'Aye. She were the H.M.S. Stainforth. A fine vessel. Presentable with two 70mm guns, hidden and called upon in mere moments. Confiscated Fiat-Revelli machine guns firing smooth and cool. Cooled by water, did you know'? He was silent. 'A crew of sixteen. Twelve gone'. He swallowed hard and looked away.
'The sky was leaden, single-engine Fokkers darting, and corkscrewing down. So close you could see burnt oil on their goggles. You could see their clenched teeth. They seemed easy pickings at first, yet they stung us badly. When we fired the 70s, the vessel rocked. The captain had the glasses glued to his eyes. He was shouting orders but no one heard. My ears were ringing and I could feel the heartbeat in my head. I seen two of my panicked comrades just abandon aft like a ceremonial march off a gangplank. I called to Robert to take over the machine gun. The look in his eyes - ghostly, unblinking - I'll never forget it. A strike from above put a hole in his chest'.
He slammed his fist on the stained mahogany table. A small wave of my ale spilled over the rim of the mug. 'He was my friend'.
Two gray-haired men entered and went to the bar. They looked around the establishment with wonder as though it was their first time, the bartender knowing better. Greasy clothes staining the red vinyl seats.
'She was damaged badly, taking water like she was thirsty. Flooded up to the turrets. I scurried up to the bridge. The captain had both hands frozen on the helm. The sun came out just then and lit up the wheel house. I was calm then, glad to have my final place in the sun on the water. Then I heard her sigh as the hull split open, endless bullets forming new rivet holes.
"Captain", I called, "we're going over".
"We're going over", he repeated over and over in a weak, distant voice, looking at me, face pale with a creased forehead.'
The bouncer had the two gray-haired men by the collar and shoved them out into their very own place in the sun.
'What happened then,' I asked.
'We went over'.
photo credit: R.A.D. Stainforth