A cool breeze blows in Tamara's face. The light wind brings her fish and salt The sun shining low over her shoulder casts long golden shadows on the rippling water, simmering and blue. A light blanket of mist coats the surface. Her eyes focus on the rapidly approaching shape, and she feels her breath sucked from her body.
"She's a beauty!" a man near Tamara says.
Another bystander answers, “Yes, don't see many rigged with four masts at this landing. It's only been a few years the big ships can dock here," he boasts. "I worked on dredging this landing out deeper. Santa Monica Bay can now take the big cross-Pacific windjammers."
The crowd becomes unwieldy as the ship draws close. A body pushes against her back. The windjammer’s smooth lines and its size give a sleek, streamlined appearance. One not canceled by the rows of square sheets above. Figures of men against the bright buff sails look like monkeys furling sheets. Heads pop up over the railing; passengers watch the boat slowly hove to, in a swing to the side of the pier.
Soon the vessel drifts side on toward the dock pilings. Several men on shore run up onto the dock, to where the bow and stern will touch. Each with arms out to catch bow lines and chinch them to cleats.
"Better step back, Miss," a voice from the crowd warns Tamara. In response, she pushes back against the group, the dock shakes with a massive impact. Tamara stumbles, almost falls.
"Belay stern!" a voice shouts out from aboard. A rope flies out and down to where eager hands grab at it.
She sees the another rope go flying at the front of the ship. "Belay bow!"
"Batten sails!" The figures up in the sheets gather in the last of the whipping canvas.
A large wooden framework aims toward Tamara's head and she pushes back again against the people behind her. "Lower and secure gangplank!"
Up on the swaying ramp Tamara spies a young boy. His corn yellow hair stands stiff. His short pants touch his knees. Around him a few of the passengers are starting down the ramp. the crowd below open a circle for the debarking stream.
But the boy hesitates. His eyes glance down and spot and ecstatic couple waiting near Tamara. He practically runs down the ramp to them then. After several more people make the pier, Tamara sees the passenger she’s waited for.
A dark young man who’s hoisted a large bag on his back.
The voice of the captain booms from the top of the gangplank. "Mister Way, wait up!"
"I want to thank you again, Mister Way." The captain says when he catches up, he hands a small wooden figure over. Tamara can see it’s been carved into the shape of a bear.
"This was part of the main mast." The captain’s voice is solemn. "Jonesy is our best whittler, he made it, to remind you of your trip to California." He looks toward Tamara, removing his hat, and adds, "We can't thank the libraries enough, young lady." He bows. "For loanin us the use of your scouts sword."
At this she glances over to Mr. Way, the scout, who signals with a low wave, indicating she will hear that story later.
"What was the captain on about?"
Mr. Way’s face holds a serious, sad expression. "We ran into pirates."
"Did people die?" Her voice trembled.
""Yes. We were almost becalmed. Twenty small boats attacked."
His tone has a soft finality.
Should she ask more? "Have you killed—in the name of the libraries?"
"You know scouts." He watches Tamara response, a nod.
"I have met some as they have come through the library on the way to assignments."
As she tells him this, she thinks of those hard men and women who carry themselves with such certainty and seriousness of purpose.
"Yes, to answer you, I have." Now it’s he who nods, a twisted smile on his lips. "In India."
Here in their conversation the pair halts. The sign reads, Santa Monica Library.
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