I am swabbing the deck, as is my wont, as is my duty, as is my destiny. The open sea is wild and foamy, the waves tossing salt-water and seals against the ship with  cruel, indiscriminate abandon. The seals in particular hit with a sickening succession of thuds and dying mewling calls. Dark oval bodies trailing watery blood slide across the deck before being swept away by another wave.

I feel the the sting of the oceans cold spit, and then the sting of a jellyfish that is also vomitted up from the roiling waters to hit me squarely in face like a pie. A particularly gelatenous pie flavored mostly with searing pain.

It is ridiculous weather for deck-swabbing.  But the captain is mad and has forced me out here by gunpoint and sword point and with the blunt end of a baseball bat. For a man with one plastic arm, the captain is remarkably adept at handling weapons.

So here I am, superflous mop in hand, swabbing a deck upon which waves and sea life constantly crash and flop.  The suds of my soapy water are indistinguisable from the suds of the sea, and after a few waves crash over me and the bucket, it is all becomes just sea water with a trace element of soap.

The ship climbs a mountain of water that sends me skidding backwards to the stern, falling against the exterior of the captains quarters as the ship angles steeply upward. The wall feels like a floor beneath my back, and the sky a boiling grey field in the distance and the ocean itself a green and troubled sky.  Or something like that. All the parts of the world are moving and exchanging places like confused actors in a bad production of a poorly written scene. Loose ropes whip about and the jib is ripped from boom by a violent gust that carries with it several dead seagulls. They are dead but still they fly. It is that kind of wind.

From somewhere within the Captain’s quarters I hear the fear strangled gobble of the ship’s pet turkey Socrates, though it is hard to say if the bird is more terrified of the stormy seas or the Captain’s grizzled, naked caress.

The Captain has, of late, been attempting to coax an egg from the turkey by means of a method of his own invention. His methods are, like the Captain, quite insane, but his motives seem very nearly merciful. The turkey was in danger from all sides, as the ship’s cook has recently acquired a recipe for poultry and the ship’s crew has developed and unfortunate and inconvenient aversion to sea food. The Captain thought perhaps eggs would buy them off, would make Socrates useful for something less ephemeral than companionship.

“The bite of an omlette,” the Captain said, stroking the birds feathers in all the wrong directions at once.  It was hard to imagine why the Captain had taken such a protective, if inexpertly applied,  feeling toward the bird. “The taste of yolk and white and all of that.  Your darling unborn and unbearable shall be your salvation, sweet Socrates.”

He felt a bump in the the belly of the bird and imagined it to be the hoped for result of all of his efforts.

But why is the captain naked?  He says it is remove the boundries of rank and species that might be holding Socrates back from the comfort needed for productivity.

He is mad.

The ship reaches the top of the mountainous wave and teeters there upon its peak. I feel, for a moment, free of gravity, and even the wind and rain seems to pause for a moment as if the sky were holding its breath. And then the ship plunges downward, I am thrown back against the wall—from momentum rather than gravity now—as we rush forward toward the distant green valley that opens up now with the mixed-metaphor arms of a cruel and needy mistress.

 

Grant Bailie is the author of the novels Cloud 8 and Mortarville, as well as numerous stories online and in print. His latest novel, New Hope for Small Men is available in e-book form under the auspices of Necessary Fiction, where it was first serialized. His book TomorrowLand--an illustrated novel of sorts--is due out in the fall through Red Giant Books Mr. Bailie currently lives in Lakewood, Ohio, which is a stone’s throw from Cleveland. He knows this because sometimes the people in Cleveland throw stones.

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