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A LUCILIUS PARABLE: PERFUME

August 25th, 2019
This episode is dedicated to Roman McClay, author of the book Sanction

 

 

 

 

Lucilius breathed in the stinking air slowly, carefully. He’d made a dangerous wedge of himself between the wooden hull of the ship and the cold slick skin of the carcass. Luckily, the sea was an immaculate stillness; unlike the last time he’d drawn short straw for the monkey rope. It was devil dancing. And last time the boys above had a laugh at him while he lanced sharks and bobbled around on the dead whale, slipping, trying simply to keep from falling into that dark blinking gap between carcass and ship. The first mate, a brute they called Roman, took a perverse sort of pity on him and emptied half a bottle of rum on his head from above. Lucilius’ eyes had stung shut for long blundering minutes, but his beard was soaked, and Lucilius spent the rest of the night sucking oblivion from his own whiskers and laughing at the blank stare of of black eyes in the water.

On this night there was not a sound, as though it had all died with the big fish lashed to the ship’s side. Lucilius loosened the slip knot of the monkey rope pinched round his waist, careful not to lose his bearable posture.

In the moonlight he could make out the designs on his arms. He rolled a forearm to look at the faded image of a girl, the lines already decades old.

Lucilius wondered were she was now, Serafina. He closed his eyes on the cartoonish likeness of her, and in his mind’s eye the simple dotted ovals of color snapped to real green eyes narrowing on him from across the room.

A silly tune rose in the gullet, the same he’d sung softly then, to get her to look, making her nose wrinkle with a smile.

Seraphina. . .

She’s the queen me boys of all the gals that live in the ol’ casino…

She finished buckling her shoe and stood. She misted herself quickly with a small bottle, squeezing a braided bladder hanging from it’s golden top. Walked slowly to him, as the man’s mind raced for a fresh line to add to his new song.

Seraphina’s got no shoes, I been ashore, I seen’er

Seraphina… Seraphina

She hiked up the damp dress and sat on him, facing him, lacing wrists together behind his neck as he sang.

She’s got no time ta put’em on, that hardworked Serafina. . .

The woman’s look sullied. She looked down, and leaned in closer to him.

“You were gone a long time.”

Lucilius shrugged. “Long, hard work to get all that goop and goo to make those pretty powders you wear - that perfume you puff about you.”

She looked at him now, her eyes softer than he’d known and full of question.

“Think maybe you’ll stay? Get a farm or something?”

Even after his long years, Lucilius was still a fool. A fool thinking fool thoughts, merely recording the moment for wiser times.

“I don’t know. Hadn’t really thought about it. Someone’s got to do that dirty work tho. It’s a life for now,” he said as she held his eyes with her own for a last tentative moment. She got up, and left the room.

Lucilius touched the tattoo, but all he felt was his own skin. She was a ghost in the ink now, he realized as he remembered the curious coin on the nightstand. He looked for her after, but she was gone. Only a faint and sweet scent of her fading.

Lucilius looked back out over the sea of black glass. They’d fetched two whales during the day with only enough time to flense and roll one of them and take the head of the second, the blubber now boiling in the tryworks. More goop and goo to barrel and roll below, to take home.

He thought of Seraphina’s little bottle of perfume and the dead whale he was sitting on. He wondered, if any of this stinking carcass would end up in Seraphina’s little bottle.

The carcass bumped, and Lucilius looked around with dread. The carcass bumped again, and through the rubber skin, Lucilius could feel the vibrations of wrestle in the water. He reached up and tugged on the monkey rope to wake his shipmate. The man grumbled, the rope around Lucilius’ waist tightened, cinched him and he hobbled himself up, steadying himself with the side of the ship. His scarred feet took small tentative steps and he swung the lance around again to prod the dark waters for it’s thieves.


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