Fragment I, of Sunday Dinner with Father Dwyer, a short story by Jim Meirose
So, the third rule seaman Skip forgot, was; always keep your belly full, to absorb the queasiness that creeps inside, grows like a ball of slimy worms, and drags you by the face to the side of the ship, to puke, puke, puke some more—Skip remembered the rule and dug into the hard barely edible expired prison food loaf they’d been gifted with, and he quietly relaxed. Under the gaps between jaw crushes and swallows, he again thanked God, in Father Dwyer’s name that he was always on the sea. As he reduced the brown matter on his plate smaller the smaller with each and every bite, he felt his cares melt, and sink away, except for a deep grasping undertow in the black dark under his lowest reptile brain that he never ever heard, but that continuously kept telling him, I am in you and you no longer know who or what you are and I am deeply disturbed I don’t like to be deeply disturbed something is different now there’s something you know in the upper levels I can’t see into that has changed everything; something large is different. Somehow you are confused, and no one has told me; what is different? See, somehow I sense you don’t know if you are about to be born or if you are about to die, or somehow magically have split into being in both states at once. It’s something like that, like—like remember that computer monitor they had in the office down Florida, years ago when you had not yet decided to give up life on land, you had that new job in that computer consulting office, using that fat wide 80’s vintage IBM monitor, and it suddenly looked as though you or it or both had suddenly snapped crack into double vision; you were confused as I am confused, and all at once a hand came and slammed into the side of the monitor, and everything slapped clear again, and you looked to the left, and up, behind, and there stood one of the masters of the place, whose job it was to train you, Kent Dazey. He smiled, and he spoke quickly, saying, Hey, Skip my man, this monitor’s on the blink; we called IBM and they sent out a suit and he came and looked and couldn’t find why it goes all nutty looking like that, but said to just give it a good hard slap on the side when that happens, and that would always make it right. We said, well, that’s kind of cheesy—how about we replace it with a new one? The IBM suit, hearing this, smelled money in his eyes and told us how much that would cost. We scratched our ears, looked down, stepped back, and decided, to the deflation of the IBM guy who smelled this sale coming, to keep this one, thinking that a slap in the side was free, and no problem, as outside of that, the gigantic thing worked perfectly. The sale smelling IBM suit left abruptly, eager to get to the next client location where he could root in the leaves and the mulch and the dirt for the next sale attempt, taking his mysterious extremely heavy pitch black fat briefcase with him. So, you see, we’re cheap here, we watch every penny. And he was right, you know Skip. Cheaper is always better—that was true, Skip, years ago, when you could still bear to live ashore. And it’s still true after all these years, here out at sea. And it’s been smooth sailing for you since, you got a job at sea finally, yes, but now, here today, I have to speak and say there is something different in you, way above me, that is quite unsettling—so since you are no more than a machine of flesh bone blood and general muck, atop which I just sit and man the controls, how ‘bout we do what Kent Dazey recommended and slap ourselves silly on the side of our fat rocky head—go on! And Skip’s partner Norman, sitting across, jumped his chair halfway back to the bulkhead and almost spat out his fully chewed sandwich, as Skip’s hand came up like a gunshot, and slapped him as hard as it could on the side of Skip’s head. The strike sounded awful, strange, damaging, yes; Norman feared an eardrum burst, or worse; Skip looked dazed, so dazed—Norman began to rise, speechless—and stepped around toward Skip to see what was wrong what had happened what was he thinking to cause this, but; Skip’s eyes cleared, his face lost its stricken pallor, and he said, You know, Norman, I read a paper on the internet last night, that confirmed once more, my core belief, that we have a global crisis that calls for international cooperation to reduce emissions as rapidly as practical. Otherwise, the warming will continue, and it will be just Waterworld, just like that shitty movie, Waterworld, and you know what, fucker? I can’t shitcan wait for that dream to some true. Now—
Norman was so relieved, so relieved, a tiny spot of liquid seeped into his underpants without his knowledge, as he said, Skip! You sound like the old Skip! Skip, why the hell have you been acting so weird?
Weird? How? What the hell are you talking about, Norman? You always ask such odd questions—you should talk about weird, you actually spent a long time thinking you were married and you had a pregnant wife, you even had me feeling sorry for you, but today—you tell me that’s not true and was just in your head, and you are calling me weird? You’re the weird one! Listen, hey—and what’s more, I been—
Skip it, man! waved out Norman. Enough! Enough! Let’s just be!
Skip? You said Skip? Hey—that’s my name, laughed Skip; thou shalt not take my name in vain! How dare you, landsman, insult this future Godlike merman of the deep!
They exchanged shocked glances, that suddenly melted to smiles, and they sat and laughed for a while deep up from their smelly slimy bellies right out from their mouths, about what an odd day it had been so far. It has to be caused by being at sea so long. It had to be because every minute of every day was exactly the same aboard the Dakota Maru, with Sunday Dinner With Father Dwyer playing full blast on the flat screen TV hung from the back wall of the bridge, twenty four seven three hundred sixty five of episode after episode, and impossible to turn off, switch the channel, or lower the volume, because the actual TV on the wall had no controls, and the remote had been was thrown overboard years ago by a seaman who’d been at sea one minute too long on the very maiden voyage; but the company, when advised, decided a new remote was not important enough to their corporate mission to spend a few dollars on; just like Skip’s ancient, bottom level, reptilian brain deeply, and truly, also firmly believed.
Jim Meirose‘s work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Calliope, Offbeat/Quirky (Journal of Exp. Fiction pub,), Permafrost, North Atlantic Review, Blueline, Witness, and Xavier Review, and has been nominated for several awards. His E-book “Inferno” is available from Amazon. Underground Voices. His novels, “Mount Everest” and “Eli the Rat”, are available from Amazon. “Mount Everest” has been adapted to a play by a leading west coast playwright. Click www.jimmeirose.com to know more.