Copyright © April 2017 by Theo Fenraven
Note: Times were different then, and kids grew up fast. Our modern laws do not apply to this story.
Skunk and his sparse crew transferred to the galleon the next morning, along with their share of the treasure and what food and water could be spared. Cager watched the galleon sail away, one hand on the Hunter’s wheel.
Quill, beside him as always, said, “Think they’ll make it?”
“What, home? Maybe, but if they get there, things will go badly for them.” He squinted against the rising sun. “Our time is finished, Quill.”
“You’ve said that before.”
“It’s no less true now than it was then.” He turned to the sailing master. “Greeb, resume our course west.”
It was asked with deference. “Pardon, Captain, but where are we going?”
“Grenada, New Spain.”
They weren’t underway more than a few hours when Wiley noticed an ominous dark band on the eastern horizon. “Captain, sir!” He pointed.
Cager, who’d been talking quietly with Quill on the bridge, swung in the direction Wiley pointed. He immediately became more alert. “Storm coming.” He raised his voice. “Boatswain, ready the ship for a blow.”
Swann, the boatswain, leaped to attention. “Aye, sir!”
Cager turned to Wiley. “Run to my cabin and tidy things.”
Wiley raced off through a galvanized crew to put the captain’s things away.
The storm, moving fast, was upon them almost before they’d finished preparations. The ship heaved, timbers creaking, beneath a strong wind and heavy rain. Ignored, overlooked as usual, Wiley stayed on deck. It was far less stifling above than below, and if he puked, he didn’t want to smell it for the next few hours.
He hung on to the railing, hands aching from the strain, shivering from the cold until he didn’t think he could do it one second more, but he did.
Quill went by, head bowed against the gale, and bumped into him. “Wiley. Get your ass below. This is no ordinary storm.” He had to yell to make himself heard.
His teeth chattered. “I-I’m all right here, s-sir.”
“You are most definitely not.” Quill pulled him off the rail with little difficulty, threw him over one shoulder, and carried him down to the captain’s cabin, where he tossed Wiley on the bed. “Stay there.”
Quill gave Wiley a crushing look. “This is likely a hurricane and these are only the outer bands. Sit tight. It will be over soon.”
But it wasn’t.
After Quill left, Wiley climbed into the captain’s closet and pulled the door shut, trying to shut out the howl of the wind. He could still hear it, even with his hands over his ears.
Braced against one of the walls, he sang shanties to himself, over and over, and prayed to whatever gods there were to deliver them safely from Davy Jones’s Locker. He was halfway through “The Drunken Sailor” for the sixth time when the wind abruptly died and the ship calmed.
“We are saved!” Wiley exited the closet just as the cabin door banged open. “Captain?”
“Eye of the storm, boy.” He crossed the room to his desk, yanked open a drawer, and removed a bottle of liquor. Pulling the stopper, he tipped it back and drank at length, then wiped his mouth and offered it to Wiley.
Wiley sipped carefully to keep his knotted stomach from rebelling. “Not over yet?”
He shook his head shortly, took back the bottle, and drank again. “If God owes you any favors, now’s the time to call them in. Half the rigging is gone, men have been swept overboard, and the rudder is useless in these seas.”
He looked more worried than Wiley had ever seen him. “Are we in danger of foundering?”
Cager put the bottle back in the drawer, then moved to Wiley and hugged him. “Stay here, where I can find you if necessary. Understand?”
“Aye, sir,” he whispered, swallowing a lump in his throat.
Then Cager was gone, and within moments, the storm returned.