Seafarer’s Fears
Ann Summerville

“Backbreaking work.” Leo said hauling another crate on to the ship.

John swung a box. “It’s not too bad. Anyway we’ll be leaving with the next tide.

Behind them voices were raised.

“Why can’t I take all my luggage?” Said the young man wearing a bowler hat.

“Well Sir. She seems a mighty ship . . .”

“Look here. I’m a banker.” He squared his shoulders. “An important banker I might add.”

“. . .yet” continued the sailor. “it cannot hold any more cargo.” He raised the flat of his hand for emphasis and rubbed his long grey beard. “Nothing I can do. Rules is rules.” The sailor turned and walked the gang plank leaving behind the bewildered banker.

“I’ll give this bag of coins to anyone who will get my luggage on the boat.” The banker raised his arm dangling a coin purse from his fingers.”

“’Ow much d’you think’s in there John?”

“Dunno. Doesn’t matter does it? we’re full.”

Leo bit his lip. Maybe it’s enough so’s I can miss the next trip back here.”

“And you just might get tossed off the ship and left in Singapore.” John hoisted another trunk. “Ever think of that Leo?”

Leo frowned. “It’d be my worst nightmare. You think it’s exciting traveling the world now but . . .” He blinked and lowered his voice. “I’ve been doing this for nigh on 20 years.”

“You’d have less trouble if you lifted properly.” John rippled his biceps. “I learned a lot working in the mines. Built up my strength I did.”

“You mark my words. In a few years you’ll hate it.” Leo shook his head “This is the worst port I’ve ever been in.”

“Hate fresh air? Ever been down a mine have you Leo?” Leo shook his head. “They’re dark and damp and you can’t breath for days when you get up top. Coal dust settles in your lungs.” He tossed the box into the cargo hold. “That’s why I sleep on deck. I can’t abide being in the dark. It would be my . . .”

“Any takers,” called the banker. The purse swung to and throw in the wind.

“Leo!” John called. “Leo come back.” John stepped toward the gang plank watching his friend run toward the dangling purse.

“What’s going on here,” shouted the Captain as his eyes took in the scene. “You lazy old man.” He pointed at Leo. “Don’t bother coming back on board, you’re done - you can rot in Singapore for all I care. And you . . . ” he turned to John. “. . . will spend the night in the hold.”

“. . . worst nightmare,” continued John.

First published: May, 2008
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