Jay Loves Christine

A ship under construction in London. Photo by Jack Benton, 1900.

“It’s a ship. I dunno. Same contract like any other.”

The roast was getting cold between them on the table, Jay’s beer was getting warm and there was no fire in any oven hotter than the one in Christine’s eyes.

“Jay, c’mon, baby, you been on building contracts before. People are talking.”

“Well, while they’re talking can I eat my dinner? Baby, I don’t know. How many ways I gotta say it? You want me to learn Chinese? Say it that way?”

The “it” Jay was building was just a set of ribs. It had taken months just to build the support cage in which the ship would grow and Jay, like every other guy with half a brain on the line, had to admit it was a little bigger than most. A man came by with a piece of paper and made everybody sign it, but that wasn’t gonna fly with Christine.

“Don’t talk at me like I’m stupid, Jay.”

“Christie, gorgeous, love of my life, it’s just a fuckin’ ship. Gonna haul enough macadamia nuts from down south to fill a whale’s nutsack.”

“You’re disgusting.”

“And you’re gorgeous.”

“Shut up.”

But she was smiling.

Picket lines formed outside the job site. People waved signs with slogans like “tell us the truth” and bible quotes. The crowds grew along with the ship.

“Baby, I got promoted.” He banged in through the door of the apartment with a six pack and flowers.

“Jay, I’m scared.”

“You’re scared? Baby, I got a promotion and you’re scared. C’mon. You gotta relax.” He gathered Christine in his arms and lay his cheek against her hair. She was shaking.

“What if what they’re saying is true?” Her voice was muffled by his jacket.

“C’mon. That’s fuckin’ crazy. I mean, I’m not reading all the shit you’re probably reading, but I’m there on the site and whatever they’re saying, it’s bullshit.”

“You telling me the truth?”

“Of course, Christie. You want a beer?”

Later in bed, staring at the unforgiving confessor that is the ceiling, Jay didn’t believe it either.

The doomsday whackjobs grew in strength and number. More police arrived with shields, facemasks and sticks. Forget his commute, it took Jay an hour for them just to cut a path through the Hare Krishnas.

His buddy Kostas shoved a pink rober with a harmonium out of his way. “Least they’re calmer than the biblethumpers.”

“They’re vegetarians.”

“Must be it.” Kostas stiff-armed a guy wearing a ‘Free Hugs’ shirt. “I swear, dude, you want the fuckin’ apocalypse? I’ll hook you up.”

Christine couldn’t talk about anything else, and with each moment the ship grew, Jay couldn’t figure out any new ways to deny it that didn’t make him sound like an idiot.

“I can’t believe you’re buying this shit!” He said.

“I can’t believe you’re just gonna sit there and tell me the sky’s green when it’s not, Jay. What’re you doing, baby?”

“I gotta work, Christine. I don’t know what else to do. They’re still collecting rent and charging for groceries.”

“They’re not telling us everything.”

“Baby, they never tell you everything. C’mon. It’s for fucking shipping. World’s getting smaller. Gotta haul more stuff, I dunno. Fuck you want me to do?”

Christine crossed her arms and shook her head. “You’re so blind, Jay.”

“I still see you pretty good, beautiful.”

“Shup up, Jay.”

But she was smiling.

“Jesus fuckin’ Christ, Jay. You believe this rain?” Kostas put down his rivet gun for a second and wiped his hands.

“Careful with that.”

“Fuck off, Mr. Supervisor.”

Jay chuckled. Over the side of the main deck, the protesters were huddling in the torrential downpour, their signs turned to mush. They still yelled, but it was hard to make out words over the water screaming down out of the sky.

“It’s fuckin’ crazy alright.”

“You ever think…”

“Don’t fuckin’ start, Kos. You sound like Christie.”

Jay stepped away from the workmen and put his hand out under the rain. It had real weight. It wasn’t just falling out of the sky, it was being thrown down. With spite. He heard the end-of-shift whistle screech.

“The fuck’s that for? It’s only five!” He asked Kostas.

“Flood warning. We’re done for the day.”

“Alright. I’m right behind you.”

Jay slipped down below decks. The hallways were done in warm wood, velvet piping and gilt windows. He walked past dozens of private berths, down and down past deck after deck that pared away in opulence until the rooms were just iron stalls with single curtains. He stood in the belly of the ship, dwarfed by the engine. The god-engine the gearmonkeys called it, it was sort of a joke. Jay didn’t like the glint in their eyes when they said it. All these cages. Stout fixtures and floor to ceiling bars and fresh straw on the floors. Across the way cots were stacked for additional sleeping. He picked up a discarded welding torch and climbed to one of the maintenance catwalks near the ship’s massive ribs. With the sparking, snarling torch he wrote:

“Jay Loves Christine”

And drew a heart around it.

He put the torch down and thought for a minute before he added.

“Even if she drives…”

He stopped and drew a line through the last set of words.

“Nah. Nobody needs to know that.” He said and left the job site, through the sloshing rain and the night watchman’s box.

“You just getting done, Jay?”

“Yeah.”

“Ya’ll were supposed to be off the site an hour ago.”

“Had some things to check, relax, Frank.”

A line of trucks was turning the corner ahead. Moving trucks.

“What’s all this?”

“I can’t tell you, Jay.”

“You can’t tell me.”

Frank waved the line of trucks through. “Fact is, man, I got no fuckin’ idea what’s going on.”

Jay watched the trucks pass him and then we went home, sloshing through the pouring rain that didn’t seem like it was ever going to stop. He wondered if Christine had bought beer.