“In war time, miss, certain rules no longer apply,” said Frenchy. His mouth was full.
“I’ll drink to that!” Exclaimed the captain. He performed a mock toast with his tankard in the air, laughing. Others joined in with “Hear! Hear!” and slammed their tankards and cups against each other.
We were sitting around the worn table eating what Frenchy, who also served as the cook, referred to as “little bags o’ mystery”. Sausages and potatoes. And wine. Lots of wine.
There were eight crew members, each with their own stereotypical personalities, so much so that I felt I had been kidnapped and taken aboard a pirate ship. Whenever I sailed before, I had only been allowed to come face to face with the “respectable” staff. Men such as this were present, I am sure. They were the work horses, after all. Perhaps they were simply stashed behind the scenes. Or maybe they had been there all along, I had just thought they were invisible?
I had already met the captain and Thomas and Frenchy. There was also Stephen, who was missing all of his teeth. Harold was missing most of his teeth. Warren had most all of his teeth but they were colored an odd brownish black that made one think it might not be long before his teeth also started to go. Albert was heavy set with a thick black beard, everything was a joke to him. And last was Freddie. He looked to be about 95…frail, wrinkled, slow…but he had a tremendous voice that could sing out a haunting sea chantey that reverberated and resonated in depths your very soul.
Between bites, I would have to pause to pick bits of gristle and bone from my teeth. The sausage was not of the best quality and in fact I could not identify the taste and consistency as any recognizable beast of origin, but it was meat. And the wine made everything taste better.
“So you think that sins are no longer sins when war is involved?” I asked Frenchy.
“What I am sayin’ is that none of us have the right to judge. What is a turn on the sack the night before a battle if you are going to die?”
Thomas coughed uncomfortably, causing the candlelight to flicker. Everyone grew silent as seven pairs of eyes looked nervously to me. Frenchy was looking down into his plate. What would the woman say to that?
“I see,” I replied. He was right. People who passed these judgments were not the ones walking the fields of blood, losing life and limb. I nodded to Frenchy, raising my own wooden tankard to his pewter one. I was met with a lopsided smile and a forceful slam into my cup that produced a slosh of my wine which landed on my dark gray sleeve, staining it. Well, I will be remembering this conversation for quite some time, then.
Morality was not the same for everyone. It was affected by parents, friends, religion, society and often evolves. If it could be manipulated, then how could that be used to decide right or wrong? How could it be trusted? I agreed with his point in principle, but there still had to be right and wrong.
The silence was broken by Albert making a crack about Frenchy’s own bags o’ mystery being too salty for human consumption. I assumed this was a reference of a more personal nature. I blushed. The men all laughed.
I excused myself and returned to my cabin. I lay on the straw mattress, fully clothed, and blew out the candle I had taken from the table to light my way. On my back, under the mound of old blankets, I was awake and listening to the creaking of the boat. There were no windows and as such, no visible moonlight. Only pitch black loneliness.