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From Inside the Flap
The cool sea showered the crew with falling mist and strong spring winds that caused the men to clench and shiver. As the music ballads observed the rising of dusk, the twilight set upon the Anglo-Indian empire in the year of our lord 1907. Captain Colin Limmerick sprawled by the bow watching the crew celebrate yet another long night on the Celtic waters. He sat up, trying to focus, counting several empty bottles of ale rolling about his feet as he mesmerized himself with a hefty bottle of whiskey. He hoisted himself up and staggered toward the crew, leaning by the stairs that led to the galley. Eddy, the first mate and oldest crewmember, stood beside the towering six-foot-four captain.
The Atlantic Mermaid held her own with her sturdy body, two protruding steam pipes, and one mast sail. She cut through the blue-grey waters, too small to be a mechanized steamer, yet too oversized to be a deep-sea trawler
Eddy sighed with exhaustion. "Lad, I’m gettin’ too old to keep up with yar strength ’n mischief."
The captain chuckled. "Ye take a rest. I’ll haul in the catch."
"Ah, yar a one-man crew. Just look at the size of ya, Captain."
"I do what I can." The captain laughed while flexing his great biceps.
Young Timmy steered the ship to the Dublin Quays while Eddy trailed behind the nine-man crew into the galley. They sat wherever there was an empty stool, placing warm ale upon the wooden table. Colin remained standing, drinking his ale while he gazed at his crew.
Eddy looked at him. "Can’t ya find a place to sit, Captain?"
"Standin’ I don’t mind doin’, thanks."
"Despite ya bein’ the captain ’n owner of this ship, yar still like a son to me. I can tell somethin’s eatin’ ya. Is it quid?"
"Quid? It’s not."
"Good to hear, Captain," Eddy responded.
"Our Mermaid, she brings us much good feastin’ she does." Colin tried to smile. He finished his last drop of whiskey while noticing the crew comfortably seated around him. "Men, I’ve got some news for yez." He watched as a few drops of whiskey ran down the side of his empty bottle.
"Tyin’ the knot are ya? I bet our Captain is." Eddy tried to guess. "Strange, a man of yar good looks can’t find a wife." The crew cackled and drank up.
"Married, ye say? I haven’t the luck with wenches, ye know it."
"Come out with it then -- what is it?" Eddy asked. The room grew quiet.
"Men, I’m thirty-nine years old. Ye know as a man ages he starts to ask himself if he’s happy?" Colin tried to focus on the crew, who appeared concerned. He brushed his fingers along the sides of his empty whiskey bottle and placed the last drop of spirit upon his tongue. "I don’t know how to say this." Colin tied back his brassy-crimson hair, which hung to the middle of his back. "Ye know I’ve lived in two worlds for the past seven years, tryin’ to obtain me university degrees’n run this vessel’n such."
The crew nodded. "We know our captain’s a scholar!" Eddy blurted as they all opened another ale. "Yaz the smartest man I’ve ever known."
"Yer too kind. I just received me acceptance into London University’s doctorate course in the Department of Natural History. Sure, you know how much I’m goin’ after bein’ a naturalist?"
The men broke into hysterics mauling Colin with rugged hugs. "We know yaz could do it, Captain!"
"I’ll be meetin’ up with me academic advisor next week in London town. I was teamed with ’im ’cause he’s the only professor in the department who specialises in the evolutionary process. Ye fellows know me already, ye know how I’m interested in that kind ’n such, don’t you?" Colin asked, blowing the foam from his mug of ale.
"Yeah, we know you’re a big smart bastard!" Eddy shouted, then the men broke into chants of excitement.
"What ya goin’ to do ’bout us ’n the Atlantic Mermaid?" Eddy asked.
"I thought maybe you all could carry on the legacy without me durin’ the week. I’ll still be yer captain, only I won’t be on the ship as often ’cause I’d be spendin’ me time at the university’n such. I’ll try ’n be here three days a week to fill our largest quota I will." Colin lit a candle, reflecting the light off the freckles of his nose. The sun was starting to set as the crew intoxicated themselves without mercy.
The following week Colin planned a meeting with his advisory professor in the afternoon so he could spend the morning travelling to London. His crew dropped him off at Fishguard, where he boarded a train to London.
He finally made it to London, where he tried to make sense of his directions, that were scratched on a scrap of newspaper. Pulling off his jacket, he swung it over his shoulder. His tight-fitted undershirt exposed far too much of his brawny flesh for the buzzing Edwardian Londoners. Frayed suspenders were attached to his tattered trousers, which expelled the stench of seawater. He wore three chain necklaces around his broad neck: one gold with a hanging crucifix; a large, heavy silver chain; and a fine silver one. His ear was pierced with a gold earring. He wore heavy boots, which made a hard clinking sound when he walked in his regular, lead-footed stomp.
He scurried out of the train station onto the street level, where he was immediately faced with the thriving hustle and bustle of the crowded streets of London. He continued to walk north. Clusters of females passed by, staring with blushing giggles. Gangs of young thugs passed by him, cursing in their south London cockney slang.
He found the university and made his way up the stairs to the second floor to the Natural History Department. He clenched the newspaper with the directions in his hands, failing to notice his fingers were caked with dirt. He stopped someone in the dim hallway asking if they knew where Professor Randolph Cushing’s office was. The person directed him to the north side of the building. Colin stopped in the hallway, deciding to tie his long hair back so he could look more presentable. His tweed cap’s visor pressed his long forelock, which hung past his eyes, against his face. He stopped to catch his reflection in a window where he tried to primp his appearance the best he knew how.
He finally found the correct office and knocked on the door. He found it ajar. "Pardon? Pardon meself?" Colin called out as he pushed his way into a dimly lit, well-organised office.
A man in his mid-sixties turned to Colin while he poured himself a cup of tea. The paunchy man had hanging jowls that swung from each side of his face. "Yes?" The man could hear the sound of Colin’s jewellery clang as he walked into the middle of the room. He jolted with surprise as the towering, broad-shouldered man approached him.
"Pardon me, sar, but could ye be so kind in directin’ me to a Professor Randolph Cushing’s office?" Colin asked in his heavy Dublin brogue.
The man’s eyes widened. "Yes, I am he. I am Dr. Cushing." The professor squinted his eyes as he tried to focus on Colin, noticing the tattoo of a mermaid and a ship burned onto his arm. "Oh, I see who you are. Yes, you see this cabinet is very large and heavy; it needs to be moved to this side of the room," Dr. Cushing said, pointing to a large metal cabinet. "I’ve been waiting for you all day. What took you so long?"
"All day, sar? I thought I informed ye that I’d be in yer office this afternoon."
"No! No! No! Just move the cabinet!"
Colin squatted to the floor to lift the cabinet. "Ye want it on that side of the room, sar?"
"Yes, I do! Damn it!" He paused. "What are you doing?"
Colin started to lift the cabinet. "Doin,’ sar? Movin’ this metal cabinet as ye asked."
"Stupid foreigner, you’re supposed to take everything out before you move it!"
"Not necessary, sar." Colin moved the cabinet to the other side of the office with folders and books still in it.
"You look like you could move a house! Now, I suppose you want some kind of a tip?"
"Tip, sar? Can’t say I know what yer speakin’ of."
Professor Cushing pulled two pence from his wallet. "Here!"
Colin stood still, confused. "Sar, why’d ye just give me money?"
"Look, I don’t have time to chat. I’m expecting someone to arrive quite shortly."
"Aye, sar. I’ve arrived, so I have."
Professor Cushing nodded his head with disgust. "No, no, not you. I’m talking about my new doctorate student."
"Oh, ye got yerself another new doctorate student do ye?"
"No, Timothy Duncan is already in his second year of his doctorate, he’s my other student. My new student is some chap named Colin Limmerick ... he’s got impressive credentials," the professor muttered as he glanced at the clock on his desk. "Not that you’d be interested in that sort of thing."
Colin laughed as he extended his large hand toward Professor Cushing. "It’s me pleasure."
Professor Cushing pushed Colin’s hand away from him. "Be gone! I’ve got to get prepared for my new student."
Colin placed his hands on his hips. "Sar, I’m yer man. Colin Limmerick, so I am!"
Professor Cushing was silent and still. "What?"
"Colin Limmerick, so I am. ’Tis grand to meet with ye, so it is," Colin said shaking his professor’s hand profusely.
"But, I called the movers to move my office furniture? Aren’t you them?"
"Colin Limmerick is me name. The one with the impressive references ye speak of, sar."
Professor Cushing sat down.
Colin smiled. "Sar, for some reason, ye thought I was here to move yer furniture? Sure, I am yer new doctorate student."
"It was you who sent that outstanding reference package? That was you?"
"Sure I am, sar," Colin responded in his deep, calm voice.
"You? How can this be?"
"How can what be, sar?"
"You’re ... you’re a pirate!"
Colin laughed. "Pirate, sar? A pirate I’m not -- a fisherman so I am."
Professor Cushing remained sitting as he tried to slurp his cold tea. "It was you who wrote that lengthy monograph for your research proposal on Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection? That was you?"
"And so it was, sar."
The Professor rubbed his face. "Go, you need to go now. There is a housewarming ordeal occurring in the university’s Great Hall. Just go and mingle with the other students. Get your doctoral student package -- it will be addressed to you with my name marked down as your academic advisor. I can’t believe you’re Colin Limmerick! Just go!"
"Professor Cushing, you seem a wee bit piqued, ye do."
"Just go! I have to take this in. I’m going to be working with you for the next four years. I have to come to terms with this some way, somehow."
Colin leaned over Professor Cushing’s desk to shake his hand. The professor looked at Colin’s sweaty, dirty hands in horror.
Colin smiled as he made his way down the marble stairs of the university searching for the Great Hall. He could see a crowd of people filtering into a middle-sized hall. By the time he got there, they had all had already taken their seats, leaving Colin standing in the aisle. An older man spoke in a loud monotone to the crowd. The students were quiet as they listened to the man welcome the new students to The University of London. Colin fumbled along the aisle. The speaker stopped and glanced at Colin, who was still trying to find a seat.
"Who is it you’re looking for?" the speaker loudly asked Colin.
"Is this the Great Hall?
"Then I’m in the correct location I am. I apologise I do." Colin bowed his head while he could hear the seated students whisper to one another.
"Come on, come on then, just find a seat anywhere and we will proceed," the speaker said, looking annoyed at Colin.
Colin spotted one seat near the back row as he fumbled through the crowd. "Pardon me, is this seat taken?" he asked one of the few females in the crowd.
The young woman smiled. "It would be yours now."
Colin seated himself and removed his tweed cap. "Hello," he said to the woman, noticing her long, golden brown hair was tied back with a blue felt ribbon.
She smiled as she tried to pay attention to the speaker but instead grew more intrigued with the stranger sitting beside her. The crowd applauded, and the speaker completed his "welcome, graduate students" speech.
"Would ye know who the speaker is?" Colin asked the young woman.
She leaned over to him and covered her mouth. "I think he’s the chancellor, but I’m not too sure," she whispered.
"Rather long speech it was?" Colin commented, trying to make conversation.
"Yes, rather boring." She gestured a pretend yawn and pulled her student information out of a brown folder with her name on it.
"Where’d ye get that?" Colin asked.
The young woman couldn’t help but stare at Colin’s brutally handsome smile but tried to focus on his question. "It was handed out as we entered the hall -- yours is probably still by the podium," she said.
"Fetch it I should?" Colin asked nervously.
"You would draw too much attention to yourself."
"I think ye could be right."
The welcome lecture finally concluded, Colin and the woman left the lecture along with the crowd of new graduate students. Colin held his tweed cap in his hand, "Say, would ye like to walk ’round London town with me?"
"Right now?" she asked.
"Now is good." He took notice of her large, dark eyes. She appeared nervous.
"I don’t know."
"Sure ye’d like to show a newcomer like me ’round London town?"
"I don’t know," she said, turning away from him.
"Ye from ’round here?" he asked as he stepped closer to her.
"I grew up in London, but I’m no Londoner."
"Nor am I."
"Really?" she answered sarcastically.
He chuckled and stepped closer to her. "Ye seem like a very proper lady ye do. So proper ’n so beautiful."
She stepped away from him. "You know, I really need to pay attention to the time."
"Ah, ye need to run do ye?"
Her eyes started to wander, for she could not stop focusing on his piercing green eyes. "Yes, I have to be somewhere."
She lowered her eyebrows. "Somewhere -- that is none of your business!"
"Would ye spare some time ’n walk ’round town with me -- just for a minute or two?"
"You’re a stranger."
"That I am. Maybe not a stranger for long?"
"You’re persistent aren’t you?"
"That I am."
"What would your wife say about this?"
He chuckled. "Wife, ye say? There’s no wife. I’m still waitin’ for the right maiden to come me way." Colin grinned, exposing the dimples in his cheeks.
"All right then."
"Is that a yes?"
"I’ll stroll about with you."
Colin smiled as he clumsily gathered his notes and orientation information.
They walked to Covent Garden, where several vendors sold food and other merchandise.
"May I ask a lady her name?" Colin tipped his cap toward her, noticing how delicate she was. She was dressed in a floor-length blue dress with several ribbons that drew Colin’s attraction.
"I’m Rosa. Rosa Emanuel." She extended her hand to him.
"Rosa, Rosa, like a flower ye are smellin’ so sweet ’n lookin’ so lovely," Colin sang as he bowed and kissed her hand.
"I see you’re a poet? Not a keen one, but a poet," she commented. "And your name?"
"Colin. Colin Limmerick I am -- Captain at that. Captain Colin Limmerick so I am."
"Limmerick, Colin Limmerick...Captain? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with a last name of a city."
"It’s common it is, very common wouldn’t ye think, lass? Me Celtic ancestors may’ve had somethin’ to do with it or even the Gauls perhaps -- it goes way back, ye know."
She paused. "Wait a moment ... I heard about you. You’re the bloke with the impeccable academic references?"
"Impeccable? I never would have described me references that way as such."
"You’re the bloke who’s supposed to be impeccably brilliant?" She pointed at him. "You’re Professor Cushing’s new PhD student? It was you who wrote that monograph for part of the university application on some prehistoric mammal?"
"Megaloceros giganteus," he said.
"It’s displayed in the showcase in the foyer of the Natural History building. Yes, meglo-whatever! That’s you?"
"Megaloceros, the Irish elk, the same mammal with two names it is."
"Oh! Did you meet Professor Cushing yet?"
"Briefly, I did."
"I’ve heard about him. How did it go?"
Colin scratched his head. "I don’t know really."
"You don’t know?"
"I ... I moved his office furniture around I did."
"He had me move a grand lookin’ metal cabinet to the other end of his office."
"A mover he thought I was. He didn’t appear to fancy me much. Two pence he gave me."
"He gave you money? Why?"
"A tip I think it was."
"Dr. Cushing is known as a snobby elitist! Watch out for him. On the other hand, some of his students adore him."
"If he’s known as an elitist maybe he won’t fancy me bein’ Irish."
"By the way, I’m a Dubliner I am."
"What a surprise."
They continued to walk through the markets of Coventry Street. "Rosa, I wonder if I could ask ye somethin’ if I may?" he asked.
"I’d adore yer company, if ye could?" he said, standing very close to her in the streets of the market. Rosa looked up at him as he continued. "Would ye do me the honour of allowin’ me to be yer suitor?"
She stepped back. "Are you asking me if you can court me?"
"I understand if ye already have a gentleman. Taken already, I’m sure a pretty lass like ye would have yerself a fine gent, ye would."
"You’re asking if I have a gentleman friend?"
"Well, if by any slim chance ye don’t, perhaps I could maybe be considered, if this is a wee bit possible?"
"I gave them up a while ago."
"Men, I gave them up. I don’t court anyone."
Colin wasn’t sure if she was making a joke. "Gave up men, yer tellin’ me?"
"I don’t bother with them."
Colin appeared deflated with his lips parted. "I see."
"Don’t look so sad -- you don’t even know me. I’m sure all the ladies are constantly giving you attention."
"I wouldn’t say that much, I wouldn’t. Somehow, Rosa, I feel as if I’ve known ye all me life. What ye think?"
"I just met you. I think this is all a bit premature -- not to mention quite abrupt."
His body language indicated some angst as he constantly shifted his weight from one leg to another. "Ye know I pay attention to the ancient Celts I do."
"They’s me ancestors, they is. Intuition is somethin’ not to be ignored. Deep in me gut I feel ye ’n me should be courtin’."
"Really, me love, from the spirits of me ancient Celtic ancestors, I need to be your suitor."
She rolled back her eyes. "Look, ignore my last comment. Where would you like to take me?" she asked feeling nervous.
"Where I live I’d like to take ye."
Her eyes focused on the road. "Where do you live?" There was caution in her voice.
"A sea merchant I am, ’n I live on me vessel, I do. Would ye like to see me ship ’n meet me crew?"
"You’re a sea merchant? That explains the Captain you put in front of your name, and I suppose it explains your clothes?"
"Me Éadaigh? Somethin’ wrong with me clothes?"
"Well, I guess your clothes are perfect for a sea merchant, but I hardly think they’re too fitting for the elitist university community."
Colin glanced down at his chest while he examined what he was wearing. "I’ve always dressed this way even when I went to university in Dublin."
"That was Dublin -- this is London. Professor Cushing probably lost a beat when he saw you walk through his door. Just buy some suits, and all should be well. Oh, and scrub those fingernails," she said. "They do look dreadful."
Colin peered at his fingers. "I don’t understand."
"You need to fit in -- that’s all I’m saying," she said.
Colin took her hand. "Would ye like to see where I live? This Friday evening a party will be upon me ship. I’d like to invite ye to come as me guest I would."
"A party! Sounds like fun. How do I get to your ship?"
"I’ll pick ye up in front of the Natural History buildin’. Ye will come with me on a train to Fishguard, ’n waitin’ there will be me vessel already docked."
"This sounds very far and complicated."
"It’s the only way."
"I don’t think this is possible. I don’t even know you," she said, pulling away from him.
He placed his arms around her and brought her five-foot-five, slender frame toward him, pressing her face against his belly. "Please," he pleaded.
She squirmed in his arms. "If I come, it can only be for a short time."
"Ah, but that’s the catch, love."
Rosa’s smile dissipated. "There’s a catch?"
"You’d have to stay in me cabin for the weekend. I reunite with me crew every Friday through Sunday for our most tryin’ catch of the week. I’d have ye back by Sunday."
Rosa stepped away from him. "Then I can’t come."
"Please. I really would like ye to visit me ship I would. I want to show ye off to me crew."
"Show me off to your crew? What is this?"
"Not tryin’ to offend I’m not."
Her voice lowered. "I never stayed in a man’s home before."
"Please, ye must say yes, ye do."
"Crew? You want me to stay in your cabin the entire weekend with you and your crew? No, I don’t think I can," she said nodding her head while pulling away from him. "I’m Catholic."
"So am I. Isn’t that marvellous somethin’ in common we’s got."
"I hope you go to confession."
"Oh, but I do."
"Of course you do."
"An avid Catholic at that I am."
She stepped closer to him. "Look, I was never with someone like you."
"How do ye mean, Rosa -- love?"
"You have dirty fingernails. You even smell quite disgusting."
Colin hung his head down while staring at the street. "You don’t fancy me much, do ye?"
"No! No, that’s not it! I really like you! You seem very nice. No, please don’t misunderstand. It’s because you seem different than the blokes I’m used to attending school with."
"Rosa, I would really like to spend some time with ye. I’m invitin’ ye to me ship. Think of me as the boy next door."
She laughed. "Boy next door? You?"
"I’ve been called that before I have."
"No, no, you haven’t. I would never describe you as the boy next door. Maybe a rough-neck at best."
He scooped her in his arms. "Well? Are ye comin’ to me boat?"
Rosa was shaken by surprise. "Put me down, you out-of-control, big lug!"
Regretfully, he placed her onto the road. "I’m hurtin’ ye, am I?"
"No, no, you’re not. Colin, why can’t you understand? I’ve only known you a few hours. I can’t stay the weekend on your ship with you and your crew. My reputation would be crushed."
Colin’s eyes saddened. "I suppose I don’t really follow reputations much."
"I want ye to see the world I come from ’is all."
He focused on her as he paused. "’Cause I truly fancy ye, Rosa."
"You don’t even know me. What if I was Jack the Ripper’s sister or something awful like that?"
He stepped closer to her and ran his hand through her long, silky hair. "I don’t think that’s the case, love."
"If you weren’t so nice and so intriguing, I would walk from you this very minute, Colin Limmerick! But I suppose I will have to trust you on this one, God knows why."
"Is that a yes, lass?"
"Yes, yes, yes, I’ll visit your boat. But you and your crew are not allowed in the cabin where I will be spending the night."
"Me crew will be forbidden, I promise ye."
"They better be forbidden," she enforced.
Colin wrapped his arms around her. "A good-bye kiss I’d love to give ye just now?"
"No!" she said angrily.
"A day kiss right now here on the street?"
She pulled away. "No!"
"I promise I won’t hurt ye," he said while he gingerly held and kissed her cheek.
She pushed him away. "You have to stop doing this."
"Why is that?"
"It just isn’t proper. I’m a lady, and you’re a ..." Her gaze dropped to the road.
He stepped closer to her again. "And I’m a man. Aye, yer a lady, ’n I’m a man -- therefore, we can get romantic with one another, eh?"
She tried desperately not to look at him. "Keep your distance!" she blurted, holding her hands out in front of her.
He stood still. "I’d like to at least try the other cheek if I may?"
"No! You may not!"
"Ye have me word I’d never hurt ye. Me ship is a much safer place to be than the streets of London."
"I’m making a big mistake. I don’t think I can trust you."
"Ah, but ye can, lass! Please! Ye must!"
"I told you my answer already. I will not board your ship!" she said sternly as her eyes locked with his.
He smiled and remained still.
"You have these dimples in your cheeks which make you look like an honest man," she said.
"An honest man is what I am, love." He stepped closer to her.
Her hands shielded her again. "Stay back! And, don’t call me love!"
He walked toward her. "I need to go now. Me crew will be waitin’ at port -- I need to take the train, I do."
She started to walk backwards away from him. "You shouldn’t keep your crew waiting."
"Sometimes I make ’em wait, but this time I shouldn’t."
"I have to go too," she said.
"What time can I pick ye up Friday?"
"Don’t know!" She kept her distance.
"I have to work at sea. I’ll get clean. I promise ’n pick ye up at half seven?" he continued to walk toward her.
"Half past seven is fine, I suppose," she turned her back on him and began walking north in a near trot.
He grabbed her from behind by the waist. "I have to give ye a kiss good-bye, ’til we meet again!"
She pulled away from him and ran like a bashful teenager. "Until then!" she shouted, getting away from him as fast as possible.
Blood Moon Publishing is an imprint of Double Dragon Publishing