titanic at queenstown

I wake with a bad feeling.

My hands shake as I slick back my hair, and put on my cap. They are worn from hard work, rough to the touch.

Titanic is beautiful, or at least, she is from what I saw of her on the docks. She’s bigger than my last ship. Four funnels rise into the sky, three of them spewing thick black smoke from where we work in the boiler rooms.

It’s hard labor, shoveling coal. Heat blasts around us, until we drip with sweat. Our muscles ache. I don’t mind it, as it pays well.

But as I stare out at the Irish coast, I want off this ship. I don’t like it.

Mother always called me superstitious. As a boy, she’d say, “John Coffey, stop throwing my salt all over the floor, it doesn’t keep out the banshees!” but it’s kept me alive until now.

The incident at Southampton worries me. We nearly ran into another craft, a much smaller one, the New York. If that’s not a bad omen, nothing is.

My shift doesn’t start for another hour. No one looks at me as I stroll along the lower deck. Small mail boats float alongside, heavy sacks going to and from the mail room. I glance around. The eyes of the men are occupied elsewhere.

I quickly swing down into the boat. There’s just enough room to wedge in-between the sacks and pull one over me. I do so. I hear muffled voices.

“That’s the last of them!”

Another sack falls on top of me. The dingy rocks.

“Sure wish I was goin’ with you,” says the mail boy.

No, he doesn’t. He’s much better off on dry land.

But I keep my mouth shut.

“Maybe next time!”

I peek out as we row away, toward shore: Titanic looms over us, the waves breaking at her helm.

She truly is beautiful, but I’m mighty glad to be off her.