Back | Next

Gullikksen and the 500-Pound Hallucination


Once upon a time I lived in a different universe, one without space ships. Ships, but not space ships. Intermittently, from 1947 to 1953, I made my living on the last great merchant fleet to draw its power from Scotch boilers, stoked with coal by men with shovels. Many of the stokers (we called ourselves "firemen,") were immigrants or their sons: Game-leg Paddy, Onni Hietala, Nuts and Bolts, Bumboat Charley, Firedown Gallagher . . . some of them great storytellers. Young and impressionable, I enjoyed knowing them, being one of them. And I loved the boiler rooms, dark, brooding, and hot. Big as haybarns, they extended from the bilge plates all the way up to the lifeboat deck. Most of the lower half was filled with the great boilers, enough room being left for stowage, and for the stoke hole where the firemen wielded their tools. Above the boilers was little more than railings, the six-foot induction fan, the smokestack that disappeared through the overhead, and along the catwalks, wires strung by the firemen to quick-dry their laundry.

The boiler room: a realm of ash dust, stinking fumes, and especially heat; your dungarees stuck to your thighs from the sweat.

Years later, with the old coal-burning ships replaced by behemoths burning oil or diesel fuel (not a shovel or slice bar to be found), I told myself I'd someday set a science fiction story on one of those old-timers, and eventually I did. This is it.

There's also a story about the story: I'd written it with F&SF—the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction— in mind. I knew it wasn't "an Analog story." Nonetheless, my wise old agent of the time, Larry Sternig, sent it to Stan Schmidt at Analog.

I was right, sort of, but so was Larry. Stan replied, "I can think of two or three good reasons we don't use stories like this, but I'm buying it anyway."

Stan has been cited as saying (approximately): "Don't decide I won't buy something; let me make that decision." I now believe him. Meanwhile I'm still surprised—and delighted.

* * *

I knew right away there was something peculiar about him. I mean, who ever heard of a Norwegian heaving coal in the fire-hold? Swedes—Swedes by the scores. Finns by the dozens. And Irish beyond number, as witness myself. But norskis sail on the deck or in the wheelhouse, not in the firehold.

Except for one: Ingebritt Gullikksen.

We did have some strange crews on the Great Lakes during the war. After enlistments and the draft took their shares, big bonuses to be made on the salt water took part of what was left.

Meanwhile the steel mills were running round the clock. Gold was lovely and silver was nice, but iron! Iron was important! So every old hull that would float—some of them rusting at the dock since 1930—every hull they could find was more or less reconditioned to haul iron ore down from Lake Superior. An example was the steamer Henry K. Anibal.

And every old sailorman that could stagger into the hiring hall was sent out on a job. Then, if they could make it up the ladder from the dock, they were signed on. On top of that, they were shipping out fifteen-year-old kids who were so green they thought "binnacle" was a card game and a bunker was somebody sleeping. A strange and lively time.

Gullikksen came aboard in late September 1943, at Duluth of course, a gaunt old man with great big bony hands, thin white hair, and face the color of blotchy bread dough. I was on deck at the time, and I remember wondering if he could possibly do any useful work. It looked to me like the hearse would have to meet us when we arrived at the Soo.

That was because the sun was shining, and I couldn't see all there was to him, or around him, or with him, or however you want to put it.

I had nothing against age. My grandfather was old, and my father was getting that way, and I knew if I was lucky I'd be old myself someday. And old Inge might have been one hell of a man, thirty years earlier when he was maybe fifty.

But you never saw the firehold on one of those old hand-fired buckets, or felt the heat! The heat! In front of you the tall faces of two great boilers, and at your back the bunker doors, with ten freightcars of coal feeding down through them. With a couple of number six scoop shovels, known for good reason as Irish banjos, and other tools of ignorance. Ignorance—but skill.

You'd average shoveling about seven tons of coal a day, plus a ton or two of wet ashes. But that wasn't the hard part. The hard part was cleaning fires. In 110 or 115 degrees of heat. A hundred and twenty on the Henry K. Anibal, which was nicknamed "The Hungry Cannibal" for the way she ate up coal and firemen, with the lagging falling off her boilers and all.

And Mickey McKinney, the chief engineer, didn't help any, with his love of free whiskey. Any bandit at a coal dock could sell him a shipment of the worst slack, or even overburden, telling him it was number one bunker fuel. All he needed to do first was pour two or three drinks of good whiskey down him.

The whiskey had to be good, though; you couldn't fool him on that. The best trips I made on the Cannibal was when someone tried to slip him cheap whiskey. That got his Irish up, and we'd sail with the loveliest nut coal you could ever put shovel to.

But we were burning twenty percent slate when Gullikksen came aboard—Gullikksen and his—well, I'll get to that. It was the worst coal I ever saw.

Now I'm a man of principle; I am now and I was then. There are those who call it stupidity. When I signed on a ship, I stayed with it as long as they treated me like a man. I didn't quit just because the weather turned hot and sent the firehold temperature out the top of the glass, or the cook turned ugly and went on a baloney strike, or we'd docked at South Chicago or Conneaut—one of those real fast docks—and I was struck with terminal thirst and no time to slake it.

I was a homesteader. I'd fit one out when the ice was melting in March and lay her up when she froze to the dock in December. Almost without exception.

But with a steamer like the Cannibal, and the kind of coal we had, if I'd realized that Gullikksen had come aboard as my firing partner, I'd have quit then and there. I'd have known for sure I couldn't keep steam up working with a stove-up old wreck like him.

Which showed how much I knew about Gullikksen.

We were out on deep water when I went to go down on watch. I didn't realize old Inge was my new partner until I found him at the head of the ladder, waiting to go below. Then I got so mad I couldn't even talk to him.

But he went down the ladder lively enough, and in the dimness of the firehold he didn't look as frail as he had. There was that about him, you see, that only showed up when the light was poor.

The first thing we had to do was clean the fires, the hardest, hottest part of the watch; and to my surprise it went okay. I'd been afraid I'd have to clean his too, but he cleaned his own, whipping out the glaring, fuming, stinking piles of red-hot ashes and clinkers as fast as I did mine. And in the flame and smoke and steam, he actually looked burly and stout.

When we'd shoveled the ashes into the hopper and out into the lake, and blown the flues, I got my next surprise. "Vy don't you go up and cool off till five?" Inge said. "I vill handle it alone and then ve can svitch."

Well, there was nothing unusual about that; it's what firing partners usually do. But I hadn't thought I'd be able to with him. Still, I left by way of the engine room, to let the oiler know that old Inge was down there alone. He nodded; he'd come out on deck and get me if I was needed.

When I went back down at five Inge was perched on the water barrel, watching the steam gauge, which was sitting right on 200 pounds' pressure where it was supposed to be. And I couldn't believe how big he seemed in the weak light down there. Big enough that I looked him over carefully.

When I looked carefully enough, though, I saw a gaunt, used-up old man. It was as if he had a kind of shadow that, at a glance, made him look bigger. He grinned a toothless grin, stood, and went up the ladder two at a time. Then the needle started flickering and I picked up my shovel, hit some fires again and forgot about him.

The rest of the watch went fine too, with long breaks on deck cooling off. After a shower I went in to hit the rack. Inge was already in bed, reading a copy of Duluth Skandinav. I wondered if he had his sea bag in there with him. He bulked the cover up as if he weighed 500 pounds.

"How'd it go?" I asked him.

"Yust fine," he answered cheerfully.

"To tell the truth," I said, "I was afraid at first you might not be able to take it down there. How old are you?"

He chuckled. "It don't matter. I'm seventy-eight, but it don't matter. I got a friend that does the vork for me."


"Ja. Didn't you see him down there? I t'ought maybe you could see him."

Oh my God! I thought, I've got a bughouse for a partner!

"You t'ink I'm nuts," he said, and chuckled again. "Oskar, I vant you to meet Yimmy Mahan."

I looked around for Oskar, but all I could see was me and Gullikksen. Until the covers raised up off him. Even though he was just laying there. Then something like an arm made out of smoke reached out, with a gray hand bigger than Inge's on the end of it. I could see right through it.

Hesitantly I reached out and shook with it. The only time I'd done anything like that before was after two weeks of heavy drinking. It shook hands firmly, and I knew it was being careful not to break my fingers.

"Wirra wirra wirra!" I said, and crossed myself. "What is it?"

"I don't know. I mean—I know but I don't know how to tell you. I don't know the voids."

"What do you mean—you know but you don't know the words?"

"Veil, he don't talk. You yust sort of know vhat he's t'inking. You can do that vit' him." The old man's eyes twinkled. "Go on; try it."

"Some other time," I said, wagging my head back and forth. I watched the "arm" disappear back under the cover. It didn't seem to fold back in. It was more like it just flowed back in on itself.

Then I hung up my towel and went to bed. But not to sleep; not right away. Instead I lay there and thought for a little while. Then I spoke quietly, hardly more than a whisper, so that if Gullikksen was asleep it wouldn't wake him.



"Where did you get him?"

"You mean Oskar?"

"Is that what you call him? Oskar? Where did you get him?"

"It vas yust after New Year's, and I was cookee at Mando's Camp T'ree, a logging camp up in Koochiching County. And the cook sent me out vit' a horse and sleigh to haul up a load of stove wood one of the cutters piled up for us. But before I got there I had to pass this little lake, and I could see that somet'ing had vent trough the ice. There vas a big place of new ice in the middle, vit'out no snow on it yet, and all around I could see vhere vater and pieces of ice had splashed up.

"And I t'ought, Yesus Christ, vhat could have done that? Because the ice vas about t'ree feet t'ick, you know.

"And then I felt him."

"You felt him?"

"Sure. You can't see him in the sunlight. And he vas veak and sick, you know, from the explosion and the crash. He vas in a ship, you see, like a small boat really, that come from some star.

"The stars is like the sun, you see, and got things going around them like Earth, vhere people live."

"Planets," I said helpfully.

"Jaha, planets and animals and everything, yust like here. But different."

"Did he tell you all this?"

"Not in vords. He yust kind of lets me know stuff. It's easier than talking."

"What—what does he eat?" I asked. "Or does he?"

"Vell, not exactly. He kind of gets power from t'ings, you know. Vhen I told him it vas all right, he kind of touched me and the horse and got a little bit from us. That saved his life. He vas veak and hurt from the crash, and then he'd been making do vit' spruce trees for a couple days. But trees don't really have much in vinter; he vas yust about dead.

"Besides, it's hard on him to not be connected vit' a person."

"A person? Are there human beings where he comes from?"

"Ja, pretty much. There vas vun that vas pilot on the ship he vas on."

"So Oskar wasn't the pilot then."

"No Oskar vas the enyine."

The—engine. I just kind of lay there. It was all so strange, I couldn't even think much about it. Too strange for thought.

"Uh, Inge, does he still take energy from you?"

"Huh? Oh, a little bit. It's kind of like he needs that—vhat's that vord again?"


"Ja. He needs a little of that from something live. But he gives me a lot more back. Mostly he gets vhat he needs from the boilers here. He vas so veak, you know, vhen I found him, and I bet he didn't veigh more than a couple ounces, but he got stronger fast vhen he could be by the stove. And vhen ve vas on vatch together, me and you, I could feel him getting stronger and stronger. Those boilers are good for him."

Inge chuckled. "He loved helping me clean fires. Maybe tomorrow ve can clean yours, too."

Clean my fires! Wirra! Cleaning fires is the worst job on the ship, and him seventy-eight years old.

"It ain't hard on me," he went on. "He does the vork; I yust chip in the know-how."

"Why doesn't he just stay in the boiler room? Instead of coming up here with you?"

"He likes company, and I'm kind of his pal, you know. Maybe he'll go down vhen I'm asleep. Vould you like to do that, Oskar? . . . He says he's going to. And he is learning about my body so he can fix it up good for me."

Then I heard Inge yawn, and the talk petered out. I went to sleep thinking about Oskar lying on the boilers getting bigger and bigger.

* * *

Even on a tough steamer like the Cannibal, and with the worst coal I ever saw, the trip went surprisingly good with someone else cleaning the fires. In fact, he'd even clean them an extra time, which made it easier to keep steam.

Pete the Leech was second cook, and he didn't like old Inge: bad-mouthed him and gave him a bad time. Accused him of having the world's biggest tapeworm—that it was indecent for someone that old to eat so much, especially in time of war. Gullikksen did stow the chuck away, all right, but there's nothing wrong with that. And he didn't eat much more than some of those hollow-legged teenagers aboard.

So I decided that when we docked in Ashtabula I was going to catch Pete on the dock and slap the snot out of him. He wasn't going to talk about my partner that way! But when I mentioned it to Inge, he said not to. He said that everyone knew what Pete was like and that no one believed what he said, which I had to admit was true.

We were lucky in Ashtabula; we had to wait for a dock, which gave us more time to go up the street and wet our whistles. It was ten in the morning when we got to Turpeinen's Anchor Bar. If it hadn't been so light, what happened there might not have. But with the sunshine flooding in those big front windows, and us sitting in front of them, there was nothing strange to be seen about us.

I figured we were in trouble when I saw this big guy look at us from the bar. I'd sailed with him—Jailhouse Olson. He was about six-two and more than 200 pounds, with red hair and fists like cannonballs. He should have been Irish. Friendly enough, ordinarily, but give him one drink and he turned mean. He seldom finished the second drink, and I don't think he ever drank the third. He always got in a fight before that. He knew the inside of every jail from Lackawanna to Allouez.

He was looking at us, and I could tell he didn't like what he saw. Pete the Leech was sitting next to him, grinning, and I'd have bet he'd been telling him lies about us. Olson scowled, stood up, and came over.

"Which one of you is Inge Gullikksen?" he asked. I knew it wouldn't make any difference; I was the one he was going to beat up. He'd never hit an old man, whatever Pete had said.

"I'm Gullikksen," old Inge said with a friendly toothless smile. He got up and pushed his right hand out, as if to shake hands, and Olson was so surprised, he let it wrap around his before he could do or say a word.

I never saw anything like it. At first he looked startled, then puzzled, as Inge pumped his hand. Then he got this kind of absent, pleased look, smiled, nodded real friendly at Inge, said he was pleased to meet him, nodded to me and walked back to the bar.

I saw Pete whisper something to him. Olson stared at him, took the cook by the front of the shirt, punched him right in the face, nodded to the bartender and walked out. Pete sat on the floor, blinking, and bleeding all over his shirt, then waited a safe interval and left, holding a handkerchief against his busted mouth.

We never did see him again; he went back to the ship, packed, and paid off before we got back. Which made him luckier than most of the crew. Meanwhile I was beginning to appreciate Oskar more and more.

But it was four days later that I really came to appreciate him. We'd left Sault Sainte Marie about twenty-four hours before, running against the first storm of autumn. It was blowing hard when we left Whitefish Bay, but far from dangerous. We had a chance to take cover twenty hours later, in the lee of the Keweenaw Peninsula, but there didn't seem to be any reason to. It was just another storm; nothing to worry about.

It was a couple of hours farther along that it got really bad. I realized how bad when the seas started sweeping the deck one after another and slamming against the deckhouse so that we dogged down the deadlights. And how I got to the crew's mess was, I waited till I heard one wave hit and then ducked out onto the deck and ran for it before the next one came along. Of course, it helped that the seas were coming from the starboard beam and the galley was on the port side.

But as I ran, I saw something that really hit me hard: less than half a mile to port, rising on the top of a wave like some giant reddish-brown log, was the bottom of a ship's hull—another long freighter like the Cannibal had capsized. In the mess, everyone was pretty quiet; I guess we all saw it.

If anything, the wind got worse, and after lunch, when I went back to the room, I saw something that worried me really bad. Some of the hatch tarps had ripped loose, and one of the hatch covers amidships had started to tear up from the coaming, and was buckling. Guys were out there on safety lines trying to hammer it back down with sledge hammers. Lose even one hatch cover, and we'd take a lot of water fast in those seas.

It took only a second or two to see all that. Then the next wave was ripping along the deck, and I ducked into the firemen's quarters. "Inge," I said, "we're in trouble," and told him what I'd seen. "Can Oskar do anything about that?"

He put down the dog-eared copy of Duluth Skandinav and sat up with a belch. He'd eaten earlier and more than me. "I don't know. I vill ask him." Then he got this intent look on his face.

Oskar had grown a lot and didn't come in the room anymore. He just lay on top of the boilers, kind of spread over them like some kind of thick cloudy blanket. Knowing what to look for, I could see him when I was on the catwalk, and I'd think hello to him and he'd hello back. He even said/thought my name; Hello Jimmy, he'd say to me. But he always kept a tentacle to Inge when Inge was up in the room, steel bulkhead not withstanding.

Anyway, Inge nodded, and about then the biggest sea yet slammed against the deckhouse. Oskar better come up with something good, I thought, or we'd all end up in Superior's eternal cold storage.

"What did he say?" I asked.

"He said don't vorry about it," and with that, Inge picked up his newspaper and lay back down like we were floating on a mill-pond.

That's easy to say, I thought, bur these old buckets weren't meant to take beatings like this, even when they were new. And the Cannibal's engine had Glasgow 1901 stamped on it.

Just then the door flew upon and this kid fell in, dripping wet, his safety line in his hand. He was sobbing "Oh my God, oh my God." Right away I guessed what had happened: a wave had taken him over the side, and only the safety line had saved him. He was probably sixteen years old.

"It's okay," I said, "it's okay."

"No it ain't! No it ain't! She's taking water forward and the hatch cover ripped clear off!"

Oh Jesus! I thought, don't let her be coming apart! I looked at Inge, who'd put his paper down and was sitting up frowning. It looked like he was talking to Oskar like a Dutch uncle. Or a Norwegian grandfather. Then he gave a little nod.

After the next wave, the kid ducked out the door again, to do God knew what. Right after that the whistle started to blast, one after another, to abandon ship. There really wasn't much to choose between. If we went down with the Cannibal, we were dead. If we tried to swim in that icy water, we were dead. And I leave it to you what we'd be if we took to the lifeboats.

But orders were orders in those days. "Let's go, Inge." I said.

He smiled and shook his head. "It's going to be all right."

In spite of how ridiculous that sounded, it got my interest. "What's he going to do?" I asked.

"He's going to lift her out of the vater."

Oh for chrissake! I ducked out the door and went up the ladder to the lifeboat deck. From there, the bunker lids being closed, I could see out over the length of the ship to the pilot house up forward. The ripped-up hatch cover had torn completely loose and gone over the side. The hatch, some fifty feet across and maybe fifteen feet fore and aft, was gaping wide, showing wet coal shiny black in the cargo hold. She'd swallow a ton of water with every wave, or maybe four or five, and a couple more hatch covers were buckling. I didn't know what other damage she might have taken. Guys were hurrying aft from the forward end, heading for the lifeboats, sliding their safety lines along the weather line that ran the length of the cargo deck.

Then I realized the next wave wasn't sweeping the deck; it was just licking along the edge. And as I watched, I could see the deck start to bow downward!

"No Oskar! No!" I shouted. "Put her back in the water, for the love of Jesus!"

By that time several other guys had come up on the lifeboat deck, and they looked at me like I was nuts. So I didn't yell out loud anymore, I just yelled with my thoughts. This ain't no spaceship, Oskar. She's got to be in the water or she'll bust in two. She ain't strong enough to float in the air, even without 9,000 tons of coal in her hold.

* * *

I got this response that felt kind of like damn! Then I realized the twelve-to-four watch had come up out of the boiler room, leaving no one down below to keep steam up. And somehow that seemed important to me. Another wave hit the deckhouse so I knew Oskar had put us down again.

Two more guys were coming up the ladder, so I jumped the eight feet down to the maindeck and ducked into the firehold door. Below, in the deep cavern that was the firehold itself. I could hear the scrunch of someone shoveling coal, the ring of the shovel heel on the deadplate of a firedoor. Inge, I realized, was down ahead of me.

When I got to the bottom of the long ladder, I found him firing without Oskar's help, his gaunt old form bending, driving the shovel into the coal, straightening, pivoting, striding with the left foot, the shovel swinging into the furnace door, again and again. I guessed Oskar was too busy with other things to help Inge now. The steam pressure had fallen to 185, but it was holding. I picked up the other shovel and began to feed the portside boiler.

When the steam gauge read 195, I hurried between the boilers into the crank room and up the engine room ladder to check things out. The engine room was deserted, the engineer and oiler gone to the boats. But the condensers were doing just fine, the boiler water levels about an inch below the tops of the glass, and best of all, the pumps were running, including the big centrifugal pumps. Then I checked the journal temperatures and a few other things and went back to the firehold.

Inge was holding up good, and the gauge was at 197. The biggest problem was that we hadn't been able to shoot the ashes since Whitefish Point because of the seas, and the place was half buried with ash piles. We waited for the needle to start flickering and hit three more fires with coal. Then I went back up onto the lifeboat deck to check things out.

There was no one there. I saw one of the lifeboats rise on top of a wave behind us, then disappear into the trough. Another big wave hit the deckhouse, the spray drenching me again, and I looked forward toward the pilothouse, some 500 feet ahead. Another wave was running along the deck. There were three open hatches now, and the water washed over them without any seeming to go in, as if they were covered with glass or something. Oskar was working on it!

And someone was holding us into the wind; someone was at the wheel. That was Oskar too, I supposed. Then the safety valves let go behind me; I almost jumped out of my skin. I hurried back down to the firehold again, expecting to find Inge in trouble.

He wasn't, though. He was standing there with all six furnace doors open, their bright fires shining into the dark room. The induction fan was off, and the ash pan doors were closed to cut off the natural draft. The steam gauge read 200 pounds. I had to bellow to be heard over the roar of steam from the safety valves.

"What the hell's going on?" I asked.

Inge grinned at me. "Oskar shut off the enyines," he said, "so the valves popped."

"Holy Christ! We'll broach and founder!" I dashed between the boilers into the crank room again. The great piston rods were still, their booming silenced, the eccentrics motionless; the only sound was the pumps and generators in the engine room above. I scrambled up ladders. Without forward speed—slow ahead at least—we were gone for sure.

Our only chance was if they'd left a life raft; with a raft we had a chance. Maybe one in 10,000. It was incredible we hadn't broached yet. I'd know when we did: we'd start to roll and wallow, and end up capsized like that other we'd seen.

I came out onto the fantail and stopped, bug-eyed. We were moving faster than the Cannibal had ever gone before in all her forty years, leaving a wake behind her like a cruiser or maybe a destroyer.

* * *

And that's how it was all the way to Thunder Bay, where the seas were a lot less and we slowed down. Then I went up the long deck to the pilot house. We must have had some plates sprung, because streams of water as big as my leg were coming out the pump spouts. I found the captain at the wheel; it had been him steering us. He stared at me through eyes at the ragged edge of sanity. He'd not only lost twenty-nine officers and men; he'd seen the impossible happen, alone, and with no idea of how.

He didn't ask any questions, though, and I said nothing. I didn't think he was up to knowing, and neither did he, I guess. He dropped the hook near the docks in Fort William because he had no crew to handle winches or lines to the pier.

And there'd been no other miracles: the crew was never seen again. That great ice-cold lake doesn't give up her dead.

Back in the boiler room again, Inge and I sat talking. We talked to each other and sometimes we talked to Oskar. He told us he was ready to go home, wherever that might be. I guessed he knew.

He'd gotten a bit pooped pushing 560 feet of ship carrying 9,000 tons of coal through a ship-killing storm at about twenty-five knots. But he was recovering nicely. Ordinarily at the dock we'd have been able to run generators and pumps, and winches if necessary, with the fires banked. It doesn't take that much steam. But we had full-length fires, six of them, eight feet long and forty-two inches wide, and Oskar was soaking up most of that energy. By the time a new crew bussed up from the hiring hall at Duluth, he wanted to be all charged up to go back in the bush, raise the space ship out of the lake, repair it and reactivate the power unit, and in general get her ready for the long trip.

"Ja," said Inge, "and ve ain't got a lot of time. It's already the first of October, and in six veeks that lake vill be froze up again."

Something else was bothering me though, and suddenly I knew what it was. "Oskar," I said, "if the pilot was killed, who's going to fly it?" As soon as I asked it, I got this strange powerful glow that made my hair stand up. And it came from Inge, not Oskar.



"But do you know how?"

He was grinning like an old gray wolf. He and Oskar had been planning since last winter. It was why they'd gone to Duluth to ship out—to build back Oskar's strength. The spaceship, they told me, had everything Inge needed to live. And learn to fly her. It wasn't that hard.

And then they asked if I wanted to go along!

* * *

Inge paid off the old Anibal in Duluth on a cloudy day, and walked down the dock followed by a large dim mass that was plain enough to me but that most people wouldn't notice because they'd feel much better not to.

And I probably would have gone with them—I was a bachelor then, and there was nobody would have missed me that much—but I wasn't willing to quit the Anibal. I stayed with her and helped lay her up that December at the foot of Genesee Street in Buffalo.

That's the winter I met your grandma, God rest her.

Anyway, these last few days I've been having this feeling: as if Oskar and Inge were somewhere around, maybe in a big orbit around the Earth. Inge must be 120 by now, but I don't think that means much to him anymore.

Anyway, don't be surprised if I go away for awhile. That's why I told you this, so you'd understand and wouldn't worry. Don't tell your mother, though, because she'd get mad and say Grandpa's gone off his rocker. But I'd appreciate your telling your dad when he comes into port; he knows all of it already, except the last part about Inge and Oskar being around somewhere again.

No, I don't think I'll tell him myself. There's not time, you see.

Mary, you know that ship carving you've always liked so much? It's yours now. And Jamie, I know you've taken up smoking lately, and I want you to have that rack of pipes you've always admired.

So why don't you kids take them now and then go do your homework? Grandpa's going out for a nice long walk.

Back | Next