Saint John — For the past month and a half, the Saint John Harbour has been abuzz with excitement over the arrival of Theodore Tugboat from Halifax.
Monday night, a night like any other, several people piled into Churchill’s Bar & Pub, enthusiastically chattering about the iconic watercraft and rhetorically asking why, all of a sudden, it has stopped to stay in their city’s waters.
“It has come,” said a low, steady voice, cutting through the noise of the bar, “to claim yet another soul.”
The patrons all turned in the direction of this unexpected utterance. There, in the bar’s back corner, sat an old sea captain, staring dead ahead, nursing a beer.
“Theodore is as old as time itself,” he croaked, his expression unchanging, despite the newfound attention. “Nobody knows where he comes from. All that is known is that since the beginning of recorded history, he has robbed his victims of their incorporeal essence.”
Those whose souls become entwined with the tugboat, the captain went on to explain, are cursed to roam from port to port, smiling vacantly as groups of families and tourists gather around, snapping photos and commenting on the boat’s interminable cuteness.
“He begins his search for a new soul by issuing an omen,” the captain explained. “Something that appeals to children — many of whom will become his potential victims.”
The captain related how, over the years, these omens have often taken the form of children’s entertainment, including comic strips, radio programs and games.
“Most recently, many children who’ve come of age during the turn of the century recall watching a live-action adaptation of Theodore Tugboat’s adventures on TV,” said the captain, removing his peg leg, unscrewing the cap and pouring salt and pepper onto his order of fried clams. “The thing is, there is no evidence of such a show ever having existed.
“As late as 2001,” he continued, “hundreds of Atlantic Canadian parents have gone on record to say that their children would tune in to a channel of pure static every Monday at 5 p.m., claiming they were watching Theodore the Tugboat. Strange, the parents admitted, but they dismissed it as yet another spooky schoolyard game children play. You know…like ‘Bloody Mary’ and all that. But those of us who live by the sea…we knew better.”
Is there any way Theodore’s reign of terror can be stopped?
“He cannot be killed,” said the captain, shaking his head solemnly. “Lord knows, men have tried. Good men. Never to be heard from again.”
With this, the captain rose to his foot, slapped three crumpled bills onto the table and moved toward the exit. Before leaving, he turned and gave these parting words:
“Anyone who remembers Theodore’s television show is susceptible to the curse,” he warned. “Run, drive, move away — you cannot escape him. Wherever there is water, he will find you.
“He’s uncompromising. He’s unyielding. He wakes with the sun, he gets the job done. He…he likes to do the things that accursed tugboats do.”