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    Parker Owens
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Predator Prey - 14. Maps and Tracks

No warnings needed for this chapter.

"So, how do you like navigation after three days, Wally?"

This from the First Mate, Calvin Scheck. The Mate had been teaching him basic principles of navigation. Unlike his work with the Engineer, this had been largely a mental exercise. In fact, it hadn't been much exercise at all.

Scheck didn't appear to realize his intern had more than half a brain, so much the time they spent together was wasted on busywork. Or so it seemed. Paperwork, mindless articles to read in his nonexistent free time, and silly paperwork. On this morning, they stood on the bridge after Scheck had briefly gone over the instrument and gauge panels with him.

"I like it fine. Sir." He'd never get used to the quasi-naval language the crew used.

A serious-faced brown skinned crew member had the watch. He looked alert, but relaxed in a pretty casual looking khaki uniform. Technically, the man was steering the Feigenbaum on a course determined by the Mate, in concert with the needs of the scientists on their cruise. As a practical matter, the ship could pilot itself while the person on watch checked the instrument panels regularly, and looked carefully out the glass into the clear blue horizon of the Gulf of Mexico.

"Everything here okay, Luis?"

Luis was indeed attractive. There was a stirring, very brief, in his gut, before he remembered how his last trawl for a bedmate had turned out. The bitter memory left a nasty taste in his mind as if from a bad piece of fruit. He almost physically turned away from it.

The younger man didn't turn from watching the sea ahead. "All's fine, sir."

"Good. Right, Wally, let's hit the chartroom."

"Yes, sir," he said, but not without taking a second look at the guy standing watch. In another time, another place, he'd have entertained the thought of making a move. But not now. No, definitely not now. Most of the time, he was exhausted, or close to it. Sex – even with his hand – rarely surfaced on the sea of his consciousness. Briefly, he wondered if Marc knew this would happen.

He sighed, and then it was back to chart reading.

But the Mate had no intention of spending his entire morning stuck in reading and interpreting charts. In fact, with over an hour to go before the end of the watch, the Mate straightened up from the expanse of blue and yellow they were examining, and handed over a yellow legal pad.

"Here. Take this and make a list of all the various kinds of lights, their types, and their positions from here" and he pointed to a spot on the chart, "to Tampa. You'll find the other charts you need in the file. Give me the list at noon."

Either it was an especially easy task for a dull student, or he'd learned what to look for quickly. In any case, he had the task finished well before the watch ended. After returning the charts carefully to their proper spots, he gathered his list and emerged into the brighter light of the bridge.

The same interesting caramel skinned guy was there, still standing watch. Maybe a little older than he was, but not much. Black hair combed back, falling down his to his neck. Clean shaven. What was his name? Luis?

"What are you looking at?" Luis asked, interrupting his silent examination. Damn, he'd been caught.

"Nothing."

Silence for a moment. "You like workin' with Cal?" Luis spoke again, still gazing out on the smooth waters of the Gulf.

"It's okay. I'm just doing chart shit. Seems pretty basic."

Luis cocked an eye at him.

"I thought there'd be more to it. I mean, it's just symbols and coordinates, and…" he trailed off.

Something about Luis' facial expression made him want to reconsider his words.

"…but I guess there's a lot more to it."

The watch keeper's face relaxed. "Yeah, it's all about having it mostly in your head at the moment you need it. You're right; it's not rocket science, but it's important stuff, you know?"

He nodded in response.

The engines throbbed distantly. Eventually, a hand was offered. "Hey, I'm Luis. I see you down in the mess sometimes. You interning with Cookie?"

"Wally. And yeah, I'm Cookie's intern."

Luis grinned. "So, you interning for Cookie, and you charting for Cal, and what else?"

"I have to take this Intro to Operations thing. I spend a few days with different guys. Last week was Engineering, this week…"

"Yeah, I get it," Luis grinned. "You get to see what it's like being everyone's bitch."

He made a face. He didn't like that expression one bit.

Luis changed his tone. "But Cabrera, he's a good guy to work for. He looks out for people, you know? If I didn't want command of my own boat, I wouldn't mind working for him."

He nodded again. It had been good working for Javier. He'd actually taught him some things, not given him busywork as the first mate had done.

"How long will it be until you can take over on your own?" he ventured, trying to change the subject.

Luis grimaced. "For fucking ever, man. First, you gotta go to school, get your papers." The man paused to check an instrument panel. "I worked my ass off for three years," he stated vehemently, still not turning to meet his eyes, "Went all the way to fucking Michigan to freeze on the fucking Great Lakes to get my license. I had to break ice all the way to St. Augustine to get home. Then try to get a berth, anyplace."

Stunned silence.

"Jobs aren’t easy to find. Got lucky on this one. It's not union, but my sea time counts." Luis turned, finally. "I got a wife. A kid. I need this job – you can't have it." Though darker man said it with a grin, it was clear he meant it.

Hands were raised in surrender. "Okay, okay, I get it."

"Shit, kid, I'm just playing with you."

He felt a certain amount of relief. Luis must have been pulling his chain. He really didn't need to get on anyone's wrong side. He couldn't afford to.

"I got a plan," Luis went on. "Work a few extra cruises, take on shore based part time stuff off rotation, save money, I can have the down payment on my own boat in a couple of years."

"Off rotation?"

"Don't you know anything?" Luis asked. "Listen, Wally, it works like this. Most people work every other cruise, about four or five weeks on, then four or five weeks off. You get married, you'll go crazy tryin to do the big container ships. Most of the freighter guys, they got no one, don't want no one. They work eight, nine, ten months of the year, the ship is pretty much their life. One guy I know, he has a wife, and a kid a year old he's never even seen yet."

Luis was getting chatty. There was more.

"This job, you go out your four weeks, you come in for four. If you don't work shore crew, you don't get paid, but I can find other stuff for a month at a time on shore. Compared to freighter shit, this job is pretty good."

"Does the Captain have a life? I mean, does he rotate on an off, too?" he thought to ask.

"Yeah, Cap George rotates. He's Senior Captain, and a prof, too. This spring, he'll do the February cruise, then take over teaching a University course on shore; one of the Assistants will take over for the Spring cruise.

It all seemed like a well-oiled machine; everyone playing a part. It seemed like a decent life, at least if you were young and had few attachments. And you had enough work to keep you from being bored.

At that moment, the Mate reappeared. "Hey, Wally, you got that list? Let's go over it in the twenty minutes before lunch."

He nodded to Luis. "See you. Thanks."

Luis smiled back and waved. The Feigenbaum plodded slowly through the brilliant blue Gulf, gathering data.

I appreciate all reviews and thoughts. Thanks for leaving one.

Many thanks go to Craftingmom for her kind and consistently generous editing; and to Mikiesboy, Carlos and Spike for their beta reading.

Copyright © 2017 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

So Wally is starting to make friends. He might be attracted to him, but his workload and Luis' wife puts Luis out of bounds. But it seemed like a friendly conversation.

 

Wally is also finding out how much other people have to struggle to achieve their goals. Real-life lessons some people never had to learn and don't seem capable of understanding. Not everybody can make money the old-fashioned way (inheritance or criminal activity).

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On 12/22/2016 10:30 PM, droughtquake said:

So Wally is starting to make friends. He might be attracted to him, but his workload and Luis' wife puts Luis out of bounds. But it seemed like a friendly conversation.

 

Wally is also finding out how much other people have to struggle to achieve their goals. Real-life lessons some people never had to learn and don't seem capable of understanding. Not everybody can make money the old-fashioned way (inheritance or criminal activity).

Well, Wally lost his family wealth and criminal activity eventually blew up in his face, as you observe. What is also striking is that TP never really recognized anyone as being out of bounds before. Is Luis really out of bounds, or is Wally just too tired to make a move? But you are right in that this chapter opens further the education in life Wally is getting. Many thanks for your review, which I appreciate immensely.

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At first, an insignificant chapter, but in retrospect, TP is learning about a world he once felt not worth his trouble... the real world, where people apply themselves and work towards goals. He's seeing people he can compare himself to. Does he want the lonely life of a freighter guy, does he want to hide away now, or does he want something more. I loved that he got queasy at the thought of connecting with someone, because all he knows is how to use, and that looks to be appalling to him now. Further growth? Which way will he fall when all is said and done... will his atonement ever be over... Merry Christmas, Parker... G

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On 12/24/2016 03:32 PM, Headstall said:

At first, an insignificant chapter, but in retrospect, TP is learning about a world he once felt not worth his trouble... the real world, where people apply themselves and work towards goals. He's seeing people he can compare himself to. Does he want the lonely life of a freighter guy, does he want to hide away now, or does he want something more. I loved that he got queasy at the thought of connecting with someone, because all he knows is how to use, and that looks to be appalling to him now. Further growth? Which way will he fall when all is said and done... will his atonement ever be over... Merry Christmas, Parker... G

Thank you Gary, for this really supportive review. You seem to recognize that a change in the human heart is a slow, incremental affair. Like life at sea, it is often a little tedious, and often the differences are subtle, like changes in light at different latitudes. You have noticed perfectly how Wally/ TP may be growing a little. I am deeply grateful that you saw this. Many thanks, and blessings to you.

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I hope Wally takes to heart the lesson in this chapter. Life is damn hard, yet here are people who work hard to make something of themselves. It's not handed to them nor do they resort to using people to make a buck. And for the most part they are happy. Maybe he's not so far removed that he can see himself in those people.
There is a lot this kid has to relearn. He doesn't even know how to be a good person much less a friend. Fingers crossed that the crew can teach him a few things... if he's receptive.

 

Feels good to finally catch up.. It's been so good Parker..

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On 12/29/2016 05:19 AM, Defiance19 said:

I hope Wally takes to heart the lesson in this chapter. Life is damn hard, yet here are people who work hard to make something of themselves. It's not handed to them nor do they resort to using people to make a buck. And for the most part they are happy. Maybe he's not so far removed that he can see himself in those people.

There is a lot this kid has to relearn. He doesn't even know how to be a good person much less a friend. Fingers crossed that the crew can teach him a few things... if he's receptive.

 

Feels good to finally catch up.. It's been so good Parker..

It is hard to know what TP makes of Luis. You are right that there is much for him to relearn. Your comment that Wally may have trouble seeing himself in Luis or the Mate is quite telling. I am glad you think this good; TP is making a slow sea change, quite literally!

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I knew i was behind a chapter. TP is starting to see the real world. In that world people have lives, wives and kids, they work hard for what they want.
Nice and subtle, Parker.

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TP is meeting different crew members every day, and the one constant is they all work hard to get ahead.

 

It was a big step for TP to be too disgusted/exhausted to want to hook up w/Luis. With a family waiting for him, Luis is untouchable. Hopefully TP won't do anything stupid. lol

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On 12/31/2016 08:05 AM, Mikiesboy said:

I knew i was behind a chapter. TP is starting to see the real world. In that world people have lives, wives and kids, they work hard for what they want.

Nice and subtle, Parker.

TP sees and lives what it means to work and have that work valued. This is different to what he knew before. He is part of a team, even if he is on the lowest rung. What a difference. That's for your thoughts, tim. ...P

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On 12/31/2016 01:40 PM, Lisa said:

TP is meeting different crew members every day, and the one constant is they all work hard to get ahead.

 

It was a big step for TP to be too disgusted/exhausted to want to hook up w/Luis. With a family waiting for him, Luis is untouchable. Hopefully TP won't do anything stupid. lol

Luis is definitely untouchable. That didn't stop TP from stirring a bit, but he seems to know his limits and boundaries in this new environment. TP is probably too busy trying to find his feet and his way to make too stupid a move.

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I like the way things are taking on a new meaning for our man, being everybody's bitch, feeling dirty, lust, to just name a few.
Also the boat - a different cosmos almost with different rules and words and names, and obviously a very different world from his own - without which he might not be able to change or go on changing.
I wonder when we will learn his real name and what potential he has - and, especially, what and who else it takes to reveal that.

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On 01/05/2017 11:36 PM, mayday said:

I like the way things are taking on a new meaning for our man, being everybody's bitch, feeling dirty, lust, to just name a few.

Also the boat - a different cosmos almost with different rules and words and names, and obviously a very different world from his own - without which he might not be able to change or go on changing.

I wonder when we will learn his real name and what potential he has - and, especially, what and who else it takes to reveal that.

Wally / TP is indeed in a very different universe to the one he navigated so brutally and so well. He seems unable to escape a great many new experiences and thoughts, all of which explicitly or subtly condemn the man he had become. These may be a product, or the cause of the changes you observe. As for his name, I am afraid I cannot make any comment ( :) ) Many thanks for your thoughts and responses to this chapter, and for reading the story.

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Cool. Very cool. Wally is in the process of refocusing. Seeing life outside the walls of the little prison cell he had himself in at school. The world is a big place, full of people - nice people, doing interesting things. Wally is discovering some important basics of living happily among others - tolerance, interest, and kindness.
If you kick a dog every time you see it, it gets used to that, and all you need do is walk into a room and it will cringe just at the movement of your feet. If you pet that same dog every time you see it, it also gets used to that, and will smile and wag its tale when you appear.
Both are learned forms of conduct. The difference is, if you pet the dog, he will seek you out for more.
At the risk of being funny, Wally is finding out how nice it is to be scratched behind the ears. :)

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On 01/31/2017 08:14 AM, Geron Kees said:

Cool. Very cool. Wally is in the process of refocusing. Seeing life outside the walls of the little prison cell he had himself in at school. The world is a big place, full of people - nice people, doing interesting things. Wally is discovering some important basics of living happily among others - tolerance, interest, and kindness.

If you kick a dog every time you see it, it gets used to that, and all you need do is walk into a room and it will cringe just at the movement of your feet. If you pet that same dog every time you see it, it also gets used to that, and will smile and wag its tale when you appear.

Both are learned forms of conduct. The difference is, if you pet the dog, he will seek you out for more.

At the risk of being funny, Wally is finding out how nice it is to be scratched behind the ears. :)

Can I thank you especially for this review? Sometimes, it seems that the slow, barely discernible 'refocusing' and rebuilding and process of change is the most important part of a person's story, and one which is often left out in tales...possibly because it is a bit dull, even if it is essential. Wally is experiencing a nearly normal kind of interaction and existence, one in which he is not driven to be in control. And yes, I like the scratched behind the ears metaphor. Thank you so much for your thoughts, and for reading the story!

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