The Bonnie Queen (Originally for hitRECord)

The first thing Pip realizes in his time aboard the HMS Icarus is that while all the men say they’re sailing for Queen and country, they’ve all got at least one other queen they’re sailing for, too.

Pip’s Christian name isn’t Pip, it’s Jack. He doesn’t have a last name that he’s ever known, and there are at least four Jacks already aboard, so they call him Pip, ’cause he’s the youngest. He hates it, but when he complains to Bilson, the cook, he just snorts and says, “best not complain, Pip, it’s the ones they don’t name that never last.” Bilson’s like a battered scrub-pine atop a cliff – he’s gray-brown all over, beaten and craggy and knotted. He’s got two queens – the ocean and the ship’s mouser, Madge. Madge and Bilson hate everyone, but they like Pip well enough. And Bilson’s a good galley-master, too. His slop’s edible, far better than anything Pip used to scrounge in alleyways or swallow down in poorhouses. He keeps the larder stocked and warns them all against scurvy, forcing dried fruit on everyone if’n they like it or not. He always saves extra for Pip and Madge, and even if the Icarus is the strangest place Pip’s been in his life, Bilson makes it feel like maybe it’s home.

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