“Sixteen days it were since we put out o’ port. Sailin out fer the ‘alibut we was. We only come with provisions fer a fortnight an’ the lot of us were starvin’, livin’ two days on ‘ardtack an’ mead as it were. Cap’n Templeton was a right stubborn sot. Promised us double our pay when we took our ‘aul. Poor bastards five, at the mercy of a few extrar pounds, we stayed on.”
“Only there weren’t no ‘aul. Twas as if the Devil ‘imself ‘ad swallered all the fish there was in the sea. No matter where we dropped our nets, ne’er mind we knew the fish were runnin’ and saw their signs. Drag as we might, the nets come up empty. Not just lean, mind ye, was nary a fish. Not a one!”
“Now with a storm brewin’ yonder, and not so much as a chum fish left to our keep, our motley crew of starvin’ sea warts was trapped upon the calm surface of ‘Ell itself. Trapped in a race against time. For there was no strength to be found in ‘ardtack an’ mead as it were, but strength we needed, little lady, if we was ever to feel the comfort o’ land again.”
“Starved, drunk, and soon to be explainin’ our penniless situation to our wives, ‘opin it would take the edge off o’ the extrar two days bit…”
Annie was hypnotized by the wake of the boat drifting away forever behind them. It probably wasn’t really forever, but it seemed like it. No matter how fast or how long the boat traveled, the horizon never got so much as an inch farther away. Forever is probably like that.
“Papa, how come you talk like a pirate when you tell this story?” she asked.
Her grandfather lay stretched out on his deck chair, snoring as always. At least the boat’s motor drowned out the sound of his sawing. Papa slept through life. The last time Annie heard him actually speaking was when he woke up from a nap to reprimand her. “Don’t run in the house, Andy,” and he went right back to sleep.
Thanks, Papa. Annie shook her head and turned to stare back at the wake disappearing under the darkening sky.
“Where was I?” she continued. “The race against time… Every sailor worth ‘is salt knows the one thing ye can’t race is the ‘orizon. It’ll ‘aunt you like a ghost until yer bewitched by its specter…”
© 2012 Anne Schilde