Life in a Storm

“Take that stick and shove it up your ass!” The Captain screamed. The spray from the foamy waves that were bettering the ship were no help: everyone’s mood was in the shitter. Gloomy and hungry the crew went back to their duties. The stormy weather had lasted for days at this point, and when Busan climbed to the Crow’s Nest to check the status of the clouds all he had to report were bleak grays and greens for miles in every direction. The clothing was wet, the food was wet, the beds were wet and the there was little comfort from any of it. Whenever Busan went below to sleep or rest the damp smell of vomit, mold and mildew hit his nostrils and sent a wave of nausea through his stomach. Busan was no wimp, and would never complain to the other crew-mates about the state of the ship, but he dreamed of being dry like the roughest, nastiest pirates would dream of found gold.

The “Bright Light” was bound for the Far East to trade with the merchants for tea and silk. Busan was heading home having been gone for almost three years. He often wondered about his mother and his family still waiting for him to return. He cursed himself for not writing to them more often, but given what travels the “Bright Light” had experienced, it was hard to write anything that didn’t get soaking wet. Busan also didn’t want his crew-mates to know he knew how to read and write. He had told precious few people. The Captain knew, and used Busan for those skills occasionally, but otherwise Busan preferred to work on deck. There were so many stories to be told and to listen to from the other sailors. Indeed, it was the only thing that was keeping moral up.

Busan looked at Skinny Jim’s shaking hands as he held what remained of the banister from the staircase leading up to the Captain’s Quarters. As Jim was climbing, a large wave hit the ship, causing him to rip the rotting wood right off the stairs. He held it up, dumbfounded, just as the Captain was emerging from his rooms. The glint in the Captain’s eye was nothing to laugh at and poor, skinny, sea-sick, Jim was no match for the wrath the Captain was capable of. The “Bright Light” was old. Captain had been sailing her for decades and it was said that his blood and sweat were the varnish on the deck. Any damage to the ship was almost seen as an offense to the Captain. Jim looked at the rotten banister guiltily and threw it overboard with a large heave. The activity of throwing the heavy, sodden wood made Jim sick again and he began to vomit anew.

Busan stayed clear of Skinny Jim. Some sailors were saying he was bad luck and Busan wanted none of that.

It was Busan’s job to coil the rope. He looked at the futile task that would become undone the minute he wound it and sighed. He imagined home again: the rolling green hills, the white fluffy clouds that would rain in the afternoons. He thought of the warm sun on the rice patties and the beautiful girls who would chuckle and laugh at the well when he walked by. He thought of what he must look like now: a wet rat? and if anyone would recognize him. He had hated London. It was grey and everything was dirty and covered in stone. The people there looked at him like he had three eyes just because he didn’t have blonde hair and he spoke with an accent. Busan was no idiot, he knew when he signed up to travel and leave his home on the coast that he’d have to learn english quickly, and that he’d have to go a step further and learn just a little bit more (like reading and writing) to give him an edge. He loved his travels to far off places and felt at home on the ocean, but maybe it was time to go and settle down, marry one of the girls in the village and become a fisherman, like his father.

Isn’t life down the road easy to plan when one is miserable in the present? He asked himself. Of course the Village seems ideal now. Of course the prospect of the simple life of a fisherman is attractive here in the middle of the wide and terrible ocean that is pounding away at our tiny ship! I haven’t put on a pair of dry pants in three weeks. He thought again. But, the stories the sailers tell! The adventures the “Bright Light” has been on! It all seems so dampened here in the thick of the hell that the Ship was in, but it was too much to want to leave, even after three years! Busan looked up at the clouds again, the rain was lightening up a bit. There’s blue sky on the other side of that grey, He thought. I’m not ready to leave this life yet. 

Skinny Jim was trying to get himself off of all fours and clean himself up a bit. Busan smiled at the sight. There’s always someone more miserable than me, at least. He grabbed the hemp rope and began to coil it, so what if it would unravel again?

April 25, 2013 at 8:00 pm by Natalie Allen