Broken At Berth

First Deck and current Navigating Officer Crunklebunk gently bit her lip, sighing. She paged the ship’s chief engineer.

“Yes, Captain?”

“Status of repairs needed to get us back onto main power?”

“Unknown, ma’am. I’ve never seen such sudden scoring, peeling, and heat damage to nearly every bearing surface on our prime movers. It’s as if someone sabotaged our lubricant supply, yet preliminary visual and tactile examination of a fresh sample from the same batch we’ve been using indicates no problems, and per the labeling it’s the same product we’ve been using.”

“Hotel power?”

“Might be able to get one auxiliary engine going, mixing still-viable parts between the two. That’s not going to buy us much time, unless and until myself or someone can figure out how this series of cascading failures happened.”

“Status system’s showing 3 point 7 hours remaining on emergency power. Do you concur?”

“Let me run some audit numbers. One moment.”

It was actually closer to 2 tedious minutes before Chief Engineer Arto Noyce reported back.

“The numbers verify, so yes, that’s accurate.”

“Presuming you can get an auxiliary going, can we make it back into port under our own power?”

“As long as we here in Engine can get something going in the next hour or two before the batteries drain too low and our emergency power goes away, and as long as you keep it at a slow crawl, should be workable. We have a port that will take us?”

“This is an emergency, Arto. Coos Bay has to take us.”

“Aye. Anything else, ma’am?”

“Not at this time. Looking forward to updates.”

“Absolutely. Over and out.”

Leigh Down and Clark Barr were but two of many cruisers who awoke to quiet misty darkness, other than sounds of human activity (usually coughing) in adjacent cabins and minimal emergency lighting in the bathroom.

“Hhhhhh” she sighed. “This bodes poorly for making tea.”

His hands were already starting their morning caressing rounds of her body by the time he responded, “It does. Bodes very well for making love, however.”

The sensual pleasures she felt driven by his passions ignited her own. She freely and joyously yielded fully, contributing her part to this first stage of their mutual morning lovemaking with caresses of her own on him, hot breath, and steamy morning kisses.

With nothing else to do and in their latest illness pattern of feeling very close to normal first thing in the morning, Leigh and Clark indulged and immersed themselves in extended slow, multifaceted, broad-definition sex.

Up on the Bridge, Captain Cranch looked like something the cat dragged in. Exuding illness, he absolutely wore a mask to protect others from what he had, touched nothing, and assuredly kept his distance. “I fully concur with your decisions this morning, Officer Crunklebunk—excellent work. I shall remain available for remote consultation from my cabin, where I shall be self-isolating for the duration.” CCCCHHHH! he loudly coughed, wiping his eyes with his left elbow crook. “Officer Glenn: until further notice, you are in charge of this ship.”

Upon Officer Glenn’s agreement, Captain Cranch sent out the requisite notification notice to the other department heads, which he had pre-drafted earlier in the morning. With a little under 2 hours of emergency power remaining, Acting Captain Glenn had some significant decisions to make in her near-term future.

“You are made out of pure awesome” Clark attempted to smile between bites of the granola energy bar Leigh’d pulled out of one of her bags and given him. It may not have been much of a brunch, but it was something.

“I defer to you as the mechanical engineer with materials expertise,” she set down her own bar to make it easier to lift her fat right hip and let it free-fall drop back atop his left hip and thigh, “though I’m quite sure I’m made up of a good amount of fat.”

“That makes you even more purely awesome (kiss). Only one of us had the foresight to pack emergency food provisions, and it wasn’t me.” munch, munch, munch

“Life happens, stuff happens. I don’t like to go hungry, if I can help it.”

“Let’s hope that good stuff happens that gets our power back before your prudent packing is run down to nothing. Apropos of which: What did one of the surviving members of the Donner Party enjoy for lunch?”

Uaaaggh! Clark!”

“It’s just a joke; don’t overthink it and it’ll be over and forgotten sooner. Any idea?”

She shook her head, hoping doing so would shake this entire discussion out of it.

“A hand sandwich” he grinned, laughing harder seeing her wince and turn away, herself struggling not to chuckle.

With the arrival of Second Engineer Wilson Wiley to the Engine Room, the Engine Department found itself in the interesting situation of all its watchstanding officers being present at the same time, along with Chief Engineer Arto Noyce hands-on digging in to the multiple engine issues. “This looks intense” was his first comment upon arriving.

“It assuredly is” Arto sighed.

“It’s a fuckin’ bay muckin’ nightmare, is what it is!” declared on-watch (had any of the engines been running) Fourth Engineer Billy Bilge, hands oily and knuckles scuffed from unbolting manifold fasteners on several engines—yes, including on their manifolds. Legally surnamed Blige (L then I), given what an incorrigible sewer mouth he was, everyone including himself went with I then L Bilge. With years of experience beyond any of the rest of them, based on skills and seniority alone he could have been Chief Engineer for several years already, were it not for his impatience, marginal people skills, and potty mouth.

Far more patient and focused Third Engineer Dawn Rizer held up one of the shafts from the port auxiliary engine towards Engineer Wiley, the most skilled, practiced machinist of the group. “D’ya think this grooving is shallow enough to turn down?”

He claimed the piece from her, studying it carefully. “Mmmm, that’s close. Lemme mic it.”

On his way over to the workbench for the micrometer measurement, he asked, “How the hell did this happen?!”

“That’s what we’d all like to know” replied Arto.

“It’s a desert sandpaper cunt lube failure clusterfuck, I tell ya!”

“Probably he’s–”


Jumpin’ jiminy twatfoam felching pussyramen rantallion wangworm bescumbered dankvag queefqueen fetid jizz pecker-headed Trump-brained Clinton-minged smegma-surfing spooge-slurping frio fundillo suka blyád klerelijer schweinepriester incazzato nero assmunching shitspitting buttfucking cockwaffle cumguzzling dickslapping skullfucking soggy muffin clitty-littered Facebook blumpkin!

As usual after one of Billy’s cursing streaks, whomever else was in the room with him waited for the reverberation echoes to die down below audibility. Those echoes could be so beautiful, none of them wanted to miss a moment. When possible, Arto recorded them, as he often sampled various mechanical and other sounds around the Engine Room for the sound collage music he made in his spare time.

“Wouldn’t ‘ouch!’ have been sufficient?” Wilson calmly asked.

Arto was busy totaling up numbers on the vintage mechanical cash register he kept in the Engine Room for this very necessary purpose. Kaaa-CHINNNG! the machine rang when he pressed Total. “Forty three dollars and eight cents into the Swear Jar, Billy.”

Fucking shit” he mumbled, digging the needed currency out of his wallet and pocket.

“What was that?”

Wilson whispered into Arto’s ear, relaying what had been mumbled.

“Fifty cents more”—Kaaa-CHINNNG!

Billy quickly stuffed $43.58 into the Swear Jar, a very large glass former pickle jar with a metal screw-on lid, already overstuffed with paper money and coins which had once been his, from his many prior rants.

Arto couldn’t suppress his smile, thinking {We’re that much closer to Mariner Edition Apple Watches for Wilson and Dawn.}

Those unfamiliar with the Sapphire Prince’s engineering staff commonly assumed that as a woman, Third Engineer Rizer would be most highly offended. Little did they know the real deal: Dawn Rizer came from a long line of old salts, in a household where swearing was as common as standard American English. Her biggest problem growing up as a young child was learning that cursing was a home/family/maritime thing, not for out in the general public.

As the years went by and she grew into adulthood, she herself seldom felt the urge or need to curse, still not at all minding hearing others do so. Billy in particular entertained her. As the rest of the team learned during an alcohol-fueled shore leave evening and night where they’d held a swearing throw-down in the bar they were visiting, Dawn Rizer could—and did—out-swear everyone other than Billy Bilge himself—and even Billy was starting to feel the heat that night.

{clitty-littered… nice} she thought as she continued working. {I’ll have to remember that one.}

Proving that he was useful for things beyond vulgar entertainment, Fourth Engineer Bilge proudly rolled out a dusty drum from the back of the supply room. “This is the good shhhhhhssstuff” he just barely corrected himself. “Old date code, before all the current batches we’ve been using.”

Second Engineer Wiley and Third Engineer Rizer each took samples over to the test bench, spending a few minutes analyzing them in comparison to samples from the current container they’d been using.

Engineer Wiley reported their combined findings, “Viscosity’s identical. Coefficient of friction’s the same on the tribometer in both my and Dawn’s tests.”

“Not the same under actual load and operating temperature, damn fuuuulllllake it!”

“Billy’s correct” Arto agreed. “By all means keep the accelerated wear tests going, but we have an engine to get online now. We’re not a chem lab; there may be all sorts of differing parameters between the batches we’re not able to measure. Let’s get Starboard Aux up and running with the older lube.”

With not even half an hour of emergency battery power left, the starboard-side auxiliary engine was successfully brought back to life, so far running acceptably, with watchstanding Engineer Rizer hovering over it like a hawk whilst Chief Engineer Arto finessed power distribution and otherwise oversaw what few critical systems were able to keep running. Each, when they had time they could safely spare, assisted Engineers Wiley and Bilge in their attempt to get Port Aux back into running order. The main engines’ frictional surfaces were too cooked to quickly get going under the circumstances.

To write that there was unhappiness amongst cruisers on the Sapphire Prince would be an understatement: there was absolutely no spare electricity for what in the industry was called hotel power: all electric services utilized by passengers, or those catering to their needs. Stewards roamed the halls like old-time town criers, explaining that work was ongoing to get power working, and that the ship was slowly crawling back towards the nearest port: Coos Bay. A paltry 1 1/4 knots was all Engineering could deliver from the single auxiliary generator and still maintain critical infrastructure power (navigation, internal operational communications, emergency lighting).

The Food & Beverage Department did an outstanding job creating and delivering cold sandwiches and other things which could be safely prepared without power (beyond emergency lighting). While some cruisers were surly with this latest major degradation of their cruising experience, so many were ill and tired, they didn’t really care, as long as they had liquids to drink, some form of food to eat, and working toilets.

Sudden lights, muffled HVAC sounds, and the unmistakeable sight of the stateroom’s infotainment A/V system starting up mid-afternoon immediately pulled Clark’s and Leigh’s attention away from the paper-based reading materials they’d been restfully reading.

Yaaaaay!” with a lot of clapping filtered in from adjacent staterooms.

Leigh decided she’d join in, “Yaaaaay!” clap clap clap clap clap

Excellent work, Engineering!” Acting Captain Glenn cheerily praised the team from the Bridge, over the intercom. “Patch into the security mics on the stateroom decks and have a listen.”

“Thanks, Captain!” Chief Engineer Noyce replied, on his entire team’s behalf.

“Over and out.”

Arto immediately switched the audio to the Grandview Deck, the highest stateroom-centric deck on the ship. The cheers and clapping remained clearly audible. Quickly before everyone stopped, he cycled down the remaining decks, ending with the lowest stateroom deck Sea Star.

Billy took a bow in front of again-running Port Aux, wisely keeping his mouth shut to literally keep his money in his pocket. Wilson and Dawn, equally part of the repair team, followed suit.

Billy’s silence did not last long. “Time to crack a cold one.”

“Given how long the reefers have been offline, it’d likely be a lukewarm one by this point” Arto smiled.

“Oh shiiiieeuuurrrree it would. Yes, sure, certainly.”

{That’s not what Gramps meant when he spoke of reefer} Dawn thought.

“Ohhhh right, we’re not supposed to shake hands. OK,” the newest arrival to the Bridge said as he took several steps back from the on-duty officers. “Hi. Rocky Porter, Port of Coos Bay port pilot at your service” waved the portly port pilot.

“Welcome aboard Mr. Porter. I’m Acting Captain Ellen Glenn, here with Second Deck Officer and current watch keeper Aurora Carr. User interface surfaces have been sanitized per CDC recommendations, completed minutes ago. We’ll step aside as far as we safely can while maintaining control of the ship so you can have a look.”

What Acting Captain Glenn of course meant by having a look was reading all the ship’s instruments and related data screens.

“Looks great so far” he concluded. “We’ve had some mud flow off the western shore, so you’ll do well to err port about 20 meters as you round North Bend.”

Consummate professional beyond reproach though she was, Second Deck Officer Carr had a deep dark secret currently vexing her: fat men with soft, wobbly bellies stomped all her passion buttons. Somehow she’d never made it as far as looking into this overpowering desire online nor with a therapist nor in any other way. She had never seen nor heard the term female FA, nor FA as Fat Admirer in any context. She especially couldn’t help losing herself to men whose bellies were barely contained in whatever they were wearing.

Such was currently the case with Mr. Porter, whose tantalizingly flabby belly overhung his belt-equipped waistband with almost sufficient gravity-enhanced fold-over to be bobbling against the very tops of his meaty thighs. His white button-down dress/work shirt had its work cut out for it, containing his gut.

{Thank goodness for social distancing} she thought. {Otherwise I’d be standing so close to him, I’d be well within his personal space.}

“Watch your starboard side going through the railroad bridge… looking good on port….”

All of Acting Captain Glenn’s focus was on piloting the ship. {Going to nail this docking. I feel it.}

“You’re through, you’re through” Rocky smiled. “Easy peasy under the McCullough, ease to port until you’re you’re around the turn, then unless one of us spots something unusual, aim starboard of our bay islands as you can see on the map, and into port.”

Everything remained smooth sailing, following the path port pilot Porter recommended.

“OK, your berth is coming up just past the sand pits.”

Acting Captain Glenn made her way out onto the starboard bridge wing, quickly getting into her zone. Deftly working the wing’s control panel, she eased the ship to a standstill at what appeared to be the perfect location dockside.

THUNK!—A shockwave jolted through much of the Sapphire Prince.

Leigh and Clark absolutely felt and slightly heard the sudden impact. “What the hell was that?!” he wondered aloud, wide-eyed.

Back on the Bridge, all present wondered the same thing. “What what what?!” frantic Acting Captain Glenn exclaimed.

Second Deck Officer Carr had at least part of the answer, “Prop lockup on the starboard Azipod.”


“Looking at the Azipod cam aaannnnddd water’s too murky to see anything.”

“Cranch to Bridge” came over the intercom. “What just happened, please?”

Acting Captain Glenn took the call, “Sudden starboard Azipod prop lockup, mechanical. No viewable image on view cam.”

“Captain Cranch, this is port pilot Rocky Porter. I’ve been paging my team to get a diver down there, but so far no response. Already filling out the issue report with Acting Captain Glenn.”

“Rocky! Glad you’re on board.” Hack! “Any preliminary guesses what might possibly have jammed the prop?” CHHH!

“No sir. Channel’s been clear all week. There was one big rock that let loose at Berth 3, but I’m not aware of any such boulders on this berth. Good to hear your voice, Cam. Hope you feel better soon.”

“Me too. I’d be up there, but I’m assuredly contagious, verified COVID-19.”

“Jeez, that’s rough! Keep breathing, sir!”

“Absolutely.” Cough!

“I’ll have information for all of you soon as I can, even if it means I have to go back to the office and squeeze into my diving duds and go look myself.”

Second Deck Officer Carr had a sudden “special moment” sneak up on her, envisioning Rocky Porter squeezing himself into a wetsuit, and how he’d look like a sexy well-fed sea lion.

“Engineering to Bridge.”

“Glenn here. What do you have, Chief?”

“A clearer view of what we hit, after water-jetting the hull cams.”

BAAHaaaah Haah!” came out of the background.

“Hold on a minute please, Captain.” He turned away from the mic to yell, “Shut up, Billy!” then turned back. “Sorry. See it?”

“I see the wooden crate shards, but I can’t quite make out all the gray mass areas.”

“Nails. 20 penny common, according to what I can read on the crate fragments.”

{Oh good gobbledygook no!}

That’s what that was up on the dock!” said Rocky, hovering less than social distance from Acting Captain Glenn. “I thought I was hallucinating.”

BWAAAAH HAAH Haah! Here, here Arto, take my wallet and do what the hell ever. Acting Captain Glenn, you’re a fabulous seamun—with a U!” Billy turned and yelled towards his fellow engineers, “–whom I deeply respect, but I have to say this, no matter what it costs me. Ma’am, this docking?: you TOTALLY FUCKING NAILED IT! BAAAAAAAAH HAAAH HAAAH HAAAAAAAH!

Chief Engineer Noyce aggressively eased his misbehaving 4th. out of the way. “I’ll dock his pay. Just let me know how much.”

“Let it go, Arto” Ellen sighed. “Engineer Bilge is technically correct in this instance. Sending Port of Coos Bay port pilot Rocky Porter down to coordinate with you on inspection, insurance, repairs, and all that. Let’s the rest of us all please go through the remainder of standard docking procedures and ensure we’re fully anchored and stabilized and that our cruisers are as well off as can be.”

Thankfully the unexpected crate of nails was the last episode of drama this especially challenging day. The Sapphire Prince was securely anchored at dock, with no need (nor ability) to hover off the coast waiting for multiple levels of bureaucracy to work things out. There remained sufficient supplies for the moment. Both auxiliary generators continued to operate acceptably well on the old-stock lubricating oil, able to supply all the power the ship needed at rest for full “hotel” functionality.

Leigh’s and Clark’s editions of COVID-19 maintained the pattern: they’d felt almost normal in the morning, but now at nightfall, were again feverish, devoid of energy, and generally feeling ill. They’d done their Honks The Goose marching mid-afternoon after the exciting ship docking, and thankfully continued to breathe freely without wheezing as they had the last few days, now with far less coughing. After yet another taste-free light dinner and restful digesting and conversation, they again went to bed early to hopefully sleep well and shake this illness off.

Sunday 22 March 2020, Day 18 for Leigh and 17 for Clark of their originally 15 day cruise, started out foggy and cold outside, warm and cuddly-cozy inside. Piled under warm blankets, sharing their supremely comfortable “cloud” bed, the restful nude skin-against-skin contact from nearly head to toe supercharged the physical aspects of their deep mutual love.

Words were few—almost none. Kisses were many: gentle, calm. Hands restfully on each other’s hips, his sinking into the fat softness of hers.

{I want this forever} she thought as they kept kissing.

{I’m addicted to her, and this love} was his thought. {I don’t want this to end.}

After the day prior’s “unplugged” minimalist brunch, it felt great to have nice hot toast and hot chocolate for their ongoing cloudy misty morning, even though they still couldn’t taste anything. She re-ran her cruise ship/seafaring playlist from the beginning and hopefully without loss-of-power interruptions through the high fidelity stateroom audio system, so happy to be lost to love sharing it and sitting-up blanket-covered nude cuddles with her cruise husband.

Nearly all the songs were ones they both knew, being close in age thus having grown up in the same time frame with the same musical sources and cultural forces. Once in awhile one of them would start singing, with the other often joining in. Despite not having great singing voices, it pleased them both that neither of them wound up coughing, going hoarse, nor wheezing. Whether or not they were singing at a given moment, many songs triggered individual memories forged on this cruise: happy memories, most of which kept the flame of their affectionate romantic love running high.

She felt Clark’s mood suddenly shift, along with his body stiffening up like a retriever or pointer dog fixating on prey, soon as the distorted spoken introduction of the next song began:

What really went on there?
We only have this excerpt:

She saw and felt goosebumps on his arms during the opening electric guitar chorus.

In their time, the vocals arrived:

🎼 There's a party going on down around here
Cruiser’s Creek yeah
Watch the shirt-tails flapping in the wind
Sidewalk running
See the people holding from the back
Hat-boaters tilting
There's a party going down around here
Cruiser’s Creek now 🎼

Tears began dribbling out of his eyes. Whatever was going on with him she sensed it was best to cuddle him snugly and let the experience unfold.

His crying intensified as the song continued, reaching river level near its intense conclusion.

Quickly, she paused her music player before the next song started. He held her tightly, still crying.

After over a minute of musical silence and slightly lesser crying, she dared to ask, “What does that song mean to you, Neener?”

“It’s one of my favorite Fall songs” he managed to speak through his tears and sniffles. “It’s been over 2 years, but I’m still not over Mark E. Smith’s death.”

“Seems to me from what I read online that he didn’t have an especially healthy lifestyle. The picture of him with 50+ lit cigarettes all stuffed into his mouth at one time is memorable.”

He nodded, his crying subsided down to occasional sniffles. “Is that in your playlist based on it’s title?”

“I read that Cruiser’s Creek is based upon a cruise ship trip Mr. Smith once took with his parents or family or somesuch.”

“Never knew that (sniff). But then with his lyrics it can be tough to tell to what he’s referring. Thank you for letting me cry it out; I think it helped.”

“Of course, Neen!” she replied with a sweet kiss.

Restarting her music playlist led to happier times. Having marched so often to Honks The Goose, they decided today instead they’d hands-holding jump-around dance to a song from their young single-digit-age childhood:

🎼 Come on down to my boat baby
Come on down where we can play
Come on down to my boat baby
Come on down we'll sail away 🎼

The Sapphire Prince wasn’t sailing anywhere anytime soon. Beyond needing to wait on parts to repair the main engines, beyond the starboard Azipod damage (propeller proper and the device itself) being significant enough to require full dry dock servicing, personnel across all departments on board the ship were succumbing to what seemed to be COVID-19, verified so far only in a few cases such as Captain Cranch, via the very few testing kits the medical team had been able to obtain. The ship remained anchored in the Port of Coos Bay under quarantine, with no one boarding and none other than the severely ill allowed to disembark, for emergency or urgent treatment in the nearby local hospital.

After their cruise-themed dancercise session and prior to lunch, Leigh declared it was time for another mutual shaving session in the bathroom, with a nice comfortably hot shower together afterwards—hot water and hot passions each hoped, though they only spoke of the water.

Each of them needed a toilet opportunity before getting started. Leigh took hers second.

“You look so pretty sitting there” he couldn’t help noting with a lusty grin.

“You just like the way my fat hips spread so far and wide on hard surfaces.”


“Oooh!” she exclaimed.

“What just happened?”

“My fat ass just cracked the toilet seat. Thankfully there wasn’t anywhere to fall, beyond barely 2 centimeters down.”

“Lemme see that.”

“Let me finish wiping and all that first, please.”

He was right there checking out the broken seat soon as she flushed and moved aside to wash up at the sink, being sure to lather her hands up nicely with soap including on the back side and between her fingers, and wipe and rinse for a full 20 seconds at least.

“What do you conclude?”

He said nothing, stepping intimately close to her then suddenly doing something she never expected: throwing his arms around her, grabbing her tightly, then briefly lifting her up.

AAAGGH! Clark! What are you doing?!

“You’re heavy alright, but not heavy enough that any reasonably-designed seat should have broken in normal usage.”

“You could hurt yourself! I weigh more than you!”

“Yes, and I expect we’ve both read of slight-build mothers who’ve briefly lifted up corners of heavy automobiles to save their children. I’m not saying I’m up to carrying you over any threshold nor hauling your succulent fat ass and the rest of your magnificence from here to our cruise nuptial bed, but just barely lifting you off the ground for a second or two is still within my ability. Come look at this hinge.”

She decided a gentle swat of his butt was in order as she sidled up to him.

“What do you see?”

“A broken hinge. What should I see?”

“A total lack of reinforcing ribbing or any other reinforcement and insufficient thickness for this low grade plastic to withstand entirely reasonable tensile forces. To me this shouts aesthetics having trumped sound engineering.”

“Should I even bother getting with Facilities to have them install a new one, if it’s likely to be the same garbage? I mean, it still works as a seat, if we’re careful.”

He was back leaning over, studying the failure more closely. “I would. Looks to me like fine cracking from chemical degradation on top of the poor design, implying that a brand new one will likely buy us enough time to make it through the rest of our bizarre cruise.”

She called in the problem right away, hoping that doing so might lead to a repair sometime this same day. Clark horned in to emphasize that if they had any stronger seats in stock, or even any of a different design, such a replacement would be preferred.

Leigh and Clark dared going ahead with their shave and showering, spending less time in the shower than they otherwise might have. It worked out: the knock on their door didn’t come until nearly 2½ hours after they’d called in the problem, well after they were dried off and back into clothes.

Knock knock knock “Plumbiiinng!

Clark, closest, opened the door.

“Step back as far as possible, please, since you’re contagious.”

He did as advised, all the way back next to Leigh near their bed.

The cloth-masked plumber discreetly closed the door, waving over the distance as he said, “Thanks, folks. Hate to be so stand-offish, but this COVID thingie isn’t the ordinary flu, or even norovirus cruise ships tend to get hit with.”

Clark’s eyes gravitated to Walt’s (per his name tag) heavy toolbox in one hand and the fancy and big-looking boxed toilet seat in his other. “Bidet seat?”

“Yep. On deck to be deployed across our suites and other higher-end staterooms during the next refresh, upcoming sooner than any of us had imagined. Word from the front desk is that you all or at least one of you may be in engineering, talking about stress fractures and reinforcement and all that good stuff.”

“I am a mechanical engineer, and Leigh’s a tech writer at my firm’s preferred composite materials supplier. The firm where I work, not that I in any way own it” he quickly clarified.

“Excellent. I had a hydraulics focus in my undergrad work. Hands-on always appealed to me far more than sitting at a desk doing math and CAD designing things, so I went the technician route and became a licensed plumber instead. Love going places, so cruise ship work proved appealing.

“But enough of my life story. You’ll understand more than most cruisers that our regular seats are shit I never would have specced, if I’d been part of the process. Beyond that, we’re nearly out of stock on those, and with things all crazy, resupply could be a problem.”

“Might there be more failures at the present time, due to cruisers such as myself fattening up during quarantine?”

Walt swallowed nervously at this passenger’s forthrightness. “Given what I consider to be a design and/or quality problem which has the regular seats on the edge of usability for those of average weight, we have to allow that your theory may be a factor. Without having done any rigorous, formal analysis, to me this combo multifunction seat seems vastly better designed structurally. The reason I’m carrying tons of tools is so I can do a full bidet hookup, not just a seat changeout. The hope our hotel department and I have is that you two will be able to handle the general concept and the UI without any of our usual formal documentation, and will be willing to be beta testers giving us, or at least me, your honest, informed feedback.”

“Can you leave the box where I can see it, so I can look up data on this model online?”

“Sure thing, soon as I get it out. Either of you two need to go? This is gonna take the better part of an hour, if all goes to plan.”

Neither of them needed to use the toilet, allowing Walt to get directly to work.

316L stainless, I’m likin’ that” Walt called out over the distance from the toilet to the bed where Clark and Leigh sat.

I would hope so!” Clark called back. “Any lesser grade would be silly in this application.”

Eh, it’s not that corrosive in here. There’s more than one reason the bathrooms are farthest away from the windows and outside doors.

Leigh enjoyed listening to the conversation and accompanying tool work sounds. {Wish I could at least watch.}

How’re you gonna power that thing?

Every stateroom on this ship is wired to the toilet position. Someone thought they might use electric-assist flush models when this ship was built, I suppose.”

Conversation ceased, with nothing more to be said at the moment, and from the sound of things, Walt needing to focus.

A few minutes later Clark asked, “What’s the word regarding the rough ending of the docking maneuver?

Don’t know. Every time I ask Engineering they bust up laughing and go all incoherent. Deck doesn’t want to talk about it until the official report is out. For sure it was one of the roughest ones I’ve ever experienced.

Standing in the bathroom doorway, plumber Walt Waters no longer needed to raise his voice to be heard. “OK folks, all tested and good to go, as you at least partly heard. Bidet and drying functions all seem to work as per the startup checklist procedure. Paper copy of the operating instructions is atop the new seat.”

“Don’t you need that?” asked Clark.

“No. We’ve got another 3 of these in stock, if anyone in Docs needs a copy. Please kindly leave yours somewhere visible in the bathroom when you finish your cruise, and it’s all good.”

“What about our report?”

“It’d be great if you could email it to me at w waters at royalprincecruiselines dot com. Any reasonable format, any of the usual software programs works for me. Also email me there directly if there are any issues with this thing that you can’t easily work out on your own without tools and supplies. Take care you two!” he waved, heading for the main door. “Hope you feel better.”

Thanks Walt!” they called out together, just before he closed the door behind him.

“My tush says Yes” Leigh grinned, having tried her first full pee/wash/dry bidet seat cycle.

“I’ll have to wait until the next time I have to drop something to get the full experience.”

“Ya never know. Might be stimulating to have it wash other thangs” she giggled, playing with his.

“Isn’t that what whirlpool tubs are for?”

“Don’t make me sad, Neener.”

“What’s sad about that?”

“I’d love to be in a whirlpool tub with you right about now” she purred, wrapping her arms around him then kissing him.

“I’d love to have this illness over.”

She couldn’t help sighing along with him. “Yeahhh. Maybe it’s time for a light something for dinner, rest and digest, then bed.”

“I’m there.”

“What the hell is a Class C misdemeanor?” Clark asked Leigh mid-morning Monday 23 March 2020, Day 18 of his cruise and 19 of hers.

“I have no idea. What’s the context?”

“Charge for violating Oregon Governor Kat Brown’s stay-at-home order. I understand what they’re trying to do by ensuring that people actually stay far enough away from each other to keep COVID-19 from spreading, but dang that seems draconian.”

“Does it say whether that’s a maximum charge, or whether there’s a warning first?”

“Not that I’m seeing, but I haven’t looked up the actual original order or proclamation or statute or whatever it legally is.”

“I’ll polite non-money wager that that’s a maximum charge, warnings happen first, and discretion is allowed.”

“I’m all for leniency and to a point discretion, but too much discretion and one has discriminatory enforcement of laws meant to apply equally to everyone.”

errrRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrr!—the sound of the latest of all-too-many ambulance sirens ended their conversation, drawing their attention out their full-wall-height stateroom door/window.

One good aspect about Leigh’s stateroom being situated where it was and the ship being positioned as it was in port was that they had a nice view of the dock and beyond it, the city of Coos Bay. Less good was having a front-row seat for ambulances and—worse though much quieter—the coroner’s wagon. Reading the news they knew things weren’t as dire on board the Sapphire Prince as in parts of Italy or Wuhan, but as with other notorious cruise ships as far back as February, their cruise ship had made international news.

So far Leigh and Clark had done well doing what they could to put the dire circumstances in which they found themselves out of their minds, focusing on their own healing. Seeing someone being wheeled out into the pouring rain on a gurney by no less than 6 frantic medical personnel decked out in protective garb and with IV bags, an oxygen tank, and other impressive-looking equipment they could not identify as the gurney flew by unsettled them. Instinctively they sought comfort in each other’s arms as the team raced the gurney to then quickly into the waiting ambulance.

“Two of them that weren’t EMTs just climbed in the back!” cried Leigh, with a whimper.

“Keep healing, Chonky. We’ve got to keep healing. We can’t possibly help anyone else nor even leave this stateroom until we’re healed and no longer contagious.”

Panic buying. State after state locking down, issuing stay-at-home or shelter-at-home orders. Doubling or more of COVID-19 death rates in a single day in some places. All over the the United States, shit was getting very, very real in terms of this rapidly-spreading viral disease.

For Leigh Down and Clark Barr, this dark, rainy day was a day of introspection: taking stock of who and what and where they were in this rapidly-changing world in which they found themselves. Equally it was a day for supportively looking out past the immediate crisis on their cruise ship to really read and see pictures of life on land in their nation and home state. They saw pictures they never thought they’d see in their lifetime: bare grocery store shelves reminiscent of the greatest failings of the Communist Soviet Union, empty of basic necessities like toilet paper, rice, canned goods, flour, and water. Zinc and vitamin C were as scarce on land as in their ship’s infirmary. Week-or-so-old pictures of long lines at and inside grocery stores that made the worst holiday season shopping day ever look mild, from before the social distancing orders were in effect.

All throughout the trip so far at other points since working out their differences and finding love, they’d supported each other through these moments short and long of adversity. This day in particular with seemingly so many sounding very ill within their hearing and several ambulance and at least one coroner visit, the whole day was one of being supportive and taking care of each other in small ways as well as big—like life partners.

The post-sunset (invisible through the stormy weather) evening brought at least one ray of virtual sunshine.

“How’s your fever, Neener?”

“Now that you mention it, quite mild. I’m mainly dealing with the energy drain and ongoing lack of taste and smell.”

“I’m not feeling one.”

He held the back of his hand to her forehead. “You do feel about normal.”

She did the same for him. “You’re a touch warm, but nothing like you’ve been.”

“I’m ready to go to bed, in hopes my body can heal further and keep things that way. Up for moving towards sleep yet?”

“Don’t know about up for it, but I’m down for it: resting down under the covers cuddling you.”

“Makes sense you’d be more down than up come to think of it, given your surname.”

She briefly stuck out her tongue, afterwards nuzzling against him during a hug, inspiring him and herself to fully wrap up their day and get into bed.