By sean mcnulty
Dolores Costello was drifting slowly in a mellow zone. A few hundred miles were behind them and conditions were smooth and restful. The wind and tide were as one – elevenses for all machines of the sea. Stinson had come across a small pair of binoculars in the cabin and he was at the front of the boat looking through them for Iceland when he spotted in the distance a glistening ghost-head bobbing up and down in the water. Stinson’s eyesight was not great – and even when straining with the binoculars he wasn’t sure what he was looking at – but with some inference, he held it to be a well-known and -loved aquatic mammal. He turned to Captain Littlewood, who was tinkering with an ancient rusty compass nearby, and said: ‘Captain, I think I just saw a dolphin.’
‘Did it look like one of those protective sheaths we’re not allowed to wear on our flutes?’
‘Yes,’ said the young priest.
Littlewood raised his head, showing some unease. ‘Yes, it might have been a dolphin alright. What colour was it?’
‘I can’t be sure,’ said Stinson. ‘I have mild colour-blindness.’
‘Was it red?’
‘I don’t think so.’
‘You have to watch out for the red ones. They can bring awful misfortune.’
‘I don’t think it was red. I think it might have been yellow.’
‘Yellow?’ Littlewood calmed down slightly. ‘Okay, that’s fine. If you see a red one, be sure to let me know.’
Captain Littlewood went back to calibrating the old compass.
Stinson went back to his binoculars, preoccupied with omens in the nebula – though not much more than usual.