ELAINE

By Larry Roszkowiak

 

Calvin was an overweight First Class Radioman who hated me from the day I came on board. He had a bright tattoo on his huge left forearm that read Elaine.

It was written in a flowing script with a single rose next to the capital “E”. The rose’s stem was woven gently through the rest of the letters. There were little drops of blood drawn where the thorns met his skin. It was the first thing you saw when you met him.

Our ship had a bowling league. On my second Tuesday night on board, he came up to me at the alley. The whole crew was there. There was a woman with him. He said, "Hey, Polack. This is my wife."

I held out my hand, offered my best smile, and said, "Elaine?"

Everybody froze. There was a gruesome silence.

I knew instantly this woman wasn't Elaine.

I never learned her name, but I know it wasn't Elaine.