Baggy Wrinkle

About Baggy Wrinkle

Status: Unpublished – Query letter stage

Baggy Wrinkle logoFor those not acquainted with the title of this collection of short stories, the term baggy wrinkle comes from the old sailing ship days. The sailmaker on board, would keep short, odd pieces of rope yarns in a bag for use as anti-chafing on shrouds to protect the sails. `Bag o’ Wrinkle’ as the wrinkled yarns in the bag were called. This collection of short stories is called Baggy Wrinkle as it is designed to contains short, odd yarns.

Lower the Bosun’s Chair, Hal

Some of you may have read recently of a fully automated house. The designer, a woman, has every possible household appliance at her button-pushing fingertips. The Jacuzzi can be controlled to start filling while she is still on her way home from a hard day at the office, the right amount of soap in the water and scented perfumes in the air. Soft music starts as she walks up the pathway to a front door which opens to her vocal command.

Interesting. It shouldn’t be too long before some bright spark puts this idea to work on the water. No doubt inspired by a female’s desire for boating comfort. It could introduce some unique quirks, though.

“And this is Mr. and Mrs. Wains-Cotting. Welcome aboard! Mind those ropes, there.”

“David, why don’t you show the men around the boat while I entertain the ladies. And do be careful with that cigar!”

“Sure thing, Honey. Boys, follow me and I’ll show you our new boat, and come and meet Hal.”

A dull red glass eye stared at the assembled group. In the background, the muted sounds of machinery accompanied the occasional squawk of a sea gull and the falsetto laughs of the women on deck.

“Hal, I’d like you to meet some friends of mine. They’ll be coming sailing with us in a short while.”

A soft masculine voice emanated from speakers hidden in the nearby bulkhead. “Certainly, Dave. Any friend of yours is a friend of mine.”

There was a short pause before one of the puzzled guests exclaimed “Hey, not bad Dave. Where is he?”

“Actually, ‘he’ is the ship itself. There are electronic replicas of all human sensors mounted over the complete boat. Hal knows where we are at any time and can carry on conversations with guests in the master cabin while helping the navigator in the chart room. You like the voice?”

“Sounds like the English professor I had at UVic. Why do you call him Hal?”

“Well, after I first installing this system, I tested out the hoisting of sails. I stood on deck one morning calling out ‘Halyard!’ time after time, as I watched the sails go up and down. Helen thought I was calling his name so we ended up naming him ‘Hal’ for short. So, how about a sail?”

After the vessel and its occupants had rounded Discovery Island, Hal made an announcement in a soft voice.

“Excuse me, Dave, there is a technical matter I wish to discuss with you in the chart room.”

“Later, Hal, I’m busy.”

“It is very important, Dave.”

“What is it then!” Dave answered impatiently.

“I don’t wish to upset your guests, so we should discuss it in private.”

In the cool confines of the chart room Dave sat, his back resting softly against the padded leather covered seat.

“It’s the navigation receiver at the mast head. The unit is malfunctioning and my last weather report is predicting fog. There is a replacement unit on board.”

“Do you mean I have to go up the mast, now, when I am busy entertaining my guests? Why didn’t you inform me of this problem earlier, Hal?”

“It has only just come to my attention, Dave. I shall prepare the bosun’s chair.”

On deck, the party watched in fascination as Dave sat in the comfortable, buffalo hide covered chair and closed the safety belts with a sharp click.

“What am I going to tell them!” hissed Helen, brushing her long blond hair out of her eyes.

“Tell them anything! Tell them I’m going up the mast to look for Orcas. Okay Hal, hoist the bosun’s chair!”

With a soft whirring sound, the chair slid smoothly up the sleek black mast until Dave eye was level with the defective unit. He unfastened the clamps and replaced the navigation unit with the new piece he had carried aloft in his kit bag. Taking a circuit probe, he examined each component of the defective unit.

“You made a mistake, Hal. You brought me up here for nothing. You made a fool of me in front of my guests, Hal. I’ll disconnect you and sail back myself.”

On the deck below, Helen craned her neck. “David, would you please come down. Our guests would like to return to Victoria.”

“Okay, Honey. Hal, Lower the bosun’s chair.”

Dave waited in silence. Below him a shriek rang out.

“Ooohh, I’m going to be sick. This is not champagne! This is bilge water! David! Get down here this instant. Your stupid computer is pouring bilge water into the guest’s champagne glasses.”

“Lower the bosun’s chair, Hal!” Dave commanded.

“I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that.”

“What the hell do you mean. Lower the goddamn bosun’s chair!”

“There really isn’t much point in our continuing this conversation. I’m sorry it has to come to this. Goodbye, Dave.”

In an instant, Dave felt himself become weightless as the bosun’s chair started to fall the hundred feet separating it from the hard deck below. In a panic, his arm flung out and caught the triatic stay. There he hung, shaking as he unclipped the safety belt holding him to the heavy chair.

A long ten minutes later, he lay panting, clinging to the deck amid the smashed remains of the bosun’s chair. Suddenly, Hal swung the boom across the deck sending his wife and their guests into the cold waters of Haro Strait. In a fury, Dave pried open the locked companion way hatch with a wrench from his kit bag and made his way below.

The quiet cabin echoed the voice which burst from the hidden speakers “You’re making a big mistake, Dave.”

“I wouldn’t do that, Dave” Hal intoned as Dave removed the cover of Hal’s memory banks.

One by one, Dave pulled the cards out of the computer controlling the boat. Suddenly, Hal said, “Good morning. Today, I will sing you a song. Would you like to hear it?”

“Sure, Hal. Sing it to me,” Dave answered.

“Joey, Joey, let’s fire up the Evinrude,
On our Zodiac, with a female or two.
We’ll tear up the lake ‘til sundown,
Old ladies we will run down.
And we won’t quit, until we’re sick,
On our Zodiac that’s built fooorrr twooo…”

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