Another day. I wondered if it still had any sense. It’s been almost two years since I came here. Swinging motion made me sick and reluctant to get off the bed. Well, bed. If I even had a bed. It was quite surprising to see how quickly I got used to these rags. I couldn’t stand them on the first night. And now? Look at me now, sleeping here like a baby in a cradle. I finally got up and looked for my bottle. It was the only thing that helped me with my stomach. Sweet grog. Some men were already awake, some didn’t go to sleep yet. They treated me like a dog, never accepted me as one of them. But what should have I expected? I staggered up the stairs. The sun forced me to cover my face with hand. I got up late. Everyone was busy as they were preparing to anchor. Soon one of them shouted at me “Sleeping till noon again, you slacker?” I swal-lowed all the curses that came to my tongue and got to work. Cleaning the deck, that was all I was good for. Everyone des-pised me and I knew that. One of men tripped on me “by an accident”. There were times when I would leave it be, but I was fed up with it. My fist hit his cheek before he could realise what happened. But it was not enough to settle man hardened by years on the sea. He hit me back. I was too drunk to avoid his punches. Again and again. I thought I would lose my consciousness when luckily captain came. “Stop it you fool! Do you want to kill him? Don’t you see he’s had enough?” It was no pity that made him stop the sailor. If he had killed me, captain would have had to pay toll for murder on his ship, perhaps even lose one of his sailors. It simply wasn’t worth it. Nothing more, nothing less.
When ship anchored, I helped with unloading the cargo and loading new cargo afterwards. It was then when I met him. Desperate face, few bags on his back, running from sailor to sailor till he found the captain. It felt as if I looked at myself nineteen months ago. I could smell trouble from him from afar. It was so similar to my first day it made me doubt I was awake. When he finally got to talk to the captain, that old bastard knew as well as I did what was going on. He grinned at that lad and invited him to his cabin. How could I have fallen for that bloody pretended smile back then ? As I expected, guards came soon afterwards, looking for a young man. They weren’t lucky. Captain knew how to deal with them and they had to look elsewhere. I could almost hear what I knew he would tell them “This is private property! You have no right to beat about here!”. He would definitely add the phrase about his his ship being as clean as the deck if it weren’t for the blood after the fight. I’m sure the guards noticed it, but they knew the captain and they also knew it was pointless to mess with him.
The lad signed, as I expected. It seemed as salvation in his situation. I knew that well enough. I remember meeting him face to face. It was like looking in the mirror, though our expressions were quite distinct. I had a face of a man who had nothing to lose, he was young man, anticipating new, adventurous life on sea. How wrong he was. If it weren’t for that unexpected event, he would have ended up just like me. He gave me a look of pity, oblivious of a fact, that he signed up for the same fate.
At night he found out where he would sleep. They put him in the room with me. He finally introduced himself and was eager to talk me through his life story. I asked him no questions and he soon understood I had no interest in chatting. All night I could hear rustle. It felt as if I listened to my self that first night. I felt sorry for him, so I gave him some of rags I clustered during my service. He thanked me politely and fell asleep soon after. I woke up on creaking of the door. Young lad was eager to work. I told him to sleep for a while longer while he could. One of sailors heard me rushed into the room and kicked me while I was still on the ground. “Teaching him bad habits already Reek?” Reek, my most recent nickname. Just as I got used to last one. “Come young man, Reek here will show you what to do.”
by Martin Krč
Year 1, Issue 3