Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Voyage On A BC Ferry


The little old guy was trying to get his point across to the ferry worker, but he didn’t appear to be having much success. “They’re running around like they own the place!” he yelled, as his arms waved over his head. “And some of them appear to be big. Big like foot-ball players or something! And,” he leaned forward, “I heard two of them planning to go outside and have a smoke!” The old guy waggled his eyebrows to add emphasis to that last statement.

The ferry worker nodded thoughtfully, idly scratching at his eye patch with a needle sharp dagger. “Ahr,” he answered, “but you see, they are foot-ball players. Young men of the Coast League y’see. Just played in a tournament these past few days, and acquitted theyselves well I hear tell.” He paused for a moment and tossed a small chunk of pre-chewed hard-tack to the parrot on his shoulder. “Ahr. I’ll tell ye this old man. If you’re sure of what you’re about, I’ll bring what ye say to the Captain’s mind, but be ye warned. The Captain’s oldest lad is a player in this very same Coast League, and if it should come into his mind that ye be casting dispersions on the lads, well...” The ferry worker paused again, this time to noisily suck air through the gaps in his mouth where there had used to be teeth. “The Captain is reckoned by many to be the most savage and bloodthirsty soul to ever command a ship in the BC Ferry Corporation. The Terror of The Inner Passage they call him. Ahr, I’ll take your message to Captain ‘Rip Their Guts Out And Eat Them’ Smythe, and you be off to let your next of kin know where they can go to pick up the pieces!”

“But you will let tell him though, right?” the old man persisted.

“Ahr.” answered the ferry worker, before spinning on his peg leg and thumping off towards the bridge.

It is unknown whether the message was ever passed on to the Captain, but the young foot-ballers did become rowdier and louder. Several were playing video games or listening to music on their boom boxes. Others roamed the ferry clearing their throats at every opportunity. Finally some of the boys crossed a line that even Captain Smythe couldn’t ignore. Somehow or other they had disrupted the ship’s operation.

The story never became clear to the paying passengers (although there were rumours that pickles and bathroom tissue were involved), but it wasn’t too long before the foot-ballers and their coaches were all gathered together in the ferry’s main lounge. They were surrounded by the scurvyest bunch of BC ferry workers that one could ever imagine, every one of whom was “Ahr”ing and shaking their parrots at the boys for all they were worth.

The foot-ballers looked terrified, but apparently they had prepared for a situation such as this. The boys formed themselves into a choir formation, shorter boys in the front with the taller boys behind. They then broke into song. They began with ‘The Ferryman’s Lament’, followed by ‘My Parrot Flew Away’, ‘The Anchor Falls’ and ‘The Skull And Cross Bones Jig’. They finished up with the spiritual ‘From Tsawwassen To Duke Point’, and as their voices faded at the end all that could be heard in the lounge was the sobbing of the ferry workers and the muffled squawks as their parrots wiped their noses.

At the back of the room there stood a giant dressed in the distinctive garb of a Captain of a ship in the BC Ferry Corporation. A full seven feet he stood, with a parrot on each shoulder, three peg legs and two eye patches. It was Captain Smythe himself, and a tear was carefully weaving it’s way down his heavily scarred and grizzled face.

He spit out a blackened tooth as he slowly surveyed the quiet foot-ballers. “Ye lads sing as the angels themselves would if they but knew the words.” he rumbled. “Even we who are the damned can appreciate that. Ye’ve won yerselves a pardon lads, now get off my ship!”

The boys whooped and hollered as they bounded down to the car decks. Captain Smythe, the terror of the inner passage, watched as they left, his face impassive and grim. Then with a final “Ahr”, he turned and stumped back to the bridge of his ship to prepare for yet another voyage.

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