TWAS BRILLIG: Chortling

III. CHORTLING

From the cockpit of her Air Sea Rescue Walrus flying boat, she spotted a large bright yellow life raft bobbing on the grey-green English Channel. Two men in kapok filled “sausage” life vests were splayed out inside like rag dolls. She banked back around, and eased her biplane in on the gentle, rolling swells. With the flick of a switch, the whirring six foot pusher propeller sputtered to a halt near the back hatch.  

She used a long wooden rescue pole to bring the life raft in close. She fingered the butt of her holstered flare pistol, but when she saw the German flyers, there was no need.  The two survivors flopped into the belly of the Walrus like spent arctic ling cod shivering in shock. Their flying boots were long gone having been sucked away by the weight of the water. From a leather clad flask, she poured a stout shot of brandy into a small aluminum cup for each man. With greedy eyes, they slurped the brandy down through chattering teeth.

What was that?  She stood up in the rear hatch.  Thunderous booms.  Far away movement on the water caught her eye. A summer squall perhaps. But this was an upheaval the likes of which she’d never seen . . .  or heard.   A great wall of sea rose up in white frothy columns of water 100 feet tall. Geysers shot upwards one by one in step filling the gap between sea and sky with a massive curtain of spray and mist.  The spectacle was at once beautiful and horrifying. Shock waves travelled through the water, and rattled the control wires in her flying boat like strings on a stand-up bass. The roiling sea took aim at them.  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Pressure waves detonated two bombs in midair creating the flash of red pupils in the aberrant beast. It came whiffling and burbling with eyes of flame.

Unseen above them, squadrons of British bombers dropped hundreds of 500 pound bombs from thousands of feet high  —  a bomb dump!  Swell after swell pounded the flying boat. The wood hull groaned.  She stepped on the soaked Germans as she struggled inside the dark fuselage to get to her cockpit.  With the press of a button the Coffman starter sent the Bristol Pegasus engine into instant revving motion.   She slammed the throttle lever all the way to the wall. In the trough of a large swell, the Walrus’ lower wingtip caught the water and spun her plane around.  Hammering the right rudder didn’t help. It was too late.  The jaws did bite, the claws did catch! A great explosion rocked them to and fro. Great misty columns of water crashed over the wings and engine. The throttle lever went slack.  And then an eerie silence fell over them as odd as the previous tumult.   She poked her head out of the cockpit. Dead fish littered the surface.

As the wrinkled sheet of sea drew taut, a dark grey tube with a bulbous glass eye ripped a frothy “v” in the surface one hundred yards behind the Walrus.  The tube moved upward at astonishing speed and frightened her as it did gyre and gimble beneath the wabe.  The froth gave way to a U-Boat conning tower breaking through into daylight. “U-100” was painted in large red letters on the side. She fired her starter. The engine coughed, sputtered, then fell silent. But the cartridges weren’t the problem. She grabbed the brandy flask, and clambered up through the cockpit to the engine nacelle between the two wings. Water gushed from U-100’s ballast tanks as the submarine breached the surface, and then began to level off in a line of white slithy foam.  With breathless urgency, she checked her Rolex Oyster watch.  Kriegsmarine gunners would be on the U-100’s deck within 60 seconds. She poured the brandy into a carburetor valve. Glug, glug, glug.

She slid back down into her cockpit and jammed the starter button with her thumb. The engine coughed again, tck-tck-tck’ed, and throated up to full, glorious life. She had ten seconds or so until . . . a bright red German star shell flare exploded over the Walrus with a booming report.  Rifle bullets zinged through the canvas wing fabric as the deafening roar of the Pegasus engine pulled all three of them out of range, foot by precious foot. She felt the weightlessness of being airborne, and sighed in relief as she galumphed away into the crisp morning air.  An involuntary shudder pulsed through her body. She banked hard left to get a better view of her pursuer but the U-100 had vanished beneath the wabes like the frumious Bandersnatch it was.  

“O frabjous day. Callooh! Callay!’ she chortled in her joy as a huge smile crept across her face.

 

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