Our Lady Marina
By sean mcnulty
Masterson thought he had nailed that lid down good, but evidently he had not. During the unplanned soar, the leather straps that held Mrs. Juhl in the box, and which were weaker than anyone had thought and further weakened over the course of the trip, had snapped, and her body was hurled out to sea. So that was another thing our hypothetical photographer might have captured had they been in the right spot... and magazines, newspapers etc.
For a moment, not a sound touched that region of the world except the hiss and spit of the Arctic waters as each of them tried to figure out privately in their minds what had happened, while also hoping someone else would chip in with a theory before ... ... but even the hisses and spits gave up waiting for them to come up with an answer; and the sounds eventually left them to ponder these abiding questions alone in their stricken heads.
Masterson was the first to stir, moving to the coffin and putting his hand inside, feeling around as if maybe the body was hiding in there somewhere – somewhere in the corner maybe? But no it wasn’t.
There were flinches of fear seconds later when a great splash resounded from the back of the boat.
‘The whale’s back,’ shouted Stinson.
‘No,’ screamed Geissel, who had witnessed the splash. ‘Walter.’
While they were all gaping dead-eyed at the empty coffin, Walter got it into his head to jump into the sea and pursue the body of his dead wife. Many a husband would have done the same thing. It was an impressive dive. Olympic-level, Geissel remarked to himself in his thoughts, as he had never seen anything quite like it before in his life.
Walter vanished quickly under the icy sheet and there was silence in the water. They looked for his form, a shadow, a flutter even, but there was nothing to be seen. It was as though he had shot to the depths like a bullet from Littlewood’s pistol. The water was flat and tight now, no bubbles of life – a sharp contrast from its turbulent state moments earlier.
The sea had the look of a dead thing now; that nasty current had mysteriously withdrawn its billows and the surface was slightly hardened in places, soft patches of ice cover – veiny and bloodless.
Littlewood grabbed the nearest buoy and threw it over, focusing as well he could on where Walter had made his descent. The buoy landed on a particularly frozen part of the water and lay there motionless like it had landed on hard ground.
Littlewood grimaced. He was not alien to a spot of heroism himself, but even he knew that these waters were not to be entered. You’d be dead in a few seconds. ‘He’s gone,’ he mumbled to himself.
Soon the hiss of the sea grew louder. Bubbles came up and gradually expanded. Then, there rose from the water the statue of a woman: she was glistening stone-silver, the sun drubbing the frost smoke around her. She emerged in an upright position like an ocean queen come to greet them, or was it a visitation of Mary? Some on the boat nearly had heart-attacks, especially those who were religiously persuaded. Stinson in particular nearly keeled over. Since childhood, he had dreamed of a Marian apparition, but thought it only possible in the hallowed scope of the saints. Was he – and were they all, though he secretly hoped just him – now destined for sainthood? He couldn’t wait to get back to his diary and write all about it. He would record the miracle as Our Blessed Marian of the Marina.
It was not Mary. It was Mrs. Juhl, statuesque in her repose, still seemingly peaceful regardless of the chaotic circumstances; and Walter appeared below her body, spluttering in the fight for air, punching through the piercing deluge all around him. He had somehow found his wife’s body in the deep and pushed it upwards. What a dive. Such strength was needed to do all of this. Captain Littlewood, who had considered Walter a flaky old so-and-so from the moment he met him now suddenly experienced an extensive grief as a result of his previous ignorance.
Masterson extended the big stick out in the hope their astral projectionist friend could get hold of it, but he was still in the throes of his mission and could not yet see above water. Everyone called out Walter’s name to let him know where they were, but he couldn’t see; he was struggling under the weight of his wife’s body. However, he seemed to know where Dolores was situated as they soon realised he was edging Mrs. Juhl’s body closer to the boat. Closer. Closer. Nearly there. Once he got her close enough, Dolores Costello’s passengers, for the first time since setting sail, looked like a real team – all five who remained on the boat, linked hands to form a chain and with a lot of effort, they succeeded in reaching the lost bodies: Littlewood, who headed the chain, was able to clasp onto Mrs. Juhl, and together they hauled her body onboard.
Distracted by the retrieval of Mrs. Juhl’s wet corpse, the Dolores Costello crew missed Walter’s final skirmish with the sea. That scheming current returned to overpower him suddenly; and he was sucked under fast, his last breath above water, a triumphant choke.
Geissel was the only one to see Walter go down. He paused, thinking his friend would come back up again, but when there was no reappearance, he let out a howl to alert the others.
Katrine stepped back.
Her face was as frozen as the sea beneath them.
‘Can we go...in...after him?’ she whispered, softly.
Littlewood shook his head, even more softly.
Father Teddy Geissel began to weep.
Katrine went to console the old priest.