Saturday, September 3, 2011

Excerpt 6 from TUNNELS



I lost sight of them, the young boy and the limping man, as I hurried after, digging in my bag to see what else I had. I kept my footing on the uneven walkway, nodding at people I passed. Most were dressed like old-fashioned sailors, sporting bandannas and earrings; all ignored me. I thought I must be invisible though one ancient half-dead seaman with hazy eyes, red cheeks and a stuttering tongue gave me a cockeyed nod. I hurried on.

At water’s edge I pulled out a well-packed one-person inflatable with a small compressed air inflator. I was glad to see that it wasn’t orange or red, but rather an indiscernible gray. I fit snugly in the oblong seat with my pack between my legs. I maneuvered under figureheads and around the sterns of several ships; their cables would have snagged an average keel, lucky for me I had no keel, but I did have to watch for the cables that slanted up and out of the water, threatening to catch me in the neck and knock me overboard.

At last I reached the Hispaniola. I braced an armpit around a fraying rope, anchoring myself while I dug through the pack for the knife and grappling gun I had seen at the bottom. With the knife between my teeth I felt like a pirate ready to board and do battle, a mission I might have preferred if I were as adventurous as my son. I steadied my aim and successfully shot the gun, catching the hooks around the rim a scary distance above. Had I done this before? It felt pretty natural. With equal skill I slung the straps of the pack over my back, withdrew the knife from my mouth and simultaneously slashed the inflatable and triggered the gun. The swishing of the deflating fabric matched the swooshing of my one-handed ascent; my stronger arm, the one that carried a whiny forty pound child every day, did not fail me. I transferred the knife back to my mouth to free up my right hand to take hold of the edge. I threw my legs over and let my feet find the planks. I freed the hooks and dropped the entire unit down on top of my little boat. The extra weight helped to sink it faster.

I was beginning to think that the ‘good luck’ that Jackson had wished me was working until I turned around and saw a dozen sailors, backs bent, trundling arms and barrels of gunpowder into the fore hold.

(Tunnels is a work in progress. Feedback is appreciated.)