Read Can i see your i. d.? Online

Authors: Chris Barton

Can i see your i. d.?

Table of Contents Title PageCopyright PageDedication SUBWAY MOTORMAN? - KERON THOMASNAVY SURGEON? - FERDINAND WALDO DEMARA JR.MAN IN UNIFORM? - PRIVATE WAKEMANHITLER YOUTH? - SOLOMON PERELCHEROKEE AUTHOR? - FORREST CARTERKIDNAPPED PRINCESS? - PRINCESS CARABOOSLAVE OWNER? - ELLEN CRAFTBLACK MAN? WHITE MAN? - JOHN HOWARD GRIFFINRISING TEENAGE STAR? - RILEY WESTON26-YEAR-OLD WITH SUFFICIENT FUNDS? - FRANK W. ABAGNALE JR. AFTERWORDAcknowledgementsBIBLIOGRAPHYDIAL BOOKSAn imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.Published by The Penguin GroupPenguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,New York, NY 10014, U.S.A.Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700,Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, EnglandPenguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland(a division of Penguin Books Ltd)Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road,Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre,Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, IndiaPenguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632,New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue,Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South AfricaPenguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand,London WC2R 0RL, England Text copyright © 2011 by Chris BartonIllustrations copyright © 2011 by Paul Hoppe All rights reservedThe publisher does not have any control over and does notassume any responsibility for author orthird-party websites or their content.   Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataBarton, Chris.Can I see your I.D.? : true stories of false identities /by Chris Barton ; illustrations by Paul Hoppe.p. cm.Includes bibliographical references.eISBN : 978-1-101-47636-91. Impostors and imposture—Biography—Juvenile literature.2. False personation—Case studies—Juvenile literature. 3. Identity (Psychology)—Case studies—Juvenile literature. I. Hoppe, Paul, ill. II. Title.CT9980.B34 2011001.9'5—dc222010011878

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For Mom, Dad,and Joe T. Moore—C.B.SUBWAY MOTORMAN?KERON THOMASSATURDAY, MAY 8, 1993NEW YORK CITYIf there had been trains on the island of Trinidad, where you lived until you were twelve, you might have gotten your thing for them out of your system by now. But there weren't, and you didn't, and that's why you're here at the 207th Street subway station carrying a bag of motorman's tools and signing someone else's name.If all goes well, they'll never know that your name is Keron Thomas and that you're sixteen. If all goes well, they'll believe you when you tell them that you're Regoberto Sabio, and they'll have no idea that he's supposed to be forty-four years old. You're a six-footer, but you can't pass for forty-four. Twenty-four, maybe. But not forty-four.You met Sabio while you were hanging out on the Franklin Avenue Shuttle he operates weekday afternoons and evenings back in Brooklyn. You knew so much about the subway already that you didn't come off as suspiciously eager to learn more. In fact, you told Sabio you were a motorman too, on another line. Obviously, you were a young, single motorman with time on his hands and a need for a mentor. Why else would you have ridden his four-stop route back and forth in the cab with him for several hours each week since last winter?In addition to the tools, you'd gotten your hands on this Transit Authority uniform shirt. You kept it in your bag at school, and you'd throw it on before you got to the Franklin Avenue station. Between that T.A. shirt and your calm, mature demeanor, nobody would look at you and see a teenage train fanatic. That allowed you to observe Sabio up close and learn a lot more than you could have while watching a motorman through a closed cab door.You paid close attention to everything Sabio did. As he ran his train down the line and back, you picked up on the lingo from his radio chats with the tower. You watched him brake when he came into a station, saw how he eased the train back out again. He's a talkative guy, so there was a lot of conversation in there, a lot of advice. “Don't stay out drinking the night before you've got a shift,” he'd tell you. “Don't let management tell you how to wear your hair,” “Take notes on everything you do,” and so forth. It was all professional advice, not technical, because he thought you already knew the mechanics of operating a train, right?Somewhere along the way, you got the idea that you probablydidknow enough to drive the train. But you didn't want to justknow—you wanted todo. And this week when Sabio mentioned that vacation he had coming up, you saw your chance.You asked some questions not too surprising coming from a rookie motorman: Who's going to take your shift while you're out? Can I do it? How do I go about getting some overtime, anyway?He said, “Call the crew office and see what they say.”Which you did.Late last night.In Sabio's name.But you didn't ask for his Franklin Shuttle route. You told them what train you really wanted. Come on in, they told you. 207th Street station, they said. And here you are—where, most likely, nobody knows that the real Regoberto Sabio is not only much older than you but four inches shorter and forty pounds lighter. They probably don't know that he wears a beard or sports dreadlocks down past his waist.“I'm the extra man,” you tell the dispatcher. “You have a train for me?”You sign in with Sabio's name—no pass code needed, no Transit Authority I.D. required. You catch a little grief about the way you're dressed—you've got on your uniform shirt, but you're wearing jeans instead of the regulation blue trousers.“Hey, you're not in your uniform pants,” he says.“They're at the cleaners,” you say.“I'll let you go today—it's the weekend.”He buys it. He believes you. You're in.He issues you a big, bulky radio, and now you've got a train to drive.You've studied hard for this day. Not in any classroom—Automotive High never has taught you what you most wanted to know—but in the stations scattered beneath the streets of the city, and on the trains thundering through them.All your life, you've wanted to know how things work—the mechanics of them. What's inside a remote control that lets it run a toy car? The only way to find out is to open it up and see for yourself. And that's pretty much what you've done with the subway.Long before you began hanging out with Sabio, you were riding the subway for fun on weekends, situated at the front of the train so you could get a peek at the tracks, see how the signals are working. Lots of kids do that, of course. But how many teenagers have train posters in their bedrooms? How many sing out “Next stop, Franklin” while pretending a piece of wood and a stapler are the controls? Or countRules and Regulations Governing Employees Engaged in the Operation of the New York City Transit Systemamong their favorite books?Becoming one of those employees after you graduate would be great—but you're impatient. Why wait until then to drive a train when you see a way you can do itnow?When the dispatcher told you to report way up at 207th, it could mean only one thing: You got the train you asked for.The A.You've hit the jackpot. The A train is the longest line in the system. You've heard it's also one of the hardest lines for a beginning operator to learn on, because it involves lots of switching on and off different tracks. That's good. You want a little challenge.You're not stealing the train, any more than someone can steal an escalator—it's going to come right back to where you got it, isn't it? At least, that's how you see it as you walk out onto the platform with your bag containing a motorman's two main tools—a brake handle and a reverser key—along with a Day-Glo orange safety vest.You do like you've seen Sabio do—charge up the air compressors that power the brakes, walk through the train, make sure everything's in order. Then you step into the cab and wait for the conductor to give you two long buzzes. You give him two short ones in reply. It's 3:58 p.m.—time to go.Sabio's shuttle is just two cars long, but the A has eight—that's six hundred feet of train. The controls are also different from the ones you've watched Sabio operate, but that's all right. You'll figure them out. All you need to do is just—Uh-oh.The train starts to move backward. That'sneversupposed to happen. You put on the brake, but not before you feel the train nudge the bumping block behind it. Hoping nobody noticed, you reverse direction and pull out of the station.You accelerate.You're in control. You're used to the rattle and the clatter and the whine of the trains, but this power, this exhilaration—this feeling is new, and you've never known anything better. Youknewyou could do it. You feel like a pro.This train is taking you—no,you'retakingit—the entire length of Manhattan, clear across Brooklyn, and all the way out to Lefferts Boulevard on the edge of Queens. Running time: about an hour fifteen. You'll haul hundreds of passengers, maybe thousands—none of them with any idea who's behind this cab door. They're a trusting bunch—not trusting inyou, exactly, but in the T.A. You know what you're doing, though, so they're in good hands all the same.When you get to Lefferts, you need to change onto a Brooklyn-bound train. But you can't get your radio out of the cab—that requires a key that you don't have. On the platform, you spot another motorman.“Hey, can I borrow your radio key?” you ask. “I lost mine.”“Yeah, no problem!” he says.Radio removed and complication resolved, you slide into the cab of your next train for your return to 207th Street. Back you go, easing into and out of the stations at Euclid Avenue, Jay Street, Fulton, World Trade Center, Washington Square, Penn Station, Forty-second Street, and on up Eighth Avenue.
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The switches aren't a problem—no problem at all. You've got them down. In the past two and a half hours, you've made all eighty stops on time, with only five more to go on this round trip. Then you get to do it again.North of the 168th Street station, there's a downgrade and a speed limit of twenty mph. You've got your train under that, but you pick up speed on the decline, and by the time you see the red signal warning that you're going too fast, it's too late. The emergency brake system kicks in, and the train—yourtrain, all 360 tons of it—groans to a halt.Now what? Ordinarily, a motorman would get out of the cab, go down onto the tracks, reach under the train to manually reset the brake, and be on his way.The problem is, you're missing a key piece of equipment: a flashlight. And while there's some light down in the tunnel, it's not enough to suit you. Without some serious illumination, there's just no way you're going to get down there and feel around and risk getting yourself fried by those 625 volts coursing through the third rail. No. Way.Instead, you radio in to the tower and tell them you can't get the brake to reset. “I'm in BIE,” you say. “Send me out an RCI.” Brakes in emergency. Road car inspector. You read about them in a book.After what seems like forever stuck there just south of 175th Street, an inspector comes through the tunnel, resets the brake, and you're off again. Soon, you limp back into the 207th Street station, where a dispatcher and supervisor are waiting for you.Standard procedure says that when a motorman breaks the speed limit, he gets taken downtown to get tested for drugs and booze. Gotta keep the subway safe, you know.The T.A. supervisor gets back on the A with you for the forty-five-minute ride back to headquarters on Jay Street in Brooklyn. Along the way, you've got a lot to think about. The thing you think about the most is this: You really, really don't want to go in there.So you don't. You emerge from the Jay Street station, up the stairs and onto the street. But instead of making the short walk to T.A. headquarters, you tell the supervisor, “You know what? I don't think I want to take this test.”“You could lose your job,” he says. “Just take the test. If you weren't drinking, then it's nothing to worry about.”“It's a little more than that,” you reply. And then you're gone.Not on foot. Not on a bus. Not in a taxi.You go right back down into the Jay Street station, and you're on a train in nothing flat. How else are you gonna get home?WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?KERON THOMASwas tracked down and arrested two days after his escapade on the A train, which made national headlines. “[W]hat Mr. Thomas did is monumental,” wrote one newspaper columnist. “Reprehensible, to be sure, but decidedly awesome, bodacious.” He was sentenced to three years' probation and for a while continued hoping to become a (legitimate) train operator. But, he says, those hours at the helm of the A train got the subway bug out of his system. Today, he does make his living in the transportation business—but by driving a truck, not a train.NAVY SURGEON?FERDINAND WALDO DEMARA JR.TUESDAY, MARCH 13, 1951SAINT JOHN, NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADALess than a week ago, you were known by the Brothers of Christian Instruction as Brother John Payne, and they knew you to have been Cecil Boyce Hamann before you entered their order.But that was before those ungrateful so-and-sos passed you over for a plum role at the new Catholic college that you practically founded for them. So on March 10 you left them and Alfred, Maine, behind. For that matter, so did their car, which you took for your trip down to Boston.In those 100 miles, you became Dr. Joseph Cyr—that's the name you checked in under at your hotel. And after turning right back around, driving past Alfred and the rest of Maine up north to Saint John, that's also the name that you've just used to score a commission into the Royal Canadian Navy.You're now a surgeon lieutenant in the second year of the Korean War. You're also Ferdinand Waldo Demara Jr., high school dropout from Lawrence, Massachusetts.SPRING 1951HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADAEven traveled directly, it's quite a ways from Lawrence to the Stadacona naval base in Halifax. But you, Demara—ever since you left home after your junior year at Central Catholic High School to try your hand at a monk's life, you've never traveled directly. In the thirteen years since, you've never stuck to the accepted path or the proper channels.And why would you? Your father did things the “right” way—he worked hard, built a buisness, got a nice house. And look what it got him: He lost the business during the Depression, moved your family from Prospect Hill to South Lawrence, and took a job as a movie theater projectionist.Your big sister did things the right way too. Got married at St. Patrick's Cathedral to an Ivy Leaguer, a Brown University man. Became a nurse. She died of a head injury three years ago, when she was just twentynine. So much for the rewards of the right way.So the road that has led you to Stadacona has been one of your own design and choosing, a road paved by an impatient desire to have others recognize the greatness you've seen in yourself all the while. Along the way, your vehicles of choice have been new names and identities. At first, the church created them for you—here, you were Frater Mary Jerome; there, Brother John Berchmans—but eventually you began to borrow others'. Most recently, of course, it was the identity of your good friend, young Dr. Cyr.You weren't hurting anybody. In fact, really, you've always been out to help, to share your impressive talents and energy and intellect with the world. But clashing with abbots, downing barrels of beer, going AWOL from the U.S. Army, and faking suicide to get out of the U.S. Navy made it a bit difficult to bestow those gifts as Fred Demara. So you took to borrowing birth certificates and academic credentials and writing letters of recommendation for yourself on official stationery you'd swiped.Each new guise gave you a new opportunity to help people. They also allowed you to learn a lot about how big institutions work. You've seen the church, the military, hospitals, and universities from the inside. You've seen their big shots up close, and frankly, you're not impressed. You've sat through their unpronounceable theology courses and read through their boring law textbooks, and one thing's for sure: They're no better than a C student from Central Catholic.You know just how to play them:1. There's always plenty of power to be grabbed in one of those institutions, so long as you don't step on the toes of someone who's already got a little power of his own.2. If anyone questions you, don't defend—attack; put the burden of proof on him.3. Flattery and deference will get you everywhere.This particular moment offers a pristine example of that last point. See, before volunteering for duty, you had no time to cram for your new role as Navy doctor, no opportunity to stuff your head with information gleaned from medical textbooks. You're equipped only with the details dropped last winter by the real—and completely unsuspecting—Dr. Cyr in his casual conversations with you. That, and your own good sense.Here at the base, your duties include handling sick call each morning. Several thousand miles from the front, you expect the action to be relatively light, but you could still use a little help. So you mentioned to your superior officer that you've been asked to take on a side project—putting together a do-it-yourself medical guide for the doctorless fellows at an isolated lumber camp out in British Columbia. Would he like to help?Would he? And how. Like it does every time, buttering up an expert by asking for his opinion worked like a charm. Your superior ran with the project, practically took the whole thing out of your hands, and did it himself.And now he presents you with a booklet guaranteed to get someone with zero medical training up to speed on treating the everyday injuries and ailments they might encounter around a bunch of loggers—or sailors.Between that booklet and your access to an ample supply of antibiotics, you're all set.JULY 1951PACIFIC OCEANWell, here's a situation that the lumber camp guide doesn't cover, and for which penicillin is no help at all.You're the medical officer on the HMCSCayuga, a destroyer making her way from Hawaii to Guam en route to her second tour of duty in Korea. You're days away from your destination, and someone needs a rotten tooth pulled.And it's not just anyone. It's the captain himself.You arrive at his cabin late in this summer day to have a look, and it's obvious that the old man is suffering. It's also obvious that he expects Doc Cyr to be able to do something about it.While you get your bearings, you ask him a few questions. Turns out, Captain Plomer was scheduled to get the tooth yanked before theCayugawent to sea, but he was too busy, it wasn't bothering him much, etc., etc. That's good to know—it means he bears responsibility for the situation, which means he should be willing to cut you some slack as you figure out how best to handle it.You have him open his mouth, and you peer inside. Teeth look a lot alike, and they sure are close together, but this one back here seems to be the one that's troubling the old man—you think.You tell Captain Plomer, quite correctly, that you did not learn a thing about dentistry in medical school. You can pull the bad tooth, but not until morning. At the moment, you can give him some pills for the pain, but you need some time to prepare if you're going to do this right.It's a long night back in your cabin. In all the medical books on board—and you've looked, and looked, and looked—there's next to nothing about pulling teeth. What little you find, you read over and over. And you wonder what will happen to you if, out here in the middle of the Pacific, you botch this procedure on the man who runs theCayuga. If ever there was a time when you needed a drink . . .Morning comes, ready or not, and the captain wants you down in his day cabin now. He wants to get this over with, and as much as you do too, you haven't managed to work up much enthusiasm for it. Still, you grab your bag, go over in your head what needs to happen, and head down to your makeshift dentist's office.And when you get there . . . everything goes like a dream. With an audience watching through the ammunition chute overhead, you stick a needle full of Novocain into the old man's gums. What's the right amount? You don't know, but you're inclined to err on the side of freezing half his face. Once he's good and numb, you take what appears to be the right tool, grab hold of what appears to be the right tooth, give it a pull, and become a hero.The tooth is out, the captain is happy, and you feel like there's nothing Doc Cyr can't handle.MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 1951KOREA BAYAnd as it turns out, theCayuga's medical officer doesn't see a whole lot more action than a doctor back at Stadacona does. There are bruises, cuts, and steam burns, but those can be handled just as easily by your assistant, Petty Officer Hotchin.Your main jobs on the ship are keeping an eye out for morale problems and, not entirely unrelated, dispensing the rum rations. As the so-called “morale officer,” you make the rounds in your dress whites, .45 automatic pistol (an unusual piece of equipment for a surgeon) strapped to your side, chatting up seamen on the lower decks and fellow officers up above.Between your smiles and jokes, you don't mind talking about yourself one bit, and you easily deal with potentially dicey questions about your background. Such as: How is it that a fellow with the French Canadian name of Cyr, who originally hails from the French Canadian province of Quebec, has such a thick Massachusetts accent?Why, that's simple, you tell them: You were educated in Boston. Lucky for you, nobody expects Doc Cyr to speak French, other than a couple of Quebecois boys in the kitchen, and who'll pay them any mind? You're both an officer and a doctor, and while you yourself aren't impressed by men's titles and degrees, you know that others are easily awed by those things.As for theCayuga's role during these September days, the ship is supporting South Korean guerrillas during their raids on the western coast. TheCayugarides the waves at a safe distance while shelling targets on the mainland. When you do see the sorts of injuries a lumber-camp manual might not cover, they're typically among the Koreans after one of their raids.
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Today, theCayugais returning to the area where the most recent raids were staged a few days ago. When you get there, the Koreans waste no time sending a junk over to greet you—and with good reason.There are six or seven wounded men on board, three of them in bad, bad shape. There's a chest wound, another shot in the groin, and a third just as bad off—and God knows how many hours or days they've been in this condition. You're called down to have a look and determine how best to handle them.You don't need to be an expert to know that these men are going to die if they don't get operated on soon.Whatever you had in mind that day you showed up with Joseph Cyr's credentials at the recruiting office in Saint John, it wasn't this. No matter. You've got a job to do.And there's not room to do it in the sick bay. Even if there were, wielding a scalpel amid these waves, with those frail bodies lying on those narrow tables . . . ? Not a chance. You're going to do it right here on this steel deck, on blankets in the shade of the torpedo tubes.Everyone scrambles to get you what you need. Your gear is here. Hotchin is here. There's no time to delay. First up is the chest wound. The only way to know exactly what damage the guy suffered is to open him up. There's no time to consult the literature back in your cabin. You just have to do it.And so you scalpel your way down to the ribs, then cut through one of those. The next incision will collapse the lung, allowing a better look at the wound. Could Hotchin handle the collapse? Sure. But this one is yours.While Hotchin attends to the others, you carry on. By the time he comes back, you've covered the wound with Gelfoam to stop the bleeding. You tell Hotchin, “I removed the bullet.”Anyone who knows you knows you'd be only too happy to show off that bullet. But you don't. You've got two other patients to tend to, Dr. Cyr.WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?FERDINAND WALDO DEMARA JR.agreed to let the Royal Canadian Navy distribute the story of Dr. Cyr's surgical heroics to the newspapers back in Canada. The real Dr. Joseph Cyr saw the coverage, and the Navy quickly discharged Demara, who went on to pose as a psychology teacher at a college in Washington State and a Texas prison warden, among other roles. As a California minister under his real name, he was welcomed at aCayugareunion in 1979. Demara died in 1982.MAN IN UNIFORM?PRIVATE WAKEMANTHURSDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 1864WASHINGTON, D.C.Your marching orders finally came through, Private—right along with this cold snap. After sixteen months of watching this war against the Confederates from the safety of Washington and Northern Virginia, you're at last heading south to see the elephant, as they say.Your commanders ordered you to be ready to move at a moment's notice, and for the soldiers of the 153rd New York Infantry, that moment is now. Out here in this freezing weather, you're lined up four abreast, a regiment full of volunteers. Each of youchoseto enlist. None of youhadto sign up for whatever now awaits you.Especially not you, Rosetta.You're a volunteer among volunteers. You, who could get out of this march, out of this Army, and out of this war at just half a moment's notice, simply by confessing that you're not really a man. You could be sure to miss the next Gettysburg, the next Chickamauga. But you like this life first-rate. It suits your independent nature.The money's good too. When you left the family farm in Chenango County a year and a half ago, you also left behind all feminine limitation on how much you could earn. As a man, you snagged yourself a wage of five dollars for just a few days' work—hauling a barge of Pennsylvania coal up the Chenango Canal and then east on the Erie, clear over to Montgomery County. That's where you ran into the Union Army recruiters.Five foot tall and nary a whisker? No matter. They offered you $152—nearly a whole year's pay—right up front for joining for three years, and thirteen dollars more every month after that. Well, that was a fine test of what kind of man you were. For what kind of man would pass up the opportunity to finish off this war and keep the Union together? Besides, what kind of living could you have earned once you got known as a man willing to shirk his honor and duty?So you added two years to your actual age of nineteen, and that was that—you were signed up. You stuck around Montgomery County for a couple of months until they'd filled in the ranks of the 153rd. And in October of 1862, you all mustered in and moved out, down to the captured rebel town of Alexandria, Virginia.Some Union Army recruits have seen battle—and met their maker—less than two weeks after kissing their mothers good-bye. All these months of guarding and drilling in Alexandria and Washington have given you a chance to send many a letter home to your parents and eight younger sisters and brothers. Your family knows where you are, and what you've been doing. They've written faithfully in reply, addressing their letters to “R. L. Wakeman.”But no one in the Army is reading your mail, telling you what you can say or can't say about the 153rd or anything else. So while nobody in the barracks has known you as anything other than Private Lyons Wakeman, you've signed your letters home with “Rosetta Wakeman,” “Sarah Rosetta,” “Miss Rosetta,” “Affectionate Sister,” “Affectionate Daughter” . . .In those letters, you haven't pretended to be anything you're not. You haven't pretended to be a man. You haven'tpretendedto be a soldier—youarea soldier. And you haven't pretended to be someone who can live at home with them again after the war ends, if you live to see it.There's been no need for your letters home to rehash all those old tensions.Youknow what they were about, andtheyknow it too. All that matters is that you know you had to leave. You don't ever intend to go back to stay, no more than you could have stuck around in the first place. A farm of your own on the Wisconsin prairie sounds good. That can be your prize for getting neither found out nor killed.You might just get there with the help of these Army wages—they're yours, and you get to decide what to do with them. You've sent some home and told your folks how to divvy it up, what to spend it on. It's one thing for you to extend your hand to give all you can spare, quite another for your family to stick out theirs, expecting to take. “Don't you ever ask me to lend you some money again in this world,” you snapped last October. “If you do I won't send it to you.”There's a nervous excitement rippling through the regiment as you wait for the command to get going, and it's not just shivers from the twelve-degree air. Today is not like last April—back then, you were all ready to march, loaded up with three days' rations, but nothing happened. You were all still fairly green, anyhow. Today, though—today is serious.You feel like you're in good hands with the colonel up there—Colonel Edwin P. Davis. Colonel Davis saw action in the Battle of the Seven Days, right before you joined up. And even if he's not exactly been in a rush to get the rest of you a taste of battle, you can't help but look up to him—so much that you wish you'd thought of “Edwin” before you started going by “Lyons.”Army food and Army drills have made you fat as a hog and tough as a bear. You've got the company and battalion drills down pat—regular speed or doublequick, it doesn't matter. In Alexandria, it was guard one day and drill the next—loading and firing blank cartridges over the shoulders of the men in front of you, as the soldiers in the row behind did the same. When the draft heated up last summer and it looked like there might be riots, the 153rd got moved to Washington, D.C.Here on Capitol Hill, the 153rd has guarded Carroll Prison, the B&O railroad depot, and City Hall, plus the camp itself. You've seen Negroes get drafted just like white—that's a big change, even just since you joined up.Some of the others get all het up over the reasons for fighting this war, but you haven't had much to say about it. All the same, you've been hoping to see some real action—at least, that's what you've told your parents, and isn't that the manly thing to say?The longer the war lasts, the longer you get to enjoy living this way. Too often, though, there's been nothing to do—not what some expect from life in a wartime army, but it's true. And when there's nothing to do, the more time folks have to stick their noses into somebody else's affairs—and the greater the risk that someone will stumble onto your secret and try to send you home.It would be at their peril, you believe. “I can take care of my Self and I know my business,” you wrote your folks. “I will Dress as I am a mind to . . . and if they don't let me Alone they will be sorry for it.”That brings to mind something you haven't written to your family about, something that's none of their concern nor anybody else's: how you've managed to keep secret that you're a woman. In such close quarters as those enjoyed by members of the Union Army, it can be a bit challenging to find the privacy you need day to day and month to month, but not so much as folks might think. The doctor's examination you got when you joined up was hardly worthy of the name, and not even your bout with the measles a year ago brought you much attention.It's something of an odd position you're in. In a way, Rosetta, you can be yourself in the Army, even if that self wears britches and goes by the name of Private Wakeman. You fit in: You can bluster and grumble as well as the rest of them—about those Copperhead Democrats trying to quit the war before you've won it, and about officer pay, and how good you are with an Enfield rifle, and of course about the long odds those rebels would face should they choose to tangle with you. You use up your share of tobacco too.But the soldiers who see you every day, you can't let them trulyknowyou, not even a little. And the people who know you—your family—they can't see you, other than in the black-and-white likeness you sent home, with you in your Army coat and cap, standing as stiff as the rifle in your right arm and looking straight ahead. “Do you think I look better than I did when I was to home?” you asked in the letter you sent along with it. Just how did you expect them to answer?Here's a question for you, though: Who are you going to be when this war is over, and if you're around to see that day, God willing? You're earning a man's wage now, and you expect to earn a man's wage when you get out—for your family's debts, and for yourself. It's hard to see yourself ever getting to have that independent life if you don't stick it out now, if you don't put up with the risk that there might be a rebel's bullet or cannonball out there with your name on it.If there is one, you won't be seeing it soon. Assuming you don't freeze to death while waiting, you'll set out any moment now, but you're not about to march right into battle. For now, you're just heading a few miles down the road. All you've heard is that you're getting on the boat in Alexandria, getting off in New Orleans, and heading toward Texas.A little bit ago, you took pen in hand to tell your family as much. When that was done, what else was there to say? “I bid you all good-by,” you wrote. “Don't never expect to see you again.”And below that, you signed, “Edwin R. Wakeman.”Forward, march.WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?SARAH ROSETTA WAKEMANmarched with the 153rd from Franklin, Louisiana, and battled Confederate troops at Pleasant Hill and Monett's Bluff during the Red River Campaign of spring 1864. “I was under fire about four hours and laid on the field of battle all night,” she wrote after her first engagement. Like many in her unit, Wakeman soon developed acute diarrhea. As it did to tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides, the ailment killed her: She died in a New Orleans hospital on June 19. Of the hundreds of women who posed as men in order to fight in the Civil War, Wakeman is the only one whose letters home are known to have survived.
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HITLER YOUTH?SOLOMON PERELLATE JUNE 1941NEAR MINSK, BELARUSYour name is Solomon Perel. You're a short, skinny, sixteen-year-old Jew, and you've just been captured by the Nazis. It's all you can do not to piss yourself.They've nabbed you and a bunch of other refugees, just a few days into Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union. Now they've lined you all up in a field as they decide what to do with each of you.Most of you are Jewish—that's why you were on the run in the first place—so the Nazis don't have to think too hard about it. They take groups of refugees ahead of you off into the woods. From the forest come the sounds of shovels and machine guns, shovels and machine guns.Your wait stretches into hours. That's plenty of time to consider the papers in your pocket, the ones identifying you not only as a Jew but also as a Communist—a Nazi target twice over.If you run, you'll be killed for sure. And so, hoping no one will notice amid the smoke and bombs and hum of German planes, you gouge a hole in the earth with the heel of your shoe. You drop those incriminating papers into the hole and sweep the dirt on top of them. The Germans are sticklers for proper documentation, but now you have none. It's almost as if you have no identity at all.Your turn. A soldier orders you to put your trembling hands above your head. He frisks you and asks: “Are you a Jew?”Calmly, somehow, you reply: “I'm not a Jew.”You tell him that you're aVolksdeutscher—a person with German ancestors but not German citizenship. You're not the first in line to lie. If this soldier doubts you—like he did the others—he'll pull down your pants, see that you've been circumcised, and send you off to the forest.But he doesn't. God knows why, but he believes you.“Sir,” he proudly tells his sergeant, “we found a young German among this human garbage.” What a discovery!How lucky for him.1941–1942ON THE EASTERN FRONTAn anti-tank unit of the 12th Panzer Division takes you in. They give you a meal and a too-big uniform. In return you give them a made-up name: “Josef Perjell.”You give them a story to match: You're Lithuanian, and you've been an orphan your whole life. Your papers were destroyed in a German bombing. And that's that.Here's your real story:Your parents, brothers, and sister are Polish, but you—the youngest—were born and raised in the German town of Peine. You grew up hearing Adolf Hitler call your people bloodsuckers and parasites. His Stormtroopers wrote “Don't buy from Jews!” on the windows of your father's shoe store. Swastikas appeared everywhere. The Nazis kicked you out of school when you were ten. Your family went back to Poland.Three years later, the German army invaded. You watched soldiers beat Jews in the streets of Lodz. Every week, the occupiers clamped down harder, and the Führer's bluster about extermination and annihilation couldn't just be waved away. “Youmuststay alive,” your mother pleaded, and your parents sent you farther east, into Belarus. On that rugged December journey, you wore your Bar Mitzvah suit. For a year and a half, you lived in an orphanage. You learned Russian and joined the Communist Party.Now you're hiding among the army you fled, translating the interrogations of Russian prisoners. Your sympathies are with the Russians, of course, but you can't let those feelings show. You learn to think one thing but say another. You have a role to play, and your life depends on playing it flawlessly.To the soldiers in your unit, you're sort of a cross between a little brother, a mascot, and a good luck charm. They watch over you so closely that there's no way you can escape.One officer, Heinz, watches you more closely than the others. One night, you're bathing in an abandoned house, and you think you're alone—until Heinz sneaks up from behind and grabs you. Slipping free from his clinch, you turn to face him. He looks down, and hesees.Thwarted, embarrassed, and now very, very puzzled, he says nothing for several moments. Finally, he asks, “Are you Jewish?”The answer is obvious, and you have never felt so vulnerable. “Don't kill me!” you beg.Will he turn you in? What price will you pay for his silence? Or, seeing as the Third Reich cares no more for homosexuals than it does for Jews, will you each hold the other in check—your knowledge of his secret vs. his knowledge of yours?“Don't cry,” he says. “You know, thereisanother Germany.”Heinz keeps your secret, no strings attached. You come to understand that German soldiers aren't necessarily actualNazis. Some aren't fighting because they share Hitler's hatred, they're fighting because they were told to fight. A few are pretty cynical about the war. You still fear them—never for a moment are you lulled into thinking you'd be safe among them as Solomon instead of Josef—but you can't help but like them. They're your card-playing, beer-drinking buddies—genuine pals. And when Heinz gets hit during a Russian attack, you crawl out from under the tank where he had pulled you to safety just moments before. You hold him as he bleeds to death.Not long after, the powers that be decide you're too young to be on the front lines of the war. No person your age should be subjected to such a horrible thing. You're ordered back to Germany.1942–1944BRUNSWICK, GERMANYThey send “Josef Perjell” to a boarding school for the Hitler Youth. They want to mold their splendidVolksdeutscherfind from the Eastern Front into a grade-A Nazi. Back with your unit, you were among a bunch of guys who were just doing their jobs. Here, you're surrounded by Nazi true believers armed with daggers inscribed “Blood and Honor.” And you're supposed to feel safer?It gets worse. The school is in Brunswick, not even twenty miles from your hometown of Peine. What if someone recognizes you as that little Jewish boy who left seven years ago?That's not the only thing you're afraid of. What if you talk in your sleep, speaking Yiddish or saying something else revealing? Each morning, the first thing you do is check your roommate's expression for signs that you've betrayed yourself in the night. There's also your circumcision. You wear your underwear in the shower, but you worry that your schoolmates will suspect you of something more than mere modesty.You hide your fears behind stiff-armed Nazi salutes and greetings of “Heil Hitler!” You've been disqualified from potential membership in the Führer's all-powerful S.S.—at five two, you're too short, and you have black hair instead of Aryan blond. But in your swastika-adorned uniform, you look like your fellow students, and you act like they do. They think they're invincible, destined to rule the world, and their confidence is intoxicating. You can't help but feel it too.At the same time, you ache for your family. You long to simply be around other Jews. For all you know, you're the only one left in Germany. And beyond Germany—who knows? You've read of a plan to send all of Europe's Jews to the African island of Madagascar.It's impossible for you to see such a scheme or anything else—any idea, any person, any situation—just one way. There's the point of view you have to have, no matter how much you despise it, so that you'll act the way a Hitler Youth is supposed to act. And then there's the way you really feel: tormented. Torn. Enveloped in layers of hatred: of Solomon for being Jewish, of Josef Perjell for hating Solomon, and of Solomon Perel for being Josef.You ping-pong between being alarmingly cocky that your deception will last and swimming in anxiety that you'll be found out. Your schoolmates' dinnertime sing-alongs don't help: “We'll be even better off once Jewish blood spurts from our knives,” goes one song. For your studies, you read and reread Hitler's rants against Jews. In the classroom you force a smile as you recite the themes.The teacher in your class on racial theory, Borgdorf, rattles off stereotypical physical traits of Jews. You grow certain that you resemble this one, and that one, and another one too, and that it's only a matter of time before everyone notices.One day, Borgdorf calls you to the front of the room.You tremble as you walk up the aisle.“Class, take a look at Josef,” he says.Oh, God.But then:“He is a typical descendant of the Eastern Baltic race.”In other words, an Aryan, like the rest of them.Fools.Near the school, there's a pastry shop with a sign on the door reading “No dogs or Jews allowed”—as if there were any Jews left in Brunswick. You go inside every time you pass by. This little bit of defiance helps relieve a little bit of the pressure you feel building up inside you.There's nobody you can tell the truth to—nobody you feel you can trust. Not even Leni, the local girl you've begun dating. She's in the BDM—Hitler Youth for girls. Members of both groups are encouraged to report their parents for opposing the Nazis. There's no reason to think she'd protect you.When you go to see Leni one day, she's not at home, but her mother invites you in. There's something on her mind.After a long silence, Mrs. Latsch asks, “Are you really German?”Caught off guard, you tell the truth. “Please don't report me,” you whisper.You lucked out. Little things about Josef Perjell's life's story just didn't add up for Mrs. Latsch, but you picked the right person to be careless with. She kisses you on the forehead and tells you that your secret is safe—but she makes you swear not to tell Leni. She doesn't trust her daughter any more than you do.DECEMBER 1943LODZ, POLANDYou hear your classmates making plans to go home to their families for the holidays, and you decide you should be able to do the same. You'll need the school to provide a travel permit, train tickets, food ration cards, and some cash.“I would like to go on vacation,” you tell the administrators.“Oh, and where would you like to go?” one of them asks in surprise, knowing that you're an orphan.“To Lodz,” you say. “I want to settle some affairs.”What you want is to find your parents and to . . . what? What is your plan, exactly? When you get to the walled ghetto your parents wrote to you about when you were in the orphanage, what will you do? What will you do if you find your parents? And what if you don't? What then?Your first morning in Lodz, you climb onto a streetcar marked “For Germans Only.” Your black uniform shows that you are a Hitler Youth—who could question you? You travel past streets that the Nazis have renamed since you left, and so you almost miss the stop that you once knew as Freedom Square.You walk past a heap of rubble—torn-down houses, the better to isolate the ghetto from the rest of the city. You scale one of those piles of debris and look down, beyond the barbed wire, into the ghetto. For the first time in years, you see other Jews.They're gray-skinned, shabbily dressed, and wasting away in an urban prison. This is what your disguise has shielded you from. This is what your parents have endured—if they have survived at all.You approach the gate, only to be stopped by aVolksdeutscherguard. “You must have lost your way,” he tells you, careful not to offend a Hitler Youth and real German. “Only Jews live here. You are not allowed here.” Diseases, you know.The only way into the ghetto is through it, on a nonstop streetcar locked up tight to keep any Jews from climbing on board to escape. You get on, standing behind the driver. No other passengers seem to notice the dreadful scene outside the windows, but you can't look away.And there it is—the apartment house at 18 Franciszkan'ska, the address where you sent your letters years ago. You stare at the decrepit dwelling as if the power of your own yearning could draw Mama and Papa outside to watch the passing streetcar. But there is no sign of them. Wherearethey? In silence, you pass through to the other side of the ghetto.During your days in Lodz, you take the streetcar back and forth, back and forth, as often as you think you can get away with without raising suspicions. But you never see your parents—not at the apartment house, not on the footbridges you pass beneath, not among the weary souls trudging along with bundles of scrap wood. Why don't you try to slip into the ghetto on foot and try to find them? Because you don't need to sneak inside in order to hear Mama's words: “Youmuststay alive.”APRIL 1945ON THE WESTERN FRONTLast October, British bombers did their best to destroy Brunswick. With the Allies closing in, you were sent to the front and taught how to use an anti-tank rocket launcher. Your commanders thought you'd use it to defend the Fatherland. You knew you'd do no such thing. In your hands, that weapon was just a prop for a part you'd play while waiting for the good guys to arrive.They come into your camp in the earliest hours of your twentieth birthday, on April 21. You're awoken with a whack from a rifle butt. “Up against the wall, Nazis!” the Americans bellow. If these guys are your liberators, they sure don't know it. And for some reason, you can't bring yourself to tell them.They take your weapons, confiscate your camera, and strip you of all your Nazi badges and emblems. And then, into a land turned upside down, they set your unit free. But freedom for you is not a gate, a quick passage from one state to another. Rather, it's a long tunnel. You need time for your eyes to adjust to the light. It finally happens when you see a man in a prisoner's uniform, shaven-headed and starving and with the word “Jew” on his shirt.
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A Jew, free, in Germany. At last.“Excuse me, sir,” you begin. “Are you really Jewish?” You ask this while still dressed in your Hitler Youth uniform. The man does not reply. To be called “sir” by a Hitler Youth must seem as unreal to him as his very presence does to you. He cannot imagine what will happen next.You wrap your arms around this stranger. You hug him. “I'm a Jew too,” you whisper. “My name is Solomon Perel.”WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?SOLOMON PEREL'Sbrothers also survived the war, but their sister and parents did not. Perel moved to Israel in 1948 and later opened a zipper factory. After undergoing heart surgery when he was in his fifties, he began writing down his story of wartime survival. His book,Europa, Europa, was published in 1990, and it began a second career for him as a lecturer about the toll of his experiences as Josef Perjell. “I still hate him,” he said of Josef Perjell fifty years later, “but I still love him. He saved my life.”CHEROKEE AUTHOR?FORREST CARTERFRIDAY, OCTOBER 4, 1991Well, Forrest, as authors of best-selling books for children go, you sure are extraordinary.For one thing, beforeThe Education of Little Treecame along, you were best known for writing a novel that became a violent Clint Eastwood Western.For another, you've been dead twelve years.Of course, there's something else too—but we'll get to that in a minute.Today,Little Treeis number one on the best seller list for paperback nonfiction. Your Depression-era tale of life with your Cherokee grandparents in the Tennessee hills—“A True Story,” says the cover—has become a book that people love to tell other readers about, like they're letting them in on a secret.Maybe they're reacting to your neat trick of telling your story from a five-year-old's perspective—matter-of-fact, sweetly naive, yet somehow wise beyond his years. It makes the heartbreaking parts all the more tender and the funny parts all the more laugh-out-loud.And thoughThe Education of Little Treeis occasionally risqué—what with all the talk of moonshine and fornication—teachers in middle schools and high schools have taken to sharing your book with their students. They say it's one that these kids really need to read.That audience may not be one that you had in mind when you wrote the book. But honestly, who could have predicted any of this?As an author, you seemed to come from out of nowhere around 1973, a middle-aged cowboy drifter with no yarn-spinning past other than the stretch you said you'd to have spent as Storyteller in Council to the Cherokee Nations. You were peddling a self-published novel about Josey Wales, a pro-Confederate guerrilla after the Civil War. That's not the sort of thing that big New York City publishers were knocking each other over to get their hands on, but your tale of Wales's quest for a new life and identity caught the eye of one. And your exotic background and entertainingly rough-around-the-edges personality surely helped seal the deal.They made the rare decision to republish that shoot'em-up page-turner themselves, andThe Rebel Outlaw: Josey Walesgot made into that Clint Eastwood movie in '76. Along the way, you found your cowboy-hatted, newly mustachioed self on TV in front of millions of viewers one morning, talking with Barbara Walters on theTodayshow.You kept working, turning out another Josey Wales book, and one about Geronimo, andThe Education of Little Tree. You also generated your share of commotion, especially when you had too much to drink and let loose with eyebrow-raising comments about blacks and Jews.Eventually, you got drunk and out of hand one time too many, and a fistfight left you dead. Just half a dozen years after becoming an author, it was all over for you. And as so often happens in publishing,The Education of Little Treefaded away too. The publisher figured that pretty much everyone who was ever going to read your story had already bought a copy, so they stopped printing new ones.But then something else happened that almost never does:Little Tree's editor found a new publisher for it—in New Mexico, of all places. The book came back into print, and you, in a sense, came back from the dead. It was only the beginning of an incredible new story—a story about a story.Readers who discoveredThe Education of Little Treeon its second time around couldn't stop talking about it. However many copies ofLittle Treewere sold one year, twice as many were sold the year after that. Booksellers, especially, loved to connect customers with this beautiful little book—so spiritual, and funny—about a Native American boy and his grandparents. Many readers saw an environmental message as the young Cherokee learns of “The Way” and “Mon-o-lah, the Earth mother” from his nature-loving Granma and Granpa. What a wonderful multicultural book to share with students.Little Treekept striking a chord with readers who wouldn't know a Cherokee from a Cheyenne. Sales doubled again and again, which led to newspaper and magazine articles about the phenomenon. It all just added to the warm feeling folks got from the book itself. Those articles led to more sales, which led to more publicity, which led to . . .This.This article, right here, in today'sNew York Times. “The Education of Little Tree,” it says, “is a hoax.” It also says that—well, you don't need to be told what all it says, because it's your life it's talking about. Your actual life, Ace.But for all those readers who never heard of Asa Earl Carter, the article fills them in. On his—your—decades-long career as a fiery Alabama racist. On your membership in the Ku Klux Klan. On your talent for whipping bigots into a frenzy, and for taking matters into your own vicious hands on occasion.Of course, the article brings up the most famous words you ever wrote—as a speechwriter for Alabama governor George Wallace. Better known than any you ever put in the mouths of Josey Wales or Little Tree, they were proclaimed by the governor on the statehouse steps in 1963: “Segregation now . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever!”Those words were a signal to the world that men like you weren't about to let the non-white, non-Christian people of the South get on an equal footing. An unrepentant decade later, you disappeared without comment on those sentiments—with neither affirmation nor apology. But anyone looking for clues to your frame of mind could be excused for seeing one in the new name you adopted: Forrest, after Confederate general and Klansman Nathan Bedford Forrest.In the character of Josey Wales, you showed a certain flair for romanticizing the lost cause of the Confederacy while depicting the North's endless persecution of Southerners. If that was simply the point of view of a literary character, well, he didn't represent much of an artistic stretch for you.Little Tree, though—Little Tree was something different. You may have stuffedThe Education of Little Treewith generous amounts of hooey—really: “Mon-o-lah”? —and the federal government didn't come off any better than it did inRebel Outlaw. But at the heart ofThe Education of Little Treeyou placed a vivid, sympathetic character far removed from your legacy as Ace Carter. That little-boy version of your “Forrest Carter” creation made it clear that you had grown as a writer.Had you grown as a person, though? That's the question confronting newspaper readers today. But it's not the first time that question's been asked, now is it? And it's not the first time it will go unanswered.When an Alabama newspaperman connected your pen name with your true identity fifteen years ago—right after the Josey Wales movie came out—it was mildly denied but otherwise met with silence. Readers forgot about it, or ignored it, or never noticed it in the first place. WithThe Education of Little Treea best seller, that's not likely to happen again.But if there's one thing that experience taught you about readers in particular and the public in general, it's this: Just because they've been shown the truth doesn't mean they'll stop buying your story.WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?IN THE WEEKSafterThe New York Timesrevealed Forrest Carter's true identity, Carter's widow acknowledged that her husband and Ace Carter were the same man. Though the publisher removed “A True Story” from the book's cover and reclassified it as fiction,The Education of Little Treeremained a best seller, retained many supporters, and was made into a movie. In 2007, the debate over whether the author's background diminishes the book was revived when the title was found on—and removed from—a list of recommended reading on the website of TV host Oprah Winfrey. It has sold more than 1.5 million copies.KIDNAPPED PRINCESS?PRINCESS CARABOOSUNDAY, JUNE 8, 1817BATH, ENGLANDYou are a fibber. A confabulator. Mary Baker, you're a liar. You make up stories about yourself as easily as other people make their beds. And you're rarely without an audience eager to be fooled.You certainly were in your element last night—the Saturday crowd at the Pack Horse Inn was made for stringing along. Running off from Bristol had made you thirsty, but not so thirsty that you broke character. As the exotic Princess Caraboo, you drew a picture of a tree. Eventually someone figured out that it was supposed to be a tea tree, and you received a cupful.This morning, you're back at it. You're having breakfast with the Pack Horse's landlady—who believes thatshe'shaving breakfast with a mysterious foreigner—when a gentleman walks into the room.Oh, no.Not him!It's Dr. Wilkinson. He knows everything about Princess Caraboo—and though that means, of course, that he actually knows nothing, your relief over being gone from Bristol disappears.How did he know you were here? Did you let down your guard last night? Did you slip up and stray too far from the persona you've perfected these past two months? Does he suspect anything?You begin to sob, covering your face with a handkerchief. But you pull yourself together and lower the handkerchief, and you discover that nothing between you and him seems to have changed. If Dr. Wilkinson has interpreted your tears as a sign of guilt—if he doubts that you are, indeed, Princess Caraboo from the island of Javasu—he doesn't let on.Still, you've got to get out of here.You go outside and begin making your way to the middle of Bath.Dr. Wilkinson has blown things all out of proportion. Thanks to him, what began for you as a lark—donning a turban and pretending not to speak English—has become news as far off as London and Edinburgh.But let's be fair. Yes, Dr. Wilkinson may have been unusually enchanted by the identity you've created. But many people have been intrigued by it, and you've certainly done nothing to discourage that.In fact, you've let them help invent that identity. Princess Caraboo is as much their creation as yours. She began so simply. You arrived in Almondsbury, just outside Bristol, on April 3—at loose ends, on foot, and practically empty-handed. You wore your black shawl on your head, a black dress, black stockings, and leather shoes—nothing exotic.But no matter how many languages the local folks tried, you seemed not to understand them, and you addressed them in a tongue that none of them recognized. You'd had practice at that—you and your little sister used to lie in bed for hours jabbering back and forth in a lingo no one else could comprehend.
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Late in the evening, Elizabeth Worrall, the wife of the town clerk, arranged for you to have a private room and a meal at a local inn. On a wall there you saw a picture of a pineapple, and you indicated that it grew in your homeland. The innkeeper made you some tea, and before you drank it you covered your eyes and uttered something that sounded like a prayer. When the cup was refilled, you refused to drink from it until you had washed the cup yourself and repeated the prayer ritual.They were captivated. You were just getting started.Hoping to divine your origins, the next morning the vicar brought books with geographic prints and engravings. You couldn't read English—or so he believed—but he thought you might see something you recognized. For you, this was on-the-spot research into the role you were playing. You pointed out prints of China, indicating that you had been brought from there on a ship.Mrs. Worrall took you home with her. Whatever language she thought you might be speaking, she was determined to break through to you. She wrote her own name, spoke it, repeated it, and handed you her pen. You shook your head and pointed at yourself. “Caraboo,” you said. “Caraboo.”“Caraboo?” Well, why not?Mrs. Worrall took you on a tour of the house, and when you saw Chinese figures on the furniture, you reacted as if they were familiar to you. You began piling quirk on top of quirk. At dinner, you appeared disgusted by the notion of eating meat, and you refused all beverages other than water. Never mind the rum and steak you'd shared just two days earlier with that dull young fellow you'd met while traveling (and gladly ditched soon after).You attracted plenty of visitors who tried to figure out who you were and where you came from—but who evidently gave no thought to what a person from Asia might actually look like. One of them pretended to understand your language—a mixture of dialects from the Sumatran coast and nearby islands, he explained. Through that “understanding,” he came away with the story that you were an important person on your island home, one who had been kidnapped and then somehow became free in England.Sumatra? A person of importance? Kidnapped? A houseguest that intriguing could expect to stay on the Worrall estate for a while.And so you did—and what a show you put on! You would kneel by the pond, pray in the bushes, wear flowers and feathers in your hair, and beat a gong and tambourine in the garden. You climbed trees, swam naked, shot arrows while running about, and rowed Mrs. Worrall around the pond.Mrs. Worrall's friends, enchanted, came with objects for you to examine and secondhand stories of Asia to share with each other. Before them, you mugged, danced, gesticulated—andpaid attention. Once they accepted that you could not speak English, they would say anything in front of you, all the time feeding you the material you needed to further your masquerade.That dagger, for example. One dedicated visitor brought an Asian dagger, explaining to the other visitors how the natives used poison on the tip. Soon after, you just happened to demonstrate, rubbing juice from the leaves of a houseplant onto the blade, poking yourself with the tip, and then pretending to faint from the toxins.And all those books—what would you have done without them? Those the vicar had brought were just the beginning. No one suspected that you could actually make sense of the words while you perused the pictures.One guest brought a big book about Java, and your response was clear. This, you wanted them to understand, was your home.When another book included examples of Sumatran dialects, you seized on them—these, you wanted them to know, formed the tongue you spoke. And with a little inspiration from a volume depicting written languages from around the globe—Arabic and Persic, Sanskrit and Greek, Chinese and Malay—you produced spirals and loops and diamonds and dots from your own language.You took apart the information provided by those visitors, and then you put it back together in a way different enough and sufficiently exotic for your listeners to accept as the way things were in your homeland.What's more, you were consistent. “Lazor” always meant “ladies,” “manjintoo” always meant “gentlemen,” “rampue” always meant “pigeon,” and so forth. You always greeted visitors with the palm of your hand placed against your temple—on the left for women, on the right for men. And after you got such a reaction with a morning escapade to the rooftop—where you chanted to “Alla Tallah,” the name for God that you spotted on page 316 ofPantographia—you made sure you returned to the roof each Tuesday.Above all, you flattered those who came to gawk at you. Or, rather, you gave them the opportunity to flatter themselves by showing how much they knew (or imagined they did) about exotic topics and showing how cultured the titles on their bookshelves were. They may have been making fools of themselves, but they surefeltsmarter. At last, this Sunday morning in Bath, you have arrived at the Circus, this great circular plaza in the middle of town. For now, you're alone, but can Dr. Wilkinson be far behind? As you stroll about, never far from your mind is the story you concocted with the unwitting collaboration of the Worralls' bluestocking guests—the story of how Princess Caraboo got to England in the first place.It involved not only a kidnapping but also deadly hand-to-hand combat. And two sets of pirates. And surgery performed on the back of your neck before you finally jumped overboard and swam onto the shores of England.You do have a scar at the base of your skull. And in fact, you did obtain that scar in the midst of an ordeal. It's just that your actual ordeal did not resemble in the slightest the one that you shared with the folks in Almondsbury. You were born Mary Ann Willcocks twenty-six years ago in Witheridge, Devonshire. A cobbler's daughter, you were poor, and poorly educated. After a falling-out with your family, you left home without a penny or a change of clothes.Eventually, as you neared London, begging along the way and sleeping in haylofts when you had to, you got sick and were admitted to a hospital. You were there for months, feverish and delirious. To try to set you right, they made an incision on the back of your neck, covering it with a warm cup to draw out your bad blood.When they released you, you stayed in London, working for the Matthews family and caring for their children. Mrs. Matthews and her daughter gave you informal lessons in writing and reading. You also gained some attention from the Matthewses by making the extraordinary claim—inspired by the fasting of the Jewish man next door?—that you sometimes went several days without eating.For six months after that, you lived at the Magdalen Hospital, a home for repentant prostitutes. You made up a background for yourself in order to get in, starting with the claim that you were an orphan whose father died when you were a newborn.A year later, in a London bookstore, you met a man called Baker. But after traveling around together for a few months—long enough for you to get pregnant—he gave you the slip. You told different people different made-up stories about who the father was.While pregnant, you worked at the Crab Tree pub. During your six months there, you called yourself Hannah, said your husband was dead, and told stories so outrageous that they delighted many a soul but fooled none of them. You gave birth to a son last year and left him at the foundling hospital—though you lived nearby and visited your baby each Monday.You became a servant for the Starling family—alternately entertaining and scaring the daylights out of their children with your stories—near the end of October. Right around that time, your son died. The next month, the Starlings dismissed you for setting fire to two beds in one week.It was five months later that Princess Caraboo appeared in Bristol. You had picked back up on your old pastime of begging, and doing so in a made-up tongue. You also found a begging partner—your roommate at a boarding house—and together you came up with the idea to make yourself more intriguing by wearing your black shawl as a turban.Combined with your lingo, it did the trick, and you decided to try your luck alone in the countryside around Bristol. You could don and shed your exotic-foreigner persona at will—but that was about to change. You were about to take up that role around the clock before an endless audience of visitor after visitor.Among them has been Dr. Wilkinson. He examined your scar and confirmed that it certainly had not been made by any Englishman or European. In the first days of June, his accounts of his meeting with you began to be published in newspapers all over England, complete with a gushing and detailed description of you:. . . a sweet smile; her mouth rather large; her teeth beautifully white and regular; her lips a little prominent and full, under lip rather projecting; her chin small and round . . . She appears to be about 25 years of age; her manners are extremely graceful, her countenance surprisingly fascinating . . .You were flattered, of course. But it's one thing to fool a family or a single community, and quite another to be put on stage before an entire nation. With that mounting, suffocating pressure, is it any wonder that you bolted to Bath? You left behind all the trinkets and objects you'd been given to examine, no matter their worth. You covered the two dozen miles by foot and by cart, and here you are.And there he is. Dr. Wilkinson has caught up with you here at the Circus. Like a persistent hound—a puppy, really—he's following you as you stroll around the railed garden in the middle.Well, he's not followingyou—he's following Princess Caraboo.MONDAY, JUNE 9, 1817ALMONDSBURY, ENGLANDIt's the next morning, and you're back at the Worralls'.After Dr. Wilkinson accompanied you back to the gathering crowd at the Pack Horse, two women suggested to him that their home would offer you more privacy. Your new hosts had you carried there in a sedan chair. When Mrs. Worrall caught up with you—Dr. Wilkinson must have sent word to her—you were entertaining a more reasonably sized crowd in their drawing room.As you wordlessly discoursed in all things Caraboo, these people knelt before you, wanted to touch you, drove you dangerously close to a fit of laughter that would have given yourself away. At the sight of Mrs. Worrall, however, you were the one falling to your knees, begging forgiveness for running away.She forgave you. You managed to keep up the charade for another day. But as your fame spreads, in person and through the newspapers, how much longer can it be before someone pieces “Princess Caraboo” together with the person you were before the day you wandered into Almondsbury? For all the kindness she has shown, doesn't Mrs. Worrall deserve to be the first to know the truth?You approach Mrs. Worrall's dressing room. She invites you in, and you lock the door behind you. And you tell her...Nothing.You just can't.Not while you still have a choice.WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?MARY BAKER HADonly one more day as “Princess Caraboo” before testimony from her former Bristol landlady and the dull young man she'd traveled with exposed her as a fraud. She cooperated—mostly—with an investigation by rightfully skeptical journalist John Matthew Gutch, who published a full account of her life that August. By then she'd left for a short-lived, unsuccessful bid for American fame. Back in England, she made her living selling leeches to hospitals until she died in 1864.SLAVE OWNER?ELLEN CRAFTFRIDAY, DECEMBER 22, 1848CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINAAt twenty-two, you cannot read or write.A week ago in Macon, Georgia, before this plan came into the heads of you and your husband and consumed you like fever, that did not matter. Of course you couldn't read or write, Ellen—no matter how lightskinned, you were a slave. Anyone who taught you to put pen to paper or make out the words on a page would have been breaking the law. Ellen Craft could not read or write, and that was that. The same went for your William.But here near the wharf in Charleston, your illiteracy is another matter entirely. What is expected of you could not be more different than it was a week ago. In the eyes of those around you, you are not a seamstress or a slave. You are not even a Negro, not even a woman at all.You are “Mr. Johnson”—a Southern gentleman. Which is to say, awhiteSouthern gentleman. And a white Southern gentleman who cannot read or write would stick out like a field slave who cannot find the opening of a cotton sack.Needless to say, you and your accompanying “slave”—William—do not wish to stick out. At least, not in that way. That's why the plan the two of you cooked up includes a thorough disguise. Along with your trousers, top hat, green spectacles, and handkerchief tied beneath your apparently aching jaw, you're sporting a sling for your poor, rheumatic writing arm.
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