There were several scenes in the first draft of Shipbuilder that did not make it in the final cut. Many of these were scenes about Thomas Andrews. There are so many anecdotes about him, and I wanted to include them all. But the poor book was just too long. Even with many of theses scenes cut out, the book is still too long for the comfort of traditional publishers.
But! You lucky people still get to read those scenes, here and now, on this blog. They might be journal entries, like Saturday’s post. Or like this one, they are simply scenes from the story. They might not be absolutely necessary to the plot, but they do reveal more about Thomas Andrews, and that’s what I like about them.
As separate little stories, I’m giving them titles. Hope you enjoy them.
Tom whistled to himself as he straightened the office before leaving on Saturday. Horn-blow had been about an hour ago and most of the workers were gone. He liked the early closing time on Saturdays, when the din of steel molding, rivet casting, carpentry, boiler-making, and a hundred other activities were all stilled. If he walked through the yard at this time, and he often did, he could let his imagination hear the newborn spirits of the ships being built.
He often referred to the ships as his children – people laughed and he always let them, but truth be told, he really felt that way. Sure, a ship was just an assembly of iron, wood, and mechanical or electrical parts. But people didn’t understand how it was – starting with pencil to paper in the attempt to put life to an idea, and then bit by bit, moment by moment, gathering material, making what was needed, putting it all together, creating it – the ship not only took shape under his direction, it literally came to life at some point. A living entity. They were all different, with distinct personalities, and he could swear, with their own desires, as well. For every one of them, the biggest desire was for water, for the chance to sail and be what they were built to be. It wasn’t scientific, but it was true. And in a secret part of him, he felt they were all his.
He walked out there now, his boots causing an echoing plank! as he wandered around. Part of the walk was supervisory. Had the men in each department left their area tidy and clean? Strictly speaking, this wasn’t his responsibility, but someday it would be, and for now, it suited his sense of belonging to the yard.
Most of the walk was for meditation, and he liked to imagine it as a type of symbiosis. He had often seen his father do the same at Ardara, just walk around, be there, see everything and let everything see him. Not the people – rather, the land, the river, the flora and fauna all observing the human who belonged in that place. This is what he did at the yard, just walking, observing and being observed, most especially by the embryonic ships. Like children with their father, they learned who he was, that he took care of them and was responsible for them. Also like children, the relationship continued even after they left home – at any port in the world, he could step onto a ship he had built and feel it. If it were just his imagination, well then, he was content with that.
The Adriatic rested comfortably in its gantry, a silent, majestic shape against the sky. Her fitting out was proceeding nicely, but next week he needed to work a bit with the carpenters and go over some details on some of the furniture orders. Casey had mentioned a problem with the latest order, and he wanted to double-check on the detailing for the wardrobes in the first class cabins.
He smiled briefly at the thought of Casey. The lad was working out incredibly well; it would be nice if he could stay on. Really bright kid, funny too, although a little odd. Not anything you could put your finger on, just kind of quiet and maybe more mature than you’d expect. Didn’t talk much about himself. But always good for a joke or seeing the humor in a situation. Tom liked that in a person.
He stared thoughtfully at the Adriatic for another minute, then shrugged and stretched, loosening his back, before turning to leave the silent shipyard. He had a cricket game in Comber and then out to Ardara to see his parents.