Virgil Matthews: Chapter 6–Storm Front

by jimowensjr

Author’s Note:  Virgil’s story was interrupted for a few weeks by some unexpected surgery.  I’ve missed him and am looking forward to seeing how things turn out for him.  Here’s Chapter 6.  If you haven’t seen the first five chapters, they precede my last blog entry.  “A vulnerable moment.”  Scroll back past them to get caught up.


I know I’m making a long tale of this business of how one comes—how I’ve come, that is–to be known as a coward.  Problem is, most folks see a thing—something you’ve done or not done—and knowing nothing of how you’ve come to that place, they seem to be perfectly willing to make their accusations.  But let me get back to my tale.

By the time Invictus set left the harbor that day, I had spent the better half of my life on board an East Indiaman.  Tea clippers we called them.  They were built to hold as much cargo as possible, not for speed.  Clumsy as they were in a race, they were full of men ready willing to give their lives to defend the treasures we carried.  In the beginning, I was feeble boy but I grew and with time, became an able-bodied seaman.

The trade routes we ran for the British East India Company were long arduous journeys and the ships were meant to hold as much cargo as could be safely stowed. We had begun our return journey later than perhaps would have been wise.  If you know much of the sea and sailing you know that we sailors are a superstitious lot.  But the apprehension of our late season journey home passed during the first weeks when the seas were calm and the weather forgiving.  With a belly full of tea, spice, and sundry other treasures, Invictus’ lumbered up the waves and down into the troughs in a hypnotic rhythm, lulling her Captain and crew into a hopeful ignorance.

It’s still not clear to me what happened, how calamity befell us—how I came to be known as the man I am.  But late one afternoon the winds rose suddenly and the sea began to churn.  On the horizon, we saw the storm into which we were sailing.  The sky was a brooding beast, a patient predator lurking the distance.  Men glanced up from their work with wary eyes as lighting flashed across the horizon.  Foreboding thoughts were pressed down with occasional comments.

She’s an angry looking bitch, but we’ll make our way.

Captain’s taken us through worse before, I’m sure.

But my closest friend aboard Invictus confided in me. “I dunnot lak tha looks o’this one, Virg”