he prison crew, along with Sal and Blas, slept on the deck below the enlisted men, one deck above the pigs. Altogether, the Spanish galleon included six levels; ballast and cargo, livestock, prison workers, enlisted military, officers—and finally, the captain and his clergy guests. Sal and Blas drew the worst job on the ship. Many men were sick after breathing the livestock stench and sleeping in the cold dampness. As the weeks turned into months at sea, more than two dozen men became stiff and smelled of death. Sal and Blas were assigned to haul their corpses to the main deck and throw the bodies overboard.
“Just grab the poor bastard’s ankles,” Blas said. He needed Sal’s help to drag a dead man to the main deck.
“We can use this man’s extra blanket.” Sal, still feeling guilty, was desperate to improve their situation. He slept huddled and cold every night with a constant rumble in his guts.
“You loco? I’d rather freeze,” Blas said. He wrapped his hands in rags before he touched the dead bodies, then went back to work.
“Freeze if you want,” Sal said. Blas was so particular about what he touched, ate, drank. Did he think he was on a cruise for his health? “If I don’t get some sleep and something warm to eat, you’ll be tossing me overboard soon.” Once on the main deck, they waited for the Brothers to finish their prayers before they could pitch the poor fellows into the graveyard of the Atlantic.
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