"Hey, you made it here on time," says the shipmaster. "Good thing, 'cause, well, you know . . . " He trails off. "We's done set out a year early," Sea Nathan says, "so as to meet your deadline." "Good on ya'," says the shipmaster. "Always hate that bloody business." "Yes, so's us," says Olive. "You can take your sack and head to the C bunk." "Thank ya'," says Sea Nathan. "By the way, where'd ya' come from?" asks the shipmaster. Olive and Sea Nathan laugh. "The desert," Olive says. "We's walked through the desert." "Holy fuck, that's a mite far," says the shipmaster. Some sailors surround him. "Newcomers?" asks a surly one. "That's right," says the shipmaster. "Here, let me take your sack," the sailor says. "We's fixin' to be just fine," says Olive, "But thank ya' anyways." The sailor's eyes follow them up the plank to the ship. "They need to bathe," he says. "I bet they head for the showers. Let's go." He and the other sailors meander to the shower room. One extremely large one, Boris, directs the others. "You all hide out 'til we know if they're in there," he says. "I'll go check." He tiptoes to the door, opens it, and looks in, leaves, locks the door. "They're showering!" The sailors laugh, run to the back of the building, and begin turning dials on contraptions lining the wall. Olive and Sea Nathan scream from the shower. The sailors turn the dials again. Their screaming abates. They go at this several times, erupting in laughter, until Sea Nathan comes out with a towel wrapped around his hips. "What in the hell are you boys doin'?" he asks. "We's pumping in some gas," says Boris. "Ya' imitatin' me," Sea Nathan says." "How did you get out of there?" Boris asks. "I's got my ways," says Sea Nathan. "We didn't travel this far to be here this early for no torture." "We do it to all the newcomers. Don't feel singled out," Boris says. "We like to give you a feeling of imminent death." "We's had it on the way here," Sea Nathan says. "Yeah," continues Boris, "we rigged it up especially for people who just get here." Sea Nathan falls to the ground. "Get medical!" says Boris. A team of masked technicians run toward Sea Nathan, followed by a couple of men holding a stretcher. The towel falls off Sea Nathan while they lift him. It lays on the ground. Olive comes out of the shower room, dressed in a seaman's uniform. But Sea Nathan, the sailors, the technicians, they have already left the scene. She picks up the towel and returns to the showers to collect Sea Nathan's uniform. The sun is no longer visible, yet it is not yet dark. The light is dim. Olive walks towards the bunkhouse, her head down.
Copyright, Jennifer Chesler, 2010, All Rights Reserved