One More Night
A shorter story by Jay LeBorgne © 2014
The boy aloft in the crow’s nest calls out, “land ahead,” as the ship breaks from three days of fog. The sun is long set–I can see the shoreline aglow from the beach fires welcoming this long weary crew. None as weary as her First Officer, his last night at sea. The last night with this smelly, fine, crackerjack crew.
The Captain sleeps while I dream. I dream of Abigail, my love of near a quarter century. My love for life and the reason for my existence. She waits for one more night. I am as elated as I am tired.
The crew ready.
“Helmsman, Right 10 Degrees Rudder,” I bellow though the wind does not warrant such a voice.
“Rudder 10 Degrees Right, Sir,” he responds sharply.
I am tired, too tired to continue anything but dream of the life that awaits me with my beloved Abigail.
“Chief, prepare sails for anchor.”
“Aye, sir,” he growls before he barks his orders to the seamen.
All I can see is her light ashen hair blowing in the breeze that I struggle to hear over the commands. I stand erect just beside the wheel, the helmsman starts to whistle a bawdy tune. My mind snaps to attention to avoid allowing the tune to defile the vision of my beloved Abigail. Time has stopped for me but the sails are furled.
“She’s ready, Lieutenant,” the Chief almost whispers.
“Thank you, Chief. All hands bring ship to anchor!”
She is ready. “Let go!” I shout for the final time.
The anchor runs to coastal depth until it hits sand. The ship slowly rests to drift. Waters calm.
“Set the watch,” commands the Chief in his less-than-mellow tone. “Crew to muster.”
Unexpectedly the men gather in a loose group in front of me. The Chief speaks softly, “Sir, we would like to say how much we’ll be missin’ you as First Mate. You’ve been a fair commander, Sir…well, we just wanted to let you know, Sir.” The Chief was slightly teary-eyed. He is a fine old sailor.
“Well, thank you, Chief.” I attempt to choke back my emotions. “I too, would like to extend my gratitude to each and every one of you men. I’ve been at this a lifetime and you are the finest crew an officer could ever hope to have under his command. Each of you made me the officer that I am. Thank you. And I mean every word. It is one thing to be the leader of men but it also takes good men like yourselves for me to be that leader. Carry on, Chief. Good night, men.”
“Fair winds and following seas, Sir,” they respond in well-practiced unison. They all depart to their places. I cannot understand their mumblings.
After briefing the Captain and a farewell toast with him, I lay to my stateroom and make my final journal entry.
Ships anchored awaiting morning tide. All hands present and accounted for. All is well.
Lieutenant William Dunlop Smithson, First Officer, Sailing Ship Oak Leaf Cluster
This the 5th Day of June in the year of Our Lord, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-five
I doubt I will sleep soundly. The ship turns toward the shore and again and through my portal I see the beach fires burning, lighting an otherwise dark land. The stars are finally visible, the air crisp with a soft wind.
And Abigail’s ashen hair wisps across her face as she smiles brightly. Her hazel eyes glimmer in the sunlight…
One more night.