Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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An excerpt from Chapter 17 of
"The Gospel According to Verdu"

by Emilie P. Bush

Captain Endicott called it a revolver and said that Lincoln should, for the time being, never be without it. Lincoln wasn't sure about carrying a gun, not this one at any rate. The revolver was not as flashy as he'd hoped it would be, and it was a little heavier than he thought it should be. That, and it was ancient. The captain spun some lame story about how a gun with bullets was far superior to a Dr. Prego's Kilowatt Fibriott 2300, as "bullets never need batteries, son." Lincoln was cut off before he could mention that perhaps the five shots the revolver was capable of were somewhat limiting in a similar yet different way, but the captain was hearing none of it.

"I hope you never have need to draw that sidearm, son. I really do. And for the love of the gods and all that's holy, quit looking down the barrel! You're gonna shoot yer own face off." The captain took the gun as gingerly as possible from Lincoln's hand and dropped it into the holster hitched around the young man's hip.

Lincoln liked the holster. At least the warm brown leather that cut across his midsection looked cool. He'd read stories about gangsters and thieves who simply tucked their guns into the waistband of their trousers. On the night Captain Endicott gave him the sidearm, Lincoln tried stashing the revolver in the back of his pants while he was standing alone in the Brofman's crew quarters. Sadly, he realized that a man with a backside shaped like a fishing pole could not reasonably tote anything more exciting than suspenders. He also tried tucking the gun in the front of his waistband, and it fell with a clatter onto the floor as he turned to check himself in the mirror. Undaunted, he tried again. This time, the gun disappeared into his trousers, the cold metal sliding down the length of his pants leg and landing inside his boot. Grabbing the grip to pull it out, Lincoln heard the distinct click of the gun's hammer striking, and he recognized how close he had come to shooting himself in the foot. His face flamed with embarrassment, and he thanked the gods that his crewmates were nowhere near.

It was then that he realized the wisdom of the captain's not giving him any bullets on that first day. Captain Endicott must have known that Lincoln would be fiddling with his new toy all night and eventually would make a careless mistake. He scolded himself, but learned a valuable lesson: this was no game.

As the gunrunners began delivering and installing hardware on the Brofman, the reality of what was about to happen became all too clear. The ship's rails were suddenly sprouting sharply angled metal hooks -- cradles for various weapons. Boxes of ammunition were being ferried on board and lowered into the cargo holds. The ship was transforming in a way that broke his heart.

His home, the place where he felt more happiness and sheltering companionship than anywhere else in the world, was preparing for a fight. He and the other deckhands had been scrubbing engine parts in the bright sunlight of the deck as the weapons were installed. It was a boring, dirty job that required the fellows to feel each tooth and crevice in every cog and piston, working out every bit of soot. Then each part needed to be dried and oiled and delivered back to the overhaul mechanic in the engine room.

Lincoln, as acting first officer, was in charge of this project, and it was beginning to wear on him. Stanley and Spencer were constantly goofing off. If he took his eyes off them for a second, they would get distracted and bring parts out of the soap-filled washing bins without properly cleaning every nook and cranny. They splashed each other with the wash water. They squirted each other with the oil can. They twirled the drying rags into rat tails and snapped them at each other, targets around the ship, and even at Lincoln. After two days of this, Lincoln lost his temper.

"That's enough!" he shouted at the top of his lungs. "You two have been messing about for too long. You don't listen -- ever! Do you not see what kind of shape we are in? Do you?" He dropped his voice and put a hand on each boy's shoulder. "Look around you. Germer nearly died. Dr. Mortimer has been taken away. Fenimore's gone. Verdu never came back. The gods know where Chenda is. Things are grim, fellas, real grim. We've been here for days and ain't in no position to help nobody" -- he raised his voice once more, causing the other boys to jump -- "until we get this ship flyin' again!"

He grabbed a soot-smudged cog that had been lain out on one of the drying racks, and wagged it before the eyes of the two rapidly reforming goof-offs. "You're gonna get us all killed with your carelessness. See? Gunk on a cog like this could flummox the whole engine -- stop us cold and sink us into the sea. No one would ever hear from us again, and no one to miss us neither." He tossed the cog back into Stanley's suds bucket and glared at him. "We's the only ones who cares about us now. Just us. You best start takin' note of that fact."

Spencer, always a bit shy and mousy, trembled behind Stanley, who blushed red, a tone that clashed violently with his orange hair and brown freckles. Both looked ashamed of themselves.

"Do it. Again," Lincoln growled. "And get it right this time. We needed to be finished with this an hour ago. Shut your gobs and get it done. Now." He spun on his heel and marched back to his own washing station and began swabbing a collection of heavy rods with a dauber soaked in oil. He glanced up at the deckhands, who were staring at him like he was some kind of mad dog. "Now," he said to them calmly as he continued to work. Both boys jumped a little and recommitted their hands to the assigned task.

Just inside the wheelhouse, Captain Endicott, who had silently watched the interplay between the young members of his crew, nodded his head in satisfaction. His boys were just about ready to go.


© 2011 Emilie P. Bush

Bio: Journalist and writer Emilie P. Bush has written two novels. Her first, Chenda and the Airship Brofman, was a "ripping good yarn!" and the tale was a 2010 Semi-finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. New this year, The Gospel According to Verdu picks up the epic tale where Chenda left off -- high in the skies.
When the writing day is over, Emilie P. Bush loves to laugh and makes the audience the stars of her wacky convention game shows: Tesla v. Watt and the all new Verne v. Wells. Only the audience can decide who's right, and better yet, who's FUNNY!
Emilie P. Bush lives, laughs and writes in Atlanta. She is the keeper of the steam at CoalCitySteam.org

Book one of the Brofman Series is Chenda and the Airship Brofman
To purchase a paper copy, visit Createspace.com: Chenda and the Airship Brofman or visit any major online realtor. All digital formats available through Smashwords.com: Chenda and the Airship Brofman.

Book two of the Brofman Series is The Gospel According to Verdu
To purchase a paper copy, visit Createspace.com: The Gospel According to Verdu. All digital formats available through Smashwords.com: The Gospel According to Verdu.

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