GENRE: Adult Fiction
James Lamport was going to sea.
He had made the decision long ago, when his Uncle Argo first came home with a story about a yogi in Bombay. The man slept on a bed of nails, he had said. He could put his legs behind his head and could stand himself up on the palm of one hand. James was overwhelmed with curiosity.
Then Argo told a story of snake charmers who controlled serpents with music. The young boy shivered with excitement.
Then there was the story of people riding painted elephants through the streets. He shuddered with glee.
James, as a boy, could hardly breathe as he had thought about all these strange and wonderful things that actually existed somewhere out in the world. All he had ever known was England, and the boring grey place that it was.
That was when he decided – he was going to see it. The world. All of it.
Now, twenty years later, as he strode toward the London Docks, his ears burned to hear all the details from his uncle’s latest trip. Tales of fantastic sea creatures, of cannibal tribes in exotic lands, and of waters teeming with bloodthirsty pirates were always in order when the old sailor came home. Stroking his full brown beard, with the smoke from his pipe disappearing above head, his uncle’s eyes would light up like flames as he related the storybook adventures in which he took part. He was everything James wanted to be; all he had ever dreamt of was a life on the open ocean.
He passed the bustling stevedores, the mountains of barrels of pickled herring from the North Sea, the merchants selling tobacco and pearl necklaces and shrunken heads, and he imagined the Saint Angela moving up the Thames right at that moment. He smelled the filth of the docks and his heart quickened. This was the day, he knew. This was the day for which he had waited for years. He was finally going to make his life happen. He was going to ask to go along the next time Argo went out.
He reached the edge of the docks and asked a carriage driver for the time. Three thirty-four. Right on time. Every day for the past week James had stood at the edge of the docks, in the same spot, at the same time, the wind whipping through his dark hair, waiting for the Saint Angela to emerge. Every day for the past week, however, he had gone home alone. Not today, he knew. He had a good feeling about today.
As if on cue, James saw the prow of a ship slice through the curtain of London fog. The wooden mermaid on the front appeared to pull back the curtain, peer out and, deciding all was clear, continue through the hole in the fog toward the dock. It was the Saint Angela. His uncle was home.