Flash Fiction: Smarter (367 words)

Zain had been on board the Zealot for thirty days, and he still had not figured out what was so magnificent about the ship.

It was large. He could give it that.

It had three masts, each one a massive spire meant for climbing, with lines and rigs enough to confuse and amuse. He’d gotten lost the first time he’d tried to reach the top, and it was the first time he realized that lost could mean seeing exactly where he wanted to be and having no idea how to get there. It was amazing.

There were four decks as well, each one wide and long, with exactly one set of stairs in the whole lot of them. The rest was a romp of ladders and hatches which Zain immediately turned into scrambles and drops as he ran around the ship.

The ship held a full crew – ninety-one women and men – and was always a comfortably noisy piece of motion on the open water. The breeze blew steady, the water grumbled and sighed, and the deck tipped as it pleased.

Zain had more than enough room to run amuck, plenty of things to do, and yet, with all the dark corners and deep hatches and hidden blinds, there was no room for him to get away with anything.

Just as soon as he had filled the First Mate’s shirt with flour, everyone had known that it was him.

When a week’s worth of dinner pickles were found stinking up the bottom of the a Squad Leader’s ruck, everyone knew that it was him.

When he’d picked up a thick round of rope and a water sack, four crewmen had stopped him as soon as they saw him, without any questions, and told him to put them back or they’d do what he was planning, better, and aim it straight at him. They didn’t even bother to check his pockets and find the old orange peels he’d been saving, so he had absolutely no chance to show off his brilliant plan.

Zain had no idea what was so magnificent about the Zealot.

Unless it was the ship’s quiet ability to teach him how to be smarter in his fun.

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