Submitted by gkmoberg1 on Wed, 01/27/2021 - 04:34

The patter of the rain continued for a long time. Ships moved against their berths. Canvas creaked. Men sang. The water slapped against the piers and the hulls. Through it all I remained quiet. Over and over, the breeze delivered and then stole away the harbor stench and the stench of the men and the stench of the dirt.

Gradually a new smell came at me from the harbor: the smoke of burnt coal. I had seen the new freighters sporting this ability. Amidships, between the masts, the newer ships would have a single vertical metal chimney. A furnace had been supplied below in the ship's bowels and it could be loaded with coal. The result was a ship that could move without the wind – remarkable. However the soot and smoke put me off on wanting to know more.

Changes such as this, little changes, were always coming along. Gas lighting, canals, and now furnaces on ships. It was ever the slow trickle of change. As much as I regretted this slow evolution, somewhere within me there was a tickle that I had to stay current. I did not understand the need for such travel or the need for coal burning ships yet they were here. In order to survive I had to accept them and keep on the watch for whatever step came next. Could I continue without doing so? I wasn't sure; however, it seemed to be an unwise strategy.

A shout rang from the establishment. I heard a shove and a scuffle. Then another shout. With it came my chance. A lone man stepped out and into the rain. A sailor. Young. Sober. And –my favorite- angry. His posture told me what I needed to know. His solid body was fully involved. Face tight. Arms at the ready. Wide, balanced stance. He made several firm steps out through the door and whirled around with ferocity back at the establishment. As he had yet to put on the coat he held stiffly in his left hand I had a good view of him.

Nobody followed. After a minute he whisked the rain from his face and bristling mustache. He used his clenched right hand in a strong sweep that literally threw the water from his skin. He continued to glare back into the establishment.

"Lars?" I asked. Startled, he realized my presence. Then rounding fully to face me, he pulled back his strong right arm – only to let it down when he saw me better in the light.

"You are mistaken Miss," he replied in English, thick with an Irish accent.

"My mistake," I replied, likewise in English.

"Your man must still be inside."

"I'm no longer convinced of that."


I looked him over, making it clear I was doing so.

"Then Lars will have to wait until tomorrow," I decreed.

"His loss."

I led him away.