Silently he creeps up the gangplank and onto the deck. He circumnavigates the hull, darting behind heavy wooden crates covered in nets that reek of fish guts to avoid being seen by the crew.
He knows not how long he’s been crouching there; long enough to lose sensation in his knees and start to wonder if he’s doing the right thing. He shakes the thought off like a dog shaking its fur after a swim. He thinks of Benjy, lying by the fire, his wet nose resting on his mottled brown paws. His stomach clenches from both homesickness and hunger but he doesn’t falter. He’s made his choice and he must suffer the consequences. He is now a soldier of the sea.
The activity on the deck is building. Men in smart naval uniforms are boarding the ship, lost in important-looking conversation as porters carry their belongings in heavy trunks.The sailors set to work on the rigging, climbing up to the mast head with dexterity and ease, their sinewy bodies glistening with sweat and salt.
Not long now until his maritime adventure will begin. He wonders briefly whether he’ll be missed, if it will occur to his family that he’s set off on a voyage across the seas. He knows he might see pirates and vagabonds; he knows he must be brave.
“Hoist the main sail!” A cry from the captain. “Wait!” A second voice, much closer than the first. “What’s this we have here….?” The tarpaulin shifts and light spills through into his hidey hole. But it’s not the Captain’s face he sees. He blinks. “What the…?”
“Oscar!” His mother’s face looms large above him. “What are you doing? Come down for your tea!”
Oh well, he thinks as he disentangles himself from his blanket (formerly the main sail), there’s always next time…