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Here is No Water

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In his dreams, he still sometimes hears the voices: the solemn harmonies and the sweet cadences, the rise in his chest and his small hand holding onto his aunt's sleeve. The perfection of the moment is preserved within his mind, as crystal-clear and pristine as the stained glass windows high above his head in a church a lifetime ago.

*

George has lost count of the calendar weeks ago, one featureless day blending into the next; he doesn't think anything of it when Billy Gibson asks him to step belowdecks for a moment to tend to a pressing issue.

What greets him when he sets foot onto the fo'c'sle is nothing short of a cacophony: the shouting of two dozen men, the noisy whoops eventually solidifying into the first couple bars of “he's a jolly good fellow”; Above it all, Irving's determined tenor, trying to herd the ruckus into something resembling a choir. Implausibly, Edward Little seems to be involved as well, shuffling his feet and pretending to move his lips to the music.

It's not perfect, far from it, but the song sinks into George’s bones like hot grog, slow and sweet. The warmth remains for days afterwards.