Author's note: Okay, I dedicate this chapter to fellow scavenger, Jacob W. He, like me, looks beneath risers and bleachers, and keeps everything he finds. This is for you (LOL). Hahahahaha.
Anyways, sorry I haven't updated in, like, forever. My computer had a virus and all my fanfic chapters were saved on it. We have it fixed, now, though, and everything is okay. My fanfics were unharmed.
Chapter five: Close the valve
Melissa awoke with a start. She sat up to look at what awoke her and was thrown to the ground from the rolling of the ship. As she got up, she saw three orange life jackets on the floor of the girls' cabin.
"Personal floatation devices!" barked Mr. Radford. "Get dressed and get in them!"
From the other side of the wall, Melissa could hear Will saying, "Is the boat sinking?" Even on the other side of the wall, Melissa could hear the fear in his voice.
"They're called waves!" the mate snarled. "Maybe you're heard of them. Now hurry up!"
Melissa got up, and Charla and Lyssa followed, throwing on their clothes. They went above deck, and immediately, Lyssa was on her hands and knees at the gunwale, throwing up over the side.
The boys came up at that moment, and Melissa saw a smile lighting up Will's gray face. "Mom and Dad always tell us: Find what you do best and do your best with it. You're turning into a real whiz at barfing, Lyss."
Melissa smiled at the joke.
Lyssa was too weak to think up of a good comeback.
"Good morning!" bellowed the captain from the cockpit. "I think today might test your sea legs a little. We're seeing eight-foot waves with swells in the ten-foot range. And the wind's going to pick up later in the day. So let's be extra careful on deck. Now I want all of you to go and eat a hearty breakfast. You'll need your strength. That's all."
Melissa woke up with a start. "Huh?" She hadn't realized she had fallen asleep in the middle of the captain's speech. "What?"
As the six remaining crew members laughed, Captain Cascadden attempted to start over, to Melissa's dismay. "I think today…"
By the time Melissa was down in the galley, everyone was almost done eating.
Melissa gagged down her extremely greasy scrambled eggs and nearly threw up. What, she thought. Now he makes the fancy food? They'd had nothing but dried toast until today.
Melissa thought she liked the dried toast better.
It was a long and hard day for the inexperienced kids. The wind whipped around the rigging. The deck pitched left and right. The young crew struggled through the fine chilling spray off the whitecaps, their shoes slipping on the slick and slippery deck. By 11:00am, (or, as in ship lingo, 1100 hours, Melissa remembered) Will was beside his sister at the rail, offering his scrambled eggs to the Pacific Ocean.
Melissa smiled. Taste of his own medicine.
"It's days like this," Mr. Radford howled, "that made me become a sailor!"
The Phoenix tacked, sailing close-hauled at an angle, first to port, then to starboard.
"It's called beating the windward," the captain explained. "We can get where we're going in a zigzag without ever having to sail in the wind."
Melissa didn't understand, but just nodded. Maybe it was like when someone was shooting you and you went in a zigzag to avoid the bullets. Maybe ships and wind were like that.
The constant changes in direction meant a lot of work on the sails. Melissa's hands were red, sore, blistered, and torn up. She had rope burn. It was so bad even her cuts had cuts, if that were possible. Now she knew it was.
Mr. Radford called all the kids down to lunch. It was another rough-weather special: liver and onions with canned succotash.
Melissa was beginning to think that the mate actually liked seeing their faces turn green. But it was no surprise. The mate was a sadist.
Will and Lyssa didn't eat. They were still at the rail, sick. JJ and Ian barely touched their food, but Melissa dug in. She hadn't had real food for years. Her parents never gave her food. She was supposed to find it herself. She'd been out, alone, looking for food, ever since she was old enough to read. That was when she was five. She had been eating plain toast for a long time. It was the only thing ever in her home's kitchen. Her parents spent money in extravagant things, such as the Tiffany lamp Melissa had broken. They never had wanted Melissa. They always had said the same thing: "We wanted a boy. But what did we get? A stupid female! You're complaining about being hungry? Well, think of us! Do you think we like taking care of a girl?" Then, after long, unfair lectures, she was always sent out of the house. Outside, she had taken refuge with the neighbor's cat Socks in an abandoned shed.
Melissa sighed sadly, remembering. Looking around, she saw that Ian and JJ had escaped off to somewhere, probably the boys' cabin. She finished up her own food, watching Luke force his down.
Melissa didn't see why he didn't just quit. She guessed it had something to do with him not wanting to surrender to, of all people, Rat-Face, and only over food.
The wind got stronger. Captain Cascadden ordered the sails trimmed and took down the two jibs on the bowsprit. By the time they were done, the swells were reaching up to twelve feet.
"It's like a roller coaster!" Will moaned, clutching on to the mainsheet as if he were hanging on for his life.
"Jeez!" Melissa shouted at Will, the sound of everyone moving and the crashing waves almost drowning out her voice. "Roller coasters are supposed to be fun! This is no roller coaster."
"I love the sea!" Mr. Radford roared, shaking off sea water like a wet dog.
"I'm a landlubber," JJ groaned. "And the more time I spend on this boat, the more I lub the land."
Melissa giggled for what seemed like the first time in her life. Who knew her first giggle would come from Richie Rich here?
Melissa looked around at her crewmates. As she saw Radford, her jaw dropped.
He was happy. Extremely happy.
Melissa thought he was extremely nasty. Did it take everybody's combined misery to make him happy? Apparently, yes. And now, Melissa wasn't happy, either.
"Hey, Archie," Radford called to Luke cheerily, yet cruel, somehow at the same time. "You don't look so hot. You'll feel a lot better if you let that seasickness out."
Ew, Melissa thought, imagining Luke throwing up in the tiny head. The stench would be there for weeks.
Melissa watched Luke go below to the head, then turned towards the captain, who was making another long speech.
"Crew, I'm proud of all your hard work. Working together has improved your behavior."
Melissa made a sharp "ch" sound.
Radford looked at her sharply and said, "Don't press your luck, Veronica."
At that moment, Luke came back up on deck. At that point, the captain was saying, "There's no break from these rough seas yet. We're going to have to strike the sails and heave under pressure."
"I heaved already," said JJ feelingly.
The smile came back to Melissa's face.
"Shut up, Richie Rich!" snapped Radford, still clearly a bit ticked at Melissa. "'Heave to' means turning into the wind. If you listen, you might hear what you don't hear because you're not listening!"
"Nice," Melissa cracked.
"Captain," said Will in a timid voice," how scared should we be? I mean—are we in trouble here?"
The captain threw back his head and laughed heartily. "Steady on, my boy, this is an ordinary day at the office for the Phoenix. She's been in seas twice this size and come through with flying colors. She's a fine ship, seaworthy in every way."
So down came the sails.
Melissa thought she would die.
Melissa was not hungry, and she could tell the rest of her young crewmates didn't want to eat either. But the captain ordered toast and ginger ale for all hands. The swells were reaching fifteen feet. Standing near the bow, it looked as if the sea were opening up to swallow the Phoenix. The troughs between waves were so low that, for a second, there was a dead calm down there—no wind, no spray. It was the eeriest part. Melissa actually found herself hoping, while down there, to be at the chaos above the towering crests.
Ian was the first to decide to ride out the rough seas strapped into his bunk. Melissa decided this sounded good and they both disappeared down the companionway.
As they reached the floor, they looked down and immediately, at the same time, started screaming uncontrollably.
The floor was flooded with seawater.
"We're sinking! We're sinking!" Melissa and Ian cried.
Melissa saw Radford over the companionway. "Take it easy, Archie. We're not sinking." He looked down and saw both children standing up to their ankles in water. "Holy—Skipper, we've got water in the crew cabin!"
Melissa started screaming again, just for the heck of it, and ran back on deck. There, she saw Captain Cascadden grabbing randomly for someone near him. "Crewman," he said to the unfortunate young crew member, "take the wheel!"
Will stared at the captain in shock and horror as Melissa watched on, entertained. "But I don't know how to drive!"
Melissa's smile grew as she stepped up to Will. "Hey," she said to the captain, "Why don't you go figure out what's up? I'll handle Will here."
The captain nodded his approval and left quickly. Melissa turned to Will. "See, Will," she said, gripping the wheel, "we're in the open Pacific. It's not like you're gonna hit anything or something like that. Just hold the wheel so we don't get off-course. It's not that hard."
Melissa heard Will mumble something like, "Well, I don't see you driving this stupid boat," but she ignored him.
Will grabbed the wheel in an iron grip. Lyssa jumped down the companionway to the girls' quarters. The captain was still below deck, searching for the cause of the water.
A moment later, everyone was back on deck.
"False alarm," the captain said. "Somebody forgot to close the valve."
"I'll kill him!" seethed the mate.
The captain chuckled. "You'll do no such thing. In fact, I don't even want to know who it was. Get a pump and bail out this cabin."
Melissa goggled. It had to have been Luke. And it was. He was standing on deck, looking sheepish.
They had to now pump out the water. Melissa's suspicions were confirmed when Luke volunteered for the worst job. She could see him struggling not to fall into the toilet.
Mr. Radford ranted through the whole operation. "How many times do I have to tell you to close that valve? Does anybody have half a brain on this ship?"
It was torture, Melissa thought, pumping until her arms felt like they were going to be pulled out of their sockets. But it was better than being back home in an old abandoned shed with Socks.
And that was all that mattered.