As many of you may recall, assuming that you’re approximately the same age as a redwood tree, back in 1952 Ernest Hemingway wrote the final full-length novel of his illustrious career, called The Old Man and the Sea, which told the story of an aging Cuban fisherman named Santiago and his epic battle to catch and bring ashore to Miami a giant marlin, and by so doing fulfill his dreams of bringing Major League Baseball to South Florida and to further allow Derek Jeter to make another bajillion dollars. (Interesting factoid…Ernest Hemingway had a little known older brother named Frank, who unlike his famous sibling, was never renowned for anything other than having heterochromia and excessive flatulence. The brothers Hemingway…Frank and Ernest.)
Today I’m going to regale you with another story, the saga of a young man and the sea…a VERY young man.
Shipmates, please allow me to introduce you to Leak Pohlups, Baby Sailor.
(Okay, by show of hands, how many of you immediately Googled “heterochromia” to see if it was an STD? That many?)
Leak’s father was a Polynesian sailor named Cantdoten, who left his native South Pacific home abruptly one day right after Leak was born, to avoid prosecution as a serial gerbil abuser; Cantdoten’s sudden departure forced Leak’s mother Lotte, whose maiden name was Lenya, to earn a living as a clam shucker, having no other marketable skills with which to support herself and her infant son, who by the way, was named after his mother’s uncle’s second brother’s other cousin.
Life was hard for Little Leak and Lotte, but there was much love and all the clams they could eat in their humble shack on the beach; Lotte shucked and Leak grew and finally, at the age of 23 months, seriously tired of clam chowder, clam stew, clam steaks and clam shishkabob, Leak decided it was time to leave the nest and seek his fortune in the cold, vast world. (If this were a TV script, there would be a commercial break here, probably for some erectile dysfunction cure or a new burger from Wendy’s…the Clam/Mint Jelly Triple Stack or some such.)
(FYI, the giant clam Tridacna Maxima is indigenous to French Polynesia, as are humpback whales and manta rays; however, despite evidence to the contrary, rays are not indigenous to Tampa Bay.)
A few weeks ago I was sitting at my desk in the Captain’s cabin of the R U Kidding, of which I am the Captain and Master, which is probably why they let me have the Captain’s cabin, reading the news on the Internet about how “the Nads”, the varsity baseball team from my alma mater (that’s Latin for “buffalo antlers”), the University of Lower Rockdale, was doing in the college World Series; if they win in the next round against the Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes, they will advance to the semi-finals, to play the Banana Slugs of UC Santa Cruz. (I didn’t make up either of those names…honest.)
As I was reading, I heard a knock on the door of my cabin.
“Enter,” I called out to the knocker, and in walked my First Mate, Taffie Wetzel.
“Cap’n, the new deck-hand just came aboard,” she said.
“Is that the guy from Polynesia, uh, what’s his name again?”
“Leak Pohlups, Cap’n.”
“Yeah, Lake Patos.” (That’s in Brazil, I found out later.)
“No, sir, Leak Pohlups. Sir, he’s awfully young…”
“When you say ‘awfully young’, just how young are we talking here?” I asked.
“He just turned two, sir,” Ms. Wetzel replied.
“Well, that’s the legal drinking age in Burma, and he can own a handgun in Florida at that age, so I guess we can give him a try. If he doesn’t work out, we can always toss him overboard,” I said, winking at her. (Would the lookout yell “Baby overboard!” if that happened?)
“Yes sir,” she said, a little dubiously.
“Show him to the crew’s quarters, get him a crib, er, a bunk and then take him around and introduce him to the rest of the hands. Have Ms. Shepard show him how to shiver timbers and batten hatches later this afternoon after noon chow. And when you’re done, Ms. Wetzel, please go see the cook and make sure he has a good supply of Gerber’s on board.”
“Aye aye, Cap’n.” Ms. Wetzel left my cabin shaking her head.
Later that day, the Kidding, with a crew of twenty, including myself, First Mate Wetzel, Second Mate Shepard and of course, Little Leak, set sail from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
We were 6 days out from port, on a course south/southeast and making a leisurely 10 knots, just after 8 bells, which onboard a boat is just past 4:00am, or the third Tuesday of last week about 35:16 in the morning in Florida, when I was awakened from an excellent dream involving myself, the Dallas Cowgirls, a backhoe, a zither and a 55-gallon drum of Orange Jello by a firm pounding on my cabin door.
I struggled to come to, threw the covers over myself to avoid embarrassment and called out to the pounder, “Yes, I’m awake, come in already.”
The ship’s Senior Sonarperson, Wally “Big Ears” Poindexter came rushing into the room, obviously all worked up over something.
“Cap’n John, I just spotted a YUGE mass moving our direction from really deep water, on a heading of 350 degrees, making 45 knots right towards us. It was less than 25,000 yards away and I don’t think it’s a sub, sir.” (That’s the boat, not the sandwich.)
“45 knots? Are you sure, BE?”
“Yes, sir, I’ve been tracking it for about 10 minutes now; it’s like that women you dated when we went ashore in Somoa…she’s big, fast and ugly.” Probably all the cookies, I remember thinking at the time, because she was quite horizontally challenged, like the north end of a south-bound water buffalo. But I didn’t need my Senior Sonardude reminding me of my, uh, indiscretions at 4 o’clock in the morning however…I had been in a bar that night and was seriously over-served.
“Never mind that, Sonarguy…keep your focus on the problem,” I said sharply.
“Yes, sir, sorry, sir.”
“If it’s not a sub, then it must be an organic (well, d’uh); how big is this thing?”
“Sir, it’s bigger than a humpback.”
“I said to forget that woman in Somoa, sailor…oh, you meant the megaptera. But 45 knots, there’s no whale I know of that can move that fast. Are you sure?”
“Yes sir, positive. Sir, I think it might be a giant squid.” (Low, ominous music began to play in the background, which was odd, considering we didn’t have a band onboard.)
“Okay, let me get dressed and I’ll be down there in a minute.”
“Aye aye, sir.” BE turned and left my cabin as I jumped, well okay, crawled out of my bunk.
A giant squid? Holy 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Batman, I’d never seen one before, despite all my many years aboard ship. But I knew Wally was right…they were big, fast and ugly, just like that woman…never mind.
Well, this isn’t good, I thought to myself as I struggled into my cerise-colored Spanx.
(Narrator’s voice cuts in here.)
“Will the giant Architeuthis attack the Kidding? Will the Cap’n and his crew survive this menace if it does? And what about Leak Pohlups, Baby Sailor? What will his fate be on this, his maiden voyage? And isn’t Architeuthis Latin for ‘buffalo antlers’?” (No, that was alma mater, you dipstick.)
Tune in next time when we learn what happens to our brave Cap’n, his ship and crew and of course, Baby Leak.
Love and tuna casserole,