Book Hippo

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Tagged On A Blog

Well, I'm doing a blog tagging jag. I was tagged and now I'm to put up my work in progress for all to read. So here it is and if you want to leave a comment and tell me what you think go ahead. Hope you enjoy my excerpt.

On a night like this, with the wind a-jiggering the sails and carrying the rough words of sailors over to me, I can't stop tears pouring from my eyes and washing the decks as much as the sea. I be feared my thin bones will snap in the storm and the tossing will be a-pushing my shins through my knees. My name is Beggar Charlie and I be ten years old or thereabouts.

The Devil makes times like this so He can a-laugh when a small boy like me slides into the railings and falls among the sodden ropes a-tangling on the decks. I kick the debris around me and begin to scream. I just know that Satan is hoping to make a home for me among the fires of everlasting torture.

“God be with me.” I holler as loud as I can. “Bless those that be on the sea.”

Everywhere there be coarse men a-hanging onto something that will keep them from falling into the great ocean beyond the ship. When I finally manage to lift myself, I be awash with salt from the waters, and slip with each crest of a wave until I make the Captain's cabin, where I dry my spindly body and think to rest in the corner where Captain Butler lets me sleep.

I hunker by the wall, pretending that the storm be but a dream and I be a-cradled on my mother's bosom while she sings me to sleep. If she hadn't died I would still be with her and the thought of her can rescue me from the dreariest of thoughts and the most mortal depressions. Her face in my mind makes the year I had to beg melt away and makes the press-gangers seem as unreal as I hope my life could be. If she be still alive I wouldn't be here on this ship with all these hard-eyed and rope-burned men and all their bitter thoughts at being stuck on the sea when what they want is a pint of ale and with all their bewildering talk is of warm women.

Their shouts a-come to me, even through the wet wood of the cabin and I hear the masts a-creaking with the plundering winds trying to wrest them from the deck. My head bangs on wall when I try to settle down in the corner. I can only think of the glad soil of the earth and how I would rather be on it.

If those press-gangers hadn't stole me, if the Navy men hadn't laughed at my skinny, starved shape, I wouldn't be near the coast of China, in a tempest. Those Navy men sold me to this merchant ship. Captain Butler says to me, “I'm saving you, young lad. Those devils will throw you overboard in a second.” I believe him. It be my only happy thought, that instead of washing decks on a rotting war ship I be fetching things for this Captain who refuses to call me Beggar Charlie, only Master Charles. He says I'm mature, more than ten, he a-tells me and that I speak like a big man, not the child that I be.

I be trying to make the best cabin boy ever. Captain Butler says he be proud to be a father to such a sprout as I, so I work hard and keep my face turned whenever tears of sadness begin. He be the only one on board that I have any comfort with. All the other faces be turning into their own thoughts when I be around them.

I a-fear those sailors sometimes. They be rough men and even though I think they mean no harm, it's hard to stand one's ground with the schooner a-rolling and a-shivering in the waves and the knowledge that I be the youngest on the ship. The other day I passed two of those stone-skinned tars and one of them grabbed me. “You're the Captain's pet, are ye?” I could feel the ridges on his hands through my always-wet shirt.

“Yes Master-sailor.” I says. They laughed at that and tho it was a merry sound that came from them, I could not help but think of the sea down below me and how it goes so far down. If they find themselves the route to jealousy I could be thrown by secret into the waves below. There be no help for anyone alone in the middle of the ocean.

I comfort myself that if those hard men be really disliking me, they would throw me over when Captain Butler be busy at the helm. In truth, I begin to like these men sometimes though the granite veins of blood be a-pumping devilish tricks and games into their minds.

But I can't keep my head from falling onto my chest. I be tired. I work always as the days fly away behind me. My stomach a-dips with the ship but my corner looks so comfortable, it be my only home out here. The place where I hide the tin-type of mother when she was only mine. I lift it to my lips, the blond ringlets rendered grey by the black and white of the picture. I kiss her lovely face.

“Master Charles.” I did not a-see Captain Butler come in.

“Yes, sir.” These are the only words I can sing out here on the waves. All other music is dead in me. His eyes brighten.

“The storm is calming. It's passing. In an hour or two we should be on placid seas. I worry about you when the seas are up. I know you can hardly handle the ocean at all. If all be well, tomorrow we see land, Master Charles and I must over-see the unloading, to make sure the winches are handled right.”

“Yes, sir” Captain Butler does what my mother used to call, 'thinking ahead'. He knows what he be needing to do before he does it and it's quite a feat, I ponder, I will try to do it myself sometime.

“Well, lad. I know you would like to be on land. I'll send Master Richard with you for a little leave. Now don't go far, will you? I'm sure you'd like to get off for a little while, especially after all this tossing.”

I just a-know he can see how happiness just comes to me. Land! I can touch my foot on soil, even Chinese soil be good. I be not too fond of Hickory Dick, or Master Richard as the Captain calls him but it be true that I need an escort. Even one so mean as Hickory Dick.

“Has he ever a-been to China?” I find it jumps from my mouth.

“No, you know he was in the New World. He was at Montreal and he travelled down to America where he dealt with Indians and all he met there. That's why the men call him Hickory Dick, after the trees that he used to cut down. He's only fifteen but he's been in a couple of fights in that part of the world when there were troubles between the whites and Indians. I think he will know how to deal with the Orientals. He has to learn sometime.”

“He be older than I.” I said.

“Yeay, Master Charles. I say he's near to a man but still the second youngest to you. I think you should find commonality with him.”

I a-struggled over some of the Captain's words. It be plain to me that my brain gets funny when it's tired and a-scared of dying but I let the Captain know I liked his plan. It's hard to promise something when all is a-moving around you but I opened my mouth to swear to be his loyal sea-dog while I was here, but Captain Butler put his arm on my back.

“Master Charles, lay down and sleep. The sandman wants to see you, that I can tell. This storm will blow over this night, I suppose, and I want you to enjoy your escapades on land.”

I never be so grateful to anyone as to Captain Butler and it's funny that with all the a-weaving of the ship, I soon felt sleep coming on. The boards a-calmed under me during my dream of Captain Butler having me as a son. And how is it possible that a mood can a-change overnight to a hopping, dancing feeling in his bones?

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