Labor Day For Whales
— Captain! There’s something terribly wrong with Madame Marmalade! She’s moaning and crooning a seasick wailer’s tune that can only be described as “unfortunate for one’s ears.”
— Really, Thompson? That’s the only way it can be described? You know I have ears as well, right? You know I can hear the awful sound. I would describe it more accurately as an ancient bull shark’s dying request to not die. That’s what I hear, Thompson. Though I know there are no bull sharks in our nautical vicinity. And I daresay the noise is not unfortunate to my ears, as you so basely put it. Rather, it is the sound of a tragedy not yet come to pass. Perhaps we can help avoid that passing. Tell me, which one is Madame Marmalade?
— Pardon me, Captain.
— Who the devil are you?
— My name is Jane Hopkins Throatworth Hammersmith but everyone calls me Jane Hopkins Throatworth Hammersmitty for short, and I’m a world-renowned Ocean Specialist in these parts. Specifically, I specialize in the biggee sea creatures what can’t fit in your hand.
— We are not well met Ms. Hopkins Throatworth Hammersmitty! How is it you arrived on my ship, here in the middle of the Arctic where the temperature is easily below freezing, the winds blow a good 40 knots, knotwise, and my temperament leans toward narration?
— Why Captain, we met just six weeks prior when we left port. Don’t you recall? We shared a drink in The Lickety Split Pubbery on Westershire Ave. and I asked you if I could come along to study any biggee species you might encounter. Knowing full well the glorious humperdink whales that frequent these isolated parts at the end of the world, it was too good an opportunity to let pass.
— And I rightfully gave you this opportunity?
— You did, Captain. I was present while you were in your boots.
— Thank you, Thompson. That will do.
— But Captain, there is the matter of Madame Marmalade to consider. I shall not retire to my quarters before she is examined.
— Examined, Thompson?! What is this madness?! Why, that humperdink whale is 80 tons of fleshy whale bloobs if she’s a foot.
— Those are two different measurements, Captain. The former scales weight, the latter, length.
— That’s exactly what I mean, Johnson! Thank you for simplifying!
— Thompson, Captain.
— Yes, bring him up to the poop. He’s a good fellow. He’ll sort this all out.
— There is no Johnson. Just Thompson, Captain.
— Bring him too, then.
— Right, will do.
— (aside) What are you…?
— (aside) Don’t worry, he’s not always like this. Of course you’d know that if you hadn’t sat alone in your cabin for the whole of the past six weeks.
— (aside) I’d hardly call my quarters a cabin, sir. In fact, it’s barely even a roo—
— What is all this asiding about, Thompson? There is a sick whale at hand and she sounds to be getting sicker by the second! … Tell me, Jane Hopkins Throatworth Hammersmitty, can you ease Madame Marmalade’s tortured ailment, whatever it may be?
— I can try. That’s what I’m here for. That is, it’s my secondary objective. An Ocean Specialist’s primary creed is to discover, explore, and make sense of the mysterious underwater world. Within our expeditions, should we come across any biggee (or smallee for that matter), we are to give them aid. Lead me to this Madame Marmalade!
The Captain, Thompson, and Jane Hopkins Throatworth Hammersmith walk with purpose down the long ship to the stern. When they arrive at full rear, Jane Hopkins Throatworth Hammersmith emits a low gasp.
— Are you ill, lady?
— No I… I just never expected to see such beauty in such large quantities.
— The Humperdink whales are quite striking indeed, young miss. Which is one reason of many why we must help Madame Marmalade through her ordeal. I am sure you’ll agree and get right to work. Post haste and chop chop and all that.
— Yes, Captain. Oh, may I call you Captain?
— It is my Christian name. I would not likely respond were you to call me Patrice Winklehorn.
— We are wasting too much time blubbering these words amongst ourselves! Captain, let the lady do her business!
— Yes. Johnson is right. I go.
— Wait! …
But the Captain’s plea comes to late. Jane Hopkins Throatworth Hammersmith has plunged into the icy, unforgiving wasteland that is the frozen Arctic seascape.
— Throw her your jacket, Thompson!
— I’m all right. I s-should be all right as l-long as I k-keep busy and don’t panic.
— (aside) That water’s got to be negative 300 degrees on the bolster scale, Captain! She’ll never survive if she stays in there for a long time.
— (aside) How long, do you figure?
— (aside) I’d gather she has less than 62 hours before the initial shock wears off and her body turns to barnacles!
— (aside) God have mercy.
— Is that the sound of a healthy humperdink, Ms. Hopkins Throatworth Hammersmitty? I presume not!
— (aside) Let her work, Captain. The Ocean Specialist has many tricks from which to provide care. See there? She’s got her stethoscope bag open now.
— Two heartbeats, Captain!
— Two heartbeats? Why, this humperdink’s mutated into a modern monster! We’ll be rich or dead before the day is through! Quick, all! Help me haul the natural wonder into cargo!
— No, C-Captain. You misunderstand. She’s no monster. Quite the c-c-contrary! She’s with child! And if my stethoscope’s beat rings true, the baby humperdink is breached.
— Oh no. Thompson, did you hear?
— I’m standing right next to you, sir.
— Can anything be done, Ms. Hopkins Throatworth Hammersmitty? Or is Madame Marmalade doomed to die with her babe in her own tow?
— There is no time for explanation, C-Captain. This water’s fukucking fukreezing! That might just give me the advantage I need to perform the necessary emergency —
— Perform the emergency what, Ms. Hopkins Throatworth Hammersmitty?
— I’m sorry, I trailed off there. I was remembering warmer times in the East Indian Ocean. It was about nine years and three months ago, if memory serves. I saved a Hugo Seahorse from drowning. Plucked him right out of the waters with our ship’s crane and delivered CPR by way of a complicated machinery including rubber tubes and plastic mask. I had the right tools that day. I was lucky. But luck comes from preparedness, gentleman. And today, I fear I have not the fortitude of similar foresight at my heels.
— (aside) What’s she going on about, Thompson?
— (aside) I believe she’s working herself either away from heroics or straight toward them. Perhaps she needs a fatherly push, sir?
— (aside) A fatherly push?! For God’s sake, man, I just met the woman.
— (aside) No, Captain. There you are wrong. You’ve known her all your life. Known of her, I should say.
— (aside) What mad reveal is this?
The Captain’s countenance changes from confusion to anger to mild acceptance of a thing unknown to full blown acceptance of an always present joy.
— You can do it, Jane Hopkins Throatworth Hammersmitty! You were born to do this!
— (aside) Bravo, Captain.
— It’s not possible. Madame M-Marmalade she… her breaths are as shallow as the ocean is deep. It’s just a matter of time now.
— Use your training, d-dear!
— (aside) It’s as if you are the one in frozen waters, Captain.
— (aside) Hush your playful ribbing, Thompson Johnson. We are having a family moment.
— (aside) In so many ways.
— My t-training? … Of course! Thank you, Captain! That was just the fatherly push I needed!
Jane Hopkins Throatworth Hammersmitty swims carefully toward the great humperdink’s head. She crawls up above her eyes and gives two great exhales into the whale’s blowhole. They are the breaths of a desperate Ocean Specialist who would give her own live for the whales’s (plural, possessive).
— Well that seems irregular, yet also strangely inevitable.
— Thompson, I swear to all things heavenly, I will scorch you if you proceed with your unhelpful interruptions!
— Thar she blows, Thompson! The humperdink calf’s emerges! She’s got a hump like a troll’s gill! She is…
— I suppose the Melville parody was unavoidable.
The Captain scorches Thompson. He recovers.
— The calf, in all her glory, shall be heretofore named —
— She is n-nameless. She is f-f-f-freeeee.
— No! My newfound daughter! Thompson, save her! She drowns! She is ice!
— I cannot swim, Captain. You know this.
— I go then. Yes. I go.
The Captain dives into the frozen waves. He surfaces, a full second later, Jane Hopkins Throatworth Hammersmith in his arms. Her breaths are shallow and few and far between. The Captain uses every bit of his strength to launch his daughter up and onto the deck. Thompson catches her and rushes her down to her quarters where he proceeds to wrap her in a blanket. That does the job and her soul comes cruising back to her body.
— The humperdink calf?
— Is living its first afternoon in bliss with its mother. Thanks to you.
— And f-father?
— I’m afraid the Captain is… well, he…
— …is right here! Hello, Thompson. Hello, Jane Hopkins Throatworth Hammersmitty. We are well met. And I’ll never forget you again.
— It’s a Labor Day, miracle!
— Labor Day for whales, Johnson. Labor Day for whales.
The trio sail off toward the plausible horizon with a fresh dose of wholesome, heartfelt emotions — the kind that make you all woobly doobly — in their hearts.