Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The Golden Seas
Those who knew him before the sailing accident would often remark at what a waste it was. A man of only twenty-five years, and handsome at that, struck down in his prime. Well yes, Jeffery was at one time a rather handsome and robust youth. That was all before the sailing accident. Back then he was smart as a whip, he could calculate the ships position accurately in his head. He was never wrong. There were several times when the captain of the ship, who faithfully held onto his charts and tide tables like one holds onto the bible with a dying breath, doubted the miracle of Jeffery Mare.
Young Jeffery was the finest sailor the sea ever knew. Some say he was found on a beach, in a basket wrapped in a ships sail. Their fellows would whisper of a dark past full of murdered lovers, betrayal, deceit and threats of capital punishment. The rarest version of Jeffery's history, and perhaps the one closest to the truth, was as boring as every man's story. In this tale he simply set out to see what lay beyond the horizon. The poorest of sailors, those who clung to their religions the fiercest, called him Jeffery Moses. They said he could, if he so wished, divide the seas with but a wave of his hand. He was modest, truthful, faithful, loyal, respectful, in short he was all of those things most people try to be, but actually aren't. Jeffery never faltered at the helm of his doubting captain's ship. When the storms blew and the gales came he would stay rooted to the ship's wheel.
At sunset, no matter the season, no matter the sea, Jeffery would be found on the bow of the ship, looking into the west at the golden waters below the sun. If one approached Jeffery at such a time they would find an unresponsive statue of a man. When the sun would finally succumb to the waves Jeffery would let out a sigh of longing and regret, and then turn and address the mundane queries of those around him. Once Jeffery was out of earshot the sailors would huddle together and ask each other what they thought Jeffery was looking for.
His evening contemplations soon became a regular service of sorts, sailors would gather around Jeffery and sing hymns, and wait expectantly for Jeffery to give them some sort of sermon. Jeffery never did, but that did not stop the sailors gathering. There was even a time when the sailors would discuss what message they could divine from Jeffery's silence. Some claimed that each day brought with it a different sort of silence. Others said that the length of his silence was linked to the length of passages in the bible, and each day they would read aloud passages, trying to find the one that fit with Jeffery's silence. These men soon gave up though. Only the hymns became a lasting feature, and in the end those did little to hold back the fires.
When the accident happened, well many sailors say some sunlight left the glittering seas. They say the sea wept, and still weeps. Several ballads and tear stained sonnets were written for "Bonny Jeff". Of course none of the poems ever got the story right. Most of them said that Jeffery Mare died in the calamity at sea. There are long passages written about the moment when the boilers exploded, and ninety-three men would've been lost if it weren't for "Bonny Jeff's" quick wits and strong hand. Several stories have been sent in to sailing publications falsely describing the innovative methods Jeffery used to rescue those men. Even more common is the type of long sad ballad that ends with Jeffery's supposed last words, "Tell the captain the ship is still on course".
What very few people know, and even less admit to themselves, is that after a long night of drinking his secretly smuggled rum Jeffery overloaded boiler number three. The captain of the destroyed ship still swears there was no cause. But there must have been some, surely no man would change so swiftly from a gentle and popular soul to the possessed beast that destroyed the graceful Swanknight. In his unknowable rage Jeffery grabbed everything he could find, every crate, anything that would burn, he threw into the boiler. He locked the crew in their bunkrooms and burned everything he could lift. The cargo hold was soon emptied by Jeffery's quick and sturdy hands. The captains books of charts and tables of tides were burned along with the drawers from his desk and the goose down comforter from his bed. The ship's clock was thrown into the furnace along with several Gideon's Bibles. The things he couldn't lift he broke apart and threw piece by piece into the fiery mouth of the glowing-red metal furnace.
When the great iron belly of the boiler finally gave way to the pressure, Jeffery was standing next to it. By some miracle, or curse, of the sea he survived. His face was immediately scarred and his left arm was torn off at the shoulder. He lost his legs below the knees to the infections that came with his untreated wounds. He spent several days at sea floating in the wreckage from the ship, and when another boat pulled him from the water he asked to be thrown back overboard.
If you can find him now, and you ask him his story, he will smile and gladly tell you. He will relate all of the events in the finest detail, he will describe the smells of the objects in the furnace, the sound of the cargo crackling in the boiler, and the yells of the his fellow sailors from the bunks. Jeffery Mare will tell you all of these things, he will even show you his scars. With a practiced hand he will point to his face where the metal and steam tore away his handsome features, and then he will lift his shirt and point to where a pipe pierced him clean through. All in all you will hear a tale of the greatest injuries a man has ever endured. The only thing Jeffery Mare will reserve for himself is his reasons for destroying the ship. If you ask him his motive: he will fall silent, then laugh and quickly turn his head to the west. What he sees with his steam-blinded eyes is beyond any sailor's guess.