Titanic II: the accidental captain

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Behold a tale as old as time about (the opposite of) bravery, honour and good leadership on the stormy sea! It was a miracle – Titanic never sank! The sturdy sailors patched up the hole and kept sailing. But Captain Anroy Jognus discovered more icebergs – containing gold! Now, the sailors deliberately hit icebergs to fill up their pockets. How long can they go on before the ship is damaged beyond repair?

Scene 1: “The old captain and his boy”

On some days, it was the sound of waves gently hitting the sides of the ship that woke Captain Anroy Jognus up. But not today. Instead, it was the deafening sound of a seagull shrieking that interrupted his beauty sleep. “Saya the Seagull,” Anroy muttered in his hoarse old sailor’s voice. He had made the right decision when he made her in charge of the weekly seafarers’ meetings. He knew that he had.

Anroy poured himself a steaming chai and admired the glorious view of the endless sea from his cabin window. He thought about Saya the Seagull. A useful little creature, that bird was. Sure, the unpleasant sound of her persistent cries – it sounded like someone saying “aaaaare youuu questioning my authoooourity” – were a pain in the… buttocks. (He wanted to use the a-word but the idiotic News Ship spends too much time complaining about his spicy language already.) But it was nice that Saya always made a point of bending the rules by nesting on his ship instead of on her own island. And, come to think of it, the stupid birdy actually did Anroy a favour by disturbing his sleep today. Because today, Anroy needed to look old. He needed to look sick. He needed to look unfit for captain’s duty.

After a quick look in the mirror (sweet lord, was he handsome – the prettiest oldie in town!), Anroy inhaled deeply and let out a deep roar. “Prally! Prally!” he screamed.

Within seconds, his boy was by his side. “Yes, daddy?” Prally whispered. Anroy inspected his son intently. He wasn’t exactly eye-candy, that one, but with a little mentoring, he might turn out alright as captain. “Prally, my little clownfish, do you remember what we will say today at the seafarers’ meeting?” he asked as his stroked his son’s cheek.

Prally adjusted his glasses – they were too big for his face – and offered his beloved father a sugar-sweet smile. “Yes, daddy. We will say that I’m inheriting your job as captain as per our plan and, more importantly, that your hat will look great on me.”

Prally didn’t even see the blow coming. “For heavens’ sake, lad, that’s not what we practised!” Anroy poured himself a second chai. What had he done to deserve this? That boy’s IQ and his vanity never cease to amaze him. “We will say that I can no longer be captain because I’ve gone blind, and you’re taking over because I had already made you king of the deck,” he explained patiently. “I will be the navigator mentor.”

Prally let out an adorable giggle before running off.. Anroy banged his head against the wall. It was going to be a long day.

Scene 2: Rolly Balla’s toy boat

The meeting had gone on well – surprisingly well, Anroy thought. No one except the stupid News Ship and the Resistance Naval Fleet had dared question his story. In fact, most sailors just kept repeating “Prally was already king; Prally was already king,” until even Anroy himself got sick of hearing it.

The News Ship was a pain in the buttocks, as always. In their radio reports, they kept asking stupid questions like “If Anroy is blind, how can he be the mentoring navigator? He won’t even see the map.” A mad bunch of whale-cows they were! No wonder his crew kept insulting them – it was a stupid job, keeping people informed! Anroy liked it best when people were uninformed. Sometimes when he was alone and afraid, he repeated the words “I am not aware; I am not aware” to himself as a mantra. Doing so always made him feel better – as joyful as a mermaid on a warm summer’s day.

The sound of a small boy throwing a tantrum interrupted the (now former) captain’s reveries. Curious, he walked over to the main deck. There, under the blazing sun, was little Rolly Balla. With his face deeply set into a grimace, Rolly looked like a bundle of anger. Pieces of Lego in all the colours of the rainbow lay scattered on the ground.

“What are you up to, son?” Anroy asked. The question made Rolly’s face turn lobster red. “I’m NOT your son, and that’s why you’ll never make me captain; you are only interested in Prally!” he complained.

Tired of constantly hearing people state the obvious, Anroy turned his attention to the tiny yellow toy boat in the boy’s hand. “Something new for you to play with?” he asked. “No! It’s my own ship that I built!” Rolly shouted. “It’s yellow and new and shiny and, one day, it will be bigger than the Titanic!”

With the toy boat in his hand, Rolly threw himself overboard, roaring like a lion cub as his small body hit the waves.

Scene 3: La dolce vita on a mattress

Prally didn’t even miss his former friend, Rolly. The new captain was busy day-dreaming about gold coins when a highly unusual sight brought him back to the now. It was Amelia Gulliver-Falcon, slowly approaching the ship on her pink inflatable mattress.

“It’s a surprise seeing you here, Amelia,” Prally said as he admired her orange hippie dress. “You usually spend all your time on that mattress, floating to far-flung destinations just for fun.” Amelia offered the new captain a wicked smile, but didn’t lift her head from the inflatable pillow. “Yes, Prally boo, but I get invited, dear, and I bring back a nice tan for us all to admire.”

Prally wanted to tell Amelia that she looked as pretty as a flower vase, but she interrupted him. “I’ve found another iceberg with gold coins for us to raid. It’s called Mount Alva,” she said. Prally wrinkled his forehead. “That name rings a bell… Isn’t that place inhabited by a…” he began. “Pirate?” Amelia asked. “No, Prally. He’s an honest man who wants to help us get more gold coins.”

Prally thought for a moment. “I’ve climbed there many times,” Amelia pressed on. Prally closed his eyes. He liked gold coins. He liked the soft kisses on the forehead that his first chef, Holita, gave him when he brought some into the kitchen. The raid was a done deal.

Scene 4: Alva, come back!

“That was probably not the smartest decision we’ve ever made,” Prally admitted reluctantly. The crew watched as Amelia’s pink inflatable mattress slowly but surely collapsed under the heavy weight of a million gold coins. Her desperate cries for help sounded like a drowning cat’s painful meows.

“Alva, come back!” Amelia howled as she struggled to hold on to the sinking mattress. But Alva was already sailing off into the sunset on his pirate ship, to greener grass.

“Must you find someone to replace her now?” a crew member asked Prally, who was absent-mindedly gulping down a meal hot from the kitchen. The kitchen had extended its opening hours since Prally was made captain, as he desperately needed its services. “No, she can just do some underwater swimming out of everyone’s sight – it’s not much different from floating,” he concluded.

“What about the new holes in the ship? This whole Mount Alva episode has damaged us pretty badly. Perhaps we should stop hitting icebergs now?” a sailor asked. “Don’t erase the ‘f’ from the word ‘fun’,” Prally complained. The others silently folding their hands, praying for their lives.

“Before Prally could answer, one of his loyal acolytes, Tap Tambour, who had promoted himself as Prally’s spokesman piped up. ‘We don’t hit icebergs to collect gold – we hit them to make the ocean cleaner!’ Prally looked at Tambour appreciatively and asked half-jokingly, ‘Do you believe that?’ To which Tambour replied, ‘I believe whatever you want me to believe!’”

Scene 5: Saya the Seagull’s authority

“Saya the Seagull is sitting on your ship, on your ship, when she’s supposed to be in the middle!” Another Naval Fleet leader, Savvy Dupal, roared in the weekly seafarers’ meeting. Dupal was heading a motley fleet of different ships, decked out in as many exotic colours. And each thought it was its own captain.

Prally considered his options. It would be difficult to argue that Saya wasn’t on his ship – the freaking bird was right there, torturing the entire ocean with her never-ending “aaaaare youuu questioning my authoooourity” shrieks. And the problem was that a million sailors were watching the embarrassing meeting on their TV screens, while downing kilos of peanuts and laughing at Prally’s shortcomings. He would have to upper his game, to at least seem in control of something. Anything.

Prally finally settled on his crew’s standard defence. “Bird Saya the Seagull, what the honourable Savvy says is irrelevant,” he said. “Irrelevaaaaaaant,” the bird repeated obediently.

On the other side, Savvy pretended to be upset – although in all honesty, this was the outcome he’d expected. Either way, Saya was just a symptom of the disease that was destroying the sea, not the cause. The cause was Prally and his crews’ stubbornness to keep hitting those bloody icebergs to fill up their own pockets with coins.

Before getting down to business, however, Savvy turned to one of his many full-body mirrors, to flirt a bit with himself. “You’re an unnaturally handsome, man!” he cooed appreciatively. “Your daddy was handsome too, as is your son,” he continued his inner monologue. “I’m so in love with us – we’re an expensive brand of extra handsome handsomeness,” he concluded.

OK. Enough self-love. Time for action. “Can the honourable Prally assure the sea that no more gold-filled icebergs will be hit, seeing that the ship already has so many holes that it is bound to sink any minute?” Savvy shouted.

But before Prally could answer, one of his loyal acolytes, Tap Tambour, who had promoted himself as Prally’s spokesman piped up. “We don’t hit icebergs to collect gold – we hit them to make the ocean cleaner!” Prally looked at Tambour appreciatively and asked half-jokingly, “Do you believe that?” To which Tambour replied, “I believe whatever you want me to believe!” Tambour passed the test.

 Scene 6: The Submarine Express

The seafarer’s meeting had made Prally tired. “I’ve got good news, Captain Prally,” the annoying chief engineer said. “We’ve acquired enough gold to repair the ship.”

Prally lowered his head and gave the engineer a sharp look over his glasses. “I do not wish to repair the ship,” he said slowly. The engineer’s jaw dropped.. “I want to build a massive submarine network instead,” he announced. “I will call it ‘Submarine Express’!” he hissed.

The chief engineer had no choice but to get to work, leaving it to the kitchen to deal with Prally.

Scene 7: The other fleet

Rolly rested his eyes on the lion he had painted on his boat to make it more fun. It barely cheered him up. He was tired of sailing with the Resistance Naval Fleet, as the smallest captain in the crowd.

As Rolly began humming his favourite song (“Gold, gold, gold and boats, gently down the stream”), he made a mental list of all the things he missed about being on Prally’s ship. 1. The gold. 2. The free brianis. 3. The attention from by-passers in smaller boats. Oh sweet lord, did he miss the attention! He had to do something. “See me, love me!” he screamed.

Savvy, who had been busy blowing kisses to his own reflection in the mirror, raised his arms to the sky and let out a war cry. “I’m the king of the world!” he shouted.

On board all the Resistance ships, sailors were running around like headless chickens, wondering where to go. “Are we not sailing together anymore as a fleet?” one brave soul asked Tall Bolanger, one of the captains. The captain shook his head. That was final.

Scene 8:  Yerry and Zoug Ader

Everyone was talking about Rolly’s new tantrum. Everyone except Yerry, the officer in charge of fairness onboard.

Yerry was standing in line for the breakfast buffet when he suddenly burst out, “I won! I won!”. “I wasn’t actually competing with you, mate,” the sailor replied, his eyebrows raised. “What difference does that make? I still won,” Yerry insisted.

The sailor delivered one of the standard fake smiles that Yerry had gotten used to. Oh, whatever. Today, Yerry had more important things to worry about than what the crew thought of him. He walked over to the satellite phone to call Zoug Ader, his latest human toy.

“Zoug, Zoug, Did I win?” he mumbled almost to himself.

Scene 9: Heartbreak Hotel

A few hours later, Yerry got his answer – he had lost. The News Ship blew the lid off his scheme, telling the whole sea community about the artificial iceberg. The new bulletin was so loud that he could hear every word from inside his cabin. Oh, how badly Yerry wished that Anroy had sunk that ship years ago! The gentle sound of tapping on his wooden door made the ghosts inside Yerry’s tormented brain lower their voices for a moment. “Come in,” he said with a cheerfulness that he didn’t feel. Oh, no. It was Captain Prally. Yerry groaned inwardly. If the – albeit accidental – captain who went by the moniker “little clownfish” was here now, in his cabin, that could only mean one thing. He swallowed, hard. “It gives me no pleasure whatsoever having to do this, Yerry – I love a good game as much as you do – but I’m going to have to throw you overboard,” Prally said somberly.

The now former officer in charge of fairness just nodded, accepting defeat. “Yerry, mate, why didn’t you just cover-up your scheme a little bit better, like daddy and I do?” he asked, almost as an afterthought.

Yerry was at a loss for words. He wanted to be more like the Jognusses. The sadness in Prally’s eyes looked real when he gave Yerry a comforting tap on the shoulder. One last tap on the shoulder, and Prally was gone, leaving behind a cabin full of broken dreams and the shell of the person that Yerry once was.

“Soo-Doo had been caught saying that he would choose which of the crew gets on lifeboats and who gets lifejackets. Well one such conversation ended up with the other sailors throwing Soo-Doo overboard instead. How Soo-Doo was missed!”

Final scene: If we die, we die rich

Since the unfortunate episode with Yerry, Prally had been forced to throw a few more sailors overboard. There’d been Tarro, who made himself infamous by flashing his anatomy at the drop of a hat for the admiration of others and sticking out his tongue to the world. And Tarro was far from being the worst of Prally’s problems. If life had been an animal farm, Tarro would have been the annoying mosquito. The role as wolf would have gone to the sailor who used to be his right-hand man – Mr. Soo-Doo.

Soo-Doo had been caught saying that he would choose which of the crew gets on lifeboats and who gets lifejackets. Well one such conversation ended up with the other sailors throwing Soo-Doo overboard instead. How Soo-Doo was missed!

It made zero sense to Prally that his sailors seemed incapable of playing the game right. His own father had taught him well. Life on the Titanic was hardly rocket science – all you had to do was to say one thing (the truth) in private, and another (a pretty lie) when other ships were present. How difficult was that, really?

A red ship appearing over the horizon was a bigger hassle, indeed. Not too long ago, Prally had been convinced that it was about to sink – it had too many holes (quite a few put there by himself, he gladly admitted). But then, the red crew had managed to patch most of them up. Some people are even saying that the red ship was looking quite elegant these days.

“Captain?” He looked up at the sailor who stood by the sun lounger, shaking as if Prally was the monster under his bed. “You have an important decision to make, Captain,” the nervous sailor began. “The handymen have arrived to fix some of the holes, but there’s another gold-filled iceberg in the water in front of us as well,” he continued.

Prally didn’t even hesitate. “Hit the iceberg and bring me the gold!” he ruled. The sailor grimaced, as if the captain’s words were physically painful. “We can have the holes fixed later,” Prally said in a softer voice. The sailor took a deep breath and looked his captain straight in the eye. “That’s the thing – the engineers are saying that the ship isn’t likely to survive another collision. We’ll sink this time, Captain Prally. Do you really want to risk everything, all our lives, for more gold?”

It was as if the entire world around Prally went silent. Although they did their best to pretend that they weren’t, he couldn’t hear them anymore. He rested his eyes on the sailors. They had dreams and families. Was the gold really worth it? What about the desire to build a stronger ship, not just for himself but for everyone? He knew that there were captains out there somewhere in the world dreaming about such things – although certainly not in this part of the ocean. Prally let another minute come and go. Slowly, slowly, he turned his head towards the sailor by the sun lounger. “Hit the iceberg, baby!” he yelled. “If we die, we die rich!”

THE END

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