The Boy and the Sea Dragon
Zuangeng is Missing
The Serikua neared the storm’s edge. The rain and wind lessened. The waves got smaller. They ceased to batter the ship. Captain Esiada and the helmsman exited the office. Men emerged from below. The helmsman walked to the helm. He unlashed it.
Captain Esiada ordered, “Take down the storm sails! Reset the topgallant masts!”
The crew brought the storm sails down. The topgallant masts and crow’s nest were brought out of storage. The crow’s nest was restored to the main topgallant mast. The masts were hoisted up. Some crew went aloft with tools. They refastened the masts in place. The stays were brought out, hoisted and reattached. The storm sails were folded and taken to the hold. They were laid out to dry. The sails, including a new topsail, were brought up. The captain ordered, “Set all sails!”
The yardarms were restored to their locations. The sails were reattached and rest.
They sailed past the storm’s edge into calmer water. It stopped raining. The sun came out. More men appeared on deck.
Captain Esiada ordered, “Clean this deck. Put equipment back in order.”
The men went to work. The Serikua was back under full sail. They scrubbed the deck from bow to stern. Equipment were put where they belonged.
Captain Esiada looked around the deck. Everybody who were supposed to be here were present. Zuangeng often could be found on deck. He would wonder about or play with the crew. Captain Esiada was expecting him to come up with the crew. Zuangeng was not on deck as usual. Captain Esiada walked below. He first looked in his quarters. He looked in Zuangeng’s quarters. He looked in the crew’s quarters. The night crew were sleeping. Zuangeng was not there. Captain Esiada looked in the cargo hold.
“Zuangeng!” he yelled. There was no reply. Zuangeng did not show up. Captain Esiada looked in the store rooms.
“Zuangeng!” he yelled again. There was neither reply nor Zuangeng. He looked everywhere the boy could be found. He taught him to always respond when he was called.
He walked back on deck. He confronted the men. He asked, “Has anybody seen Zuangeng?”
“No,” everybody said.
“Last time, I saw him was during the storm. He was running to the hatch,” some men said.
Captain Esiada looked to port and stern. The storm was far behind them. The storm was past where he last saw Zuangeng.
“Men, prepare to come about! We’re going back to search for him. If he’s not on board, he must be in the water!” he said.
He ran to the helm. He grabbed it from the helmsman. The men scrambled to the sheets. He yelled, “Coming hard to port!”
The message was relayed to the bow. He cranked the helm to the left as fast as he could. The ship turned to port.
They reached the spot. Captain Esiada ordered, “Furl all sails! Drop anchors!”
The sails were quickly furled. They dropped both anchors. The ship lazily drifted.
Captain Esiada walked to his office. He walked to a cabinet on the left wall. The cabinet was of varnished oak. It had two glass doors. There were five drawers underneath the doors. Behind the doors were five shelves. Each shelf held various equipment. The bottom shelf held the spyglass. It was black with brass fittings. He took it out. He walked back out. He climbed the main mast to the crow’s nest. He looked for Zuangeng in the water. He saw nothing but water, waves, sea birds and the storm far in the distance. He climbed down to the deck. He went around the ship, looking for him again. He saw nothing different.
“Men, take the dinghies out. Look for him. Dive under if you must,” he said.
The men took the dinghies out. They scattered around the ship. Some of them dove into the water. They searched underwater. They returned to the ship as the sun was setting. The night crew came up on deck. All the crew gathered around Captain Esiada.
“Light some lamps,” Captain Esiada said. The men lit the lamps around the ship. They returned to Captain Esiada. He was standing by the mizzen mast under a lit lamp.
“Give me your reports those of you who went out searching,” he said.
They reported, “We found no trace of Zuangeng. The current must have carried him away.
Captain Esiada said, “Zuangeng is missing! I cannot find him on the ship. I assume that during the storm, he was washed overboard. I had the surrounding sea searched. He was not found. We all can assume, He drowned and is lost forever. At daybreak and shift change, we will hold a memorial service in his honor. That will be all. Dismissed!”
The day crew walked below. They had their evening meal. They went to sleep with heavy hearts. They had dreams about Zuangeng.
The night crew took over. Mostly, they stood vigil. They had heavy hearts. They thought and talked about Zuangeng.
The sun was peeping over the horizon. Everybody gathered at the main mast. Captain Esiada stood before the men. He looked them over. Everybody was silent.
Captain Esiada broke the silence. “Gentlemen, we stand before the main mast. We mourn for a lost dear loved one. Say farewell to Zuangeng. He was lost to the sea during the storm. He was a sweet boy to die at such a young age. I feel this is a befitting end to a life lived on the seas, short though it was. He was born and had lived on this ship. He knew this ship and you men very well. I have loved and raised him since the day he was born! I would be glad to trade places with him. The sea gives and takes away!”
He talked for a while longer. He talked of his memories of Zuangeng.
“Anybody want to say something,” he asked. Everybody had something to say. The last one finished.
Captain Esiada said, “Now, everybody bow your heads for a moment of silence.”
Everybody bowed their heads. The only sound heard was the lapping of the waves on the hull. It lasted for about five minutes.
Captain Esiada said, “Dismissed!”
The night crew walked below. They had their meal. They went to bed. They had Zuangeng on their minds. They had Zuangeng in their dreams.
Captain Esiada said to the day crew, “Put out the lanterns. Unfurl and set all sails. Raise the anchors.”
The men went to work with Zuangeng on their minds. Captain Esiada took measurements of their current position. He walked into his office. He walked to the cabinet. He opened the top drawer. He pulled it. He took out a chart. He plotted their position and course on the chart. He walked back out. The Serikua was under full sail. He walked to the helm. He gave the helmsman their new heading. The helmsman corrected to the heading. The crew adjusted the sails. They were under way.