SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT • by John Weagly

On the tour boat Funliner, eighty-seven children screamed.

“I wish they wouldn’t do that,” Captain Charles said.

“The screams echo under the bridges,” Jimmy, the deckhand, answered. “They like the echo.”

“It’s annoying. It puts me on edge.”

“Plus, they know it’s the best way to get a response.”

They were in the wheelhouse, Charles in his chair at the wheel and Jimmy on the padded bench behind him. The Funliner was one of the many boats traveling up and down the Chicago River pointing out architectural and natural marvels. Jimmy was supposed to be performing his deckhand duties and keeping an eye on the third-grade field trip from the Bradbury School. Instead, he was assaulting Captain Charles with his latest dilemma.

“I need something to talk about,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“It’s our third date tonight. Me and Clarissa. I feel like I already told her everything I’ve got to tell. I’ve gone through all of my interesting stories.”

“You’ll think of something,” Charles said.

The Funliner came west under the Michigan Avenue bridge, approaching her dock outside of the Wrigley Building. The boys and girls screeched and laughed at themselves as they passed under the overpass, but this time, the cries were interrupted by a bump. The children cut their shrieking short and looked over the sides of the boat.

Charles let out a tired sigh. “Looks like he’s back.”

“Great!” Jimmy said, extra sarcasm in his voice. He stood from the bench, grabbed a boathook and went on deck. A heavy fish smell, combined with the aroma of river grime, filled the air.

Another bump rocked the Funliner. The eyes of the children and their chaperones darted everywhere, searching for the cause.

With some ripples and a splash, a massive neck and head rose out of the water on the starboard side of the vessel.

The relic from the Triassic period was fifty feet long with large flippers where its legs should be and a short tail. On the tip of its ten-foot long neck sat an eight-foot long head. Most of that head was the creature’s mouth and most of that mouth was razor-sharp teeth.

Everyone scrambled to the port side of the boat, rocking the vehicle with their excitement. While the passengers took pictures with their cellphones, Jimmy approached the beast.

This was the third sighting of the dinosaur this month. Scientists believed the Plesiosaur was attracted to high-pitched noises bouncing off the metallic underside of the bridges. He only emerged from the water when children squealed or when a bridge was raised and the gears ground together with extra sharp pangs. So far, no one had been eaten or even hurt, but the aquatic giant was becoming a minor nuisance.

Jimmy poked at the Plesiosaur with the boat hook. The behemoth roared and snapped, but didn’t get too close to the weapon.  “Go on!” Jimmy said with as much energy as he could muster. “Get out of here! Stupid dinosaur! Go back to sleep. Go back to the bottom. Go on, go away!”

The dinosaur gave one final growl and slipped back into the dark water of the Chicago River.

Jimmy got the kids back into their seats as they expressed their delight at having seen one of the tour’s best attractions, then rejoined the Captain in the wheelhouse.

“They should kill that thing,” Charles said as the Funliner continued her approach to the dock.

“Yeah, right!” Jimmy said. “They’ve doubled ticket prices since that monster first showed up. People are flooding to Chicago to see him and…” He was interrupted by his cell phone ringing. “It’s her. It’s Clarissa.”

“So answer it.”

Jimmy spoke into the device. “Hey! Nah, nothing much. Just another day on the water. What’s new with you?”


Once upon a time, Locus Magazine compared John Weagly’s short fiction to the works of Ray Bradbury and Nina Kiriki Hoffman and called him “a new writer worth reading and following.” His short stories have been nominated for multiple awards. As a playwright, over 100 of his scripts have received over 150 productions by theaters on four continents.


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