Now ’tis often said by those learned in the ways o’ the briny deeps that the surest way to attract the common or vulgar squid onto a line is with that that can sooth the breast of the most savage of beasts, to wit, a song. As such, as the Lucky Betty sailed leisurely out o’ Cap’n Bandy’s marina, Phil – a member in good standin’ for many years of the Quantoket Bend G&S Society – suggested we join our tongues in the ballad o’ the HMS Pinafore. This proposal however was shot down by Old Joe, who explained that if he ever claimed to be a sober man, be it even in song, the Good Lord would strike him down with a bolt o’ heavenly lightning right as where he stood. This caused us no little consternation as he were the one captainin’ our fine vessel, but he allayed our fears by explainin’ that his alcoholism was of the ‘functional’ variety, and so long as he had a steady supply of liquors spirituous there could be no firmer hand on the wheel. The problem thus dispatched we returned our attentions to matters musical, and decided after some discussion that a chorus o’ the well know duet from Lakmé would serve almost as well, and so motored out to sea with my good self taking the title role, Phil as Mallika and Benny Mousetrap keepin’ time by beatin’ his head against the port gunwale.
Our destination that fine art’noon were the Peabody Shoals off the south end of Body Island, a well known place o’ habitat for the speckled squid o’ the delta coast. While confusin’ and treacherous for large vessels, and the site o’ many a piteous shipwreckin’ in times o’ yore, a craft of shallow draft such as our own would be in little danger, and Benny’s innate sense o’ direction, honed by many years o’ rollin the streets of the Cable District, would see us in good stead when avoidin’ the few banks and reefs that could pose any kind o’ serious threat. However we were no more than halfway to the shoals when a sudden change in the winds precipitated a dampening o’ the atmosphere and the western horizon changed all pale and hazy – a sign o’ certain assurance that the mists would soon be upon us.
Unwillin’ to abandon our expedition but equally reluctant to chance the shoals under conditions so increasingly hazardous Old Joe suggested we drop anchor where we floated and begin our squid huntin’. All agreed as to the prudence o’ this course o’ action so we rolled out the rusty anchor chain, set out the ridin’ lights – red, green and yellow to inform any passin’ vessel exactly what it was we was about – and optimistically hoisted the purple squidin’ flag for luck. Benny took station in the fo’c’sle to keep an ear for approaching vessels and Phil consulted his well worn copy o’ the Recollections o’ Joan o’ Arc while Old Joe and I took our seats in the stern and dropped our lines o’er the side to await the comin’ of the squid, doin’ so just as the first bank o’ fog rolled in on us.
I tell ye it was eerie out there on the open ocean with no more’n twenty feet o’ vision in any direction and no sound but the clank o’ the chain, the slap o’ the waves and Benny’s muttered recitation o’ the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam – a nervous habit he’d developed stayin’ in a house o’ easy virtue o’er the west coast many years prior. I can fairly state that it would have surprised our party in no way had the legendary Great Sea Serpent, Old King Neptune and his Naiads or the Eliza Battle loomed at us out o’ the mists. The squid we had come out in earnest search of seemed similar spooked and not a nibble was felt on either o’ our lines, leading Old Joe to comment on our foolishness in settin’ sail on a day o’ the full moon so late in the year – an observation that would have been a great packet more useful back on the land before we committed ourselves to spending our time afloat on the briny deep.
I was considerin’ the wisdom of pullin’ our lines and headin’ back towards shore when a cry came from Benny up at the bow. Somethin’, he asserted, was headin’ our way at a right lick o’ speed, though with the current atmospheric conditions being as they were he couldn’t commit to say as to what it might be. Phil leapt to at the foghorn and began pumpin’ out a mournful howl while Old Joe and I braced for the expected impact, remembrin’ too late that short o’ clamping a rope betwixt his teeth Benny had no way to do similar at his perch in the fo’c’sle. I let go of the gunwale and headed fo’ward with a mind to his rescue just as the biggest wave any o’ us could recall seein’ in all our God given days slammed into the Betty, throwin’ the boat skyward and sendin’ Benny flyin’ off into the mist with a final wail concerning what was to be done with his mortal remains, assumin’ they could be located after such a woeful misadventure. The boat slammed back down, fully intact, leavin’ us bruised and sore with no sign o’ the king wave, or o’ Benny Mousetrap whose fate it now seemed was fully in the hands o’ the mighty ocean.
We did, in the end find the mortal remains o’ Benny, but that my friend is another story entirely.