Thanks again everyone who's been following along and giving me feedback about this first chapter of my travel memoir thing. There's one more scene in this first chapter, here's half of it and the second half I'll post tomorrow (:
This scene takes place almost exactly a year after the prior one, as one reading in a less disjointed manner would discern from the date stamps
February 13th 2012, 03:00am -- The ship heaves and creaks, bucks and groans around us. In the narrow ship’s-bunk, Tarragon and I lie wrapped in each other’s arms, unconsciously securing each other against the ship’s frequent approaches to zero gravity while cresting waves. Her long obsidian hair swirls around me, her soft Hawaiian nose nestles against my cheek, her breathing the even rhythmic ebb and flow of sleep. Red light streams into our bunk from the gap above a taut curtain secured tightly at the base and drawn upward to prevent occupants being flung out of the bunk by the boat’s capers.
There’s a heavy rumbling noise of something rolling across the deck above, and shouts. Normally I can sleep right through any storm but the feeling the call for “all hands” will sound any minute keeps me on edge.
As I lie there, it has been almost exactly a year since the DUI. A long depressing year of having to explain to everyone why I wasn’t doing the Peace Corps after all, and of not having a driving license for three months, and of spending three hours a week in a mandatory alcoholism class designed to convince me I was an alcoholic. But things are finally looking up.
My boss had been very supportive, pairing me with coworkers so I could keep working. It was hardly necessary to send two of us to collect an unwanted swarm of bees or to make the long drive to our beehives in the foothills, but my coworkers probably enjoyed the break from sticking their arms into walls full of bees -- seeing the other side, what happens to the bees once they’ve removed them. One by one during the long drives they each opened up to me their own DUI story. I was surprised they almost all had one -- people don’t generally volunteer their DUI stories and I certainly felt like burying my own shameful story as well. I looked forward to putting its inconveniences behind me and never mentioning it again, the world need never know it happened. I learned, as well, that I was the only one at the company who hadn’t called our boss from jail.
I had read about beekeeping projects conducted in exciting exotic locations, African jungles, Asian rainforests, Caribbean islands and the steppes of Central Asia. I wasn’t sure I had the expertise for this, having only been a professional beekeeper for most of five years, but it was worth a shot, and I applied to the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that put on these projects. I heard no response, months went by.
And then, when I’d nearly forgotten about it, one of the organizations emailed me, would I like to do a two week project in Nigeria? Yes! They phone interviewed me and asked many questions to gauge my level of expertise, and planning for the project got underway … until a fiery explosion blew a hole in my plans.
The Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria exploded a car bomb outside a church, and then another at a school. They were said to be targeting “hotels Westerners frequent.” Religious fanatics gunned down crowds with kalashnikovs. “We cannot in good conscience send you just now” the Organization informed me.
I had already escaped the bee cave, and Tarragon was working back on the ship on which we’d met, the brigantine Eos, which was about to sail from Orange County up to San Francisco, so I had hopped aboard.
“Psst, Bees and Tars, are you awake?” a crewmember asks from the other side of the curtain
“What’s your favorite sail?” a more complex question to ensure I’m actually awake
“Uh, starboard stunsail?”
“Good, you and Tars are on watch in 15 minutes”
We roll out of the bunk into the red glow of the bunk room. Red light won’t ruin your night vision when you go on deck, but always makes me feel like I’m in a submarine. Tasks as simple as getting dressed are a slight challenge with the veering gravity. I pull my grandfather’s peacoat on over a traditional dark blue wool sweater while clinging to the edge of the bunk. Tars is more reasonable than I, and puts on modern gear with fluorescent patterns and reflective patches. If she were to fall overboard in the night there’d be a chance she would be rescued, if I were to fall overboard in my gear I’d be swallowed forever into the dark roiling void of sea we can hear gurgling just beyond a few inches of wood bulkhead.
Cha-chunk, cha-chunk, we pull the heavy levers to open the solid watertight doors and close them behind us, and climb the ladder to deck. The steamy warmth of belowdecks instantly gives way to the brisk coolness of night, a strong breeze and a soft salt spray on the cheeks. Above us the broad square sails that make the ship look like a “pirate ship” quietly strain and the rigging creaks. At sea at night the sky is an endless canopy of twinkling stars, the broad brighter streak of the milky way clearly visible. We are relatively galloping along at 11.25 knots under a light gale, the deck under our feet rhythmically rising in strong smooth lunges, followed by the seeming reversal of gravity on the descent, punctuated by the whispered crash of waves against the bow.
I quite rather feel there's a lot of exposition in this part but hey it's not the purpose of this project to wallow unduly long in 2011
Also interesting from an intrespection point of view is the fact that they did not actually call me bees, I actually in real life would quite avoid being called such a thing (I'm more than just a collection of bees!), but for the convenience of this narrative I decided to go with it.
Anyway, how do you feel about the ship name Eos, it's not too short is it?