Some Really Bad Things that Have Happened at Sea – for Context.

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Before we even left port I found that both of the drawers underneath my bunk were filled with jars of pickled herring.

Later, while I was watching the sun dip into the horizon, some salt water kicked up overboard and splashed me. It was actually quite refreshing but unfortunately it must have also splashed onto where my disposable contact lenses sat on deck as when I put the lenses in it really stung. When I told the guys in my room what had happened though, midshipman Wilson just laughed really loudly and said the whole thing was just too funny. I repeated that it actually really hurt and made it harder than ever to see, but he insisted it was still priceless. I said as we are all well aware good vision is essential to the sound seaman, but that only set him off again. Midshipman Clarke wanted to know why I was changing my contact lenses on deck. I explained that I’d gone up to watch the sun set. Midshipman Wilson called me a gay and started laughing even harder.

While I was removing the last jar of pickled herring from under my bunk and placing it in a cupboard near the life jacket store, midshipman Wilson came running over and asked me just what exactly I thought I was doing with his pickled herring. I explained about them being in my drawers. I said I needed to put my clothes away. I reminded him that when at sea for long periods of time it is important to feel settled and at home and that all my stuff still being in bags was not helping this. Midshipman Wilson said that was all very tragic but how was he supposed to keep track of his pickled herring if they were all over the boat. I said they were hardly all over the boat as they were all in the cupboard next to the life jackets. He said that was the same thing. I’ve only eaten pickled herring once. It was not pleasant. I already do not want to know why midshipman Wilson has so many on board.

The waves were very big today and the boat was pitching more than normal. I woke up in the night feeling strange and ended being sick in the corridor. Luckily the lads were all fast asleep so I was able to clean up before anyone noticed. Both midshipman Wilson and midshipman Clarke sleep on their backs with their legs spread open and their hands behind their heads. Midshipman Wilson also sleeps naked and sometimes the blanket does not cover him properly. He snores loudly and farts roughly every two hours. I have timed it.

Someone must have heard me last night because now everyone on board is calling me these silly names all derived from the word vomit. There are just too many to hold in your head all at once, but Vom-Lord, Vom-Face and McVom are prevalent. At supper midshipman Wilson called me Lord Chunderstains right in front of the captain. I expected the captain to check midshipman Wilson for his foul language but instead he asked me if the rumours were true. I said I had no idea what he could be talking about. Of course you do Vomulus, he said. Midshipman Wilson laughed so hard he had to sit down on a coil of rope. The only people who could have heard me on the corridor are Wilson, Clarke and Tins, but I have already narrowed it down to Wilson and Clarke because Tins doesn’t ever go on deck and just works in the engine room.

Midshipman Wilson broke into my drawer yesterday and stole my SHOOT annual from 1996. He’s gone through and drawn a swastika on every Blackburn Rovers shirt. He thinks what he has done is hilarious, so I had to explain that because of the swastika anyone who sees me reading it is going to think that either I’m a Nazi or that I think that everyone at Ewood Park is a Nazi. Midshipman Wilson told me to lighten up but it is a very awkward situation as everyone knows the captain wears a Chris Sutton shirt when he goes to the gym. I have decided to put the annual at the bottom of my drawer and not take it out until the end of the trip which is a big shame as it was a great season and it’s good to catch up when you’re away from home. I’m 90% sure it was midshipman Wilson who told everyone about my accident in the corridor. Clarke nodded sympathetically when I complained about the annual and is generally far too nice.

Today we pulled up and dropped anchor so some of us went for a swim off the back of the ship. I’ve always loved the water and I was having a really great swim until I realised midshipman Wilson and midshipman Clarke had pulled the ladder up. When I called for them to put it back they acted like I wasn’t even there and just lay on their backs in the sun, drinking those little green Heinekens they let us have when we’re off duty. I trod water for well over half an hour before they finally let me back on, by which time the sun had dried out the salt in my hair and frozen it solid. Midshipman Wilson said I looked like Sideshow Bob. I tried very hard to ignore this.

Because we are near port we were given permission to go on shore for the night. A good gang of us ended up going over around six and found a lovely sea front bar with a terrace overlooking the bay and what looked like very reasonably priced sea food. We were all relaxed and enjoying feeling like human beings again, until midshipman Wilson made everyone, including the captain, do Jaegerbombs. Soon we were all really drunk. Midshipman Wilson stood on a table and said that we must all go and get hookers. A few of the lads seemed keen but I said I’d be alright for tonight thank you. Midshipman Wilson told me to grow a pair and come and get a hooker with the boys. I told him I already had a pair thank you. He said it didn’t bloody look like it. There was a small argument and then everyone held me down so midshipman Wilson could pull down my sailor trousers to check. Then they all ran off to get hookers. I was really cross with midshipman Wilson for making such a scene as it was a very smart place. I also pray that no one caught sight of the mole on my inner left thigh, before I got my sailor trousers back up.

Apparently midshipman Wilson had three hookers. I said that seemed a little over the top, but instead of defending himself he rounded on me and asked me if I was a gay? I said I had a wife thank you, who I cared for very much and who was definitely a woman. Midshipman Wilson groaned and said it was worse than he thought. I have no idea what he meant by that. There is a high chance one of the hookers will have given him a venereal disease, but I didn’t bother telling him; I don’t suppose he would care.

Someone definitely saw the mole. On the back of the gents on Deck 4 there is a drawing of a man in a Blackburn Rovers shirt with a swastika where it should say McEwan’s Lager. The man has no trousers on and no genitals apart from a big black ball half way down his left thigh. It has hairs sticking out of it. Underneath someone has written you’ve got a mole with it.

We got post from home today. I received a lovely letter from Marie. She included a packet of refreshers and some Percy Pigs. I was in such a good mood after the letter that I shared out the sweets with the guys. Midshipman Wilson ate all but one of the Percy Pigs and then asked me to remind him to go and give Marie a decent shag when we got back to say thank you. I didn’t even bother to respond. I think blue refreshers are my favourite, although sometimes I think they all taste the same.

It was very choppy today. A huge wave came on board while we were scrubbing the deck and we all got soaked, apart from midshipman Wilson who wasn’t there at the time.

Midshipman Wilson has a new dorm rule. Wednesday night is communal wank night, where he puts pornography on the telly and we all masturbate. I explained that I had no problem with masturbating but that as a married man I would prefer to look at a picture of my wife. Midshipman Wilson said that was fine so long as the photo was big enough for everyone to see. I had to explain that there was just no way I was going to let a room full of sailors masturbate over a photo of my wife. Midshipman Wilson said I was missing the point of a communal wank. We argued about it for a good long while before Clarke told us both to belt it and put the pornography on. The pornography really was awful, not romantic at all. I thought about pretending I was feeling sick and slipping out with my photo of Marie for a more private wank, but the only place I could go was the gents on Deck 4 where there is a drawing of my mole on the door, so in the end I stayed in with the others. Midshipman Wilson was shameless; he didn’t even do it under the covers.

We were meant to go into port today but couldn’t because the sea was too rough. This was the last thing I needed as I am running out of toothpaste and I don’t believe any of the other guys have any.

Two bad things today: Firstly someone has drawn an arrow to the drawing on the gents door on Deck 4 and written, who’s this tosser? Secondly my photo of Marie has gone missing. I had it kept tucked inside my copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which I read once before and didn’t get on with, but I thought I’d give another go as everyone says it’s so good. I can’t help feeling midshipman Wilson is probably involved in both.

Today in the common room midshipman Wilson did an awful fart and then ran away so when all the guys came in from the gym they assumed I’d done it.

I caught midshipman Wilson selling my photo of Marie to other sailors today. He was charging a pound a go but he didn’t say what a go actually was. I asked politely for my photo back but he said I had to give him a pound. I said I wasn’t going to pay for my own wife. Midshipman Wilson said he’d always assumed that that was the relationship. In the end I paid him a pound. It wasn’t right that he made me do so, but I couldn’t bear the thought of Marie being passed round all the sailors. It’s my favourite ever photo of her, taken in April when we went out walking in the botanical gardens when all the pink and white blossom was out, looking like bridesmaids dresses hanging out to dry. There are small smudge marks on the sides and the bottom left hand corner is a bit bent. I have put the photo in my wallet to keep it safe. I had to fold it in half but I think I still have the negative so I should be able to print off another copy when I get home.

At supper on the last night midshipman Wilson and midshipman Clarke gave me a massive wedgie in the canteen. It took me totally by surprise. I don’t think I’ve had one since school and I forgot how much they actually hurt. Everyone was laughing including John who everyone says has no sense of humour. Maybe he was just happy because we all go home tomorrow.

As soon as the captain thanked us for our efforts and said we were free to go midshipman Wilson shouted see you suckers and sprinted across the quay to the pub. Clarke waited around and shook me by the hand. He gave me his number and said to meet up for a pint if I was ever in Exeter. We looked for Tins to say goodbye to him but we couldn’t find him. Marie was waiting with the car and I invited Clarke to come over and say hello. Marie smiled and looked very lovely in her green cardigan. In the end we gave Clarke a lift to the station. Afterwards Marie said she was glad I’d met some nice folks on board. When we got home I was so tired I let Marie unpack my bags. She was up there a long time while I just sat on a chair watching Emmerdale. Eventually she came down with a jar of pickled herring. Is there a story behind this? She asked, laughing.

Thomas Chadwick

Thomas Chadwick

Thomas Chadwick is currently splitting his time between London and Gent, Belgium. His short fiction has been published in print and online and he was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize 2013.

Thomas Chadwick is currently splitting his time between London and Gent, Belgium. His short fiction has been published in print and online and he was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize 2013.

One comment

  1. Chris C. says:

    Midshipman Wilson sounds like an absolute corker of a chap, no better way to boost the men’s morale than a ‘communal wank’ over a fellow seaman’s wife! Mr Chadwick, this is a surreal short story full of tragically self-deprecating wit, a kind I don’t think I have come across before, hysterical in places… truly novel, or should I say naval! Let’s have some more!

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