Dave’s mother used to wake him and his sister with “Good morning Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea.” She’d bellow it up the stairs, and he was never quite sure what it meant, but it comforted him, even though he would almost always have rather stayed in bed.
be a man
Kent writes a check and ships some flowers and candy to his mother at the home and he’s feeling good enough about himself that he picks up the phone to promise a girl he met the night before sweet things if she’ll let him whisper nothings in her ear.
be of good form if you can
Anna with Susanne over Pringles and French onion dip tells her sister about the dream with the lifeboat and the disappearing people, how every time she blinks, another person is off the boat, and there’s never even a sound of a splash, just one less person on the boat, and the rescue ships always almost visible, just off beyond the imminent horizon, but never close enough, and Susanne holds her hand and nods and then says something cryptic involving strength and ancient Greek mythology. Anna wants to cry but instead she grips her sister’s hand tightly in her left hand and eats more Pringles with French onion dip with her right.
be with me again
Alone in the beautiful world, and all the ships at sea.
be many when one will not do
On a date Kent uses the phrase “when my ships come in.” When his date, a real estate agent named Melissa, corrects him, “You mean when your ship comes in,” he replies, “Sweetheart, I have no intention of stopping at just one boat.”
be not long away from home
Johnnie ships out of reality with a head full of psilocybin, thinking of home, and his mother, and oh how she burns.
be one of our people
Crazy suggestions, insane ideas, come up in some of these meetings. They were talking about the Cole incident and somebody suggested it might have never happened if they used better camouflage, that if they had painted the ships the color of the water, the terrorists might not have seen the boat in the harbor. Sometimes Howard wondered who these people were around him, and how they could possibly get away with selling all this shit. But the government was passing out money in great heaping baskets to people just like this paint salesman here, buckets of it for the taking.
be at one with the land
One by one Maggie ships her most treasured belongings off to old friends and family members, even people who have done her small kindnesses. She reviews her options, and considers a green burial, to be buried in a shroud in a small patch of woods near her hometown. It sounds sort of peaceful, and less grotesque than embalming.
be of help if you can
Jenny suggests that they go on a cruise to see Antarctica, and Dave points out that ships sink, that they might not only die in freezing cold water, but also despoil the nature she so loves by dumping tens of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel on the ocean floor. He’d rather do the hotel room in Manhattan or the beach in Bermuda. He has a way of spinning things darkly that doesn’t always appeal. She gives him a look that says he’s not getting any tonight.
be another if you can change
It’s not that the idea of a cruise bothers him. Dave doesn’t have anything against ships. But you can get all the same decadence in Vegas, with guaranteed good weather, and better floor shows. He tries to make a joke of it. He tries sometimes not to be cynical. He tries.