The Kid

Arthur Jenner
18th January 2009, 09:25
Fancy another little bit of fiction?

The Kid
by Arthur Jenner

From his vantage point on monkey island, Vincent could see the whole of the ship. He could see George and Alec on the forecastle head splicing an eye in the end of a new four-inch mooring rope: the boatswain standing outside the paint locker cleaning paint brushes. He watched the galley boy sitting outside the galley peeling an enormous pile of potatoes, while the second cook lounged in the doorway smoking. He looked aft, and saw one of the DEMS gunners sitting on the twelve pounder gun platform, washing clothes in a bucket, and closer, the Chief Engineer lying back in a deckchair on the boat deck, reading a book. Close still, on the port wing of the bridge below him, the Chief Mate was gazing through his binoculars, supported by his elbows resting on the wooden taffrail.
Vincent was supposed to be keeping a lookout, but he wasn't too sure what for. He was sixteen and this was his first trip to sea, so he was naturally a little nervous and more than a little excited. There really couldn't be very much to look out for, because the ship was in the centre of the middle line of a large convoy. There were ships all around them and if anything appeared it would most likely be screened from his view by other ships anyway. Even so, he did tear his eyes away from the pleasure of watching the daily activities of the ship from his God-like position, and started to look around.
The sea was moderately smooth and the wintry sun shone from an almost cloudless sky. The ships of the convoy were all either cargo ships or tankers, and all were painted the same drab light-grey colour. He could see the naval escorts, painted a darker shade of grey, patrolling on the outskirts the armada, keeping a constant watch for submarines and hostile aircraft.
He started to enjoy the sensation of being far from home and bound for who-knows-where; and even if one did know where it would have to be kept a secret; and the sensation of taking an active part in the war at last. He felt he had achieved manhood. He had seen the crates of munitions and the tanks being loaded in Liverpool and was sure that the ship was headed for an exciting destination. The whisper was that it was to be somewhere in the Mediterranean.
What a story he would have to tell his friends and his parents when he got home: if he got home. He hadn't, until now, really considered the possibility of not getting home, but now, looking around him at the apparently peaceful scene, and realising that in a matter of moments it could become a crazy battlefield, he felt a slight and exciting thrill of fear. He began to daydream of being torpedoed: of spending days in an open boat: of being picked up and returning home, some kind of hero: or perhaps being picked up by an enemy ship and returning home after the war. They said that your pay kept accumulating while you were a prisoner of war. Wow, if the war went on for a few years, he could be quite rich, he may have enough to buy the old people a house, or at least put a good deposit on one for them.
He was returned to reality by a tap on the shoulder.
"Penny for your thoughts kidder," said a voice in a strong Merseyside accent.
Vincent gave a start. He looked around and saw a large friendly face grinning at him. It was George Finnegan, one of the AB's on his watch, who had come to relieve him. It must be teatime.
"I was just wondering what it would be like to be torpedoed," he said. "You would'n like it," said George, "I've been torpedoed three times and I did'n like none of'em. I'll tell you about it some day. Come to think about it, you would'n know very much about it on this ship, 'cos the bottom of every hold is packed tight with shells and bombs and God only knows what. Anyway you'd better go and get your tea while there's still some left. That crowd of gannets in the fo'c's'le won't leave you any if you're not there to grab it. I've never sailed with such a hungry mob."
So Vincent climbed down the vertical ladder to the upper bridge, then down the stair-like ladder to the lower bridge, past the Captain's accommodation, down another ladder to the deck: turned a hundred and eighty degrees and through the alleyway between the bridge structure and bulwark that was a vertical continuation of the side of the ship and along the foredeck past number two hatch, the foremast, number one hatch and into the doorway in the middle of the after side of the raised forecastle head. He entered, stepping over the storm cill and was in the alleyway between the sailor's and firemen's accommodation.
The sailor’s fo'c's'le was on the port side and Vincent entered. The room was shaped like a right-angled triangle with a convexly curved hypotenuse: the entrance being at the lower end of the perpendicular; adjacent to the base. Two-tier steel bunks lined the hypotenuse and in the middle of room was a scrubbed wooden table with a bench along each of the long sides. The deck of the room was of scrubbed, caulked timber partially covered with shabby coconut matting. All of the other surfaces of the chamber were of white-painted, riveted steel plates.
A number of men were seated at the table eating from enamel plates, and although they did not look up when Vincent entered, they edged along to make room for him to sit down on the end of one of the benches. After going to one of the steel lockers that lined the perpendicular side of the triangle and extracting a plate, Vincent sat down and looked expectantly at the aluminium kits on the table. George had been right; there wasn't much left for him. One kit contained the remains of what had been kedgeree, but was now almost empty. The main meal had been steak of some kind, but there were now only a few pieces of fat wallowing in greasy onion gravy. There were a few vegetables left; a small quantity of roughly mashed potatoes and some pale cabbage. Vincent's hunger was stronger than his revulsion, so he spooned some potatoes onto his plate and poured some of the gravy on them. The others were by now making short work of the dessert, which comprised a heavy-looking steamed sultana pudding covered in thick lumpy custard. In spite of its unappealing appearance, Vincent hoped that they would leave him some. He knew it would be of no use to complain if they didn't, because in the fo'c's'le pecking order, he was at the very bottom.
In spite of the fact that his share of the meal had been minimal it was his job to wash up. This was partly because he was on watch and partly because he was the most junior member of the crew. Everyone having finished eating, Vincent left the forecastle and made his way to the galley, back past the bridge and number three hatch, to collect the bucket of water that had been left on the back of the stove during the afternoon. Back in the fo'c's'le he put the bucket on the mess room table and made the water soapy with flakes cut from his own washing soap. He scraped the remnants, such as they were, into another bucket; a greasy thing called the `gash bucket', and started the washing up.
One of the AB's, a Londoner called Claude, arose from his bunk and started to dry the plates. Vincent suddenly felt a kind of warmth; a feeling that he was not quite the outcast that he often imagined he was.
"Thanks, Claude," he said, gratefully.
"That's Ok Son," Claude replied, "I suppose you feel a bit lonely, being the only kid in the fo'c's'le. We've all been through it you know."
Vincent didn't answer. The word `kid' grated on his sensibilities. You were seventeen; old enough to die for your country, but in the eyes of the world you were still a bloody kid. He'd have been better to have joined the army, where you would be with `men' who were the same age as you were, instead of stuck out in the middle of the ocean with a bunch of middle-aged `hard cases' who regarded you as a veritable untouchable just because you were young and on your first trip to sea.
Claude said no more. He could understand the kid alright; he'd felt a bit like it himself many years ago when he was young. The washing up completed; the table washed down with the washing up water; Vincent went to the galley to return the clean kits.
One of the AB's, `Smokescreen' Donnelly suggested a game of Solo. Solo whist; the poor man's Bridge; was a game for addicts. Regular players hate to play with anyone who is not experienced at the game, and to the uninitiated it is often something of a mystery how anyone ever gets the opportunity to learn it. Two others took up Smokescreen's challenge, but it appeared that the only other qualified player was one of the firemen next door, and he happened to be on watch.
Vincent returned to the fo'c's'le, picked up a paperback western from under his pillow and lay on his bunk to read.
"I don't suppose you can play Solo, Kid, can you," asked Claude, "an' put old Smokescreen out of his agony."
"Yes I can," replied Vincent.
"There you are Smokey, young Vincy here plays Solo. You've got your four."
There was no reply from Smokescreen, who lay on his bunk staring at the underside of the mattress above him, puffing his huge curved pipe, and Vincent returned to the badlands of North America. Vincent had been taught to play Solo by his father and played regularly with him and his two uncles, but he judged it circumspect not to press his case. Anyway they were probably experts and would most likely fleece him of his cigarette ration in double quick time.
Smokescreen's addiction eventually overcame his aversion to gambling with children, and realising that it was the only way he would ever get a game, he spoke.
"Alright Kid, let's see what you can do."
Vincent was a trifle reluctant to drag himself back to reality from the wild west, but he thought it best to comply. The game started; the cards were cut and dealt. Vincent looked at his hand; it was his call. It was definitely an `abundance' hand, but could lose if the other players were really good, so he decided to pass. Smokescreen, on his left passed, Lofty Smythe opposite called `solo' and then Slim Walters called `misere'.
`Oh well, here goes,' thought Vincent.
"Bundle", he announced.
The others passed, and Vincent set out to make his nine tricks with some trepidation. It was easier than he thought; none of the others was expert and he won easily. For the next two hours he was in his element, and by the time the game was ended by common agreement, he had nearly doubled his cigarette ration.
"Want to play again tomorrow night, Vince," asked Smokescreen. "OK Smokes," he quickly agreed. He knew he was accepted as one of them. Perhaps he was now a man. Perhaps he was now a man.

non descript
18th January 2009, 09:41
Is that a statement or a question? (Jester)

non descript
18th January 2009, 09:42
Is that a statement or a question? (Jester)

If it is the former, I fear it may be the shortest story of all time (==D)

Sister Eleff
18th January 2009, 09:44
Yes please Arthur.

John Briggs
18th January 2009, 10:04
No need to ask Arthur. Of course we would!

18th January 2009, 10:33
Arthur get it on the screen.

PollY Anna
20th January 2009, 21:56
Hi Arthur

I really think you should put together a book of short stories anybody who has sailed in the rear end of the last Century ie from 1940 to 1999 will empathize with the stories and a lot of other people will enjoy the highly descriptive read. There is still a lot of people out there that read.

Regards Ron

John Briggs
20th January 2009, 23:12
Another one up to your high standards Arthur.
Many thanks!

Arthur Jenner
23rd January 2009, 06:43
Hi Arthur

I really think you should put together a book of short stories anybody who has sailed in the rear end of the last Century ie from 1940 to 1999 will empathize with the stories and a lot of other people will enjoy the highly descriptive read. There is still a lot of people out there that read.

Regards Ron

I would love to publish my yarns in a book but I haven't enough of them yet. I suppose I would have to find a publisher willing to do it. I have started a novel which starts basically the same as 'The Lonely Sea' but becomes a murder mystery. An AB is murdered and when the captain tries to communicate with the owners he discovers that Sparks is also topped and the radio destroyed. I have yet to work out a plot. A spy story would be good. Any ideas?

PollY Anna
25th January 2009, 12:37
Hi Arthur

You could try the Newspapers or Magazines to publish the short stories. They will pay for the stories one at a time, once they have been published like that you may find it easier to get them published as a collection, but like all things in life it ain't easy.

Regards Ron

13th October 2012, 16:47
I enjoyed the read. I am putting together a book that my late father-in-law wrote. His were actual experiences.He went to sea when he was 14 yrs. old, before the 2nd WW. He was a blockade runner to Spain though during the Spanish Civil War, and it makes for very interesting reading. It is written quite well, all things considered.Some of the facts he has written are off by a year or two and some ships' fates are mistakenly written. I am just leaving them and letting the readers of the book know that this is not a reference book but a sort of journal.This is the first reference I have found to a monkey island. I am so pleased because in the book my father-in-law mentions one and I was afraid no one would know what he was talking about. My book is just for family as their father wanted them to have it. If some day we want to do any kind of publishing we would probably start in a small way, like sending it to some nautical magazine or the like. We haven't thought that far yet. We want to see what family and friends think first.