Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The final excerpt of Chapter One for Coffee and Roses... see below for exciting details about what's coming soon!
When McBee woke again, the room was filled with daylight. The heavy curtains that had been drawn over the windows the previous night had been pulled back, revealing large, circular portholes and confirming that this was, indeed, a boat. McBee felt a little woozy from his long sleep, but better – so much so, that he found he was able to swing his legs to the side of the bed and stand up, albeit very shakily. Suddenly remembering that his clothes had been soaked from his plunge into the river, he looked down - and was surprised to discover he was now wearing wide blue slacks and an old white collarless linen shirt. Moving carefully across the dark wooden floor, which was strewn with faded rainbow-coloured rag rugs, McBee slowly made his way towards the small open doors leading to the deck, heading in the direction of the sound of Old Sid’s voice, which was humming another sea shanty somewhere nearby.
‘Hey diddle-i, idle-i-o, three busty girls and away we go, hmm, hmm, hmm-hmm, hmm-hmm.. Ah! There you are, lad! I see you’re up and movin’ eh?’ Sid grinned, coiling up a length of thick rope.
McBee smiled, ‘It would seem so, Sid.’
‘So, what do you think of me barge then, eh?’ asked Sid.
McBee looked around at the old vessel. Though she was faded and had admittedly seen better days, she was still a fine specimen of an estuary barge. Her deck was dark wood, with tarpaulin-covered cargo boxes roped into the middle. From the centre of the deck a tall mast rose, with washed-out flapping red sails tied loosely to it. Towards the bow of the boat was a further covered cabin, its small windscreen looking out to the horizon with the river stretching away as far as the eye could see. McBee took a breath of air – it was so much fresher here out on the river than it ever was in the city. The air was cold and stung his lungs, but it felt good. ‘She’s wonderful,’ he breathed.
‘That she is, son, that she is. Cocoa?’ asked Sid, offering a steaming white enamel mug.
McBee grasped it and drank the sweet, gloopy liquid, enjoying its velvetiness as it slid luxuriously down his throat. ‘By the way, I never told you my name,’ he said, after he had swallowed. ‘I’m Heston McBee. But most people call me McBee.’
Sid extended his big, dark-tanned, bony hand and shook McBee’s hand firmly. ‘Pleased to meet you, matey,’ he grinned. ‘So, ‘ere’s a new day for you – where’ll you be headin’ now? Not home, I would’ve thought?’
McBee shook his head, ‘No,’ he said, purposefully, ‘Not home.’ Then – largely because he couldn’t think of anything else to say, but fortuitously, as it turned out – he asked, ‘Where are you going?’
Old Sid appeared a little taken aback by the question, lifting a white bushy eyebrow as his swarthy wrinkled features crinkled into a smile, ‘I? Well, I’s be ‘eadin’ that a’way,’ he answered, gesturing in the direction of the blue horizon, where the spraygulls were flying like miniscule white V’s across the sky. ‘The old girl’s a sea-goin’ vessel, see? I’s be plannin’ on takin’ ‘er to the ocean. She don’t get to see it often, see, so I’m takin’ her back to remind ‘er of where she came from, if you get my meaning?’
The ocean – just the mere sound of the word in McBee’s mind made his heart skip. It promised high adventure, wildly beautiful scenery and breathtaking power… ‘Can I come with you?’ he breathed, almost without realising he’d spoken the words out loud.
Old Sid looked at him for a moment, his expression a mixture of surprise and puzzlement. He lifted his blue peaked cap to scratch the wiry white clump of hair on his head. ‘Well, I… I don’t see why not, lad. I mean, there’s plenty of room aboard old Polly-Jo for a scrap like you, I’d say.’
McBee felt a rush of excitement coursing through his veins, making his head giddy. ‘Thank you so much, Sid!’ he exclaimed, ‘It’s just I… I can’t stay here and I’ve never seen the ocean.’
Old Sid looked shocked. ‘Never seen the ocean, lad? Well blow me over with a gust of wind! You city folks don’t know what you’re missin’! Right, that settles it, then, lad. You’re coming with me and old Polly-Jo to see the sea!’
© Miranda Dickinson 2007
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