It was an overcast, chilly November afternoon. The shop had been quiet, and Aziraphale was shelving an armload of new arrivals when he heard something coming from a few aisles over that gave him pause: Crowley was singing. To himself, mostly under his breath, but loudly enough to be heard.
This wasn’t all that unusual, and in his human form he had a reasonably decent singing voice; Aziraphale thought it pleasant enough and generally paid it no mind, even if Crowley’s musical tastes differed wildly from his own and he often didn’t recognize the tune.
This one, though, was vaguely familiar, and something about it struck him as odd enough that he stopped in his work and cocked his head to listen, frowning slightly as he tried to place it.
It had a rustic, folksy sort of air to it. Distinctly American in tenor, he thought, and a bit on the mournful side. Where on earth had he heard–
The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound when the wave broke over the railing…
Oh. Of course…it was the song about that dreadful shipwreck. What would it have been, forty or fifty years ago, now? Aziraphale had nearly forgotten the incident; neither he nor Crowley had been present or involved, but even here in England they’d heard the news, and the song had made its way round as well.
Crowley, though, as far as he was aware, wasn’t particularly interested in nautical matters. They’d both spent plenty of time aboard ship in their day, for one reason or another–sometimes together, more often not–but one thing upon which they were firmly in agreement was a preference for dry land. Ten months or so aboard a damp, cramped, smelly, altogether miserable Ark would be enough to cure anyone of the desire for seafaring adventure, he thought.
And though it was nice that some kind soul chose to memorialize the men who’d been lost that day, the Great Lakes had claimed thousands of vessels and who knew how many lives since humankind had first ventured onto their waters–a number that was itself dwarfed by the deaths at sea they’d witnessed in six thousand years.
So he couldn’t quite work out what had got this particular tune stuck in Crowley’s head, and he stood and listened and wondered as several haunting verses echoed through the shop.
And then–perhaps assuming he was busy in the back room–Crowley raised his voice a bit, underscoring the lyrics with a plaintive note, and Aziraphale shut his eyes and nodded to himself, suddenly understanding.
Well. A little, anyway.
Does anyone know where the love of God goes, when the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay if they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.
They might’ve split up, or they might’ve capsized; they may have broke deep and took water,
And all that remains is the faces and names of the wives and the sons and the daughters.
Silently saying a small prayer for the twenty-nine souls lost and their families, Aziraphale went back to his task, leaving Crowley to contemplate his questions in peace.
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee.
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead when the gales of November come early.
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