The Family Fortune

The Clarke family was nearing a dream they had been working towards for a number of years. The parents of nine children, both Clarke and his wife had laboured, saved, and lost countless hours of sleep for the better part of a decade in order to see it through.

They had carefully put aside every possible penny, invested in the safest returns, and sacrificed some of the families’ simplest pleasures, all in the name of this dream.

They called it the “Family Fortune” — a moniker which represented not only the savings itself, but the ultimate outcome of it: taking one of the finest new liners across to ocean to start a fresh life in the land of opportunity: America.  

Now it was finally here. They were days away from the journey itself and everyone was so nervous and excited they could barely sleep. The kids were especially agitant, getting into all manner of mischief, making the task of preparation that much harder for Clarke and his wife. 

In fact, the very day before the ship was set to sail, the youngest boy, Jon, was bitten by a dog after loitering in an area his father had specifically forbidden him from. The wound was severe, and the experience traumatic for the entire family.

And, while the doctor was ultimately able to suture it, assuring all of them that Jon would be fine, he was nonetheless forced to hang a yellow sheet on the family’s front door; because of the possibility of rabies, they were being quarantined for fourteen days.

So just like that, their dreams were shattered. Everything they had been working towards for so long — the ultimate point to all of their lives for nearly ten years — was blown apart. They couldn’t make the trip and they couldn’t recoup their money.

Worse than that, the doctor’s bill was so exorbitant that it actually put them back into debt! In less than 24 hours, the sky had fallen in on all of them, and there was no greater nightmare Clarke could imagine.

He went straight to the bottle. If the boy hadn’t already been so traumatized by the dog bite, Clarke felt he might’ve done it himself. Over the next few days, he unleashed all of his intoxicated fury on the rest of the family– and it wasn’t just them; for the first time in his life he cursed the heavens, crying aloud at the sky and damning God himself — if the supposed ‘Great Creator’ even existed — calling him the most foul names imaginable, blaming him for everything.

There was no consolation to be had — no apologies, no reparations, nothing. The only thing that greeted Clarke in all of his madness was the terrified cowering of his family, and an ongoing stream of frustration. In one fell swoop, the “Family Fortune” had become the family’s greatest misfortune. 

Five days later, however, in the midst of his ongoing stupor, the paper arrived at their doorstep, carrying an unimaginable headline: the mighty Titanic had sunk. The ‘unsinkable ship’ had hit an iceberg and foundered fast, taking hundreds of lives with it. People everywhere were in shock and mourning, already citing the incident as one of the greatest tragedies in human history.

The paper fell from his trembling hands, and he looked to the heavens once more, tears welling in his eyes. 

“Family fortune” indeed.