Todd the deckhand straightened his back for a brief stretch, then hunched again and pushed the brush across the deck. The ship tilted and he adjusted. He stretched again, weary, but then he crouched with a focus and determination, scrubbing. Todd ran on batteries, and they were wet. He was dying.
Captain waved me over, I knocked the rest of my pipe into the boiling sea, and resisting the urge to hold my hat, I tried to look casual walking across the see-sawing deck toward his great Wheel to hear him. I felt my hat fill with wind and start to lift…but I faked an itch and tugged it down firm as I reached him.
“That deckhand has a ripcord!” Captain yelled to me, whirling his wheel, holding his Captain’s Storm-Hat to his head with one mighty arm that was highlighted each time the clouds crackled, as though a gathering of the press were already chronicling the Great Storm and the Great Ship. The Great Captain who steered her home…
The deck lurched, and a dark gurgling happened. The boat got heavy, and it felt horrible.
“Lifehead!?” I yelled, understanding him fully. The Captain towered at the wheel and nodded fire.
The boat was sinking now. But I could follow orders.
The Captain was ready.
I walked, casually as if shopping, to the deckhand Todd and timed my strike with the lightning, the sound of the Captain leaping to follow, and the scrape of his Todd Brush.. I saw the ripcord, dangling from his temple, with a big red handle the said LIFEHEAD on it in bold white letters. Then Todd stopped scrubbing, because his battery was dead dead dead, I took the ripcord in my hand and I ripped it.
Todd the deckhand made a hollow “Whoomp!” in his last breath, his body was ejected like a shell casing. A cartridge of C02 in his brainstem unloaded into his skull, stretching his Todd-Face until it was a lifeboat with cold eyes, a long nose, and a grimace. At one end there was a fringe where the horseshoe of Todds pattern baldness was distributed in a decorative flourish.
I wondered how it might be to have a battery.
Captain and I made Todd the deckhand a hero in our stories.
We burned the lifehead on the surf, drinking bottles that washed ashore from the wreck, and agreed he really was a hero. Then we waited.
The homing pigeon saw the Captain’s shoulder the next morning, and landed there. We were awakened, and the pigeon carried each of us from our island to the shore, leaving the Todd-Head-Ash to be licked away by the thousand tongues of the surf.