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Plumbelly: A Novel

Cover of Plumbelly: A Novel

An excerpt from this debut coming-of-age novel set in the South Pacific
– By Gary S. Maynard

I knew something was wrong as soon as I pulled alongside Plumbelly. The hatches and the cockpit lockers were open, coils of line and life jackets and fishing gear heaped on the deck. I sat in the skiff and listened, but all I could hear was the rain.

"Anybody aboard?" I called.

I climbed over the rail, eased the skiff toward the stern and let it trail by the painter. I went below and closed the hatches against the rain, lit the lamp and sat heavily on a soggy settee. The cabin had been ransacked, the contents of every locker dumped out onto the sole: clothes, food, blankets, tools, and Ohio Dave's Penthouse Magazine collection, the pages damp and rumpled. The contents of my ditty bag were dumped out on my bunk: the razor and shaving cream, my piggy bank, my souvenir knife from Gibraltar, coins from the Caribbean islands, a snapshot of Armin and me, my passport, open to the photo of me, smiling, age eleven. I sat and looked at the mess for what seemed like an hour, unable to move or clean it up.

The pounding of the rain on the deck eased to a gentle drumming, and then stopped abruptly, leaving only the sound of dripping from the furled sails and rigging. I slid open the hatch and sat at the top of the ladder in the tropical twilight. The decks steamed and trash floated out from the shore, washed from the hillsides and the streambeds and the streets and the storm drains by the torrential rain. I tested the bruise on my chest with my fingertips. They would come for me tomorrow and Malo would testify, and Mr. Murphy too, and Tanya would be sent away to California.

I went below, climbed into a bunk and pulled a sleeping bag over my head. I lay there I don't know how long, my breath hot inside the sleeping bag. And then I heard it: a thin, drawn-out cry that reached out across the water and through Plumbelly's thick wooden hull to where I lay. I threw back the sleeping bag, sat up, listened. Nothing. I got up and stood in the companionway and looked out over the harbor. Night had fallen and was still, with no moon, no clouds, the water like black glass. I waited, breathless, until I heard it again: shouts and the muffled wail. There was no doubt; it was the Reverend literally beating the devil out of Lloyd. I imagined him curled up on the floor, arms protecting his head, his father standing over him, belt wrapped around his fist.

If Lloyd has the gun, I thought, he's going to kill the guy.

I went below and started dressing quickly, a dark T-shirt, jeans, sneakers.

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Gary S. Maynard

Author of Plumbelly: A Novel

Author Gary S. Maynard grew up sailing around the world with his parents and siblings on a home-built boat. Since then, he has spent much of his adult life coastal and bluewater sailing on traditional wooden boats, including a voyage to the South Pacific with his wife, Kristi, and their two small children. He has worked as a deckhand, boatswain, mate, captain, and shipwright aboard schooners and square riggers, ran a boatshop restoring classic boats, and currently builds custom homes on Martha's Vineyard. He and Kristi live in West Tisbury, Massachusetts.