soupy fog, so what he had expected would be a moment of inspiration signifying the beginning of his new life in America turned out to be a disappointment. Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be long before inspectors would be boarding the ship to begin the preliminary processing of passengers. Those who passed this initial phase would then be ferried to Ellis Island where they would complete the qualifying process for entrance into the United States. Or not.

Isaac had no concerns about passing the required medical examination. He was young and in good health, fitter than most thanks to his strenuous labor working in the railroad yards of Hamburg. No, he wasn’t particularly large and muscular. He stood only five feet eight, but he had a sturdy build, a tight stomach and strong arms developed from swinging a sledgehammer almost daily for several years. His brown hair had turned a lighter sandy color from constant exposure to the sun and his baby-faced profile had sharpened and matured as he approached his early twenties. He was not an exceptionally handsome young man, but certainly attractive enough for several of the young ladies on board to have taken notice.

Isaac had accumulated all the proper documents, in addition to complying with other requirements: he would be met by his Uncle Joseph, already a successful business owner in Philadelphia; lodging had been arranged at a rooming house near where his uncle lived and Isaac’s work experience had made it less difficult than usual to secure a job as a yardman for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

None of these obstacles gave Isaac any concern. He had planned his emigration for well over a year and worked hard to ensure he would fulfill all the requirements. What he was anxious about, and sent him burrowing back into his notebook for a last-minute review, were the 29 questions he would be expected to answer. These included queries about America’s history and political structure. He would be asked questions about the U.S. Constitution and even some about the original 13 colonies. One easy answer he knew, mainly because of the flamboyant reputation of the man, was that Theodore Roosevelt was President. Isaac worried that he would panic and his mind would go blank or since his English was limited he’d be assigned an incompetent interpreter who might misspeak and alarm his examiner.

But Isaac had indeed prepared himself well. After a short wait in the stuffy, over-populated central hall on Ellis Island, he breezed through the interrogation with little delay and, to his great relief, no complications. Save for a few inconveniences he still had to go through, Isaac was free to enter his newly adopted country.

First, he had to exchange his Deutsche Marks into American dollars. There was a station inside the main building where he could do this. The line, unfortunately, was quite long and it took nearly an hour before his German currency was tabulated and he was handed a stack of U.S. dollars and a few coins. He quickly put the money in a small leather folder in which he also carried his personal documents.  had no idea how the conversion rate worked so he had to rely on the honesty of the teller to give him the correct amount. This was one more item he wished he had spent a little more time studying before he left Germany.

Next, he needed to purchase a train ticket to Philadelphia. Conveniently, agents representing various railroads were on hand at Ellis Island to sell tickets and provide transportation for immigrants who were traveling to other locations beyond New York. After Isaac completed his arrangements, he retrieved the single worn leather suitcase he had relinquished for inspection upon arriving at Ellis Island. It was not a large piece of luggage and it showed the scars and scratches of a well-used travel companion. Inside itheld the bare necessities and any keepsakes Isaac chose to bring with him to America.

Within just a few hours he was seated on a train bound for Philadelphia. It was early evening, later than he had anticipated getting underway. The train was half empty and Isaac was able to put his suitcase on the seat next to him. This gave him a chance to open it and make sure nothing had gone missing while it was sequestered at Ellis Island. To his relief, everything was there.  Isaac carefully placed half his money inan envelope and tucked it within a layer of folded shirts inside the suitcase. The rest of the money stayed in the leather folder which he returned to the inside pocket of his jacket. He had been warned to never put all his valuables in one place. Newly arriving immigrants were easy prey for street thieves.

It had been a long day and his final worry was whether or not Uncle Joseph, who was to meet him at the train station in Philadelphia, would still be waiting for him now that he was on a later train than originally planned. Uncle Joseph was his mother’s older brother. Isaac had not seen him for several years and he hoped they would still recognize each other. His uncle was to accompany him to his one-room living quarters that, at least for a while, would be his new home in his new country.