A Watch on Deck

I dreamed a dream and in that dream I saw a sailor standing on the deck of a great ship tossed on a rolling sea. He was young and strong with golden browned skin stretched tightly over his well toned muscular form. He stood confidently with his feet spread in a solid stance against the rolling of the great ship’s deck. He seemed to stand alone by the deck rail in a blowing, gentle rain, but high above him on the bridge of the great ship I could see that the Captain watched him with care.

Travelers moved along the rail and as the deck began to pitch he reached out to help them, gripping the arm of one and placing another’s hand on a safety line lashed to the bulkhead. The lightning flashed and waves spilled over the deck as more were gathered to his comfort and strength. He held them, guided them, and pointed the way. I could see him speak to them loudly and urgently, but the howling of the wind smothered the sound of his voice. I could not hear his words. The sea seemed to reach with intensifying determination to rip the travelers from the deck of the ship and he fought to bring them back. Some he gripped tightly and some he lashed to the safety of the bulkhead. I could see his hand was bleeding and his body had been dragged to the edge of his endurance. Suddenly the deck was swept by an enormous wave. Two were ripped from his right hand and disappeared into the sea. Defeated, he dropped to his knees and rolled forward, his hands on the deck, as for a moment he released those he had held within the secure fold of his left arm. His body shook beneath the sobs that rolled across his form like thunder from a storm within.

I looked again and he seemed broken, weary, spent. His skin was burned by the elements and his body was wasted and worn. He lifted himself to his feet and reached out to struggling travelers. His movements were slower now and his hands not so sure but he held the arm of one and guided the steps of another as they made their way down the sea strewn deck. The wind roared and waves crashed over the ship but he stood diligently at his post. The ship rolled and heaved beneath his feet, but he stayed, he reached out, and did what he could. Suddenly the deck seemed empty and the storm for a while subsided. His shoulders were stooped and his back was bent. His skin hung upon his form like a poorly fitted suit of clothes. His eyes were sunken and empty; he seemed to stand alone.

But then I looked and all along the deck rail, fore and aft, were those to whom he had reached. They were holding others, tying lines, and standing watches of their own. It seemed that somewhere deep within his weary eyes I could see a faint smile of satisfaction as he sank to the deck exhausted and spent.

And on the bridge high above the Captain watched with care.


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