Poseidon’s Fist.

By George Gardner

 It was quiet now. It  had not always been so, but now the darkness was total with the silence broken only by the faint creaks as the hull of the submarine slowly succumbed to the deadly press of the deep ocean. It was getting cold and there was a faint smell of deadly chlorine gas from the leaking batteries. Den held his hand right in front of his eyes but could see only blackness. He remembered.

 HMs/m Thespis had sailed five days ago from Holy Loch on the River Clyde bound for U-boat patrol duty in the Mediterranean. It was winter of 1943 and the German  and Italian boats had been very active. It was only submariner Dennis Blackwood’s second patrol and he had been highly motivated and keen to engage the enemy. The more senior crew members had maintained a rather different view, but Den was only nineteen years old and knew little of the horrors of war. His mother had cried inconsolably when he was called up for service and she had never understood why her son had volunteered to serve in submarines. He had done it primarily because submariners’ pay was enhanced by an extra shilling and he knew that his mother needed all the money he could send her.   

 The patrol had been uneventful, nothing had happened and there had been no enemy sightings, then, on the second night, they had surfaced to vent the boat and fix their position. It had been a clear though moonless night and Den had been allowed on deck for a short break. He’d lounged against one of the external torpedo tubes on the after deck and smoked a roll-up. He had been just about to go below again when the emergency klaxon had sounded. There had been a flurry of activity as the conning tower was cleared and much shouting and swearing as he and the others who were on deck were hustled below. Chief Barratt had grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and had all but thrown him down the hatchway into the engine room. A radar echo had appeared out of nowhere and there was little else it could have been but an enemy ship.

 Den had picked himself up from the deck and then had had to run almost two thirds of the length of the boat to his station in the torpedo room in the bow. Barratt had called him some colourful names and Den’s cheeks had burned with embarrassment. The boat had tilted forward as she went into a steep dive. There had still been a lot of shouting but it was more ordered as Den and his mates bent to their duty, readying the tubes for firing.

 But they never got to fire. There had come a deafening roar and the boat had seemed to leap beneath Den’s feet. He was flung through the air, tumbling through the hatch into torpedo stowage in the compartment just aft. He had landed heavily amongst the torpedo handling gear where he had lain, stunned and disoriented. He felt something trickling down his face and guessed that it was blood. His fingers gently probed a deep gash in his scalp but there was little pain. He discovered that he was trapped. His lower body was jammed between a dislodged torpedo and the metal of the pressure hull. If the torpedo slipped right off its rack it would crush the life out of him, he had quickly realised. The angle of the deck had reversed and become rapidly steeper, indicating that the submarine was now going down by the stern, and there were terrible noises from both the boat and her crew. He had tried to see around him but his view was restricted by the fallen torpedo and the close confines of the torpedo stowage compartment itself. There had been a terrific jolt and more equipment and loose fittings had hurtled across the room. He had called out but there was no response. And then the lights had gone out.
 Den wriggled in the snare of the torpedo and the damaged loading gear but he could not free himself. He yelled again but no-one replied. He felt tears sting in his eyes as terror took hold of him. He was young and inexperienced but he knew what had happened. The boat had been attacked and she had gone to the bottom. He strained as hard as he could against the bulk which pinned him but he could not make it move so much as an inch. He flopped back and sobbed. Then there was a faint light.

 “Anyone in there?” Came a hoarse call.

 Den recognised Chief Petty Officer Barratt’s voice.

 “Yes sir!” he called as strongly as he could.

 “Where are you?”

 “I-I’m not sure, sir. In the loading gear somewhere. I’m stuck”

 The light moved about and then the torch beam shone directly into his face. Den blinked as the light bored into his skull. Barratt cursed under his breath as he examined the gear and the fallen weapon.

 “Sir?” Den asked.

 “We’re on the bottom, son,” Barratt said gruffly. “Now just you take it easy and I’ll get you out of there.”

 It took a while to do. Barratt managed to rig the lifting tackle to the torpedo and then he hauled on the chains and the weapon, agonisingly slowly, lifted away from the young submariner. At last he struggled free and crawled out. Barratt looked at him and smiled grimly.

 “You’ll do,” he said. “Have you seen anyone else?”

 “No sir.”

 “Are you all right?”

 “I think so.”

 “Good lad.”

 Barratt shone the beam ahead into the torpedo room. There was a small jet of water spraying from one of the six torpedo tube hatches. He went through and tightened the locking mechanism until the jet stopped. He checked the thetis clip and then similarly examined the other tubes. The T-class boats had eight tubes forward but two of these were external and not accessible from inside the submarine. There were a further two external tubes aft of the conning tower and a single tube in the stern making a total of eleven.

 “Sir?” Den said again.

 Barratt sat down and looked at him appraisingly.

 “How old are you, Blackwood?” He asked.

 “Nineteen, sir.”

 “Family ashore?”

 “My mum and my sister,” Den replied awkwardly. “My dad died just before the war started.”

 Barratt sighed heavily and looked straight at the youngster.

 “You know we won’t be getting out of this?”  He said. “The aft section is completely flooded.”

 “What was it got us, sir?”

 “Italian frigate,” Barratt said heatedly. “How the hell we missed…… . They put a shell into us - set off one of the topside torpedoes I think.”

 “A-are we all that’s left?”

 “No. There are nine of us altogether.”

 Nine out of a total complement of sixty seven men

 “Jim Taylor, sir?”

 Barratt shook his head.

 Den flopped down on the deck and buried his head in his hands. He was nineteen years old and he was going to die.

 “I was going on leave after this patrol,” Barratt said after a lengthy silence. “See the wife and the nipper for a few days.”

 It had never occurred to Den that his superior might have had a family. He had been just an officer.

 “Little Alfie,” Barratt went on. “Just had his third birthday last month.”

 “My sister was twenty-two last week,” Den said numbly. “Dunno know what my mum’ll do now.”

 “Well, there’s nothing more we can do for them, son, and there’s nothing they can do for us now - except pray.”

 “How long’ve we got, sir?”

 “Can’t really tell,” Barratt replied. “A few hours, maybe, before we run out of air. The depth gauge reads about five hundred feet, which is far beyond her capability even in A1 shape, so the hull’s in danger of being crushed. It’s just a matter of which happens first, I suppose.”

 Den shivered. It was getting cold. There were many dangers now with the ventilation system out of action and no lighting.

 “Are you scared, sir?” He asked.

 “There isn’t man on the boat who isn’t scared – Den, isn’t it?”

 “I’m scared, sir. I don’t want to die.”

 “None of us do, lad,” Barratt said gently. “I’m afraid it’s out of our hands now.”

 Den got to his feet again and stood facing Barratt.

 “Will it…. Will it hurt, sir? He asked. “Will I know I’m dying?”

 Barratt reached out and grasped Dens’ forearm.

 “I honestly don’t know,” he said gently. “They say dying form lack of oxygen is just like getting very, very sleepy except when you do fall asleep you don’t wake up again.”

 “An’ if the hull goes?”

 “In that case we wont have time to notice. It’ll be that quick.”

 Den nodded.

 “You wouldn’t have a smoke on you, would you?” Barratt asked with a thin smile. “My tailor-mades got soaked.”

 Den pulled his roll-up tin out of his pocket and passed it to Barratt.

 Barratt opened the tin and proceeded to roll a cigarette. He held it out to Den who hesitantly took it.

 “I think we can relax the rules a bit, don’t you?”

 Den waited politely until Barratt had rolled his own cigarette and then he took a safety match from the box and lit them both. He noted grimly that there were only two left. Ordinary matches were banned from naval vessels. Submarines also had a particular risk from hydrogen gas produced in the enormous batteries which powered the electric motors which drove the boat while submerged.  

 “D’you have a girl at home, Den?” Barratt asked, drawing deeply on his cigarette.

 “N…no, sir.”

 There was that question again. They’d all badgered him about that – why he didn’t have a girlfriend. They’d called him names and teased him but Den had borne their slights with quiet good nature and he’d become quite well liked by his shipmates. The truth was known only to himself and to his best mate, Jim, whom he now knew was dead.

 “Ah well.”

 Den sat down beside his superior and stared at the deck for a moment.

 “Did Jim die quick d’you think, sir?” he asked almost in a whisper.

 “Taylor? Yes, almost certainly. If he was at his post…… “ he spread his hands. “If they’d used a torpedo or they’d hit the magazine we would not be here now.”

 “He was my best mate, sir.”

 Barratt put a fatherly arm around the young submariner’s shoulders. Den could feel that the officer’s clothing was wet.

 “Well, if what they tell us is true, you’ll be seeing him again before too long.”

 “No I won’t,” Den said, his voice shaking. “Jim was a good bloke, sir. He was a good bloke.”

 “What do you mean?”

 “He never did what I did, sir. He was a good bloke.”

 “Did what?”

 “I-I can’t say, sir.”

 Barratt sighed heavily.

 “Den, if there’s something on your conscience then perhaps you’d better tell me. I’m no priest or father confessor but I don’t think anyone should go to meet their Maker with a guilty conscience.”

 “My mum’d kill me if she knew,” Den said, on the verge of tears.

 “I’m sure she’d forgive you.”

 Den looked at his superior in the dim light.

 “Thank you, sir.”

 “You can call me Ron,” Barratt said gently. “I’m a man just like you behind my rank.”

 Den smiled thinly at him.

 “You oughtn’t to say that, sir.”

 “You’re not making any sense, Den.”

 “You’ve got a wife and a nipper, sir - I don’t. I don’t have a girl because I don’t want a girl. I don’t like girls that way. I’m queer. I won’t get to see Jim again because I’m queer and I’ll go to hell. He was a good bloke, sir, I swear he was.”

 Barratt showed no reaction to the revelation. He didn’t take his arm away from Den’s shoulders and he appeared thoughtful.

 “So you weren’t ‘mucking around’ with Taylor?”

 Den shook his head emphatically.

 “He was my mate, sir. He had a girl. I would never’ve tried anything on with him. He was…. .”

 “A good bloke,” Barratt finished. “Yes, I think I get your point.”

 “I’m sorry, sir.”

 “For what? For being queer?”

 “I can’t help it,” Den said, beginning to sob as the finality of their situation got through to him. “I just am.”

 “I doubt that it matters terribly much in the end,” Barratt said gently. “I know what they say, Den, but I’ve been in the service since before you were born and I’ve served alongside all sorts, including queers. We’re all just men when you get right down to it, son. We have a job to do and we do it as best we can. Those like you have to keep their heads down, I’ll grant you, but if they cause no problems then they’re left pretty much alone. You didn’t think you were the only queer in the navy, did you?”

 Den smiled thinly.

 “I knows, sir – Ron,” he said.

 “I wouldn’t worry about it too much in any event,” Barratt went on. “I’m sure God has more to concern him in spite of what the chaplain might have had to say on the subject. If it means anything to you, I don’t believe you’ll go to hell just for that.”

 Den nodded and stubbed out his cigarette.

 “Come on, we’ll go and see how the others are faring.” Barratt said, getting to his feet.

 Den noticed for the first time that his superior was, in fact, a man and an attractive man at that. Ron Barratt was forty-four years old. His dark hair was cut short and showed little in the way of grey. He was roughly six feet tall and broad shouldered. His deep chest and strong arms topped a flat stomach and narrow waist. His well muscled legs and neat, firm buttocks completed the whole and Den was astonished that he had not noticed all this before.  In the crotch of the shorts Barratt was wearing Den now saw the sight which always made him yearn – there was the bulge, there, where Barratt’s manhood lay.

 They passed through into the mess areas of the boat which had been empty at the time of the blast. The fumes from damaged batteries were stronger here as the huge cells were located in compartments beneath their feet. Den followed behind his superior as they finally entered the control room, more or less amidships and directly beneath the conning tower. Den was unprepared for what he saw and his stomach heaved.

  There were the seven other men who had survived but there were bodies. Bodies, dead and mutilated, lying in incongruous and impossibly twisted positions. Den recognised his three mates from the torpedo room - Tonk, Chick and Lachie. They seemed to be all right but they were huddled tightly together. A fourth man in the huddle Den did not know. Sparks and Goodwin, the coxswain, were laid on the deck alive but unmoving.  

 “I see you found another one,” said the seventh figure, sitting alone by the periscope. It was Petty Officer Graham.

 “He was trapped in the for’ard stowage compartment,” Barratt told him.

 “How does it look in there?”

 “She’s tight enough. The tubes were flooded but the inner doors are secure.”

 “The Twill tube?”

 “It looked to be intact but we’re miles too deep for that. You know that Mike.”

 The Twill tubes were a means of escape from a sunken boat. There were two, one in the flooded stern and the other in the bow. The boat also carried Davis breathing apparatus to assist escaping men to the surface but below sixty feet it was itself dangerous.

 “We don’t know that the depth gauge is showing true, “ Graham said.

 “It’s intact,” Barratt insisted. “The hull’s failing slowly around us, Mike – can’t you hear it?”

 “The hull’s damaged, Ron. It could be just her settling on the bottom.”

 “We’re five hundred feet down,” Barratt said firmly. “You go out through that tube and you’ll be crushed like an eggshell.”

 “And if we stay in here exactly the same thing will happen, man. At least there’s a chance, albeit a small one, if we try for the surface.”

 “Look, let’s not argue, Mike. If you want to go then go – I can’t stop you.”

 “Won’t you even try for it, Ron?”

 Barratt shook his head.

 “I don’t want to die any more than you do, Mike,” he said. “I just want it to be as quick and clean as possible when I go.”

 Barratt strode off back the way they had come. Den hesitated for a moment and then followed. He found the chief sitting in the wardroom, his head buried in his hands.

 “Sir?” he said.

 Barratt raised his head slowly and smiled thinly at the young man. His face was stained with tears.

 “Bet you thought officer’s didn’t cry, didn’t you?”

 “I-I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to bother you.”

 “You can bother me with another smoke, if you don’t mind.”

 Den once again handed over his tobacco tin

 “Sit down, Den.”

 He did as he was asked and settled himself on the narrow bench.

 “So, did you have bloke ashore?” Barratt asked with a little smile.

 Den was stunned by the question but he rallied quickly. In the circumstances there was absolutely no point in coyness.

 “N-no, sir – Ron. Sorry.”

 “That’s all right, son. You don’t mind me asking?”


 “What’s it like?”

 Now Den smiled thinly.

 “Dunno, “ he said with a slight shrug. “I don’t now anything else.”

 “Yes, but what does it feel like – being, well, intimate with another bloke?”

 “It’s nice.”

 “I can’t imagine having a prick shoved up your arse feeling nice.”

 “I can’t imagine sticking my prick in a woman being nice either.”

 Barratt stared at him for a moment and then he smiled.

 “Blimey, I never thought of it like that,” he said.

 “Anyway I did try. One of my  sister’s friends, Pauline – she’s a bit of a slag  - drops ‘er drawers for anybody she does. She sort of liked me so I tried it with her. Couldn’t even get a hard-on. I bloody well tried for the best part of an hour, Ron.”

 “I expect she was a bit miffed,” Barratt chuckled.

 “She called me a fucking little poofter.”

 Barratt laughed quietly and handed Den the cigarette he had been rolling as they spoke.

 “I’d never have taken you for a queer,” Barratt said as he proceeded to roll himself a cigarette. “Then again, I’d never have taken most of the queers I’ve met for being that way either.”

 “I’m just like any other bloke, mostly.”

 Barratt lit the cigarettes and took a deep drag.

 “What will you do?” he asked. “Mike could be right, I suppose – I don’t believe he is – but…. “

 “Dunno. I can’t think. I just know I don’t want to die”

 “Once they go in there and flood the torpedo room there’s no changing your mind, Den. We can’t open the hatch again.”

 “I know.”

 “So long as you understand. I’m afraid we’re all in Poseidon’s grip now.”

 Barratt was shivering now as the cold of the deep slowly stalked the darkness inside the stricken sub. Den felt something stir in his young heart as he looked at the other man. He stood up and lifted the torch from where Barratt had laid it on the table.

 “Can I take this for a minute?” he asked.

 Barratt nodded his assent and Den went out into the narrow passageway, leaving him alone in the impenetrable black. He made his way forward to the mess area and searched around until he found a couple of blankets. Den rolled them up, tucked them under his arm, and hurried back to the wardroom. In the darkness, the ruddy light of the burning cigarette illuminated Barratt’s features as he drew in the smoke.  Den replaced the torch on the table and draped one of the blankets around the chief’s shoulders. Barratt looked up at him for a moment and then he smiled faintly.

 “Thanks, son, “ he said quietly. “I was beginning to feel a bit chilly.”

 “You should get dry clothes on.”

 “In a minute.”

 It occurred to Den that Chief Petty Officer Barratt was feeling just as overwhelmed by their fate as he himself felt. Blackwood sat quietly beside him and thought about his mother. It was Friday so she’d have been queuing at the shops all day for the next week’s rations for herself and his sister, Judy. Judy would have been at work in the milliners where she was employed as an assistant. He would never see them again, except here, in his mind’s eye. His mother would never hold him in her arms again, he’d never furrow his brow and draw away from her when she tried to kiss him ever again. He’d never fight with Judy again over the wireless or whose turn it was to wash up after meals or any of the thousand other things brothers and sisters fought over. For the first time in his short life he felt true sadness and bleak desolation.

 There was movement in the passage outside and then Mike Graham stumbled into the wardroom. Den stood up and smartly saluted the officer. Graham returned the salute merely through habit.

 “We’re going to try for it, Ron,” he said. “Myself and Thompson and Rennie. Sparks and Rex Goodwin are out of it, I’m afraid. Doubt there’s anything to be done for them. Reynolds died a few minutes ago. How about you two?”

 Barratt looked briefly at Den and then he stood up slowly.

 “I haven’t changed my mind, Mike,” he said.

 “Fair enough. How about you, Blackwood?”

 Den pulled himself up straight.

 “I’m staying, sir,” he said firmly.

 “As you like,” Graham sighed.

 Two of his mates, Tonk Thompson and Lachie Rennie, had elected to try their luck with Graham. Den had been tempted but something told him that the older and more experienced Barratt would have been first to go if he had thought there was the slightest chance of their reaching the surface. Barratt nodded slightly in acknowledgement of his decision and Den suddenly felt better. He’d decided to throw in his fate with that of his chief and he felt better.

 “No sense in stringing it out,” Graham continued. “Good luck to you both, gentlemen.”

 Graham snapped to attention and saluted them. Barratt stood up and both he and Den returned the salute. Barratt  outranked Graham but he seemed to have let go of all of that. They made their way forward to the bulkhead which separated the torpedo room from the stowage compartment. Den said his farewells to Tonk and Lachie and then the three men stepped through.

 “This is your last chance, Den,” Barratt said gravely.

 Den shook his head firmly and smiled grimly at the older man.

 “Securing the compartment,” Barratt said as he pulled on the heavy watertight door which hopefully would hold back the sea when the Twill tube was opened.

 The door wouldn’t quite close. The hull was distorting under the massive pressure from outside. Barrat swore under his breath and strained harder on the door. Den took a grip and threw his much lighter frame into the effort. The men on the other side pushed as well and eventually the door was closed and secured. Barratt slapped Den firmly on the shoulder and then steered him back through the next bulkhead between the stowage compartment and the seamen’s mess. They closed and secured that hatch also. As they finished they heard the sound of inrushing water as Graham and the two younger men made their bid for life.

 Barrat hung his head and leant on the door for a moment.

 “D’you think they have a chance? “ Den asked. “Really, I mean?”

 Barratt shook his head and turned to face the young man.

 “Not a cat in hell’s chance,” he said.

 Suddenly there was a terrifying screech of rending metal. The deck shuddered beneath their feet and water began to jet through the seals around the door. Barratt spun round and began to tighten the clips which secured it. Den helped him and together they struggled to staunch the flow.

 “Christ Almighty!” Barratt panted. “The forward bulkhead must’ve failed.”

 “They didn’t have time to get out, did they?” Den asked, knowing in his heart that the answer was no.

 Barratt shook his head. There was a rising smell of chlorine as the seawater reacted with acid spilled from the damaged batteries. Barratt propelled Den along the passageway until they passed through the third bulkhead between the wardroom and the midships section of the boat. He closed the door and now they were trapped in the only remaining habitable area of the sub. The entire aft section was open to the sea and everything behind the fourth bulkhead was flooded. The mess areas and the wardroom were now filling with poisonous gas. They had nowhere left to go. There was the captain’s cabin, the control room and the radar and wireless office. Apart from the store, the galley and the magazine that was all that was left accessible. If seawater got through into the number three battery compartment below, and it had been damaged like the others, then they faced a most unpleasant end.

 Den wandered back into the control room. Chick Waterman had found more blankets and he had covered up some of the bodies. He looked up as Den came in and then he got unsteadily to his feet. He had a bottle of rum in his hand.

 “They’re fuckin’ dead, in’t they?” He said.

 Den nodded.

 “Good on them mate! Want a drink, Den? Take the chill out of your bones.”

 “No thanks,” he said. “How’s them other two, sparks and Goodwin?”

 “How the fuck should I know?” Waterman yelled drunkenly. “I ain’t a fuckin’ M.O., am I?”

 “That’s enough, mister!” Came Barratt’s voice. “Keep it down, will you?”

 “Yeah?” Waterman said threateningly. “Get stuffed, mate! I don’t have to listen to you no more!”

 Barratt said nothing. His fist lashed out and caught the younger man straight on the jaw. Waterman stumbled backwards and collapsed, insensible, on the deck.

 “You’ll listen to that, then,” Barratt growled.

 He leant down and retrieved the bottle. There was a little under a half of the dark liquid left. He set it down on the chart table and bent to examine the two remaining crew members. Both were still unconscious and showed no response to his efforts to rouse them.

 “Probably just as well,” he said with a heavy sigh. “You holding up, Den?”

 “I’m all right, sir.”

 “Looks like it’s just the two of us, son.”

 “Yes, sir.”

 “Ron, for God’s sake!” he said with a little smile. “It’s my name, Den. Call me by my name. Please?”

 Den looked down at his feet for a moment and then he, too, smiled.

 “Ron,” he said quietly. “You’d have chewed my blinkin’ ear off if I’d called you ‘Ron’ yesterday.”

 Barratt stood up and held out his hand to the youngster.

 “Pleasure to have served with you, Dennis,” he said. “I know we’re supposed to say these heroic things at times like this but It’s the truth, mate. You’re a good lad and you’re good at your job.”

 Den took the offered hand and shook it firmly.

 “Thank you, sir,” he said.

 They saluted each other and then Barratt retrieved the bottle of rum from the table.

 “Splice the mainbrace with me?” He asked.

 Den didn’t really like the stuff. He didn’t drink much in the way of alcohol but, he thought with grim humour, there was little chance of him having a hangover on this occasion.

 “Thanks, Ron.”

 “There should be some tumblers in the Old Man’s cabin.”

 Den followed the chief into the small cabin which had been the private retreat of their late commanding officer. On the cabin floor there was another torch which Den picked up. It was working. He propped it up on the small desk and the dim light pushed back the pressing  gloom. Barratt found the tumblers and poured out two very large measures. Den got out his tin and set to rolling two cigarettes. He hoped that his last match would strike. He passed one to Barratt and accepted a glass in return.

 The match flared into life and he lit their smokes. Barratt raised his glass and Den touched the rim of his against it.

 “Down the hatch,” Barratt said and downed nearly half of the liquid in one go.

 Den took as big a gulp as he dared and then put his glass down on the table. He drew on his cigarette and regarded Barratt thoughtfully.

 “You’re a really good bloke, Ron,” he said earnestly. “I like you.”

 Barratt smiled at him and ruffled his hair.

 “Fancy me, do you?” He chuckled.

 “Yes, I do,” Den confessed almost in a whisper. “Until an hour ago I’d never even thought’f you like that but yes, you’re an ‘andsome bloke.”

 Barratt shook his head slowly and smiled wryly at him.

 “Really?” He asked.


 “Well I never.”

 They sat quietly for few moments. Den could feel a tension now between himself and Barratt.

 “I’m sorry, sir,” he said. “I should’ve kept my trap shut.”

 Barratt looked at him.

 “You were honest,” he said gently. “Or were you just trying to be kind?”

 “I meant it.”

 “Right then, if we’re being honest,” He went on. “I’ve been having thoughts – one thought, anyway. God knows why, Den, but I’ve been thinking what it might be like…. to be with you.”

 Den looked him straight  the eye.

 “You can if you want to,” he said firmly.

 Barratt held his gaze, his soft brown eyes probing into Den’s young heart and finding the sincerity with which the young man had made his assertion. He reached out and lightly brushed the back of his hand over Den’s cheek.

 “Give me few minutes?” he said quietly.

 Den nodded and picked up his tumbler. He stood up and left the cabin, stepping through into the control room. Chick still lay where he had landed, snoring softly. Goodwin had died but sparks – Den never knew his name – was still breathing but he still could not be roused. Den retrieved another blanket and placed it over the radio operator. He sat down on the deck and stretched out his legs.

 The air was beginning to deteriorate. He felt slight drowsiness, partly from the rum he surmised, but he remembered what Ron Barratt had told him earlier. He drifted on the edge of consciousness, remembering. The boat creaked and groaned around him but he ignored the noise. He felt rather than saw someone come into the room. A figure crouched down in front of him.

 “Not long now, son,” Barratt said.

 “I feel so tired.”

 “I know, Den,” Barratt said softly. ”Come on, mate, come with me.”

 Barratt helped him to his feet and led him back into the cabin. Once they were inside he closed the door and turned slowly to face Den.

 “I’ve said my goodbyes,” he said, his voice heavy with emotion. “We don’t have long, Den.”

 “You sure you want to, Ron?”

 “I’m sure I want to try,” Barratt said. “At least if we do go to hell we’ll be company for each other.”

 Den moved closer to Barratt and stood in front of him. Again Barratt stroked Den’s cheek,  a faraway look in his eyes. Now he tentatively enfolded the young man in his strong arms and held him close to his powerful chest. Den smelled the sweat and oil on his chief and his cock began to stiffen. He felt Barratt’s head rest on top of his own as he slipped his arms around the older man’s waist.

 “It does feel nice,” Barratt whispered.

 Den let his hands slip down on to the neat firm buttocks and pulled Barratt firmly against himself. He could feel that Barratt’s cock was still flaccid but the man appeared to be quite content in their embrace. Perhaps it would be all that he wanted, Den accepted.

 “Can I kiss you, Den?” Came the husky enquiry.

 He didn’t reply, he just raised his face until he looked up into Barratt’s gentle brown eyes. Barratt leaned down slowly and his lips brushed gently against Den’s. The young man responded and their lips met again, longer, harder.  He could taste rum from Barratt’s lips. Slowly and gently he slid his hands round until they rested on the older man’s hips. As their kisses became more unrestrained he slowly slid his right hand down and across the chief’s thigh until his fingers were only inches away from his cock. Barratt made no protest. Den slid his hand upwards until it rested in Barratt’s crotch. He cupped the older man’s testicles in his hand and squeezed gently. Barratt sighed but he still made no protest. Den slid his hand up a little further and gripped the still-flaccid cock. He kneaded and stroked it firmly. It took only a few moments for Barratt to begin to rise to his touch. As he worked he felt his own cock being gently taken in hand.

 “This is so strange,” Barratt whispered. “So nice.”

 “Lie down with me, Ron,” Den urged. “Get on the cot.”

 Barratt allowed himself to be guided round and he sat down slowly on the narrow berth. He looked up into Den’s young face and he smiled thinly. His gaze dropped to the bulge in the youngster’s trousers. He looked for a moment or two and then his hands came up and he began to unfasten them. Den cupped Barratt’s face in his hands and leant down and kissed him again. Barratt responded to the kiss and Den felt his trousers being pushed down out of the way. Now Barratt gripped the straining cock through the thin cotton of Den’s shorts. Den threw off his shirt and kicked off his shoes. He pushed Barratt back on to the cot and straddled him. The chief’s cock stuck up strongly in his shorts. Den grabbed it and squeezed it hard. Barratt inhaled sharply but he smiled up at Den as the young man worked on him.

 Den pulled Barratt’s  T-shirt over his head and threw it on to the cabin floor. Now he lay down on top of him, their bare flesh meeting for the first time. Again and again their lips met. Den slid his hand down and massaged Barratt’s cock through his shorts.

 “Ron?” he said softly.

 “Fine, son, I’m fine.”

 Den moved down the berth a little and began to remove Barratt’s shorts. Ron watched him quietly as he pulled them away from his loins and his cock sprang up, freed from its restraint. Den took it in his hand and stroked it gently, pulling the foreskin back as far as it would go and then sliding his hand up the shaft until his fist enclosed the head. Barratt’s cock was pleasing to young Den. It was neither too big nor too thick and the head was sleek and shiny where fluid had begun to leak from the slit. Den leant forward and delicately licked the glistening head. Barratt sighed heavily and Den felt his wrists gripped by strong, rough hands.

 “So nice,” Barratt breathed. “My God, Den this is so nice.”

 Den took Barratt’s right hand and placed it on top of his young cock. There was a large wet patch on the white cotton shorts where his own member leaked it’s aromatic nectar into the fabric. Barratt stroked him for a moment and then pulled the shorts away from Den’s yearning loins. The younger man sat back and allowed the chief to pull the shorts right off. That done, he moved up a little and sat himself right on top of Barratt’s straining manhood.

 “Will you fuck me, Ron?” He asked softly.

 “Anything, son,” Barratt whispered back. “Anything you want.”

 “I don’t know what it feels like,” Den confessed. “When we were talking earlier? I-I’ve never had another bloke fuck me, Ron.”

 “So I get to be your first and last? That it?

 Den smiled shyly and nodded.

 “As I said, Den. Anything you want, mate.”

 Den raised himself and took Barratt’s iron-hard cock in his hand. He manoeuvred it until he felt it press against his sphincter then he rubbed it gently back and forth, encouraging more of the natural lubricant to ease its entry. When it felt right he relaxed and allowed Barratt’s manhood to slip slowly into his warm insides. Barratt reached up and grasped him by the shoulders.

 “Oh my!” he gasped. “Oh Lord!

 Den immersed himself in the warm rush as the hot, rigid flesh caressed his prostate. His own cock jerked in response and a large drop of fluid rose from the slit and dropped slowly down on to Barratt’s stomach, leaving a glistening thread connecting their resonating bodies.                   

 Barratt thrust upward and drove himself deeper into the warmth of young Den. The youngster raised himself, allowing Barratt to draw back for another stroke. As the chief drove in, Den drove down against him, his whole being resounding to the new and intense sensations he was experiencing. Barratt smiled up at him and began to thrust faster. Den closed his eyes and immersed himself in the glorious ecstasy. Again and again their bodies clashed together. Barratt began to breathe more heavily and then his grip tightened on Den’s shoulders. His head and shoulders raised off the cot as he made one last, long stroke. His face contorted with the power of release and Den felt the hot seed erupt into his body. Four more mighty strokes followed and then Barratt fell back, expended. Den released him and stretched himself out on top of the older man.

 “Ron?” He whispered.

 Arms enfolded him and Barratt kissed him warmly once more.

 “So different,” he said. “So very, very different, son. I never felt anything like that.”

 “Me neither.”

 Den felt Barratt grip his throbbing cock where it lay between them. He raised himself a little and let Barratt get a better grip.

 “Your turn now,” Barratt said quietly.

 He wriggled out from under Den and rolled over on to his front.  Den thought for a moment.

 “No,” he said. “I won’t do it to you, Ron.”

 “Do it, son.” Barratt said firmly. “Let’s keep it all square between us.”

 Den sighed but he didn’t argue. He positioned himself and gently rubbed his cock head over Barratt’s anus. He was very close to release and his cock was leaking copious amounts of slippery fluid. He pushed gently but Barratt was tight shut.

 “You have to relax, Ron,” he whispered. “It’ll hurt you otherwise.”

 Barrat grunted and Den felt the tension ease. He pushed again and this time his young manhood slid easily into his friend. Barratt inhaled sharply but he didn’t try to expel the intruder. Den pulled back and thrust in again. This time Ron pushed back against him. Den found Ron’s hands and twisted his fingers into those of the chief. He drove in again and felt the rush beginning. He went in hard and fast and he almost cried out as his young cock emptied itself into his older friend. He withdrew and gently kissed the back of Barratt’s neck. He slipped off and Barratt rolled over until they faced each other. The chief leant forward and kissed him again.

 “It was nice in an odd sort of way,” he said.

 Den snuggled in close and put his arm around Ron’s neck. Barratt held him tightly and they dozed in the euphoria of their release.

 “I’m so tired,” Den said.

 “You go to sleep, son,” Barratt whispered. “I won’t let you go, I promise.”

 Barratt reached down and lifted the blanket from where he had dropped it earlier. He wrapped the two of them in it and then he drew the young man in as close to himself as he could

 “Thanks, Ron.”

 The boat was dark and quiet for some time.

 And Poseidon closed his fist around them.

©2004 George Gardner