People often tell you that in travel the source of wisdom is not the destination but the journey. I can tell you that as someone who has spent many a year working on passenger liners that the journey can get very boring at times and in my opinion, if there was ever a chance to travel without actually having to move the world would be a much better place.
Still; whatever I may say there are still many young people who get it in their heads that they must travel to broaden their horizons. This travel often involves some form of grungy conveyance and you couldn’t get more grungy than the Eastern Star the liner were I was working. This meant that there was always a surplus of young ladies, from their late teens to early twenties around. And the best thing is when you have young women seeking to find themselves they also look for romantic adventure. Something we in the crew we only too willing to provide.
I am not going to lie to you and say that I never partook. I mean, I had Latin charm on my side. Hell! For some of these girls even the Irish Brogue was exotic. I did quite well in fact but I was an amateur, a mere runner up compared to our champion lady-killer, our own card-carrying Casanova, Raoul Jimenez.
Raoul’s origins were a little vague, the betting was that the barman came from Cuba but who could be sure? What we did know is that he had everything going for him. He had the name, he had the accent, he had the looks, and he had a smouldering stare that could defrost a fridge at fifteen paces. When he had you in his sights there was almost no escape.
That was not to say that Raoul had it absurdly easy. He really put the effort into his romantic conquests. He had flawless introduction on their first night on the ship. He had chat-up lines honed to a fine-edge. He wined them, he dined them he gave them a lifetime’s worth of wooing in the space of only a few days. He was our Romeo. Part of the package for one lucky customer.
With an alpha dog like Raoul aboard it would be safe to say that we did not even get a look in until he had chosen his target. This was usually quite early in, while they were embarking in port. He could tell the best prospects not only from looks, which were almost invariably of the highest calibre, but also from the way they held themselves. Raoul would claim that he could tell just from the way a woman climbed the gangway if she would be a screamer in bed. He tried on several occasions to impart this knowledge to us but I confess that the details were too subtle for me.
We all knew in our hearts that a life like Raoul’s would eventually end in tears. We didn’t think it would be quite as spectacular as it was.
It started when we were docked in Brisbane, preparing to cross the Pacific to the West Coast of the U S . All the catering staff where standing on deck ostensibly to inspect the provisions being loaded but in reality to inspect the new passengers for lookers. “Jaysus! Look at the rack on her!” I recall muttering to my compatriots, nodding at a particularly well-endowed young woman whose motion while walking may be best described in nautical terms as a ‘Mild Swell’. There were brunettes and red-heads, skinny waifs and others who were more ‘cuddly’. Some were prim and proper, others had the look of repressed wanton desire I knew all too well from growing up in Thirties Ireland. And then there was Her.
We didn’t spot her ourselves. It was Raoul who suddenly went quiet, like a hunter when he first spots his prey. When we followed his gaze we could tell straight forward that he had found his target. She was blonde, slightly above average height, and wearing a cream dress that hugged a perfect body. She moved with a complex hip action that brought to mind our most beloved movie starlets. It was stately, yet covered as much ground as everyone else around her. The look in Raoul’s eyes said it all. They exclaimed “She will be mine!”
As soon as we left port, Raoul started his opening moves. As soon as the woman, whom the porters identified as “Julia Slater, from Perth” made her way to the ship’s bar. There was a look, a kind hello, and of course, a complimentary drink. I didn’t see any of this of course. I was doing actual work at the time. But we in the kitchen were being provided with live intelligence by the waiters and by all accounts she was eating out of his hand within an hour. It was on.
The next day Raoul arranged to meet Julia on the forward deck to, in his words, “watch the world pass us by.” While they were there made use of chat up line numbers 15 and 27, mysteriously deep philosophical statement number 6, and closing with impromptu affectation of desire number 12. Later that afternoon he told us that she was ripe for the picking and that he had arranged to meet her after his shift that night to “Seal the Deal”.
Kitchen work on a ship often starts early so I was already trying to sleep when Raoul made a flying visit to the crew quarters. There was jeering and cat calls as he told how he was going to meet her on the top-deck, cheap champagne in hand and some light music coming from the crow’s nest. “It is going to be a night to remember.” He said to everyone as he marched out to meet her.
That should have been that and it usually was but I was woken up at midnight by the sound of screaming coming from the top deck. We all ran up the stairs to find seven members of the ships watch gathered around the strangest sight I had ever seen.
Raoul had been handcuffed, stark naked, to the railings, no sign of any of his clothes or Julia. They had to send for the ship’s engineer with a hacksaw to get him out.
When he was finally free Raoul told us what had happened. They had met her on deck as they had arranged, shared the bubbly and a quick dance and then it was as if she completely changed. Gone was the demure, reserved lady and out came a vampish seductress. She kissed him passionately, tore all his clothes off and then, when it looked like she was about to strip too, she took the cuffs out and locked him in place. Then, calm as you like, grabbed up his clothes, threw them overboard and sauntered back to her cabin. The look on his face was both embarrassed and confused. We found it as funny as hell.
The Captain did not however. Fraternizing with passengers was strictly against the rules and Raoul had been caught red-handed. He was confined to quarters for the rest of the voyage to be unceremoniously dropped when we arrived.
It also turned out that Julia was not all that she appeared. She was a professional actress, hired by the family of a previous conquest who had gotten pregnant to get Raoul. She didn’t say very much to anyone about it other than how easy he was to manipulate.
Romeo’s reign was over and with it most of the flavour of life on the Eastern Star. There was still fun to be had but the magic was gone. I moved on within a few months to pastures new and further adventure. I’ll tell you about them but that, dear reader is for the next chapter of my story.
Author’s note: This story is part of a series written about my character Enrique Ivan Hamish O’Brien and his adventures. There have been Ten stories so far I Enrique, An Edukayshun, The Emergency, The Demon on the high seas, , Driving Ambition, Viva la Leopoldville, Up the river, Taking Flight, Due South, In Every Port and What’s good for the goose. Stay posted to see what else Enrique comes up with.