The mad dash from Red Suarez takes a surprise turn as old friends turn up, and the sea beckons once more…
“Watch yerself, mate,” the big man wheezed. “Ye’d like to bowl me clean over.”
“I am sorry, sir,” Phineas squeaked in panic. He glanced quickly about, figuring which way he would run when this fellow made a grab for him.
“You be a mess, boy,” the man said kindly.
Phineas glanced quickly into the man’s heavy face. A rough and stubbly beard thrust out of a deeply tanned face that showed a thousand gales. But the kind eyes sparkled brightly.
“Be you lost?” he asked.
“To be truthful,” Phineas said quickly, “I am supposed to be back aboard my ship…”
The big man chuckled, the sound coming from deep inside like a bear snoring in a cave. He shook his head.
“Happened to me, once, right here in this very shanty town,” he grinned. “‘At was before the earthquake swallowed up the best part of it. Had it coming, they did.”
“Yes, well…” Phineas began. The man seemed kind enough, but every second he stood in this crowd was a second that the Kathryn B had to sail away without him.
“You just follow you that road right there, lad, and it’ll take ye to your ship. What ship’d that be?” the man asked kindly.
Phineas looked at him again. He wasn’t a bad sort, really, although the tattoos that covered both of his arms were quite ghastly.
“Thank you, sir,” Phineas answered quickly. “I must be on my way.”
Without answering the man’s question, without looking around any further, he turned and marched as quickly down the road as his feet and garbage-crackling pants would let him.
A steady stream of people trudged along the road that led to the waterfront. He dared not look into the face of any of them for fear they’d be one of Suarez’ men.
“Feenayuse?” Louise’s voice shot out like a pistol.
Phineas ducked his head. The voice sounded like Louise’s, but maybe it was a trick. He kept walking.
“Feenayuse! That is you! What ‘as ‘appened to your clothes?”
Louise and Taylor pushed their way across the crowded road towards him. Phineas stared at them.
“What are you doing here?” he gasped.
“Your diversion worked,” she smiled at him.
“Yes,” Taylor said, pushing his way around her. “Capital performance, old man. Simply capital.”
“How did you get here?”
“It wasn’t that ‘ard,” Louise answered. “We climbed out upon that floor, your…that thing…”
“The channel,” Taylor interjected.
“Oui, the channel. We are climb out upon that and ‘ire a boat that is passing.”
“You hired a boat?”
“Oui. The captain’s desk ‘as many drawers, non?”
“You stole money from Uncle Neville?” Phineas gasped.
“Only the borrow, non?” Louise waved her hand dismissively. “When I am get to France I will repay ‘im.”
Phineas caught a glimpse of the purple coat behind them.
“We have to move quickly,” he said quietly. The purple man was with Maldonado, but both had their backs to him. Phineas walked more quickly.
“Where are you going?” Taylor asked.
“You are going the wrong way,” Louise said firmly. “The town is this way.”
“Oh, I’ve had enough of the town. We’ve got to get back aboard the Kathryn B before she sails,” Phineas replied.
“What happened?” Taylor gasped. “I thought you were trying to get off the ship.”
Louise and Taylor fell in step with Phineas, weaving and jogging around slower moving people, while he described his kidnapping, the interview with Red Suarez, and the way Sir Edward and the others abandoned him in the market.
“You surely don’t think they are leaving you on purpose,” Louise said.
“All I know is that when I looked up they were all gone,” he answered bitterly. Just this retelling of the story made him angry again. “They ran off to save their own skins and left me to hang in front of the pirates like a saucy bit of meat.”
“A what?” Taylor asked. “Saucy bit of meat?”
“It’s from a play I read,” Phineas answered. “Lady Worthington asks the colonel why he was delayed in getting back to Southampton, and he says he was delayed in the great sea of…”
“Why are the pie-rats after you?” Louise interrupted.
“I guess I rather stole a package from that Red Suarez.”
“You stole a package?” Taylor gasped. “What sort of a package?”
“Something pretty important,” Phineas answered. “He said he’d hunt me down for it. They’re searching for me right now.”
“Heavens,” Taylor replied.
“I knew you ‘ad adventure in you,” Louise grinned. “You ‘ave stood them on their ears, non?”
“So, just to be clear,” Taylor said, “we were pretty much free here in Port Royal until you stole something that didn’t belong to you, and now we are all wanted and likely to be killed?”
“It’s not all my fault,” Phineas answered. “It seems to me somebody tricked me into creating a diversion so that they could…”
“We can sell the package and book passage on a ship bound for France,” Louise interrupted excitedly.
“Well, actually…” Phineas began.
“But I don’t want to go to France,” Taylor blurted. “I’m longing to be home amongst the trees at Oak Glen.”
“But,” Louise said, “you cannot go ‘ome.”
“What?” Phineas cried.
“You ‘ave run away,” Louise said seriously, as if she was a judge in a courtroom.
“Not me,” Phineas answered quickly. “I fell overboard.”
“On the ship they will believe that it is just part of the diversion, so that Taylor and I could make our escape. That is ‘ow Lourdburton will see it,” Louise replied. “‘E will ‘ang you for it! No, no, no. You can never go ‘ome after what you ‘ave done. You were sent away to the sea to ‘ave the man made out of you, but you ‘ave run away from that. They ‘ave already abandoned you, non?”
“But you just said that Lourdburton didn’t abandon me,” Phineas answered.
“Think about ‘ow it looks to them, eh?”
“Oh merciful heavens,” Taylor wailed. “I cannot believe that it is true.”
“But of course it is true,” Louise continued. “You, Tay-lore, are the deserter. And you, Feenayuse, whether your are fall in the sea or not, are one too!”
Phineas walked even more quickly towards the harbor.
“What are you doing?” Louise cried. “The town is not this way.”
“Perhaps the Kathryn B hasn’t sailed yet. There’s still a chance we can get back aboard.”
“What?!?” Louise gasped and skidded to a stop. “Do you not listen? I cannot go back aboard that wretched little barge!”
The tops of some of the trees ahead weren’t trees at all. They were the tips of masts of ships in the harbor. Phineas walked more quickly.
“Right now,” he hissed without stopping or taking his eyes off the masts, “our only chance lies in getting back aboard the ship. If we are caught here Red Suarez will kill us. If we try to find passage home to Boston and are caught they will kill us. If we try to go to France, well, somebody will kill us, because England and France are at war. The Kathryn B is the only way to get away from here without being killed.”
Taylor stared at Phineas, trudging along behind him. Louise sighed in annoyance and then scampered quickly to catch up.
“However did you come to this reasoning?” Taylor asked.
“I don’t know,” Phineas snapped. “It just makes sense.”
“Well, you have my vote,” Taylor replied. “It rather makes sense to me, too.”
“Not to me,” Louise said sharply. “When we get to the ‘arbor, I am look for a ship to go to France. I am not to go back onto that dreadful little boat.”
“Do what you want,” Phineas snapped angrily.
“You can trust that I will,” Louise replied.
“I believe that’s a macaw, right there in that tree!” Taylor exclaimed. Neither Phineas nor Louise answered. Taylor lowered his voice, almost speaking to himself. “Well, anyway. I believe it to be a macaw.”
“Ah,” he broke the silence a few minutes later. “We are here.”
“I ‘ate ‘ere,” Louise grumbled.
Phineas ignored her and trotted past the goods houses that stood in an untidy line that resembled children’s blocks and down to the four stone jetties that thrust fingerlike out into the harbor. He stopped at the foot of a long, rickety wooden pier that reached far out over the water like the keys of a broken piano.
He fully expected to see the Kathryn B anchored just a few feet from the pier. But she was not there. Dozens and dozens of ships crowded the little harbor, and boats ferried between them and the shore. He scoured each boat with his eyes, hoping to see someone he knew. None of the ships was the Kathryn B, and none of the boats held anyone he could recognize. The ship had gone.
“Do you see her?” Taylor panted as he skidded to a stop next to him.
“No,” Phineas replied flatly. “They sailed without me.”
“What about that ship, there?” Louise pointed half-heartedly. “That looks like your little boat.”
“She’s a ship, not a boat,” Phineas answered testily. “And that one has three masts, not two. Ours is called a barge…”
“Brig,” Taylor interjected quietly.
“Just so,” Phineas replied. “And just looking like it doesn’t mean anything.”
“Maybe she’s anchored farther out,” Taylor offered. “I would imagine it’s hard to find room with all these ships here.”
Phineas looked at him for a moment, weighing what he’d said. Maybe she was farther out in the harbor. Maybe she didn’t leave yet. He felt a tiny bit better.
“Maybe,” he said. “But how could we find her?”
“I suppose we could ask around,” Taylor said helpfully, and loped towards a group of sailors out on the pier.
“No!” Phineas snapped and grabbed his arm, turning him back around. “The pirates are everywhere. If we ask they’ll get us for sure.”
“Oh ,yes, of course,” Taylor muttered. “Sorry.”
“Feenayuse, look at that boat there,” Louise said slowly. She pointed at a big boat, twice the size of the Kathryn B‘s. Six men manned the oars, three on each side. Sailors on the pier lowered a net full of boxes down to a fellow standing in the middle of the boat, who shoved them under an enormous tan sail. The sailors at the oars joked and chatted with each other.
“I will wager that we could ‘ide under that canvas,” Louise said firmly. “Then we could get out in the ‘arbor and look for your boat.”
He knew she said the word boat just to antagonize him. It worked.
“It’s a ship. And they’ll see us for certain,” he snapped.
“I disagree,” Taylor replied thoughtfully. “I rather think Louise is right. The movement of that fellow pushing those crates under that sail should compensate for the weight we put on the boat. And the sailors are all on the after side of the mound of cargo – if we slipped in over the bow, they’d never even know we were aboard.”
“But we don’t know where that boat is going,” Phineas answered. “I sincerely doubt it’s to the Kathryn B.”
“The way those men are loading her,” Taylor replied carefully, “I would bet it’s a ship that lies far out in the harbor. Otherwise they’d be making several lightly loaded trips rather than packing up that boat so heavily.”
Phineas tapped his foot in annoyance. Getting on that boat was just a bad idea.
“We have to find the Kathryn B,” he repeated frostily. He couldn’t think of a good reason to answer Taylor’s logic.
“There’s no way you can see your ship from ‘ere,” Louise said confidently. “The only way to see ‘er now is to get out in the ‘arbor. I am certain this boat goes that way.”
He looked at Louise’s hopeful eyes, at Taylor’s cheerful nodding, and out at the boat. Even though it was a bad idea, getting in it was probably better than standing here, waiting for Red Suarez to come get them. He huffed in frustration.
“All right,” he said slowly. “How do we get aboard?”
“Come on,” Louise hissed in a loud whisper. She made a little squeak of excitement as she crossed quickly to the far side of the pier. “I have done this before. You can do it.”
“What?” Taylor asked Phineas sarcastically, “cross the pier?”
“You can do it,” Phineas mocked.
The heel of his good buckle shoe made an impossibly loud clacking noise as he stepped out onto the wooden planks. He froze instantly, certain that one of Red Suarez’ men would point him out. No one did. He stood silently, wondering what he should do. The only way to keep the shoes quiet was to lean forward and walk on the balls of his feet the rest of the way. He teetered awkwardly across the pier.
“Say,” Taylor quipped, “that looks natural.”
Phineas ignored him and hurried over to stand next to Louise.
“You made it,” she smiled at him. He rolled his eyes.
Taylor’s shoes made just as much noise as Phineas’ would have. He, too, walked on his tiptoes across the pier. Phineas cocked an eyebrow at him, but decided not to say anything snide.
“You are ready? Follow me,” Louise whispered.
She carefully sat down on the edge of the pier, turned and placed her hands firmly on the rough wood, and then dropped over the side.
“Under the pier?” Taylor gasped.
Louise quickly reappeared. She smiled and winked.
“Come along,” she whispered. “It is not ‘ard.”
Taylor looked at Phineas and shrugged. Then he, too, sat down on the edge, turned, and dropped himself over the side.
Phineas looked back at the town in time to see Maldonado’s back towering above the crowd. There was no sign of Lourdburton or Uncle Neville anywhere.
Louise and Taylor stood, their heads just at the level of the pier, on a long wooden plank that was fastened to the pier’s supports.
“Do not be afraid,” Louise encouraged.
Phineas made a sour face, took a deep breath, sat down, turned, put his hands on the rough wood of the pier, and eased himself over the edge.
His feet just barely caught the plank, and he had to grab onto the boards of the pier to keep from falling the next six feet into the water.
“This is crazy,” he hissed angrily.
“Isn’t it exciting?” Taylor whispered.
Phineas rolled his eyes and shook his head.
“I’ve had plenty of excitement already,” he replied.
“Follow me, you bébés,” Louise called and leapt to the top of a black, slippery and slimy cross brace that angled down steeply into the small waves below. Without looking back she leapt to the next, and the next, crossing from one side of the pier to the other without getting wet.
Taylor moved much more cautiously, teetering precariously at the top of each cross brace. He clung to the slimy pier uprights, gasping and muttering, but continued on after Louise.
Gagging on the stench of dead fish, Phineas stared down at the waves of the sucking sea. They slapped at the uprights with a lonely swishing sound, almost lost beneath the sounds of boots and bare feet thudding on the planks above his head.
“It is easy,” Louise called in a loud whisper. “You can do it.”
“This is a very bad idea,” Phineas groaned after his first jump to the tip of a cross brace. His right foot landed right on the corner, but there was nowhere for his left foot to go. He clung to the rough wooden upright of the pier, swinging his left leg in the air, and wondered if he could ever fix the damage this was doing to his fine white shirt.
“Come on,” Taylor hissed. “It’s easy.”
“Easy for you older people,” Phineas muttered to himself. He led with his left foot in the jump to the next cross brace.
There was a timing to it, he realized. Shift your balance and jump – it actually was rather easy. He shook his head as he reached the cross brace behind Taylor. Never in life could he have imagined jumping around under the pier in Port Royal. He wondered how deep was that water below him, and, if he fell, would there by any way out other than drowning.
“Look!” Louise whispered excitedly.
They had emerged from under the pier, covered with the black slime of moldy wood, directly above the front end of the boat.
She carefully, and gracefully, stretched one leg out from the pier and hooked her heel on the boat’s gunwale, her skirt drooping into the water like a Chinese fan. She slowly pulled the boat towards them, moving so slowly that the men in it boat didn’t even notice they were turning. Eventually, the canvas covered front end of the boat drifted just inches below them.
“Quietly,” she whispered fiercely, and lowered herself from the cross brace and onto the boat. Without a sound she lifted a loose end of the tarpaulin sail that covered it and slipped underneath.
Taylor quickly followed her with a smooth, fluid motion that surprised Phineas. He moved like a dancer. Of course he would, Phineas realized, because he had a tutor. A dancing tutor. Taylor poked his head out from under the sailcloth cover.
“Come on, old man,” he grinned. “There’s plenty of room.”
Old man. Old Rock. Old Hammer. Good old Nigel
Phineas shook his head and stepped carefully down onto the boat’s rail, slowly easing his weight away from the pier. The men in the back of the boat joked and laughed, but didn’t seem to care that the boat had gotten a hundred pounds heavier. He wobbled on the rail, and then rested a hand against the load under the sail to steady himself.
“That is my ‘ead, cochon,” Louise snapped from underneath. “Get down ‘ere!”
Phineas scrambled quickly into the bow, the boat shifting slightly beneath him as he lifted the edge of the sail and threw himself underneath. Louise jerked the tarpaulin cover tightly over them.
“You are such the bébé,” Louise snapped.
Maldonado towered above the crowds in Port Royal, making him easy to follow. The long white feather in the purple-coated fellow’s hat made him an equally obvious target.
Sir Edward watched them from beneath his enormous straw hat. He had tried his best to get close to the children, but that giant Maldonado had always been closer.
Now Maldonado turned toward the man in purple and shook his head.
“I do not see him,” the giant said.
“He’s a snot-nosed simpleton,” the man in purple replied. “He’ll turn to soon enough. You can tell Suarez I said so.”
“Where do you go?” Maldonado asked.
“We’re sailing out to wait off the bar, watching for that paintpot,” the man in purple replied. He nodded to Maldonado and then walked down the pier towards the waiting boat.
“The weather is turning bad,” Maldonado said.
“All the more reason to get out there,” the man in purple answered. “They may use it to try and slip out to sea. Suarez’ll have our hides if she gets away.”
“I don’t like the look of the sky,” Maldonado rumbled.
“We’ll catch that little paintpot, weather or no,” the man in purple answered and climbed down into the stern of the boat.
Sir Edward quietly turned his back to the pier and hurried through the dozens of beached boats until he found the one manned by Gruyere and Swede.
“See that boat with the tarpaulin?” he asked them. “We need to catch it.”
“They’ve six oars, your lordship,” Gruyere replied. “We’ve but the two.”
“Two, but with good strong backs and an empty hull,” Sir Edward replied with a smile. “She’s deep laden. It will be no challenge.”
One of the oarsmen said something that made the other five laugh, but Phineas couldn’t quite make it out.
“Silence,” roared the boat’s master.
“What was the joke?” Taylor whispered.
Phineas shifted uncomfortably. The tarpaulin covering them smelled musty and moldy, and made the air under it deucedly stuffy. Waves striking the side of the boat made the liquid in the kegs behind them slosh ferociously. His garbage-caked pants crackled when he moved.
“You stink,” Louise said.
“Oh, and it’s quite on purpose,” he snapped.
He carefully, and very slowly, lifted the edge of the tarpaulin to see if he could spot the Kathryn B. Spray blown by the cold wind dashed him in the face, and he let go of the cloth.
Louise pulled the edge down abruptly.
“Be careful,” she whispered harshly. “We do not want to get caught.”
“I was looking for the Kathryn B,” Phineas whispered back.
“Not yet,” Louise answered. “We ‘ave not gone far enough.”
“When?” he replied quietly. It seemed to him as if they had rowed a long way into the harbor – at least far enough for them to be able to see the other ships by now.
“I doubt we’ll be able to see her from this boat,” Taylor mused quietly.
“What?” Phineas cried. “The only reason I agreed to get on this stupid boat was to be able to see her!”
“When we are aboard the ship,” Louise said soothingly. “From there you will see everything.”
“Give way all,” the boat’s master called.
Instead of slicing smoothly through the water, the boat suddenly wallowed in the waves.
“I imagine we’re about to find out,” Taylor gasped.
“Shut up,” Louise hissed.
“Why are you so mean to him?” Phineas whispered.
“You shut up, too,” Louise answered. “And follow me. This is the part that is not so very easy.”
“Oh, joy,” Phineas muttered.
Without another word she pushed past him and silently slipped out beneath the tarpaulin.
“She’ll get us caught for sure,” Taylor whined.
“Come,” Louise whispered from outside. “Rapidement!”
Phineas carefully lifted the edge of the tarpaulin and wriggled as quietly as he could under it. He could just see the green island of Jamaica over the edge of the boat. He looked to his right and gasped.
Louise glided in the water up to her shoulders, hanging on to the side of a ship. A vast, brown ship, roughly painted, that rose and fell next to them.
“‘Urry,” she hissed, and moved farther along the strange hull.
Phineas stared at her and felt instantly dizzy. His palms running with sweat. She was going to drown. She was neck-deep in the sucking sea, and was sure to die at any second. His mouth went dry. He looked around quickly for something, anything that would save her.
But she didn’t seem to be drowning. Her fingers clung to a board that stuck about an inch out above the others, running the length of the ship. She moved herself along, inch by inch, towards the stern. With her fingers tightly gripping the board, she kept her head and shoulders out of the water.
“‘Urry,” she repeated.
“Easy, lads,” the boat’s master called. Oars clattered on the other side of the heap of barrels and boxes in the boat. Phineas was sure that the boat’s master would spot them any minute now.
“Come on,” Louise hissed. “Get into the water.”
“No,” Phineas hissed. “I am not getting into the water.”
“Do not be such the bébé.”
“You must go in, old sod,” Taylor said kindly.
“I can’t. I… I… sink like a stone. It’s a family thing.”
“Well, then, I shall hold you up.”
Without a further word Taylor grabbed Phineas around the waist and dropped him into the warm water of the Caribbean Sea.
Phineas kicked frantically and desperately, thrashing against the rising waves to keep himself from drowning. Already, water filled his ears, and his nostrils. Death was immediate and imminent and how could this have happened?
“Quiet, quiet,” Taylor said gently and dragged him towards the ship. “Just hang on.”
Phineas coughed and spluttered and kicked his legs furiously – anything to keep out of the deadly abyss.
“Just ‘ang on to the ship,” Louise called softly. She had nearly reached the very back end of the ship.
Finally, after an eternity in the warm, deadly sea, Taylor shoved Phineas’ hand against the board.
“Hang onto that.”
Phineas could only hold on with the tips of his fingers, but it was enough to raise himself slightly out of the awful sea. The waves pushed him against the ship, slapping against his back. But the board was high enough out of the water that he could lift his shoulders above the surface.
“I… hate… this,” he gasped.
“Belay, there!” the boat’s master yelled, and the boat suddenly swung away from them. They seemed to be having trouble with their oars – one waved about frantically over the boat.
“Belay, Tompkins, belay!” the boat’s master yelled, pointing at the man waving the oar. Tompkins was a pudgy little man with tattooed arms.
“Sorry, mate,” Tompkins cried. “This don’t be as we done it in the Navy!”
All of the men laughed at that. Phineas felt a sudden pit in his stomach. There was something wrong in the way they laughed at the Navy.
Taylor splashed and wheezed but emerged from the water with both hands on the board. He spit seawater and shook his long, blonde hair like a dog.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“Précisément,” Louise answered. She had already gone around the corner of the ship and now clung to the rear.
Inching his way along, while simple in form, took every ounce of Phineas’ nerve. The waves shoved him against the hull when they crested, but pulled him away in the troughs. He slowly crept along the board, jogging his hands side-by-side and never letting go with both.
The wale continued around the ship’s rear corner, which was where Louise had gone. The stern was in shadow, and, despite the cold wind that blew, it was nice to get out of the glare of the mid-afternoon sun. Taylor sloshed his way around the corner a bare minute later.
“Where are we?” he whispered, spitting seawater.
“She is called the Marigold,” Louise whispered. “She is our way out of Port Royal.”
“How do you know that?” Phineas asked skeptically.
Louise briefly raised one hand and pointed at the stern of the ship. The word MARIGOLD was painted in fine, six-inch tall letters.
“What about looking for the Kathryn B?” Phineas asked.
“You can see ‘er from up there,” Louise whispered confidently. “I am certain of it.”
“You never intended to look for her, did you?” Phineas asked. His temper was rising very quickly.
“You could ‘ave stayed with the pie-rats in the town. This is a better way, Feenayuse. We are doing something, non? We are not waiting for things to ‘appen to us. We are making things ‘appen.” Louise turned away and pointed at a set of planks hanging vertically off of the ship’s stern.
“What is this thing?” she commanded.
The three foot wide set of planks rose from the below the surface of the sea and passed right up under the ship’s aft cabin. It hung on thick iron straps.
“I believe that to be the rudder,” Taylor answered. “It is the means by which they steer the ship.”
Phineas huffed angrily and tried to see if he could spot the Kathryn B. He couldn’t see her, of course, because they were so low in the water. All he could see were the endless waves, lifting and lowering the Marigold. So long as he was in the water, all he could think about was drowning
“There is a hole at the top of the rudd-air,” Louise whispered harshly, “through which we might crawl.”
“Rudd-air,” Taylor laughed. “That’s priceless.”
Phineas didn’t care to crawl through any holes at the moment.
“I wonder where it goes.”
“It’s a hole that allows the top of the rudder, called the head, to enter the hull,” Taylor stated. “The tiller attaches to the rudder head. I read about it Hathaway’s Modern Seamanship.”
“Look!” Louise whispered. “These metal pieces are perfect for the climbing upon.”
“The iron straps connected to the hull are called pintles. The straps attached to the rudder are called gudgeons.”
“They look like a way out of this ocean to me,” Louise snapped.
Her wet skirt dragged behind her like a sodden sheet, Louise scrambled up the rough wooden planks. She climbed quickly and gracefully and disappeared through the hole.
“She is certainly agile,” Taylor whispered. “Up we go.”
He placed his fingers on the gudgeons and hoisted himself up the rudder. It only took a little bit of climbing before he, too, disappeared though hole and into the hull.
Phineas sighed heavily. Clearly, he couldn’t go back aboard the boat – the sailors were unloading it into the ship. Clearly he couldn’t swim back to Port Royal. Clearly he couldn’t see the Kathryn B from down at the level of the sea. He humphed sadly.
As much as he didn’t like it, he decided that he would have to follow them into this strange ship. The joke the sailors made about the Navy wandered around in his thoughts. He knew it was a sign, but not what it meant.
In either case, the name Marigold sounded friendly enough.
Following Taylor’s example, he pulled on the closest gudgeon and used that to lever himself out of the water. He reached for the next gudgeon and placed his foot, still in his nice buckle shoe, on the lowest pintle.
The rudder suddenly shifted.
It groaned on the hinges, and turned towards him, slow and unstoppable. He couldn’t let go of the gudgeon without falling backwards into the sea. There was no time to climb back down.
The enormous rudder moaned on the hinges. He marched his fingers up the iron gudgeon and onto the wood of the rudder itself, but the space for his fingers was quickly disappearing.
He threw his right hand out and planted it on top of the rudder. But there was no room. The rudder was going to crush him.