Captain's Hat by Jubindra K.C.
“I don’t know where to begin. I still remember that day clearly like it was just yesterday.”
Grandpa Max was beside the fireplace when he said that to me.
It was an early Christmas morning. The fragrance of cookies and milk were all around the house. Butterflies were in my stomach with just the thought of the day that awaits me. Christmas presents, snow, mom’s cooked dinner and best of them all Grandpa Max.
I was still my bed when I heard the voice. It was Grandpa’s annual visit during the holidays. I immediately got up, put on my favorite pajamas, and rushed down the stairs. I greeted him with a big warm hug!
The whole day was well spent. But after all these years, I still remember the story that he told me.
We already had dinner, we sat down beside the fireplace, warm chocolate drinks in our hands, anxious to hear Grandpa’s tale.
“a few decades ago”, he said, “I was a co-captain of a great ship.”
“Her name was Sky. She soared the ocean like a free bird. She was a magnificent ship.”
“That’s how I met Captain J Edwards.”
We were all fascinated with the story. We moved in closer, to observe intensity by which Grandpa told his story. We wanted to hear all of it. We wanted more!
Captain James Edwards was a proud man. A man who led an adventurous life. He was respected by all his crew. Deep within the sailors’ heart, they saw the man they want to become. Maxwell Green was just nineteen when he met Captain Edwards. It was at that moment, Max found a person he could follow.
“After all these years, I still remember him.”, Grandpa said, “A fine gentlemen who is quite rare in today’s generation.”
“We were on our way to Europe to ship a cargo. It was our daily routine. We’d sail, we’d sing, we’d dance, we’d have the time of our lives. But that day, it was different.”
“Different?” mom interrupted.
“MOM! Don’t ruin it!” I protested.
Grandpa let out a huge laughter.
“Yes. It was very different.”, He continued, “You see, this time the tide was not on our side.”
“Sky battled the ocean. She fought hard along with the captain by her side. The tide did not penetrate her but the iceberg… It sliced her in half. Cracked, the sky was slowly drowning. The ocean slowing consuming her. We decide to abandon ship.”
I could see the face of Grandpa turn slowly grim.
“We were lost at the sea for weeks”, he began.
“We survived. Few floating debris helped us to the land of a strange island.”
“Us?” I gasped.
“Captain and I. We were the only survivors.”
“We were sheltered by the trees. But soon hunger and thirst got the better of us. We had to survive”
Grandpa Max and Captain James decided to explore the island. To find any help that they so desperately need. They climbed many hills, crossed many rivers. But one early morning, they spotted a small village far across the mountain. With rejuvenated energy and good hope, they began their journey in hopes to get help.
Months passed. They were still not close, the village still appeared in the same spot, the spot from which they had started in the beginning.
“How’s that possible?”, I asked.
“I don’t know”, he replied, “But I did know one thing, the captain was very ill. He could barely keep up, he wasn’t the same man I once knew.”
“How?” I asked.
“Captain saw things that weren’t there. He was cold, thin and kept things to himself. But one day, it changed.”
“Max! You have to kill me!”, screamed Edwards.
Grandpa Max froze.
“What do you mean captain? Maybe the heat has got the best of you.” Max explained.
“NO! Don’t you see, we’ve been trapped here for years,” screamed Edwards, “And yet we see no way out.”
“But that doesn’t mean I have to kill you!”
“Max, isn’t it strange that after all these years we’ve been trapped on this island. Are we somehow still alive even though we’ve not been eating or drinking? How we have reached the end shore of this so-called island?”
Suddenly, it hit Grandpa Max. After all these years of entrapment on the island. He hasn’t eaten a thing in all these years, yet he has the energy to keep walking.
“What do you purpose Captain?”
“You have to kill me. That’s the only way you can be free!”
“Captain? Only Me?”
“Yes, my boy. I’ve lived long enough. I’ve seen everything. The only thing I can do is to give my life to save another.”
“But Captain? Who told you this?”
The whole room went silent. All we could hear was the crack of the burning wood. All that kept running through my mind was, what happened next?
“Did you do it?”, I whispered.
“No.”, Grandpa replied, “Everything I maybe but not a murderer. When I refused, Captain ordered me to move north. He refused to join. He told me it was the right thing to do”
“He gave me his hat. To remember him by.” Grandpa murmured, “It was the last I saw him.”
“Stop scaring your grandson”, Dad interrupted, “He’s still young and he gets scared easily.”
Dad told me Grandpa loved playing tricks. And this was just another way to get your grandson.
“Sorry for the scare, kid,” Grandpa said with a faint smile.
Per Grandpa Max, he walked north for days. But the last thing he remembers is waking up in his bed. Normal. He searched about the ship and the crew, with no luck. There was no Captain. There was no ship. Maybe it was just Grandpa’s old imagination running wild.
But after all these years, why do I still remember this story?
Grandpa passed last summer due to natural causes. While going through his stuff, I saw the Captain’s Hat above the Grandpa’s favorite bookshelf, all polished and clean.
Captain James Edwards.