Monday, September 20, 2010
In this excerpt from The Princess of the Andes, by Victor J. Banis, Raymond Letterman is a bore. He has driven the Captain and the crew of The Princess of the Andes to desperation with his incessant chatter – and the ship’s doctor comes up with a possible solution…
The Princess of the Andes
Untread Reads Publishing (June 14, 2010)
When he went into the dining room a bit later, he found Captain Herrman and his mate, Hans, drinking a beer together.
"Join us, Doctor," the Captain greeted him. "We're just holding a council of war. "You know that Christmas Eve is only three days away."
They had brought a Christmas tree all the way from Los Angeles and the crew had been looking forward to the occasion. Separated as they were from their families, they took a very sentimental view of the holiday.
"Mister Letterman outdid himself at lunch today," the mate said. "He scarcely stopped for breath the whole time."
"It's hard enough to be apart from one's family at Christmas time, but I cannot endure the thought of spending the entire evening listening to that incessant chatterbox."
"Short of throwing him overboard, I don't know what you can do," the doctor said. "He's not a bad old soul, you know. He just needs a man."
"What on earth do you mean?" the Captain cried.
"Oh, come now, gentleman," the doctor scolded them, "Surely you must have realized by now that Mister Letterman is homosexual. Gay, in their own terms."
The Captain's face reddened. "Yes, that thought crossed my mind, but the man is sixty if he's a day. You can't mean to suggest that he's thinking of romance at his age."
"I think it all the more likely at his age," the doctor said. "All that loquacity. A good session with a lusty man, whatever it is that those people do together, it would relax all those jangled nerves. I give you my word we'd have some quiet then."
The Captain smiled at the suggestion and his eyes twinkled. "Well, then, doctor, since you are a bachelor, and this is the remedy you suggest, I think it is up to you to see to the matter."
"Pardon me, Captain, but as ship's doctor it is up to me to prescribe treatment for the afflictions of our passengers, but it is not my duty to administer it. Besides, I am past the age of sixty myself. I think that youth is an essential in this matter, and good looks an advantage. I believe our mate here, Hans, would be the ideal one to solve the problem."
Hans leapt to his feet. "Me. I wouldn't. I couldn't. Are you suggesting I am…?"
"Oh, don't be foolish," the Captain said. "You're a sailor, aren't you? Sailors have a long tradition in these matters. Didn't I see you dancing with another sailor in Belem not so long ago?"
"It was only a samba."
"Besides, you're handsome, young, and strong. We have two more weeks before we reach Los Angeles and can be free from this pest. Surely you wouldn't let the rest of us down."
"No, no, Captain, you ask too much of me. I was only married two months before we set sail, and I can hardly return to my bride and confess that I have already been unfaithful, and with a man in the bargain."
"Am I then to have the rest of my trip, and my Christmas holiday to boot, ruined because there is no man on my ship to show a little kindness to an aging homosexual? I swear it, I shall run us aground."
"What about Peter?" Hans said in a flash of inspiration. "The radio operator?"
The Captain gave a roar and pounded upon the table. "By all the angels in Heaven," he cried, "You have found the very solution. Bring that young man here, at once."
When the radio operator, young Peter, was brought into the dining room, he wondered uneasily if he had done something wrong, but he clicked his heels smartly together and stood at attention while the four men—the engineer had now joined the others—looked him over at some length.
Peter was tall, wide of shoulder and narrow of hip. His hair, a riot of curls, was golden, his eyes the blue of the sky—the very epitome of Teutonic manhood.
"How old are you, young man?" The Captain asked.
"I'm twenty one, sir."
"You are aware, are you not, that we still have one passenger aboard?"
"Yes, Sir. I've seen him a time or two on deck. He always says a very polite good morning to me."
"And I trust you have responded in kind?"
"That is good, then." The Captain assumed a serious manner, and his face took on a stern impression.
"We are a cargo ship," he said, "but as you know, we also carry passengers and because it allows us to turn a profit, this is a branch of our business our owners want us to encourage. My instructions are that we are, each of us, to do everything that we can to ensure the happiness and the comforts of our passengers. I trust that you recognize the importance of that mission."
The radio man looked puzzled, but he nodded and said, "Yes, sir. I am always happy to do what I can to make our passengers happy."
"Good. The gentleman in question needs the attentions of a man."
"Attentions, Sir?" Peter screwed up his face in puzzlement.
The Captain reddened, but he said frankly, "Of a sexual nature. And the doctor and I have decided that you are the perfect one to resolve this issue."
"Of a sexual nature, Sir? You mean, from me?" The young man blushed and gave a little laugh, but he quickly saw that this was not a matter of amusement to the others in the room. "But, I'm not inclined that way, Sir. Anyway, the gentleman is old, he's old enough to be my father."
"At your age, that shouldn't matter in the least. When I was twenty one…well, no matter, my exploits are not the issue here. Besides, this is a gentleman of distinction. He has talked with us evening after evening of his acquaintances in the city of the Angels."
"He appears to be on a first name basis with a great many members of the movie community," Hans added.
"There, you see," the Captain nodded his approval. "Who knows what might come of your kindness in this matter? You're a good-looking fellow, I don't mind telling you that. Who's to say you might not find yourself enjoying a movie career as a result of doing a good deed. It's not often one gets the opportunity to combine a little pleasure with a chance at fame and fortune."
"I am not making a request of you," The Captain interrupted him in his sternest voice, "I am giving you an order. You will present yourself to Mister Letterman in his cabin at exactly eleven o'clock tonight."
"But, what shall I do?"
"Do? What kind of foolish question is that? Do what comes naturally."
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