A young boy’s burning ambition to go to sea is realised when he is offered a place on a vessel sailing to America. He gets drunk at a party thrown by American boys and his ship sails without him.
To avoid the authorities, who he thinks will jail him as an illegal immigrant, he goes on the run.
He is kidnapped, forced to help in a bank robbery, and threatened with death. He manages to escape his captors, taking their loot with him, but is chased across Texas.
Attempted murder, robbery, shipwreck, and the love of a beautiful senorita keep the adventure racing to its conclusion.
Innocent on the Run. Part 1.
Ricky jabbed with his left fist then crossed with his right. The right hander landed on his opponents jaw and the lad staggered backwards. Ricky was on him in a flash, pummelling his body with quick lefts and rights. His opponent was on the ropes covering up as best he could as Ricky slammed the punches home, scoring every time. The referee hovered around the fighters watching intently as the boy on the ropes tried to avoid further punishment. The bell suddenly rang out to end round two and the referee’s arm came down in between the boxers.
‘Stop,’ he shouted. Ricky stepped back and went to his corner. He slumped down on the stool breathing heavily and his second flapped a towel in his face. He sloshed the wet sponge on Ricky’s face and handed him the bottle to rinse his mouth out.
‘That’s one round each,’ the second said, pulling Ricky’s shorts away from his stomach to assist his breathing. ‘Keep up the pressure in the last round and you’ll win it.’
Ricky nodded and spat water into the bucket outside of the ring.
‘He’s tiring,’ the second went on. ‘His punches have lost their sting. Get to the centre of the ring and make him do the running around.’
‘Okay,’ Ricky answered.
The timekeeper called, ‘Seconds out of the ring. Third and last round.’ Ricky’s second slid out of the ring under the top rope as the bell rang to start the last round.
The boxers met in the centre of the ring and touched gloves. The referee called out, ‘Box.’
Ricky led with his left, his opponent blocked it with his right hand and shot his own left out towards Rick’s head. Ricky slipped it over his left shoulder and hooked him to the body with his left. His opponent danced away and Ricky gained the centre of the ring. His opponent danced back in and threw two lefts in succession followed by a right which Ricky blocked with his left then countered with a right into the other boy’s body. The boy bent forward slightly to lessen the blow’s impact and Ricky sent a crashing left hook over the top of the boy’s guard. It caught him on the point of the jaw and he staggered sideways under the force of the blow. Ricky leapt at him and crashed a right hand into his head. The boy’s legs buckled and he dropped to his knees. The referee danced in between the boxers and stopped Ricky by putting an arm up in front of him. As the boy got to his feet, the referee looked at him closely and waved him back to his corner, knowing that the lad had had enough, and to continue would have meant further punishment for him. The fight was over!
Ricky leaped into the air waving his arms in triumph as the crowd cheered and stamped their feet.
Ricky’s second congratulated him as he handed him a towel to wipe the sweat out of his eyes. ‘Great last round,’ he said, starting to untie Ricky’s gloves.
Ricky grinned. ‘I’m glad it didn’t go on any longer,’ he panted. ‘I’d almost had it myself.’
The referee called the boxers to the centre of the ring and stood them on either side of him.
When the applause and noise had died down a little, the Master of Ceremonies announced,
‘ Ladies and Gentlemen. By a technical knockout in the third round, the winner is Davies in the blue corner.’
The crowd roared as Ricky’s hand was held aloft by the referee.
His team were boxing in the inter-club championships against clubs from all across South Wales. Ricky’s club was the Barry Boys’ Club and he’d been training there since he was eleven years old. He was now fifteen in the year 1951,and he was a lightweight. Still panting from exertion, Ricky joined his team mates at the back of the hall. Brian Proctor, his best mate laughed. ‘Nice going, Rick.’ He slapped Ricky on the back. Brian had fought in the bout before Ricky’s and had out pointed his opponent. They watched the rest of the bouts, cheering their team mates on, yelling like mad when they won, commiserating with the fighter when he lost. At the end of the competition, points were tallied up and the prizes awarded. Barry Boy’s Club had come a respectable third overall, which they thought was an excellent result, as seven clubs had taken part.
Brian and Ricky walked home through the town to the East side.
‘Another plastic cup for the mantlepiece,’ Ricky said, eyeing his prize.
Brian laughed, ‘Aye, but think about it, one day it could be a gold cup or even a Lonsdale belt.’
Ricky’s turn to laugh, ‘Maybe one day we’ll win a cup big enough to drink a pint out of.’
‘You could keep it behind the bar in the King Billy,’ Brian chuckled. ‘If the landlord gets changed,’ he added. ‘This one’s a miserable so and so.’
‘I know,’ Ricky agreed. ‘ Did you hear him ask me if I was eighteen last Saturday? He nearly didn’t serve us.’
‘We could try the Royal this week.’
‘No fear. That’s too near home. My old man goes in there.’
They stood on the corner of Brian’s street.
‘I’m fed up with this town,’ Brian said. ‘Wish someone would give us a chance to get away to sea.’ He kicked a stone into the gutter.
‘Let’s try the docks again tomorrow,’ Ricky suggested.
‘Okay. I know a few more ships came into port yesterday. We may be lucky this time.’
‘Okay, see you in the morning. I’ll be around about eleven.’
Brian turned to walk up his street. ’See you, Rick.’
Ricky walked up the hill towards his home, wondering if the next day would be the one where they got a ship together. Their burning ambition was to go to sea and for over a year they had trailed around the docks, boarding every new arrival, asking the same question of anyone in authority, ‘ Do you need a deck boy or galley boy, please?’
They had always been refused but they never gave up. They both knew that there were three methods of getting away to sea in the fifties. You either went to Nautical College where your parents paid the fees for your apprenticeship, you went to a Seaman’s training school or you knew someone who could get you a job on a ship by recommending you to the captain. Nautical College was out of the question for the two boys as their families were large and everyone had to earn a living to make ends meet.
Ricky's dad was a fireman in the local fire brigade and his Mum was a part time cook at the fire station. His dad's wage was just enough to pay the rent on their tiny house, and pay for the essentials like groceries, coal and gas bills. There was no electricity in the house and only gas lighting in the living room and kitchen. When going to bed they used candles to light the way. The only entertainment, apart from amusing themselves by reading or playing cards and games, was the Radio Relay, which was a radio signal piped in to the houses by the local Radio Company. They paid a rental for the receiver and could switch in either of two programmes.
Three months training in Liverpool was a non- starter for the same reason and as they knew no-one with influence, they trailed around the docks, hoping that a Captain would one day give them a chance. Some of their friends had done it that way in the past. Ricky had seen Merchant Seamen pay off vessels in the town and splash their bundles of money around, buying new suits and shoes, treating their families to luxuries and generally having a good time. He’d listened to their stories of visiting exotic ports, meeting beautiful dusky maidens and he’d been green with envy. He wanted the same for himself and couldn’t wait for the new life of excitement, money and adventure to start. If it meant trailing around the docks every day, enquiring on every vessel regardless of nationality and flag, then that was what he would do.
As Ricky approached school leaving age, his parents tried to get him into an apprenticeship. They made sure that he applied to the local council and to the factories in the area, as well as the Dock's Board. He was interested in carpentry and had made some useful items from wood in the woodwork class at school, but there were too many boys chasing the same apprenticeships and Ricky was unlucky. He also tried for entry into the building school in Cardiff, and although he passed the entrance exam, they offered places to the Cardiff boys first, so he was unlucky again. Some of Ricky's mates got apprenticed to bricklayers, some to roofers, and some to painters. A lot went on to the railway as cleaners, which eventually led to them becoming firemen, and then drivers. Ricky's elder brother had started as a cleaner but was now a fireman. A few of the boys who left school that year had managed to get apprenticeships as electricians, but they were all from the grammar school. The Secondary Modern school, as it was called now, produced mainly manual workers. The companies associated with the docks took on apprentices in engineering and electrical trades. The Docks board itself took on Boilermakers, Pipefitters, Sheet Metalworkers Laggers, Shipwrights and Riveters. Riveting ships sides was a dangerous and very dirty job. The riveter would heat up the rivets to red heat, pick one up in his tongs and throw it to the apprentice, who would catch it in a bucket, before fishing it out with his tongs and shoving it in the hole in the steel plate on the ship's side. Other riveters would then apply the hammers to flatten out the rivet. Ricky didn't fancy that job at all. He'd heard stories of boys being burnt, when they missed catching the red hot rivet in the bucket, and it had landed on them.
They had tried to become Seamen by going to the Merchant Seamen’s Association, where crew members were recruited for the dozens of ships plying in and out of the South Wales ports, but the clerk had told them that they must have a Seaman’s Discharge Book before he could place them on a ship.
‘How do we get books?’ Brian had asked.
‘You do a trip to sea,’ he’d replied.
‘We can’t do a trip without a book,’ Ricky answered.
The clerk shrugged his shoulders and turned away, completely disinterested.
They left feeling very frustrated. Outside, from their vantage point on the hill, they looked across the docks at the dozens of ships loading or discharging cargoes. The port was a bustling hive of industry. Colliers, called flatties because of their low superstructures, designed to pass under river bridges on their way to the power stations, loaded their cargo from endless lines of railway trucks. Huge tankers discharged their oil into massive tanks standing on the dockside in tank farms. General cargo ships loaded farming machinery, steel coils, timber of all kinds, pit props, engineering supplies, and thousands of other items. Ships specialising in transporting iron ore, fresh produce, fruit and vegetables and grain were being unloaded. The iron ore in mountains on the dockside, the fruit and vegetables being hurried into warehouses and enormous buckets on the end of crane wires grabbing the grain in ships’ holds before dropping it into lorries for shipment to the flour mill.
The boys gazed at the scene before them. ‘Surely, among all these vessels, there must be someone who needs us,’ Ricky said.
‘Of course there is,’ Brian grinned. ‘Come on, we’ll go around the ships again.’
They walked around the docks again, gazing at the ships with longing in their eyes and hope in their hearts. When the boys had first started going aboard ships, Ricky’s Mother had protested to his Dad about the dangers of young boys boarding vessels.
‘He’ll come to no good down there,’ she’d said. ‘Those foreigners could do anything to him and we’d never know what happened.’
‘Don’t worry,’ his Dad replied. ‘All the foreign vessels have British Officers.’
‘Don’t worry,’ she’d shouted. Of course I worry. I don’t want him kidnapped and sold into slavery or something.’
Ricky had laughed. ‘I’ll be alright, Mam. Brian and I can look after ourselves. That’s why we’ve been going to the boxing club for years.’
‘Fat lot of good that would do against grown men.’ she’d cried.
‘Oh, I don’t know,’ he’d said.’ I can sort Dad out.’
His Dad had leapt to his feet and stabbed out a left at Ricky. Ricky dodged it and countered with a right but his Dad was faster, he’d moved out of the way and his right hand, palm open had caught Ricky on the side of the head. It staggered him even though there was no force behind it.
‘Pack it in you two,’ Mam had grinned, slapping them with her tea towel.
Copyright Deric Barry 2005.
Deric's other books http://dericbarry.weebly.com
Innocent on the run Part 2.
Innocent on the run Part 3.
Ricky caught the bus to the Pier head carrying his little bag with his change of clothes in it. He was wearing one of his elder brothers’ trousers and coat. After all, Graham had joined the Royal Navy and wouldn't need his civvies for a while! At least, until he came home on leave! Ricky was the last to leave home, which probably accounted for his Mother being so upset at his leaving.
The bus dropped him off near the pierhead, and he walked down the slope to the lock gates. The Motor Vessel Llanerin was just approaching the first lock gate. Ricky watched as she slowly entered the lock and tied up to the bollards. The lock gate closed behind her. Ricky hoped for the hundredth time that they hadn't found a deck boy for the ship.
The Captain came out on to the wing of the bridge and looked down at Ricky.
'If you're coming, jump aboard,' he shouted. Ricky ran to the side of the dock, threw his bag on deck and climbed aboard after it. The water in the lock had settled down to its mean level and the forward gate started to open. The ropes were cast off by the lock keepers and the ship moved out into the channel. Ricky could hardly believe it. He was at sea at last! One of the crew who was coiling rope down on deck, told him to take his bag inside.
He walked aft to the accommodation and took his bag inside the passageway. The door on his right had a brass plate above it labelled Recreation Room. Further up the passageway on the right was an open door. It was the messroom and a crewman was laying out salad, cold meats and bread on a table.
'You’re the new boy' he stated.
'Yes sir,' Ricky replied.
'Don't call me sir,' he said. 'I'm the cook. You can call me Doc.'
Doc was middle aged, with a bald top to his head and just a ring of hair around the back. He was average height, but very overweight with a large belly bursting through his shirt. His cherubic face was mottled red, and veins had broken through on his nose.
‘The Captain told me you were taking a pierhead jump. He wants to see you after we've dropped off the pilot. So for now, I'll show you to your berth.' He led the way along the passageway, past the galley and down a ladder to the next deck. The noise of the engine was very loud on this level. They walked further aft and down another ladder to the next deck. The passageway was narrower here, and Doc filled it with his bulk. The engine noise was deafening. A steel door with a glass porthole in it had a brass nameplate above it. ‘Engine Room.’ Doc went a little way further down the passage and opened a door. He motioned with his head for Ricky to go in. It was a double berth cabin. The bottom bunk was a jumble of blankets and a sheet. Doc pointed a finger upwards. 'Yours,' he bellowed above the racket of the engine. He pointed to a metal locker and pointed at Ricky. Ricky pointed at himself. Doc nodded. The room was just big enough for the two of them to stand in at the same time. There were blankets and sheets folded on the top bunk and a pillow. Doc had to back out of the cabin motioning Ricky to follow. Ricky left his bag on his bunk. They climbed back up to the mess room, past the din in the engine room, and when they got there, Ricky couldn't hear for a while. Doc showed him the hot water boiler which the crew used for making tea and coffee. 'One of your jobs is to see that the boiler doesn't go dry,' he said. 'If it gets dry, I'll have your guts for garters and the Bosun will probably keel haul you.' As Ricky didn't know what keel haul meant, he said nothing.
Doc got two cups from hooks hanging above the boiler and poured them both a cup of tea from the teapot standing on top of the boiler. The boiler had a steel guardrail running around the top of it to prevent the teapot sliding off when the ship rolled. He got milk from an opened tin of evaporated milk and put sugar in both cups. They sat down at one of the mess tables.
'Your first trip?' Doc asked.
'Yes,' Ricky replied.
'I remember my first trip,' Doc said. 'it was 1930 out of Newport on a tramp steamer. They were all coal fired in those days. I was deck boy, mess boy, galley boy and steward, all at the same time. Slave labour it was, but at least I didn't have to trim coal. As the ship burnt up coal the trimmers had to keep shifting the coal around to keep the ship on an even keel. They were shovelling coal from the time they went on watch to the time their relief came. Bloody hard, dirty work.'
Another crew member had entered while Doc was talking, a big burly man in seaboots and overalls.
'Back on the coal burners are we Doc,' he grinned. 'Doc's sailed on them all son, you listen to what he says.'
'They were clean, them coal burners,' Doc replied. 'A lot cleaner and quieter than these diesel engines nowadays.'
'The pilot should be dropping off in five minutes,' the man said, ignoring Doc's comments. 'Come with me son, we'll go to the bridge.'
They walked forward along the passageway, turned at a cross passage and climbed up a ladder . There were more doors on this level all with little brass plates above them. Second mate, Third mate, Second Engineer, Third Engineer, Apprentice. They climbed another ladder to the next level and the doors here announced , Chief Officer, Chief Engineer, Radio Officer, and the last door had Captain above it. There was another ladder half way down this passageway and when they got to the top of it they were in the darkened bridge. There was a light from the compass in front of the man at the wheel, but that was the only illumination. Ricky recognised the Captain's voice although he couldn't see him yet.
'Is the pilot ladder down Mr. Mate?' he asked
'Yes Captain, all ready.' The man who had brought Ricky up was evidently the mate.
The pilot boat is almost alongside,' the Captain said. 'Take the pilot down please.'
He turned to the pilot. 'Thanks very much Pilot, see you next time.' They shook hands.
The mate and the Pilot left the bridge, letting in a little light as they held the curtain aside and went out into the passageway.
'Come over here son,' the Captain said into the darkness. Ricky's eyes were getting used to the dark now, and he approached the front of the bridge and looked out of the bridge window. The fore deck was lit on the side where the Pilot ladder was, and Ricky saw the Mate and the Pilot emerge from the accommodation and walk towards the ladder. Two seamen were standing by the rope ladder, and the Pilot climbed up on to the ship's side and climbed down the ladder into the launch that was keeping pace with the ship. The launch turned away from the ship's side and headed back to Barry Dock. The two seamen hauled the Jacob's ladder back into the ship and they and the Mate came back into the accommodation. The light on deck was switched off. The Captain rang for Full Ahead on the engine room telegraph and the engines throbbed into life as the ship picked up speed.
'Steer 225 degrees,' the Captain told the helmsman.
'225, Sir,' he replied. The Captain drew across the curtain cutting off the chart room from the bridge, and beckoned Ricky inside.
' Close the curtain,' he instructed. 'To shield the light from the helmsman’s eyes.'
He took out a large, folded document from a drawer underneath the chart table. Down the left hand side was a list of names. To the right of the names was the person's rank or rating and his title on the ship, the date of joining and a blank space for date of leaving. Then the address and next of kin. In the last column were their signatures.
'Now,' said the Captain, 'full name and address and next of kin. And the note from your parents giving their permission for you to sail with us.'
Ricky brought out the note that his father had written, giving his permission for Ricky to go to sea. The Captain looked at the note.
'Did you forge this ?' he asked with a frown.
'No, Sir.' Ricky said quickly, going red in the face.
The Captain smiled. 'I did when I first went to sea.' He laughed aloud as he took the address from the note and entered Ricky's Dad as his next of kin. 'Your full name ?'
'Richard Alfred Davies'
The Captain looked at him sideways.
'Fifteen and a half,' he answered.
The Captain grinned. 'Now sign here. You are on the ship's articles as deck boy but your duties will also be to assist the cook in the galley and mess room.
‘We have another deck boy aboard, slightly older than you. His name is Peter. You’ll meet him tomorrow. You can go and get turned in now, as it's nearly midnight.'
'Thanks Captain,' Ricky replied, turning away.
‘Before you go,’ the Captain added. ‘Two things that I will not tolerate on my ship are drunkenness and fighting. If you are brought before me on either offence, I shall punish you most severely. That goes for anyone in the ship’s company, regardless of rank or rating.. Do you understand?’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Ricky replied, and went back down the ladders to the messroom. He looked in, but as Doc wasn't there, he carried on down to his cabin. The noise down here was incredible compared to the bridge, and the smell of the diesel oil from the engine room was very strong. Ricky went into the cabin and made up his bunk. He unpacked his bag and stowed his clothes in the locker. Taking his towel and toothbrush he tried the other two doors on this passage. The first was a locker with engine room consumables in it. Cotton waste, tins of degreaser, tins of grease, nuts and bolts and gaskets of all shapes and sizes. The next door opened into the bathroom. There was a shower, a toilet and a washbasin, and Ricky quickly washed himself, cleaned his teeth and went back to the cabin. There was a man in there now, undressing before climbing into his bunk.
'Hello, mate,' he shouted, 'call me Charlie. I'm the engine room greaser.'
'O.K Ricky. See you in the morning.' And Charlie climbed into his bunk, switched off the little light above his head and turned to face the bulkhead. Ricky quickly undressed and climbed into his bunk. He switched off the bunk light and lay there going over the events of the day in his mind. If anyone had told him twenty four hours ago that he would be at sea tonight, he wouldn't have believed them. He eventually dropped off to sleep with the engine still thumping away below him.
Copyright Deric Barry 2005.
Innocent on the run. Part 4.
During the night Ricky was awakened once with the ship rolling. As the bunks were placed across the ship, every roll she gave slid Ricky down the bunk, and then slid him back again when she righted herself. But he was too tired to stay awake for long and he was soon fast asleep again. He was awakened by someone shaking him and he climbed out of the bunk. It was Doc and he was just disappearing out of the door again. Ricky climbed into his clothes and stumbled up the passageways to the mess room. The ship was steadily rolling from side to side, and Ricky had to be careful in case he stumbled and hit the chairs or tables in the mess. He could see by the mess room clock that it was just before six a.m. Doc told him to get himself a cup of tea before cleaning the tables and washing up the cutlery and plates that the crew had used during the night. He didn't really want tea as he was feeling a bit queasy, but he managed to get most of it down. He gathered up the crockery and cutlery put it through the hatchway into the galley, stacked it in the sink and filled the sink with hot water. Doc showed him where the cleaning materials were kept, and he took the cloths and soap back to the mess room and cleaned the tables of the litter that the crew had left. Looking at the remains of meals and sandwiches that were scattered on the tables, and the tea and coffee that had been spilled, and mixed in with it, made him feel even sicker. Once he'd cleaned the tables, wiped down the tea boiler and made sure it was full of water, he went back into the galley and washed up.
Doc was preparing breakfast. He slid a tray of bacon and sausages in the oven and started opening tins of tomatoes. There were steel bars about two inches high around the top of the galley stove and also across the middle to keep the pots and pans from sliding off the stove in rough weather.
'Breakfast is from 7.30 to 8.30.' Doc told him. 'So that the crew going on watch at 8 o'clock can eat before they go on, and the ones coming off at 8 o'clock can have theirs. Same breakfast most days. Sausage, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, fried bread, and they can make their own toast and tea. The crew come to the hatchway between the messroom and the galley and order what they want. Have you filled the boiler?' he asked.
'Yes.' Ricky squawked.
Doc looked at him, sharply.
'You seasick?' he asked.
Ricky bent over and leaned his head on the sink. 'Oh, God,' he moaned.
'Don't be sick in that sink,' Doc warned. 'There's a heads over the other side of the passageway.'
'I won't be sick,' Ricky replied.
'Best thing for seasickness is work. After you've done the dishes, you can mop out the messroom. That should take us up to breakfast time.'
A slim young man appeared in the doorway. He was dressed in a white shirt, bow tie, black trousers and highly polished black shoes.
'Morning Doc.' He whispered in a soft, effeminate voice. 'What's for breakfast?'
Doc looked at him with a scowl. 'The same that's been for breakfast for the last six months that I've been on this horrible friggin' vessel,' he said.
'Oh, dear,' replied the man,' got out of our bunk on the wrong side have we.' He noticed Ricky by the sink, staring at him.
'OOh! who's this, Doc,' he asked.
'That's my new boy, Ricky. And don't you go corrupting him,' Doc warned, waving a tea towel at him.
'As if I would,' he squeaked.
'This is Nigel, the Officers Steward,' Doc told Ricky. 'Stay away from him, he's trouble.'
'Oh, you beast Doc, I'm not, 'he said. 'anyway, it's nice to meet you Ricky, and don't listen to Doc, he's just a rough old sailor.'
Nigel gathered up the sauces and condiments that he would need up in the Officer's Saloon, just under the bridge, and placed them in the dumb waiter in the corner of the galley. He pulled on the rope alongside it and they disappeared upwards.
'Bye, Ricky,' he said, and waved his fingers as he went out.
'Come on, Rick, It'll be lunch time if we don't get a move on,' Doc moaned.
Ricky finished the washing up and then got the mop and bucket out from the heads opposite, and washed the messroom floor. It was almost 7.30 by the clock in the messroom and men were beginning to drift in for breakfast, when Ricky accidentally kicked over the bucket of water. There was water everywhere, swilling around as the ship rolled. The men were laughing at his plight, and he hurriedly mopped up, feeling very embarrassed.
'Right,' Doc said. 'I've done the breakfasts for the officer's saloon.' He indicated the trays of hot food. 'Put those in that dumb waiter and haul them up to Nigel.'
Charlie came in, yawning and scratching himself. 'Hiya Rick, how do you feel?' he asked.
'A bit sick,' Ricky admitted.
'You'll get used to it, we all do.'
'Knock off for a bit," Doc shouted. 'come and get your breakfast.'
Ricky didn't really want to eat anything but he didn't want anyone to know how sick he felt, so he went into the galley. Doc had his back to him at the stove, and as Ricky approached he turned and offered him a plate with a large lump of white fat, swimming in grease. Ricky 's stomach heaved and he dashed out to the toilet. There were four faces grinning at him through the messroom hatchway as he ran past with his hand over his mouth. Doc roared with laughter!
Copyright Deric Barry 2005. Deric on hubpages: http://scarytaff.hubpages.com
Innocent on the run. part 5.
When he came out of the heads, Doc made him eat some dry toast and drink a cup of tea. The men going on watch were drifting away to their duties, and Ricky was able to clean up the tables again, before the next lot came in. He felt terrible, his head ached and his stomach churned around making gurgling noises Wind was coming up from his stomach in a series of mild burps. The sight of the spilled food and slops on the tables made him heave. As Ricky was cleaning a table, a lad of about seventeen came into the mess. He came across to where the new lad was working.
‘You must be the kid who did the pier head jump,’ he stated.
‘Yes. Call me Rick.’
The lad’s face hardened. ‘I’ll call you what I like, mate, he spat out. ‘I had to go to training school to get my job as deck boy. Three bloody hard months with no money. You jump straight into a job with no training and no experience.’ He stabbed a finger into the younger lad’s chest. ‘Keep out of my way or you’ll be sorry.’ He turned away and got himself a cup of tea.
Ricky was astonished! He’d had no idea that someone would resent him getting a job on the ship. He turned back to his work trembling.
Once the second sitting had finished, Ricky cleaned up for the last time.
'You'd better report to the Bosun, now,' Doc told him. Ricky went down the passageway and out on to the deck. The superstructure was all aft in this ship, and the forward deck contained the three hatches which carried the cargo.
The sea was quite smooth, with a slight swell, which caused the ship to roll from side to side. The wind was quite light and Ricky felt better with the wind in his face. The Bosun was a seaman from Cardiff, in middle age, with a lined and wrinkled face. His hands were huge, horny and scarred from a lifetime of splicing ropes and wires.
'Where's your wet weather gear?' he asked.
‘Er, I haven’t got any.’
The Bosun said, ' Come with me, then. We’ll find something for you.' He led the way to the fo'csle in the bows of the ship and opened a locker. The strong smell of tarry rope and paint made Ricky’s stomach turn over.
The lad who had told him off for joining at the pier head was in the fore part of the fo’csle painting and he stopped work as Ricky passed him, sneered and spat on the deck.
The Bosun handed Ricky an old pair of seaboots that someone had discarded, and an oilskin jacket and trousers, covered in paint splashes and oil. They were miles too big for the lad but he stuffed the trousers into the seaboots and turned the cuffs of the jacket up. The Bosun then showed him how to connect up the deck hose, and he started washing down the decks. Once the deck had been washed down, one of the seamen told Ricky to get out of his oilskins and help them with the painting. They were painting the funnel, and the fumes from it, falling on to deck level were pretty foul, making Ricky feel sick again.
The seaman's, name was Dave, and he and the Bosun had rigged a kind of chair, on ropes which was slung up on the funnel and could be lowered gradually using a block and tackle. There was another one on the other side of the funnel and a seaman was already sitting in it, painting.
'What are you like at painting?' Dave asked.
'Not too good.'
'Now's your chance to learn then. Keep the brush filled and keep your strokes even. Here's your paint pot and brush. Now sit in the Bosun's chair and we'll hoist you up.' They hauled Ricky up the funnel, and shouted like mad when he accidentally spilled some paint out of his pot on to the deck! He quickly righted his paint pot and started painting the side of the funnel, while Dave shouted up instructions to him. The height made Ricky giddy for a while and this, on top of the seasickness and the ship rolling made him feel terrible. He wondered why he had ever wanted to go to sea, and if he could go back twenty four hours, he would run a mile from ships and the sea. He clung to the side of the Bosun's chair with one hand while clutching the paint pot, and tried to paint with the other. He managed to get some paint on, though, and Dave was encouraging him, laughing when he missed the funnel altogether when the ship rolled away from him. They let the Bosuns' chair down at ten o'clock and went down to the messroom for a cup of tea. Dave told him to eat some dry toast and to wash it down with tea, as he needed something in his stomach, and once he’d done as instructed he felt a little better. They continued painting the funnel for the rest of that day. At lunch time Ricky helped Doc lay out the tables and washed the dishes after it. When he got back up to the funnel, Dave was in the chair and Ricky helped the Bosun with the raising and lowering of it. At Dinner time Ricky again laid out the tables, and Doc showed him how to wet the table cloths with water to prevent the crockery from sliding off it, as the bridge had told them that there was some bad weather due. Ricky thought that the weather was bad enough now, as the ship was rolling a bit more than she had in the morning. He couldn't wait to be released so that he could go to bed. Doc also showed him the chains and shackles under each chair, and they screwed the shackle into a ringbolt in the deck, effectively anchoring the chair to the deck.
'If you don't do this,' Doc warned, 'someone could get hurt, falling out of a chair if it tips over in bad weather.'
'Does it get that rough,' Ricky asked him.
'It doesn't have to be very rough to set these old ships rolling. They were built in the war, in America, and were supposed to last for only one trip across the Atlantic. They carried food to Europe, for us Brits and their own troops. As you can see, all the accommodation is aft and she's very high. They're like an upside down pendulum. Once they start to roll, they don't stop. This ship would roll in wet grass. You're cabin's not too bad though, you're low down in the ship. The Captain and the other Officers are the worst off. Their cabins are right up the top, so they swing the most.'
After the crew had eaten their dinners, Ricky washed up for the last time, and cleared all the rubbish that had been left around before cleaning down the tables. Doc told him that he was finished for the day, and he could relax. He would be called again at six in the morning. Some of the crew were sitting around in the mess, playing cards. There was a lounge with a few easy chairs, forward of the mess room, and some crew members used it for reading or playing dominoes, Monopoly and a few other games that were stored away in a cupboard. The only thing that Ricky could think of at the moment was bed. Sweet, blessed relief from his aching body and sick stomach. He made his way down to the cabin, nearly gagging as he reached the engine room door. The smell of diesel fuel was overpowering. He quickly cleaned his teeth and swilled off his face. The cold water felt good on his fevered skin. He then stripped off his clothes and climbed into his bunk. Within minutes he was asleep, in spite of the noise from the engine.
Copyright Deric Barry 2005. Deric on hubpages: http://scarytaff.hubpages.com