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Fiction by Mildred Pond

The Stowaway - page 24

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Silent, huddled together, rage festered in these men, along with an insatiable hunger, unrelated to their days of religious fasting. They knew that expressing more rage would have clapped them into a French prison. Outside, again under the blistering sun, I was suddenly exhilarated that I hadn’t tattled to the purser about poor Schmidt. The crew would have reacted as Jacques just had, had him manacled in the ship’s brig by now, or worse. At dusk, we set sail into the Gulf of Aden. Unexpectedly choppy seas energized the crew to move quickly and batten things down. Jacques and Janet continued to argue about the lepers, eventually tired of quarrelling, and strolled onto the promenade deck and were soon dancing cheek to cheek. I slipped upstairs to Schmidt’s lifeboat. He was gone. Without a trace and his lifeboat was tightly covered. I crept alongside other lifeboats, in a panic, softly calling his name. “What are you doing, Roger?” I swirled round. Gamal, clutching a glass of whiskey, stood in the shadows. “Your friend left.” I stood up, let drop my sack of victuals. “A pitiful looking chap climbed out of that lifeboat right before we set sail. I’d come up to get away from all the arguing. What’s wrong, Roger? Obviously you knew about him.” “No. Not exactly.” “Come on, Roger. You know something.” I told Gamal some of my assumptions, relieved to finally talk to someone about him. “If he’s a Jew looking for asylum, I’m a Chinese sailor. What’s he hiding from? The look on him was icy, terrified. . .” “And homeless, friendless, stateless. . ” I felt sick. “And possibly a first class crook, Roger.” I hurried away. Gamal called out, ”Roger? Why didn’t you turn him in?”