Drowning Satan, by Ian Hood

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.