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By Julian Scutts


First Voice "Nothing like a storm" is what I always say! In a storm you can always tell the men from the boys. Hello there, Perkins! Anything up? You look like a dying duck in a thunder-storm. Can't you feel it, man. It's magnificent, absolutely magnificent!

Second voice How right you are, sir. I've got something to report.

First voice Well, out with it, man!

Second voice It's only that they reported a leak down there in the other half of the ship, sir.

First voice The other half's always messing things up, don't know their onions.

Second voice And the leak, sir? Should we do anything to help?

First voice Don't be ridiculous, Perkins! If we did, it would only make matters worse in the long run. As I said before, say now and will doubtless have to say in the future, they're a lazy lot down there, spend most of their time sitting on their backsides ar--ing around, as my grandfather used to say. If we helped them now, it would only encourage them to have another leak, and then another, and so on. Let 'm slash around a little. It's the only way they'll learn.

Second voice I suppose you're right, sir.

First voice You don't strike me as being completely convinced. Look; Perkins, if you're that worried, then go down below deck and see what's going on. Perhaps that will put your mind at rest.

Second voice Willco, sir. Should I give them a message?

First voice Well, come to think of it, you could. Um...say I'm very much concerned for them - and that goes for everybody this end of the ship. Tell them - um - the first thing to do is to find the hole. Emphasize that point. Find the hole and half the battle's over. However, the situation can only return to normal once the aforesaid hole has been plugged. Got that? good man. And - oh - you might add that they, er - those positioned at their end of the ship, that is - can be assured of the full moral support of the other half of the ship. Once your mission has been accomplished, give yourself a ten-minute tea break before reporting back here, there's a good man.

Half an hour later:

First voice Look at those billowing clouds, those surging waves. I'm sure only Turner could have done 'em justice. Rarely can I remember having such a splendid view. It's so - er - panoramic if you will. I have the distinct impression that the horizon is actually receding - you can see for miles and miles more than you usually can. Can't remember having a view like this since my days as a cadet up in the rigging, Ah, here comes Perkins. Looks like a dead duck in a hurricane, poor man. Well. Perkins.

Second voice Hello, sir. It's like in that poem we read at school. "Water, water everywhere" and that - er - "not a drop to drink".

First voice. This is no time for a poetry recitation, Perkins. There'll be plenty of time for that kind of thing later. As far as water is concerned, all I can say is: There's nothing unusual about that. We're at sea, you know, and when you get a leak, you must expect water. It's a law of life.

Second voice Yes, sir, precisely. But it's not so much the fact that there is water as the fact that there is so much of it. In fact, they've already had to abandon a part of the ship, their part of the ship, because of the water, sir, and I would not be fulfilling my duty, sir, if I omitted to say that morale is sinking like their half of the ship, sir.

First voice Didn't they say anything when you told them my message?

Second voice Well. I think they did say something, sir, er --but..

First voice Well...

Second voice I couldn't quite catch everything with all that splashing around. It was something to do with playing rugger - as far as I could hear, sir. But to change the subject, sir, I had the distinct impression that there was some truth in what they were saying about their part of the ship sinking, and all.

First voice To be open and frank with you, Perkins, your report does raise my concern. But hold on a mo. I think I can get to the bottom of all this. So their part of the ship is sinking, correct?

Second voice That was my impression, sir, and as you seem to be implying the same thing, there remains little doubt in my mind as to the verocity of that statement.

First voice Now the fact that their part of the ship is in trouble is not good for them, and we should certainly take no pleasure in the discomfort of others. However, there seems to be a brighter side to the picture. You must always look on the the brighter side of the picture, otherwise you'll get too depressed by all this gloom and doom talk that's going around.

Second voice What is the "brighter side", sir, if I may ask?

First voice Good question, Perkins, I'm glad you asked. Look out to sea, man, and what do you see?

Second voice Water, sir, lots and lots of it.

First voice A good observation, Perkins. What's more, lots more than you would normally see from this position on the ship. Yes, Perkins, this part of the ship is rising.

Second voice And the brighter side, sir?

First voice You're a bit slow on the uptake today, Perkins. That IS the brighter side. We have gone up in much the same proportion that they have gone down. We're getting drier in much the same measure that they're getting wetter. I haven't quite got all the statistics at my finger-tips, but it emerges, taking a broad and balanced view that the two angles subtended by the plimsoll line and sea level, being equal, effectively cancel each other out, to average out to the state of affairs that pertained before the apparent imbalance we spoke about. In layman's language, nothing has fundamentally changed.

Second voice 'Cept that them lot are a great deal wetter than they were before, and there was even talk of one or two mates being missing.

First voice That's enough of your impertinence, Perkins...Look man, you're obviously suffering from overwork and strain. Why don't you listen to the radio. That will take your mind off things.

Second voice Sorry, sir. You're right. I'll do what you suggest.

Not long afterwards:

First voice Back so soon, Perkins. Glum as ever? What's eating you, man? I thought you were listening to the radio.

Second voice I was, sir. It was all about bad weather conditions at sea. And it wasn't only that...

First voice Come off it man, what else?

Second voice There was a report of a ship going down.

First voice Which ship?

Second voice I dunno, sir. Just a ship.

First voice Yes, but you know as well as I do that ships go down occasionally. I don't see any reason to get alarmist.

Second voice But that's just it, sir. Even if ships only go down occasionally, when they do go, reports always say this or that ship went down, don't they?

First voice What of it? You're babbling man, speak plainly.

Second voice They never say "half a ship" or "a third of a ship" or "a quarter of a Ship, " do they, sir? It's always whole ships that goes. Correct me if I'm wrong.

First voice All this is very well, Perkins, but is what you are saying relevant to the present situation. Do you really think so?

Second voice Yes, sir.

First voice Reasons?

Second voice We're on a ship, sir.

First voice True enough, but...

Second voice Do you mind if I add a further word to my previous statements, sir?

First voice Get it off your chest, man!

Second voice Heelllllppppppppp!!!!!!!!

First voice Don't get the wind up, Perkins. You'll worry the others. Look, to be perfectly honest with you, I share your concern with the present situation. Why don't you go down to the lower half, and lend a hand. I'll stay up here for a bit, and commission an inquiry.

Second voice As you say, sir.

First voice Excuse me, you over there. You wouldn't happen to have a bucket, would you? Or better still, could you possibly direct me to the nearest lifeboat?

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