Conversations on a Barge

Author's Notes: Why can I not stop writing these? Why, whyyyyy?

The characters are not mine. If they were, I'd do way more with them than this...

I couldn't resist a little (like, microscopic) nod to TMR. See if you can catch it.


"I wonder where our cabins--?"

"This way."

"Have you done a lot of travelling, Mr. O'Connell?"

"Sure. That's the Legion for you. See the world, meet interesting people, and then kill them and take what they have."

"How awful!"

"Sorry. I'm not much for polite conversation."

"So I've noticed."

"You want these in your cabin, I'm guessing."

"Only one's mine. The grotty one is my brother's."

"Your brother makes you carry his suitcase?"

"Of course not. Jonathan has a bad knee, that's all."

"Yeah? I'd've guessed it was his elbows."

"I beg your pardon?"

"You know, because he... never mind, you wouldn't get it."

"I 'get' it, Mister O'Connell, but I don't believe I care for it. People who live in glass houses oughtn't to throw stones."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that, whatever disreputable habits Jonathan may cultivate, he's never done anything that warranted hanging."

"Yeah, that you know about. This is you. I'm next door, with your brother."

"How reassuring."

Grab the door for me, would you? Thanks. Which one's which?"

"Mine's the larger one."

"I should've known. Sucker weighs a goddamn ton. Did you even pack any clothes, or just books?"

"That's rather an impertinent question!"

"That's the kinda guy I am. Look... you can relax, okay? I'm not gonna kiss you again, I promise. You're not really my type."

"Fine by me."

"You need anything else?"

"Thank you, no."

"Okay. See ya."


"Talkative fellow, aren't you?"

"Sore throat."

"Yes. Well. Can't say I'm surprised. If I were you, I'd be nursing a new-found fear of neckties... I say, O'Connell, has it ever occurred to you to chew your food?"


"Steady on, old chap. I was about to reach for the salt, but I'm terrified of losing an arm in the process."

"I'm hungry."

"I never would have guessed. After all, you've left the napkin and most of the tablecloth."

"Been a while since I got to eat this well."

"I suspected as much. Prison grub not to your liking, then...? I suppose not. Ah, well. Don't suppose you'd mind telling me what you were in for, exactly?"

"I mind plenty."

"Ah. Jolly good, then. You can't really blame me for being curious about how you came to such a perilous pass. After all, you're a sharp young fellow, with at least some degree of formal education--regardless of the fact that you try to hide it."

"What makes you think that?"

"Why, it's obvious, every time you open your mouth. To speak, that is. Your table manners leave quite a bit to be desired, if you don't mind my saying so--and even if you do, come to think of it. You gave yourself away only a moment ago, in fact."

"Yeah? How so?"

"And there you are again. It's the way you speak, you see. I spent part of the afternoon chatting with your compatriots over there, and not once did I hear any of them utter the phrase, 'how so?' Not only that, but earlier you said that it had been a while since you'd had a chance to eat 'this well'. Most Americans of my acquaintance would have said 'this good'."

"So I can string a sentence together. Big deal."

"Just an observation, O'Connell. No need to get touchy... I'm surprised my sister hasn't already broached the topic with you. She fancies herself quite the dialectician. Although she generally prefers her languages several centuries dead. And her men, for that matter."

"Where is she, anyway?"

"Evie? Heaven only knows."

"Don't take this the wrong way, but she's even more of a pain in the ass than you are."

"You'll get no argument from me, my good son. Though I can't say you've exactly caught her at her best. She hates to travel this way, and with good reason. Seasickness, don't you know, is no respecter of persons nor property, and especially a chap's brand-new patent leather shoes. No doubt the poor thing is hiding in her cabin, dosing herself with peppermint."

"That bad, huh?"

"Yes, she can't seem to shake it off. Makes her the most wretched travel companion you ever saw."

"Poor kid."

"Indeed. Although I rather think it's because she insists on doing so much reading... I say, it wasn't--it wasn't murder or anything of that sort, was it?"


"And, er... not to put too fine a point on it, but... how do I know you're telling the truth, old man?"

"Ask the warden."

"No, no. You seem like a decent sort. I'm willing to take you at your word. Although Evie... well, let's just say she isn't quite as open-minded as I."

"That's an understatement. She'd shit a brick if she thought I killed anyone."

"I can't say I wouldn't react in a similar fashion, truth be told. Here, pass the pudding before you eat it all."


"Ah, there you are, sis, I've been looking everywhere for you. We missed you at supper."

"I had some tea and crackers brought to my cabin. The company was more congenial."

"My, my, we have got a face on! What's the trouble? Not still suffering the infamous mal de mer, I hope?"

"I don't like him, you know."

"Who's that?"

"That--that horrid O'Connell man. I don't understand how you can be so friendly with him after what he did."

"Why, has he done something?"

"Jonathan, he punched you in the face!"

"Oh, that. What's a sock in the jaw between friends, really? Besides, I would have thought you two would get on rather well."

"Why on earth would you think that?"

"Oh, I don't know. You're about the same age, I'd say... similar interests... both scintillating conversationalists... that, and you fancy him."

"Jonathan, don't be puerile."

"I? Never."


"You do fancy him, though."

"Be quiet. I don't in the least. I don't care a rap for him or what he thinks of me."

"Oh. Well, then you needn't bother about the fact that he inquired after you at dinner... I say, have you any peppermint? I feel a bit out of sorts."

"I'm not surprised, the way you were stuffing yourself with sweetmeats this morning. I've told you time and again not to buy from street vendors."


"The bottle's in my cabin if you want it. I suggest you take it with some tea, that ought to help."

"Good show."

"It's on the table, so there's no need to go rooting through my things."

"Fair enough."

"And I've packed everything in a certain order, so I'll know if you have been... Oh, and Jonathan--"

"Yes, sis?"

"Before you go--just out of curiosity... what did he say?"

"What did who say?"

"Oh, you know perfectly well who! Just tell me what he said."

"Well, I can't recall the exact words, of course, but he asked where you were, and when I told him that you tended to get sick at sea--"

"You didn't tell him that, did you?"

"Shouldn't I have? I thought you didn't care what he thought of you."

"I... I don't. Go on."

"Well, he expressed his sympathies."


"Oh, don't look so thunderstruck. He's really not that bad, you know. You ought to try talking to him instead of at him."

"Did you find out what they intended to hang him for?"

"He suggested I ask the warden."

"Ugh. I'd rather not. He kept pinching me earlier, you know. In the... in--in the back."


"The warden!"

"Bloody cheek!"

"Yes, I couldn't believe it! I slapped his nasty face, but it only seemed to encourage him. Finally I went into my cabin and locked the door, and he went away."

"If that happens again, you just call for me, right?"

"Why, just because you're a man? What would you do, Jon?"

"At the rate I'm going, probably be sick all over his shoes. That ought to do the trick, though. It certainly repelled me when you did it."

"You're never going to let me forget that, are you?"

"'Course not. What's a big brother for?"

"Nothing useful, unfortunately... You'd better go, Jonathan, you're looking a bit green around the gills."

"Yes, I think I will."


"Ah, O'Connell... don't suppose you've seen the warden anywhere about?"


"If you do happen to run into him, would you mind telling him I'd like a word?"

"What about?"

"You don't need to tell him why I want to chat with him. He's been molesting Evie, you see."


"Yes, yes. Pinching her on her... well, in places where I don't particularly like strange men pinching my little sister!"

"I'll handle it."

"Oh, could you?"

"Leave it to me."

"Oh, smashing, I'll just go and have a lie down, then."

"Yeah, you don't look so--whoa!"


"Eugh. Sorry about that, old man. I knew something wasn't sitting quite right. I think it was the soup."

"Looks like it was everything else, too."

"Terribly sorry. Hope I didn't anoint you, or anything?"

"Just my shoes."

"Sorry, sorry. I'd better find a steward to take care of this mess... Look, be a sport, won't you? Don't tell Evie about this. You know what fusspots women are."



"Hey, how ya feelin'?"

"Well, I've been better, Mister O'Connell... er, thank you. And yourself?"

"I'm okay. I, uh, heard you were seasick."

"I have been a bit under the weather, yes."

"You know what helps?"

"I think I've had about all the peppermint I can stomach."

"This is something different. It's like... mind over matter."

"I'm listening..."

"Okay, stand up."

"That won't help."

"Yes, it will. Just trust me. C'mon."

"All right..."

"Look out at the sunset there. Hell of a sunset. Best in the world, I think."

"I fail to see how this is helping."

"You will. Keep looking straight ahead. Pretend you're standing at attention."

"I... don't know exactly what that means."

"Here, like this--hands at your sides, head high, look at the sunset... right. Now, close your eyes."

"If this is some kind of--"

"No fooling. I promise. This really works. Close your eyes."

"I don't see what... oh. Oh, it's working!"

"Told ya."

"Oh, that's wonderful. I feel ever so much better. However did you know to do that?"

"Just something I picked up."


"Any time you start to feel sick, just do that until it goes away."

"I will. Thank you. Oh, I ought to tell Jonathan about this."

"Yeah, I showed him already."

"You spoke with him?"

"Yeah. He told me about your little problem with the warden."

"It isn't anything, really, I don't know why I even mentioned--"

"I took care of it."

"Oh? And how, pray tell, did you manage that?"

"Told him I'd put a stick of dynamite down his pants if he kept on bugging you."

"Did you really?"


"Why, that's... I--I can't believe you would... you don't actually have any dynamite, do you?"

"I like to be prepared for anything--rockfalls, Tuareg raiders, snakebite..."

"Mister O'Connell, I'm starting to see why it might be helpful to have you along on this trip."

"Yeah. I'm handy. You have any problems, you come see me."

"Tell me, what would you do if I should get bitten by a snake?"

"Well, I'd cut an X over the bite with my jack-knife, like this--"

"How horrid!"

"--and then you suck the venom up and spit it out."

"But what if..."


"Never mind."

"No, c'mon. What if what?"

"What if the snake bites me... someplace I can't reach?"

"Heh. In that case, you and I are gonna get to know each other a whole lot better."

"Oh, go away, Mister O'Connell. Go--go play cards with the other rude Americans."

"Okay, have it your way."


"Sorry. Didn't mean to scare ya."

"The only thing that scares me, Mister O'Connell, are your manners..."