Cap’n, I Can

By Peter D’Antonio

            Orn’s hands burnt as the weight of the anchor slid its chain hard against his calloused palms. He cleared his throat, letting out what could easily be misinterpreted as a grunt of pain.

            “You’re sure you’ve got it under control?” came a voice from the other end of the vessel.

            No answer.

            “Orn?”

            No answer.

            Orn wasn’t accustomed to questions of his seamanship, particularly from someone as callow as the likes of Gil Longstead. Gil was a handsome man, plain of face with a broad, wiry physique that whispered generations of careful breeding. His wife, Maeve, sat nestled neatly, curled beneath him. Her posture, too, remarked years of doting fathers and stoic mothers, the kind of families whose fortunes beget further fortune. They were the sort of spouses who spend to have captained a day on their yacht.

            Gil handed his glass down to Maeve and worked his way towards the front of the boat. “I said, let me help you with that anchor. I’m a more than capable fellow.”

            “It’s not a matter of strength, sir.” Orn cringed at the last word. “It’s a matter of sense.”

            “Are you calling me senseless?” Gil let an ivy-league chuckle slip.

            “Senseless? Hardly. Unprepared, maybe.”

            “Then prepare me.”

            “Wish I could. Now, watch your feet while I pull up the anchor. Don’t want you getting caught.”

            “And why couldn’t you?”

            “Do you think I’d ever come to understand exactly why one fork is used instead of another on the third course of a meal?”

            Gil looked Orn up and down. “It’s doubtful.”

            “My point exactly.”

            With that, Orn freed the anchor from its hold and, calculatingly, reeled it towards its home at the bow.

            Gil sauntered towards Maeve. “An odd fellow that Orn is. Wouldn’t let me touch a damn thing.”

            “It’s probably just his pride,” said Maeve. “He used to be a great captain, you know. It’s why I hired him.”

            “You don’t say.”

            “Do too.”

            “Go on…”

            “Dotty recommended him. Says he comes with the highest regard. Was once a great military man. Captained ships in the Caribbean during the Banana Wars. Occupied Haiti for some time.”

            “Then what?”

            “Well things went well for a whi– ” Orn limped toward earshot, his dark skin contrasting starkly against the brilliant boat and white sun. Maeve took a deep sip of her wine and Gil stood to greet him.

            “Are we ready for departure then, mate?”

            Again with the titles. Orn gave a glance in Gil’s direction, just enough to telegraph intention. The Captain spun abruptly and barked into the wind, “Heads down!” before navigating the large sail clear across the deck of the ship.

            “Fucking Christ, Orn!” said Gil. “You nearly took my wife’s head off.”

            “Aye,” returned Orn, “I didn’t though, did I?” With that, his eyes glimmered a sly smile.

            “I have half a mind to toss you overboard, damnit!” Maeve tugged at Gil’s belt loops, urging him to take his seat.

            No answer.

            “Watch your feet, Maeve.”

            Orn set sail. The ship itself was 48 feet in length, quite pushing the upper bounds of a boat crewed by one. Nevertheless, Orn maneuvered it and himself deftly, mirror images of each other. He lunged starboard, tossing his hands towards the boom and the boat reacted effortlessly, gliding towards port side. All the while, the Longsteads squinted contentedly as the reflection of the sunset reached their salt washed gaze.

            “How’s about a drink for you, Orn?” called out Maeve as the boat settled into cove. She shook the second empty bottle.

            “Drink doesn’t settle too well with me anymore.”

            “Too much piss, ey?” came Gil. “I bet you used to drink til your boots wouldn’t lace!”

            “What makes you say that?”

            “Well you’re a serviceman aren’t you? Every serviceman I’ve known has squandered a larger share of his coin on spirits than any other class of men. It’s what separates us.”

            “Don’t you think that’s quite a bit of presupposing?” came Maeve.

            “Your lady’s right, Gil. I think it’s best you quit right there.”

            Maeve hung on her husband’s belt loops again, but this time the drink’d roused in him a determination that couldn’t be sunk.

            “What exactly make you think that you have the right — ” Gil stood chin to eye with Orn, a few inches taller. “– The right to talk to me that way?” He punctuated ‘me’ with a stern thumb to the chest. “Now,” his tone even, “where exactly are we headed next?”

            “This’d be our last stop, Sands Point, then back in at Hempstead Harbor. We’ll have you to shore by 9pm, just as the last sun gives way.

            With that, Gil returned to Maeve. “The nerve.”

            The boat lulled for a time near the harbor, the Longstead’s relaxing as the light receded towards its slumber.

            “Anchor’s got to come up folks, apologies,” said Orn after some time. “The boat’s too big to dock on my own by moonlight.”

            “I’m more than worthy of lending a hand,” said Gil. “Calm yourself.” He purred, “It is lovely out.”

            “I’m pulling up the anchor.”

            “Don’t”

            “I must.”

            “Then don’t expect my help.”

            Orn worked still harder to free the ship.

            “The sea floor here, it’s the finest in the world. They use this sand to build New York’s skyscrapers. It collects among the anchors though, weighs them down. I apologize for the delay.”

            “Don’t apologize,” said Gil. “Keep it up. Take as long as you must.”

            This went on a while.

            Slowly, Gil’s amusement faded to agitated pity as the couple watched the old man struggle to heave the weight from below.

            A hand came down on top of Orn’s. “I’m only helping to prove that I can.”

            “You shouldn’t.” Gil put a hand around the anchor’s chain, halfway up at this point.

            “I’m capable.”

            “You’re capable?”

            “I’m — ” but before he could finish the sentence, the line zipped through both of their grips, clanging raucously over the edge. Gil’s hands burnt as the weight of the anchor slid its chain hard against his soft palms. He looked for Orn’s eyes; he wanted to finish the sentence, to prove his mettle.

            But at that moment a sweeping force stole Gil’s footing, invisible to his eyes, it wrenched him violently towards the boat’s edge.

 

About Author:

39b7a0fe-6b83-49d7-8add-f9cbac5ca840Peter D’Antonio is a screenwriter living and working in Brooklyn. Currently, he works in the writer’s department of Blue Bloods on CBS, and writes freelance fiction at all opportunities that his hectic schedule permits.