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by Mac1
Rated: E · Novel · Action/Adventure · #2180832
Story of 3 boys escaping an orphanage and their adventures
C H A P T E R 15

Once again I was at sea , my heart was content by my own accord as I danced with the rocking of the ship. No plans except my duties, no distractions barring my own thoughts. With the exception of what I was carrying in my cabin , I felt as I did on my first voyage at sea, like Columbus or Marco Polo seeking adventure. We chartered a course crossing the Atlantic , first stop would be Porto, Portugal, then Bilbao, Spain and then Le Havre, France for off loading predominantly coffee beans and sugar. Afterwards we would be stopping at Ostend, Belgium and then the final leg to Bremen.

That evening after my shift in the Navigation room, I went back to my cabin . I decided to relax and ponder my thoughts for a while before going for dinner. First I was thinking about Rose , how could she be so phony , I was so confused. Then I looked at my bag , I took a deep breath and exhaled. Inside were the tickets to freedom for former Nazi officers seeking refuge in Brazil. I didn't really know the people that these documents were going to be gifted to , nor the reasons they did what they did. I remember not long ago being a child and hearing the adults speaking of the Germans and the bombings, and I also remember the destruction of families due to this war. So many people died and suffered. Why ?

It seemed to me the problem begins when people loose respect for one another, for whatever reasons. Life is full of hardships that many people cannot endure or accept, and ultimately we find something or someone to blame. And then we start fighting, like children, or worst , like mobs of evil spirits seeking our own justice. And we move from one war to another war, only changing it's name. But the reason stays the same , the inability to treat others as you would like them to treat you in return. Being human is a flawed existance. The universe is perfect , we are not. We are here to make our mistakes and accept our imperfections. Our salvation is only found by helping others before ourselves. Once the cycle of evil starts, the only thing that will stop it is forgiveness and kindness. Too many of us forget until the damage has already been done. It is important for all of us to maintain integrity within ourselves and respect for others. Once a person looses the ability to do so, then problems and disputes arise. Clearly, the war was evil , however, can we blame only a select few ? Can one truly state what induced the Lords children to create and establish the atrocities this blessed earth confronted during WWII. Is it right when a child steals another's toy ? If it is not corrected the child will continue to behave unjustly. And ultimately friction and bad behavior will arise and develop. The saying " Two wrongs don't make a right " is correct. Turning one's cheek may be considered just by some. However, turning one's cheek is too easy and not enough, one must teach and communicate by one's actions in order to prove their personal valor. My opinion is that initially the cause of the War was instigated by economic hardships and personal frustrations. This brought an opportunity to bring out the forces of evil, and specifically the perspective of being superior. The only superior beings are the ones that are willing to sacrifice themselves for others. There were also some good people amongst the German soldiers, I remember Patrik very well. He was following orders from his superiors and he was just as much a prisoner of evil as I was a prisoner, and he chose to risk his safety in order to save the lives of 3 young boys. We are all different and unique and we are here to help and learn from and with one another. There is good and evil in all of us . It is up to us to choose which to follow, and at that moment in time, the combined forces of evil overtook that of the forces of good. So we should all learn and remember to not allow that again. Finding Domenico and Elisetta in my life has taught me that their goodness will stay with me forever, and I intend to keep it with me and share it. And most importantly, when a person is in need, teach them to stand on their own feet. God helps those who help themselves.

I felt appeased during my first days on this new voyage , I spent my days plotting and changing course as per the Captains requests. I was really enjoying following the Captains orders and assisting with Navigation, I felt like a real seaman. However, I was having difficulty sleeping at night. I had the constant thought of the passports on my conscience and as a result I was keeping mostly to myself. That night at 3 AM I was wide awake so that I could not sleep. I was confused and trying to listen to my conscience , was it right to carry these passports ? Was Rose truly in my life only to assist with my taking this mission ? what would Domenico and Elisetta say to advise me. So I decided to write in order to explore my mind.

The Angry Young Man

He opens his eyes ,
the sun is high in the sky.
He is burdened with thoughts from last eve
that have kept him from dreaming.

Why is it we are captivated,
when classmates are wicked.
Do you like what you see,
are you inclined to the powers that be.

Your heart is Good,
but your friends are all deceivers,
and your eyes see nothing but cheaters.

Feel who you are !
hold on to your heart,
grab hold and be Bold !

The seeds you plant today
will take you far away.
Be true to yourself and find your own destiny.
For once you have arrived, you will realize ,
the greatest gift is the one you create and appreciate..

I was content with it and added it to my box of poems , went to bed and this time I fell asleep.

The following morning at breakfast I decided to sit close to the crew master. He was speaking of the new cargo container technology where cargo would first be loaded into steel containers and then loaded and stacked onto the cargo ships by crane. The idea did seem fascinating. I asked him " How will we keep track of what is going in each container " He answered me " well, that is a good question. From what I understand there will be some containers that are actually loaded at the manufacturing plant and transported to the terminal by truck. Then the crane loads it into the vessel". then I asked, " what about for smaller shipments where the client would not need to use a whole container". He answered " In those cases the containers would be loaded at our terminals according to the ultimate destinations". I was fascinated by the idea as it seemed that it would make cargo transport much more organized and efficient. The Captain walked in " Good Morning men ". We all stood up and greeted him " Good morning Sir ". The Captain said with a concerned look " I'm sorry to cut short your breakfast, however, we have a weather front coming in and we need to prepare. Emmanuel, Hans and Marco, please report to the bridge. My first mate is not feeling well this morning and I should like to have some breakfast before the seas start getting choppy. Crew master, please appoint your men to batten down the ship as we are going to have gale winds from the northeast starting around 1400 hours. Make sure the cargo is secured".

Emmanuel, Hans and I reported to the bridge as instructed. The communication officer Victor was at the helm , he looked at us " I hope you boys have strong stomachs, have a look at the weather chart. I sat at the navigation table and noticed the concern, the Low pressure was very strong and the pressure gradient lines were very close together, I had not seen them this close before. Victor said, "Marco, plot a westerly course so we can try and go around the back of this storm". I immediately got to work. Then Victor continued " Hans, I've already set our course to west, await Marco's coordinates and adjust accordingly. I need to go to the radio room and send our position and course back to Hamburg Sud headquarters". Victor started towards the door and said " Emmanuel, come with me I will need your assistance updating the weather charts".

My preliminary calculations had us traveling pretty much directly west as fast as we could make possible. I said to Hans " Hans, set us at 285 degrees and full speed while we can. We need to try and get away from the strength of this Low Pressure. I see winds of 65 knots and upwards possible, that would make for some pretty big waves, the likes I've never seen". We all worked swiftly the next few hours, the waves intensified and the howling wind was making it's appearance as the Captain came back to the bridge around 13:00 hours. " Good Afternoon gentlemen " as he entered. Hans and I replied " Good afternoon Sir ". He walked over to the helm " I see we are still heading west" , then looking at me " has the storm made any significant shifts since this morning ?". I replied , it's moving in the same south easterly direction, however, it seems to have gained strength, currently winds at the center are around 75 knots". The Captain said " let me see the latest weather chart Marco ". So I brought it to his desk and he placed it down looking at it intensly. Looking at me he said " you plotted correctly Marco, this is an intense Storm and could gain even more strength. We are going to loose a lot of time, however, this vessel would not be able to handle the 50 foot waves close to the center of this low pressure". Looking at Hans " So Hans, maintain course , however, you will need to slow us down once the waves get stronger, actually, I think that is already upon us so bring us down to 12 knots". Looking at me again " Marco, let Victor know we are slowing to 12 knots and maintaining course". Then he continued " Looking at this chart, the storm will continue south and I intend to get out of it's way".

It was 16:00 hours and the ship was climbing massive waves as we appeared to fly over the crest, only to fall back down with our bow submerging into the immense existence of blue. Even during it's tempestuous state , the sea continued to allure me. As if I were there to tame it's enraged wrath. Unexpectedly, updated weather data was received and I quickly proceeded to plot a new chart. It appeared the Low had now shifted course to the west. I suddenly felt a knot in my stomach , I knew our vessel could not outrun the storm. I alerted the Captain " Captain, I have the updated weather charts ready". " Bring them over " he said. He looked over the chart and pouted his lips " Men , we are going to be in for a rough 12 hours. Hans , change course to west south west and maintain 12 knots ". Hans followed the Captains orders and we were all getting quite tense as the ship was being turned around in the intensly agitated sea. The waves started slamming into our starboard side and the ship shuddered at each blow. We maintained course until the ships bow was being submerged with each wave. We ccould no longer attempt to out run this storm and the Captain shouted " Hans, move us around towards east quickly as possible ". Our hope was to be as far south of the eye of this storm as possible. Soon the waves were crashing portside right over the bow. With each blow the ship seemed to list portside, and then lean into the next wave starboard. The ship was being thrusted in all directions, we were no longer able to receive any communications. The Captain was standing right up to the glass trying to look into the oncoming waves. Visibility was very poor with the constant spray making the wipers useless. Up and then quickly dropping towards portside , back and forth, side to side, the ship was clearly now governed by the sea". A large wave overwhelmed us on starboard , it seemed to go right over the ship, and the subsequent swell quickly shifted the ship and nearly lied us on our portside. We all fell over and a lot of water had entered the bridge. This time the ship did not seem to snap quickly back into place". The Captain pulled himself over to the controls " we need to turn into the storm, another wave like that and we will turn over". Quickly he turned the rudder and did his best to point the ship east into the oncoming waves. Then he shouted " Marco , get a hold of the engine room, I need to know how much water we have taken on. Tell them to pump out the portside chambers first ! ". I attempted to make my way down to lower deck, the ship was swaying and jolting in all directions. An unexpected jolt caught me off guard and I fell and hit my head on a stairway railing. I sat their holding my head in pain , looked at my hand and I realized I cut myself. I got up and continued , I had not seen anyone and it was quite eerie. Once I got close to lower deck I could see the water , it was very high. I yelled out, " anyone down there ! ". I heard couple shouts back " Yes, who is there ?". I continued into the cold water and found myself waist deep. I noticed the portside chamber doors were locked and closed. I shouted to the crewman, " the Captain said to put all pumps on the portside Chamber". The crewman shouted " we locked all chambers once we saw the water coming in". He waved me on " Come with me, we need to close some valves in order to redirect the pump flow". Down below the ship did not seem to rock as violently, so we were able to move around. We diverted all the pumps to portside. I said to the crewman "stay on post and alert us if there are any changes in the water level". He replied " okay, but will you let us know if we are going to abandon ship ?". That caught me by surprise as I was not thinking of such a thing happening, however, after seeing all the water down here, that could actually be distinct possibility. I looked to him and the others " keep pumping, we are going to make it. The eye of the storm is passing well south of us , the wind will be abating soon, but we need to get the water out of the portside chamber" . He replied " there are another two pumps in the engine room, we can shift them to portside chamber, but then we risk flooding the engine room". I thought about it " switch them over to portside, we need to do get this water out quickly, we will have to take the chance". He nodded and ran off to the engine room. I yelled out " I'm going up to notify the Captain " I will be back soon ".

Once up at the bridge, the Captain could see I was out of breath and my clothes all wet, as well as bleeding on my forehead. He looked to me " what are the conditions down there ?". I took a deep breath " Captain, portside is completely flooded and all doors are locked and sealed. We have diverted all pumps including engine room pumps to portside ". The Captain looked to me " we will need to monitor the engine room, we can't afford to flood the engines. But that was a good call, if we don't pump out the portside we won't be able to sustain this much longer".
I replied to the Captain " shall I go back down below and monitor it ?". The Captain looked at my forehead " go get the first aid kit on the wall and put a bandage on your cut first " pointing to the first aid kit . We seemed to have a good approach on the turbulent sea, either the storm shifted or the Captain suceeded in turning the ship. I think the Captain may have underestimated those last swells as they nearly turned us over. The Captain asked me " how deep was the water when you arrived ". I replied as I was placing a bandage on my forehead " They had already sealed off the portside forward chambers and we were about waist deep. The engine room had about a foot of water". The Captain was worried " Marco, there are a few portable pumps down in the cargo hold, we need to get them to the engine room". Then he looked over to Hans " Hans, you go with Marco, I will man the helm". We both leaped into action and quickly sprinted for the cargo hold. I said to Hans " Do you know where these pumps are ?". He replied " Yes, there are three of them and they are quite heavy, we are going to need to find some kind of dolly or cart". I sighed " okay, well, let's go have a look around down there ".

The cargo hold was fairly dry due to all the entrances being sealed, however, the cargo was thrown about and there was damage incurred. We didn't spend time surveying the damages and focused on locating the pumps. I followed Hans as he seemed to know where they were located. Hans pointed " there behind these crates, do you see the door ?". I looked and I could see some steel doors , however, the crates were placed in front of them. We both tried to push and they were not moving. Hans looked at the crates " How are we going to move these things". We both looked around for some kind of tool. Hans found a winch with a cable, we tied one end onto the first crate and secured the winch with a steel cable to a post. And we started to crank on it, it was slow moving but the crate was moving. One by one we continued as the ship swayed. Finally we reached the doors and opened them up. Inside were the pumps, and as Hans had said, they were heavy. We looked around and found a wooden pole that was used as a leverage bar and also a couple of dollies. As I lifted one end of the pump with the leverage bar, Hans slid the dolly underneath. First one side, then the other, now we could wheel the pump around. We got as close as we could to the engine room with the pump and ran the hoses. One into the water and the other out of the ship, The crew saw us in action and quickly we told them to take the dollies from us and to go get the other pumps. Once we got the first pump pumping the engine room, I said to Hans " Hans, you continue with the crew, I'm going upstairs to update the Captain ". He nodded yes and I went off.

As I climbed the stairs I could feel the ship was listing severely , perhaps more than previously noticed. I arrived to the helm and the Captain was still at the wheel. He turned his head to me " Marco, are all the pumps working ?". I responded " One of the portable pumps are on in the engine room and the crew is placing the others in there as we speak Sir". The captain turned back to the sea view " The ship is listing quite severely, I am trying to maintain the ship portside into the waves. Otherwise, if we catch a big swell it could flip us over entirely. The only good thing is that the center of the storm is passing south of us". He paused " Go to the communications room , Emmanuel and Victor were in contact with a cargo ship to the north of us , I asked them to signal for help. Ask them if they have any update from them". I replied to the Captain " Yes, Sir".

It became clear to me that we were in danger, yet somehow I kept myself under control. I arrived to the communication room, Victor & Emmanuel were looking quite intensely into the radio. " Victor asked " What's going on down below , are the pumps on ?". I responded, the pumps are on, however, there is lot's of water portside we are pumping. I'm not sure presently. The Captain asked me if there is an update from the ship you had contacted". Victor responded " Tell him that the last communication I sent they responded that they were diverting their course to come and meet us, I gave them our position and our course. However, they have not responded since". I responded " seems we are in a predicament ". Emmanuel looked at me with a smirk. Victor responded " tell the Captain I am continuing to send out our position and course". I responded " Very well , am on my way ". I could hear the wind howling as I approached the helm , I was under the realization that if this ship did not find us, we might find ourselves using the lifeboats as this vessel could very well sink. The passports entered my mind, this would be the second time that I know of that these documents are threatened by a vicious sea. What are the chances of that happening ?". I arrived to the helm and the Captain was still in same position, turning towards me " What did you find out ?". I responded " Captain, Victor has had a reply from the vessel that they were changing their course towards our position, however, Victor has not been able to hear from them since. He has been sending out our position and course over the radio repeatedly". The Captain looked to me " the storm is passing to the south and the seas have abated somewhat , I need you to take the helm ". My eyes opened wide " very well Captain " and I walked over to him. The Captain grabbed my left arm and brought my hand to the wheel " pay attention to the angle I am approaching the waves, it's important you keep the ship pointing into the oncoming waves at this angle so we don't flip over". I put both hands on the wheel and looked out to the oncoming waves. The Captain put his hand on my shoulder and pointed out to sea " That is good, keep us in this position, I won't be long. I need to go assess the damages". I replied " very well Captain , I understand". The Captain jolted out the door and I was alone at the helm , the ship was listing into the oncoming waves and the forward section of the ship seemed very low in the water. I wondered if the pumps were strong enough to pump all this water out. And then I wondered, how did all the water enter the hull. Deep down within myself I felt everything would be alright, however, the reality that this ship would likely falter emerged quite vividly as I stood at the helm.

I held the wheel intensely as each wave collided with our bow, sometimes submerging the forward deck. The silence of the bridge was more ominous than the howling of the wind. Every minute intensifying the angst of our fate. Those passports kept dominating my thoughts, I remember placing them on the top bunk. Would I have enough time to go and get them if I needed to ...abandon this vessel. Should I attempt to save them as the previous ... couriers had. I thought about it holding the wheel into the on going waves like the Captain ordered. It was in my instinct to never give up on your commitments , I think I was just born that way. Suddenly, the door blasted open , it was Hans. I looked towards him while holding the wheel and he looked to me , we both had questions in our eyes. " Where is the Captain " Hans exclaimed. I quickly replied with a dumbfounded glance " He went down below to assess the damages , you must have missed each other". Hans looked at me " this ship is sinking, the water below is still rising with all the pumps working". I looked to Hans " you need to go find the Captain ". He looked to me " Marco, there is not much time, we should alert the crew to abandon ship ". I replied, That is the Captain's call , go find him now, I will hold the wheel".

The wind continued to howl and my time became evanescent , I wanted to leave this helm and at the same time I wanted to hear from the Captain, and he was nowhere to be seen. I stayed and contemplated my course with each wave, the darkness had masked the face of this vicious sea. My preoccupation of our missing Captain and now Hans expressing what my subconscious already knew had deluded me into overlooking the darkness was now fading. Unexpectedly I could see out to the horizon as the light of dawn gave it's first glimpse. And almost instantaneously, the engines lost power and quickly the ships lights flickered and all went dark. I could now clearly see the new dawn as the sky went from black to deep blue , and consequently, also the ships bow on the verge of submerging. Then I looked out and I observed in the distance what appeared to be a small boat, I looked more intensely , and then I saw another. I ran out to have a better look and I could see our life boats were all off the ship. In a state of panic, I ran and abandoned the helm. First I ran to see if Victor or Emmanuel were in the communications room. The room was empty. My next thought was to get to a life boat, and then the passports came into my head. I had to go below to my cabin and try to get them and also my box of poems. I found a flash light in one of the drawers and then ran aft as not only was the ship above water level there, but my cabin also was located aft in lower deck. As I made my way towards aft I could not find any available life boats left on board. My instinct was to attend to that issue after I retrieved my bag. I entered the ship by starboard aft entrance and made my way down to the cabins , it was very eerie as I ran down each level as I could not see or hear anyone , then I could hear the sound of water as I approached my cabin level. There was at least three feet of water, and it was cold. luckily my cabin was aft and I did not need to wade through the water very far. My door was open and the bag with my belongings was where I left it, on the top bunk, luckily the safety net held it from falling to the floor.. Quickly I grabbed it and put it on my back. With the flash light in one hand and holding the bag in the other, I waded through the hallway as fast as I could. Suddenly, there was a loud blast. The floor beneath me shook and I fell to one knee. As I continued towards the stairs I could see the water starting to move, the ship was shifting. As I climbed the stairs and got out of the water, I heard a deep sound, it was the stress on the ships metal bending. I knew I had to get myself off this ship quickly. Once I arrived to the Aft deck, my instincts were to see if there were any life boats left, first portside and then starboard. I noticed the bow was now underwater , and now saw for myself the ship was indeed sinking. I grabbed a life ring that was strapped to the ship railing and I ran to the rear of the ship. I looked out to sea and I could not see anyone. As far as I could see, all life boats were gone. I had never felt so helpless in all of my life. Suddenly I remembered the storage bin on the top deck marked " inflatable raft " , I always passed by there without thinking about it. I grabbed my bag and made my up the stairs to top deck and there was the cabinet, it was still closed and locked. Where was the key ? probably back at the bridge I had thought. There was no time and I remember the axe mounted on the wall near the air well. Quickly I went to get it and came back to the storage bin, gave a solid look to the pad lock and took the back side of the axe and slammed the lock bracket with all my might. It did bend , so I took a deep breath and gave it another blow, and then another, finally it broke open and I was able to open the cabinet. Inside was a green bag zippered up marked " life raft" and another bag marked " survival pack " and also an air tank with a hose. I brought everything down to the main deck and I proceeded to inflate the raft with the air tank. It only took a short time to inflate the raft and I gave it a quick look over , it wasn't large but it would have to do. I took a rope ladder and tied it to the side of the railing , then I grabbed a rope and tied it onto the raft. I lowered the raft into to the ocean, hand over hand until the raft was floating and rocking in the waves. Well, this was it, I needed to leave the ship before the sinking would accelerate , so I grabbed everything and strapped it on my back. Tied the rope holding the raft around my waist and over the railing I went climbing down the ladder, very carefully I made my way down. Once I got close to sea level I put my arm around the rope ladder so I could pull the raft as close as I could. The sea was moving the raft and I waited for the right moment to make the transfer when the raft would be at its closest point. It was not an easy task as my instincts were telling me not to leave the large ship which was keeping me out of the rough seas. It seemed as a long moment in time, however, my subconscious grabbed a hold of me as the raft approached again , I let go of my instincts and I jumped. I landed and actually made it into the life raft with all my belongings. I sat up and gathered all my things and secured them as best as I could, the raft started moving quickly away and down the ship line. I was mesmerized by the site of the large vessel with its nose submerged, one does not fathom the possibility of sinking such a large object when it is floating on water. It appears to float as naturally as the birds that fly over the sea. However, apparently I could now see there is a little more involved in making steel float on water.

I sat up in the raft for a while pondering my current situation , I looked around , there was nothing but turbulent water around me. It was difficult to lookout as the waves would lift the raft and then drop us down blocking my view . All I could see were waves of water as I held onto the raft. Each time I looked toward the vessel it appeared smaller , and finally it disappeared over the horizon as I drifted with the swift waves and current. Soon I was alone at sea with my best new friend, raft. I lied down and was looking up to the sky as I had given up on seeing anything at sea. From the last calculations , we were a little over 600 miles west-south-west of the Canary Islands. I pondered if that cargo vessel would appear in my view, I did have some flares in the emergency survival kit. I looked up at the Clouds and wondered how I got into this position, my life in danger, but I was not afraid. I closed my eyes and I prayed. I must have fallen asleep as suddenly I felt the warmth of the sun on my face, I opened my eyes and I could see the sky appearing from the through the dissipating clouds. The waves finally abated and the raft and I were now drifting a bit more peacefully. The perilous storm had passed, and now I could concentrate on my troubles. I had enough drinking water for maybe 3 or 4 days, there was a life raft food ration can in the emergency survival kit as well, I had no idea what was in there and I hoped I would not need to know. The sky was now clear and I could see far into the horizon , it was hard to believe that a storm of such magnitude to sink a vessel had passed by here not long ago, and now the sea was calm and serene. I looked and I looked, there must be a vessel out there somewhere. I remember all the ships I would see while working on the vessels, I remembered the time I spotted the..refugees. And now I truly understand how they had felt. It was becoming a possibility that I may not survive this ordeal, and my very short life could end abruptly. My only consolation was that I followed my own desire, to travel the oceans and see the world.

Dusk was approaching and the face of the ocean was changing as the sky darkened, Luckily the moon was out and it provided some light, but it was really dark. I hoped to see some lights in the distance, but there was not. At this time I was becoming a little thirsty and I thought to take some water, I looked at the bottle, and then I held off. I decided to wait till morning. I was becoming tired but I did not want to sleep, I kept on looking out for any glimpse of a light over the horizon. I laid back a little and leaned my head on the raft, still looking out. My eyes wanted to close and I sat up again, I peered and squinted looking for a reflection, nothing, just pitch black. My only consolation was to see the trail on the sea of the moons reflection, and then I thought of the night I had spent with Rose when we were on the lifeguard chair.

My next moment of consciousness occured as the sun was showing it's morning glow approaching the new day. At first I was relaxed and then as I became alert I realized I had slept the night, here in this raft all night long without looking out to sea for my survival ship. I hoped I did not miss my chance, but I would never know.. I could not let that happen again. I sat up and started looking into the survival kit, there was canned water, a knife, a whistle, some flares, couple blankets, hats, a compass, a fishing kit, a bucket, a hand pump, a mirror, a small tarp, a first aid kit and, a battery operated signal beacon. That was a good find I thought to myself , and then I looked at the food rations in the cans. Well, I was indeed hungry now, so I opened one. There was some dried food bars of some kind and I took a bite out of one and started to chew. Well, it was better than nothing. Soon the sun was rising overhead and it became quite strong, I had to cover myself up to avoid burning and dehydration. I looked out towards the horizon and saw nothing but open sea. I looked at the compass and decided to see if it worked, I could now see which direction was north. It did not do me any good as I had no power to move this raft in any direction. I knew I was drifting with the current, and likely heading back towards south America where I came from , which was a long way. My only hope was to find another vessel to rescue me. I wrapped myself with my blanket and squinted my eyes out to sea.

The day moved slowly, I had lot's of time to my own thoughts and found myself back at the orphanage. I remember pretending with my friends and believing we were pirates. I remembered one time I fell in the mud while playing and ruined my clothes, the sisters were so angry with me when I returned to the dormitory. They made me take my clothes off and told me to wash them outdoors at the drinking fountain that was used for the farming animals. My friends all went inside and I was left alone in my underwear, I felt so alone. But I did what I had to do and hung my clothes out to dry. Now, looking back, I wondered what it would have been like if I had had a mother. She probably would have scolded me and sent me to my room, and then she would have washed my clothes and given me some new clean clothes and maybe something good for dinner too. Perhaps that night she would have tucked me into bed. Oh well, for me, I quickly learned that life on this planet was hard and that I had to take care of myself in order to survive. And here I was now, alone on this raft in the middle of the ocean, going who knows where. Hopefully not the bottom of the sea. They say the Lord loves all his children, and I had faith that I was here for a reason, so I was determined to do what I had to do in order to survive.

Dusk was approaching again, I decided I would try out the beacon light tonight and tested it, it was working. I continued looking out to the vast sea, soon to be darkness. That night I found a chocolate bar in one of the survival food cans, and that was my treat. I sat in the darkness, listening to the water as it caressed my raft. The beacon light flashing slowly , I looked up to the stars, and there were so many. I looked at the big dipper and then the north star. I thought of how many people would see the north star tonight, if only they could find me in it's reflection. I rubbed my eyes with my fingers as I tired through the dark night, there were no lights over the sea and I was starting to loose hope and go to sleep. Then I thought of writing to keep awake.

Look at your hands,
what do you see.
Ten fingers free,
as creative as thee.

I touch and I feel,
my eyes fathom.
All fed by blood,
produced by my entity.

Reach into your heart,
go deep inside,
goose bumps appear,
embracing perseverance.

I feel I’m alive,
in this world I can see.
Perceiving here and now,
this soul reaching presence.

My thoughts create,
the world I envision.
The Creator provides,
my self comprehends.

Lord I am grateful,
for I can perceive.
Your love is accomplished,
and I will deliver.

C H A P T E R 16

The night passed and again I was alone at sea with my good friend raft. I was becoming complacent with my morning food bar and afternoon blanket wrap. The salt of the sea was drying my skin and I could feel my beard growing in well. Now I was a real sailor I thought to myself, If only I had a sail. The clouds were different today with very high tops and the wind started to blow a few white caps. I wondered where I was and determined that I had no idea, and frankly, I had no control over the direction of this raft. The winds calmed that night and again I lit my beacon of hope. I was loosing count of my time at sea and to be honest I'm not sure I cared, I only wanted to see something besides this endless blue sea.

Morning arrived and I looked at the usual food bar, my body was craving some meat. I thought about the fishing kit, however, how could I cook a fish if I actually caught one. I suppose I should eat it raw , what a thought. Rather than sit and watch another day of myself lost at sea, I decided to play fisherman. I was very careful with the hook and lure and gently placed them in the water and let out the line. I wrapped the line around my hand and sat back under my blanket. I really was not expecting to catch anything and I continued squinting out to sea, no signs of anything. Suddenly, I saw a gull. Swiftly I sat up and removed my blanket , the gull was circling the boat. I lost attention of the line that was drifting maybe 50 feet away until the gull dove into the water, and forthwith came out of the water with a fish in his beak. So much was going on in my mind and with much excitement I started to bring in my line, much to my surprise, I felt a tug. And then a pull, and so I pulled back and started to reel in the line, hand over hand. I lost track of the gull in the excitement as I pulled the fish into the raft, it bounced around vigorously and I decided to put him into the bucket that came with the survival kit. I held the fish by it's gills and gently removed the hook with pliers from the kit, then placed him in the bucket. There was a small cutting board that came with the fishing kit and I placed it over the bucket. I carefully put the hook away into it's holder. The fish continued to bounce in the bucket a little while and then went limp. The gull was no longer in sight. I looked as far as I could see and nothing in sight. Either there was a vessel around or I was near land, my hunch was another vessel had to be in the area. My only hope is they were moving closer to me.

I sat back the rest of the day and contemplated my water rations, I was so thirsty and had to have a little more than I should have. Dusk was soon to arrive and I had no sight of any vessel, I had hoped to see my friend the gull, and neither occurred. I was quite hungry after all the excitement and my thoughts were on the fish I had caught. I uncovered the bucket and there he was, I carefully took him out and washed him with sea water. Placed him on the cutting board and carefully handled the knife that came with the kit, slicing his belly and removing the inners. Removing his head and tail and fins, and finally his skin. The flesh was white and fresh, I separated the flesh from his spine and then washed it. I looked at it and it actually was appetizing to my stomach. Without even thinking about it I sliced it and put it in my mouth and chewed. It actually was good and I swallowed without thinking anything of it. I was hungry and followed my instinct. And I slept well that night with my beacon light on and one eye open. I dreamed of the gull and thanked him for the fish I ate , I hoped to share another fish with my new friend soon. I completed the night with a new poem thinking of my new friend. Yearning to see him soon.

Steadfasting forward,
wind thrusting aft.
I've pondered this vast sea,
an old man I've come to be.

I've learned many things,
on my course of destined fate.
Our best friends have wings,
once realized, its too late.

This voyage without meaning,
each day holding course.
A gull streaming starboard,
catching breezes , without remorse.

So far from land,
the gull followed in flight.
This sea so grand,
diving swiftly , catching delight.

Day after day the gull followed,
jointly providing companionship.
Creating time as sun and clouds melded.
gliding starboard , as one with my ship.

The following day there was light rain , I was concerned that water was getting in the raft, until my lips tasted the fresh water. There was a small tarp in the survival kit and now I understood what it was for. I stretched it out and funneled the water from the tarp into the bucket, and that was a great sight to see. I sat there smiling with my arm stretched and catching as much water as I could. As long as the clouds would provide rain, there would be drinking water, and as long as I could catch fish, I would have food. It was a promising feeling, however, I really wanted to have a vessel of any kind find my path. The rain stopped and so I carefully took the empty water jugs and filled them with the water I was able to recover.

The days and nights passed, I'm not sure how many days or weeks I was drifting at sea. My original rations were gone and I was surviving on rain water and raw fish from the sea. I was happy to be alive and determined to survive. Every morning I prayed, and every evening as well. I knew the Lord was with me and this was not the end of what he intended of me. My spirit was strong, however, my body was growing weak. Each day that passed I felt older and feeble. My soul held my faith, however, my body sensed it's fate. One morning, I lied back with my fishing line in hand and my eyes closed, listening to the waves riple along the raft as we glided this perpetually changing glass ingress curtain between water and air. This raft was my savior, how much longer would it hold my fate. Suddenly, I heard something move and instinctively squinted my eyes open, something standing on the rafts edge, my vision was blurred and I focused, it was the Gull ! at first I thought I was hallucinating so I opened my eyes wider and placed my hand on my forehead covering the sun's glare. I stayed still for as long as I could and the bird just stood there, turning it's head occasionally. I wondered if it was the same gull I had seen previously, it was a long time I had not seen him. Why did he come back I was thinking , he doesn't need me for food. I wanted to sit up but I didn't want to scare him away, I was enjoying his company. And then a break into my reality sounded, a loud horn blasted. At first I was shocked , I pulled myself up and I watched the gull fly off , and there it was , a fishing boat. My salvation.

Although my body could barely sit up , I felt young again, as being reborn. I was gifted a chance to live again. I felt a happiness in my heart that only my blessed Lord could understand. And the horn blasted again, and I could see at least 3 men waving at me. And I waved back , with all my might and heart. The vessel came closer and I could hear one man yelling out " Salve , adesso ti tiro questa corda , c'e la fai a prenderla ?". It was an Italian fishing boat , and he threw me the rope and I grabbed on with both hands , and I would not let go until they pulled me to the ships hull. Two men climbed down to assist me, one grabbed my bag and the other tied a rope under my arm and then pulled my arm over his shoulder and all together, we climbed as the others on the vessel pulled me on board. And then I passed out.

The next thing I remember was opening my eyes in a small cabin , at first I was disoriented and I had difficulty recalling my whereabouts. I attempted to sit up, and quickly I lied back down as I was very weak. I looked around the cabin and I noticed my bag on the floor against the wall, it remained closed as I had carried it all this way. It seemed they had not searched my belongings. I placed my hand on my face and felt my long beard , it reminded me of how long I was at sea. I wondered why the Lord allowed me to survive , and then I thought, perhaps because I refused to die. And then I looked to my bag, and those passports hidden within.

There was a knock at the door, I looked over and the door slowly opened. A man walked in looking at me " I see you are awake " he said as he came over close to me. He took my wrist with one hand and placed his other hand on my forehead " I am Captain Salvatore , what is your name ?". I replied "Marco". He looked to me " you are Italian ?". I replied " Yes". He let go of my wrist and forehead " you must be thirsty and hungry, you have been sleeping for 2 days. I will call for some food and water". He opened the cabin door and looked down the hall " Carlo, portaci una minestra calda dalla cucina per favore, e una broccia d'aqua" he shouted out raising his hand. He closed the door " So, how did you get stranded at sea ?" he asked while sitting down at the desk next to my bed. " I tried to sit up and the Captain came over to help me lean up on my bed " well, our ship went down and I was able to get on board this raft as she sank ". " Was it a cargo vessel ?" asked he Captain. " Yes, we were enroute from Rio de Janeiro heading to Bremen, we encountered a strong storm. We attempted to move out of the storms path, however, .. " I paused " we were not able". The Captain looked to me " I remember hearing of a cargo vessel going down about , maybe 6 or 8 weeks ago, you were west of Capo Verde heading north going towards the Canaries." He put his hand on his chin " we found you as we were leaving the Cape of Good Hope ". He thought about it a bit " Young man , you are very lucky to be alive ". There was a knock at the door and the Captain opened the door, the crewman placed my food on the desk. The Captain looked to me " are you able to walk over to the desk ?". The crewman came over to assist and I slowly made my way to the chair with his help. I took one sip of the soup and I felt as if I had never tasted anything so good, I immediately began to devour it. " The Captain blurted out " Slowly Marco, Slowly..have some bread and chew slowly". Then the Captain paced the room and watched me eat " well, I guess I can understand, you have not had a good meal in almost 2 months, how did you survive ?" he asked. I took a break between mouthfuls " I ate raw fish and drank the rainwater that I collected ". He looked to me " you are a real Robinson Crusoe". Then the Captain said, " I will leave you finish your meal, I will check on you soon".

The next morning, the same crewman came to my room, only this time with a barbers kit. He gave me a proper haircut and removed my beard with scissors and a razor. I was starting to feel human again. I had a good breakfast of eggs and potatoes and later in the day I had my first real shower with soap. I was in my cabin later in the afternoon when I heard a knock, the door opened. It was Captain Salvatore " Marco ? " He looked at me with a smile " is it you Marco ?" . I smiled back at him " I feel like a new person " I said to the Captain " How can I repay you Captain" , and then with a serious face, I continued " for saving my life ?". The Captain looked down for a moment, and then looking at me " Marco, as much as I would like to accept your gratitude, really, this miracle you have been granted was purely up to fate " pausing " and your ability to think clearly and persevere. My gift has already been granted to me by the Lord allowing me to offer my assistance in his work, there is no other explanation needed". Then I said, " well Sir, I thank you anyway. And yes, I am also convinced I received a gift from the Lord above". The Captain nodded his head " Well Marco, you have further luck, since our fishing trip departed from Sicily, we will be returning to Sicily, specifically Palermo". I smiled " Thank you Captain, at the moment I am still contemplating the miracle of being on board your vessel, I cannot explain to you how grateful I am". The Captain continued " Do you have family in Sicily ?". I replied, not that I know of Sir". I hesitated, " I was from up north , but I have since emigrated to America and have been at sea as a crewman for some time now". The Captain replied " well, now you have a story to tell people for years to come, in any case, from Palermo you can take a ferry to the mainland, and from there ... you will decide". I replied " Thank you Sir ". The captain blurted, " stop thanking me Marco, I did what needed to be done. You would have done the same as any seaman would. At first I thought I was seeing debris from another ship, however, as we came closer, I could see a person". A tear came to my eye. The Captain continued " Well, perhaps tomorrow if you are up to it you can come up the main deck, perhaps assist at the helm". I replied excitedly " Absolutely Captain ". The Captain opened the door, " have a good evening Marco, enjoy your rest, we shall be at Palermo in about 3 days, I have to get this fish to market so we are moving at full speed".

We arrived to Palermo 5 days later , although the Captain had hoped 3 days, it was not possible. It was a good thing they had plenty ice for the fish. I said my goodbyes to Captain Salvatore whom I shall never forget and also the crew. I had been contemplating my next action during the last few days and I just could not make up my mind. Although I had just been perhaps traumatized by a life changing experience, I still had the burden of carrying these passports. I wondered if they had anything to do with my still being alive after drifting in a canvas raft for 2 or 3 thousand miles in shark infested waters for a couple months.

Anyway , I walked a bit with my bag and I quickly became fatigued and sat down. Standing on firm ground, looking out past the port of Palermo, I could see the vast ocean, of which I had just floated and drifted upon for several thousand miles. I wondered why I wanted to go back again, with this bag in hand. I knew I needed to do something with this bag, somehow God or fate brought it into my life, I almost lost my life with it by my side. So I decided to put it back into God's hands. I was going to bring it to the Vatican and leave it there for fate to decide the destiny of these passports. My mind was made up. I got up and walked over to search for a vessel going to the mainland. There was a ferry going to Naples which would leave in a few hours, so I bought my ticket.

Following morning arrived quickly as I took my bunk early and slept solidly. The ships horn sounded and I made my to the lounge , I could see Naples in the distance as the sun made it's first peek. I remember stopping here with George on our first stop after leaving Genoa. I remember Giulio very well, and the scuffle that brought us some trouble. However, it also brought us our first jobs on board the vessel and we learned some good things as a result. Sometimes things that appear to be bad, actually are good things in disguise. The important thing is to never give up and keep moving forward.

We docked, and I quickly debarked the ferry. I grabbed a coffee and sfogliatella at a local bar, oh my, this was really good. I asked the Barista " how do I find the train station ?". HE asked " where are you going Sir ?". I replied " Rome ". He pointed to the left, go to the bus stop two streets down. Tell the driver you are going to Naples Central train station". Naples was a very active place, people seemed very loud and emotional. I got off the bus at the Train Station and a little boy approached me immediately. " He said " signore, may I shine your shoes ?". I was on a mission to get these passports out of my life and I expressed a very blunt " No". He continued to follow me and eventually I thought I had to give him a coin to get him to stop following me. He then tried to grab my bag as I took it off my shoulder to take the coin out of my pocket. It was a good thing I was bigger and I held on to the bag strap firmly. He eventually ran off. I just shook my head while smirking to myself. Here I was with this bag that almost sank to the bottom of the sea twice, and now a little boy tries to steal it from me. I wonder what he would have done with it once he found those passports. Oh well, next stop would be the Termini train station at Rome.

I arrived to Rome late that night, Termini station was very large, and I was tired and felt lost. At first I was walking aimlessly as I did not know where to go. I needed a room for the night as I was very tired after my trip. I noticed a middle aged man looking at me and I walked over " are you looking for a room ?" he said. At first I hesitated , then " Yes " I answered. " Good, I know a good hostel, not too far from here, it is clean.". I nodded " How much for the night ". He answered " ten dollars , US . I can take you there now , included". I was tired, I asked " how far is it ?". He replied with a sympathetic face, " with my car it's 5 minuti ". He pointed to the door " con mia machina, andiamo". I started to walk with him. He had a Fiat 500 , after being in America this car seemed truly a bit small, however, when in Rome, do as the Romans. He put his hand out " do you have the ten dollars ?". I quickly thought about the little boy yesterday " how do I know you are going to bring me to a room ?". He frowned " va bene...give me $5 dollars now and $5 after I bring you there". I agreed and gave him the 5 bucks. Getting in the car was tricky with my large bag as I refused to put it in the "cofano" as the man was insisting I should put my bag in the front storage. I refused. Anyway, after a short drive, we arrived to Via Pannonia , I admired the old structures and the street drinking fountains everywhere. I gave the man the $5 bucks and he introduced me to the owner of the hostel at the entrance of the building. " Buona sera Tonino , questo ragazzo cerca un posto per dormire". "My name is Marco " I interrupted. Tonino waved me on and we walked up the staircase, it was a dark building, almost creepy. The sound of walking on the marble steps echoed throughout, luckily, the room was on the 3rd floor as I was very tired carrying my bag up these steps. Tonino said " over here in this door is the bathroom". Then he pointed across the hall " You sleep in this room". He walked over and opened the door , there were several beds inside, he handed me some sheets and a pillow. There was an empty one by the window, he pointed to it " Buona notte " he said. And he left.

I was so tired after my journey, I had trouble falling asleep. My body was tired but my mind would not shut itself off. I think my adventures at sea finally were catching up with me. I was going back in my mind, all the time I was drifting in that raft and struggling to survive. If I had to do it again, I don't think I would survive. There I was , glancing at almost certain death, and I felt so alone. There really was no one else in my life but God. I wanted someone to love, my Mother, my Father. But I never knew them. Domenico and Elisetta were very good people, however, we did not share a parental bond. We did not struggle a lifetime of hardships together, from birth till death. When a child is born, they are comforted by their parents love. When that child matures, they yearn to carry that love within their soul, and eventually it becomes their only gift of significance I realized that when I was stranded at sea. I would lie at night in my blanket as the waves rocked me about in the darkness, wondering what would be if my raft would fail and I submerged into the cold sea. It was as if my mind was evading reality and engaged only by mortal instinct. And in that raft I realized, although I was truly alone in this world, God my Father created me and I would hold him in my heart dearly. My earthly parent's circumstances I could not control , it was up to me to be true to myself and the Lord's intentions.

C H A P T E R 17

Morning arrived and I decided to get washed up before there was a rush for the bathroom. I found a paper bag and I packed all the passports neatly in the bag when I was in the bathroom in private. I thought in this way they would not bring much attention to others. Once I left the building, there were many shops and the first one of interest was the coffee bar, so I got myself un cornetto and a cappuccino, I was getting used to this breakfast menu. Much better tasting than raw fish and rainwater, although I'm not sure which was healthier. I asked a passerby for directions to the Vatican, I was told it was about 2 or 3 miles away, so I decided to walk. From the moment I arrived here to this city, I was intrigued. I stopped for water at the nearest water fountain, and it tasted so good and cold. What a wonderful idea, and to think they were put here hundreds of years ago and fed by the same aqueducts the ancient Romans had built millennia ago. To think of all the people that had walked , lived and died along these streets and buildings over the centuries was mind boggling to say the least. I continued my walk and finally I reached the Via del San Gregorio, and in the distance I could see the Colosseum. I wanted to go see it, but I wanted to continue on with my planned journey. I walked on up the Via dei Cerchi and raced may way passed the Circo Massimo, envisioning the ancient gladiators racing in their chariots. I arrived to the river Tevere, I noticed the Temple of Hercules and I found it an interesting structure surrounded by columns. The roof looked to me as if it did not belong to the original structure as it was very old and likely added on during the centuries past.. There was a bench and I sat to rest a little. I looked over and noticed a fountain, there where two strong men holding up a clamshell. I walked over and as I got closer, I noticed they were half men, half creature. Perhaps Merman, instead of Mermaids. The clamshell held a coat of arms, there was an eight pointed star and what appeared as a papal crown. On top the clamshell there was a mountain with water trickling out of the top of it and into the shell and overflowing into the base basin. To me it seemed they were holding up the weight of the world. A symbol of strength. The Catholic Church clearly had a strong influence in this city. I walked a little further and found the statue piece of a giant hand , I wondered what happened to the rest of the hand or statue, it must have been tremendous in size. I decided it was time to move on. I walked along the Lungo Tevere, I was surprised to see a jewish settlement close to the Vatican. I continued on , it was a long walk and finally I could see a castle. I asked someone if that was the Vatican, he replied " No signore, quello e Castel Sant' Angelo. Il Vaticano sta dal altra parte, and he pointed to the left, and I could see the Cupola, a vary large Cupola".

I ambled myself along the Via della Concilazione, I was in awe of the broad width of the street, and the pilars leading the way to the majestic cupola. As I drew myself closer, it became evident that the Vatican was colossal in size. I entered the St. Peters Square and absorbed the vast space where one could clearly view the Vatican, then I noticed the Egyptian Obelisk in the center of the square. I wondered how an Egyptian Obelisk made it all the way to Rome. Clearly this 2,000 year old city had many tales to tell. I decided to walk along the colonnade which surrounded the Piazza , A Saint stood atop each of the columns, which were erected in rows of four in depth, surrounding the entire piazza. To me this brought about a feeling of being protected by the arms of a majestic entity. It was a marriage of engineering and art at it's perfection. I sensed a feeling of Peace and benevolence within my being.

Thoughtlessly , I became conscious of the weight of the package I had been carrying all day. I looked to the front doors of the Vatican, and I felt it was time to enter. I walked towards the Basilica and followed a group of people entering, we were all in awe of the massive doors and I was resembling their same appearance as I looked up to the ceiling as I walked in. It is an incredible masterpiece of construction. I walked slowly admiring all of the artwork, there was so much to observe. I was attracted by the altar which sat under the Cupola, there were beams of light shining in providing a heavenly appearance. My curiosity drew me closer to the altar , I felt a need to kneel and pray to the Lord. I found the nearest pew to the main altar and knelt. I asked the Lord for his forgiveness and for his strength and guidance so that I could live my life in the way he intended. I prayed for the children of the world as they should not suffer for they are innocent. I thanked him for protecting me during the time I was at sea. I asked for his divine intervention so that I could assist him during my time here under his heavenly power. I raised my head and noticed a priest approaching the alter. He knelt and made the sign of the cross and then walked up the steps and placed a chalice on the altar, I suppose preparing for the next service. I stood up and walked slowly admiring all of the artworks my eyes could absorb. I came upon a bronze statue, there was a red and gold mosaic in the background. I realized the man was St. Peter siting in a marble chair , he seemed very pensive as if communicating or meditating and was clutching some keys in his right hand. They were marked with a cross and I realized they were the keys to the gates of Heaven. I bowed my head in a moment of silence. Spontaneously I walked over to a table on the side of the statue and placed the package on it. I knelt one more time and made my sign of the cross. I got up and slowly walked away, leaving the package.

I made my way back the the entrance , this time not looking to the artworks and ceilings and adornments which are everywhere. As I approached the doors I noticed the Swiss Guards standing there, motionless. I continued to walk and they appeared to not notice as I walked by them and exited the Basilica. I continued to walk slowly out of the Basilica and towards to colonnade , I felt in a sense as if I had done something wrong. I had been carrying these passports, it seemed almost an eternity, virtually risking my life as a result of their entering my life. And now after all this adventure, I was left without a closure to this predicament I arduously endured. I one sense I felt free, and in another sense, I felt it was all meaningless and a waste of my time.

I was startled by some shouting , I could not hear at first. Then again , this time it was clear " Fermatevi , Ferma ! ". And then I knew I was being called , or perhaps chased. I pretended not to hear and walked deeper into the colonnade. I tried walking briskly and tried to disappear behind the columns. And then the Swiss Guards appeared, maybe 20 meters in front of me, they placed their staffs forward without putting a word and standing still. They did not have to say anything, I knew what they meant and I had nowhere to go. I stopped. From behind I heard footsteps rushing towards me " Scusatemi ", and I turned around. It was a Priest, carrying the bag I left by the statue. He slowed his pace as he approached " Sir, you left this bag inside by the Statue of St. Peter ". I looked at the bag and did not say a word. He continued" Do you speak English ?". he asked. "Yes" I replied. The Swiss Guards were standing on my sides now. The Priest looked to the guards sternly and then he sat to me " follow me". The guards grabbed my by my upper arms and pulled me towards some closed gates. " Where are we going I said ". He did not answer and they rushed me towards the gates more aggressively. Two more guards arrived from the interior of the gates and opened them swiftly, as we entered the closed and locked them again. I shouted " Help, Help". The priest stopped. " Sir, you are carrying stolen passports inside the Vatican City, I suggest you be quiet and cooperate with us as you are safer in our hands than if you were caught outside of our authority a short distance from here. I decided perhaps I should listen.

There was a doorway to the left and one of the guards opened it with his key. As they opened the door I could see some stairs leading down into a tunnel like entrance, it was very dark going down. The further we entered, the more I felt we were in an ancient catacomb. We went down at least three long flights of steps. The steps were very long and everything was of stone and mortar, indeed this was a catacomb. We arrived into a grotto and passed by some ancient crypts with Latin markings everywhere. I think I was more frightened now than when I was stranded at sea , I did not know where they were taking me or what they had in mind". We arrived to another door, as they opened it , it appeared to more of a jail cell than a room. There were no windows nor decorations. The walls were all stone and mortar and there was a desk with some chairs. The priest pointed to a chair " please sit down ". I sat as he requested. " What is your name " he asked. I answered " Marco ". He paced around me " Marco , where did you get these passports ?". I replied " I found them at the train station ". The priest looked at my eyes incredulously with a smirk. "Marco, please let's not play games. If you had found these Passports, why did you take them with you and bring them to Vatican City ? Why did you pick them up ? most people would have just left them there where they found them or notified the local police". He Paused " Marco, I will ask again, what are you doing with these passports, who gave them to you ?". I replied quickly " I told you, I found them". He stopped in his tracks and looked to my eyes, " Marco, do you realize the penalty for possessing stolen passports ? I can turn you over to the carabinieri and they will put you away for life. I suggest you cooperate with me as I am trying to help you". I let out a sigh and released some stress. " They were given to me in Brazil and I was told to bring them to Germany ". The priest smiled, " That's better". Pausing, " And why did you being them to Rome ?". I took a deep breath " I was on a ship that sank at sea and I was stranded on a raft by myself with these passports for weeks or months, I don't remember". Then I continued in a frenzy " The passports were given to me due to my rescuing some other men that were sinking at sea while transporting these passports. I have shared a good part of my recent life with spies and agents of spies and I don't really know who or how, but somehow these passports have brought me from one state of despair to another. And now I find myself here, being questioned in the catacomb. I Paused, "May I ask you Sir , whom are these passports for ?". The priest paced handheld his chin. "Marco, now that is a story, I don't even think you could make this up if you wanted too". He looked to the guards " bring him to one of the empty Camerlengo's servants chambers for the night, he needs a bath and some food and rest. Guard his door as he is not to leave the city". He looked to me, "Marco, you need some rest, follow the guards and I will see you tomorrow morning". My name is Giuseppe.

I was led by the guards through a labyrinth of tunnel like hallways, eventually up some long staircase and into a building. They showed me my quarters and there was already a meal waiting for me. I was so hungry, I sat down and began devouring my meal. It was the best food I had that I could remember. After I satisfied my hunger, I sat back and I recalled the first night we arrived with Domenico to Elisetta's meal. It was the beginning of a good period in my life, and I was hoping this would have the same outcome. I then looked around the room, it was very simple, with high ceiling and a fixed window up close to the ceiling. I could not see out of it, nor could I reach it if I had wanted to. One could definitely meditate in prayer in this ambiance. Realizing I had no belongings with me , I walked over to the door, it was locked. I sighed and walked over to the bed and sat. I sat and pondered what my future could entail. Would they send me to jail ? Would they decide to keep the passports ? how would they ensure that I would not reveal any of this to any authorities. Then I came to the realization that perhaps they could kill me in order to keep the matter quiet. I laid back on my bed and tried to remain calm , I recalled being in the raft , not knowing what would be of me without water or food. And somehow God showed me the way. So I did my sign of the cross and prayed for protection and guidance so that I could assist the Lord with his intentions. I then dozed off to sleep. I dreamed of being back at the orphanage , Dario and Isabel and George and all the kids, we were playing. Except, we were older. We were all aboard a pirate ship seeking treasure from one island to another. Once we found the treasure, we brought it back to the orphanage, and we buried it. George made a map with the treasure location and offered Dario a copy. Dario did not want it and asked Isabel to follow him over to a tree and they sat down. George gave me the copy and stuffed it in my shirt pocket. Then the wind stared blowing and I noticed the maple seedlings flying around and I picked one up and placed it on my nose, I started running around the trees with my arms open wide as if I had wings and pretended to fly in the wind. My treasure map flew away in the wind and I did not care.

There was a knocking at the door, and I awoke. And then the door opened, it was a Swiss Guard, he brought me some clothes. Apparently I slept the entire night as I could see only by light of the sunrise through the high window. The guard informed me that Giuseppe would be here to see me shortly. I put my clothes on while the guard remained in the room. He asked me to place my old clothes in a bag he was carrying, he said they would wash them and return them to me. The door knocked again and it was Giuseppe, the Guard left and closed the door behind him. " Good Morning Marco " said Giuseppe. " Did you sleep well " he continued. I replied " Yes , thank you". Giuseppe paced around the small room and then looked at me " Marco , I reflected upon your story last evening during my time of prayer and meditation. I also did some research on your past , you are an orphan and you were accommodated at the Monastery of San Benedetto as a child". I replied " yes, that was long ago ". Giuseppe continued " It's interesting as there is a record of your entry into the facility, however, there is none of your release. Do you have any explanation for that ?". " I replied " my friends and I escaped and we made our way to America ". Giuseppe looked down and pondered my reply a bit. " Well, you certainly were brave young boys to take on such a challenge". There was a moment of silence. Giuseppe sat down and faced me " Marco, as I am getting older, my duties here at the Vatican are becoming more difficult for me to handle on my own. I am seeking, well, an apprentice. I found the idea intriguing. I asked " what would be required of me ?".
Giuseppe smiled and stood up " well, I need assistance with the management of investments, you see, the Vatican has to produce income in order to provide assistance for charities and children needing food and shelter". There were a lot of thoughts entering my mind and my reasoning was attracted to the idea. I replied " How may I assist , Sir".

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