The Cabin Boy
Tintin/Allan SLASH. Tintin just wants adventure so he signs up as a cabin boy on the Karaboudjan. And for a while he believes he has found both adventure and love. A story about unhealthy relationships, manipulative tactics, emotional and physical abuse that can happen to anyone, even a smart young man like Tintin.
Allan Thompson, de facto sea captain and professional smuggler, thrived on uncertainty.
It was in uncertain times like these when people tended to consume most of the wares which he was about to make a fortune with. In fact, most of the whisky he'd illegally traded had ended up in the United States right after the disastrous stock market crash three years ago. But as security had gotten tighter and inland production of moonshine liquor had soared despite increasingly strict enforcements of Prohibition laws, Allan had focused on a different source of income: opium. Harvested from the finest papaver somniferum in Afghanistan and Persia, refined and packaged in India, the larger part of the drug was sold in China but there was still a great demand in Europe and North Africa. It was the most precious and never talked about cargo on the Karaboudjan, expertly hidden in tins of crab meat.
Indeed, these were uncertain times! The American stock market disaster had dragged most of Europe into a crisis as well, in addition to the problems they were already facing. Italy was being held firmly in the vice-like grip of Fascism under Benito Mussolini; Russians were suffering under Stalin's Communist dictatorship; and Germany had been forced to its knees by rampant unemployment and poverty, its inexperienced and haphazardly thrown-together Weimar Republic government hardly able to establish soup kitchens for the starving masses, let alone capable of paying the enormous debt stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles.
All that was missing from this hopeless scenario were the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Allan sat in his cabin, making a list of the posts that needed to be filled on his ship. They would have no problems finding skilled workers here in Oostende, Belgium, where unemployment was as common as anywhere else in Europe. They needed a caulker's mate, a carpenter, a radio operator's assistant...
„A Captain's steward", Tom the sailor said. Though not blessed with a sharp mind – perhaps precisely because of that – he was Allan's closest and most trusted assistant.
„A steward?" Allan raised his eyebrows. „What for? This ain't the 1830s!"
„I'm tire' o' cleaning up them whisky bottles he throws a'me. Whole corridor is reekin' already."
Allan sighed. His former friend and de jure captain of the Karaboudjan, Archibald Haddock, was a hopeless drunkard. But to supply him with whisky and to watch out for his constantly changing moods was a small price to pay for the command of this ship.
Tom shrugged. „Then a cabin boy, ma'be. S'mone for them dirty jobs no one wants to do."
„Mh-hm", Allan grunted, writing it down. It was actually an outdated job, no longer needed. The demands on a modern ship were rather complex nowadays, the minor tasks being assigned to experienced sailors; nevertheless hiring a cabin boy might prove a good idea. He would have to invent a few extra tasks for that new cabin boy, but at least they'd give a poor young man a job. Surely that made a difference in depressing times like these.
Tintin had made his decision out of impatience. He was tired of waiting for them to allow him to chase his dream. It had sounded like a splendid opportunity for a young man who dreamed of becoming a reporter, the internship at the Brussels publishing house of the newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle. They had even hired him as an assistant and courier after a few months, and for the first time in his life Tintin was earning his own living.
All his life he had dreamed of seeing the world, discovering exotic places known only from books and the occasional motion picture. His work at the newspaper offices was the closest he'd ever gotten to actual adventure which was especially frustrating because true discovery was just within reach.
They had sent a reporter to Soviet Russia, and Tintin had begged his boss to let him come along, but he refused, saying Tintin was too young at age eighteen.
Then they sent a reporter to China, and still Tintin was not allowed to go. Afterward, another reporter was sent to the United States to write about Al Capone; and still his boss insisted that Tintin was too young.
He was absolutely ready for that kind of work! It was frustrating and discouraging, and suddenly Tintin had been seized by a great fear: that he would spend his entire life in this dusty office space, surrounded by old newspapers, bored secretaries and the only thing dear to him: his little snow white terrier, Milou. One day he would wake up as an old man, white-haired and frail, and realize he had not lived his life at all.
No, he would see the world. And he would write about it.
So when he had seen the advert in the harbour, calling for various workers and a cabin boy aboard a great freighter with destinations all over Europe and Africa, excitement had surged through him and he had decided he would try and apply for work on this ship.
Allan noticed him first - the red-haired youth whose slight stature, smooth face and innocent looks made him stand out among the crowd of sailors and workers. They regarded him with a mixture of half contempt, half curiosity on their rugged, masculine faces. Who was that boy with the little white dog and what was he doing here on a ship that needed the strength and skill of grown men?
They stood on the deck, encircling Allan who sat at a small table with a list, questioning the applicants and taking notes. There were many more than he had anticipated, and they were all desperate for work. But for a moment he'd forgotten them, captivated by the pale, freckled hands of the boy standing in front of him. Soft hands with slender fingers that looked like they'd never had to do a day of arduous work.
„Name and job you're applying for?" Allan repeated the same question to every single one of the men.
„They call me Tintin. I'm applying for the post of cabin boy on your ship."
Allan grinned. Upon closer inspection, this lad had a lovely face. Large, green eyes with long, light lashes; a cute, slightly upturned nose; and a red-tinged mouth with small but full lips. It was one of the most beautiful faces Allan had ever seen on a male, and he'd seen many in the brothels of the world.
„Aren't you a wee bit too young to be on a ship?"
„I'm nineteen, sir. And I can do any kind of work."
„Nineteen?" Allan repeated with a tone that implied I don't buy your bullshit, pausing for effect, just to see how that greenhorn would react.
Calmly, Tintin reached into the inner pocket of his trench coat, pulling out something which he shoved straight in front of Allan's nose: his I.D. Card which identified him as Martin Augustin Remi, born in Tournai on December 28, 1912.
Allan nodded quietly. Indeed, he was already nineteen. Old enough for the job. What objections could he possibly bring up? A quick glance across the other applicants told him that there was no one else who would qualify as a cabin 'boy'.
„All right... Tintin. You're hired."
March 4th, 1932
I bought a new notebook with fine paper especially for this diary because I hope it will motivate me to write about my new work daily.
I cannot believe how easy it was to get this job! Truly, Fortune has favoured me! To think of the exotic destinations to which the Karaboudjan is regularly headed – Bagghar, Cairo, Tripolis, Tanger, Fez...! Even as a reporter-in-spe I fail to find words to describe the amazing excitement that is still making me dizzy now.
I haven't really understood yet what function Allan Thompson has on this ship – I've been a bit too excited to listen to every word he said. From what I can tell he seems to be the captain, commanding everyone else, so I will make sure to always address him as 'sir'. He seems quite an authoritative figure, used to giving orders. But he allowed me to take Milou along, provided the little dog behaves well. Someone who likes animals is probably a decent person. Anyway - tomorrow I shall ask him, like a true reporter, what exactly it is he is doing. Hopefully he will be able to make time for me as I've got so many questions. And of course I am wondering what kind of work I will be expected to do. With that meagre payment I expect a minimum of interesting tasks such as operating machines. How I would love to learn the radio code! But if they make me clean the toilets I can live with that. What is there for cabin boys to do nowadays?
But now it is getting late and I am not supposed to use the electrical lamp in my cabin after 22:00, so I will go to bed now. See, I even have my own cabin! It is tiny, but comfortable enough. This is not the 19th century anymore when cabin boys had to sleep on the grimy, rat-infested wooden plank floor of sailships, surrounded by the hammocks of a dozen men.
I am a fortunate young man, living in modern times when never before it has been so easy to see and discover the world!