Chapter 6: Lila Jane

I was sixteen, and old enough to get a job, my Dad said. He was a fisherman, like his Dad before him, and so it was an obvious play for him to take me down to the docks and introduce me to some of his friends. We wouldn’t work the same boat, he said, since it was supposed to be an education for me, too. Having your Dad around, paradoxically, was not conducive to that type of education on a fishing boat.

So I found myself sailing off in the pre-dawn hours on the Lila Jane. We were underway for hours, it seemed, before we started casting nets. The skies, cloudy when we left under a full moon, had turned darker and more ominous. I was relieved to be working on the deck, since during our “commute” I felt I had received more of an education than I’d bargained for. The other crew, either forgetting my youth or not caring, engaged in conversations far above (or below, depending on your perspective) my pay grade, and I found myself either disgusted or inappropriately engrossed by the topics.

“Hey, Chandler,” one yelled in my direction. “Y’ever seen anything like that in your life?”, referring to one particularly disgusting encounter he’d relayed. Another chided him, “You kidding? This kid ain’t even been shavin’ yet, and you think he’s seen that?”

You can see why I was glad to have stopped talking and started working.

We busied ourselves with work, but the skies turned yet darker and the wind started to whip up. The captain told us to haul in the lines quickly (we’d almost finished putting them out), and we didn’t need any more motivation than that. Lighting lit up the darkened skies around us and the crash of waves against the hull complemented the rolls of thunder all around us. I felt a shiver of fear course through my body as my sense of self-preservation kicked in. I worked as quickly as I could, despite the stinging spray of salt water spraying from all directions. Soon our work was done, things were stowed away, and water began swamping the deck between the monstrous waves. I staggered through the door to the interior as if I were drunk, and collapsed into a heap in the darkened corner as the Lila Jane listed to and fro. The other crew retreated to their own spaces, laughing and chortling about something or other. I didn’t particularly care. Waves of emotion came over me, and in that moment, in the stomach-churning darkness, I cried like a baby.

The calmness after the storm passed led us to resume our work, casting nets, hauling them in, packing the fish into the rooms filled with ice. It was backbreaking work. I thought it would never end. When it did, I vowed to never again set foot on a fishing boat, and I was true to my word. Back on land, months later, you’d find me working the checkout lanes at the grocery store. Never again, I said, would I do something that made me feel that exposed and vulnerable.

Never again.


This story is part of a series of stories I’m writing as part of a commitment to sketch each day of 2016. My #365daydraw project yields an image each month, by popular choice, to serve as inspiration for each chapter.
Read more about my #365daydraw challenge

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