They called it the ship of creams, and it was. The Norwegian Breakaway was a massive, 17-story colossus, a seafaring buffet, a nautical pleasure contraption. Most of the ship was bright white, save the cool blue that adorned the bow, and the colorful animations of New York iconic symbols such as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty sprinkled along the hull, signifying that the mighty vessel embarks from and returns to New York.
I found myself across the pier from the mighty ship on the west side of Manhattan in a smoke-filled cafe with my friend Fabrizio. The game: poker. The odds: never tell me the odds! Fabrizio and I staked everything we owned for two tickets on the Breakaway. Fabrizio drew a poor hand and had no choice but to fold. All that stood in the way of a trip on the Norwegian Breakaway was a smelly, obese grocery baron named Otto von Trap. Von Trap showed his cards: a royal flush. It was my turn. "Oh Fabrizio, I'm so sorry, but tell your mom you won't be home for dinner tonight, 'cause we're going on the Breakaway!" I placed my 5 of a kind on the table. It was a thrilling moment. Von Trap bellowed and screeched, but he was beaten. We quickly grabbed our knapsacks and ran to the pier to catch the ship. "All aboard!!!" the petty officer screamed. We rushed onto the boat just in time.
The Breakaway pulled away from the pier and out of New York harbor and set east into the mighty Atlantic.
The ship was filled with bars, mediocre restaurants, a horrific buffet with people fighting over the last slice of cake or the last pizza slice (before more food is quickly brought), a crowded pool with people burning in the sun and drinking and dancing while loud club music thumps, water slides, a casino, event spaces for shows and activities, people lying out in the sun exposing their bodies which haven't experienced a moment of exercise in years, people ordering more drinks because why not and people taking more and more food even though they'll waste half of it but then return in thirty minutes to eat more, etc.
Later that evening, two first mates stood watch. The short one, Malloy, noticed something, but he couldn't quite make it out. It seemed to be very puffy, yet sturdy and dense. And white. Wait, could it be? Dear god, it was a giant mound of fresh cream! Also known as schlag. Malloy pressed the emergency button. "Schlagberg right ahead!" The captain ordered the engine room to shift the rotaries, and the ship slowly started to veer southward, but it was too late, and the ship's port-side rammed into the giant mound of schlag. The boat violently shook but quickly returned to a smooth course.
On the main desk, Fabrizio and I saw it all happen. Some of the schlag from the schlagberg fell onto the deck, and I bent down and generously scooped up some of the fresh cream and took a taste. "Now that's a fine schlag," I said.
Just then, we saw the captain and some of the first officers rush by. Fabrizio and I followed them and took position behind a door to listen in on a meeting.
"Sir, not one, but two compartments in the ship have been filled with cream!" an engineer said.
The captain seemed to understand but remained silent.
The engineer continued, saying what everyone knew: "the ship was built to sustain one compartmental creaming, but not two! The ship will sink - it's a mathematical certainty!"
"Mama mia!" Fabrizio let out. The officers looked over and saw us.
"Captain!" I said. "I know how to save the passengers."
"You have my attention," said the captain.
"I sampled some of the cream on the deck. It is a fine, dense cream. The cream is dense enough that we can fashion enough safety boats using the cream as the material for the boats. We'll need every crew member, but I know how to use the creme to make the boats."
The engineer started, "that's a brilliant idea, but it will take a man with incredible cream experience."
A crew member interjected, pointing at me: "that one's not up for it!"
It was my turn: "I've been all around this world and have stopped into many a cafe and bakery to sample the many fresh creams of the world. I've had the buns of Hong Kong and the tarts of Portugal. I've had the crema of Mexico and the schlag of Vienna. I can build the boats!"
The captain looked at me. "I know a good cream man when I see one. Our lives are in your creams."
I quickly laid out the plan for how to quickly assemble the safety cream boats, and the crew began work. The Breakaway was slowly starting to sink. Terrified passengers began screaming and running around the ship in terror and desperation. Good old Malloy, the same mate who spotted the Schlagberg, restored order and the passengers began lining up to enter the cream safety boats as we lowered them into the frigid ocean.
All souls on the ship safely boarded one of the many safety cream boats we assembled before the great Norwegian Breakaway completely sank into the dark waters. The annoyingly loud club music, the stupid murmurings of the idiotic and fat passengers, the noises from all the games and shows and dances, were all gone as we drifted in stunned silence.
Thousands of people sat and awaited rescue. The crew member who doubted I had the skill to assemble safety cream boats looked at me and nodded, showing his thankfulness for what I helped accomplish. But I knew our safety was precarious. The cream boats were sturdy and true and would stay afloat for as long as it took for a rescue ship to reach us. The engineering of the boats was not the problem. The problem....
And then I heard the shouting and knew it was happening. In one of the nearby boats, you could see it happening. Some of the passengers were so taken with the schlag that they began eating their own safety boats! "Stop! You're eating our safety boat! We'll sink!" a man screamed. Then you heard the same admonishment coming from other boats. Some passengers jumped off their safety cream boats and climbed onto other boats, only to find that the same thing was happening!
Fighting broke out on all the safety cream boats. Soon, there was utter mayhem, a cacophony of screams and creams. Safety cream boats started sinking as too much of their structures were consumed by greedy people. My own safety boat started going down. Fabrizio and I were able to remove part of the cream structure and held onto it as a floating device. We paddled away from the chaos as people ate creams and drowned.
Soon, we were far enough away to avoid immediate destruction, but the water was freezing cold and we couldn't last very long. I started to become very tired and felt peaceful. I looked over and Fabrizio was already gone, passing to wherever it is we go when our physical bodies cease to function. I detached his arms from the creme floating structure and he dipped peacefully down into the waters. "I"ll never let go!" I say as poor Fabrizio sinks into the deep.
But not long after I too leave this world, although when the rescue teams find my body a few hours later my arms are still firmly latched onto the schlag.
"That was a man who loved creams," they all say.