ANOTHER SAMPLE CHAPTER FROM BOOK-IN-PROGRESS, “ME DEAR LOVE”
~please keep in mind this is a work-in-progress and is only the first draft. To read the other sample chapter please click here: NEW – Sample Chapter from Me Dear Love – Novel Thank you for reading! It is very much appreciated. Comments & Critiques are also welcome.
The ship was alive with music and dance, fueled by rum, vodka, and beer from the moment she sailed out of the Halifax harbour. Socializing began after supper in the sailor’s living quarters but it wasn’t unusual for pop-up parties to happen anywhere on the ship at any time. The trip from Halifax was smooth and uneventful. The weather was beautiful until the fog banks on the horizon moved in, pushed the warmth out of the way and blocking the sunshine. People quickly covered their shoulders with sweaters and switched from shorts to pants.
“Did they just cut the engine?” Eddie asked Pete.
Pete listened and looked around. The crew was busy with the sails, intent on finishing their job. “Let’s go see what’s happening,” Eddie suggested. He and Pete walked around to the wheelhouse where they found the plotter hunched over his charts deep in thought.
“What’s happening?” Eddie asked looking down at the paper charts spread out on the desk. The plotter rubbed the back of his neck and sat back in his chair, sizing Eddie up.
“You one of the Americans?” he asked wearily.”
“No I’m from Nova Scotia actually. Eddie Rowen.”
The plotter shook his band.
“The fog is thick,” Eddie said.
“That it is. Problem is, nobody’s comfortable steering ‘er into this channel.” Eddie leaned in a little further to see where the plotter was pointing.
“How tight is that?”
“Well this schooner will fit into the channel with a couple feet either side. It’s tough to do in fog this thick.”
“What’s the other option?” Eddie asked. The plotter shrugged and nodded off to the side where Captain Ellis spoke with Pete. “Be up to him.”
Eddie studied the charts closely.
“You seem interested in this stuff,” the plotter said.
“I am. I’ve sailed some.”
The plotter looked at him and said, “Seeing’s that nobody’s too interested in trying this, how about you get us through that channel?”
Word spread quickly that this thirty-two-year-old “kid” was going to navigate the ship through the narrow channel where they’d finally anchor for the night. A big wind was coming and the ship needed to find a good spot to shelter.
Eddie examined the chart. “Looks tight.”
“Think you can do this?”
“I’ve done it before although the ship was a lot smaller than this.”
The plotter nodded and waved Captain Ellis over. Told him the plans.
With the captain’s blessing, Eddie took the helm. Two crew members stood on top deck periodically blasting signalling horns while the plotter called out their position. Crew stood by, on edge. The fog was thick like grey cement. Occasionally a gull would cry out, but nothing could be seen. The only thing they had to go by were the chart positions and Eddie’s steady hand. The crew was silent. Laughter and talk drifted by the wheelhouse where only working crew were allowed. When Eddie and Pete had first inquired about the trip and purchased their tickets, Captain Ellis sent everyone a Rules of the Schooner guide that specified where and when they could move about on the ship.
“20 degrees due north,” the plotter said. Eddie watched the electronic navigator and wondered how anybody could have managed to sail through this without one.
40 degrees northwest.
45 degrees north.
An hour and a half felt like eternity but finally, the plotter called out their final position and time. Crew on standby lowered anchor and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Still, with the wall off fog around them, nobody was absolutely certain they were where they should be. They’d made it through the narrowest part of the channel though and everyone relaxed, suddenly relieved and giddy. Liquor flowed immediately.
Eager to escape the darkness and damp fog, people congregated in the galley. The crew, grateful to Eddie, were eager to learn more about him.
“That was right amazing it was!” said one of the crew. Others, including guests, chimed in.
“I don’t think nobody’s ever tried that before in fog like that.”
“You got us here safe me son!”
The relief was palpable. Pent-up adrenalin exhausted itself through jokes, laughter, and drink. From the minute the ship anchored to late into the night, crew and guests shared food, drink, laughter, and dance.
Eddie stretched his neck and cracked his knuckles.
“That was crazy,” Pete said. He stood with the plotter at the navigation table still looking down at the chart. When the plotter saw him coming he stood and shook Eddie’s hand.
“Thank you,” he said.
“The anchor’s dropped,” Eddie said. “Can I see the mark again?”
The plotter stepped aside and pointed to the chart.
“We should be here,” he said. “We’ll see in the morning if the fog lifts.” The tension from earlier had evaporated. Captain Ellis appeared in the hold and shook Eddie’s hand.
“Consider yourself honorary crew!” he said. “That was flawless.”
Eddie took a deep breath, releasing his own tension.
“Grab yourselves a drink from the galley and make yourselves comfortable.”
Eddie went to his berth, grabbed his foul-weather jacket and met up with Pete outside.
The ship’s supper bell rang at 6:00 p.m. for the first ten crew members to eat. At 6:30 p.m., the next ten crew members would sit at the long wooden bench for their share of the meal and, finally, at 7:00 p.m., guests of the Grand Banks schooner made their way to the forecastle for a meal. The table, made from wood once milled at the logging camp in Badger, was 13 feet long and bolted to the deck floor. The seating area on part of the port side of the ship was one long bench built into the boat itself. Along the starboard side was a long picnic-like bench with back.
Eddie and Pete hungrily dug into the evenings fare, a traditional salt dinner. Salt cod, pickled cabbage, boiled potatoes served with scraps of salt pork and homemade biscuits. To a maritimer it was comfort food, a familiar meal that was normally cooked in the winter when families lived on the remains of root vegetables and salt fish. Now, it served as sustenance, a hearty meal after a long day on the sea. To the disgust of the Americans aboard, crew crunched through the fried bits of pork fat and added more salt to the mashed potatoes. The fish, flaked in a pile of white flesh, was more like a grated block of sea salt.
Eddie laughed quietly and briefly pointed his fork at a few men near the end of the long table.
“I guess they’re not hungry,” he said to Pete. Pete watched them pick around their plates, grimacing in disgust. Everything but the boiled potatoes were pushed to the sides of their plates.
“Those boys are gonna get the scurvy,” one of the older crew, who’d noticed what was happening, shouted merrily. Eddie guessed him to be in his late 60’s, a man completely at ease with his naval surroundings.
“Naw, it’s the rickets!” said another, pounding his fist onto the table in jest. He was younger, Eddie guessed, and strong by the looks of his arms. His head was shaved and he sported a whole sleeve of tattoos down his left arm.
“Oh now come then. Don’t be arseholes!” The captain hollered as he passed by the table. He carried a bottle of opened rum in one hand and a partially filled glass in the other, swaying more to the effect of the liquor, Eddie surmised, than to the pitch of the ocean.
Gales of laughter erupted to the embarrassment of the Americans. They’d been invited aboard as guests because of plans to buy the ship at the end of the sail, hoping to use it as a tourist draw in Boston.
Pete’s face was dark from the heat in the galley and the free-flowing alcohol. He lifted a leg and turned his body sideways to straddle the bench.
”I’m stuffed!” he said, rubbing abdomen. Pete and Eddie were in good shape after years of lobster fishing.
“Where’s that dessert?” shouted one of the crew. Eddie held a hand in the air and shook his head no.
“None for me,” he said. Pete wasn’t interested either although it looked good. Fresh apple pie warm from the oven piled high with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. The smell of cinnamon filled the air. People from above deck appeared and lined up for their share of dessert. Some lingered and talked; others took their desserts to another deck. Eddie was happy, giddy even. Flush from the alcohol and sparked with the excitement of finding his mother, he suddenly felt years younger and freer than he’d ever felt. He took it all in, the fiddlers over by the antique pot-belly stove, a boy sitting on someone’s knee attempting to play the spoons, clacking the utensils in time to the Irish jig quickly building in crescendo. A CBC news crew consisting of two cameramen and a reporter tapped their feet and clapped their hands, relaxed and laughing.
Suddenly Pete nudged him in the ribs. “They’re asking you something,” he said. Three sets of eyes were on him, twinkling, waiting for an answer.
“I…I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you,” Eddie replied.
“So g’wan b’y, who’d ya come from?” The oldest crew member asked.
Eddie smiled and shook his head. “I’m sorry, I’m not…I don’t…”
The younger crew members laughed and one of them spoke up. “He’s just askin’ where you come from, who your parents are. This here is Dodo. His real name is Donald but it’s not what we call him.”
“Oh!” Eddie replied and laughed. Dodo’s accent, combined with the colloquialisms inherent only to Newfoundland, made it especially difficult to understand what he was saying. So Eddie talked. He built the story slowly, explaining his intention to find his biological mother. On the precipice of tipping from “feeling good” to outright drunk, there was no filter to keep his emotions shut down. A few tears slid down his numb cheeks and he went into the story as if he were already in Newfoundland, seeing his mother for the first time. While the clamour of music and drunken dance built like a rising tide around them, Eddie’s audience remained rapt.
When he was done, he sipped from his recently refilled glass and looked around with a sigh and his gaze landed on the female reporter who had found her way to the table to listen to his story. She leaned forward, her arms sliding towards him across the table. Her mouth opened and she asked him something, but Eddie couldn’t hear over the music and laughter. A hand slapped him on the back. Another pinched the top of his shoulder.
“Thank you for that,” one of the crew said.
“I just knows you gonna find her,” another said. “Don’t ask me how, I just knows.” A glass was raised and a toast offered.
“To Eddie, may he find his mother in good health!”
Eddie looked back but the reporter had moved already.
“There’s more music on the upper deck,” he suddenly heard. It was her, standing behind him. She held a fistful of curls that had burst from her ponytail away from her mouth, and spoke into his ear.
Pete was on the other side of the galley talking to the captain. Eddie pulled his legs around the bench and stood up slowly to get his balance. The reporter held onto his arm as he turned again to rescue what was left of his drink.
People were up and dancing as the music picked up the pace. Men and women, all invited guests, mimicked the dance of the Newfoundlander’s. They clapped, stomped a foot, moved their feet in what looked like a cross between tap dancing and the River dance.
“Do you want to stay and dance?” the reporter asked him. When Eddie shook his head, the world spun a little.
“Let’s get fresh air,” he said dizzily.
The reporter, who only had a thin long-sleeved t-shirt on shivered in the night air. The fog had left puddles on the benches outside. Eddie unzipped his jacket and pulled her inside to keep her warm. She was petite and when Eddie looked down, all he saw was the top of her head, a riot of black curls heavy with humidity.
“I’m sorry,” Eddie said, his words slightly slurred. He pulled away from her long enough to look into her eyes. “I’m Eddie.”
The reporter laughed heartily, her round cheeks punctuated with dimples on each side. Eddie was captivated. She wiggled her head so that she could look up into his face. “Lynette,” she said. Eddie smiled through a mixture of emotions that seemed to have cut through the alcohol. He wasn’t used to holding another woman and it felt different. His hands and body folded differently over hers. Rachel was taller, slimmer in some ways. She had a long neck and a way of standing sideways so that she was never fully pressed against him. But here was Lynette. He bent down and kissed her lips. Gently. He lingered. The tip of her nose was wet from the fog.
He thought the alcohol would numb the pain of betrayal but it did nothing. Instead, he stood drunk, in as much pain as he’d ever been in, trying to find any way he could to dissolve it.
Eddie, in his drunken state, thought they were discrete but when Lynette slipped out of his birth before sunrise, Pete had seen.
Breakfast was less formal than the previous night’s supper. Bacon, eggs, and toast were piled a mile high on the table. If you got there early, breakfast would still be warm. Pete, who hadn’t slept well, was able to get two warm plates of food; a plate for himself and a plate for Eddie.
Pete had witnessed plenty of Eddie’s hangovers and knew that he’d be hungry when he awoke. He’d have a large breakfast, feel good for a while, and then feel like shit until late afternoon.
Pete cleared his throat before gently pulling the curtain back on Eddie’s berth.
“Brought you some….”
Eddie wasn’t there. With two full plates of food, Pete walked to the main deck, first around the stern and then forward to the bow of the ship. No sign of Eddie. With his breakfast getting colder by the minute, Pete found a spot to sit and eat. The coolness of the overnight air still clung to the ship, but the fog was lifting fast. Someone shouted, “Look!” and people stood, walking to starboard. They were so close to land you could practically touch it.
“Are you going to eat all of that?” Lynette asked. Pete smiled and past her the now-cold breakfast.
“Your friend is quite a sailor,” she said.
_End of Sample_