Stories No. 16 – Pam Parker

Papa’s Handkerchief
by Pam Parker

A boy in tattered clothes bounded down the ladder from the deck, jabbering in a language that was only noise to Katya. Some piece of news moved from group to group, met with tired smiles. Finally, the words reached her chaperone who turned and related the news in her native Polish, “The captain has announced we reach Ellis Island tomorrow.” America at last. She sent a silent plea to God to let her cousin be in sight when they docked. She climbed to the deck to breathe fresh air, to make some peace with the ocean, to say a final na razie to the vast waters. A steel gray sky threatened rain. As she leaned on the railing, eyes scanning the choppy water, a sneeze tickled her nose. In haste, she pulled her papa’s precious handkerchief from her skirt belt. A greedy ill-timed gust grabbed it and carried it on waves of wind down to the churning sea. Gasping, she clung to the rail, not wanting to see, yet staring. The gray view swam before her tear-filled eyes. Mama’s handiwork with Papa’s initials hit the water. Half the handkerchief folded under, then spread out again. It floated for an instant, then faded from sight. She remained a statue on the ship’s deck, stunned at her foolishness. Raindrops fell and she tasted salt. Peering as far as she could into that gray unknown, she hoped to catch one more glimpse of that link to Papa, to home, knowing she wouldn’t. The ocean swallowed her handkerchief. She stood alone, unsure if she faced the old country or the new country.


Pam Parker’s work has appeared in The Potomac Review, The Macguffin, elimae and other print and electronic venues. Several of her stories, including this piece, are excerpted from her novel in progress. Links to some of her work can be found at

October 22, 2014
Photo by: Gessy Alvarez

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