Fetch Us Another Round

Sea-worn sailors spill over the threshold of the Brash Mariner, as fog crawls along the coastline. It obscures the view and leaves the clinging air chilled.

New initiates, habitual regulars, foreign tongues, and familiar faces, rough from months at sea, call for Maris to fetch them another round.

They share stories of flooded engine rooms, deadly calm, and great beauties left in other ports. Always they are taming their greatest love, the sea.

Maris too loves the sea.

Fetch us another round.”

They flirt, casting her in the guise of the homeport girl whose hair/beauty/eyes/smile they love a little less than their sea.

A pantomime, they compete for her love with a song, with stories, with fists. With broken teeth and bloody lips, they call to her.

Fetch us another round.”

She sweeps a lost molar or incisor into her palm, depositing them in her collection behind the bar. She pulls a tattered rag from her red bucket and wipes the counter clean.

They quiet, energies expended, to speak in false reverence of the wild beauty of the sea, her unknowable depths, her vast horizons, and her savage storms. They believe they are called to tame her.

Fetch us another round.”

The stories of the night turn to the locket around Maris’s neck. The front bears the name William. The chain of silver abrades the skin across her collarbone leaving smooth scars that shine like the abalone lining. It irritates her neck; still she wears the silver locket as a shield against the more persistent patron. She paid dearly for its protection.

With each visit, William’s charm turns cold like the fog.

Fetch us another round.”

They like to tell her stories, about exchanges with William over the radio, of seeing his passing ship, or of sharing a drink in a distant port. They like to stoke the home fires even if they don’t burn for them. They believe in the myth of the love that waits, the love that they can tame when the sea becomes too much.

They’re drunk.

Fetch us another round.”

They know nothing of the night she made herself an offering to the sea and looked to drown. That night the cold water chilled the hot bits of skin that throbbed around the bloody bitten flesh of her breast, her cracked socket, the bruised ribs, and swollen lips. But the sea did not take her breath. It only swallowed the ribbon from her hair.

The whooshing beat of the tide inched higher and higher calling like a shushing lullaby in her ears. Gently it rolled over her curves and lifted her weightless. The sea tossed starfish on her shore and laid Maris’s body, with tide-swept hair, out alongside them like a constellation of the night sky.

Maris knows the sea’s embrace. The last teeth marks William left in her flesh have finally healed.

Fetch us another round.”

On this night, Maris hears he’s coming home.

With shaking hands, she grabs the red bucket of sanitizing solution; it sloshes like a turbulent swell. Carrying it out the back door, she heaves its piss-colored contents into the night.

Out here the smell of stale cigarettes, and stale breath, and stale hearts no longer clutch her face. She lets the sweat dry and tastes the salt air.

Last call.”

The flotsam of the day rolls back out into the night leaving a quiet filled only with the sound of her racing heart. She grabs the jar of collected teeth from beneath the counter and walks to the shore. Shedding clothes, she wades in until she is once more cradled and lifted in the sea’s embrace. She prays to the rage and glory of her lover. She releases fistfuls of teeth, an offering. Their bite drifts away with the tide.

The dawn breaks, a ship goes down, and William never again returns. The story goes they found teeth in the hull.

Maris fetches another round.

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