Cricket Boy is a multi-chapter story I'm releasing on my website, among other venues. Click here to start with chapter one.
Chapter Two: Six Days Earlier
The Fortress of the Sea was calm at her mooring. She wasn’t as big as Trew Gawgrie expected, but he still grinned upon getting his first look. Trew wanted to remember everything about the moment: the white uniforms and the green, the signal mast, the smile on Father’s face, the crates and barrels being swallowed up by the Fortress and the other ship that was tied up at the dock.
Trew swiveled his body left and right. His stomach threatened to seize on him as if he’d stuffed a box of ripe peaches into his own belly. He might be finished with his years of waiting and wanting, but his body remained in a state of tension, as if the dream would bubble-burst.
He felt his Father’s hand on his shoulder and calmed a bit. He remembered to smile at Mother and Callie.
He had thought he understood and was ready. After all, Trew had framed engravings of ships on the walls of his room. He had every book and flimsy about sails and sailors he could find. He’d been one of four boys who carved a fallen peachwood into a boat they’d called the Peach Sayle.
Peachie sank from under them when they were a hundred feet from the shore. The others had all sworn off that form of adventure. For Trew, the sea had pulled even harder.
He built model ships from carved twigs. He plunked down the occasional round peach pit as a cannon ball, like it belonged to the Royal Navy rather than Sea Guard.
He had water on the brain, more than one person had said, which made him dreamy, if not diluted and watery. He tried not to think of those words and those people.
“Off you go, Trew,” Father said.
Father understood about dreams and put his weight behind them.
“I can stay a bit longer,” Trew said. He didn’t look at Mother, but he could hear her crying. He supposed he needed to let her finally accept all of this.
“Don’t forget how strong you are. Stronger than a glare, than an unkind look. More than strong enough to go to sea.” Father put a sack in Trew’s hand.
Trew felt its heft pull on him. Ingots? Coins? Trew slipped the fabric-covered surprise into his pocket.
“Off you go.” Father pressed on Trew’s shoulder.
“Bye,” Trew said as he started down the dock.
Mother grabbed at Trew, not to push him forward, but to stop him.
Trew knew better than to pause. He waved behind at Mother, in sad trim, and his furious little sister. He supposed Father was still smiling.
“I wasn’t ready,” Mother said.
That was what Father had feared.
Trew began to feel quite small as he got closer to the first ship, a merchant vessel that towered over him. It had three masts so it could be rigged for trade with the outside. Maybe it was headed to all of the places Trew had read about.
Trew had to dodge one man. “Sorry,” he called out in his reedy voice.
Sturdy men bubbled off the gangway then, with glowing hands, carried on casks and crates that were as large as they were. There was someone operating a block and tackle for more massive cargo. Who needed huge blocks of stone brought to them?
Someone with the coin and no sense.
Trew paused to see if the stone would fall. No. It rose up then descended. It was old hat to them.
Trew remembered where he was going. As interesting as the Pride of Yorck might be, he was going somewhere better.
He sped up once he was past the gangway.
He could finally see her.
She was amazing, better than the flimsies he’d treasured for years.
Trew could already see that his books and other sources had gotten the Fortress of the Sea wrong. She really had the one mast, not the three or four in the engravings. She didn’t have gun decks inside her hull, though she had some odd bronze protrusions on her main deck.
He looked back to the Pride. The Fortress was the first Sea Guard ship he'd ever seen, but it was the same size as the merchie. How was this ship a fortress?
He’d learn, wouldn’t he?
Trew looked for a way onto the Fortress. He’d been at a shore school for the last eight days, but they hadn’t explained how to board her. They’d spent several hours on how to salute a commander, though, in case that was critical.
He wanted aboard.
He wanted to watch her move away from the dock.
He wanted to be far enough away that he wouldn’t see Twobay or any other land.
Trew smiled. This was his dream and he wasn’t just dreaming it now. He was living it.
Continue to Chapter Three.