Mountains of Memories
Copyright © 2015 by Parker Sheaffer
The next morning Lucas returned to the wharf and sought out the sailor.
"So, you've decided to join us, have you?" the man asked.
"I would like to, but I'm afraid I have a problem," said Lucas.
"And what would that be?" Simmons asked, suspiciously.
"I have some money, inheritance and earnings, and I don't want to take it with me out to sea. I don't know what to do with it, to safeguard it, while I'm gone."
Simmons said, "Why, son, that's what banks are for."
"Yes, Sir, but I'm only fourteen," Lucas lied. "I don't think the bank will let someone my age do business with them and besides, I don't know how they work."
"Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? You sound southern, but you talk like you have some education."
Lucas gave him a brief description of his background, leaving out the part about living in the mountains. He said he was born in Knoxville, so he started his story there.
Simmons was a kind man and felt sorry for the boy's tragedy, the loss of his employer, and said, "I keep my money in the bank that is across from Faneuil Hall. Why don't you go fetch your fortune and meet me there in an hour? I'll help you open an account and keep your money safe. That way it will grow some for you, too. When you come back to harbor with your pay from the ship you can add it to your other and before you know it you'll be a rich lad."
Lucas was relieved and soon that business was taken care of, so he could leave with a clear mind.
Lucas reported back to the ship the next day for duty.
He was introduced first to the Captain, a tall blond man of fifty or so, named Johansson, who looked him over and said only, "Welcome aboard the Bonnie Lass, lad."
He seemed like a brooding, angry man who shouted out orders to everyone and Lucas jumped in surprise the first time he heard the man yell, but the Captain gave him an amused look and a bit of a smile. Captain Johansson even winked at him once as if to say that Lucas should not take him too seriously.
Then he was given a quick tour.
The First Mate told him, "We mainly ship grain, liquor, and other goods to England. We also take some passengers. There are several staterooms for those that can afford them. What we bring back is other merchandise like China, guns, tea and coffee, and the like. We get a lot more passengers coming here, but most of them are immigrants and they mostly ride down in steerage. That's not a pleasant place, but you won't have to see much of it. You'll mostly help out the officers by carrying messages, help the cooks, and do whatever the Captain needs. We'll work you hard so I hope you're up to it."
Over the next few days he received an education about the ship and life at sea. He quickly learned port from starboard, bow from stern, yardarm from anchor and so forth. He also learned how the Captain wanted to be served and a little bit about how to cook.
It was an exciting moment when they finally hoisted the anchor, raised the sails and went to sea, but it took a day or two for him to get used to the movement of the ship under his feet. Finally his stomach settled down and he learned how to walk like the sailors.
At twenty-five, he was finally becoming accustomed to pretending that he was only fourteen. His fascination with everything about the ship suited a young boy as well as a young man. Because a great many children had been made orphans by the war most people never inquired about his family. They just assumed that they were dead and that he was alone.
Mr. Simmons got him settled in a bunk. It was a small room that he shared with another boy named Tobias, a small lad of twelve who was friendly and helpful.
Tobias had been on the ship for almost a year and was able to tell Lucas more about his duties and expectations. Lucas liked him right away.
The first thing they did was to report to the galley to assist there. The cook was a wiry old man named Barker. He was friendly enough had the boys peel some vegetables for a stew. Later they had to lay a table in the mess and then serve the officers their supper.
Despite all of the excitement, Lucas slept soundly that night, lulled by the soft motions of the water and the soft snoring of Tobias.
A week out at sea he brought the Captain his supper and the man asked him to sit with him and talk a little. He poured Lucas some wine and, as the man ate, he talked about the sea and the places he had seen.
"Tell me about yourself, lad. You ever been to sea before?" asked the Captain.
"No, Sir. It's my first time," replied Lucas. He told the man about his life in Knoxville and they shared an opinion about how horrible and useless the war had been. They were both relieved that it was all over.
The Captain then asked how much Lucas knew about the duties of a cabin boy.
"Not much, sir. I'd never even see a ship until a week ago and never heard of cabin boys. I hope I can do a good job for you. I intend to try my best."
"I think you'll do just fine. You're polite and well-spoken. I like that in a boy. Besides, you sound like you have more education than any of the crewmen so you'll learn things fast. There are a few extra duties that I would like for you to do if you are willing."
Lucas looked at him expectantly.
He continued, "There is sometimes a special relationship between the Captain and his cabin boy. What I'm trying to say is…, well, you are a fine looking boy."
"Yes sir. I think I know what you mean, sir. You are a good looking man, sir, if I may say so."
The Captain smiled at him glowingly and stood. He held out his hand to the boy and led him to the wide bunk. To Lucas' surprise the Captain was a much better lover than Earl had been and he found that they both enjoyed the experience.
It wasn't a bad life. Lucas didn't have to do any heavy work on the ship. His main duties seemed to be cooking, cleaning, serving the officers and seeing to the Captain‘s needs. Sometimes he would sit and listen to the songs and stories of the sailors, tales of women and drinking and fighting and the sea.
Of course things were not always fun for the sailors. Sometimes there were bad storms at sea that he thought would sink the ship, but the skill of the Captain and crew always got them through and on to port. Lucas hated being tossed about by the crashing waves and violent winds, but the Captain made him and Tobias stay in their quarters so he would not be in everyone's way, so they had a less difficult time of it than the others.
When a storm would end Lucas always thought, 'I guess that's what adventure is really about, looking death in the eye and surviving.'
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