I hope you enjoyed last week’s continuation of the Columbus experiment. Here is the finale to the short-story project. Please note: This story contains profanity due to subject matter and character establishment.
Feel free to let us know what you think, and we’ll be back to Writing for Web next week!
Report of Deck Hand Alvaro Perez
May I speak honestly, sir?
(I encouraged Mr. Perez to do so to better help locate Ensign Prichard and to create an accurate record of events.)
It’s all horseshit. Everything that lying son of a bitch has told you is a colossal pile of horseshit. That weakling may have served under several captains, but this is the first real voyage he’s ever been a part of. I suspect that’s why he’s so hell bent on double, triple, and quadruple checking the damn ship’s inventory every other day. After all, what does he think is going to happen? Does he really think someone is going to run off with the ship’s precious materials, as if there were anything precious about this ridiculous venture. The truth is he has only ever served on vessels that patrol the coast. He’s never left the comfort of being able to reach the shore if the ship fails. The stresses you encounter on voyages like this one can break a real man easy enough, let alone a silver-spoon raised infant like him. He constantly boasts about his service record and recommendations but everyone knows the only reason those captains blessed his ass with sweet recommendations is because his father is a high-ranking admiral in her Majesty’s Navy.
I’m only pointing this out to you so you don’t take everything he has to say as the gospel’s truth. Besides, anyone who has been around that man for any period of time should know better than to listen to his ramblings because he is a constant drunkard. He craves the bottle’s bottom day and night and, I suspect, that is why he chose the job of Property Master. I mean, why the hell would he take on that job when he could have just as easily gone through the officer’s ranks to become a captain of his own vessel? No, the real value of that station for him is the convenient feature that it leaves him alone below deck most of the time which gives him ample opportunity to get loaded without punishment and sparing him the indignity of dealing with the lower class dregs like us.
In fact, I would wager a month’s earnings that his perpetual inebriation is to thank for our recent shortage of liquor rations.
(I point out that this report is not the appropriate place to discuss personal grievances and suggest he should share whatever knowledge he may have about the disappearance of Ensign Prichard.)
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get away from what I came to tell you. What I wanted to report is that I have heard Juan’s amazing tale and I happen to know its horseshit. I was awake last night and on the deck the same time as Juan.
(I indicate that Mr. Bermudez did not mention seeing Mr. Perez)
Yeah, I know he didn’t see me . . . that was on purpose. I was at the bow of the boat and barely saw him coming out from his cave below deck. When I saw him I ducked behind the forward mast so I wouldn’t have to listen to him blather on about how much he cares about his station and how he is working himself to the bone to ensure the ship’s rations are safeguarded. Everyone on the ship knows he promotes himself shamelessly at every turn. Hell, he even tries to make it a common thing that there is a rat on board hoarding supplies and that he is the only one who can catch the thief with his horseshit inventorying.
I heard it from a friend elsewhere in the Navy that Juan pulled this same scam on Captain Rousso’s ship in the Balearic. He even took the rouse so far that he got a man wrongfully flogged on deck with 15 lashes. That sort of scum has no place on a distant voyage like this. If I were in charge, I would relegate that son of a bitch to cleaning duties.
(I reminded the deckhand that the purpose of the report is not to attack the property master and that the punishment for inciting mutiny at sea is summary execution.)
I’m not criticizing the Captain. He has his obligations and the whole crew, myself included, respects that. I’m just saying Juan can’t be trusted. The real reason I’m talking to you is to explain away the good Property Master’s fanciful observations. Like I said, I was on deck at the same time he was last evening. The only difference is that I was sober whereas he was stumbling about the stern back and forth. He stumbled about for a great deal of time but eventually stopped and began staring out at the sea. After a long while, he suddenly jerked his head skyward as a gust of wind grazed the ship. When I glanced up, I saw nothing but the same calm night’s sky that accustomed the rest of the evening. As for the somewhat unusually sharp gust of wind that he attributes to the flight of some magical creature, anyone who has sailed these long range quests can tell you that sudden winds at sea can easily catch a sail causing a rush of air as the ship jars with the wind’s breeze. That’s all that happened last night. Juan was drunk and mistook the wind for something fantastical, plain and simple.
As for the disappearance of Ensign Prichard, this is a dangerous business we’re in, especially climbing the nest at night. If it hadn’t been for the evening’s storms, Ensign Prichard would have never been sent to the nest because we don’t usually send men there at night because it’s too dangerous. We only send them up there at night if we’re in extraordinary conditions.
(I asked what some of these conditions might be)
We would send a man to the nest at night if there is bad weather like last night to watch for rogue waves, or if we are in battle conditions to watch for enemies on the horizon, or if our charts suggest we’re close to land. So knowing how dangerous it is to be up there at night, Ensign Prichard might have slipped or had some accident causing him to fall to the harsh ocean below, or he might have jumped on his own accord to escape the pressures that we’re all facing thanks to the Navigator’s seemingly aimless wandering around the ocean. In any case, Ensign Prichard is hardly the first person to be lost at sea from the nest, and everyone should stop gossiping about and focus on their duties instead.
(I ask if this is the only information Mr. Perez has to report)
Yeah, that’s all I’ve got to say.
Based upon my own observations and numerous informal comments from crewmen, I should like to report some relevant collateral information. First, it should be noted that both Property Master Bermudez and Mr. Perez have reputations for taking heavy amounts of liquor. No one seems to know whether Bermudez or Perez has embezzled more than his allotted share of liquor rations, but it is well known the two men were involved in a confrontation roughly one week ago. The verbal argument stemmed from a report by Mr. Bermudez to the first officer suggest his concern that Mr. Perez might be hording liquor rations. Mr. Perez apparently confronted Mr. Bermudez informally and their verbal argument was heard by three crewmen. Mr. Perez received no formal punishment as the incident went unreported to officers.
I remain concerned about a particularly unusual note. After the storm passed last evening, the sea became unusually calm, which blessed us with some of the most stable sailing conditions we have thus far encountered. When reflecting upon the report of Mr. Perez, I cannot help but wonder why I felt no jarring event last evening as he described is caused by as sudden gush of wind. In fact, I do not recall the vessel so much as rocking let alone jarring. I have asked some of the more experienced men aboard if they have witnessed such jarring winds in their times before and they, indeed, have. However, those men report perceiving no such event last night and, in fact, strongly insist there was no tumultuous event following the storm.
The report of Mr. Perez seems logical, but the current evidence does not adequately support his explanation of the whooshing sound both he and Mr. Bermudez perceived. The conclusion I am left to draw, therefore, is that something caused a sudden whooshing noise, but that cause is unknown, like the fate of Ensign Prichard. Until I discover further information to supplement this log, I leave the interpretation of this event to the authority reviewing it.
(Author chooses to remain anonymous)