Ravit Bivas sat on the deck of the Nathan James, staring out at the shadowy bank of the Mississippi River. Since leaving Gaithersburg four days ago, all they had seen was sky and water and trees, not so much as a hint of danger, yet Ravit couldn't shake the feeling that something was about to go wrong. Again.
Which was why, despite Doc Rios giving her strict orders to stay off her injured leg, she had dragged herself topside. Her only concession to Rios's order was to prop her leg on the rail. Which she had done mostly because the thing still hurt like a mofo, throbbing the instant that she tried to put any weight on it. Objectively, Ravit knew that she was fortunate the piece of metal sheeting hadn't done more damage, having missed her femoral artery by millimeters, but she hated being incapacitated. Even worse, her only options for pain medication were morphine, which Ravit refused to take as it made her loopy and therefore of no use during a crisis, or tylenol, which did nothing to touch the pain. Leaving her on edge and hurting.
In the distance, Ravit could hear the murmur of approaching voices over the croaking frogs and crickets. Maybe grasshoppers? Carlton had attempted to identify the various animals that lived in these marshes but, given that he was a city boy from Illinois, Ravit suspected that most of his information about the area came from Mark Twain. She made a mental note to pull Javier Cruz aside and ask for a more accurate rundown of the local ecosystem.
There was a crash from her left, followed by a series of curses. Rolling her eyes, Ravit didn't need to look to know who was there. "Hello Burk."
He appeared to her left, a beaming smile on his face. "There you are. We've been looking everywhere." To Ravit's surprise, Carlton dragged a small crate across the deck, setting it next to her chair. "We just need you to face this way."
"We?" Ravit asked suspiciously, although she maneuvered her leg onto the crate so she was facing inwards towards the ship. Carlton's efforts to cheer her up over the past few days had been both annoying and endearing. She noticed that he had finally swapped out the red shoelaces for black, and idly wondered where the new laces came from. "If you are going to pull out mistletoe again..."
"Nope," Carlton quickly cut her off. "Learned my lesson there. Although I'm going to collect on that IOU you gave me."
"I don't recall agreeing to an IOU," Ravit retorted, although she ran her hand down Carlton's chest, giving lie to her words. Mistletoe or not, Ravit had every intention of changing their relationship as soon as they got to St. Louis and off this ship. Assuming that her leg didn't get in the way, a problem that Ravit was certain she could solve with a bit of cooperation.
"Come on out!" Carlton called.
Before Ravit could demand to know what he was up to now, Wolf Taylor, Danny Green, Tex Nolan, Javier Cruz, Rick Miller, and Kat Nolan appeared carrying a...
"Is that a light up menorah?" She demanded, eyes widened as the thing began flashing colors like a disco ball.
"Yup," Carlton replied, flashing Ravit a self-satisfied smirk, before breaking into song. "Here comes Hanukkah, so much funukkah!"
As the bizarre song went on, Ravit caught Wolf's eye, the silent message clear. What the hell is going on? Wolf shrugged, joining in as the group finished the song with a flourish. "If you really, really wanna-kkah, have a happy, happy, happy, happy Hanukkah!"
Ravit looked around the grinning group, staring at her expectantly. "You are all insane."
Tex chuckled. "Come on darlin'. Have pity on some clueless Southerners who are just trying to cheer you up."
"You are from Nevada. Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, and Australia," Ravit replied, pointing to each man in turn. "Only Javier grew up in the south."
"I'm from Florida," Kat added, and Ravit found herself smiling at the girl. Despite the tragedy that Kat had endured, including the death of her mother, she was remarkably positive and optimistic about their plan to reach St. Louis. Finding the teenager provided a bright spot after months of hardship. "I suggested that we sing Barenaked Ladies but I got outvoted."
Tex gasped, bringing his hands to his chest. "My own daughter. How could anyone beat Adam Sandler?"
Since Ravit found both suggestions equally questionable, she ignored the byplay. "Kat and Javier may have an excuse. As for the rest of you," Ravit paused, pointing to the menorah. "Where did you get that...thing?"
"This?" Danny held up the light-up menorah which, as he moved it, began to sing dreidel, dreidel. "Petty Officer Cohen's mom gave it to him as a gag gift last year. Bacon has one with real candles that he set up down in the mess. They're lighting the candle in about an hour and doing...well, whatever you do for Hanukkah."
"Bacon is Jewish?" Ravit asked, skeptically. That seemed very unlikely for many reasons, including the man's nickname.
Danny laughed. "Hell no, Bacon just likes cooking. He made latkes and brisket. Although he did mutter something about running out of sour cream before he chased us out of the mess."
Ravit could feel her mouth beginning to water. She couldn't recall the last time that she had latkes. Definitely before the Red Flu hit, probably before she left Israel for the joint operation training program. She moved to stand, before recalling that she was technically supposed to be restricted to her bunk. "Where's Rios?"
Carlton answered. "He gave permission for you to move to the mess. Pretty sure he knows that you're up here anyway."
Most likely, Ravit conceded. Little remained secret on the ship for long. Carlton passed Ravit her crutches and she began to maneuver towards the door before pausing. Turning back to her teammates. "And thank you. You might be crazy but...it's my kind of crazy."