Big Red

Background: Writer’s group assignment. Very short story starting with a name. Words required: 700, used 703

Big Red

Red is what they called him, or sometimes, Big Red. His real name was Frederick and Red seemed like a strange derivation, but he was a giant of a man and his ruddy face was framed by the wiry orange hair that he inherited from his far northern ancestors. It would be easy to imagine him dressed in a kilt, striding out of a highland mist to the skirl of bagpipes, leading a column of Scottish warriors into war against the Sassenachs.

But in truth, Big Red did not own a claymore or any other weapon of war. In fact, he was not particularly aggressive nor was he that successful at anything. His passion was scuba diving and he did that when he could afford to.  That and drinking beer in the pub. But Red could only afford one beer a day and on this occasion he had finished his ration, donned his coat and cap and started out on his twenty-minute stroll back to his small apartment – not on the beach. Tonight on this walk his mind relived the failures and less frequent successes of his life.  Once upon a lonely Cape cove he had dived where not too many had dived before. The relatively shallow waters of the continental shelf there were cold and murky green and visibility was poor. There were strange rock formations down there and one in particular fascinated him.  Each time he came up from his dive he would sit by the edge of the sea & sketch the bit had just inspected. Eventually it dawned on him that under the barnacles and the seaweed, partially buried in the sandy floor of the ocean, was the wreck of a ship. He would go down to the maritime library and try to find information about ship-wrecks on this part of the coast, and he found many. Most of them had been investigated but neither in the library nor on Google could he reference this particular vessel.

Now Red was a wanderer and he had no funds to mount an expedition so he kept an ear out for a partner who could. Eventually in Simonstown he found a marine biologist who chartered his own small vessel out. It was actually an old Irvin & Johnson fishing trawler that was no longer useful in their fleet configuration. He had acquired it for next to nothing and modified it as a research ship. This man was Pascal, and after listening to Red’s story, he had expressed interest in the submerged wreck. He was not willing to make a special expedition of it though and undertook to stop his ship when and if he was doing ocean research in that part of the sea and would let Red know what was discovered. Well the months went by and Red heard nothing. So he contacted Pascal who told him that they had not yet visited that part of the coast. The months stretched into years and Red had more or less forgotten his wreck in favour of diving on other strange objects further up the coast. One day, Pascal phoned him and told him that they had eventually been to the wreck and dived on it. They had done some excavating and had eventually managed to enter the hull. Unfortunately, it had proven of no real interest. They had been able to identify it as a small freighter that had gone down in heavy weather about 80 years before. It had owners but they had already stripped it of anything of value. Why, Red wondered, could he not have found a vessel with at least some salvable cargo on board?

That night, in a very different part of town, a tall Frenchman did not have to walk home. His driver was waiting outside in the big Mercedes. Pascal was a very rich man & had been that way ever since that diver chap had confided to him about the sunken treasure ship off the coast. He should have told Red the truth about the find on board but Pascal was not that sort of man. He wanted it all for himself. It would only spoil Red’s life and lead him into decadence Pascal rationalised.