Cal and The Lady Dawn are 18 hours late
for port and Hurricane Zoe is upgrading
to Madam Lash. Cal went for a catch
of Orange Roughy. No deckie, no ETA
…bang out of character. Smart money in Eden
says Cal and Dawn are taking on water big time
and if there’s a new merman on Dawn’s manifest
that bozo’s bound for one Moby Dick of a hiding.
I’m waiting out the night in Steve’s half decker.
The static from Emergency Channel 16 rolls
around the cabin like a bag of dry hooks. Give
up being a deckie will yuh? Steve asks, laying
out fathom chain, casual as you like: If Cal
don’t come back… We both know I’ve never
fully fitted on the Lady. Sure, I pack the muscle
and reflexes for sudden Kraken day dramas like
when a flying 3 ply cable in a force 5 could
decapitate a net-snagged deckie. But my compass
tilts at an odd angle, head’s too often up there
in the cirrus. I read, been known to strum
a mandolin like Captain Bloody Courageous
in that Spencer Tracy Foxtel Golden Oldie
tear jerker about making a man of a brat
and on a long night watch an inclination
to lapse into impressions that might score
the odd indulgent chuckle. But let’s face
it−there’s a bit too much Oxford Street
in that repertoire. Makes a crew uneasy.
Cal’s different. Says he values a deckie
with a gift for an electric eel moment.
When he asked me why I stayed, I replied
in my best Mothers Do Ave Em voice:
coz I'm fascinated by the flared and
fluttering creatures in the net, the small
frightened ones who kick about the deck
with resignation in their eyes… and Betty
… I like to watch the fish as well.
He nodded and flicked me the cross-stitched
smile Spencer gave the guilty when he played
a one-armed avenger in Bad Day at Black Rock.
Dawn enters the cabin and slides her dancer's
legs close to mine under the gimbal table.
Cal'll be fine, growls Steve. There's no drowning
Satan. She nods, says she could kill for a mixer.
After Steve goes for booze she rests her hand
on my thigh and tells me not to worry. I did
my job on the pumps and dinghy and she did
hers with the thermos of temazapamed coffee.
I’m dangling from her line when Channel 16
cuts in. The static’s bad but we hear fragments
… a Cal with 9 lives… and then Steve
on the wharf yelling Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi.