Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cruise Control - Part 17: Rock-A-Cry Baby 3

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  I just stared at my lawyer, greatly confused over the sudden turn of events, his sudden accusation, and the fact that some people in the audience still thought that plaid was a good idea. “I’m sorry, what did you ask?”

  My lawyer sighed (although I probably should stop calling him that, what with his traitorous move to the other side). “Did you kidnap your sister or not?”

  I looked at the judge. “Is that what I’m on trial for? I thought this was about the incident with the quiche.”

  Judge Severe leaned towards me, greatly intrigued, no small feat considering she had seen just about everything there was to see in her courtroom and had grown bored with it all years ago, even the surprising number of times men in the jury had been discovered pleasuring themselves instead of paying attention. “Well, it was about the quiche, and the damages to the ship, but this sounds much more fascinating. Do tell.”

  I looked back at my ex-lawyer, then over at the jury where some of them actually seemed to be awake now, over to the prosecuting attorney who appeared to have actually wet himself slightly with unexpected joy, over at the court reporter because I still couldn’t believe she would wear something like that in public, and finally back to my Ex. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

  Ex quickly ran to his little table, shuffling about in the piles of paper. “We have pictures, taken by one of the ship’s officers.” He snatched up several prints and then scampered up to the witness box. “First, this is your sister, is it not?” He waved something at me.

  I turned to the judge again. “Doesn’t he have to officially introduce that to the court, call it Exhibit A or something?”

  Judge Severe sighed. “It’s obvious that he’s exhibiting something. We’ll worry about the alphabet later. Answer the question.”

  I took the waving thing from Ex, muttering “this was supposed to be about the quiche” as I did so. In the picture, I did indeed find one of my sisters, Roni, perched in her wheelchair and wearing an expression that she wasn’t particularly impressed with the picture-taker because they weren’t handing her anything tasty to eat or turning on the TV so she could watch something with Keanu Reeves in it. She may not have been in a jovial mood, but she certainly didn’t look kidnapped.

  I handed the photo back. “Yes, that is my sister.”

  Someone in the jury gasped. Obviously someone that didn’t get out much.

  “The very same sister that you kidnapped on the night of October 17th?” queried Ex, with far more drama than his measly evidence should have allowed.

  “I did not kidnap my sister. Why are you saying that? What are you basing this information on?”

  Ex whipped out another photo. “On the words of this man.” Then he shoved that at me as well.

  I reviewed the picture. Contained within was the image of a man crisply dressed in the white uniform sported by official-looking people from the cruise ship. He did look slightly familiar, but I really didn’t see what this had to do with… then it hit me. “Oh.”

  “Oh?” repeated Judge Severe, curiously.

  “Oh?” repeated Ex, smugly.

  “Ohhhh!” repeated Gaspy in the jury, adding an inflection indicating she had immediately found me guilty on all charges, whatever they might be.

  “Well,” I said, “there was a small situation that may have been interpreted in a suspect manner. But it was purely coincidence.”

  “That will be for the jury to decide,” clarified Judge Severe, adjusting her chair for comfort and settling in as she apparently expected me to tell the tale. “Do let us know what happened, won’t you?”

  Out in the audience, Claudette the court-appointed bell-ringer leapt to her feet, proffering her implements proudly toward the sky.

  “Ah, yes,” said the judge. “And don’t forget that the Freebush woman is here to ding if you dally. Proceed.”

  So I began.

  I was on the Lido deck of the ship, and it became imperative for me to return to our cabin on a quest for something that I no longer actually recall. (This was always happening onboard, the quick runs to the cabin, because you didn’t want to lug your crap around with you all the time but you invariably had need of some such or other.  It was a constant battle.)

  I signaled to Terry and Tiffany that I would be back shortly. They signaled that it was mostly likely a free country, whatever country we were in at the moment, and I could scamper at will without a need for the filing of travel reports. Besides, they were drinking, and this was far more important than any activity I might be contemplating.

  Fine. I worked my way across the Lido deck, fighting upstream through a sudden onrush of women all wearing t-shirts proclaiming that this was the annual family reunion of some gaggle of apparently very loud people. I got past that mess and reached the elevator bank, an area that is usually also packed with people, but was oddly deserted at the moment. I punched a button and soon found out why people were not milling about in a mix of wet bathing suits and formal attire.

  The elevators were not moving. I studied the various indicator panels and found all of the cars to be bopping between the fourth and fifth decks. You ran into these situations from time to time on the ship, when they would be throwing some big shindig and tons of folks were trying to mass relocate from one floor to another and people on the other decks were essentially screwed.

  Great. This meant I had to take the stairs, an activity that I loathed despite the full realization that doing so would help to somewhat counter-balance the excessive amount of time I had been spending at the feed troughs in the buffet lines. I just don’t care for physical exertion unless there’s a prize of some kind at the end.

  Oh well. I still needed to get whatever from the cabin, so off I tromped toward one of the richly-detailed but annoying wooden stairwells that meander downward in little half-flights, journey undertaken. Halfway to my destination deck, the ship did one of those lurch things, and as I was already in the midst of twisting and turning, the nausea instantly kicked in. Here comes the rain again. The fact that I had been imbibing did not help matters at all.

  So by the time I got to Upper deck, I was sweating and emitting pressure-relieving belches, not a pretty sight. My appearance was not enhanced by the super-long trek down the endless hallway toward the cabin, increasing the sweat factor and the paleness and the bodily disquiet. Topping things off was another round of ship-lurching, resulting in additional unattractiveness like staggering and bouncing off the walls. Suffice it to say that I probably looked like David Hasselhoff that time he really, really wanted that cheeseburger on the floor.

  I was just about to slide my card into the key lock of the room, when something registered to the left of me, further down the hallway. I turned to review, and spied several of the Carnival room attendants in a huddle. They seemed to be studying something in the midst of them, a something that appeared to involve what might be a wheelchair.

  Wait a minute. I recognized that wheel.

  I headed their way, just as the ship tussled with another swell, resulting in a lurch that propelled me forward and had me nearly knocking the group over. Some of them scrambled out of the way, and there was Roni in her wheelchair, looking very, very mad. She also had her good hand on a the knob of a door leading to one of the mysterious places where the service people did whatever they did, a hand-position that was making the workers very, very nervous.

  I leaned down to converse with Roni. “Sweetie, what are you doing out here alone? Where’s Mom?” (She can’t actually speak, but she can answer in other ways.)

  Roni just kept glaring at the door, refusing to look at me, anger flushing her face. She tried jiggling the doorknob again, determined to achieve whatever goal she had in mind.

  This caused the workers around me to burst into chatter, in a language that was not English. Terrific. No wonder there was a stalemate, here. I’m sure that no one was really impressed with the situation.

  But we could still communicate. One of the young men touched me on the arm and nodded his head at Roni. “Your?”

  I shook my head. “Yes, it’s my sister. I’ll take her back to her room.”

  As a unit, they all turned and pointed at the correct cabin door, just around a small corner. Well, then. Apparently this wasn’t the first time Roni had gone on a spontaneous adventure and they all knew where she came from. We had barely been on the boat 24 hours and already our family had a reputation. Yay!

  I thanked them for staying with Roni until someone had come along. They thanked me with their eyes for finally taking away the Rolling Lady Who Does Not Speak. I got Roni into her room, though she put up a heck of a fight to prevent this from happening, that good leg of hers can take down a small building if she wants it bad enough. During the struggle I didn’t realize that the cabin door did not close.

  I tried to figure out what had happened. “Where’s Mom?” (It was very possible that Mom had stepped out to get something, just for a second, but long enough for Roni to feel the call of the open road.)

  No response from Roni, just the glaring at the floor that means she is furious about something.

  “Where’s Crispy? Is he supposed to be with you?” (Her son. It seemed I had seen them together just a bit earlier in the evening, maybe it was his shift to look after Roni.)

  No response, just the glaring. It was like we had been married twenty years.

  There was another lurch and the cabin door suddenly swung all the way open. A man was standing there, wearing an outfit that identified him as probably an officer of the ship. What was this all about?

  He said something to me that sounded Italian, maybe Portuguese, one of the Romance languages. I could only rule out French and Spanish, and I really wasn’t even sure about that, I was a little unfocused.

  “I’m sorry?”

  “You take the lady?” He nodded at Roni. “You take the lady?”

  “Yes… I brought her back here. She’s my sister.”

  He considered my words, then his eyes seemed to narrow. “Your card?”

  My card? My room card? Why did he need that? Something was off and I was feeling a little uneasy about this, like things had suddenly become very serious. Did they think I meant Roni harm? I reached into the pocket of my shorts where I kept the “don’t lose this” essentials. But I didn’t feel the already familiar rectangle of plastic. I checked the other pocket. Nothing.

  I had no idea where my card was. And an officer of the ship really wanted to see it. Right now. Was I about to be thrown in jail? Or at least a windowless room with harsh lighting and mean people with rapid questions.? “Ummm…”

  “Your card,” he repeated, then he handed said object to me. “There was dropping in the hallway.”

  Oh. Apparently I had lost control of it whilst struggling to prevent Roni from taking over the ship using a lugnut from her wheelchair. I graciously accepted the errant card, thanked him profusely, and the Man in White wandered off to do something elsewhere.

  I turned to Roni, she of The Great Escape. “Okay, I’m going to go find Mom and figure out who is supposed to be here with you right now. Okay? I will be right back.”

  She didn’t care. She had already moved beyond the trauma and was now watching the constantly-blaring TV, something involving loud explosions and people running, her favorite theme. She waved dismissively. Go forth and do what you must.

  I began to scurry down the hallway once again, that massively-long thoroughfare, when I suddenly remembered what I had originally needed when I first came down here, and I slid to a halt in front of our own room. I unlocked the door, shoved the key card deep into my pocked and hoped it would stay there, and went inside.

  Wait. Was somebody in the shower? That was odd. I had thought everyone was still up on the Lido deck, but there were definitely sounds of wetness and body-cleansing coming from the tiny hygiene closet. Oh well.

  I pulled out one of my suitcases and began to rummage. Whilst digging through hundreds of things that I really hadn’t needed to bring, I heard the water being shut off and a towel being grabbed. Then the bathroom door popped open and I turned to see if it was Tiffany or Terry. But it was neither.

  It was Bobby Ewing.

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