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Celibate Jayne the Hammerhand
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by Michael John Grist

It was nearing high-tide on the Sheckledown Sea when Celibate Jayne the Hammerhand finally bashed his way out of the belly of the whale.  Ashen face covered with gobbets of blubber and gut, he slithered down the black rubber side of the beached leviathan, a river of purple slime showering down on his head.

He gasped, coughed up a wad of bloody kelp and brine, then slumped himself starfish-splayed on the beach.

Soon enough the jubilant cries of his crew carried raucously over the sand, as they moored the 6-oar gully, hefted up the smelting cauldrons, and came pell-mell dashing down the beach towards him.  First by his side was half-headed Elspeth, first mate, her big chin wagging with glee.

"It`s a Ptarmigan, Jayne!" she gasped, gleaming, bouncing round the whale.  "You only done gone and busted out a Ptarmigan!"

Jayne smiled weak up at her. 

"Fifty barrels o`spermaceti oil," she said all in fizz, "and just time fore the storm hits to boil it all.  You done us right proud and halesome!"

Jayne coughed again, spotlets of whale's blood and brine, caught his ragged breath.

"Y`alright?" asked Elspeth, stood in her tan hide galoshes looking down at Jayne in the bloody muck. 

Jayne shook his head.  "There`s a bloke," he said, stopping to catch his air, "inside."

"Eh?" asked Elspeth, stopping her happy flouncing to look at him.  "What?"

"A yellow bloke," said Jayne, "inside the whale."

Elspeth twitched, as was her wont.  "In the whale?"

Jayne nodded.  "Aye," he said, reaching up a clouty metal Hammerhand.  "A yellow bloke."  Elspeth grabbed the metal hand and hauled him up.  Jayne swayed on his feet, then turned to the slitted hole in the whale`s flank.  "Thrashing about in there."

Elspeth moved closer to see.

"Wait," said Jayne, blocking her path.  He pointed to the whale`s still trembling eye.  It flickered, rolled, flared.  The slow sussurus of breath in and out ground down.  The spurty veins round the hammered-out gut-hole pulsed once, twice more, and finally the whale died.

"Woulda squashed you up in its throes," he said.  "Now`s OK."

"You comin'?" she asked.

"I ain`t even breathin' proper yet," he said.  "Go on."