WHH Short Fiction: “The Getting Even of Tommy Dodd”

Review: “The Getting Even of Tommy Dodd”, William Hope Hodgson, 1912.

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Cover by Jason Van Hollander

This story was originally called “The Apprentices’ Mutiny” which is not to be confused with “The ‘Prentices’ Mutiny” which also features a protagonist named Tommy Dodd. Both were published in 1912, so this seems another case of a prolific writer churning out stories that sometimes share a common starting point.

As you would expect from the title, this is another Hodgson story of a sailor getting revenge on an abusive officer. This one, though, has a humorous tone and tells how young apprentice seaman Tommy Dodd, fourteen years old, gets revenge on his captain, bo’sun, third mate, and steward for their abuse and bad food.

When the ship the Lady Hannibal arrives in port at Melbourne, Australia, Tommy and his apprentice conspirators buy a bunch of women’s clothes for him.

Onboard, he puts them on in secret. Tommy then passes himself as his cousin, Jenny Dayrin. (Editor Douglas Anderson says the line “By George, youngster, you make a pretty girl!” makes one wonder exactly what sort of abuse the young Hodgson suffered in his days in the Merchant Marine.)

What then follows is a series of humiliations to his targets and leveraging of promises for the apprentices as Jenny manipulates the officers for the favor of her presence and good opinion.

While in port, Tommy conveniently says he’s off to visit relatives and his cousin Jenny shows up.

One day, Tommy hits the Third Mate with a belaying pin and jumps over the side, never to be seen again.

On the voyage to London, Jenny shows up again, passing herself off as a stowaway.

On arriving at London, Jenny reveals her scam to the Captain. He says he won’t tell if the Captain doesn’t. (Yet another Hodgson sea story where the truth is concealed to avoid embarrassment.)

“But I guess I got level with you all.”, says Tommy at story’s end. He really has fulfilled his vow to make the Captain kiss his feet.

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