Tom had almost dozed off. Fishing was surprisingly boring.
“Hah!” Nathan’s voice jolted him out of his stupor. Nathan had caught something, and he quickly began reeling it in, backing up from the edge of the ship. Tom jumped up from where he was sitting, trying to gauge how big the catch was from the bend in the line. He had wanted to make the first catch!
Nathan seemed to be having trouble with it, though. He was pulled toward the deck by the fish, and for a moment his line rolled out again before he regained control. “Damnit…” His brow furrowed, and he jerked the line toward the ship. Another fisherman came over to watch, cheering Nathan on.
“C’mon kid, you got it!” This seemed to spur Nathan on, and he pulled the line more, backing up and inadvertently bumping into Tom.
“Move it, damnit!” he shouted, and Tom jumped backward, more annoyed than ever. Why did Nathan always have to do everything? He eyed the water intently, trying to see the fish that Nathan was struggling with. It’d be funny if it got away.
With a twang, the line snapped, and Nathan stumbled backward, landing ungracefully on his rear. The other fisherman laughed.
“Tough luck there. I really thought you had him.” He walked back over to the nets, leaving Tom to deal with an angry and embarrassed Nathan.
“Um..” Tom began. “Too ba-“
Nathan was up in a heartbeat, grabbing Tom by his collar. He stared into his eyes for a moment before yelling. “That was your fault!”
“What did I do?! It was the fish!” Why was Nathan blaming him?
“Humph.” Nathan half dropped, half threw Tom down. “You always get in the way.”
Tom scrambled to his feet, irate. “I do not! And you’re the one who asked me to fish with you!”
“I didn’t know you’d be bad luck!” Nathan shouted back, but he seemed to have lost his initial anger. Like a bird smoothing its feathers, Nathan seemed to suddenly relax, and a thoughtful, almost conniving expression came over his face. “Let’s see what you can catch.”
“Huh?” Tom was caught off guard by Nathan’s sudden change of mood, but then, that was typical. He figured he should be used to it by now. He shook off the strangeness of his companion and picked up his fishing rod again, staring out to sea as Nathan restrung his line. He could feel the other boy’s eyes on him, probably willing him to screw up somehow. He didn’t know if he wanted to catch a fish and show Nathan up, or not catch anything and avoid his wrath.
Tom decided to simply fish, and let luck do the rest. He heard the whirr of string as Nathan cast his line again, and he watched as the bait plunked into the water. The bobbing of the string and the motion of the ship was almost hypnotic, and Tom suddenly felt tired once more. He heard the wind whistling in his ears, which was odd because he hadn’t thought it was that windy before. His eyes drooped, and he heard Nathan snicker before he fell asleep.
The ship listed badly to one side, and rain pelted it. The wood groaned and cracked as the flames consumed it, but Tom couldn’t move. He was out of his element, and couldn’t breathe. The air cut his throat. He tried to find ground, but couldn’t; he was floating. He felt he should have control, but didn’t. Fear caught his throat, and he couldn’t scream…
Tom woke up, heart pounding. He was sitting by the deck still, but it was dark, foreboding clouds overhead. The wind kicked up, and the whistling hurt his ears. The details of the dream had faded into his psyche, but the uneasiness remained. It was quickly replaced with anger, however, when he realized that Nathan was gone, as were the rods they had used to fish.
“That jerk!” Tom yelled aloud. He knew it wasn’t Nathan’s fault that he had fallen asleep, but the older boy could have at least woken him! He didn’t see the other fishermen either, and all the nets had been hauled up. Looking up at the sky, fear filled him again. Everyone was obviously below decks for an impending storm. If he hadn’t woken on his own…
A drop of rain hit his arm, and he looked up just as the sky unleashed its fury. The decks were soaked in seconds, and Tom ran quickly to the door, trying to throw it open. To his horror, it was locked.
“Let me in!” He was soaked to the skin now, his brown hair plastered to his forehead, and he beat his fists on the door in near panic. The wind howled, and he hit the door harder, terrified of being caught in a windstorm and blown off the ship.
The door whooshed open, and an old man stood there. “Get in here, boy!” He shouted. “What were you doing out there?”
Tom dashed inside, and the old man, an ancient head cook on the ship whose name Tom could not remember, slammed the door against the wind. Tom looked miserable, dripping water onto the planks of the ship.
The old cook shook his head. “Anyone else out there with you?”
Tom sort of hoped Nathan was out there, getting as wet and cold as Tom was now, but he doubted it. “I don’t think so.” He realized that not only was he freezing, he felt half-starved, and he mourned his lost sandwich. Damn Nathan.
“Weren’t you supposed to be in class?”
Tom frantically tried to think of an excuse. None was forthcoming.
“Feh.” The man ambled off down the stairs to the lower portions of the ship. Tom dashed down after him, hoping to change into different clothes, and maybe get some food. He didn’t know how long until dinner, but perhaps they would serve it early due to the storm.