The streets were eerily quiet as Aiofe made her way to the dock. She was so tired of dredging up excitement everyday for hundreds nasty school children visiting the Titanic museum. If she had ever wanted children of her own this job had demolished that desire! Scraw! There was Slink the cat who greeted her every morning with his bony, flea ridden, fearless glare.
“Alright, you crinkly old thing, not enough fish at the docks for you then?” she reached inside her pocket for the piece of dried smelt she had grabbed before she left the flat. Laying it near Slink she righted herself and opened the door to the museum.
On the docket: children from Belfast Catholic Prep at 10, visit Mum at the Sage Garden at 12, primary school, Misty Meadow, at 2 (it would probably take two hours to clean up after those grimy beasts had passed through) and then home again. She appreciated routine, but she was truly bored. The last time anything exciting had happened she had missed it; one of the mischievous prep school girls had taken it upon herself to perform the famous pose from the movie, Titanic, and had fallen overboard much to everyone’s chagrin.
Hang her tattered Macintosh, slip off her Wellies, start water for tea, check register for yesterday’s receipts, count today’s cash, restock shelves, and ready. Now a spot of time before they come pouring in, a little tea and her own thoughts. And here they were…eighty prepubescent boys and girls pummeling each other as they scrambled through the turnstile and two crotchety old nuns adorned in gary, their whimples appearing to choke them.
The students were fairly well behaved as they traversed below below deck trying to imagine how the workers could survive in such tight, airless quarters. Moving on, Aiofe led the restless students up the ladder to the passenger deck. Recounting the story of all of the famous people who were promised safe voyage on the Titanic during the April 1912 cruise, Aiofe always felt a little sad that Margaaret Brown didn’t get more cred until after her death. Her bravery in trying to save the lower class workers on her lifeboat, as well as her organization of survivors after the shipwreck, her insistence on burial of the lost souls, and her disappointment in not being allowed to testify because she was a woman, always caught in Aiofe’s stream of consciousness and stuck there like a song you can’t rid yourself of.
At least she could spend time here and now at the museum relaying Margaret’s story. Sisters Mary and Therese took a moment to expound on the strength of character that had been required by Margaret.
The sheer elegance of the museum replica of the Titanic often made students withdraw to walk around independently and try to imagine the luxury. Unfortunately, this particular group of students would not see luxury in their lifetimes unless a grand opportunity presented itself to them.
Up the ladder to the main deck, the sails billowing in the cold, wet breeze and of course the students wished to see the figurehead. Jostling for positions for best views the students were getting too close to the edge of the ship. A quick warning from Aiofe pulled most of the students back, however a skinny girl in an overlong brown tweed with a black flapper hat was leaning over the prow. Aiofe walked to where she stood. “What’s there, Ma’am,” she asked. It looked like a stick, floating on the water. Of course, the crew of students caught wind of something amiss and ran to her side like sheep.
SPLASH! Before Aiofe knew what was happening a boy had jumped into the deep, dark water to retrieve the stick thing. “Cillian, get out!” Sister Therese screamed! He reached the stick and tucked it into his coat and tried to swim away. That coat and his shoes and clothes were weighing him down and he was having a hard time swimming to the seawall. Aoife didn’t hesitate, she shucked her shoes and dove in. Without her outer clothes she was able to get to Cillian quickly and pull him to the wall.
Clattering feet swiftly left the Titanic and ran down the dock to where Aiofe and Cillian lay, breathing hard. “Let’s see the stick there that almost cost you your life mister,” she said.
“It ain’t a stick”, he shouted, “It’d be a bow for like a violin or somethin.”
Roisin, the girl who spotted said stick, asked to see the bow. “It has an engraving on it, Ma’am” she said incredulously, “For Wallace, on the occasion of our engagement.” From Maria.
“Blast it,” Aiofe said. “We will have to contact Tim Maltin and see what he has to say about your find.”