Monday, June 12, 2017

Nurse the Hate: My Latest Voyage

My love,

I cannot thank you enough for building the time machine to come rescue me from the Tasmanian sparkling wine venture gone wrong.  The fact it was not only in Tasmania but in 1868 did make it extremely inconvenient for you to come fetch me.  I can only imagine the trouble you must have had checking the time machine in as your “checked bag” at the airport.  Even having “silver elite status” must not have been enough to stave off an unpleasant negotiation at the ticket counter.  Once again, thank you.  I feel as though eventually the Aborigine toughs I employed would have slit my throat to say nothing of being trapped in 1868 Tasmania.  Things were going poorly.  However, my latest letter does not find me well either.

I have made a great mistake.  To avoid flying United Airlines to SFO, I booked passage on a container ship bound for the West Coast.  My thought was I could disconnect from society at large, immerse myself in wine texts, and arrive refreshed in port in San Francisco for my exam.  I pictured standing on a graceful ship with my face to the wind, surveying the sea with a contemplative expression.  Perhaps I would stand on the bridge with the captain as he wistfully smoked his pipe telling me tales of his years at sea as we sipped on a port.  We would confer on our lives and extract wisdom from our experiences.  Certainly, I would have much to say with my experiences in Tasmania alone.  In the end, I would depart the ship as a fellow “Man of the Sea”, one of the tribe of ocean dwelling men that work the oceans.  This was a great miscalculation.

The reality is not what I had pictured.  It’s a huge old ship that smells of oil and diesel.  The small crew is sullen.  When they squeeze past me in the narrow hallways of the tired ship they never make eye contact.  The Captain is a man named Mac that chain smokes WInstons and uses the word “fuck” as noun, verb, adverb, and adjective.  Example:  “Hey you Fuck!  Get the fucking fuck off that fucking thing you fucking fuck!” for when I attempted to climb a small ladder to access the deck.  Most of the crew is Portuguese (I think) and smile only when I get screamed at by Mac. 

Mac has a small dog named Jingles that is some sort of unidentifiable terrier mix.  Jingles shits everywhere on the ship, a fact that was only reinforced in rough seas in the Gulf when I stepped in a cool pile on my way to throw up in the filthy head during a 36-hour bout of sea sickness.  I walked back to my room on my right heel to clean the shit from my toes in my small room with paper napkins as I gagged.  Jingles main benefit is that the cook “Smokey” claims “he’s a natural ratter!”.  While I suppose I am glad that Jingles is qualified to kill rats, I would prefer not to be traveling on a ship teeming with them.

In the morning, I go to the galley to eat runny eggs and pre-cooked microwave sausage by myself while the Portuguese talk to each other.  They spoke to me only once, when they got back from Panama after spending their money on whores and seco herrerano, a powerful local alcohol made from sugar cane.  I don’t know what they said, but after one spoke at me, the others laughed.  I took it as a bad sign.  I had walked around the crowded city myself for a couple hours, buying a custom made linen suit that is expected to arrive at my lodgings in San Francisco where Mr. Billings, my preferred concierge, will insure it is pressed for immediate service.  I had almost purchased a plane ticket, but at this point it has become a quest to finish this doomed sea voyage.  I was determined to see this through.

By the time we made the turn past Nicaragua I began to shake with fever.  I am becoming increasingly concerned I have contracted chikungunya from the dozens of mosquito bites that are a result of needing to keep the windows open to provide ventilation in the humidity and exhaust fumes of the stinking ship.   My joints have swollen painfully.  Even shuffling to the head has become almost impossible.  Smokey was thoughtful enough to provide me a plastic “slop bucket” for my use, though refuses to pour it out the small portside window.   He assures me my condition is most likely dengue fever, and I should recover in as little as four months, so there is that silver lining.

I am growing increasingly concerned I will not arrive in time for my exam.  Our pace has been slowed.  We have been battered by fierce storms as my slop bucket rolls back and forth across the room spreading filth everywhere.  I continue to have horrible nightmares fueled by these powerful fevers.  Terrible dreams with no end.  During the daylight, I have only these wine books.  As you know I have been studying with great effort for months.  This is on top of the decade I studied while trapped in Tasmania, though only having wine making books in French from the 1850s might prove to be of little help in this particular exam.  Pray for my safe passage.  If you do not hear from me by the 15th, contact Mr. Billings.  He will look after my estate and make sure you are taken care of.  He is a good man that Billings.

I must extinguish this lamp.  Jingles is howling outside the door.  I must hobble over to allow him in so as to attack the rat that must be in my quarters.  Dirty business this sea faring.

G. Miller

P.S.  Give my love to mother.   


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