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Like the Deep Blue Color

The hired hands could only watch as their employer's fortunes began to sink - literally!

By Eric WolfPublished about a year ago 6 min read
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Like the Deep Blue Color
Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

The water on the inside of the boat concerned Marliza, but what was worse, it did not seem to concern the others aboard.

It was a floating banquet, in more senses than one. The currents rocked the vessel back and forth, as it drifted with no immediate destination. That was just the natural flow of the forces at work outside of the yacht. George sent her down below to fetch more smoked-salmon canapés and Dijon mustard, though why wasn’t clear to her. Those above hadn’t managed to consume a full tray of the finger foods yet; their beverages had kept them pretty busy.

She stepped off of the stairs, into the kitchen, and her foot slapped a wet floor. Marliza reeled as her foot slid out from under her, throwing a hand out to catch the wall. Her tennis shoes were darkening, from exposure to water. She glanced at the floor; the water sparkled with reflected light.

Duty first, she thought. Yanking the refrigerator’s door open, she grasped the tray of finger foods from the second-lowest shelf inside, and tucked a bottle of Dijon mustard under her chin. She turned on one heel, hearing the water splashing under her feet. Now both of her shoes were soaked.

It was, of course, another glorious sunbather’s delight outside. Marliza’s foul mood was unaffected by the miles of blue sky and deeper-blue seas, but she did not speak for the majority of those sailing from Santa Catalina Island, upon that fateful afternoon. She was only the hired help, a sailing caterer—

Upstairs, on the main deck, she heard the boss-man, bellowing in mock outrage: “Hey, what’s taking so long down there? Engine room — captain needs more canapés.” George Yu was twenty-four, much too young to be a convincing old codger, even in jest, but for the duration of this voyage, he was master and commander. Marliza was twenty-six; she had no illusions about her spot in the pecking order, aboard this ship.

“Hey, Marliza, did you get lost?” she heard Doug Hardie call down the stairs. He was almost too laid-back, even for a Californian; she could work almost an entire shift with him without his uttering more than a few words, but he was a reassuring sort of quiet. Doug started to step down, before something caught his eye and directed it floorward. “Wow,” he said. “Did we spring a leak?”

^^^^

Marliza was not the oldest person aboard. That honor fell to Bill Travioso, forty-one. He was supposed to be some kind of investment guru, a fact of no small importance to George, who was seeking capital to start up a new cryptocurrency trading firm, and to a woman who answered to the name Krystal no last name, who was twenty-three herself. Travioso set down an empty champagne glass and squinted out at the approaching California coastline. “All goods things, eh, Georgie? The trip’s almost over,” he had to point out, unnecessarily, as anyone onboard could make that observation. Still, they had enjoyed a splendid night and morning in Avalon.

“Hey, what’s with the negativity?” the boyish Yu griped, looking at the others aboard, wielding their own semi-filled glasses. “No scowls or gloom on my boat, that’s an order!” He did not shout or growl this; he barely breathed it. Everyone knew this was, in fact, not his boat; it was his father’s, and Daddy hadn’t even finished buying it yet. “Marliza, Doug? You guys down there?”

“I wish he’d just call us ‘slave’ already,” Marliza grumbled. “It would be more honest, than pretending we’re all buds.” She still held the mustard bottle on her neck, pinning it there by tilting her head forward. Doug held the other end of the tray, as they proceeded up the steps, Marliza walking backwards.

At the top of the steps, Doug smiled, at the sight of Travioso embracing his youthful date, as she pretended to work the captain’s wheel. Marliza asked, “What’s so funny?” — and the Dijon mustard bottle (glass, not plastic) went straight to the deck, where it cracked open.

This earned her a round of ironic applause from the celebrants. Boss-man raced over on his flip-flops to collect the broken bottle of mustard. “I got this,” Yu said, pitching the fragments over the side, into the restless surf. “Man, just look at that. You know about the Santa Barbara spill? That was nineteen-sixty-nine, I think. Like, a hundred thousand barrels! Now, just look at it. Beautiful. You know, offshore drilling started out here — ”

“Hey, no fair, Georgie,” Krystal pretend-pouted. “I wanted to do that. What if you had missed?” Travioso shook his head, with a ‘Can you believe her?’ grin. Marliza wanted to ask whether she was being sincere, but feared getting an actual answer, if she did.

“Then I would have hit the sky, instead,” George said, shrugging. He was not renowned for his patience for small talk; he wanted to portray himself as a businessman of fierce concentration, which would have been a tough sell. He was much too pampered to have much authentic hunger for conquest. He pointed out, as Marliza and Doug set down the tray of canapés, that the work slacks they wore were dampened, almost knee-height. “You want to tell me something?” he said, feigning extraordinary patience with them.

^^^^

“Actually, yeah,” Doug said, but before he could expand upon this answer, he spied Marliza glancing downward, over her shoulder. An expanding pool of wetness had entered their conversation, from the stairwell leading down to the kitchen below. “Think we need some super-absorbent towels, bro.”

Krystal yelped, but Travioso shushed her. Yu broke his own rule, scowling for all he was worth, which was not much, on his own. He stepped around Krystal and Travioso, to clutch the receiver of his ship-to-shore radio. She produced her cell phone and began typing on it with a shaky index finger; she had been celebrating for a while. Yu reemerged and asked for another bottle of the bubbly. “All taken care of, shipmates,” he said. “Who’s got the fishing poles? Andy, Gretchen, you still owe me twenty bucks, for… was it last weekend? I forget. I’m going to get a spearfish, if it’s the last one in the bay.”

Marliza sucked in her breath, holding it for a hot second, then another. It was no longer a matter of simply losing her job… this was rapidly turning into a real situation. Exhaling none too delicately, she looked Yu square in the eye and said, in a low voice so she would not convey disrespect for her employer, “George, I mean — aren’t we sort of looking at life preservers, at this point?”

By way of reply, he pointed out the craggy horizon, only a mile or two in the distance. Sunset had darkened it to a silhouette. “Don’t get in a twist about this, Marliza,” he said. “We could almost walk home from here.” It was no longer a conversation; he turned his back on her and asked Doug, “Hey, man, what was that poetry you were talking earlier? That was some wild stuff. I may want to use that, on my web site’s landing page.”

Doug lit up. “Oh, you mean…” He closed his eyes, reciting from memory. “The true person is/Not anyone in particular; But like the deep blue color/Of the limitless sky, It is everyone, Everywhere in the world.” Smiling, he opened his eyes. “That’s some cat from Japan, Dōgen Zenji’s his name. Lived back in the thirteenth century, was it?” He glanced at Yu, seeking confirmation he would not get; Boss-man accepted a fresh glass of champagne.

Krystal shot Doug an appraising stare; she was not displeased with him, which was fortunate — Doug was decidedly pleased with his view of her, until Marliza yanked on his arm, pulling him away from the party. The water level was now above ankle height. “What’s your damage anyhow, Mar?” he groused; to her recollection, it was the first time she had ever seen or heard him annoyed.

“Here, handsome, stuff yourself into this,” she said, handing him one of the life jackets. She yanked hers down and secured it; before Doug could offer a suitable rejoinder, she stepped onto the edge of the top deck, and looking out across the bay at the shoreline, prepared herself for the impact of the cold water as she entered it. “Hey, George? See you on shore, I hope.” Over her head, something flared up, a brightness upon the water; someone had fired the flare gun.

“I’m clocking out,” she said, launching herself into the waves, like a broken bottle of Dijon mustard. Another splash, and several disgruntled shouts from George and others, met her eardrums, once she resurfaced. Marliza started to kick, swinging her arms, one, two, three. She spied something startling, over one shoulder: the boat’s prow appeared to be… burning. Looking ahead, she could make out the beach. Doug would, she hoped, follow her example. She would not go down in history as one of its great seafaring caterers, but she knew one thing. Marliza knew how to swim.

© Eric Wolf 2022.

Short StorySatireHumorFable
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About the Creator

Eric Wolf

Ink-slinger. Photo-grapher. Earth-ling. These are Stories of the Fantastic and the Mundane. Space, time, superheroes and shapeshifters. 'Wolf' thumbnail: https://unsplash.com/@marcojodoin.

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