The S.S. Queen of Expy was the largest ship yet to dock at Port Dechantagne, almost twice as large, in terms of tonnage, as the H.M.S. Minotaur, the battleship that had brought the first colonists to this shore. Her four massive smokestacks were no longer pouring out giant black clouds as they had done all the way from Greater Brechalon. The great ship was now, ever so slowly, turning without the aid of any tugs, so that she could connect to a dock that was so much more primitive than she was used to. It all put Saba Colbshallow in mind of a very fat lady trying to maneuver herself around in a bathtub.
“How long do you suppose before they can get the gangplank up?” wondered Eamon Shrubb, who like Saba stood in his heavy blue reefer jacket and blue constable’s helmet.
Saba consulted his pocket watch. The ornate little hands showed 10:30. A snowflake settled upon its glass face, just above the six. He turned his face skyward and saw a few more large white flakes falling toward him.
“A while,” he said. “Tea?”
Eamon nodded, and the entire police force walked across the gravel road to the cart that Aalwijn Finkler had set up to sell hot drinks and cakes.
There were exactly five vending carts in Port Dechantagne, and all five were within fifty yards of the dock. In addition to Finkler’s, there was Mr. Kordeshack selling fish and chips, Mrs. Gopling selling smoky sausages, Mrs. Luebking, selling scarves, mittens, and knit caps for those who had either not brought warm clothing or were unable to find it in their luggage, and Mr. Darwin, who sold purses, wallets, belts, and hat bands, all made of dinosaur skin.
“Two teas,” said Saba, setting a ten-pfennig coin on the cart.
“Sugars?” asked Aalwijn.
“Three,” said Eamon.
“Milk?” asked Aalwijn.
“No.” With no cattle in the colony and few goats, the only milk available was in tins. While this was fine for cooking, most people had given up milk in their tea because of the metallic taste.
The snow started coming down more heavily as the two constables sipped the steaming tea from the small, plain porcelain cups. When they had finished, they set the cups in the bin on the side of the vending cart reserved for dirty dishes. Saba turned around and looked at the S.S. Queen of Expy.
“I don’t think it’s moved,” said Saba.
“What’s Expy?” asked Eamon.
“It’s an island.”
“Does it have a queen?”
“I don’t think so.”
“How come they named a ship Queen of Expy then?”
“That’s just something they do.”
“I don’t think it’s moved,” said Eamon.
“Come on,” said Saba. “Let’s do a tour.”
The two constables started off to the north, walking past the warehouses, and reaching the end of Bainbridge Clark Street, and the edge of Augustus P. Dechantagne Park. The park occupied ten acres just past the narrowest part of the peninsula, and was mostly composed of a large grassy area where during the summer, people had picnics, and played football or cricket. On its western edge was a copse of several dozen large trees and rose garden with a gazebo, a reflecting pool, and the base for a statue that had not yet been completed. The base was four foot square and two feet high, and would eventually hold a life-sized statue of the man for whom the park was named. It already had his name embossed upon it, along with the phrase “Stand Fast, Men”. Trailing through the park and the rose garden within it was a winding cobblestone path, which Saba and Eamon took. They stopped between the statue base and the reflecting pool, which was completely frozen over.
“You knew him pretty well, eh?” asked Eamon, indicating the spot where the statue would someday be.
“Yep. He was a great guy. He used to tell me dirty stories when I was a kid, and he usually gave me a couple of pfennigs when he saw me. That was big money for me then.”
“Sure,” said Eamon, who had grown up in a poorer family than Saba’s. “Do you know what it’s going to look like?”
“Nope. Nobody but Mrs. Dechantagne-Calliere knows. Knowing her, he’s going to be standing like he has a stick up his ass, and he’ll probably be pointing forward or waving heroically.”
“How do you wave heroically?”
“You know. Like ‘Come on, Men!’” Saba waved invisible soldiers behind him to move forward.
“You know they should have named this park after Zurfina. She’s the one who saved our cake.”
“I’ve heard you say that before. It’s just because you fancy her.”
“No. I’m serious. I was there. I know.”
“She really put it on the lizzies?”
“Oh, it was bloody awesome.”
“But you do fancy her?”
“She’s too old for me,” said Saba. “Not that I haven’t had the odd fantasy about her.”
“She’s not that old is she? I’ve only seen her a few times, but she doesn’t look… forty do you suppose?”