My Body Lies Over The Ocean
By sean mcnulty
My body lies over the ocean
My body lies over the sea
My body lies over the ocean
Oh, bring back my body to me.
Masterson had a fine voice. He sounded like the great tenor McCormack.
But Geissel was not impressed.
‘You’re murdering that once fine little ditty, Masterson,’ he said. ‘It’s Bonnie, not body.’
‘I’ve committed many sins in my time, Geissel, and gotten away with a few that sundry ministers of our acquaintance could only dream of getting away with....but murder ? Nah – that wasn’t one of them.’
‘I know all about your sins, Father Masterson. You’re a travesty of a man. If I was His Holiness himself and I had the power in me, I would have you defrocked in an instant.’
‘I’m sure you would,’ said Masterson, mischievously. ‘And I bet you’d enjoy that, old man – yes?’
Geissel didn’t say anything; but you could see the indignant smoke rising from miles off. He turned away from Masterson sharpish and went to join Walter and Katrine at the pier; they were looking on as Littlewood and Grimur Passer worked to load the coffin onto the boat. The two men were having a hard time of it. Being as it was a fragile old box, they were handling it with much care, both of them fearful it might fall apart at any second and Mrs Juhl’s body would spill out and get lost in the Norwegian Sea. After some heavy lifting, they managed to get it on-board and place it down on the stern end of the top deck. There was an almighty thud when it hit the floor and Dolores shook with the weight.
‘I take it you have considered all the dangers that come with making this decision, Fergal?’ Grimur asked Captain Littlewood, dabbing his sweaty forehead with a handkerchief.
‘I have, yes.’
‘I won’t judge you then. You are the master of your own machine. And you are doing a noble thing in coming to the aid of these people, I am sure. I will say though that I respect you as a man but impugn you as a wit.’
‘I’ll say that you’re not the first. Don’t fret. What’s another week or thereabouts on the journey if it’s to make happen the funeral of a woman? A mother. And God approves.’
‘Oh, he does?’
‘He speaks through them apparently. And they weren’t too shy to sanction.’
Grimur shot a look over at Katrine, who was sitting at the edge of the pier now with her head in her hands, in a style of hungover that wasn’t at all unique.
‘The girl is pretty.’
‘That she is.’
Littlewood shivered. There was a chill in the air like none that ever startled his bones. You could almost see it in the air. Spindrift and ice. A frosty lather with the cold hand of a cold death written all over it. There were no birds in the sky. Where were the happy geese from yesterday? And the paradise of birds from the day before? They were all gone. Probably south. Good idea, birds. And he was thinking of going more north than this? What the hell was he thinking?
‘Who really knows?’ Grimur then said, with sudden optimism in his voice. ‘Perhaps this island is not as cursed as we all thought it was. It may be a whole colony of young ladies like that one. And you can have your pick. The tales we spread amongst ourselves sometimes can be a poison through time. And all the generations get sick from it and die in their beds barking out the same sad untruths.’
‘You could be right.’
‘Oh, I forgot about something. I have some gifts for you. Come.’
Littlewood followed Grimur back onto the gangway and they both walked to where Grimur had left a large case on the ground. He’d carried it with them to the boat that morning but wouldn’t tell Littlewood what was in it. ‘You’ll find out later,’ he had said.
Well, now was later.
Grimur knelt down and opened the case; then he let out a great big sigh.
‘What’s the matter?’ asked Littlewood.
‘I told her no, that you wouldn’t be interested, but you know, she has a determination on her, that woman.’
Grimur reached into the case and took out of it a small flowerpot with a single rose inside it; it was the same rose Littlewood had been sleeping under the last few nights.
‘Halda wanted to give you one of her flowers. She actually said that she thought it would bring you luck. But I’ve told her many times: It’s bad luck to have flowery things on your ship.’
‘Ah, God bless her,’ said Littlewood. ‘It’s okay. I usually take a flower with me.’
‘Yes, I will set it aflame before we sail. Put a match to it and watch the petals sizzle away until the black dust comes. So we’ll be fine. No need to worry. We will all be fine.’
‘Oh?’ Grimur looked very confused; but then he realised that superstitions were bound to have their cultural exceptions.
‘Say Thank you to Halda for me.’
‘I will,’ replied Grimur.
Captain Littlewood took the flowerpot and held it up like it was Sam Maguire.
‘Let’s get this case onto your boat too,’ said Grimur, zipping it up.
‘Oh, there’s more in there?’ asked Littlewood.
‘Yes – just some random ordnance. Problem-solvers.’