Deference and Deceit
By sean mcnulty
Geissel was the only one eating. There was a plate before him smothered with meat and bread and a big pot of tea he was regularly going back to for refills and his roman collar had refashioned itself as a mucky bib and all of this was winning his attention (or the most of it) that morning; but Walter’s enigmatic references put the career priest’s esuriency on hold. His eyes dilated excitedly as though there was a world of underground sophists out there and it was so closed off and secretive that none of them ever got to meet each other until now.
Littlewood on the other hand was less than impressed with Walter’s talk of talking icebergs and whatnot. If he wasn’t intolerant enough already regarding the man’s clothes and face and eyeballs and the general look of him, these sudden interventions of claptrap didn’t help matters. What sort of shitetalk is he talking at all?
‘What kind of....what do you mean?’ asked the captain.
‘Don’t mind him,’ Katrine said. ‘He has been speaking in riddles ever since – ‘
She paused for a moment, became more solemn and then continued, softly: ‘Ever since she left us.’
She lowered her head slowly and the gentleman captain had no other option but to respond with a respectful silence.
There it was – exactly as Masterson had advised. Katrine brazenly sought to exploit her own grief and Walter’s grief, the captain’s grief, and any other grief hanging around in order to get her way. Shocking. At least it was shocking to Stinson anyway. Geissel was once again too busy with his grub to notice and Masterson meanwhile was sitting alone at the adjacent table with his back turned to them all; nevertheless he was grinning with a sack of pride as Katrine embarked on the deeply unfilial and irreverent con he had influenced.
Coming out of the brief deferential moment Katrine had elicited from him, Littlewood turned to his ‘theocratic’ shipmates and asked: ‘What about you three and your papal mission? You’re willing to delay or postpone or even cancel it altogether so as to go perform a very heathen funeral on some Christforsaken island in the middle of nowhere?’
Stinson: ‘I don’t mind.’
Geissel: ‘Not a bother.’
And Masterson just flopped his arm up, a passive gesture that neither endorsed the notion nor objected to it.
Jokers, thought Littlewood. No wonder they had been flung out of their own country. God’s work wasn’t getting a look-in today. Maybe it never got a look-in. They seemed to have drifted into a mission not a single person had planned. Littlewood could have suggested they pack it all in right now and go to East Berlin to help the workers fight the Soviets and they would have said ‘Not a bother.’