Write about falling.
“This. Bloody. Taffrail. Will be the death of me!” Connor Graves grunted, loud enough to be heard in the shipyard below. “Who’s brilliant idea was this monstrosity, anyway?”
The monstrosity in question was a two story tall wooden balcony for ship’s aft. It was made from mahogany, generously colonnaded, elaborately carved and deucedly heavy. Each of the four times the workers mounted it, ended in sagging, groaning and other general notes of complaint from the superstructure of the ship it was attached to. Undeterred, Connor decided that he would need to accomplish the installation of this very necessary counterweight himself.
Just Fletcher paced below, watching his employer and friend with concern. “Are you sure you don’t just want to split the holds and store the coal both fore and aft?” He called up.
“Absolutely. Two holds mean two loading bays, two weight factors to manage while under way and double the chance of coal dust filtering upwards and sullying the guest quarters. I just have to get this bugger to work.”
Of course, what went unsaid is the aesthetic value of the old-fashioned taffrail. The stunning wooden extension would, on one level create a walk through for the promenade, a romantic stop for guest’s perambulations. On the upper level it would provide a private balcony for the captain’s cabin. Just had tried to suggest, subtly, that counter weighing the coal could be handled by more traditional ballast methods, but Connor was insistent. Not only would his floating palace be the fastest ship on the seas, but also the most ostentatious.
Taffrails had gone out of fashion more than one hundred years before, but Connor argued ‘Why should that stop us, quadremes were out of fashion for nearly twenty times that but we’re going to use oars!’ So, a taffrail it was, no matter how bloody difficult the things were to anchor to a steel hull.
Sighing to himself, Just reached out to grab the scaling rope that draped down the side of the hull. He hated heights, but he knew Connor would not be able to settle the taffrail into the new steel cradles by himself. He needed a man on the other side. Wrapping the end of the rope securely around his waist, he lifted his left foot and placed it flat on the riveted steel. Hopping a bit on his right foot, Just grabbed the rope above his head, lifted his weight and placed the right foot on the hull as well.
Slowly and deliberately he climbed the hull; inching his way towards Connor and the looming taffrail. Just didn’t look down or allow his thoughts to dwell on how tall this bloody ship was. Each step was carefully placed, counted, and repeated. 22. 23. 24. Every now and again, Just would stop, pick up the sagging rope and loop it over his head to add to the coils around his waist.
When he drew parallel to Connor, Just risked looking away from his feet. He wished he hadn’t when he caught sight of Connor’s grinning mug.
“Are you snug there in your cocoon, Just?” Connor’s rope had a single safety loop and the rest swung free down the hull side.
“Laugh all you want boss-man, but I have no intentions of breaking my neck for your taffrail.”
As if he had cursed himself with that ill-advised statement, his left boot chose that moment to lose purchase; the leather skittered free from the metal. Just stiffened in panic and pushed too hard with his right foot attempting to compensate. Overbalanced, he swung into the side of the ship with a reverberating clang and a knock on the elbow, which numbed his entire arm causing him to lose grip with his left hand. To add insult to injury, his body rebounded and swung back to the right. Hitting that elbow as well caused him to lose his grip entirely.
Just had gone to a circus once and seen a lithe and limber aerialist dance in a swath of silk. The big finish to her act had been to climb nearly to the rafters wrapping the silk around her body as she went and then let go and fall to the show-ring floor in a graceful tumble of flashing limbs and trailing hair. The silk stopped her just before she hit the ground and the tent had erupted in tumultuous applause.
Just Fletcher’s fall down the sides of the ship followed the same mechanics as the beautiful circus girl’s but held none of the grace. He banged and bumped and thumped along the length of hull, shouting curses and imprecations all the way to the bottom. His limbs flailed, making repeated and bruising contact with steel. He slammed his head into the ship every third or fourth revolution so by the time he came to a trembling, jerking stop he was barely conscious.
Connor slid gracefully down his own rope, repelling with a couple of neat hops until his feet were securely on the shipyard. He put his shoulder under the bulk of his semi-conscious friend and lifted so that he could untie the rope that held Just suspended.
As Connor lowered the injured man to the floor he heard Just say, “You, sir, can install your own damn taffrail.”