By Richard Maynard (1832-1907) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s been a slow few years, and while the crew has changed a couple of times, my wonderful voice has remained to talk with me. Now, he tells me that he has to leave for a while because there is a surprise waiting for us in port. What that could be, I have no clue. I am going to miss him, because he has really made these slow trips back and forth between the ports he calls Rome and Carthage enjoyable. While I would rather not be a freighter, at least I can say the changes that have occurred have been nice. I am no longer at the mercy of the tides, the weather, and the winds.
I asked what the changes were going to be, mostly because I wanted to find out if he would be returning. He assured me through our slow communications that he would be back, and that I would enjoy the upgrades. What is an upgrade?
I did not get a chance to finish asking my question before I felt the line on my bow pulled snug, and the little tugboat begin guiding me into a strange berth. Lines were run under my keel, and the gangplank was run out. All the boots I had become accustomed to thumped around for a while, then made a mass exit for the connection to land, which left me even more puzzled. Every since I had woke to this new form I had never been completely abandoned. Especially not while in port.
Before long, I don’t know how long, new boots thumped back on board. I did not recognize any of them, which left me a little concerned. Was I being stolen again?
No. There were not enough boots to make a full crew. Not even enough to properly steer and keep my boiler fed. I think I counted eleven, actually. So, what were they doing aboard? And, why were they heading down the stairs and ladders to my boiler room?
A little worried, I did my best to track them, feeling the heels hit the steel decks, and the vibrations as they blundered between the pipes and conduits that filled most of the aft section of my belly. At one point, I thought someone was trying to speak with me. The joy I felt was rudely crushed, however, and my worry increased.
I was so focused on what was going on in my belly that I missed the water draining out from around me. It wasn’t until I felt something begin tickling my keel that I turned my attention to my hull. When I found myself hanging in the straps that had been run under me, I started beating my speaking stick as hard as I could in panic, let me tell you. But, my interpreter was not there to hear. And the fools banging around inside only took it down. With my interpreter, I had begun learning how to understand voices, and what they said, but the volume of noise in the boiler room prevented me from even trying to understand what that group was saying. I wish I could have, too.
Everyone thumped away as darkness encroached, despite the fact that I turned on every light I could. I was left hanging in the cool darkness with only the unnatural emptiness to keep me company. I took the chance to seek out the changes I suspected were happening. And, what I found sent me into a tizzy of panic. My boiler had been disconnected, the paddle wheel was hanging by just a few bolts, sections of piping and conduits had been removed, and my glorious masts had the anchoring bolts removed. This group was not trying to steal me, they were trying to disassemble me!
The next time I felt the sun’s warmth on my decks, the boots came thumping back aboard, making me desperately hope the lines holding me up were strong enough, and once more set about making a loud racket. I felt shadows swinging back and forth across my top deck. Then I felt the unusual sensation of the sun warming the inside of my keel. I groaned loudly, knowing that my beautiful masts had just been removed. And, that was not the worst of the desecration. A little later, I felt the warmth of the sun on the bulkheads of my boiler room. Now, both of my paddle wheels were gone.
Convinced I was being scrapped, despite giving honest service, I stopped paying attention to my hull. Instead, I contemplated what I really was. I had a voice, I felt things, and I knew that I was something more than just my parts. I also thought about what my friend had told me, and wondered just what he thought I would enjoy. Knowing I was not seaworthy was not an experience I think he anticipated.
I had my attention brought back out of my own thoughts by the incessant tapping of my friend. How much time had passed, I really had no idea. But, I could feel water lapping peacefully against my sides, and my keel was properly dark from nose to stern. Whatever had occurred must have been a bad dream. Not only was my friend back, but my hull was properly watertight like I remembered, and we were under way into one of the worst storms I have ever encountered.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to focus on what my friend is saying, because the captain seems to be incompetent. We’re broadside to the waves, and I have a reputation to maintain.