Behind the walls

Writings of a wandering mind

HMS Rose

Posted By in Stories

HMS Rose

There was a time where I was in Bridgeport, Connecticut. We were docked there before making the trek up to the great lakes. I was a mere deckhand aboard a three-masted (fully functional) replica of the HMS Rose. Captain Richard Bailey was my father’s friend and made my induction to the crew possible. So, before I fully realized the gravity of his offer, I had been all but Shanghaied. Of course, I didn’t see it that way, it was just another adventure.

We were taking the Rose out for the big bicentennial celebration. She was to tour the great lakes and eventually out and down the eastern seaboard. I got to live for a fortnight as a sailor of olde. Even at sea, I scrambled up to the crow’s nest like a monkey chasing shadows. I don’t know if it was the fearlessness of not knowing any better or the drawn-out totality of excitement. But there wasn’t anything on board that I wouldn’t do. Fate, it would seem, isn’t without its own tests and mine was shortly coming.

We had just hit the Atlantic, and she was in no welcoming mood. I remember the sky was an angry swollen mass of dark bruises tinged green and yellow. The ocean rolled, tossed, and threw us however she damn well pleased. Such as it was, I too tossed my cookies, crackers, and anything else that might have been inside me, out. My sea legs were still growing as more than a few times I was thrown to the deck while the Rose pitched and rolled. It was as if the floor were thrown into my face for all of its suddenness.

At one point in time, I had disappeared into the ship’s head, glued face-first to the toilet like life itself depended on it. By the time my father found me there, I was insensate. While weak from relentless seasickness, my father still had to pry my fingers with their death grip, off of the bowl. I was young enough that the switch from bowl to bucket could have been compared to switching a soiled teddy. It didn’t matter much to me at the time though. I was well past pride. There was only nausea and its debilitating grip. Dad took me under his shoulder as I stumbled out and up to the main deck, head hung low, clutching my hollow plastic lifeline.

The rain had stopped and the sea seemed to be calming. It was as if all her anger had blown itself out and now, she wanted to make up. The cool, clear air was cleansing, its salt became mine. I stared at the horizon as the sun sank into the sea. There I cradled my bucket and slept fitfully. When I awoke someone had draped a wool blanket over me. Others had walked by my unconscious form and dropped a sleeve of crackers, mints, and an orange. Apparently being the youngest crew member had some perks.

(Note: Should you wish to see HMS Rose in motion, look up the movie by Russell Crowe – Master and Commander. The Rose is used as his ship throughout most of the movie.)

By adventure’s end, I had a host of memories that I would sooner pay blood for than change. Life is funny that way I suppose. Those memories are so sharp, clarion clear, that reliving them is akin to time travel. Maybe that is a power I’ve developed to deal with a concrete and steel purgatory. Maybe I’ve just sharpened an already keen skill, but such is one method of escape for me here. They can’t take that. They can’t touch that version of me with their retribution. There I am caught in an unending youth. There I am immortal.

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