(Please note, after publishing this, I was contacted by the fine folks at the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, concerned about my experience. This is slightly mortifying. This story happened well over 20 years ago and I'm sure that my experience would be very different today. And, I'm kind of given to exaggeration. A little. I'm putting this disclaimer at the top of each part of the story, lest someone searching for this fine vessel think it is an accurate portrayal of what the experience may be today.)
(Read Part I Here)
"Jenny" walked past, efficient looking in her practical pants and comfortable shoes, perky smile plastered to her face. "Excuse me," my mother stopped her. "We missed breakfast, do you know if there's anything we could get for a snack?"
"Snack?" Jenny was clearly not used to these kind of questions. She was more suited to answering things like was the S.S. Jeremiah in any major battles? And what are these doohickeys for? It was if the thought of a bag of chips was too much for her, and she stood there gape mouthed, staring at my mother.
"Yes, snacks. Food?"
Jenny snapped back to attention. "Oh! Maybe you can look around?" She smiled brightly, happy to have been such a help, and continued walking.
My mother turned to my brother Shane and me and said, "See what you can find."
My brother at 12 had yet to hit that growth spurt boys often do, where they grow tall and lanky. He was still short and decidedly unlanky, and bore a striking resemblance to Vern from Stand By Me. His very fitting nickname was "Gourd Head".
Shane was born slightly delinquent and possessed inate skills that the finest criminal minds in the world would envy. He was notorious in our neighborhood for his low level criminal activity - selling our dad's cigarettes, lighting small things on fire, removing street signs. One summer he took a cut from every lemonade stand within a five block radius, in return for his 'protection'. He was the suburban pimp of cool and refreshing summer beverages. He could smell food through a locked door and could hear a tuna can being opened within half a mile. It was this particular skill my mom was counting on as she sent us on our mission.
We scoured the ship. There was not actually much to scour. Since the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien had been retired from duty, it had been completely stripped of any item which may have been deemed useful. We weren't even able to find where they were keeping lunch, and when we once again ran into Jenny, we discovered why.
"Oh, there's no lunch! As soon as the Blue Angels fly over in about, ohhhh," she glanced at her watch, "30 minutes, we'll be heading back into port! You'll be back at Fisherman's Wharf in time for lunch!" She turned on her heel and kept moving. The key to looking efficient: always seem to be going somewhere.
"No lunch." Shane said. "Dad is going to be pissed." Just then his nose started twitching and he looked over to where Jenny had been standing while we talked. There on the counter lay a single, sad banana. "That's mine!" he lunged for the fruit. But I was closer and snatched it up. "Don't even think about it!"
We returned to the deck and found our parents and sat huddled together, eating Jenny's banana.
"She said we'll be back by lunch." I smiled weakly. "And the Blue Angels will be here in half an hour!"
My father stood against the railing, chain smoking. He would finish one, field strip it, and put the butt into his jacket pocket. Almost two hours into the sea cruise, and his pocket bulged. I desperately hoped my mom had an extra pack in her purse. If they didn't eat and ran out of cigarettes before the end of this trip, someone might have to die. I secretely hoped it would be Jenny.
Half an hour, I thought. Half an hour, a fly over and we'll be headed back to port and food and home. I leaned into the mist and imagined a whaling ship in the distance. Would I be able to climb the side of it while holding a dagger in my mouth? Would I look cuter in a pea coat or wet suit?
Finally, the hour was upon us. People started to congregate on the deck and look skyward. We all stood in anticipation of the feats of awesomeness that were about to take place. Just then, Jenny made her way into the center of the crowd and raised her megaphone.
Come back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!
2 weeks ago