It had been Shoshona’s turn on the midnight to dawn shift, steering their small boat through the darkness of the Torres Strait and into the Coral Sea.
Becky made her sleepy way up the short staircase out of the boat's below-decks living space into the pilothouse and then up a couple more steps to the steering station just aft. She glanced at the morning sun that was barely peeking over the horizon amid towering thunderheads that were already forming. The broad ocean swells were gentle and lazy. Now at sea for many months, she rolled easily, gracefully, effortlessly with the boat as she made her way to where Shoshona was at the wheel that was shaded by a very large and taut canvas supported by an aluminum-tubing frame.
“Heading nearly due east.” Becky smiled that smile that only she could smile. “We’re still going to Port Moresby?”
“Of course!” said Shoshona. “Hey, I forgot to ask. What's the first place you wanna stop at once we’re there?”
Becky thought for a moment. Shoshona didn’t mind waiting. What Becky said oftentimes made a big difference. “Well, someplace with wine, women and song, of course. What else do sailors want?”
Shoshona laughed. “Seriously though. What?”
“Well, probably the usual portside stuff. We can refuel and buy a bunch of food...”
“Let me worry about that.” Shoshona couldn’t help cutting in. “What do you want to DO?”
“How about taking me to that expat bistro you told me about?” Becky was obviously enthused. “That sounds like fun!”
“Alright! We're holding steady on heading zero eight five. With any luck, we'll be there in two or three days. Then it’s off to the Bistro!”
“I can hardly wait!” Becky was her usual chipper self, with a ready smile on her ruddy, freckled cheeks. “In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy some alone-time with you!”
Shoshona just smiled. “I'd like that too. Being with you is the best!” She paused for a moment to take it in, all that was Becky.
The sky was darkening fast, to the east, almost directly in their path. A strong gust shook the boat, heaving it over several degrees. The women, though surprised -- one can't always predict the wind accurately, after all -- braced themselves automatically and Shoshona expertly steered them back on course.
“That was a good one!” said Becky, flushed with excitement.
“I'm reefing the mainsail just a bit. The wind is really picking up. We'll still run pretty fast on the twin jibs,” said Shoshona.
She activated the controls, and the electric motors in the automated system pulled the mainsail down about halfway and tightened it against the wind. The little ship plunged ahead through seas that were becoming choppier, with an occasional whitecap here and there.
“See?” said Shoshona, “We're still making nearly seven knots. Plenty of wind today!”
“Yeah! I'll say! Now we're quite a bit more upright too. That's good. I don't like it when our rail is in the water.” Becky beamed at her crew-mate. She couldn’t help it.
“I know.” Shoshona smiled her zillion-kilowatt smile. “I don't like it either.”
“Well thank you!”
“You're welcome, doll!” said Shoshona, still smiling. “Anything for you!” Her long dark hair in a ponytail, was still being whipped around by the stiff wind.
“You just like to go fast!”
“Speed, speed, speed!” Shoshona was grinning now.
Becky's shoulder-length bob of honey-blond hair was being tussled by the stiff breeze. She gathered it quickly into a scrunchy, making a short ponytail on the crown of her head. And replaced her visor. The sun at sea could be ferocious! She smiled her own dazzling smile.
“Ugggh! She's steering heavy now!” Shoshona was no longer smiling.
“Is it bad?” said Becky.
“No, it's okay. We're running mostly cross-wind. The jibs are trying to pull our bow around. I just noticed the difference, that's all.” Shoshona seemed unconcerned. She was enjoying the breeze and the sun on the sea.
“Hmmmm… OK. Well, I’m ready to take the conn. I’ll do a double-shift now, so we’ll switch on the dreaded midnight to dawn watch, just like always.”
“Do you hate the four or five in the morning part as much as I do? I get so sleepy!” Shoshona said.
“I do too. More coffee. That’s the only solution I know of.”
“That works! I love coffee.”
“Meee too!” Becky was smiling again. It was a beautiful morning. Being with her true love just made it even better. Her smile was infectious and Shoshona soon found herself grinning too.
The long swells began to steepen somewhat and the motion of the boat became more noticeable.
Shoshona traded off with Becky at the steering station just aft of the pilothouse, protected by a canvas awning that provided shade but still let the breezes through. Becky planted her feet, braced against the swells.
Shoshona went into the pilothouse and lay down with her favorite blue woven wool blanket on one of the plush vinyl couches, near the second steering station. It was practically perfect, she thought. Wedged into the couch, she could sleep soundly and still take the conn in an instant if needed.
“Wake me up in an hour, okay?” she called through the open hatch.
Becky shouted back. “Okay! You can sleep longer if you want.”
“No, I don't want to miss the whole day. I'll take another nap in the evening before my watch.”
The wind kept increasing, and Becky had to reef the mainsail down to a mere scrap of cloth and furl one of the jibs entirely. Despite that, the boat was soon heeled over sharply. The waves were getting bigger. It was still a beautiful day. It was just going to be a bit of a rough ride in their small boat. But Shoshona was a seasoned “salt”. They both were. And she would sleep through this easily and be ready for her turn at the wheel come midnight.
Someone else was in the Coral Sea that day, too. Not sailing, but cruising underneath. “Pool sharks”, they fancied themselves. But they weren’t like any pool sharks anyone had ever seen. Big and dangerous, with underrated intelligence. Octopii. A scurvy lot if there ever was one.
“Range?” said Blubberfish.
“A bit under seven knots.”
“That shouldn't be too terribly hard to catch!”
“Excellent! Excellent!” BlubberFish rubbed his tentacles together. “Down scope! Increase speed to flank. Prepare to fire!”
“Increasing to flank, Your Majesty. Preparing to fire!”
Suddenly, BlubberFish had an idea. “We'll surface and blast them with the deck gun!”
“Aye, aye! Your Majesty!”
The klaxon blared for “surface” and the black submarine rose from the depths in a burst of spray and foam.
“Start the diesels!” shouted BlubberFish. “Man the deck-gun!”
The first shell arced overhead with a scraping roar and splashed into the sea, just off the starboard bow. The explosion whacked the boat like a giant sledgehammer and drenched both women. Shoshona had returned to the aft steering station, having finished her nap a short while ago. She screamed in terror. So did Becky.
“They're shooting at us!” cried Becky.
“Take off your top!” Shoshona ordered.
“Take off your top and flash them! We need a distraction, so we can escape!”
“How's that going to distract them? It just gives them two things to aim at!”
“I dunno! We have to try something!”
“Okay, here goes!” Becky whipped off her loose knitted top.
“And your bra!”
“Yes! If this is going to work, we need full exposure!”
“Okay...” Becky struggled out of her bra.
Shoshona followed suit. Essentially, there was now a whole lot of boobage in one small boat.
“Your Majesty, the hideous land-critters are removing their clothing! It appears they may wish to surrender.”
“Cease fire! Mister Flea, will that cause any damage, as far as you know? Removing their clothing, I mean?”
“No, Your Majesty. As far as I know, the meat should still be quite tasty.”
“Very well, then. Let's move in to board them, take them prisoner and scuttle the boat.”
“Aye aye, Your Majesty!”
The sub began to overtake the women’s little boat. By now the clouds had moved in and it was starting to sprinkle. A foreboding gloom also settled over the sea, broken by the occasional flash of lightning.
Becky focused her binoculars on the pursuing submarine. “They're squids!” she shrieked.
Shoshona took a look. “They're not squids, they're octopuses... octopii... whatever! Not squids,”
“Giant octopuses! Ohmygawd! They’re gaining on us! Whatarewegonnado? Whatarewegonnado???”
“Well, it’s kinda late now to change strategy. Um... stay the course, I guess.”
“Stay the course?”
“Yes! I mean, we’re gonna do what we said we’re gonna do.”
Vicious lightning strikes and a steady downpour began as His Majesty’s Royal submarine pulled alongside their pert little sailing vessel.
“You're going to be biled in aisle!” Blubberfish shouted through his brand-new hyper-powered USB-Compatible smart-megaphone.
“What?” the ladies said in unison.
Blubberfish ditched the phony British seafarer accent, cleared his throat. “I said, you're going to be boiled in oil.”
The two women looked at each other. “Oh!”
“But we're really hungry,” said Blubberfish.
“Look! We can make you some sandwiches or something. How about that?”
The thought of having food prepared for them was a novel idea. Blubberfish thought about it for a moment. "Okay!" said he.
After furling the sails and letting out the sea-anchor, the little ladies’ little ship stood nearly still in the water; pitching and heaving in the breaking waves. The crew-octopii of the submarine lashed the two vessels together, and with great fanfare and pomp, His Majesty, Lord Admiral Blubberfish came aboard the tiny sailboat womaned by the two darling women.
They all adjourned to the galley - the boat's “kitchen” and the women set to work, preparing food for the pirate-ship's crew.
“Can we put our bras back on?” Shoshona said. “Cooking with these flopping around,” she gestured toward her chest, “is really kind of dangerous.”
His Majesty shrugged. “Well, I suppose. But why is it dangerous?”
“We don't want them to be biled in aisle!”
“Oh!” Blubberfish shrugged. “Well, I suppose not.”
Grimacing and sighing, the women struggled back into their huge, tight and very structured bras.
“Well now, that really is kind of decorative!” Blubberfish opined, once they were all strapped in again. He seemed much more enthusiastic all of a sudden, much to the mystification of the women. They just shrugged and got to work, preparing food for the hideous pirates.
“We think so.” Shoshona said.
“And supportive,” Becky added. “It really helps when we have to move around a lot. Or to keep from burning our tatas when we're cooking.”
“These!” Becky pointed at her chest with both hands.
“Oh!” His Majesty seemed somewhat mollified now, what with the friendliness and hospitality of the women and all. Perhaps he wasn't such a bad guy after all.
After a short time, plates piled high with sandwiches were passed around and the pirates all dined in fine style.
The two gal-pals fidgeted nervously. Standing around in just bras and short-shorts made them feel especially vulnerable. The pirates were eyeing them with apparent bad-intent while they wolfed down the sandwiches. It was a nerve-tingling moment and the two were clearly quite uncomfortable. Being biled in aisle wasn't very high on their bucket-list. At least not for this trip. Would the squidly pirates just leave after having lunch? The women sure hoped so!
Finally, the long luncheon came to a close and Blubberfish made an announcement. “We've come to a decision,” said His Majesty. “We want to take you with us so that you can make sandwiches for us every day.”
“Oh! That's a terrible idea!” said Becky.
“Ditto!” said Shoshona. “We're uh... not really made for working on a submarine.”
“Well, of course you are!” said the Admiral. “Why just look at you! You're perfect!”
“No No! No!” said Shoshona. “We're nowhere near perfect! Not at all!”
“What do you mean?” The Blubbery One was clearly confused by this.
“Well,” said Becky, “we actually smell pretty bad most of the time.”
“I haven't noticed anything,” said the head squid.
“Yeah,” added Shoshona, “and we're really hard to get along with most of the time.”
“Terribly cranky, yes!” Becky chipped in.
“You both seem quite amiable to me,” said Blubberfish.
“That's just because you don't know us very well,” said Shoshona. “We fight like wildcats all the time!”
“Well, we'd certainly like to get to know you better,” said Blubberfish.
“That would be terribly grand,” said Becky, nervously, “but we're due in port in a day or so. Maybe some other time!”
“Oh, but I must insist,” said the pirate leader.
“We really don't want to!” Shoshona whined.
“Awww! Come on!”
“Maybe next time.” Turning close to Becky, Shoshona whispered, “Maybe we can barricade ourselves into the forward berthing and wait for them to leave.”
“Let's try it!” Becky whispered back. “On three. Ready?”
They counted together in simultaneous whisper, “One... two...”
All of a sudden, BlubberFish shouted, “Seize them!”
Quick as a flash, Becky turned and grabbed the salt box off the copper counter-top behind her and, spinning swiftly toward them, showered the pirates with its contents. It was a big, heavy, rectangular box of Kosher salt, coarsely ground of course. She ripped off the partially open lid and flung a great cloud at the pirates, seeing with considerable satisfaction how they recoiled in pain and horror.
“What did you do that for?” gasped an amazed and dismayed Blubberfish.
All of them, the Admiral and his surly men, collapsed to the floor within seconds. After an agonizing moment of anguished bellows and gasps, they were all dead.
“Nothing to it!” Becky smiled. But her heart was pounding in her chest like a Charlie Watts drum solo.
“Yeah, we can have calamari from now until doomsday!” offered Shoshona. She was a bit shaken herself and panting from the overwhelming anxiety of it all.
“I think we should get underway and put some distance between us and their sub,” said Shoshona.
“I think that’s a good idea!” said Becky.
So they both scrambled to cut the lashings, hoist sail and get away from the awful submarine. It wasn’t long before the sub was disappearing in the heightening waves and steadily increasing downpour. Soon, even the brilliant flashes of lightning failed to reveal its menacing silhouette.
“Looks like we lost ‘em! Now that we’re sailing again, let’s get these dead squidlies outa here before they start stinkin'.” said Shoshona.
“They're already stinkin'! What should we do? Throw 'em overboard?” said Becky.
“Yes. I think that's best, don't you?”
“I think that's best.”
It was an exhausting task, dragging the heavy, limp, slimy bodies up the steps and heaving them into the sea. But they managed to do it in only a couple hours. Shoshona set the autopilot and they both jumped in the shower to scrub away that reeking calamari smell from their gorgeously proportioned, curvy bodies; toweled off and changed into some really cute, warm outfits against the chilling rain.
Once again, back in the pilothouse this time, Shoshona took the steering station and heaved a heartfelt sigh of relief, as did Becky.
“Let’s make some dinner,” said Shoshona “What do you want?”
“Anything but calamari,” said Becky.
“Ditto! How about some vegetable soup with some nice thick slices of buttered pumpernickel?”
“That sounds great!” Becky moved to play a set-list of tunes on the stereo. The first song began: “Sail on Sailor” by the Beach Boys. The sun disappeared below the horizon and the lightning flashes increased in a crescendo that seemed to mirror the music.
“Perfect!” she thought.