The Bitter Wait

“I hate her,” said the commander.

“I know,” said the bosun. “Not long now, sir.” They were a near to a dozen, but only ever they spoke—commander and bosun. The rest smoked damp, lumpy cigarettes, exhaling through a common hose they passed around. From sailor to hose to chimney chute, the smoke went from Carolina tobacco to up above the waterline. It would be a risky indulgence, if anyone was somehow looking for a ship huddled wholly ’neath the surface. Inside it, the crew sat in a row along the crank that turned the blades that drove the boat.

“Good ship, once,” said the commander.

“She was,” said the bosun. “Great name. Still.”

“Damnable captain. Check her again.”

The bosun hand-cranked a brass wheel, pushing the boat’s mirrored scope to the edge of the water line. He leaned down low and peered into something like a spyglass lens.

“See her?”

“I do, sir.”

The Captain reached out his empty hand. A sailor passed him a lit cigarette, lit another. He considered the lit ash. “What’s she doing?”

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