Charlie the Stoweaway

Posted:  October 30, 2020

“Isn’t it great?” Chris asked while looking at me with sparkles in his eyes, hoping I shared the same enthusiasm for the object he extended towards me for my approval. “It’s… great…” my fake enthusiasm was less than believable, making Chris replace his smile with a questioning glare. Trying to repair the damage my words had already done I took his new prized-possession from his hands and gave my best attempt at being excited to welcome the creepiest piece of wood aboard our floating home, Avocet. 

“My grandma got him in Hong Kong. Made in Hong Kong, just like Avocet!” Although that was true, I was not feeling any better about the wooden head Chris was so fond of. “That’s great honey.” Grandma Alice was a collector of odd objects, filling her home with trinkets in every corner to catch the wandering )and wondering) eyes of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was a lady with a spark that could fill any room with her charisma and stories. She passed away last January at the age of 92.

Since Grandma Alice’s passing, her thoughtfully curated collection of odds and ends were divided and gifted to each grand and great-grandchild. Somehow out of the whole collection, Chris ended up with the creepiest of them all. His eyes are following me…

The next day I had just returned from a long day of work, excited to hop on my laptop and write a new blog post for Sailing Avocet. Before I could even put down my purse Chris swooped me up, dipped me, and kissed me. “Welcome home honey, how was your day?” He asked smiling ear to ear. What is he hiding... “oh it was alright just the usua-“ he grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the bow “hold that thought! I have something to show you!” 

There we were. Standing in our (tiny) V berth. That’s when my eyes met the eyes of Charlie. You see, a lot happened during those 8 hours I was gone, leaving Chris unsupervised. He had cleaned the boat, varnished our steps, named the creepy wooden head “Charlie” and oh yeah! Decided to mount it in the V-berth right above where a guest’s head would go… without confronting me first. 

“What do you think? Fits right in, huh?” My blue eyes were locked on Charlie’s dark mahogany ones. “Hun?” Chris asked me again, I had been zoning out trying to find a response that was softer than “I hate it”… wait did that escape my mouth? “You hate it?” Now scrambling to reverse the poison words that slipped off my tongue so easily, I looked at my darling husband and said “well no, sorry, I don’t hate it per-say… I just don’t like where you put it. Can we place (hide) him here on this wall instead?” No luck. 

One hole was already drilled for the screw and Chris would be damned before he drilled another, so I lay my sword to rest and did my best to block Charlie from my mind. We rarely use the V-berth these days anyway, what’s the harm in leaving him there?

Weeks went by where our newest stowaway hang on our bulkhead, ignored by me and adored by Chris. I noticed our fur-baby Cleo stopped frequenting the V-Berth bed, her favorite space in the boat since it is darker, smaller, and filled with soft blankets. “What’s wrong girl, not a fan of Charlie either?” I asked, petting her soft head while her chunky little body nuzzled close to me and plopped down in my lap. 

We said our summer goodbyes as fall’s frigid daybreak kissed our lips leaving them cold and chapped. As much as I love summer, fall is very special to me. It meant winter was around the corner and I could wear my favorite layered clothing, sip warm drinks, bake to my hearts content and best of all watch my favorite Spooky movies like the Shining, Hocus Pocus and best of all Rocky Horror which Chris has banned viewing until at least October since if it were up to me, there would be a weekly showing. 

Chris had been gone on a video shoot, one of his first gigs this year since COVID wiped out all of his previously scheduled work. I was thrilled that he was working again but missed him dearly at home. Lucky for me, Cleo is great at keeping me company. She purred almost as loudly as our Perkins 4.108 Diesel Inboard, her whole body vibrating as she laid next to me in our bed. She soon got up, stretched and jumped to the floor with a loud *THUD* and pitter-pattered off to the bow.   I dozed off to dreamland…

Meeeeeeeeow…. meeeeeeeow…. HISS

I’m awake! Jolting up from my solid sleep state I was discombobulated trying to get my bearings. Chris is gone. I am home on the boat. Cleo is… where is she? I reached for my phone which was at the foot of our bed. 30 percent? My charger must be broken. It was four past midnight, my eyes were heavy and mouth was dry. I stumbled around the cabin trying to turn a light on. Where are my contacts? I thought I put the case here. Maybe Cleo knocked them off the table... I continued to fumble about trying to find my contact lenses but admitted defeat when heard Cleo Hiss again from an unknown location. Fine, glasses it is. Now where are they… *CRUNCH* 

“Oh son of a B-“ blood dripped from my foot as I lifted the culprit of my wound. Well, found my glasses. I placed what was left of my mangled glasses to my face, making use of the right lense which was the only one not smashed to smithereens. I’m just sporting the classic Pirate fashion, One Eyed Willy style I made myself laugh with that thought. The Goonies is one of my favorite films. 

Doing my best to collect the glass from my broken spectacles I dumped the shards of the left lens into the trash then made my way to the Head (our bathroom) to clean my wound. A short trail of blood followed me as I limped to the first aid kit, trying to get a bandaid on the bottom of my foot. Meeeeeeeow! “Cleo I hear you!” Where on earth did she get stuck now? Thinking about all the odd places I have found my fluffy companion before I started to check the usual hiding spots. What the hell? The lights not working…  after flicking the Lightswitch on and off (3 times for good measure) I stepped back to our Nav station that houses our control panels. That’s odd… it says we should have power…  

Once again making use of what I had, I grabbed a head lamp and began searching for my Cleo. I felt like Indiana Jones as I crawled around on my hands and knees searching every dark “cave” and “crevasse” aboard for the source of the meowing. Hiss… My throat got drier each time I called out to Cleo. Did I swallow cotton before bed? Sheesh!  “There you are!” Cleo was hunched into a tiny scared ball when I found her hiding in the open chain locker at the bow. “Come here baby, I got you…”

Reluctantly Cleo crawled out from the chain locker, into my arms, digging her claws into my shoulder. “OW! What’s that for!?” I pulled Cleo away from me to see if she showed any signs of remorse for Injuring me, but instead of a sorry look her yellow eyes were wide, fixed on what laid just over the shoulder she had sank her tiny daggers into.

The teak interior of Avocet makes it extra dark at night, and despite our many renovations to make our floating home a bit more modern and bright, times like these made me feel like we were in a cave. My headlamp illuminated the walls as I examined what could possibly make Cleo so tense which is when my lamp settled on Charlie.

“SHIT!” I gasped, as I jumped back into the V berth, hitting my head on the ceiling. Cleo jumped from my arms and ran towards our stateroom where I can only assume she balled up on my pillow. “No wonder she was scared, I forgot you were here Charlie.” The wooden heads eyes drew me in again as my headlamp stayed fixated on the wall mounted heirloom. 

Adrenalin rushed through me; a minor injury, broken glasses, and a near panic attack later I decided it was best to try and get some sleep. It was 1:00 am and although I was far from tired I needed my rest so I could finish my assigned boat projects the following day. I was half way into bed when I swallowed and realized my mouth was still dry. I reached for my glass sitting on my bedside table, just to tip it back and have no water pour out. Of course. 

Once again I crawled out of bed, carefully not to disturb my slumbering cat. I brought my water glass to the galley where I turned the faucet on, still in the dark. My glass was half full when the water pump started sputtering tonight is not my night! I thought, knowing that we were in fact out of water. Taking a sip from my half filled glass I let the liquid coat my course through like a thick honey dripping from the hive. I felt relief, but a strange after taste became prominent. Clean the water tanks, add it to the project list I thought, as I made my way back to bed for hopefully the last time.

*THUD* are you kidding me!? Not 20 minutes after my head hit my pillow I was woken again by a loud noise of something hitting our floor boards. I reached above my head, Cleo was still curled up sleeping. 

Weird. I’ll deal with whatever that was in the morning. 

*Tap* *Tap* *Taaaaap* one eye open, I tried to think critically about what could be tapping against our wall. It was inside, and sounded like it was coming from the forward part of the boat. One silver lining of poor vision is having better-than-average hearing, a gift and a curse in instances such as this. I had no idea what the source of the noise was, so I grabbed Chris’s pillow and buried my head beneath it, trying to drown out the noise. 

*Scratch* “Cleo, stop that” *Scratch* “I MEAN IT!”* Scratch* “alright cat, listen here I- “ Cleo sat alert above me, her tiny head cocked to the side questioning why she was in trouble. “Oh, sorry sweetheart. I thought you were scratching the w- *Scratch* – wall…” 

Slightly terrified by the noises coming from inside my floating home I mustered up (quite literal) blind courage to locate the nuisance and eliminate it. I put on my half-useful-glasses, headlamp, and started to investigate. Everything seemed to be fine, the lights were still not working but I thought I could deal with that and the water in the morning. I walked towards the bow, the floor boards squeaking  with every step.

As I approached the bow I froze dead in my tracks. I couldn’t physically step any further, an invisible force was holding me back, but not allowing me to turn around and go back to bed. I was there, suspended in my progress forward, facing the open V berth door. I noticed how inside the v berth was darker than usual, the open door making it look like the inside of a mouth.

My eyes were drawn to the floor. Okay, okay, that’s not weird at all! No there must be a logical explanation for this.. My mind raced to find a reason why on earth Charlie’s creepy head would be on the floor, 4 feet away from where it hang above the v berth bed. I reached forward, released from my invisible forcefield, picking up the mahogany man, bringing him to my face so we could see eye to eye. You know I never like you. 

“I know” I dropped Charlie back to the floor and jumped, beyond startled, and swung my head around to see who said that. Marissa, no one is home but you and Cleo. It’s just us. Just your imagination. You’re scared. It’s dark. You’re sleepy. Feeling a little crazy, I picked Charlie back up and shoved him under the V-Berth pillow as if the anonomous voice came from his wooden mouth. I sat awake in my bed with Cleo on my chest, just wishing Chris was here.

I must have managed to drift off to sleep because when morning came I was rudely awoken by the light piercing through our stateroom hatch, directly into my face. It was a beautiful day, and despite my night I was well rested. I searched for my contacts, finding them under a pile of clothes. With my vision restored I looked at the bottom of my foot to inspect the minor wound and was pleasantly surprised to find no remaining glass or even any sign of a cut at all- weird. 

Maybe it was all a dream I thought as I inspected the floor for my own blood, a sign that last night happened. The floor, although needing to be refinished, was clean. My glasses were missing which was odd since I had set them on the shelf next to our bed, as always. 

Cleo was meowing for me to fill her bowl with breakfast, so as a good human servant I did just that. “Weird night, huh Cleo?” Her yellow eyes shined as they looked up at me. With everything else pointing towards last night being nothing but a vivid dream nightmare I had to check one last thing for reassurance. 

Charlie was not hanging on the wall. He was not under the pillow either. Had I dreamed his entire existence? There was no hole where the head was mounted, without my permission, so perhaps it was all just one weird dream nightmare. 

Chris would be arriving home today so I began cleaning up to shield myself from his ridicule of comparing my to a raccoon in his absence. It’s true though, I don’t really take care of myself when he’s not home and resemble the lifestyle of a raccoon or trash panda as we call them. That afternoon my darling husband came home just in time for dinner. After he settled in we began the routine of filling each other in with what we missed while apart. As I was serving Chris his second helping of dinner, he nearly jumped out of his seat as he exclaimed “Oh! I almost forgot!” To his bag he went, pulling something out and holding it behind his back. “I have a surprise for you!” 

There we were, standing in the Galley with my hands extended out waiting to receive the gift Chris was so thrilled about. Soon My heart sank and I felt sick. Oh I wish I could have mirrored his excitement, but from behind his back he placed in my palms a cold wooden head with soulless eyes. As I stood frozen in fear I fought the urge to drop the head to the floor. 

From my sweet husbands lips he said “I named him Charlie” and in that moment chills crawled up my spine like spiders, searching for their next victim caught in their carefully constructed web intended for nothing more but murder. As I screamed inside my head, I could have swore the dark mahogany eyes winked at me right before I passed out cold into Chris’s arms. 

Charlie is hanging in our V-Berth, above where our guests would lie their head as a permanent stoweaway aboard Avocet. Upon request, I will happily tape over his eyes to ensure nothing but the sweetest of dreams for the V-Berth visitors. Happy Halloween everyone, stay safe and stay spooky!

– Marissa N.

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