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Blown Upon the Lee

On a clear morning, young Jack was walking with Mrs. Aubrey, the sea still white with spindrift from the past gale. As their walk cleared the hill, the view expanded to include the shore, busy with men carrying away goods from the hulk lying below. A small craft, spars shattered, hull breached on the rocks, timbers all a-tanto. This was Jack's first view of a wreck, and he was in a curious state, trying to come to grips with the how and why of it, he could not quite grasp his mother's words, a ship driven on a lee shore, not a fit night to be clawing for life and limb, the poor dears, not a survivor neither. Good news to the local fishermen who would be warm this winter in merino wool and Spanish leather. His eyes were fixed on the wheel, still upright on the deck, his mind racing, wild thoughts of what he would do, his ship would not wreck, his men would not perish. He knew what he would do, his men would love and trust him. His mind was resolute, he would be captain.

The night clouds were scudding by with amazing speed. Jack stood with the survivors, scanning the high waves crashing about them, desperate to find his crewmates. Every timber afloat may bear a man, he hoped. Out of one hundred and forty two men, only sixteen alive, so far. His men dragged bodies from the surf, limbs smashed, faces unrecognizable, his friends and crew. For a moment, he was awash in guilt, there was nothing to be done for it. He came to grips. He was not a boy, but a commander, a coastal supply ship, his first command. A shout from the foretop, a crash, and this. There was not time, nor thought, only act, now. The deck awash and canted steeply, the thunder of hell around him. He thrust his frame into the sea, dragged a spar ashore, and removed his purser from the tangled shrouds, hurt badly, but alive by god. His thoughts flashed to that young boy, his perfect recollection of a vow broken, never to be remade, shattered on this shore. Thus, he said to himself, I am blown upon the lee.

FYI: To be 'blown upon', is to be unmade, or reported less than satisfactory, so my pun is the literal and figurative. As in most of Jack's puns they are coyly incorrect, or should I say, two-thirds of a pun!

© 2005 John Shepherd