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A Loose Cannon

From Listening with the Minds Inner Ear by Gene Rooney

The might three-masted schooner rolled through the cavernous trough and began its labored climb up the next mountainous wave. It had been struggling through storm-lashed seas now for three days.

Everyone of the crew were red-eyed from seventy-two hours without sleep, and sick to the bone with the constant rolling and lashing of the angry sea.

“Not in all my years as a seaman,” said the Captain, “have I seen anything like this. The fact that we’re still alive is a miracle. I would never have believed a ship could take the pounding we have. She’s a might good vessel. If she’s withstood all this, she’ll make it through anything the ocean can throw at us.”

Even as the Captain spoke, another wave as high as a tall building rolled across the ship’s tossing deck.

“No sir,” said the Captain, “all the water in the world can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside, and the sea can’t crack this majestic galleon.”

With that, another giant breaker slammed into the ship, her timbers creaked and her masts groaned, but still she weathered the onslaught beautifully.

“What was that?” the Captain said suddenly.

“What was what?” said the mate. “I don’t hear anything but the storm.”

“There! There it is again,” cried the Captain. “Listen!”

This time the mate had heard it too. Both of them knew that it was the worst possible sound.

The sound came again. This time they felt the gallant little ship shudder as she tossed and rolled her way through the lashing swells. But the shudder had come with the sound, not with the waves.

The Captain fought his way along the deck, knee deep in the swirling waters that were washing across it with every wave. Finally he made his way to the stairway leading to the hold, and anxiously peered into the darkness below.

He heard the sound again and felt the ship shudder. His worst fears were confirmed. The ship’s hold was filled with valuable linens, spices, and other treasures being shipped to the colonies in the New World. It also contained two enormous canons being taken to a new fort being built to guard her Majesty’s New World interests. One of them had broken free from its restrictions, and with every new wave that slammed into the ship, the loose canon rolled to the other side and crashed into the ship’s hull.

While the vessel could withstand any amount of punishment from the outside, the Captain knew that it would be unable to take the punishment it was putting itself through on the inside. And although he knew the risks of going down into a dark hold to lash down a loose canon, he also knew that those dangers were nothing compared to the certain sinking in stormy seas that would occur if he didn’t. Ships are built to survive poundings from the outside, not pressures from the inside. The dangers from without are frightening, but the dangers from within are fatal.

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