Morning at sea
Swish Buckling woke up a few minutes before six am. She turned off her alarm which was more of a safety net in case she slept through. Not that it ever happened. She stretched, stood up, made her bunk and checked her diary.
0600 Tidy room, shower
0630 Yoga and meditation
0700 Makeup, hair and dress in maroon pant suit
0730 Green tea, one wholemeal with sliced tomato, natural yogurt
0800 Leave ship
0830 Leave port, take Corvette, keys in blue leather handbag
0930 Arrive at School
1100 Early Lunch with Swank, Pick up essentials at Goldings SuperChain
1130 Park corvette, leave port
1300 Arrive at ship
1400 See ‘Cecil’
1600 Meeting Plan 416
2000 See Swash re meals with Swank
2130 Check over accounts, finish preparations
2200 Whiskey, pipe, relax
She took off her satin pyjamas and folded them neatly, she placed them directly into the drawer. Just as she was closing it, she counted her panties. Another pair was missing. ‘Bloody crew.’
She checked her door’s lock, and it seemed ok.
She went over to the window and opened it. No tampering there either. What she did see was a glorious morning. Deep inhalation and exhalation of breath slowly relaxed her again. Krok was flying around and she knew he would join her shortly. No doubt Swash was still in bed. She felt like banging on the ceiling to get him up but chose not to. This way she could just do her routine without interruption and have a temporary feeling of being free.
She entered into the shower, lathered herself with her favourite scent and when she was finished, noted the Cattle Egret sitting on her chair behind the desk.
‘No pooping inside, my dear.’
Krok just looked at her as if she said the most appalling thing. She went over to scratch around his yellow spiky plumes. She looked into his eye, trying to discover the secrets there. Her mother had told her that some humans came back as birds in Chinese culture. If that were true, it would explain why he always turned up during shower times.
She sat upon her bunk which faced out toward the sea, she could almost hear her mother’s voice telling her to face east, but it would be awkward if the ship moved. She settled down and began her meditation, naked.
All thoughts left her mind. She ignored the creaks and groans of the ship, the little noises the bird was making, the sound of the water lapping against the hull. Once her mind was clear, she thought only of numbers. Of numbers and more numbers. Money. Of numbers and money. Wonderful numbers and money moving gracefully across her mind’s eye in an array of colour and movement.
She opened her eyes and was refreshed. She breathed in and then breathed out. Up she jumped, startling the poor dazed bird.
‘Sorry Krok, I didn’t mean to startle you. Having a wee nap?’ A giggle escaped her at the expression on the bird’s face and Krok suddenly mimicked her giggle. She didn’t know he could do that and then she wondered why he did it. She shrugged her shoulders and then carried on with her routine.
‘How’s your love life, my dear, I miss your little friend. She was very sweet.’ Swish spoke to the bird over her shoulder, and he seemed to listen attentively. She mused out loud, ‘I wonder if we should go back to that little island where you met.’
She dropped her brush, and when she went to pick it up, missed the expression on the bird’s face. The hair was brushed until soft and silky and then tied into a single pony. Today was not the day to have one’s hair swishing around one’s head, she thought privately.
The lipstick was finally applied and she checked her schedule one last time.
With the lipstick still in her hand, she moved to Krok, ‘That’s it, I’m finished. Would you like some Krok Spiky?’
The bird didn’t move but when she leant over, he strained back.
She shrugged her immaculately groomed figure and prepared for breakfast.
It was served on time and in all the right proportions. When the chef had gone, she quickly weighed the yogurt on her scales and nodded.
At exactly 8am, she was ready to climb down the side of the old ship using the ladder. When she placed her feet on the rocking boat, she looked at the crewman sternly who shouted to his mate to keep the boat steady.
‘Mornin’ Mrs Buckling.’
A second greeting was muttered from behind her.
‘Good morning, boys. I take it all the security checks have been carried out.’
‘Well, let me see the checklist.’
They got out a waterproof folder that contained all the numerous checks. She went through each item. The old crewman gave the new crewman an ‘I told you so’ look.
The trip across from the vessel to the port weir was uneventful. They landed and she got out and said her goodbyes to two relieved crewmen. The experienced crewman told his new mate nodding toward the waterproof folder, ‘that was just for the rowboat…’
The yellow Corvette wasn’t too far and she walked over with a purpose. Her heels made a nice sound on the cement and she wondered if anyone noticed. She unbolted the container, drove the corvette out and re-bolted the door. Her driving sunnies were sitting on the passenger side still so she exchanged her boring ones for the mirrored ones, a present from her son Mr Fabulous. They were very snazzy. She tried to remember what Swank had said was the latest word for cool but she couldn’t remember. Snazzy would have to do for now.
On The road
The radio went on to her favourite station and she sang as she drove. An hour into the trip and her mobile rang. It was her mother, whom they all called Gran.
‘…mmmm….no….yes, someone’s still stealing from me, look can we change the topic it creeps me out…really, that’s interesting…..uhuh…….I’ll tell him.’ She checked her mirrors to make sure there were no police near by. ‘…mm…yes, I did. I went two days ago…..no!…..I will……yes……$12540 your kidding right?…..I could get him a better deal, make sure he doesn’t sign the papers…..that was silly….mum I didn’t mean…..mum…..ok…..just tell him I’m here if he needs help….no I don’t think he’s incapable….it’s just he doesn’t have the knowledge I have…..I didn’t mean it that way….I don’t believe this you’re the one who paid for my education and you don’t ever use it….ok, look I have to go’ she was just about to say ‘I’m picking up Swank today.’ But thought better of it, it was one of those conversations and she didn’t feel like being lectured today. Gran would start off berating her for being a bad mother and wife.
The conversation ended but horrid memories set in, especially when her father’s lawyers had contacted her discreetly after his death. That old drunk was as wily as a fox and even though in the grave he still wielded his power over her. She had taken action and was dreading her mother’s reaction.
She arrived at the school on time. She waited. She was about to ring Swank when she saw the boys exiting the red brick dorm and began sauntering over to her. She smiled at the trio.
‘Hey, Mrs S.’
‘How are ya, Mrs S?’
‘Fine Janis, Frez, how have things been?’
They gave their usual monosyllable answers.
Back On the road
Swish and her son drove along the long windy road to head out to the coast. It was a two-hour drive and she was filling up with all her normal worries. The earlier conversations with her mum set her on edge and now she was feeling pressure about tomorrow. The radio was still playing but at the moment it was irritating her. She wanted to talk to him before put his earphones on to listen to some of his music. It was ridiculous she felt so nervous.
‘We’ve got a job on tomorrow Swank. You’ll just have to come to terms with the family business. We would like you to be a part of it but you have made it perfectly clear what you think already. You know that we love you but sometimes….’
She hated it when she said, we love you but, or I love you but, her mum always did it to her and she always felt unworthy. She took a breath and tried to remember not to do it again. She went on but as usual, felt that he was only half-listening to her. Just like his father. Like her mother. Like the crew. She felt like screaming, ‘What about me.’
‘…your dad will probably want to frisk you when you get on board, there was some concern over the last job you were privileged to be a party to.’
‘That was nine years ago.’
‘You almost ruined us, Swank, it’s going to be hard to trust you again…’
She couldn’t believe herself, hard to trust you again. When her own mother had said that to her she had felt sickened and pained. She looked at his face, afraid to see the same stricken expression she had worn all those years ago. He looked more pissed off.
She breathed a sigh of relief.
They stopped at a nice café for some lunch. He pulled out her seat for her and presented her with the menu with a cheeky smile. She must remember he was made of sterner stuff than she was, he had an older brother and sister to test out life’s serrations on, and she had had no-one. Her brothers and sisters, while embracing the new world, were still entrenched in Chinese culture. She had always been the odd one out. She saw some people staring at Swank and just stared them down until they looked away embarrassed. They ordered their drinks and meals and enjoyed some light conversation.
She was up to date with the goings-on of his mates, Janis and Frez. She was always interested in those two and what was going on in their lives. He then filled her in with what his teachers were doing and any gossip that had been going on in the upmarket school. ‘I miss being apart of those committees.’
‘They miss you too; the new accountant has slippery fingers.’
They chose their meals and discussed school.
They headed off again. They were halfway home when she drove into a small town and stopped at a supermarket.
‘Supplies, huh.’ He was acerbic.
‘Are you coming?’
He didn’t move so she walked off. He yelled at her and she just lifted a hand to indicate she’d heard. It was a good idea. Krok would play up badly during Plan 416 if he had the home brand seed which she had noticed in the storeroom. Trust Swank to mention it.
The shop was clean; she hated dirty isles and cluttered shelves. Everything was easy to find, it always made it hard when she had to ask for things and get some moronic staff member asking her what she wanted, and did she really need that or maybe she’d prefer the ladies tool, or something equally as annoying. She didn’t have that this time but was attended by a chippy little lady who knew her power tools. With no time to bargain and missing a possible battle with ‘Sue’, Swish left the store grumpy.
A half-hour later she returned with everything on her list.
Swank was sitting in the car listening to his selection on his MP3 player. She slammed the door shut thinking that she would have to sit next to a non-responsive humanoid. To her surprise, he packed his stuff away into his bag that was between his legs. In pleasure, she did a burn out coming out of the car park.
‘Come on Swank, isn’t this fun?’
He didn’t answer but gave her a half-smile from his crouching position.
Down the road, the radio was back on, but she turned it down and enjoyed chit chat with her son. She remembered another point she needed to discuss.
‘Swank, we need to have some family meals again. At least try again.’
He groaned out loud, but she didn’t blame him. ‘Please Swank, don’t worry about tonight, but make an appearance in the morning, and then again at dinner. For me?’
‘If you put it that way. Been talking to Gran again?’
‘This morning, on the way to pick you up.’
‘Hope you pulled over when she rang?’
She vaguely remembered blurred scenery and an uncomfortable conversation.
‘Check the glove compartment,’ she smiled, changing the subject and not looking at him.
Her son opened the compartment and took out the present, ‘No ribbons this time?’
He unwrapped the present and opened the lid to the box. ‘Nice one, mum.’
‘Don’t tell your father.’
They arrived at the port. The car was driven into their private storage unit, locked up and they headed for the small row boat waiting for them. The two crewmen were playing cards and they packed up quickly when they heard her heels hitting the cement. They handed over their bags. Swish could see out of the corner of her eye the interaction between Swank and the crew. Her worries grew.
Swish kept her eyes averted out to sea and out to freedom. They were quiet on the way over and she wondered what Swank was thinking but didn’t want to embarrass him in front of the crewmen.
Too soon, with a bump, they reached their destination. She swung up and with a practised climb reached the top to accept the arm of a crewman. The same crewman extended his arm to Swank with a firm grip. She sighed.
On The Ship
Swash was waiting with a grumpy expression on his dark face. Already she felt tense. Why couldn’t her husband just relax a little and give Swank the benefit of the doubt.
She kissed him perfunctorily on the cheek and accepted his return.
A light breeze swept through the group and she wished it would blow all the ugliness with it. Swash was giving Swank an up and down.
‘Got new rings?’
Swank nodded. She panicked. Would her son accidentally dob her in? Or purposely, don’t be stupid she told herself. She and Swank had often covered for each other. Besides, why should she feel guilty for buying him a present? How had she turned from being a top business woman to an insecure parent, wife and vessel manager? Why was it she didn’t feel rewarded for bringing up three children and managing sixty crew? She almost missed the interchange between Krok’s tongue and her son’s. It was enough to bring her back into the present.
‘Got any jobs for me to do?’ Swank was now asking his dad.
‘Yeh, I need you to clean up Krok’s perch area and get more seed from the storeroom for ‘im. Then that’s pretty much it. We’ve got a job on tomorrow…’
Here we go, she gulped.
‘…you understand son…’
Of course, he doesn’t, but we have to do it.
‘…so Fred ‘ere, is gonna take…’
She watched only with half interest as his bag was sorted through.
‘Only one knife,’ Fred announced, ‘it’s a utility.’
She heard a grunt from her husband. Others were shaking their heads.
All the communication devices were confiscated.
The atmosphere was tense, she knew how to break it, ‘Darling, Gran wants you to call her.’ She smiled winningly at him, ‘I have the gear we’ll need for tomorrow.’
‘Good, I’ve told Cecil to come see you.’
She groaned inwardly, Cecil was a pain in the ass and she wondered if he was the one responsible for her missing panties. But he was much better at the job than she was.
She left the top deck and went down to the main work cabin to begin preparations.
At sixteen hundred hours she and Cecil went to the briefing. At nineteen hundred hours they were back again at work. She found that her eyes would frequently wander over to Cecil’s pants when he moved around hoping and yet dreading a glimpse of her panties. She shuddered at the thought.
Sometime later she finished up. Cecil had left and she drank another cold green tea.
She picked up something to eat on her way through to see Swash. Just as she was knocking, she gobbled the last bit of her meal up not wanting to share and went through on his enter.
She didn’t really feel like sex tonight but didn’t like to leave things for more than a couple of days. He tended to get a little grumpy and started to manhandle her more at every opportunity he got. Besides, she was long overdue for an orgasm, which was probably why she was getting so stressed.
She smiled at him and put her arms around him when he came over. He kissed her, pushing his tongue in her mouth and she felt warmth between her thighs which increased when she felt his desire. But as usual, duty called to her and unlike Swash, could not concentrate if there was something on her mind.
‘Swash, I need to talk to you about Swank.’
‘Can’t it wait? He sounded irritated.
‘No, we need to sit down together and have some family meals. We need to keep trying to reach him, Swash.’ And you.
‘Ok, is that it?’
She frowned, could it have been that easy?
Seconds later they were hugging, kissing and he was doing nice things to her breasts. She felt her nipples harden and his eagerness to get undressed. They shucked out of their clothes and got onto the bed. Minutes later she realised that Swash was enjoying himself but not paying her any more attention. Her desire cooled very quickly. She was debating with herself whether she should tell him or just let it happen and get the job over quickly. He was unusually receptive to her tonight and he changed his position and began to stimulate her. Soon they were both satisfied. She felt familiar wetness trickling between her thighs and was tempted to jump up to stop the fluid from dribbling on the sheets of the bunk. But hang on, this was his bunk, and he never seemed to care if there were wet spots on the sheets. So, she stretched out and relaxed as he selected some tissues. They mopped up. She left the bunk to redress but didn’t do so quickly enough.
He had entered the shower already and was making those disgusting blow nose noises; she could imagine all his boogers swimming around his feet.
She left with a bang.
She yawned and headed for bed. It was a lovely warm night and she showered and got into her satin pyjamas. She opened up her little cabinet and poured herself a whiskey. Next, she trimmed the end of a cigar because she couldn’t be bothered with the pipe tonight. An hour or more later she snuggled into her covers and with a few tears down her cheeks, she went to sleep.
A noise from somewhere brought her out of a deep slumber but not enough to awaken her completely. No more noise followed so she drifted back into the hazy world.
Deep in sleep Swish was woken up by the clock. Today was going to be a bad day. She just knew it. She got up and checked her diary. She had forgotten to fill it in the previous night.
She scribbled in Plan 146. She slipped and staggered out of her pyjama’s leaving them rumpled on the rug and stumbled around her room trying to find some clothes and ended up tripping over the empty whiskey bottle.
Great, she was still drunk. Even after brushing her teeth, she smelt of whiskey and cigar.
Good thing she knew Plan 614 back to front.
She staggered off to breakfast.
She was first and sat on the table trying to steady herself.
Swash entered, ‘I see you’re ready.’ He smiled approvingly at her, ‘You even smell good.’
She felt like she was going to throw up, the smells from the food cooking were revolting.
Her eyes rolled around. She tried her hardest to look normal but nothing was working on her stomach.
It seemed Swash was yelling ‘Swish, why don’t you sit down and relax, Swank? SWANK?’
Her ears hurt, she wanted him to stop yelling but the spinning continued, and she couldn’t focus her mouth to use her mind or was it focus her mind to use her mouth. Besides, she hadn’t realized she was now kneeling on the chair. She thought she’d been sitting at the table or on the table. She sat.
They were talking, loudly she thought. The clanging and the banging were loud and annoying . The smells were driving her crazy; she was going to need to puke soon.
A glass broke in her hands, when had she picked that up?
She tried some meditation and closed her eyes, oops, no, not good, keep the eyes open, make them think you are listening. Calm your stomach, you don’t feel sick, you will not vomit, and you will eat breakfast.
She caught the last bit of conversation, and smiled as if knowingly, well that’s what she hoped it looked like, ‘…ing about being a politician.’
Breakfast was served and at the end, she felt a little better.
Time for Plan 164.
It went well and by the time it was over, she was completely sober and turned down any victory drinks.
After the Job
She packed up some gear and left the rest to the crewman. There were some minor personality difficulties to sort out and then she had to do the accounting.
She went to dinner first and found both her husband and son relatively relaxed with each other. The day had now improved considerably. She had just caught a sentence as she entered.
‘Check with your mother.’
Swash repeated the whole thing to her.
She kissed Swash on the cheek. He probably wanted to have sex again tonight.
‘Swank, come see me at nineteen thirty hours in my office. We’ll discuss the goods and prices there.’
Dinner was served and smelt divine. Swish was wondering where the chef got the recipe from but was too content to ask.
She headed to the office and began the long process of logging all the new wares. Her inventory was important to their business and she kept it encrypted on her stand-alone computer. They never went on line with any of their business computers.
Swank was punctual and she greeted him. She had dug out all the goods she knew he had been interested in and no doubt what his friends would want.
They discussed the different products and agreed upon a price.
He left and soon she was once again engrossed with her work, the sooner she could be done the sooner she could go to bed and then the next day maybe they could spend time together.
It was 2am by the time she finished. A few litres of water later and she headed up to the top deck. The weather was warm and she found her favourite spot. The ship was moving fast with favourable winds and would soon anchor at the harbour.
She stretched out her tired muscles willing herself to relax. Work was done. She didn’t have to focus on numbers and money. She could have some fun. For a couple of weeks, she would relax, have a proper holiday. She wanted to spend some quality time with Swash and Swank and give them the opportunity to get to know one another. She knew her mother wouldn’t call her, not for a while anyway and not after her mum read the, what she hoped was heart breaking, news.
One of the crew had to be released and she would miss his cheery face, his wife was ill and needed him home. She gave him a generous payout and told him a place would be held for him.
She had to release another who was not up to standard and that was always hard. She had given him a number of goes but each time he just couldn’t hold his own. It was just too dangerous to keep him on.
She wondered if she should have their baggage searched for her panties. You just never knew these days.
She sighed. Even when trying to relax all she could think about was ‘things’.
But she thought that was what being a woman was all about. Worry. She just wished she had a friend though, someone to talk rubbish with, someone who wouldn’t judge her, contradict her or humble her.
A rustling noise made her turn around quickly; Krok was sidling up to her on the rail.
‘Krok’ he croaked deeply and softly, ‘krok, krok.’
‘Hello Spiky, what are you doing up? Couldn’t sleep either?’
Swish found Krok to be very communicative and at times croaked, ‘krok, krok’ often. At times he seemed to get excited and a harsh ‘krow’ would come out. At one point he went on for a good five minutes and she scratched around his plume wondering what he was thinking and if birds even thought of anything.
She talked to him for a while before heading back down to her cabin. She carried the large bird in her arms. She filled in her diary.
It was absurd but she felt better.
Krok Spiky sat on a chair and looked sleepy.
She drifted off to sleep dreaming.