It was a beautiful autumn day with birds chirping melodiously
and old Mr. Sun smiling benignly down upon the activity along the
San Benito River’s banks.
It was a beautiful autumn day with birds chirping melodiously and old Mr. Sun smiling benignly down upon the activity along the San Benito River’s banks.
“Request permission to come aboard,” said Don Anderson as he stood at the foot of the ladder of the Right Honorable Sid Moses, moored among the bulrushes.
“Permission granted!” said Jim Sleznick, dressed all in blue with gold brocade, as was Anderson, and the permanent acting chairman of the Roses for Moses Society was piped aboard.
A double line of members clad in some form or the other of sailor garb stood at attention as Anderson made his way from stem to stern, then from stern to stem. He looked sternly at Sleznick, at the double line of faces bright with anticipation, then at Sleznick again before his features relaxed into a sunny smile. “Very good, Mr. Mate,” he said to Sleznick. “All shipshape and Bristol fashion.”
With that, the crew huzzahed and threw their respective caps into the air. While the jolly jack tars danced the hornpipe (Ship’s Musician Franz Schneider providing the music on his flute) and spliced the mizzenmast, Anderson and Sleznick withdrew to the stern.
“What’s her speed, Mr. Sleznick?”
“Aye,” growled the grizzled seadog, “speed. How many knots do you reckon she’ll do?”
“Oh, speed. Well, when we get a set of sails for her or mayhap install an engine, belike it’ll be three or four knots.”
“Aye; of course, that also depends on if we get enough rain to float her for I mind the seven-year drought, and a dry time it was, you may lay to that.”
At that moment, crewmen Jed Logan and Ruben Lopez hove on the scene and paused in their hornpipe. “Begging your pardon, Cap’n,” said Lopez, tugging his forelock. “Ship’s Musician Schneider sends his compliments and asks if you are requesting any special tune.”
Anderson stroked his beard. “I’ve always been partial to ‘Sailing, Sailing Over the Bounding Main’ or ‘Rule, Britannia.’ On the other hand, ‘Cocktails for Two’ has a pleasant lilt to it. Tell him anything will do.”
The two salts saluted smartly and danced away.
“This takes me back to when I shipped before the mast,” Sleznick said, and his eyes grew bright with memory. “Do you recall the feeling of putting into port after three months on the ocean, and the plans you’d made were at hand, then you were going down the gangplank with a 48-hour liberty?”
“Aye,” Anderson said, “and all those feelings coursing through your young body, all those pent-up urges…”
“And there you were in a foreign port where no one knew you, and then you were walking down the street, senses all alert, and you suddenly saw her…”
“A museum! Or belike a cathedral! And your camera was out and you were clicking away…”
“And then,” Sleznick said, “mayhap a cobble-stoned street or an old wine shop, and you clicked away until you were out of film, and your clicking finger was numb.”
“Aye,” Anderson replied with a sigh, and a light deep from within filled his eyes. “Then, heading back to the ship, another urge overpowered you…”
“I remember,” Sleznick said and his face became a mask of lust. “It was like a tide bearing you along, powerless to resist, and you found a place and went inside with both hands full of money…”
“And you laid it all down and bought chocolate drops, JuJuBes, licorice whips…”
“Gumdrops, by the eternal! And marzipan and nougat! And you ate until you couldn’t eat anymore…”
“Belay it!” Anderson said. “Compose yourself before the men see us.”
Sleznick shuddered violently, then with iron resolution regained his composure and marched abreast of Anderson to the bow for the time-honored final ceremony.
Refreshments were served.