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Catastrophe at Sea

by Russell Edson


They had not been at sea for more than three weeks when everything seemed to go wrong.

The captain remarked in his log book, that although they were meeting serious tests the crew was really quite a nice bunch, obedient to the letter, even though they were mostly illiterates.

After they lost the rudder and sails he had ordered the crew to their bunks; best not to have them under foot.

The captain had been spending his time making toys for the crew to play with in their bunks; they are only allowed up to go to the bathroom.

Sometimes, writes the captain in his log book, I tell them stories until they sleep.

Sooner or later we must meet an iceberg or a reef; meanwhile it is easier for one in the position of a father, as it were, in hopeless circumstances to reduce his grown sons, big hairy men most of them, into little children; lest they turn on me as men turn on God, for things the neither God nor I can be blamed for…

The last entry in the captain’s log book reads, I have run out of toys and stories; and what seemed to be scurvy turns out to be bedsores. There is a general restlessness and much crying in the crew’s quarters. They fight over their toys. I have had to take harsh means; spanking them over my knees.

Soon they will turn; my only hope is that we meet with an iceberg or a reef soon… We are running out of lollipops, and I am thinking of killing them one by one on the poop deck and dropping them into the ocean away from the sight of the others… I hate to start this because an iceberg or a reef might just turn up… Still, soon I must make a choice… I shouldn’t want to sin unnecessarily…

 

Russell Edson has books with Harper and Row, Wesleyan, and New Directions. (Fall 1974)


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