John Montgomery groaned softly in his bunk as the steamer tossed around in the waves. He'd been regretting taking this trip, and even wondered why he ever decided to leave the nice, solid land of the Utah territory. The rolling waves tossed his stomach around like they were playing catch. He didn't appreciate that very much.
He damned that blasted preacher for convincing him that this was a good idea. He didn't even like the man! How could he let that beady-eyed twit talk him into this stupid trip?
"Brother John!" came a nasally voice through the door. Well, speak of the devil…
"Whadya want, Father Frank?" Montgomery spat from his bunk as the preacher opened the door to his cabin. He was short compared to Montgomery's 6'2" height, and quite on the round side with graying hair and a balding problem. He reminded Montgomery of a pig.
"Oh, you know how I hate being called that dreadful name! It's Franklin! Not Frank!" Father Frank whined with that dreadful Kentucky drawl of his as he waddled in and sat on Montgomery's very small desk like he owned the place. "Its quite rude, you know!"
"So is barging into someone's room without reason. Ya never never answered my question."
"Oh, my apologies!" He smiled pleasantly. Montgomery wanted to wipe it off his face. "I just wanted to let you know that we're almost to our destination! It'll be so excitin' teachin' the natives the word of the Lord! Don't you think so, Brother John?"
"Stop callin' me that." He sat up with a grunt and glared at Father Frank, scratching his scruffy chin. "I ain't helpin' you preach to them. Ya hired me to protect yer little missionary from the locals. And stop talkin' about 'em like they ain't people."
Father Frank shrugged. "They're savages, Brother John. And until they convert to Christianity, they remain as savages! We've been over this!"
Montgomery scowled in anger. "And yet you keep askin' me why I hate you."
"Hate is such a strong word…"
"But it's correct. Why do ya even need me, anyway? Don't ya got converted locals to help ya out?"
The preacher sighed and rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Because, Brother John," he answered in that condescending voice one used when correcting idiot children, "the local government doest take too kindly to our efforts of charity. They send out warriors in the name of the devils they worship to burn our other missions. The locals are too scared to do it, and it puts them in danger." He pat Montgomery's leg and smiled. "That's why I hired you! You're the best shooter in Utah! You'd keep us safe!"
Montgomery rolled his eyes. "Whatever. Just get out before I toss ya out on yer ass. I rather be seasick alone than with you here."
"Do you need a doctor?"
"Are you sure? It could be somethin' from one of the other passengers."
"OUT!" The shout frightened Father Frank and sent him scurrying out of the cabin as fast as he could. Montgomery lay down in his bunk and chuckled softly to himself, despite his nausea.
Father Frank wasn't a pig. He was a fat rat.
Once the sea had calmed down, Montgomery ventured out onto deck for fresh air. He'd been up in his stuffy cabin vomiting like a sick dog for almost three days. He'd figured he'd be used to it after almost eight months on this damned boat, but the ocean was a cruel mistress.
At least, that's what the crew said. He thought she was a cold-hearted bitch himself.
He took a deep breath and let the salty air fill his lungs. He hated to admit it, but the ocean air was absolutely incredible. It put a spring in his step, and it smelled of adventure.
It also made Father Frank's joints act up, causing him to be in pain all day. And Montgomery took every pleasure he could out of any misfortune and ailment that befell that horrible man.
His eyes caught the movement of one of the sailors. He was about fifty or so, and his stony face was turned outwards towards the the far horizon his he lit a cigarette. He was hardened by years on the sea, and his body strengthened by all the menial work and labor. A glance at his wrists revealed the faint scars that Montgomery knew all too well were left by the cold iron of a slave's shackles.
He went over and leaned against the railing next to him. "Born or caught?"
"Caught," was the simple reply. The man had never lost his accent over the decades. He offered Montgomery a cigarette, which the cowboy took and lit. "What about you?"
"Born." He took in a puff of smoke and let it blow past his lips, watching it travel with the wind. "Name's John Montgomery."
"Bahari of the Chamba. If they still live. If not, it's Bahari Thompson."
Montgomery sighed. "I hear ya. Managed to escape durin' the war. Couldn't go back to see if my family is alright."
"Such is the cruelty of the white man. My mother told me to be wary of the men paler than death." He looked Montgomery over. "What is one such as yourself doing out here? You don't look like the seafaring type."
"Got roped into a stupid gig by a guy I hate. So, we're off to that 'land of the risin' sun' place."
Bahari nodded. "You mean Japan? Whatever for?"
"My 'traveling companion' is a Catholic priest on his way to do missionary work. Ya know, to 'turn the heathens into children of God'."
He frowned and looked at the young man in confusion. "You hate a priest?"
"He's a white man from Kentucky."
"Ah. Say no more."
"So, how'd you end up here?"
The old sailor smiled. "Ran like hell until I reached the sea. I managed to find a boat willing to take me in if I worked for my food. Eventually, I fell in love with the sea. Took the name of the first ship I sailed across the world on."
Montgomery chuckled. "Sounds like a wonderful life. It ain't for me, but we can't all be travelers or explorers."
"Or wanderers like yourself, cowboy."
"Ain't that the same thing?"
"No. A traveler knows where he is going. An explorer searches for glory. A wanderer is none of these things."
Montgomery smiled softly. "I suppose yer right, Bahari."
They stood in companionable silence, listening to the call of the sea and the murmur of the ship powering through the waves. Birds cried overhead as they followed the ship. The chatter of people as they worked and socialized provided what seemed to be a gentle beat for the song of life that was playing out before them. It was quite peaceful.
Until Father Frank trudged up the stairs, grumbling about his aching knees. The fat old man spotted Montgomery and started waddling towards them.
"Shit…" Montgomery cursed, putting out his cigarette.
Bahari frowned. "That is your priest?"
"I can see why else you hate him."
"Yoohoo!" Father Frank waved as he made his way towards the two men. "Brother John! I see you made a friend!"
"Ya say that like I don't got friends."
"Well, normally, people don't exactly want to be friends with a ni- someone of your skin color." He smiled. "It's so nice to see you get along with someone, especially when he's one of your own kind!"
Bahari glared at the preacher with disdain, but said nothing. Montgomery was rather impressed, but the sailor had probably been through far worse.
"Whadya want, Father Frank? Ya hardly come up on deck anymore."
"Oh, yes! I almost forgot! I was going to ask the captain when we would arrive at our destination! But I can't find him, so this deckhand will have to do! If he can even speak English, that is."
"What if he can't?"
"You can translate!"
Now it was Montgomery's turn to glare. "Ya damn well know I can't speak any other languages, ya fat bag of shit!"
"Oh, I just assumed you knew African."
"African ain't even a language! That's a continent! Go find someone else!"
Father Frank huffed indignantly. "Looks like someone slept badly last night," he muttered before waddling away to the other side of the ship. The two men watched him go before letting out a long drag of smoke as they sighed.
"I have never met a man so infuriating…" Bahari groaned.
"Hey, and least ya ain't stuck with him. Ya just gotta dump him and run."
"That is true." He looked over at Montgomery for a moment in contemplation. "Would ya like to learn some Japanese?"
The cowboy raised an eyebrow. "You speak Japanese?"
"Enough. Once you know most of what I know, you can pick it up along the way. With that fat goat with you, it'd be difficult to get along without it." He took a puff of his cigarette. "We have a month or so to teach you. Think you can learn it in that time?"
Montgomery nodded. "I see yer point. Whadya want in return?"
Bahari shook his head. "I don't want anything. However, if you can convince a samurai to kill Father Frank, I'd be pleased."
"I'll keep that in mind." He smiled at his companion. "So, when do we start?"