Where the Water Roars
Chapter one: Alaska
The waters that surrounded the harbors were dark grey, much like everything in the town around them. The only relief from the darkness was the crest of white foam that rode the top of the waves. It was October in the snow already littered the ground of the small fishing towns in the Aleutian island chain in Alaska. The salty smell of sea air made its way into every little corner of the small town and there was no escape from it.
The sign of the Rockthrow, the local bar, had once been red, but only a few bits of paint remained, the rest had been worn gray. A salt covered pick up truck, also gray, pulled up and parked in the monochromatic gravel outside. Two people stepped out of the truck; their hoods pulled over their heads to protect them from the cutting wind, and hurried inside the warm tavern. With their hoods pulled down, it was clear to see that one was in his late fifties or perhaps early sixties with gray hair. The salt and the water had taken their toll on him as his eyes were the same blue-gray as the sea. The other was considerably younger, just past twenty, but he had a grim look on his face as he followed his father.
Kyle Anderson was twenty two and this was his first time in Alaska. His father, John, had spent his entire life on the sea on the family owned fishing vessel until he turned forty-nine. The years of crab fishing had caught up on him and instead of turning the boat over to one of Kyle's older brothers; he had sold both the boat and his quota. Kyle was the only male in the family who didn't earn his living on the sea, choosing instead to pursue a college career. His two older brothers, Jeremy and Alex, were deck bosses on two separate ships. He rarely saw them except around holidays and occasionally in the summers if their captains gave them time off.
The truth of the matter was rather simple; Kyle was the youngest of three boys, twelve years younger than Jeremy and seven years younger than Alex. His mother wanted him no where near the ocean that was a constant threat to all the other men in her life. He was the only one to follow his mother's path to college and earn a degree in International Relations from the University of Washington. Unfortunately for him, the job market had been bleak upon his graduation and he had taken a full time job as a bartender at the bar that had paid for his way through college.
Another stab of bad luck had fallen into his lap when a careless college student had tossed a cigarette into a bunch of dead leaves in front of the bar and the bar burned down; leaving him without work for the five months that it would take to rebuild it. Desperate for money yet too proud to ask his parents for financial support, he went against his mothers wishes and followed his father up to Alaska in search of a job on a crabbing boat. His father was well known among the captains of the fleet as were his two brothers. The hope was that finding a job for Kyle wouldn't prove to be too difficult.
As he followed his father into the bar, he paused as a wave of smoke assailed his nostrils; he was also the only male in his family that didn't smoke. He lighting inside was dim and the air was hazy from all the men (and very few women) who were smoking. A loud chatter filled the room and Kyle saw that it was packed well beyond the limit. The crab season would begin in three days and all the boats and their crews had anchored here for their last days of shore leave. He shook hand after hand as captains and old friends of his father came by to say hello. They finally settled down by the bar with friend of his father's and listened to the stories of the past fishing seasons.
After a few minutes, the monotony of listening about men dying or being badly injured began to wear on Kyle's mind. Half of the people in the room seemed as gray as the sea around them and he didn't want to get into their mind set. He watched the lone bartender pour and mix drinks as fast as he could and felt a twinge of pity for the man.
Feeling generous, and wanting to get away from the conversation, Kyle excused himself from the conversation and approached the heavily perspiring bartender.
"Do you need help?" Kyle asked over the din.
"Do you know your way around the bar?" The man fired back, eyes raking over Kyle's small delicate build and looking doubtful.
"I bartend in Seattle," Kyle fired back, a resolute firmness making its way into his green eyes. "And I deal with the college rush."
The man nodded and motioned for Kyle to jump up over the bar. Once on the other side, the bartender, Larry, had Kyle restock the front of the house supply, which was wearing dangerously low. After doing a glass run to pick up any used glasses or empty bottles, he began taking and filling drink orders. Luckily for Kyle, there wasn't much of a deviation on orders at this bar. Everyone ordered a beer or a shot of whiskey or scotch. Fishermen were apparently not picky about their alcohol selection. A few of the men he took orders from introduced themselves as friends of his brothers who had worked with them in the past. Some had even worked for his father in the past.
He helped Larry out for a good hour while his dad moved around the bar, pointing him out and inquiring about openings on different boats and whether or not they were able to take on a greenhorn. A greenhorn was someone who had never crab fished on the Bering Sea before, and had no experience.
He was leaning on the bar, adding up the bills for different tabs when the door opened and a man walked into the bar. This had happened many times that night, but there was something about this man that had in particular caught Kyle's sharp green eyes. It took a few seconds for the realization to catch on, but he realized that this man stood out because he was not grey like everyone else. His eyes were brown and still young and looked as if he were laughing at a secret unknown joke.
"Is Larry here?"
Kyle was so caught up in staring at the man that he didn't realize that he had approached the bar and was directing a question at him. He shook his head and cleared his thoughts as the man took off his hat and ran his fingers through short brown hair.
"He went to take a break," Kyle finally managed to spit out when the man gave him a strange look. "He should be back in a few minutes."
"Larry must be getting old if he needs to hire you." He commented, his eyes not leaving Kyle's for a minute.
"Oh, he didn't hire me," Kyle didn't know why, but he had the distinct notion that those twinkling eyes could see through anything. "I volunteered to help him because of the crowd."
"That's rather generous of you." The man cocked his head to the side and looked Kyle over. "Do I know you?" He asked, sounding a bit confused.
"No, it's my first time up here, my dad is trying to find me a job," Kyle looked over to where his dad was talking to a few men and the man followed his gaze.
"Ah," a flicker of recognition came into the brown eyes. "You're the youngest Anderson, right?" Something about the way it was phrased caused Kyle to jump to the defensive.
"It depends on who is asking." Kyle said carefully; he had heard of fierce rivalries and he didn't particularly feel like getting punched for something one of his brothers did.
The man laughed and flashed Kyle and rather wolfish smile. The feeling of needing to be on the defensive eased away and Kyle returned a slightly bashful smile.
"Jack Connell, deck boss on the Tigerlily," the man said. "I worked with Jeremy a few years ago. He's a great guy."
"He's a good brother, always saved me when Alex picked on me."
"Oh, our middle brother; Jeremy is the oldest."
Kyle thought he saw Jack's lips tighten at the mention of Alex being the middle brother, but before he could look closer the moment had passed and he wasn't sure if it had actually happened or if he had imagined it. Before either of them could progress in the conversation, Larry returned from his break and loudly greeted Jack. Jack nodded to Kyle and Kyle retuned to adding up the tabs.
A few minutes later, Kyle found himself washing shot glasses when his father called him over to the booth he had moved into. After grabbing a round of beers for his father and the man he was talking to, he sat down with them. He soon found his hand crushed in a handshake with an intimidating large man a few years older than his father that was introduced to him as Bull, captain of the Jolly Roger.
"It's good of you to help Larry out," Bull told him with a voice that had become raspy and deep from years of smoking. "He's getting too old for large crowds like this." He paused to nod at a passing man. "Anyway, your old man tells me that you're looking for work on a ship. Do you have any experience on the ocean?"
"None at all," Kyle answered truthfully, "but I'm a fast learner and I'm not afraid of hard work."
"Are you physically able to withstand thirty hour work days? It's not a walk in the park."
"I can do it." Kyle stated firmly. "It's what everyone in my family does; it's in my blood."
Bull laughed and coughed at the same time and lit up a new cigarette.
"That's what I like to hear." He took a long drag and Kyle held his breath as he exhaled. "My nephew is looking for a greenhorn this season with potential to stay on through the next few seasons if everything works out alright." He took another drag. "He's tough, but he's fair and a good man."
"Sounds great," Kyle said. "When can I meet him?"
"Hold on a second," John interjected, a note of doubt in his voice. "Which nephew? Not Stephen."
"Matt," Bull told him, "there's no way I would send any of your sons to work for Stephen. That boy is nothing but trouble."
Kyle knotted his eyebrows and wondered what type of trouble Stephen was. It wasn't often that he heard his father speak of people he didn't like. His mother had forbid bad talk or gossip in her house in an attempt to make Kyle a sweet boy unlike his two rowdy older brothers. Kyle was unsure as to whether or not this put him at a disadvantage at being a fisherman because he felt small and timid around the boisterous and seasoned men in the bar.
In their pause of silence, a tall woman with brown hair in ponytail sauntered up to the table and slid in next to Bull. Kyle immediately pulled his hat off as his mother had taught him to do when women were around. She lifted an eyebrow and let out a deep chuckle.
"That's cute," she told him. "I haven't seen a polite guy around here for a while."
Bull laughed as she took a swig of beer.
"This is my daughter Katherine," Bull rasped as she nodded to them. "She's Matt's medic and cook."
"You let your daughter out there?" John asked shock evident in his voice and Kyle knew women on the Bering Sea were rare.
"You don't think women can work out there," her voice was a razor encased in velvet and Kyle realized that she was more frightening then half of the men he knew.
"No, I know women can work, I'm just surprise he'd let his daughter out there." John sounded surly as if his mom had just reprimanded him.
"She does fine for herself and I don't think I could stop her if I tried." Bull said. "And I don't have to worry about her safely when she's with Matt."
"So who are these fine gentlemen Dad?" She finally asked, pulling a knee up to her chest.
"This is my old friend John Anderson and his youngest son Kyle," there was a bit of sarcasm in his voice and she suddenly sat up rigidly and coughed. "Kyle is going to be your new greenhorn."
"It's nice to meet you," the sharpness had left her voice and she shook Kyle's hand harder than any man had. "That will be a load off of Matt's mind; he's been going crazy trying to find someone." She looked him over. "I hope you're up to it."
"I am," Kyle said evenly. "If my brothers can do it, I can do it."
"Speaking of which, are your brothers here?" Kyle thought she sounded hopeful.
"Both of them are out bait running." John told her. "They're both due to dock either tonight or tomorrow to refuel."
"You know my brothers?" Kyle asked?
"You could say that," she laughed with her dad. "I worked with Jeremy a few seasons back. We're good friends." The emphasis she put on the word 'good' made Kyle think that they might be a little more than friends.
"When can Kyle start and meet everyone?" John asked after another brief lull in the conversation.
"Matt's taking care of business tonight but you can come by the ship tomorrow at noon to meet everyone," Bull said. "I'll have Katherine tell him that we've found someone for him."
"You can come shopping with me tomorrow," Katherine told him with a sly wink of her dark eyes that rather reminded him of a fox. "We need to stock the galley. The ship is docked in pier number four; it's white with an orange stripe around it."
After a few more minutes of conversation between Bull and his father, Kyle and his father stood to return to their hotel. Shaking Bull and Katherine's hand before he and his father left, he made his way to the register to settle their bill. Larry just waved his hands and said that they were free in exchange for the work that Kyle had done for him.
Once back the hotel, Kyle flopped down on his bed, tired from the large amount of travel that they had done in a single day and his work at the bar. He lay still for a few minutes before hauling himself off the bed and jumping into the shower. He sighed as the hot water cascaded down his back and washed away the smell of smoke.
"What have I gotten myself into," he muttered to himself as he leaned his forehead against the wall and let the water run down his body.
His mind was racing, thoughts flying through at a thousand miles an hour. His first thought was to how Katherine intimidated him and he fervently prayed that the rest of the crew would not be as intense. As he lathered his olive skin his thoughts flashed to the bar back home. With any luck, he would make enough money in this one season to support himself until the bar reopened. Other thoughts relating to this new job and his old one ran through his mind as he finished rinsing off and stepped out of the shower.
Looking into the mirror, he winced as he looked at his build. When he was younger, Alex often teased him and said that he looked like a girl. Granted, he was a great deal shorter than his two towering brothers and had inherited his mother's delicate frame, but he was stronger than he looked.
"Ah, who am I kidding?" He sighed as he combed his light brown hair into place. "Two green eyes framed by thick long eyelashes, definitely girly. My mother's nose, girly. Thin hands with long fingers, definitely not something a guy has. Even my hair makes me look like a girl."
He scowled at his reflection and finished getting ready for bed. His appearance was definitely a sore spot of discussion. He had always wanted to be large and built like his brothers, but nature had given him the brains of the family and not the brawn. He left the bathroom with the scowl still planted on his face and his father looked up from the book he was reading as Kyle threw himself down on the other bed.
"What's wrong?" John prodded Kyle after his son had planted his face firmly in his pillow. "Your face is ugly."
"An ugly girl face." Kyle's voice was muffled by the pillow.
"Oh god, not this again," John sighed, used to dealing with Kyle's self-loathing. "Kyle, you look fine."
"I didn't say I didn't look fine, I said that I look like a girl."
"Okay, so you look like your mother, that's not a bad thing."
"Dad!" Kyle turned his head and glared at his dad. "No one ever takes me seriously at physical work because they think I can't handle it."
"You'll just have to prove them wrong then," John put his book down. "Kyle, you're a beautiful boy-" Kyle's face darkened, "-I mean handsome boy, but everyone is built different. But let's face it, you might have the softer looks, but you're still better looking than your brothers."
Kyle cracked a smile; his dad always knew how to make him feel better.
"Dad, I'm afraid that I might not be able to do this." He admitted softly.
"Kyle," John looked at him with a very serious look in his eyes, "you might look like your mother, but you're an Anderson. Your great grandfather, your grandfather, your father, and your brothers have been crab fishermen. It's in your blood, just wait and see."
There was a long pause where Kyle crawled under the covers of his bed and tried to sleep, but the anticipation of the upcoming day kept him away. He knew his father wasn't asleep because he wasn't snoring yet. He waited a few more minutes before asking another question.
"Do you think everyone on Matt's ship is as intimidating as Katherine?"
"No," John laughed, "She was something, wasn't she? Kind of reminds me of your mother." His chuckles eventually died out. "Be careful Kyle, Matt is a good guy, but he is in the middle of a huge feud and I don't want you to get caught up in it."
"What type of fight?"
"Something to do between his brothers and it's gotten violent a few times, so steer clear of it."
"Yes sir." Kyle stared up at the ceiling, storing that piece of information away.
"You know, Matt fired Jeremy after three seasons of working for him," His father told him warily.
"What? I didn't know Jeremy had ever been fired." A seed of worry planted itself in Kyle's stomach. "For what?"
"I don't know. Matt didn't seem too upset about it. Just be careful of what you do and what you say."
"I know, I know. Just do my work as quick as I can and don't complain."
John chuckled again as he turned the light off. "You were always my smartest kid. I never thought you'd end up out here. I figured you'd be a lawyer like your mother or some other shirt job."
"Thanks." There was a note of sarcasm in Kyle's voice. "Good night Dad."
"Good night son."