The air smells like rotting fish and dead men saturated with too much grog. The clamor is squealing seagulls and wood banging on wood, the scrap of rusting metal and sailors. So many salty blokes singing and yelling and fighting and walking with their bow-legged strut like the earth was heaving underneath them.
Christian is happy for the dark shadows between the buildings that lean on crap foundations into the street. He puts his shoulder to the wind-roughened wood and smokes a paper of tobacco and watches the crowds moving off the docks. He is not a sailor. He is afraid of drowning. He doesn’t like men either and their stink. He prefers softer company at night and not occasionally either, between months at sea, but every night.
He draws the cherry bright hot and inhales the smoke leaving it a moment in his lungs then lets it loose through his nose.
Through a haze of nicotine, he watches and waits.
He waits for the seaman who is beyond drunk and alone and wearing the brine striped clothing of one that’s not in a navy. Ethnicity does not matter, but size does, the smaller the better.
Then he sees the perfect target. A boy in the midst of his teen years. Tall and skinny, barefoot with clothes that are a tad bit snug as if he has grown since purchasing them. His sandy hair floats in the bay breeze. He sways. Christian can imagine the stink of rum on him.
He signals the girl. She is a young and plump in the all the right places. Rosy cheeks and big blue puppy dog eyes. She dresses the part of an innocent, showing just enough skin to be fashionable, but not overtly sexual. How she gets them is the way she moves her body. It sways and jiggles in all the right ways.
She does her skit. She smiles and the youth falls in love.
It’s so perfect that when the girl takes his hand and guides him toward the dark alley he follows as if his pants were already around his ankles.
Christian grips the iron knuckles in his pocket and pulls them free. The metal is warm and his fingers slide perfectly into its rings.
The girl walks by and the youth follows and he lifts his arm to crack the youth in the back of the head, but before he can swing he feels the back of his own head explode with pain and the ground come up fast to meet his face.
As his vision fuzzes and fades he hears his girl scream. The scream echoes in his head as blackness surrounds.
When he wakes his head throbs and his stomach churns with the waves as the ocean lifts the huge galleon up and drops it down again. A man with a face filled with a red braided beard and tiny little seafoam colored eyes reaches for him. He wears the colors of a British sailor.
Each of his fingers are tattooed with a different naked woman.
He lifts Christian easily to his feet and beyond. As he dangles with just his toes touching the deck the bearded brut shakes him and demands, “work or sink. Choose!” then drops Christian and tosses a mop toward him.
Christian picks it up hoping he can escape at the next port.