“Of course, I’m serious!” His voice echoed in the night, making it ever clearer we were the only ones out here, at least, regarding my yard. “I’m Capt. Stalley of The Sapphire! You’d do well to remember that, Matey! We’ll be sailing the seas, battling nature, and reaping treasures beyond our most extravagant imaginations!”
He walked up to me, staggering like he was about to fall over. Surprisingly, he had impeccable balance for a man in a drunken state such as he. He placed a hand on my shoulder, then the other.
“Luggage is not required,” He explained, “we do not burden ourselves with worldly possessions. A necklace, perhaps. A ring, perhaps. But luggage? No, sir! We throw luggage overboard!” he laughed heartily into the night, I put my hand over his mouth, and walked him to the front of my property. I couldn’t have him waking my wife and she asks what’s the matter.
When we got to the docks there was, in fact, a ship waiting full of crew members. They were waving towels in the air in a circular motion while others were loading crates of goods, not a single one containing luggage. These were scraggily men, rough men, men who’d seen a lot of hell and weren’t fazed by anything, nothing my practical mind could conceive, anyway. It was then Capt. Stalley placed an arm around my shoulder and walked me up the ramp. When we got to the center of the ship, he made an announcement.
“Alright, you filthy scallywags! Listen up!” The whole ship stopped in an instant, his commanding presence was something to marvel at, truly astonishing. “We have a new crew member! Introduce yourself, Matey!”
“I am Jedidiah Wilson Faulkner, a local tradesman,” I said plainly.
“What was that!?” We couldn’t hear you, Matey!” He lifted his hand and landed it heavily on my shoulder, I stumbled a bit. “Speak with some pride, Man! On this ship, you must be CONFIDENT in every word that flies from your lips, or, you will be nothing more than a maid!”
I took a breath and spoke with a confidence I wasn’t aware I had. “My name is Jedidiah Wilson Faulkner, I am a tradesman!
“Louder! Matey, our ears are not so good, on this ship!” The crew members laughed wildly. “Who are you, Matey!? Speak with conviction, or get thrown overboard.”
“I, am Jedidiah Wilson Faulkner! I am a tradesman! And the newest member of The Sapphire!” I don’t know where that came from, honestly. It just flowed from my body so effortlessly, it felt natural, it felt right. To be part of the crew, sailing the seas. The utmost freedom bestowed upon me by nature, the race of God guiding me in all endeavors. At this moment, I knew where I wanted to be, and what I wanted to do.
“That be the spirit, Matey!” He slapped my back, hard. I stumbled forward. “Never worry, your sea legs will come in time!”
He started walking toward his quarters and motioned me to follow him, so I did. He told me to choose a room, and each room I went in had someone who needed a bunkmate. When I go to the end of the quarter there was a room that had no one. I took that room, for it had a desk, a candle, quilt, and paper. All the elements used to write this letter I am today.
I felt the ship sway when we left the dock. I suppose I should feel remorseful for not bidding my wife goodbye, but she understood that I went out on night trips per my job as a tradesman. I assumed we’d be back in a week, but to my dismay and immense pleasure, we didn’t return for much longer.
* * *
“When does the good part come, grand-papi?” One of the boys asks, clearly transfixed in the story. “Come on, tell us!”
“It’s boring! I coulda been playing ball with the Wilsons!” The smaller, younger boy pouted.
“Th’ good par’s comin’ up righ’ naw Lionel, don’cha worry ‘bout that!” He turned and hit the younger boy with a stick. “Naw, you gon’ sit her’ an’ lissin’ to this story, ya her’!?”
The younger boy pouted as a tear dropped from his face and he wiped it off, because he knew that crying just got him a whooping. He folded his arms and tried is hardest to look disinterested, but Grand-papi just ignored it outright, and continued with the story. . .
* * *
It didn’t take the seas long to pick up on where we were and start ragin’, the rain came down like hail on the day of judgment. The tides moved like giants walking upon the land, the water jumping and trembling with each passing wave. It was only a matter of time before Poseidon himself emerged from the ocean and struck us dead, it was vicious. I was assigned below the ship to make sure the goods were secure, I also had to do inventory in the event we needed to throw some overboard for survival. I could hear Capt. Stalley hollering orders to the crew. I could also hear the rain pounding the floorboards with a ferocity, like soldiers lodging in your quarters during wartime.
The Capt. Told the crew to turn the ship starboard to avoid the tide on the port side, the storm muffled his voice so I couldn’t make out his orders well enough. Suddenly, I heard a lot of tumbling and objects fallin’ up top. A crew member burst through the door.
“Faulkner! Capt. Stalley wants to see ya!”
I ran to the door and followed the crew member up, the rain pummeled me on contact. I stumbled, slipped, and almost fell several times. Capt. Stalley was braving the storm like a man on a mission, and he was. I struggled to get to the front of the ship, the crew were busy tryin’ to keep The Sapphire afloat, the waves crashed into our ship like we were being levied by the govt. When I made my way there, Capt. Stalley was very grave.
“Faulkner.” He whispered, using the utmost discretion, like me when I’d first met him I could tell this wasn’t gonna be good. “There comes a time when a Captain has to make a choice, to either go with the ship and keep his crew safe or take them all to hell.” He continued “On the port side, there’s a gaping hole, irreparable. The Sapphire’s going down, and ain’t no way to save it. Which is why I called you.”
“But what could I do, Captain? I’m just a local tradesman.”
“No.” He said flatly. “Not on this night, you aren’t.”
“What do you mean, Captain?”
“From this night on, you’re the Captain of the crew.”
Those words weighed on my chest like God’s pinky finger about to erase me from existence. I knew exactly what he meant when he said this, I knew what that would mean for me and the crew alike. I had only just met the man some six months ago, and I felt like I still didn’t know him well enough to mourn his passing. But, at this moment, I thought of the crew, as rough and scraggly as they are, those who’d known the Captain for years, how they’ll feel when they realized what happened.
“Don’t bother telling the crew, they know. They all feel it coming.” Capt. Stalley continued “I already gave orders to prepare the lifeboats.” I looked around and there was no one manning the ship up top, they were all focusing on getting the lifeboats ready below, Capt. Stalley was right . . . they knew.
“Remember this, Faulkner.” I was already mourning, for I knew these were his last words. “A Captain always goes with the ship. The two are forever bonded whether by fate or design, inseparable throughout the life of a sailor. The last thing I want to impart to you, Matey,” He paused and turned to the front of the ship, walking up to the edge of it, standing there with the utmost pride, confidence, and conviction. “Everything goes and everything returns Faulkner! Let time do its deed and ye’ll all get home safe. I promise you that!” He glanced back at me. “Now go! Captain Jedidiah Wilson Faulkner! Lead the crew to safety!”
Those were his last words to me. I ran as fast as my feet allowed in the rain, he instilled in me a level of confidence I wouldn’t have found it I hadn’t met him those six months ago. At that moment, I felt I’d known him for years. I helped the crew pack what crates we could carry without going overweight, I made sure all the members got on the boat safely, myself being the last to board. We untied the ropes and let the tides take us where they may, they were too strong for us to do otherwise. I looked back at the ship one last time, I could see Capt. Stalley in the distance, standing on the face of the ship, beaming with as much confidence, perhaps even more so, as when I met him. The conviction in his eyes when he said those words to me showed he understood the fabric of time. How everything that comes must also go, and what goes, must also return. Though it may not be in the same form as when it left, it will always have the same spirit. I don’t know if I’ll ever see someone like Capt. Stalley again, but if I so happen to come across such a person, we shall be friends for years to come.
* * *
“Well,” Grand-papi stood up from his rocking chair, “that’s th’ story of yer great-great grandfather Jedidiah Wilson Faulkner.” He continued “Naw, you boys gon’ out ther’ an’ play naw, and don’t you stay out too late, I’ll wax ya real good wit’ this stick if ya do. . .naw git!”
The younger boy jetted out the living room and out the door faster than a banker takes your land and sells it off to a big company. The older boy, however, stayed for a moment and lingered on the story. His Grand-papi noticed this and went over to the boy.
“I see ya like’ the story.” Grand-papi pulled up and adjusted his overalls. “If ya wann’ her’ more, jus’ tell yer mammi to bring ya over nex’ week. I should fin’ them letters by then, if my back don’ giv’ out on me lookin’ through them there boxes in th’ attic. Now gon’ an’ git.”
The older boy nodded, and ran out to catch his little brother to play ball with the Wilsons.
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