The Boy and the Sea Dragon
His Typical Days
The next morning, Zuangeng woke as his room was getting lighter. He got out of his bed. He walked to the toy box. He got out some toys. He played with them until he heard Iyoseching call, “Zuangeng! Breakfast is ready!”
He left the toys where they were. He exited the room. He joined Captain Esiada and the mates in the captain’s mess. They ate some sausage, rice, eggs and fruit. The captain and mates drank coffee. Zuangeng drank milk.
Zuangeng walked back to his room. He straightened his bed. He went back to playing with his toys. When he tired of playing with them, he put them back in the box.
He walked up on deck. He walked around. He found Iyoseching. He walked up to him. He tapped him on the leg. He said, “Tag, you’re it.”
Iyoseching twirled to face him. Zuangeng took off running with Iyoseching on his tail. They ran around the deck. They ran around ropes, over or under rigging, around other equipment. They stopped at a windlass on opposite sides. They see-sawed around it a few times. Zuangeng took off. Iyoseching tagged him. The roles were reversed. Some of the other men joined in. Captain Esiada came out of his office to see what was going on. He stood there. He watched the game. They played tag until Zuangeng got tired.
Iyoseching took Zuangeng to his room. He said, “It is time for your nap, young man.”
He pulled the covers back. Zuangeng dutifully crawled into the bed. Iyoseching covered him. He exited the room. He closed the door. Zuangeng laid in the bed. His eyes remained open for a while. They eventually closed. He slept for about an hour.
He woke up. He crawled out of his bed. He walked up on deck. He encountered Iyoseching again. Iyoseching took him back to his room. Iyoseching looked into the room. The bed was unmade. The room looked dirty. He said, “You need to make your bed, again. You need to clean this room.”
Zuangeng made the bed. Iyoseching helped him. Iyoseching got a broom, dust pan and a rag. Zuangeng took the rag. He dusted the head and foot boards of the bed. He dusted the chest. He swept the floor. Iyoseching said, “Sweep under the bed as well.”
Zuangeng swept under the bed. He pulled out wads of paper and other debris. He swept it all into the dust pan. He dumped it into the trash can by the door. Iyoseching took the trash can. He emptied it. He returned it. They walked back on deck.
Zuangeng had the run of the entire ship with two exceptions. Due to the odors and the fact that sometimes a crew member assigned the duty of cleaning it out getting sick, the bilge was off limits to him. The other place off limits to him was the galley. The cook did not want him there. He did not want Zuangeng getting into the pots, pans and dishes, strewing them about. He did not want him getting into the cutlery and hurting himself. He did not want him getting into the other utensils and in the way.
“Who wants to play hide ‘n’ seek,” Zuangeng asked. Five men including Iyoseching said yes.
“Iyoseching, you hunt for us first. Close your eyes. Count to one hundred,” he said.
Iyoseching closed his eyes. He counted to one hundred. He went searching for the other players. He found the four men; but, no Zuangeng. He first looked in the captain’s office. Zuangeng was not there. He looked in the crew’s quarters. He looked in the closets, under bottom bunks, on the topmost bunks. He, even, looked under the sheets. No Zuangeng.
He went into the cargo hold. He looked around the crates. He looked behind the barrels. He looked up. On top of one stack of crates, there was a mysterious lump. Iyoseching said, “Zuangeng?”
The lump stirred. It grew longer. A head appeared, crowned in sandy blond hair. A face showed over the edge of the crate. The hair hung over the cheeks. It was Zuangeng. He said, “Boo.”
“You are the last to be found. It is your turn to count to one hundred while the rest of us hide. Come up on deck first,” Iyoseching said.
They walked up on deck. Zuangeng closed his eyes. He counted, “One. Two. Three. … One hundred.”
He opened his eyes. He searched out all the players. The game continued for a while. Sometimes, Zuangeng could be found in the crow’s nest at the top of the main mast.
Later, he stood at the starboard railing midway between the fore and main masts. He looked out over the ocean. No land could be seen. He watched the gentle swells go by. Sunlight reflected off the water. It lightened the water in color. Here and there, the water appeared white.
He turned around. He watched the men work. He walked to some of them. He asked them, “Can I help?”
“No, Zuangeng. Run off and play,” they would say.
He found Captain Esiada. The captain was between the main and mizzen masts. He was talking with one of the men. Zuangeng waited for a break in the conversation. He pleaded, “Esiada, I want to go swimming. Can I swim, please?”
“It’s ‘May I’,” Captain Esiada corrected him.
“May I go swimming? Please, pretty please?” Zuangeng pleaded again.
“Alright, you can go swimming,” Captain Esiada said, laughing.
Zuangeng disappeared below deck. He entered his room. He walked to the chest. He opened it. He rummaged through his clothing. He threw some of it onto the floor. He found his goggles. They were made of glass and brown leather. It was discovered that Zuangeng’s eyes were sensitive to the salt in the ocean water. He reappeared on deck.
He watched the men furl the sails He held onto the goggles. He listened to the men sing as they worked. He sang with them.
All the sails were furled. The men were back on deck. Captain Esiada commanded, “Drop anchors!”
The anchors were dropped into the water for added drag.
A gate in the port railing near the main mast was swung open. A rope ladder was thrown over. It unrolled down the side of the hull until the bottom rungs hit the water.
Captain Esiada and a few of the other men stripped to their shorts. Zuangeng put his goggles on. Zuangeng climbed down the ladder first. They climbed down the ladder into the water.
They stayed close to the ship as they swam. Zuangeng wore his goggles over his eyes as he swam. Sometimes, he saw the underwater portion of the hull. It was copper clad tinged blue. He swam various strokes. Occasionally, he climbed the ladder about half way up. He dove off head first. He was adept at swimming and diving.
About an hour later, they climbed the ladder back up on deck. The ladder was pulled up It was rolled up. The gate was closed. Captain Esiada and the men who swam dressed.
The anchors were cranked up. The men went aloft. They reset the sails. They sang as they worked. Zuangeng sang with them.
The ship was back under way.
Zuangeng stood at the starboard railing between the main and mizzen masts. He had his goggles up on his forehead. He looked out over the ocean. All he saw was water. He spotted a pod of blue whales in the distance. He stood there watching them. Occasionally, one leaped out of the water. The whale landed either on its belly of side. Walls of water rose into the air. Occasionally, he watched geysers of water as the whales exhaled.
After supper, Zuangeng and Esamoda got into a game of chess. Esamoda played the white pieces. Zuangeng played the black pieces. Zuangeng check mated his opponent. Captain Esiada sent him to bed.
The next day, Zuangeng stood at the starboard bow railing before the fore mast. He looked over the rail. He looked down at where the bow met the water. He watched the water pile up against the hull. It rolled over into a wave. He watched it flow past the ship. It spread out from the ship. As he watched, three dolphins rode the bow waves.
Later, he was at the stern railing. He watched the ship leave a wake behind it. The wake spread out.
He got with some of the men. He watched them work. They taught him some of the techniques of what they were doing.
One man stood at the port railing. He was holding a pole over it. A line was attached at the end. It was partly in the water. Several men stood beside him. Zuangeng stood near them. He looked out over the ocean. The line tightened. A fish jumped out of the water. Part of the line hung form its mouth. Zuangeng said excitedly, “A shark! You caught a shark! Bring it in!”
They brought the shark in. They killed it. They butchered it on deck. The meat was taken below. The remains were thrown over into the water. The deck was scrubbed.
He was in the rec room. He sat at a table. He had some paper on it. He held a pencil in his right hand. He drew some pictures on the paper.
These two days were some of the typical days on board the Serikua.
This night was a special night. All the crew, even the night crew, were on the main deck. It was dark. Stars could be seen in the thousands. The moon was full. Lamps were lit around the deck. They were on the masts, the railings, even, hanging from the lower yardarms. Tables and chairs were placed on the deck. One table had the food, plates, silverware and cups. Everybody served themselves. Some of the meat was from shark caught earlier. Zuangeng had some of it. They feasted.
When they finished the feast, they cleared the tables. The tables and chairs were moved to clear a space. Some of the crew gathered some instruments. They played some music. The other crew sang and danced. Zuangeng enjoyed the festivity. He sang and danced as well.
Once, he was alone out there. The rest stood or sat and watched him. He sang and danced solo. He sang one of his favorites. The song was of his love of the ocean, the ship and the crew. Land was not in the picture. He barely knew anything of land. He had no feelings toward land. The ocean and the ship were his life.