Packet Trade – Sample

A shadow fell over me and I looked up. It was much brighter outside than it was in the bar and I couldn’t make out the person blocking the light.

“Are you Jones? Uh, Duh-vie Jones?” It wasn’t the worst attempt at my first name I’d ever heard, and at least he tried.

“That’s me,” I said, “and it’s Devi. Like the boy’s name.”

“Davy?” he echoed and I thought I caught a smile forming on his face.

“Yeah. Are you the captain?”

“No.” The smile fully blossomed. He moved out of the sun and I got a look at him. Late twenties, maybe. Blond hair, deep tan, but he somehow didn’t look anything like the surfer dudes that filled the beaches and hostels here. “I’m the mate, Isaac. Skipper’s talking to the Capitanía getting your paperwork settled.” Was I supposed to know what that meant? Was I supposed to have done something? He didn’t say anything else about it, instead he looked down at my bag. “That’s all your stuff?”

I nodded. My heart started to bang, the sound of blood rushed in my head and I realized that this was it. I was really doing this. I was going to get on a boat with a stupid name and a bunch of strangers and sail away. I don’t know if panic showed in my face, but Isaac didn’t look fazed.

“Glad to see someone who actually follows the instructions. You wouldn’t believe the stuff some of the people we’ve had come through have tried to bring aboard. The Bucket ain’t a cruise ship.” He looked at the battered watch on his wrist. “We’ll be heading out next morning, but it’s good to have a night aboard before we get under way. You checked out of your hostel already?”

“Yeah,” I said, fighting the urge to run.

“Well,” he said, “we can get going any time you want. Though, if it’s okay with you, I’ve got a mad hankering for a cheeseburger and this place does a good one. You mind if I get a bite before we go?”

“Um, sure?”

“Great! Want anything?” My stomach wasn’t happy at all with the half a beer I’d drunk, and the thought of a burger did nothing to help, but I was really thirsty and there was no way I was finishing that beer.

“You think they have some kind of juice?”

He laughed and said, “Oh, yeah. They have all the juice. Any preference?”

“Anything but apple.”

“Gotcha.” He ambled off and I watched him talk to the woman behind the bar in easy Spanish.

This whole thing wasn’t like me at all. I wasn’t ever one of those kids who was scared of the roller coaster or jumping off the high diving board, but the thought of taking a year off to go backpacking around Europe never appealed. If someone had told me ten months ago that I’d be sitting in a bar in Nicaragua with a man I’d never met before, watching him devour a burger before getting on a sailboat where I was going to spend the next nine months… well. I probably would have rolled my eyes and walked away. And yet, here I was, watching Isaac eat while I drank the best tasting glass of juice I’d ever had.

“You’ve got an auspicious name,” he said, taking a breather from eating. “Sailors are a superstitious lot, but I think it bodes well.”