Oneshot: April 13, 2012


They call me Sparks.

I like the name. It’s for the sparks that fly under my fingers as I send wireless messages.

Having a Marconi system on Titanic is such a novelty that it seems like every tom-fool wants to send a wire home, whether he (or she) needs to or not.

Businessmen want to check on their stocks. Buy up all of … dump my assets with the… please inform me of current situation ASAP…

Lady Duff-Gordon (although that’s not the name she uses anywhere else on board ship) has been in twice to send wires to her associates about new lingerie designs. Think an extra layer of lace is prudent.

Thomas Andrews has sent several wires to Lord Pirrie. One of them said something about screw-holes. He was so deep in thought he left his little black note-book behind and had to come back for it.

Then, there’s the rubbish I’m asked to send.

Having a wonderful time—can’t wait to see you soon!

Blimey, this ship is bloody good! I’ve won a hundred pounds at cards!

Beat Jessup at squash today, you owe me ten pounds!

And now, the damn wireless isn’t working. It won’t spark, it won’t transmit, and I can’t figure out why. I crouch there doing something I’m not trained nor paid to do—take the whole bloody system apart.

It’s nearly midnight. Most passengers should be asleep.

They aren’t.

Another businessman shuffles in, a fat cigar in his mouth, to hand Harold another message.

I hope he’s the last; we have a stack already to get through.

Frustration carries me through, peering at each wire in the glow of the electric lamps. I’ve been over the machine twice. What is wrong with this damn thing?

Harold is asleep at the front desk.

My fingers grope and I feel it at last, burned wires. I work quickly. I stand up and flip the switch. The machine comes on with a cascade of sparks. I tap the telegraph and the familiar whine blips in my ear.

The clock on the wall over my desk says 5am.

“Come on, Harold,” I say, kicking his chair; “we’re six hours behind schedule.”

I sit down and start another message.

To: Morgan. Stop. Making all progress across Atlantic. Stop. Hope to arrive ahead of schedule. Stop. Ismay.

7 thoughts on “Oneshot: April 13, 2012

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    1. “Sparks” was a nickname given at the time to all the boys who worked in the marconi office, because they worked so fast sending messages sparks flew under their fingers. The character telling this story is Jack Phillips, the senior marconi officer on Titanic.

      1. Oh, okay. I really didn’t understand what was going on. Is there any way you can explain that they both have the nickname of Sparks without destroying the continuity of the story?

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