Heart thumping and racing, I ran from the one eyed harbor thug. A quick turn to the right, and I ran up the gangplank of a tall sailing ship. An overly dressed man in a tall hat was sitting at a table with a quill in his hand.
As he wrote in a large book, I could hear him bark questions at the first man in a long line of sailors. I got in the line and kept my face turned away from “one-eye” as he tried to locate me in the chaos of the dock. I saw him turn and retrace his steps, slowly searching.
This ship smelled different than the one from which I was running. It smelled of ambergris and burned whale oil. A ‘whaler’ heading out to the hunt was signing on a crew. The ship I escaped from smelled of slaves kept too long in the hold. I think the memory and that stench shall never leave me.
I was shanghaied in Portsmouth, forced to work as a deck hand on that slaver, and made a promise to myself; I would escape first chance I had, wherever I was. This is the place, Nantucket!
The gentleman hollered, “Next!” as the line shortened one man’s worth.
I heard him tell everyone, “This ship leaves on the tide,” which was around ‘Ten’ tomorrow morning.
Realizing I was not ready for another eternity at sea, an internal battle ensued. Should I stay on this ship and be safe from the slaver, or should I pursue my fortune inland where I have never been?
Needing time to think, I cautiously walked down the gangplank looking left and right. I need to move, make a decision, so I let my luck lead me to the right, past the name on the bow of the ship.
“PEQUOD,” A strange name I mumbled to myself.
“What’s the worst that could happen if I chose the ship?”
Having given ‘luck’ the tiller, ‘luck’ would have this day! I walked smartly past the gang plank, still thinking about the name, but never looking up.
I turned landward, west.