Essays Hero

Col. Jack and The Deep.

I hope that I’m not violating any non-disclosure agreement in sharing this. But the folks at Write Notepads & Co related this story to me. It is the real story of The Deep and Col. Jack. No names or places have been changed, with apologies to Col. Jack’s widow Debbie. The following was related to me late one night over seven or eight cups of espresso at the pier in Fell’s Point.

This is a piece of Charm City鈥檚 murky past. This edition is perhaps the most personal one Write has made so far, an homage to the amazing Col. Jack, who taught so many people all about the deep blue sea and also Deep herself.

Deep was an octopus living at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, not far from the Write bindery and print shop. Col. Jack used to visit her there and felt a particular affinity for her and wanted to free her somehow. If you have visited an aquarium, you can see how impossible this would be, but Col. Jack did his best.

He refused to disclose how he found out about the existence of the babies, and he just glared if you asked how he actually procured them. But Col. Jack came to own two of Deep鈥檚 babies. He planned to drive them to Ocean City straight away, rent a boat, and set them free.

No one said it was a good plan.

That night, Col. Jack left the two baby octopuses in a bucket of salt water in the bathtub while he went to the Royal Farm nearest his home in Canton and picked up some Western Fries to have with his supper. When he returned, he found his wife Debbie in the kitchen, frying up dinner. She looked at him and said quickly, 鈥淕ood, hon. Those will go good with these fresh squid you just caught.鈥 Col. Jack was too afraid to tell his wife what he had intended to do, and he ate the dinner she made him, with the mushy fried potatoes. As he swallowed the last bite and washed it down with a Natty Boh, he realized that he had no idea that his wife could cook an octopus.

That night, Col. Jack sweated in bed with dyspepsia and horrible guilt. Channel 13 reported that Deep the octopus had died, very suddenly, but she lived on in Col. Jack鈥檚 dreams, where she appeared as a silvery mist against cloudy blue water. Old Col. Jack said that she just floated there, and he could no longer stomach seafood or the Western Fries from Royal Farm.

Col. Jack took to consuming coffee by the gallon in order to avoid sleep and the dreams about the octopus he wronged by accident. Some tourists found him floating face-down near Pier 4, outside of the Aquarium. He and Deep are both said to haunt the area around Mr. Trash Wheel to this day.

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