Chapter Eight- Bakiya Takahashi And Anri Get A Ride On A Ship
[Author’s Note: “The Royal Crown of Okinawa (A Bakiya Takahashi Adventure)” continues in this next installment. Bakiya and Anri find a dead end and a most peculiar new friend.]
Bakiya and Anri rose on the morning of the day of departure. They broke up their camp and extinguished the fire. Anri made one last pass down the shore to look for fresh clams. She found nothing but a chipped seashell and a dried-up jellyfish. The latter she smartly left alone.
Captain Thompson was at the dock in rare form. He was loading three big wooden barrels onto his rowboat when Bakiya and Anri arrived with their things.
“Attention, young lady and distinguished gentleman. Our voyage is about to begin. I beg of you to bow your heads in a small prayer to the sea gods.”
The brisk, cold morning air caused Anri’s tattered, yellow skirt to sway like the sea. Bakiya nodded to Anri, and the pair did as they were told. Captain Thompson cleared his throat.
“Dear gods of the sea, may the waters be calm and the winds in our favor. We beg of you that this morning not be the last time our soon to be seafaring legs feel the warm embrace of dry land. Amen.”
“Amen,” Bakiya and Anri said.
“Don’t stand there you two. Help yer captain finish loading the boat. The sea and adventure await.”
Bakiya motioned to Anri to go ahead. They rolled the final two heavy, wooden barrels up a ramp and onto the rowboat. Anri pulled her hand from the last barrel and was aghast at a red streak of some unknown liquid. She put her hand to her nose and nearly fainted from the wretched stench.
“Is that not blood and brine I smell?”
“Yes, ’tis,” Captain Thompson said.
He covered the barrels with an old, tan tarp and tied it down. Bakiya put the last of their meager possessions in the bow of the rowboat as a little mist from the sea kicked up in his face.
“And what is in those barrels if I may?” Bakiya asked.
“That would be the preserved remains of your payment for this voyage.”
“You killed the cows,” Anri said.
“Of course, our trip is long and neither men like us nor a lass like yourself live on bread and water alone.”
“Was it really necessary to slaughter them all?” Bakiya asked.
“Have you ever seen a cow swim?”
“But they’re dead,” Anri said.
“Dear girl, sometimes in life there’s a sacrifice to be made.”
“That doesn’t seem very fair to those harmless animals.”
“Perhaps not, but we all have a destiny to fulfill. Theirs is on my dinner plate.”
Anri wiped a falling tear from her face with the back of her sleeve. Bakiya comforted her, but he knew it was best to let the girl be. Captain Thompson waddled onboard the rowboat.
“Come now, you two. We must get out with the morning tides, lest we get swept back hard into the unforgiving shore.”
The rowboat would never survive such harsh conditions. The three grabbed long oars and paddled off into the open sea. Bakiya and Anri paddled hard. Captain Thompson drank his ‘special water’ from a jug, but young Anri knew that was a secret code for rum.
Bakiya thought to say something to the drunk, old man when he was too friendly with Anri for her liking. But it took only a sharp elbow from her to stop Captain Thompson’s most unwelcome advances. Bakiya beamed with pride at the strong, young woman she had become.
“Are we there yet?” Anri asked.
Captain Thompson took a final, sloppy swig of rum and tossed the empty vessel into the sea. He wiped his face with the frilly, white front of his shirt and pointed to the West. Anri thought their rowing like the deepwater would have no end.
“Look, you see, there she is.”
Bakiya and Anri strained and squinted. Bakiya pulled Anri back inside the rowboat as she craned her neck to search for any sign of a ship. The sunshine of the day shimmered across the blue-green sea.
“I do see something,” Anri said.
Bakiya too noticed a different reflection on the calm water. The pair paddled with a renewed vigor. A short time later a large boat came into view. It looked nothing like a pirate ship, more like a yacht than a storybook fantasy pirate ship.
“Mr. Thompson, over here.” A voice from the ship shouted.
“That’s ‘Captain Thompson,’ matey.”
The rowboat drew in next to the ship and a long rope ladder came down the side of the ship. Captain Thompson tied the rowboat to the ladder.
“You two go up and climb up on the deck. My first mate and I will handle the cargo. Anri and Bakiya went up the ladder. A glove-covered hand reached out and grabbed Anri to help her aboard.
“Lovely Miss Anri, I presume,” The voice behind the hand said.
“Yes, I am. How do you know that?”
Bakiya came aboard. The man handed him a dry, green towel.
“Mr. Thompson said two guests would be joining us for the voyage.”
“You mean, ‘Captain Thompson,’ right?” Bakiya asked.
The man tugged on his white dress shirt. His pressed black slacks and shiny shoes looked nothing like a pirate’s first mate. He shook his head.
“Is that what he told you?”
“Yes, he said he was a pirate captain.”
“Oh, I’m sorry about that. Mr. Thompson isn’t well. He is prone to delusions these days. He is perfectly fine most of the time. You see, he has a little episode now and again.”
“Yes, not to worry, he’s harmless. I’m sure he will snap out of it at any moment.”
The man showed Bakiya and Anri to their quarters. This was no budget cruise. Their separate rooms were twice the size of Anri’s old farmhouse. Bakiya had not seen such decadence since he and his mother were living with his father in their fancy mansion long ago.
“Wow,” Bakiya said.
He put the gold and porcelain inlaid room key on a lacquered table. Bakiya fell upon the softest bed he had felt in years. He threw the fluffy pillows to the floor. This worried the staff.
“I’m sorry, sir. Is this room not acceptable? It’s the biggest stateroom left on the ship.”
“It’s more than fine.”
“That’s good to hear, your daughter’s room is across the hall. I’m Robert. Mr. Thompson’s assistant. If you need anything at all do not hesitate to ask.”
“‘Assistant’?” Bakiya asked.
“Yes, I have been with him for several years. Most of the staff on the boat have been.” Robert said.
“There is more staff?” Anri asked.
“Why, of course, this vessel is much too big for two men to handle alone.”
Robert took Anri to her room across the hall as he promised. There was a collection of dresses in the closet. Anri marveled at the fancy red dress hanging behind the door of the room as she held her broken seashell in her hand.
“Oh, Mr. Thompson thought you could use a new dress for the trip. It’s yours to keep if you desire. It looks like you could use something new to wear.”
“I can’t possibly afford to pay for that.”
“I’d say the beautiful trinket in your hand would more than cover it.”
“This broken thing? Surely not.”
“Why yes, Mr. Thompson loves fixing beautiful, broken things.”
Anri handed Robert the seashell. She wondered if he were serious about her trade for the dress. Robert smiled, he put her mind at ease.
“Mr. Thompson will be most pleased.”
“It’s a dirty, old shell.”
“Miss Anri, value comes in all forms.”
“That dress was his wife’s favorite.”
“Yes, lunch will be served promptly at noon in the dining hall. See you then.”