Captain Willa Freundlich, her crew, and the remaining passengers on the luxury cruise ship The Eris have taken refuge on Little Ragged, a remote deserted island in the Bahamas. There they work to begin new lives for themselves, growing food and fishing, building shelters and doing everything necessary to create a viable community. But they are not the only ones to survive the collapse of civilization. Unknown enemies appear, and The Eris is a tempting target. A group of marauders from nearby Grand Turk is intent on raiding The Eris for her abundant stores, and they are willing to kill anyone to get what they want. Two Cuban mutineers arrive with a stolen submarine armed with torpedoes. Despite their efforts to discourage these predators, the survivors from The Eris will be forced to defend themselves from deadly attacks.
Dave Sturges and his family and friends must find a way to cross the border into the US where they are imprisoned in a slave labor camp and later forced to follow the crazed rituals of a mad cultist. Attacked by wild animals and insane cannibals they cross the midwestern US in hopes of reaching their families in the Northeast.
For everyone it is a desperate struggle to not only survive, but to thrive.
This is the second book in the Eris Series.
Targeted Age Group:: adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I was inspired by a Post-It note.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I researched jobs on cruise ships and created characters to match those jobs.
We made air kisses and I headed for my stateroom. Pretty nice accommodations for a crew member. I had a single, a real blessing, with a private bath. Lower decks, but at least I had a porthole. It took me just under an hour to get myself dressed and made up. When I was satisfied with my look, I sprayed a small cloud of perfume and walked through it. One last glance at the mirror and I left my room and made my way to the forward nightclub.
The Millennium Nightclub could pack in about three hundred passengers. I was good at packing them in. It was a typical bar crowd, if you ignored the overwhelming smell of coconut oil and bad aftershave. I first checked in with the band director and shared my playlist. Once that was squared away, I went to the bar and got my first wine spritzer of the night. I had a ninety minute set, no intermission, so I’d probably down about three before I was finished.
“Hey, Julia. The usual?”
“You look awesome. New dress?”
“Yeah. Something I picked up in Montego. Thanks for noticing.”
“Hard not to notice a beauty like you.”
“You are sweet. If you weren’t old enough to be my grandfather I might jump your bones.”
“I’m well aged, Julia. Like a fine wine.”
“Or an old cheese.”
Shep laughed. Shep Neville was the best bartender and one of the finest gentleman on the boat. I’ll never forget him telling two busboys ogling a particularly well-endowed blonde one night, “Somewhere there’s a guy who’s tired of fucking that.” At first, I was slightly offended, but after some thought I considered it a thoroughly feminist remark.
“Here you go, honey. When you’re ready for a refill, just sing my favorite song and I’ll hook you up.”
“I forgot, what’s your favorite song?”
“Every song you sing, Julia. Voice like an angel.”
“You’re the best. Thanks.”
From across the lounge, I saw Sally headed my way. Shep started whistling the theme for the wicked witch from the Wizard of Oz.
I waved to Sally.
“Trapped.” Said Shep. “Trapped like rats!”
Shep stepped away and Sally stepped up.
“You ready to go?”
“As always. Anything you need?”
“Just a few requests from passengers. The usual.”
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow?”
“Of course…” She handed me a card. I looked it over.
“No problem. I’ll talk to the band. Whoa. This is different.”
“I’m Waitin’ For My Man.” I said, puzzled.
“Yeah, I wasn’t sure which show that was from.”
“It’s not from a show, Sally. It’s a Lou Reed song. I’m…waitin’ for my man. Twenty-six dollars, in my hand!”
“What’s it about?”
“He’s singing about waiting for his heroin dealer.”
“Oh, my. Who made the request?”
“Again, oh, my. Sly Edenrose. Who knew? Well, you’d best do it. Just make sure you dedicate the song to him.”
“Because he’s a billionaire. One of the richest men in the world.”
“What the hell is he doing on a cruise ship?”
“From what I’ve been told, he’s thinking of investing.”
“In the Eris?”
“God, no. He’d probably buy the whole line, if anything. An avid fisherman, apparently.”
“How the hell you going to fish off a cruise ship?”
“Beats me. Anyway, Mr. Monroe told me to keep him happy.”
“Most assuredly. Anyway, do the song. But don’t forget the dedication.”
“You got it. By the way, Benson is looking for you.”
“Really. That’s unusual.”
“He needs some help with a rather amorous passenger.”
“Maggie Weisberg.” Says Sally.
“I never kiss and tell.”
“That old broad has been in heat ever since she stepped on board. Apparently she thinks this is the Love Boat. Okay, I’ll do my best to run interference.”
“Thanks, Sally. I’ll see you later.”
I went to give the band the request list. They all got a kick out of the Lou Reed song.
“Can you play it?”
“Anybody can play it.” Says Mo, the bass player. “It’s got, like, three notes. Great tune, though.”
If you’re going to sing a song like Stormy Weather on a cruise ship, you’re best to start your set with it. I do it because I love the song, and I sing it very well. After that it’s all sunshine and calm seas. About half way through the set, I dedicated Mr. Edenrose’s odd request, and then me and the band pretty much killed it. I have to admit, it was great fun. We rocked. And Billy, our sax player, wailed a solo that got the whole club on their feet. I seriously considered adding it to my set list. I enjoy performing, even on a cruise ship, but this was special. After the show I was approached by a very handsome older man, dressed casually in clothes clearly worth my yearly salary.
“That was great. Beautifully rendered. Lou Reed would be proud.”
“Julia.” We shook hands. Even his hand felt rich. “I’m glad you enjoyed it, although I doubt Lou Reed would have felt the same way.”
“I knew Lou. Great man. He is missed. Seriously, you definitely did the song justice. I only wish Laurie could have heard it.”
“Another good friend.”
“You flatter me.”
He smiled. It was like the sun coming out. “Let me buy you a drink.”
“Thank you, Mr…Sly. I appreciate the offer…”
“The Captain frowns upon crew members fraternizing with the paying customers.”
“You got me.”
“You’re very attractive, Ms. Martin, but I’m only interested in conversation. My fellow passengers are not what we’d say…stimulating people.”
I laughed. “More like a…herd.”
He laughed. “There must be some place on this boat where we can have a drink.”
“Okay, but we’ll have to go below. To the dungeon.”
“That sounds ominous.”
“it’s what we call the crew bar. Ominous, it’s not. Raucous, pretty much.”
“Sounds perfect. Do they allow riff-raff like myself?”
“Oh, they allow every kind of riff-raff. Specialize in it.”
“Please. Lead the way.”
So I did. We went below to the crew bar and found a moderately quiet table in a far corner.
“What are you drinking?” he asked.
“Vodka tonic, please. With a lime.”
“I’ll be right back. Save my seat.”
Near the bar, I spotted Benson. I waved, he gave her a WTF gesture. I laughed and indicated they would talk later. Sly returned with their drinks.
“What are you having? Scotch?”
“Bourbon.”said Sly. “My scotch tastes are rather refined. Safer to go with bourbon in places like this.”
“Bourbon is bourbon.”
“Pretty much. So. What brings a nice girl like you to a ship like this?”
“It ain’t the money.” He laughed. “Let me think. Lack of goals, floundering career, killer tan, turquoise waters, free room and board…”
“How long you been at it?”
“Almost three years.”
“Really.” I said. “I mostly like it. It may be just tourists, but I’m doing what I love for a crowd, five nights a week. Not exactly Broadway, but it works.”
“Broadway is just as full of tourists.”
“It is, but they buy tickets to see stars. I have a captive audience.”
“My opinion, you should be on Broadway. You have the talent.”
“Thank you, Charles Foster Kane.”
“Smart, too. Swarthmore, Wellesley, Barnard…?
“A venerable institution.”
“Consistently in the top ten most expensive schools in the country. It certainly motivates me to remain employed.”
“And your major?”
“Theatre, obviously. Musical theatre, specifically.”
“Your parents must have been thrilled.”
“Oh, they were. Which explains why I’m still paying the tuition. What about you? Harvard? Yale? MIT?
“Santa Clara Community College. Associates Degree in IT.”
“Good for you.”
“Good for Santa Clara.” Says Sly. “Great internship program with Silicon Valley. I interned with Steve Jobs.”
“You did not.”
“I did. Not a particularly pleasant one. Lucrative, though.”
“Apparently. Are you really worth a billion dollars?”
“Several. My cross to bear.”
“You have no idea. It’s one of the reasons I’m on this boat. Nobody knows where I am.”
“My personal secretary. Edith. With ironclad instructions not to contact me except in dire emergency.”
“Why are you here? Surely you have your own boat – ship, somewhere.”
“I do have one. But it’s better suited to chasing marlin, as opposed to peace of mind.”
“Well, you do seem relaxed.”
“I am. At present.”
“I don’t know. I have a sense of impending…”
“More like chaos.”
“That’s a strong word.”
“Yes.” Says Sly. “The world is certainly a mess.”
“That’s certainly a part of it. I’m not sure things will hold long enough for that to make a difference.”
“Now I’m a little frightened.”
“Don’t be. I’m a bit of an alarmist. You’re safe on a big boat in a beautiful tropic sea. Nuclear missiles are not about to go flying.”
“Good to hear.” Says I.
“Tell you what. If, for whatever reason, you need to be frightened, I’ll be sure to let you know.”
“I appreciate that.”
We had several more drinks, as it happened. It had been a long time since I had talked to someone as interesting as Sylvester Edenrose. Ben was desperate to join us so I invited him to the table. Sly was amazed at Benson’s job title, and description, and wondered how one went about assembling a resume. I got to bed rather late, tired and tipsy, but alone.
The next day dawned calm and clear with a lovely fleet of cumulus clouds gracing the sky. I had early watch in the bridge and had enjoyed a spectacular sunrise. Attending me on the bridge were Chief Engineer Ferdinand Peoples, Ferdie, Bosun Stephen Monroe, Chief Radio Officer Cammie Newton, Quarter Master Celeste Vaughn and a smattering of crew.
“What’s our estimated portside with Great Cayman, Mr. Monroe?” I asked.
“No later than ten hundred, sir” said the Navigator.
“That’s good time, Mr. Monroe.” I said.
“Very good time, XO.” Said Mr. Monroe. “We had help from some westerly breezes overnight.”
“Any pressing issues, Ferdie?”
“Starboard screw’s still making more noise than I like, Captain. I swear we clipped a reef. But it should hold until we make Cancun.”
“We’ve got an overnight in Grand Cayman, Ferdie. No reason not to do a look-see.”
“Aye, aye, Captain.”
“I’ll scramble a dive crew, XO.” Said Celeste.
“Acknowledged, Quarter Master.”
My official rank was Staff Captain Willa Freundlich. Second in command or Executive Officer, XO. My superior was Captain Nils Steiger, a figurehead swiftly headed for retirement. And he knew it. The Eris was likely his last posting. As a result, he rarely graced the bridge. He always graced the Captain’s table at mess, being a hearty eater and effusive host. The further we sailed from the mainland port, which was Miami, the more often he sailed to one of the fourteen bars on board. For all intents and purposes, I was in command of the ship. Fine with me. I didn’t join the Merchant Marine to become a lackey.
“Any more of that coffee, Celeste?
“I’ll make fresh pot, XO.”
“Thank you, Quarter Master.”
We sailed smoothly at about twelve knots in mild swells for most of the morning. Passengers emerged from their staterooms to greet the day at various breakfast buffets. The cabin stewards got busy cleaning cabins and the Activity Staff organized their particular port of calls. The Eris hummed with bustling activity as all were looking forward to an overnight in Grand Cayman. Then about an hour out of Port…
“What’s up, Chief?”
Cammie hesitated. “Not sure, XO. I’m getting a signal from SSAC.”
“Anything from INMARSAT?”
“Nothing yet. No contact from MRCC.”
“That’s…highly unusual, Chief.”
“Anything from the Coast Guard?”
“Any indication of the source on the SSAC?”
“What about the alerts, Chief. Any indications?”
“Far as I can tell, it’s like a ‘Yo, heads up’.”
“What the hell. Any storm warnings? Bosun?”
“Negative, XO. Skies are clear.”
“What the…turn on CNN.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
CNN appeared on one of the monitors. I saw rioters, looters, a city in flames. The crawl at the bottom of the picture read “Eastern Europe in chaos. Cities in Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Bosnia in flames.”
“What the fuck!”
“Commandeer all shipboard satellite signals. Nobody but the bridge sees this. Switch every other screen on board to, I don’t know, Discovery channel.”
“No good, XO. Similar coverage.”
“Try HSN, Celeste.”
“What’s that, Cammie?”
“Home Shopping Network, XO. End of the world, they still got to sell those vases.”
“Give it a shot.”
I calmed down when I saw the regular feed on HSN. They were actually selling vases. Then I turned my attention back to CNN.
“Let’s hear the audio, Celeste.”
“…spreading further into Eastern Europe and now we’re getting reports of similar crises in the Middle East and Ukraine. Western European nations are urging calm, as is the White House. China and Russia have completely closed their borders. The chaos began nearly simultaneously in Sarajevo, Budapest and Vienna overnight. We’re hearing reports that all government buildings in those cities have been burned to the ground. The violence seems to have spread to Prague, where correspondent Bill Stephenson from the BBC is reporting from the outskirts of the city.”
“I’m here with Franz, who prefers we not give his last name, outside the city of Prague, in Czechia, which, as you can see behind me, is now in flames. Franz, tell us, what do you believe caused this crisis?”
“We are starving. All of us are starving. There is no food in the markets, not even a potato. I can not feed my family, we have nothing. Meanwhile, the filthy rich sail down the Vltava on their million dollar yachts feeding each other grapes and caviar and guzzling French wine. They’re not sailing anymore! I myself helped to sink their stinking boat. And now we are going to burn their stupid palaces to the ground!”
The picture showed a man with a scarf around his face, picking up a Molotov cocktail, lighting it, and running off toward the chaos.
“The situation here in Prague, and in many other cities, which has been building in tension since early this month, is exasperated by the total collapse of all bee colonies throughout Eastern Europe. Crop fields lie fallow throughout the region. Between the lack of food and the laissez faire attitude of leaders and their wealthy patrons, Eastern Europe has become a powder keg. Many I have spoken to here in Prague fear this chaos will spread to Western Europe and beyond. Bill Stephenson, BBC.”
“Lower that audio, Cammie.”
“Monitor the situation and keep me updated.”
“I need you to summon Captain Steiger, Mr. Turnbull and Chuck O’Brian to the Bridge. Might as well get Stan up here too.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
Celeste exited in a hurry.
“See if you can raise the Coast Guard. The US Navy would be good, as well.”
“Get Bobby up here to man your station so we can have a pow wow.”
“Crisis has spread to Warsaw and Zagreb, XO”
“Christ! This is happening too fast. Any luck on the CG or the Navy, Cammie?”
“Still hailing, sir.”
Celeste returned to the Bridge with the Captain, First Officer Clemont Turnbull, and Chief Purser Stan Boscoe.
“Mr. O’Brian will be here very shortly, XO.”
“Thank you, Quarter Master. Bosun, get the officers up to speed.”
“I’ve got radio contact with US Destroyer Bancroft, sailing Northeast of Guantanamo.”
“Who am I talking to, Cammie?”
“Captain Silver, ma’am.”
“Put him on.”
“Captain Silver, this is Staff Captain Willa Freundlich of the cruise ship Eris, currently sailing some twenty miles east of Grand Cayman. I appreciate you making contact.”
“My pleasure, Captain Freundlich. What can I do you for?”
“Any idea what’s going on?”
“Far as I can tell, the world’s going to hell in a handbasket.”
“Any word from your home base, Captain?”
“Our home base is Pensacola, but we can’t establish contact. We’ve heard from Gulfport.”
“Anything you can share, Captain?”
“Nothing good. The President is headed for Colorado Springs. All our subs are on full alert and sitting on the bottom. Strategic Air Command has been scrambled and are busy all over the continent. All our forces are on high alert and we are currently treading water here outside of Guantanamo waiting for orders. Not much any of us can do right now with this thing spreading the way it is.”
“You think it’ll reach the US?”
“Captain Freundlich, Annapolis tells us Baltimore is already in flames.”
“Not exactly ideal, no.”
“Any advice, Captain Silver?”
“If I were you I’d stop steaming for Grand Cayman. Unless you want to be greeted by natives in their war canoes. You’re pretty much a floating grand buffet, Captain.”
“Understand this, Captain Freundlich. Sorry to say, but you’re on your own.”
“Thank you for your candor, Captain.”
“Just telling it like it is.”
“Good luck to you, sir.”
“Same to you, Captain. And Captain?”
“You got any weapons?”
“This is a cruise ship, Captain.”
“You better figure something out. There will be pirates. And they will have guns. Big guns.”
“Thanks again, Captain.”
“Godspeed, Captain Freundlich. You’ll need it.”
The contact broke and the bridge was completely silent.
“A floating grand buffet.” Said Ferdie. “That’s what we’ve become.”
“The bridge is yours. Slow engines, enough for forward progress, reverse course, but make it gradual, we don’t want to alarm the passengers.”
“Captain Steiger, shall we move to the conference room on deck four?”
“Sounds good to me, XO.”
“All right. Let’s meet in five. Ferdie, Mr. Monroe, Cammie, Celeste, Chuck, Stan, let’s go. Mr. Turnbull, page Earl, Felix, Sparks, Al, Sally and Brooks and have them meet us there. Oh, add the Cruise Director to the list. Let’s go, team.”
Ten minutes later, all the officers and managers found themselves settled in the conference room, or, unsettled, considering the news. I took the lead.
“Captain, if I may?”
“The floor is yours, XO.”
“Okay. Most of you saw the news reports and many of you heard my conversation with Captain Silver of the US Destroyer Bancroft. Let me summarize. We are on our own and we are potentially a target. We have to assume, until evidence proves otherwise, that we are our only resource and there’s no calling 911. I expect that in no more than a day or so, there will be no communications available with anyone or anything. If there’s someone you need to call to say goodbye, I’d suggest you do it before cell service fails worldwide. After this meeting of course. Does anyone here doubt the gravity of the situation I’ve described? No? Okay. The first thing I need all of you to do is to take a complete inventory. What do we have and how much do we have. We need to begin limiting all our existing resources so as to make them last for as long as possible. I have a few ideas and I welcome more. The most important things are food, potable water and fuel. Ferdie, we need to know exactly how much fuel we have and how far we can travel, and, how to conserve what we still have by eliminating non-essential operations. While you’re at it, inventory all fuel resources for our secondary craft: launches, ski boats, personal watercraft, etc.”
“I’m on it, XO. I can have you a report in an hour.”
“Al, Sally, Brooks, we need a complete inventory of all food stores, as well as shelf life of same, right down to the last bag of peanuts and Mars bars. Get Earl to help you.”
“Got it, XO.” Said Al.
“And Al, get together with Davis and create a meal plan. Find a way to make it last months, rather than weeks. Sally, Brooks, as of now all restaurants are closed. All your food stocks go into the collective meal plan.”
“What about the liquor, Captain?”
“I’m thinking all meals now happen in the Grand Buffet. We can do it in waves if we have to. Set up four bars in the lounges outside the Grand Buffet. Next mess…Al?
“Give me three hours, XO.”
“You got it. That would make it thirteen hundred hours. They can have as many drinks as they want at next mess. After that, three drink minimum, evening mess only.”
“They’re not going to like that, XO.”
“Maybe the fact that they’re free will help. Right? Let your bartenders know. They may try to bribe them. Ask the bartenders where exactly they plan to spend that cash.”
“Celeste and Mr. Monroe. Complete inventory of all potable water. Commandeer all bottled water, including vending machines. Whatever Al’s got, let him keep it. Tell Felix to place one small bottled water for each passenger in every stateroom every morning starting tomorrow. Beyond that, water will be available at every mess, but only on request.”
“XO, should we shut down the ice machines?”
“Yes, but only the ones available to the passengers. And the bars we close other than those outside the Grand Buffet. Ice is going to be a valuable commodity, so let’s not waste it.”
“What about the pools?”
“Right. Last I checked, we have thirteen pools. The two on the top decks are salt water. We clearly have plenty of that available. I want the two on top to remain open, but closely monitored. The rest need to be closed and covered, and monitored. Ferdie? Al? C an we make that pool water drinkable?”
“You can boil it out.” Said Al. “Or dilute it.”
“Any place to store it once it’s clean?”
“Not really, not as convenient as leaving it in the pools.”
“Okay, leave it there for now. But come up with a plan.”
“Aye, aye, Captain.”
“We need to communicate all these changes to the passengers. I’m thinking Jessica is a good start.”
“No problem, Captain. Peterson and I will get the word out. Mass emails, texts and old fashioned flyers.” Said Jessica.
“First thing at the conclusion of this meeting.”
“Okay, Chuck, I’m thinking about what Captain Silver said. A floating grand buffet. We need to protect ourselves.”
“We can always drop our anchors on them.” Said Chuck.
“Or bowling balls!” said Stan.
“I prefer to hit them before they get next to the ship.”
“Now don’t laugh, but when I used to crew on sailing boats back in the day, for fun, we used to set up what we called funnelators.”
Several of the crew laughed.
“Enlighten me, Chief.”
“Well, you tie rubber tubing to the rim of a funnel, and then you tie the other end to the swages, and when you pull the thing back, you can launch a water balloon a good three hundred yards.”
“No shit, XO.”
“I like it. But I don’t think water balloons are going to deter them much. What else can we launch?”
“Gasoline?” asked Ferdie.
“Too dangerous. Plus, we can’t spare the fuel.”
“How about cooking oil.”
“Cooking oil? What’s that going to do?”
“Think about it, XO. You hit one of those small boats with a balloon full of cooking oil midships, it’s gonna be so slippery they won’t be able to stand, much less aim a gun.”
“You’re a genius, Al.”
“How’s our stock?”
“Well, if we shut down all the fryolators, which I was planning to do anyway, I don’t know, seventy or eighty gallons, minimum.”
“We need ammo dumps. Big enough to keep twenty or thirty loaded balloons at the ready.”
“We could use laundry carts.” Says Brooks.
“Good, I like it. Cammie, show Chuck how to rig these things. Chuck, get them deployed. Cammie, round up as many folks you can who’ve used these things before. We can’t really afford target practice. Anybody got any idea how we’re fixed for balloons?”
“I’ve got a couple thousand in dry storage. Left over from last New Year’s cruise.”
“Good. Thanks, Al. Maybe check with Med Bay on condom stocks, just in case. Speaking of Med Bay, we need to plan for medical shortages. We don’t actually have a pharmacy on board. Mr. Monroe?”
“You and Stan get together with P.A. Polly and go over all passenger medical sheets. Prioritize the usual, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, identify the most pressing and see if those cases can consider halving their dosages.”
“Will do, sir.”
“Which leads us to hygiene. As of now, all showers are Navy showers. Anyone here not know what a Navy shower is?”
Several hands shot up.
“Simply put, you get in the shower, you turn on the water, you get wet, you turn off the water. You soap up, shampoo, shave, or whatever. You turn the water on, you rinse, you turn the water off. Minimal, functional, conservative. All officers and crew skip every other day. Clear? Good. Chief, I assume we can shut the water supply to the staterooms?”
“Shut it down as soon as you get to engineering. Starting now, stateroom heads will have evening water available from twenty-one hundred to twenty-two hundred. Morning water from o-eight hundred until ten hundred. This includes officers, crew and staff. Staff, that means nine to ten PM in the evening and eight to ten AM in the morning. Chief, keep the water on in the heads in the lounges around the Grand Buffet from o-six hundred until twenty-four hundred every day. Shut and lock the remaining public heads. Brooks, alert housekeeping about the additional use. Sally, make sure this info is included in all your public alerts. What am I missing?”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Two things, Sparks. First priority is to download each and every manual having to do with this ship and all it’s functions. Schematics, blueprints, whatever’s germane. Coordinate with Bobby on this. He’s geeky like you. Do it while the internet is still up. You got enough storage? Remember, you can’t use the cloud.”
“No, problem, XO. Can I commandeer all the common area PC’s?”
“Everything but the video games. Let’s leave some distraction for the kids. Second, can we use our wi-fi to create a closed circuit?”
“It will take some doing but, sure.”
“Good. Once you’ve got it up we’ll use it as a PA system. Keep everybody up to speed. You and Jessica are now our communications team.”
“Now, Sparks, give me your best estimate of when cell service goes out.”
“Less than a week. Maybe three days.”
“Okay. Ferdie, can we cut power to all the charging stations throughout the ship?”
“Consider it done, XO.”
“Thank you. Chief Purser?”
“Make it known that all passengers may surrender their smartphones for safekeeping to the Purser’s Office. Mandatory collection in one week. I don’t want us wasting power to keep these phones charged so they can play Tetris.”
“What is that noise?”
“I think someone’s knocking on the door. XO.”
“Enter!” I yelled.
The door opened and Felix Watson entered nervously.
“Chief, what’s up?”
“The passengers would like to know…what the fuck is going on? Their words, not mine.”
I smiled. “I guess they deserve that much. So, how do we have a shipwide meeting? Do we have a space where everyone can meet? Sally?”
“Well, the auditorium only seats eighteen hundred. Possibly the Grand Buffet, if we use the lounges for spillover. We’d have to pull the bars to make enough space.”
“We put everybody in there, we need something to keep them busy. I don’t want a riot.”
“I suppose we could feed them.” Said Sally.
“Is that possible?”
“I know one way that might work.”
“I’m from Connecticut. New Haven, in fact. Lots of Connecticut towns have an Italian night. It’s family style, XO. All the food and drink is brought to the tables. Simple food. Bread and salad. Pasta, sauce and meatballs. You put jugs of Chianti and six-packs of seven-up on the tables.”
“Chianti and seven-up?”
“It’s traditional. You follow up with jugs of coffee, milk and sugar. You could have the meeting during the coffee.”
“Can you make it happen, Al?”
“I’d need ten volunteers for KP duty and, what do you think, Sally, forty volunteers for service?”
“More like a hundred.”
“Let’s do it. Everyone alert your staff we need volunteers. Chef, Sally, what time should they report?”
“Three o’clock should do it.”
“Sounds good.” Says Sally.
“All right. Alert your staff that they should report to the Grand Buffet at fifteen hundred. Italian night dinner. Mess bell rings at eighteen hundred. Okay, Felix?”
“Thanks, XO. We’ll spread the word.”
“Okay, people. We got a lot to do. Let’s get to it.”
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