If I lean my head back and tip it to da right…jus so…I can see a tiny speck o’ blue. It ain’t da blue of a robin’s egg, nor my workin’ pants. It da color of Miss Lila’s eyes.
I ain’t neva s’pose to be lookin’ at no white girl’s eyes, but she was lookin’ straight at me when I brung her a shade fer her head. I ain’t never seen eyes like Miss Lila’s—da prettiest blue dis side o’ heaven.
I shoulda looked ‘way quick, but I didn’t. Massa got mighty angry wid me an’ whooped me good. He was aimin’ to sell me down da river next chance he got. Dat was da las time I seen Miss Lila, but ain’t never gonna ferget her blue eyes.
When I heerd o’ some other slaves runnin’ north to freedom, I up and left Ol’ Massa and da whole plantation. I wished I coulda seen Miss Lila one mo’ time, but dey was leavin’ in da night. I had t’ go. I ain’t neva goin’ to be sold down da river!
I ain’t seen da blue sky since dat day. We traveled in da night from one place to da other. Sometimes there be people who let us sleep in da barn or da celler hole. We be mighty ‘bliged to’em. If dem slave hunters knowed dey was helpin’ us, dey would be in big trouble.
My stomach is hurtin’ mighty bad right now. I ain’t eaten since yeste’day mo’ning. My back is hurtin’ too on ‘a cause we have to be all tucked up in dis little hole. I knows we in some kinda boat. It keeps movin’ up an’ down and makin’ me feel like if I did eat some food, it ain’t stayin’ where it belong.
I lean my head back an’ keep lookin’ up at da blue. When I be a free man, I can look at da whole wide blue sky all day. I ain’t goin’ to be runnin’ from no one no more. I ain’t goin’ to be workin’ for Massa no more. I’m goin’ to be free.
It’s mighty hot in dis here hole—hard t’ breathe. There ain’t ‘nough room for all o’ us. One mama got a little pic’ninny. She best keep it from cryin’ or we all be beat good and sent down river. I ain’t goin’ to be catched. I don’ knows how t’ swim, but I aim t’get off this ‘ere boat if dat baby gets t’cryin’.
We’s been ridin’ a long time today. I can’t see da blue sky no more. It’s lookin’ grayer—not dark ‘nough yet to get out. Ever’body’s getting’ restless. Da baby is whimperin’ and da mama tries nursin’ it. Ever’body is scared. Ever’body is listenin’.
I look up to da hole an’ I don’ see no light t’all. It be almost time to get out. Then I hear something dat makes my heart stop. Dogs! Ever’body else is hearin’ dem too. We be prayin’ and cryin’, “Lord, ‘a mercy!” Da bayin’ and barkin’ of da dogs is getting’ closer. We hear da men shoutin’. We hear boots on top o’ us. Nobody moves, but we cryin’ inside, “Lord ‘a mercy!”
There be arguin’ and da dogs be barkin’ and snufflin’ around. I want to get out. I can’t move! There ain’t no place t’ go. I ain’t goin’ down da river. I ain’t goin’ back. I got to be getting’ out o’ here!
Da boards be lifted an’ da light be bright in our eyes. Ever’body is movin’ back in da shadows—but not me. I yell an’ run an’ push past da men an’ jump! I ain’t goin’ down da river. I ain’t goin’ back!
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