Innocent on the run. Part 12
Charlie had been ashore the previous evening, and he told Ricky he'd met some beautiful American girls, who were mad for him, but he had to tell them all that he had to get back to his ship, as he was the Captain, and no one would know what to do if he wasn't there supervising.
Doc overheard him, and he stuck his head through the serving hatch. 'Get lost, you grease monkey.' he shouted. 'The only girls you met were in your dreams.'
Charlie laughed. 'It's true , Doc, honest. As true as I'm riding this bike.'
'Get back down below, you've been having those funny hallucinations again.'
Ricky got his breakfast and joined Charlie at the table, telling him about the pool hall and the money he'd won. Charlie listened, then said, 'Be careful in places like that. At the first sign of trouble, get out of there fast ! Some of these guys over here are crazy. They'd kill someone for a few dollars.'
The last of the men had eaten and Ricky cleared up after them and washed down the tables, before sinking his arms in the suds and doing the crockery and cutlery . After finishing in the galley, Ricky went out on deck and joined the rest of the crew in cleaning and maintenance work. They had stripped a part of the windlass on the fo'c'sle, and his job was to clean up the parts with a bucket of diesel, so that the engineers could inspect them, before renewing any parts. It was hot on the deck and he stripped off to his shorts. He had become a nice, even, brown colour on the trip down from the U.K. Doc was the barber on board and had cut his hair in a crew cut. He was filling out physically with the good food and constant exercise, so much so that he wondered if his Mum would recognise him when he got back home. It seemed like a lifetime since he had joined the ship, but it was only just over four weeks. He would have some good stories to tell his mates back at home after this trip, and he would have the new clothes and cowboy boots to prove where he'd been. They would be green with envy!
He spent the day with the Engineers, and managed to get through the day without breaking or losing anything. The nearest he came to messing something up was when he dropped a small part of machinery that he was cleaning, and it rolled towards the ship's side. He just managed to stop it before it plunged over the side into the water. The Second Engineer said that if it had gone over, Ricky would have followed it! He did his chores in the messroom after dinner, before going back out on deck to keep his cargo watch. There didn't seem to be an awful lot of grain in the hold that he was assigned to, but the Mate told him that it was deceptive, and that there was about a third of the cargo aboard already. The evening passed quite quickly, and it was as Dave had said, the Crane man knew what he was doing, so all that needed to be done was keep the deck clear of spilled cargo. At Midnight he was relieved by an Able Seaman who was not happy to be working the night shift, and groused for ten minutes before Ricky was able to get away. Covered in dust from the cargo, he showered and went straight to bed. He'd had a long day, and was very soon asleep.
Next day, Doc let him lie in until six thirty again, and he hauled himself out of his bunk trying to open his sticky eyes. Running the water in the sink and holding his head under it helped, and he pulled on his clothes and joined Doc in the galley. He was used to the same routine now, so he got on with his jobs after getting a cup of tea.
Doc was in good form again, telling Nigel stories with a poker face, trying to wind
him up. He managed to upset him most days, and today he told Nigel that the Chief Steward wanted all the stewards to help out with the cargo watches. Nigel shot off to see the Chief Steward, and Doc had leaned on the sink laughing like a maniac. 'He'll never learn,' he said.
'One day, he'll get his own back.' Ricky said.
'He'll never put one over on me, I'm not as gullible as he is.'
Ricky spent that day out in the sun, working with the Bosun. They changed two of the mooring lines that had got frayed, by hauling new lines out of the forward locker, and substituting them for the old ones. Ricky tripped over the rope on the deck and sat down heavily, much to the Bosun's amusement. Ricky didn't think it was funny, though, his backside was sore! Changing them over took all morning and in the afternoon the Bosun cut out the worn bits on the two they'd changed, and spliced them together again. It was a long job handling the huge ropes, and Ricky had his work cut out laying the ropes out on deck in snakes and feeding the old, frayed bits to the Bosun when he needed them. He had to drape the rope over his shoulder and drag it up the deck to where the Bosun was sat. It was exhausting work, and he fell over a couple more times before they'd finished. They completed the two ropes and stowed them away just before dinner, so Ricky had to go straight into the messroom and lay up the tables.There was no work for him that evening, so he was free to go ashore, and he hurried through his jobs after dinner to get showered and changed.
Doc stopped him as he was going over the gangway. 'Watch your step if you go to the pool room,' he advised. 'If any trouble starts, get under a table.'
Ricky laughed. 'Okay Doc.' He walked down the gangway shaking his head, thinking old Doc's a worrier. The gangway was not as steep as it had been the first night that he went ashore, a sure sign that the ship was filling up with grain. Walking through the dockyard he stopped at the dry docks to see what progress had been made on the two ships there, and was amazed to see that both had had their bottoms scraped and
painted, and the one with the new propeller had had all the scaffolding taken away from it. They certainly worked quick over here he thought. Men were still on the decks working on the winches and windlasses, so they were not completely finished. Both ships looked brand new with their nice new paint. He came out of the docks and walked up the streets towards the pool hall. Bars and shops were ablaze with neon lights even though it was not yet dark, and he stopped to look in the store windows. Everything that you could possibly imagine was on sale. There was even a store full of guns of all types, shapes and sizes. Revolvers, automatics, shotguns, machine pistols, and all the ammunition to go with them. Spicy and aromatic smells came from the delicatessens, mixed in with fresh bread, cheeses, dried fruits and fresh meats. Fruit and vegetable shops with items that he'd never seen or heard of before. Liquor stores packed with a mind boggling assortment of wines, beers, and spirits. Pawnbrokers and jewellers, Laundromats, restaurants and drug stores, all doing good business, by the amount of people in each. The number of cars on the streets was amazing! They were everywhere, huge chromium plated cars with fins on their backs, cars with engines showing, small wheels in the front and bigger ones in the back, open sports cars, yellow taxis, limousines, cars painted in garish colours and old rusty ones. It seemed like no one walked in Port Arthur, they drove up to the store they wanted, parked outside it, then drove away loaded up. How different it was to his home town where you were lucky if you saw two or three cars in a day. There were
certainly no bright coloured cars at home, they were all black! He dawdled outside the store next to the pool hall, eyeing up the range of boots in the window. They started at eight dollars a pair, and he had six. He thought, maybe tonight I can win some more money.
A voice said, 'Hi, Ricky.' It was Slim, on his way into the pool hall.
'Hello, Slim. I was just about to go in.'
'Well, come on, lets go. I'm meeting a couple of the guys here. We can make up a four hander.' They went in, and Slim headed for the guy he'd been playing with before Ricky met him. There was another young man with him, and they were playing together on a table in the corner.
'This is Ricky.' Slim said to the other two. 'These two guys are Chuck and Al'
'Hi, Ricky.' they chorused.
Chuck held out his hand. 'Call me Chuck.' Ricky shook the offered hand. 'I'm Al.' the other one said and shook hands.
'My Dad's called Al, sometimes,' Ricky said. 'It's short for Alfred. What's yours short for? '
'I'd rather not say,' he said looking away.
'Its Alphonso, that's what it is.' Slim said. 'And he can't stand it. Chuck's short for Charles.' Al was shorter than Ricky, with very black hair and black eyes. He looked like there was some Mexican in his family as his skin was a golden brown colour. Chuck was as tall as Slim, with fair, almost white hair and blue eyes. The three of them were dressed in jeans and Tee Shirts, with baseball boots. It seemed to be a uniform, as nearly every teenager in the hall was dressed the same. They watched as the two lads finished their game, then racked the balls up for a foursome, spinning up for partners, the losers to pay for the table. Chuck and Ricky were drawn together, and they lost the first frame, but won the second and third. They asked Ricky what it was like living in South Wales and he told them about his family's house, with no electricity, and candles to light the way at night. They thought he was joking at first, but soon believed him when he went on to describe the gas lighting, and fuelling the fires with wood and small coal, and sometimes coke which they had to carry from the gas works.
'What car does your old man drive?' Slim asked.
Ricky looked at him, startled. 'No one that I know of has got a car. The only people who could afford cars would be Doctors and very rich people, I expect.' 'Damn, everyone drives cars here. I'll be getting one for my birthday next month,' Slim said.
'Yeah, I got a Ford.' Chuck told him. 'Few dollars down and a few dollars a month.'
Al joined in. 'Hell, I'm building one from used spare parts. You get a body and chassis for a few bucks, then get the rest from the breakers. There's hundreds of cars crashed every day around here. Sometimes you can
Ricky was impressed! What a country ! Even the kids had cars! The three American boys were all around seventeen years old, having been in the same class at school, and were working in Port Arthur. Slim worked in a delicatessen, Chuck worked in a meat packing plant, and Al was a trainee mechanic in a garage.
They played three more games, then Slim suggested they go across the street to the bowling Alley, as there was no action in the pool hall, so they hung up their cues and crossed the street. The bowling arena was huge, with twelve bowling lanes, most of them occupied by teams or families. There was a bar selling soft drinks and ice creams, and seats around the end of each alley in a semicircle. Behind the semicircles there were rows and rows of tables and chairs. The noise was incredible! A mixture of laughter, conversation, cheers, screams and cursing. They booked an alley and changed into the special shoes that were on hire. The bowling balls were a lot bigger than the skittle balls that Ricky had used at home, with holes in them for placing your fingers in. There were ten pins at the end of the alley, and when some of them were knocked down, a machine automatically replaced them on the diamond. Slim showed Ricky how to hold the ball, sight it at the pins, run a few steps to the start line and throw the ball, following through with his arms and body. His first ball missed completely, but his next hit seven pins down and he gave a great shout of exhilaration, joining the others who cheered like mad. They formed themselves into two teams, competing against each other, and played for an hour. Ricky threw a lot of his balls off the alley completely, and on one occasion, couldn't let go of the ball and ended up sliding down the alley with the ball still attached to his hand. The onlookers thought it hilarious!
'Funniest game of ten pin I've ever played,' Slim laughed wiping his eyes. They sat at one of the tables watching the other players. Some of the teams that were playing had special shirts on with their names on the back. There were Eagles, Indians, Mac's Garage, Oilers and Denny's Diner.
Chuck said, 'There's a party at my place on Saturday night. My folks are away for the week, so see if you can make it, Rick.'
'Great, I should be O.K. for Saturday. I'm duty tomorrow night, so I should be off the following night.'
'We'll be at the pool room early on, so if you can make it, we'll meet you there and take you to my place in the car.'
'That's great, thanks a lot.'
'There'll be a crowd of our buddies, and a lot of girls from the college, so we should have a great night.'
'Yeah, the last one we had lasted all night,' Slim said.
'That was at my place,' Al joined in. 'It took me nearly a week to clean the place up before the folks got back.'
'We helped.' Slim reminded him.
'Oh, yeah, you helped alright. If you hadn't been there it would have taken three days, instead of a week. '
'Well, you can't work all the time. You gotta take it easy sometimes.'
'You took it easy all the time! I was the one scrubbing the carpets when you were sleeping on the couch.'
'I made the coffee!'
Al told Ricky how the other two had turned up to help him clean up, and Chuck had ended up in the garage working on Al's car. Slim had lazed about, getting in the way, and Chuck had capped it all by coming in to the house with oil on his shoes, treading it into the carpets. They could laugh about it now, but at the time Al had nearly murdered the pair of them. Time was getting on, and Ricky had to be back onboard by midnight, so he told the American boys that he would have to leave. They insisted on taking him back to the ship in Chuck's car, as they were going home anyway, and they got their own shoes back from the cloakroom and walked outside. Chuck's car was across the street, and they waited for the illuminated sign that said 'Walk,' before crossing.
'If you cross before the sign comes on, you can get fined on the spot by that cop on the corner,' Al told Ricky. 'It's called jay walking.' Chuck's car was a huge sedan which could comfortably hold six or seven people, and they lounged in the huge seats while Chuck drove them slowly along the streets, with the windows open, whistling and catcalling to the girls they passed. They tried to persuade some girls that they knew, who were stood at the traffic lights waiting to cross, to get in the car and go for a ride, but they were told to get lost! They drove on, whooping and singing along to the radio. At the Llanerin, Slim said, 'I sure would like to see over your ship, Rick. Is that possible?'
'The Mate is on deck,' Ricky replied. 'I'll go and ask him.' He was back at the car in a couple of minutes. 'The Mate said you're welcome to look her over.' They trooped aboard and shook hands with the Mate. Ricky took them into the accommodation. Doc and Charlie were in the messroom and they were introduced and chatted to the Americans for a while. Ricky showed them around the accommodation and Bridge, but asked Charlie to show them the engine room, which he did with pleasure. They came back into the messroom after their visit to the bowels of the ship, as Doc called it. 'Wow, it's noisy down there,' Slim said waggling a finger in his ear.
'Only the generators running at the moment,' Charlie told him. 'You should hear it when the main engine is running.'
'Awesome !' Chuck replied.
' Thanks for the tour,' Al said. 'Guess we'd better be leaving, now.' 'Sure do thank you.' Slim offered his hand to Charlie and Doc. 'Hope to see you again before you leave Port Arthur.'
'We're sailing early Sunday morning.' Doc said. 'So if you want to have a typical English lunch, come down to the ship around midday on Saturday.'
'Gee, that would be great.' Slim answered. 'I guess we could. We all have our lunch break at twelve. Thanks a lot, Doc.'
'Don't thank him until you've tried his cooking.' Charlie told them, and they all laughed as Doc swiped him with the teatowel. They left the ship laughing and promising to return for the promised meal. Ricky turned in, as it was past midnight and he would be up again at six thirty. He was enjoying his time in Port Arthur, and he wondered what Russia would be like in contrast. He fell asleep wondering if the Russian kids had cars!
Copyright Deric Barry 2005.
Innocent on the run. Part 13.
Doc got him up again in the morning, and he started work as soon as he'd drunk the tea that Doc had made for him. Doc whispered, 'watch Nigel when he comes in. He's in for a surprise!'
'What kind of surprise?'
Doc just laughed!
Nigel came in to the galley later and said, 'Good Morning.'
Ricky answered him, but Doc just grunted.
'What's wrong with him today.' Nigel asked, nodding towards Doc.
Ricky shrugged his shoulders!
‘He's very moody, you know,' Nigel complained. 'Sometimes he's like a bear with a sore head! I think it's his age. They get funny when they get to his age!'
If Doc heard, he didn't acknowledge it. He had his back to Nigel and was reaching in the drawer for something. Nigel got on with loading his dumb waiter up and when he had finished, turned to Doc again.
'Well, goodbye, misery.'
Doc spun around with his arms reaching out as if to grab Nigel! He had a horrific werewolf mask on, and he came forward snarling and slobbering, arms hooking the air in front of him! Nigel looked at him in horror, before screaming and running out of the galley. Doc fell about laughing! He ripped his mask off and the tears were rolling down his face! 'Did you see his face.' he roared. 'He was petrified.'
Ricky had been scared too, as he'd never seen one of the realistic looking masks before, but he joined in the laughter, relieved that the scare was over.
'I knew it would get him going,' Doc sniggered. 'As soon as I saw it in the shop last night, I thought, That's It! That's for Nigel. It's a shame really.' he chortled, 'I shouldn't take the mick out of the gullible little twit, but he falls for it every time!'
Ricky hauled the dumb waiter up the shaft as Nigel had left in such a panic, he'd forgotten to do it. Doc carried on cooking the breakfast, laughing to himself and occasionally giving a growl or a snarl! After breakfast, Ricky helped the deck crew clearing up the spilled grain. The holds were getting really full now, and Dave estimated that they would be full by midnight on Saturday. Ricky told him about the
party at Chuck's, and Dave said that he should be able to go as he wasn't duty that night.
'Did you get your cowboy boots?' Dave asked.
'No, I'm short of a few dollars.' he answered.
'Go and ask the old man for a sub, then. He'll give you one. You've been working overtime so you're entitled to the money.'
'Will he give it to me do you think?'
'Of course, it's your money!'
Ricky went up to the Captain's cabin and knocked on the door. The Captain's voice called 'Come in.'
'It's me Sir, 'Ricky said nervously, as he went into the Captain's office which was situated off his dayroom. 'I wondered if you could give me a sub, Sir.'
The cabin was beautifully furnished with two leather arm chairs and a settee, on a dark blue carpet. There was a round table in the centre of the room with papers scattered on the top and a mahogany desk and bookcase along one wall. The lower half of the walls were clad in red mahogany, and there were pictures of the other ships that the Captain had been in command of, on the walls.
The Captain was sitting at his office desk. 'Want to go ashore on the razzle, do you.' he said sternly.
'No, Sir, I want to get a pair of boots before we leave.'
'I see, and how much are they?'
'Eight dollars, Sir, but I've got five left, so I need three.'
The Captain took out his list of advances to the crew, and wrote Ricky's name down with five dollars alongside it. 'Sign here.' he said.
Ricky signed his name and the Captain counted out five dollars. 'Thanks, Captain.' he said, and turned to go. 'The Bosun tells me you're coming along quite well, Ricky. Keep it up, we'll make a sailor of you yet.' 'Yes, Sir. I will. Thank you.' And he went back to the deck. At lunch time he asked Doc if he could go up the store to get his boots, but Doc told him that the best thing to do was wait for his American friends tomorrow, and they would probably run him up in their car, as it would take too long to walk both ways today. That made sense, so he went about his work quite happily, and finished the afternoon shift, before getting on with the dinner preparations. At six o'clock he was back out on deck for the evening watch, clearing up spilled grain, and watching the cargo steadily filling up in the holds. At midnight he was relieved by Fred and he went in to the mess room for a cup of tea and a sandwich. The mess room was empty tonight, so after his snack he went down below and showered before turning in.
'Come on. Wakey wakey.' Doc's voice filtered through to Ricky's sleep fogged brain.
'God is it morning already,' he asked sleepily.'
'Saturday morning. Up and at 'em compadre.' Doc left the cabin and Ricky reluctantly got out of his bunk. He thought, only six hours sleep. I used to get nine or ten at home. I wonder what they're doing at home. He didn't feel at all homesick as he had thought he would. He washed and got ready for the routine of preparing breakfast and clearing up before starting work on deck.
Nigel came in to the galley and turned away in a huff when Doc gave a wolf howl. He prepared his dumb waiter and hauled it up to his pantry before turning with his nose in the air and stalking off. Doc put his head out into the alleyway after him and yapped like a dog.
'You should have heard him yesterday,' Doc laughed as he told Ricky. ' He called me a despicable beast, among other things.' Doc had told everyone on board how he had scared Nigel out of his wits. He was calling Nigel, El Lupo, The Wolf !
Ricky spent the morning painting the Bosun's stores out. It was terrifically hot in there and he was glad when the job was finished. It didn't take long as it was not a very large compartment, and most of it was done with a roller on a long handle. Just before he knocked off for lunch, the American lads arrived, and he showed them in to the mess.
'Hello, boys,' Doc greeted them. 'I've put the four of you on this table.' He indicated the other crew members who were eating lunch. 'Ignore this lot, they're peasants.'
'Hey,' a sailor shouted to Doc. 'How come we don't get a table cloth like theirs.'
'Cos you don't deserve one, you common sailor,' Doc replied. 'These are our guests and they're decent people. Not like you lot of swabs. You ought to be caged in the fo'c'stle and only brought out when there's a full moon. Just like El Lupo.' The messroom rang to their laughter. Doc turned to the Americans and continued, 'If Nigel was talking to me, I'd get him to wait on you but as he's not, you'll have to come to the hatch yourselves.'
They tucked in to Tomato Soup followed by Roast Beef, Yorkshire puddings, potatoes, cabbage and peas. The sweet was Manchester Tart and it was followed by coffee and cheese and biscuits. Slim sat back in his chair. 'Gee, I'm stuffed !' he said.
'Sure was a great meal, Doc,' Chuck complimented.
Al rubbed his stomach.'I must have put pounds on already.'
'Chuck' Ricky enquired. 'Could you give me a lift to the store up town so I can buy a pair of boots?'
'Sure, no problem. But you don't need to pay their prices, I know of a store where we can get them a lot cheaper than up town. I'll take you there right now.' He rose from the table and the others followed suit.
Slim went across to the serving hatch. 'Thanks for your hospitality, Doc.'
'No problemo.' Doc answered.
'Is it O.K. if we take Ricky up to get some boots ?' Chuck asked.
'Yes, get his boots or I'll never hear the last of it.'
The three Americans said their farewells to the crew members in the mess and waved as they left.
The four of them piled into the car and Chuck took them out through the docks and headed for the store a few miles out of town. He drove fast, and they were soon inside the old wooden store looking at the boots. Ricky gazed at the rows of fancy boots, practically drooling. There were dozens of styles and colours to choose from, and eventually he chose a light brown pair with fancy tooling engraved in the leather. He pulled them on and wore them in the car as they drove back to the ship. They were beautiful, shiny and sleek, with two inch heels and pointed toes. He saved two dollars on the price of them compared to the others he'd seen in the town shops.
'Okay if we drop you at the dock gates, Rick ?' Chuck asked. ' We have to get back to work.'
'Yes, that's fine. Thanks a lot for taking me.'
'No problem,' Chuck grinned. 'Instead of meeting up town tonight, I'll pick you up at the ship tonight at eight, O.K?'
'Great !' Ricky waved to them as Chuck turned the car and headed for town. It felt strange at first, walking through the docks with his new boots on, but he soon got used to them, and the extra height they gave him made him feel great. His new shirt and jeans were washed ready for the party that evening, and all that was left to do was iron them.
Back onboard, Doc stared at his boots. 'Hmm,' he said. 'You'll probably fall off those heels and break an ankle.'
Ricky did a little dance on the spot. 'They're great, aren't they Doc?'
'If you say so. Anyway the Bosun needs you on deck to help with the hatch covers. The cargo's loaded.' Ricky took his new boots off and put the old ones back on. He felt quite short without them. They spent the afternoon lowering the hatch covers on to the hatches, and securing them. Then there was the final clean up around the decks, washing down after sweeping up the grain spillage. A large truck loaded with stores arrived, and they unloaded it and carried the boxes and bags on to the ship. There were dry goods of all descriptions and it took them two hours to get it all on board. Doc had the task of stowing it all away in the stores so that he could get at it easily, and a continuous stream of men carried boxes and bags and placed them where Doc wanted them. The ship was to sail the following morning at 2 a.m, so a sign was placed on the gangway reminding the crew to be back aboard by one o'clock. After dinner, and once his chores had been done, Ricky ironed his clothes and got showered and changed. He was a completely different young man to the one who had joined the ship in Barry. He had filled out, was bronzed, and even without his new heels, he'd got taller.
Doc warned him to be sure to get back to the ship by one a.m. as if he was late, the Captain would stop him a day's pay. While Ricky was out on deck, waiting for the car to pick him up the Mate came along.
'Don't forget, young Ricky.' he said, 'Leave expires at one o'clock.'
'Yes, Sir.' he answered, 'Doc has already told me not to be late.'
The car arrived and Ricky ran down the gangway and climbed in. The three lads were in party mood and they sang songs as Chuck drove them through the streets of Port Arthur. Chuck grinned at the two American lads. 'Got to make one stop on the way.' Al and Slim gave loud whoops of joy. 'What's happening ?' Ricky asked him. 'Got to see this guy I know.'
Copyright Deric Barry 2005. Deric on hubpages: http://scarytaff.hubpages.com
Innocent on the run. Part 14.