A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

On board a luxury cruise liner Griselda adopts a new persona...


It was an odd sight, Griselda Entwhistle in her own personal disguise as a nymphet ready for some fun berating the almost middle-aged Sailor John who was still rubbing his bits and praying that they still worked. But it Was this sight that made Bumptious Tiddles smirk understandingly.

So, young man, when you’ve stopped pretending you’re hurt,” began Griselda, her voice having more than a suggestion of the tyrannical tones of her older (much older) self in it, “when you’ve stopped blubbing, my friend and I want quarters.”

I’m not blubbing!” lied the blubber.

Then go about finding us a nice little cabin, a twin one would do, we don’t actually want to sleep together in any of its senses...” snapped Griselda. “And go sharpish! We’re a bit too exposed on this deck for my liking!”

She added that last bit because she spotted a man heavy with a chest of medals and a white nautical uniform strolling purposefully towards them.

Now we’re for it,” sighed Bumptious who could imagine his political career going up in a cloud of shame and notoriety when it transpired that he was a stowaway on a luxury cruise ship. He was about to claim his own innocence in all things unworthy and blame their situation on an old woman who flies broomsticks, but the medals and uniform, which turned out to be the Captain, a gentleman with a great deal more pompous power than that of his equal on the pirate ship, waved him to silence with a frown that could have melted rancid butter.

The Captain, when he spoke, had a wonderfully authoritarian yet greasy voice despite the officious luxury of his pristine uniform, and as a means of establishing his identity he called them sea-dogs as if they lived in water and could bark.

Which one of you is the turn, then?” he asked in an accent that marked him as from Yorkshire, born and bred, “and what are you doing out here when you should be in our first class lounge preparing to entertain the clientele?”

What do y...” began Bumptious, but Griselda kicked him on the shins in order to silence him and smiled at the Captain with a flash of the most captivating teeth she could muster, which was a very captivating set indeed.

That’ll be me, then,” she smiled, and she could almost see the Captain’s heart melting as his eyes roamed over her and she contrived to hitch her tiny skirt up the tiniest bit just to repay the compliment.

Harrumph,” he grumbled with a smile, “it’s a pleasure to meet you Miss…?”

Entwhistle,” Griselda told him, “Griselda Entwhistle, and I know what you’re thinking: what an unsuitable name for someone of my generation, and I suppose it is. But beggars can’t be choosers and my parents were Fred and Molly Entwhistle, both long dead now, of course...”

Nothing of the sort!” declared the Captain. “You poor little orphan child! Shall I escort you to the rehearsal? The band’s there already and they’re just short of one singer, though they mentioned someone with a quite different name to Griselda.”

It’s be a pleasure,” purred Griselda. “I was a last minute replacement,” she added with a tinkle.

What if the real singer turns up?” whispered Bumpy when the captain was out of earshot if he whispered quietly enough.

I’ve sorted her already,” replied Griselda, “I do things like that, you know: sort things out before they become problems. She’s currently in her cabin and wondering why on Earth she wants to go back home over the mighty seas to Blighty, but that’s what she’s decided to do and she’s even chosen a means. Look: there she goes!”

Griselda pointed, and a seagull rose from a cabin window and soared into the air. Griselda waved at it and it looped the loop and, swinging close to them, quite clearly shouted in cultured English through an uncultured beak “thanks old woman, you’re a life-saver!”

What was that?” asked the Captain who was leading the way, “I thought I heard a strange and mysterious voice.”

It was nothing,” smiled Griselda using her most heavenly expression. “I think that seagull has desires of its own, the cheeky thing!” she added with a tinkling laugh.

Oh, they do, they do,” grinned the Captain. “Now if you’ll just come down here. I assume the gentleman is your manager?”

Manager!” spluttered Bumpy, and Griselda kicked him again.

Not at all,” averred Griselda, “I don’t need a manager, taking their ten percent and getting in the way whenever I want to change my routine. No it’s just me and the band and even if I haven’t met them they soon get the idea of what I do.”

The Captain frowned for a moment, hoped that his cabaret was going to be up to the standards insisted by the shipping line that employed him, and led them into the concert hall.

It was a magnificent space with luxury dripping from every wall and corner, tables arranged tastefully so that the maximum number of people could be entertained whilst all having a perfect view of the stage.

Here’s your singer, Max,” called the captain to a man holding a baton in one hand and slapping a pianist on the back with the other.

The conductor squinted and shook his head. “She’s a new one on me,” he grunted.

I’ll sort him out,” Griselda assured the Captain, “in a trice,” she added, winking.

I’ll leave it … I suppose I’ll have to...” muttered the Captain as though he had some reservations about the quality of the evening’s entertainment. The singer seemed very young to have the sort of range of experience that was expected of a top notch cabaret performer on ships of this particular line.

Griselda walked slowly and sinuously towards the conductor and his baton whilst simultaneously muttering something incoherent to herself. As she did so the conductor appeared to jerk his head slightly as though he was being subjected to some kind of electric shock, and then, by the time Griselda had reached him, he nodded his head.

Shall we run through the first number?” he asked.

Of course,” smiled Griselda, and she eyed the musicians, all of whom looked perplexed until a second bout of incomprehensible muttering appeared to give them fresh confidence.

The conductor waved his baton, the orchestra started playing a strident melody with one of those rhythms that eats into the soul, and Griselda took the microphone in her hand and faced the empty room. The Captain was still there, at the back, and she nodded at him.

I’ll deafen you, you doubting Thomas,”she whispered, and started singing.

On a liner, in the ocean

where the angels come to play

And there’s music, heavenly music,

Telling lovers, come and stay...

Never had anything quite like it been heard aboard that ship. Her voice, ranging over far too many octaves to be believable, was filled at first with excitement, then with rage, and finally with eye-leaking pathos. The song … one never heard before because she made it up as she went along … was of the sea and yearning and dashed dreams and by the time its three minutes were up there wasn’t a dry eye anywhere, not even amongst the gathering of passengers that had clustered round the door wondering where the magic was coming from.

Then there was applause. From the band, from the Captain, from everyone within any kind of earshot and one solitary seagull grateful for an unexpected replacement but not quite sure why it wanted one.

Then Griselda swept away, smirking at the emotions her voice had wrung from everyone anywhere near.

We’ll get it right tonight,” she informed the Captain as she strode past him. “Care to tell us where our cabins are?”

© Peter Rogerson 08.02.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on February 8, 2018
Last Updated on February 8, 2018
Tags: Griselder, cruise liner, seagull, metamorphosis, singer, cabaret


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..