Monthly Archives: March 2018

Log #54: Brother Bob

Log

September the 8th in the Year 2011

I long for home.

Each and every morn, the sun rises and climbs a ladder of clouds into the azure vault above, and all the Earth glories in the light of that heavenly Eye. Life breathes in that spark, like tinder drawing the flame, and rises up joyfully, filled with new vigor; the trees seem to shake off the night’s shadows in the growing breeze, like sleepers stretching out the knots and bends of sleep; one can almost hear the flowers singing, hymns of thanks to the new day. And the creatures that run and climb, that fly and crawl, all renewed by blessed sleep – sleep without man’s torments of Guilt and Doubt and Dread, sleep that is but a respite and never a challenge – they begin the dance of life, spinning and twirling, stepping and leaping, their eyes bright, their hearts racing, blood flowing with strength and warmth as they bow to their partner, the almighty Sun.

But to me, what is this celestial miracle, but another day of struggle, and toil? What greets me with the dawn, what fills me, but misery, melancholy, malaise?

There are challenges to be overcome here, good works to be accomplished – tasks I would set my hand to, were I fit in my heart, in my spirit, to pit my strength against them. By the saints, there are riches to plunder and debauchery to revel in, aye, that as well! But they are not my challenges, and they are not my good works, and it is not my plunder nor my debauchery. For this is not my home. That one fact makes all else seem askew, as though the world, the heavens, the very air and light and the ground under my feet, had all gone awry about me, leaving me – lost.

And so the sleep does not satisfy and the dawn does not invigorate. I wake to each day more fatigued than when I closed my eyes. I tell myself that the new day will bring purpose, purpose that fits me – that what I do, I do for good, for my own benefit and that of my fellow men, whether it be all of humanity I aid or just my brethren, my kinsmen, my countrymen. And though such innocence may appear foolish, still this has always brought fire to my veins, to know only this: that I do the right thing. I always do the right thing. That has ever been enough.

Now it seems that is not enough. For the right thing is not my right thing. It seems I can do right only if I am in the right place.

Look at what I have done here, since my ship was torn from its rightful world. I have saved the Family Lopez, and wrought the fiery destruction of a nest of villains. I have defended the name of Honor. I have met and befriended people of goodness, kindness, and wisdom. I have served my crew, and my beloved ship, and done for them whatever I knew to be best, no matter the cost.

But what have I done, in truth? Nothing but stirred the dust, which does not disappear but swirls up into the air – perhaps sparkling prettily in a ray of light – before settling again, as thick and dead and dry as ever it was. For I have fought and toiled and struggled for months, months that feel like years, like all the centuries I have somehow passed by – and I have won nothing. I have nothing. I have dust.

Aye – and do I ramble on, maudlin and petty and shrewish? Struth, I do. Enough, man.

I long for home. That is all.

Later

Two bells of the First Watch

I know not whether this day’s events be for good or for ill; I trust not my own judgment, as my eyes are clouded with visions of the past, and of fair Ireland. As I am not there, I do not see what I should, not without especial effort (for which reason I am ever exhausted, and now I must wonder if dreams and aspirations do give us life and strength, or do suck the same from us, by adding weight to our bent and breaking backs – for there is nothing in this life heavier than a dream unfulfilled. Tcha! I cannot but pine and mope, it seems. Methinks the whiskey has not yet bled out of me. I was ever a pathetic drunk, when I am not violent.). So I will simply record what has occurred, and hope (Again, that demon hope! Or is it an angel, in truth?) that in the writing, clarity may come.

We awoke in the inn where my shipmates carried and succored me. We inquired of the clerk at the desk as to where we should break our fast, and were directed to the complimentary continental breakfast, as it was addressed on signs and pamphlets lauding this inn – a place called Motel 6, which seems a particularly lifeless appellation for a guesting-house. The food was lifeless, as well: a collection of overhard pastry and oversoft fruit, and neither tasting as they should. But we filled our bellies, and our pockets, too, as the food was unwatched, and so we found means to sustain ourselves, if not reason to do so.

We departed the Motel 6 and endeavored to return to the train-hall. This was the last place where we had known direction and purpose, and so we presumed to take up the thread once more where we had held it last. This was somewhat effortful, as my own inebriated wanderings had led us far into the deeps of this place, this Alexandria (Which name is but a lie, for this place is not the glory of a great king, nor the home of the knowledge of the ages.), and so it took most of the morning to retrace our steps. Once we had, it required but a brief consultation, and then we ate and then set out, walking along the path of the dragon-train.

It is a good path: two iron rails set on wooden blocks, atop stones or earth well-packed and flat as the sea without wind. We have walked this path all the remainder of this day, and have climbed some small hills, but not a one that would daunt an auld granny out for a stroll, should she set her cap to the ascent.

It was as we walked this path that the odd events began, of which I mean to write and thus understand. It began soon after we set out. The path crossed a road, and just as we were coming to it, bells began to ring and lights to flash, and then two wooden gates descended at the crossing-point. ‘Twas a superfluous warning, for we had seen the beast-wagons before us, and had heard from behind us the trumpeting call of a dragon-train, as well as felt its approach through the vibration of the iron rails below our feet. We raised our speed to a trot and made our way to the gates where the beast-wagons waited – thinking perhaps that the barriers would serve as protection against the dragon’s ire, for we trod its path without permission; and for my own self, though Meredith said that not a one of these moving contraptions had life nor thoughts nor passions of its own, not beast-wagon nor dragon-train nor yet the flying monsters above, these air-planes, still I cannot believe that there is no spark there behind those burning eyes on the front of them. Any man who has lived on a sailing ship at sea knows the truth: there is often life where we men see but a dead object.

And perhaps that dragon does not like us very well.

So we reached the road and stood back from the gates as the train passed. Lynch nudged me and nodded to a man who stood astride a contraption that looked to be a crossbreed between a beast-wagon and a bicycle: it had but two wheels and a pair of handles which rotated the bow-wheel, just as the bicycle did, but rather than a bare frame, it had the black-and-silver metal gears and tubes that rumbled and spat blue smoke as much as any beast-wagon. Lynch and I stared, curious, and then I realized that the man astride it was staring back. I nodded and raised a hand in salute, and he did the same – a courtesy I did not, and do not, expect from the common folk of this age and place, and so was happy to receive. I smiled at him, and nodded once more. Then the train was past, and we three set out again in its wake, following the path and thinking nothing more of the man of two wheels.

Until we encountered him again. An hour later or more, and some miles across town – I admit to becoming fatigued whenever I am confronted by the sheer immensity of this place, of these cities, and by the staggering throng of people here, which I find entirely enervating and depressive to my spirits. My god – how can any man stand out and win glory in such a crowd? ‘Tis impossible. And if they all recognize the impossibility of individual achievement in such a morass of humanity, why do they continue to breed so many more? Why curse your children to a life of such undignified mediocrity, one face in a crowd of too many? A war, or a good deathly plague – that’s what this place needs. Bah. Where was I? Oh yes: some miles later we came to another road-crossing where we again had to move aside for a dragon-train – not surprising, that; they came along that path twice for every turn of the glass, four times in an hour at least – and so we made our way to the gates once more. And there, as we stood and waited for the dragon to pass, lo and behold – the same man, on his beast-cycle. We nodded and waved again, smiling this time in recognition – and then we went our way once more.

We made camp but a few hours later, though the sun was still well above the horizon in these summer months; but MacManus needed rest: he still recovers, as do we all, from our injuries and the ill-use our bodies have seen these last few days. We had reached the edge of a wood, escaping civilization at last, and we made a cheery fire near a small stream some hundred paces off the track – far enough to muffle the roar of the passing dragons, but not so far that we should lose sight of the track we followed – and shared out the rest of our continental breakfast. Lynch set out to hunt with his pistola – my two companions being two of the finest marksmen in my crew, I have left the guns in their hands – while I sat with MacManus and chewed.

And then we were hailed, from the direction of the dragon-track, by a human voice. I leapt to my feet and spun about – and promptly stumbled, my legs more fatigued from the walking than I had suspected, and now grown mainly stiff and clumsy. MacManus, more to the main purpose, had drawn and aimed his pistola – but he lowered it when we saw who it was.

‘Twas the man from the beast-cycle.

“Hello!” he called again, coming closer – indifferent or oblivious to MacManus’s weapon and my clumsy movements. “Mind if I join you?”

I looked at Shane, who shrugged the decision onto me. I made it. “Nay, friend – come and set yourself. Our third companion should return anon, with meat, by the grace of the gods of this place.”

He smiled and swung an enormous rucksack with a metal frame from his shoulders. “Oh, I’ve got meat, ham-burger and bacon, too. Happy to share, if you like – unless you’re partial to squirrel or possum, which is about all your friend is going to bag round here.” He stepped close and thrust out his hand to me. “Name’s Bob. Bob Brewer.” I clasped hands with him, and gave him my name, and Shane’s as well. “We would be honored to share your bread – and salt, too, if ye have it.” I proffered him the log I had been using as a seat. He availed himself of same, and setting his rucksack between his knees, began to unload it.

“Oh, sure, I got salt. Ketchup and mustard, too, if you don’t mind the little packets. I take them from MacDonald’s whenever I go there – I figure they owe me something extra for doing them the favor of ignoring how bad the food is. And the service. I’ve got some hand-wipes too, if you like.” He also revealed an iron pan for cooking, and a metal tripod to hold it, the which he set over our little fire, and soon had delicious smells wafting into the air. Lynch returned about then, drawn perhaps by the smell, but more likely by the lack of game – he had spied nothing worth the bullet. Introductions were made, and friendship won by the food sizzling over the fire.

Over the course of the next two hours, this amiable fellow – he is oldish, white-haired and creased about the face and hands, but still hale enough to carry fifty pounds in that rucksack – shared with us his food, including the bizarre sauce called ketchup, which he apparently stole completely shamelessly from this MacDonald (surely not the same one who employed the Lopez brothers?), and his story.

“They call me Brother Bob, most of the time. It’s because I used to be a priest – Episcopalian. After I was a chaplain in the war. Veeyetnom, that is. Shows you how old I am, if the snow on top didn’t give it away already. But I gave that up after I lost my Janet. Retired, and now I still help out when I can, drive the van on Sundays, or pick up food at cost coe.” (I know not if this be a place or a method.) “But I do it now only when, and because, I want to. For love, not duty. So most folks who know me call me Brother Bob.

“When I’m not at the church, or helping out my replacement, I like to ride my Harley” (Surely the name of his beast-cycle, which he treats as a steed – is it alive, this Harley? Perhaps.) “around town and just – see what I see. And you know what I saw today?

“I saw three guys following the train tracks. Casual, calm, not looking for anything missing, not running away from anything they’d rather miss. Just – riding the rails, or at least walking ’em. It made me think. It made me remember how, when I was a kid, I read a book called On the Road, and another one called Travels With Charley. And these books made me want to – to do this, I guess. Drop everything, go out my front door, pick a direction, and start traveling. Be a hoe-bow, for a while.

“You fellows looked like you were doing just exactly that. And having a good time about it, too. So how about it? Can I walk with you?”

We looked at each other, at our weak bodies, fast fatigued and recovering but slowly – walking this far, without any burden, had worn us to the bone. We looked at this man, who had walked nigh as far, in less time, and carrying a third of his weight again on his back. We looked at the food he had so kindly and openly shared. Perhaps (though I doubt it) I was the only one who had seen into the rucksack, which he had left gaping wide open, and seen no weapons; perhaps I was the only one (though I doubt this, as well) who thought that a priest, even an unfrocked one, would be helpful in gaining the trust of others we might come across, yet would himself stand no threat to we three.

I had but one question. “Why do you seek to leave your home? You have not even asked where we go, nor how long we will be traveling.”

Brother Bob sighed and thought over his answer for a moment. Then he took a sip of water, held in a tin cup dipped in the stream (and more delicious than fine wine, that water was), and spoke. “Each and every morning, the sun rises up and shines down on the Earth, on the plants, on the animals, on men. And it is beautiful, the way life comes to everything in that light, in that warmth. Everything just seems to sparkle, to sing and dance and shout for joy, even.

“But when you’ve been in the same place for twenty years, when you’ve seen the same plants and the same animals, the same streets and the same buildings and the same people, each and every morning for two decades, then the sparkle doesn’t seem so bright. It starts to seem tired. It starts to look drab, as though there’s a coating of dust on it. And when that happens, the only thing you can do is get up and get moving: the wind of the road will blow that dust right off, and bring that shine back. I love my home – but sometimes you have to pull up your roots and move around some, see the world and the wonders in it. See something new. You know?”

I nodded then. I was startled to hear him echo my thoughts from the morning, and to hear that he felt some of the same melancholy – but for reasons entirely opposite, and with the opposite solution, therefore. I tried to understand why a man would want to leave his home. I looked around me, and I think I saw some of what he saw, some of the world he spoke of, in words so close to my own, but with meaning entirely different. I felt weight lifting from my shoulders. Perhaps it will be back, but for now – it may be that scales have fallen from my eyes. Priest, indeed.

“Welcome aboard, mate,” said I.

Now we are four.

Advertisements
Categories: Book II, Captain's Log | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Log #53: Saved

Captain’s Log

Date: August 31, 2011

Location: Same

Conditions: Well we’re not bloody poor any longer!

Aye, one problem solved, tho none o’ the others. We ha’ dollars in the treasury once more, as many as we had aforenow.

The word came down the pier, earlier today, might be four bell o’ the forenoon. There were some shifty men, they called ’em. Greasy, says I, dark and oily as Spaniards, and about as trustable, too. They say they be collectin’ for charity, like, raising funds for the relievement of those suffering from the storm. And when first I heard tell o’ this, by Lucifer I thought such to be an honorablous task, the sort o’ thing what came from fellowship as we ha’ found on this pier after this storm, with our Moorish mates and Cap’n Joaquin o’ the Belo Oceano, and the Chinamen and the Dutch and three boats of Americans, aye, we be a whole world o’ tars, ev’ry color and stripe here on Pier 83. I heard about these charitable lads and I did think, Good on ’em, tryin’ for some clink for those what do need it most. Tho I knew they wouldn’t be finding much to weigh ’em down in these parts, still, one must try. I thought o’ passin’ the hat amongst the boys, who still ha’ heavy pockets even if the ship’s treasury held naught but dust, for we shared out amongst ’em, on the way out to Erin, afore we met the Devil’s Lash. Nay, a mere three weeks gone? Slit my gizzard if it don’t seem like years and years since then!

But then I did hear a differing tale. It seems that these fine, generous souls, they were not quite asking for their donations, at least not after the first request. Turn them down and they became rather less amiable. I had this from Chester, a likely lad what lives with his mum and da and the whole bucket-full o’ family, down on a trim sloop named the Emperor Grable, such being the family name, struth. Chester and his da, a fine, clear-eyed squire name o’ Everett, ha’ been on their boat and watching the rendezvous occurring one ship to the north, on the Volare, a tiny pinnace of a craft that holds a gray-haired man and his apple-cheeked lady wife, Abraham and Stella Rosenblum, who sail ev’ry year between New York and Florida. Chester came and reported to me that his da bethought himself as the Rosenblums might need some assistance, mayhap o’ the strong-arm type, by gad. So I rousted up MacTeigue and Sweeney and Salty O’Neill, saw that MacTeigue and Salty were belted wi’ iron, and then we went to visit our friends downpier.

Once we gathered Bosun Kelly into our number, o’ course. Ha! Did ye think as how I’d not be bringing that great battle-ox to a hurly-burly? Perish the thought!

We did saunter down and saw, when Chester pointed, what might seem to be a mere friendly-like visiting: two lads, one near Kelly’s size but more in the gut and the arse than the shoulders and chest as with our boy, conversating with Squire Rosenblum. Lady Rosenblum came up from below, then, and handed some dollar-papers to the pair, and if I had not already seen that her man stood fearful, cringing away from the glowering bullyboys, the terror stark on that sweet old face would ha’ shown me that aye, we were needed. Squire Everett hopped off the E.G., and quickstepped to meet us. He pointed out a boxy white wagon-beast twenty paces westwards, where a third man sat, at his ease, with one arm out the porthole. Then he pointed, and I did see where a little trinket, that was the statue of a wee dog and a particular favorite o’ Lady Rosenblum, was now but shards smashed on the pier by the Volare’s rail. And I saw Squire Abraham draw his lady in close to his shoulder, and shield her from the two men.

I did point, and Salty and Sweeney peeled off and turned to the white wagon-beast and its passenger. I took Kelly and MacTeigue and went to have an amiable meet wi’ the Rosenblums’ unwanted guests.

“Hail, fellows, and well met we be!” I cried out, smiling for all I was worth as they slouched up the pier, the big lad tucking the Rosenblums’ dollars into his pockets, t’other looking to the Emperor Grable, where Everett had retreated wi’ Chester by his side and watching this unfold with wide eyes. “Be ye friends of the good ship Volare? Then ye be mates of ours, as well, by Saint Patrick!”

The smaller one, possessed of a selkie’s oily hair and a ferret’s cold black eyes, looked we three o’er, calculating. Then he did smile, and I saw his teeth were dirty. “Good afternoon, sir!” he spake twixt those stained ivories. “We’re from Save Our City, a local Brooklyn non-profit, and we’re asking for donations to help those affected most by this tragic hurricane. Could I bother you for a tax-deductible donation? Anything you can offer would be welcome. We accept cache!”

I but parted my lips, drawing breath to ask, “And who will be donating the cost of Lady Rosenblum’s broken pretty?” (Which question had, methought, a ready answer), when the donnybrook began and, near as quickly, ended. Salty and Sweeney, I should ha’ known, were not the two most subtle o’ lads; nor patient, neither. They reached the wagon, saw what was in the cargo hold (there were windows in the hatches on the back of the wagon), and simply grabbed the man inside and drew him out through the open window. Sweeney knocked the man’s pate against the wagon, and down he went.

When our two charitable fellows saw this come to pass, the larger one drew out a shooter and turned to aim it at MacTeigue and Kelly and me. But both MacTeigue and Kelly moved the quicker: MacTeigue had already laid hand on his pistola, and he cracked off a pair, aiming low, hitting the fat bugger in one o’ his pins. At same time, Kelly had swung his great bear’s arms up high, and wi’ a for’ard lunge, he brought ’em down, knocking the pistola from the fellow’s hand and crashing down on his crown, too. Just like that, the misbegotten scalawag fell flat, a-moanin’ and a-bleedin’.

The little one was quick, I’ll grant it. He had his knife out and slashing at me in half a wink, e’en afore his mate did pull the pistola, or dropped it. He caught me acrost the arm, just above my right hand, and drew first blood.

I did become angry, then.

‘Tis somewhat of a blur. There were blows struck, wi’ fist and foot and e’en me head, which, bein’ Irish and Scotch both, be harder than stone. I took another cut on my leg, and a graze on my jaw which might ha’ been a fist. But aye, the greasy wee ferret did take the greater part o’ the injuries done that day, what wi’ both eyes blacked shut and his nose gone awry and several grey teeth handily removed from his jawbone. I’m sure he would ha’ thanked me for the timely dentistry, but alas, he were unconscious at the time.

We emptied their pockets, stripped all three starkers, and then hung them by their thumbs wi’ ropes and lowered ’em into the waters. They woke up right quick when the salt hit their hurts. I confess we might ha’ added a cut or two wi’ the ferret’s blade, just on the lower half, one or two on the soles o’ the feet, like.

“Bring us up!” they did shout as we tied off the ropes, wi’ them three neck-deep in the salt, arms outstretched o’er their heads, and the water holding them up so their thumbs were not torn free, tho no thanks to us for such kindnesses.

“The blood brings sharks,” said we, and left ’em there.

In the back o’ that wagon? ‘Twas hundreds o’ dollar-papers, by Judas, all thrown about, alongside a bag o’ swag, some jewelry and some o’ those things what Chester tells me be called cell-fones, and don’t they seem t’ be mighty precious to these people, aye. And three more shooters, two pistolas and a sort o’ blunderbuss, the which was what Salty and Sweeney saw what brought the whole thing to fisticuffs so quicklike.

We gave back the Rosenblums’ money, and some more for the poor lady’s dog. And one o’ the pistolas for the gentleman, for sure and there be pirates in these waters. Ha. The swag we gave to Everett and Chester, to keep or dispose of as they will, as thanks for the weather eye and the timely warning. Everett and Chester and the rest came back t’ the Grace with us for some grog, and the three rogues got loose and swam away. Bad cess to ’em, robbing old gaffers and gammers like that.

And now we do be men of means. Wi’ our own wagon-beast, tho we know not the workings of it. Methinks we’ll give it away, if one o’ our new piermates cannot show us how to make it move.

Now we only need the Captain.

Setpembr 5

Wee fown him. Hee wuz at a in cald Johnny Green’s Bar And Grill. Hee iz drunk. Mor drunk than Iv ever seen. The inkeepr wantid munee but Macmanis showd him the pistola and wee took the Captin and went owt.

Hee iz durtee. Hee smelz oful. Thair iz drie blood on hiz fais. And hee iz so sad. I held him. I wantid to kis him but hee has pyook on hiz fais and blood and durt. Macmanis fown munee in Captins pokit and went to get a room so Captin and mee wuz alon. I wispir I lov yoo but hee wuz usleep.

I tor wut I rote owt of the log. Hee wont no. Hee wont lov mee bak. Hee lovs that hor Meredith.

Thank yu for maiking him saif God.

Log 7 September

Ye gods: my head. Goibniu and Hephaestus pound away at anvils, smithing great towers and walls and kingdoms of clanging, ringing iron in between my ears. ‘Tis a wonder my brains have not rattled into pudding and oozed out of my nostrils. Aye: perhaps they have: Athena knows I have been fool enough, this past – Christ’s balls, five days since I was on the train?

I was attacked. Set upon by ruffians, who took me entirely by surprise, beat me senseless, and stole from me nigh every dollar-paper – only a hundred or so left to me, crammed down into my smallclothes in the struggle, from where the monies had been tucked in my belt behind my shirt. If I recall correctly – and I may not, as they shook my brains for me, and then I pickled them well thereafter – ’twas the two men who watched us scale the chain-wall with Meredith in Charleston. They must have seen me take the money, and Lynch and MacManus take the pistolas, leaving me wealthy and vulnerable, the perfect target for highwaymen. I surmise they followed us onto the train, and then followed us off it; then when I made my way alone to the toilet, as they call them here (or else they say “bathroom,” which mystifies me as there is generally no bath at all, merely the chamberpots and basins for washing, far too small for proper bathing), they saw their chance and took it. I recall splashing water on my face, looking up into the mirror above the basin, seeing motion behind me – and then nothing. The gash on my brow tells me I was impelled into the wall or down on the white-stone basin, and then struck several times more, according to the lumps and discolorations of my brow and jaw. Though some of my bruises and lacerations may have come since then: because I apparently left the train-station under my own power, though without conscious thought, as I did not think to return to my companions for aid, and went straight to a tavern, where I proceeded to begin a sousing that lasted for three full days. Judging from my clothing, I slept in alleyways and puddles. I recall purchasing bottles of spirits and then staggering outside to drain them, though I know not how oft I did so. I recall being thrown bodily out of more than one establishment.

I believe I remember waylaying a man myself, when my dollars ran out before my thirst did.

And then I had a dream. A vision. I saw myself as I lay in the gutter, covered in filth and with only more corruption and foulness inside me, to match my outside appearance, and then I saw, standing over me, my mother. I was shamed to my bones, to have her see me thus, and I wept bitterly.

But she held me, and forgave me. She kissed my head, and told me that she loved me. I swear that I felt that kiss; I can feel it still, pressed to my brow like a true blessing.

And so I woke: cleaned, in a bed, with my men – my dear friends – nearby. They had found me, and succoured me, and brought me back to myself.

I know the truth of my vision. My mother waits for me. She will put her arms about me, and kiss me, once more in this world and in this life. That is all that is of any import. I must go to her. I must go to the one – the only one – who truly and unreservedly loves me.

I will reach my ship, and I will return to my home, and my proper age. This I do swear.

Though I know not how.

Categories: Book II, Captain's Log, Not-The-Captain's Log | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Log #52: Beloved Diary

September 4

Dear Diary,

Hooray! Nana’s home! She’s upstairs right now, asleep in her own bed. I’m going to stick around for a few more days to make doublesure she’s doing all right. I know it was only pneumonia, and Nana’s “healthy as a horse and tough as a sun-dried mule,” as she says, but she’s also no spring chicken. And she was sick for a long time.

I still can’t believe that fucking hospital gave her pneumonia. Well, gave her the infection in her lungs that turned into pneumonia later, after her biopsy (Thank God THAT was all clean and clear!). I keep telling her she should sue, but she won’t. They gave her free care and the private room for as long as she needed it, and too goddamn right they did, but those people will just keep cutting corners and taking stupid chances until someone dies. All those ridiculous people saying that we have the greatest health care system in the world, and Obamacare will make it terrible because it will be socialist – yeah, tell that to all the people who leave the doctor sicker than when they went! I tell you the Lord’s honest truth, little Diary, if they had killed my Nana? I would have come down on that hospital like Rambo.

Fuck. Now I’m crying.

All right, better. Mmm, that’s goooood whiskey! Anyway, Nana’s all right and she’s not dying and she’s never going to die, not if I have anything to say about it. I think after God took both of my parents when I was only 16, he owes me the longest-lived Nana there ever was. You hear me, God? Keep my Nana safe. You owe me.

I told Nana all about Mr. Mortimer Snodgrass of Butthole, Indiana, he whom she knows as Damnation Kane. I told her everything that happened: he and his two friends staying here, on the run from the police and the hospital, how he got a phone call at a payphone from some mysterious person, which is exactly what drug dealers do, and I surely mentioned that to her. But she just gave me the Nana-look, the same one I used to get when I tried to explain to her how my friends had kidnapped me and kept me out past my curfew even when I insisted to them that I must be home on time because I was a good and dutiful young woman of grace and character and a solid Christian upbringing.

Well, it is what drug dealers do. Okay, fine, drug dealers don’t usually bury wooden boxes full of cash – but shit, he surely isn’t a pirate!

Yes, I told her about the money box, and I told her about how he claimed he had never even heard of an airplane, and how he couldn’t drive and how he always looked terrified when I drove. (Nana said that was because I drive like a homicidal maniac. Ha ha, very funny, Nana. Oh, don’t forget to pay that speeding ticket.) And the look on his face when he saw the train! I told her I did not believe he was even injured, because the three of them didn’t have any trouble doing chores, or hopping the fence at the train station. (Though I did NOT tell Nana about that, how I bought them tickets but forgot you need to show ID at the station when you board, and then helped them sneak on the train anyway. God, I hope they weren’t terrorists! No, couldn’t be. Never mind. Just paranoid and thinking the worst.) I told her that I suspect he has a partner in that hospital (I decided he surely had a partner there, since that’s where he picked out his next mark for his con games, but it had to be someone low down on the totem pole, or else they would have known that Nana isn’t rich, she got a free private room because she had dirt on the hospital and she’s friends with the mother of the nastiest lawyer in Charleston, the one with his face on the side of buses and the 1-800 number. I bet his partner was that dipshit Nana had helping her out, the one who spent every waking second texting his stoner buddies) and that he was a conman after her money and that was all there was to Mr. Damnation Kane.

She was sitting in her chair, looking at the checkers board he bought for her (with the buried pirate drug money!) and smiling as she ran her fingers over the carved pieces. It is a beautiful set, I’ll give him that: Mr. Mortimer Snodgrass has excellent taste. And when I finished telling her everything about him, she looked up at me and said, “He certainly is handsome, isn’t he?” Then as I was spluttering that that wasn’t at ALL the point, that truly noxious things can come in very pretty packages, she just stood up, patted me on the cheek, and touched my cameo. Then she smiled and said she was going to bed. I don’t think I’ve blushed like that in five years. But just because he’s a liar and a conman is no reason not to wear the necklace, is it? It’s not like wearing it means I trust him, I certainly do not! It just so happens that it’s a beautiful piece that happens to look quite fetching on me. Where it came from is irrelevant.

Nana stopped just at the doorway and turned to look at me. “I do not know Mr. Kane’s story. Neither do you, girl. The man certainly has secrets, and that means that any lady, young or old, should be cautious with her heart where he is concerned. But whatever else he may be, Damnation Kane is a true gentleman, as true as any I have ever met. And you know that as well as I do.” And then she turned and left and went to bed.

Fuck and doublefuck. She’s right. Of course she is: she’s my Nana. She’s always right. Just ask her.

Captain’s Log

Date: August 27, 2011

Location: New York City

Conditions: Recovering

We be docked at a pier in a place called Brooklyn, in a city called New York. But I ha’ been in York, and by God and Christ and all the saints, this place be nothing like its namesake. As far as the eye can see, there be buildings, towers and forts and I ha’ not the tiniest shred of an idea o’ what they all be, but there be a mighty plenitude of ’em, aye, scupper me and sink me else. There be plenty ships in this harbor, too, and the Grace be near the smallest of the lot.

Aye, the Grace. She ha’ lost her foremast, as I did say, and the rudder be damaged below, we think, since her steering be as sloppy as me old gaffer a-comin’ home from the Fox’s Whiskers, God’s blessing on the auld fellow wheresoe’er he be. After we up anchor and staggered into dock, one last great wave came and crashed us into the pilings, and we ha’ sprung at least a hand of leaks, three of them quick ones.

But then, for a wonder, the boys in the ship hard alongside us, boys we’d never met, and they be as dark as Turks, and speaking some kind of heathen Moorish tongue, as well: they saw our plight, and tossed us down a grand tarpaulin, blue as a robin’s egg and slick as sausage grease, wi’ grommets in the corners. I gave a line to Lark Finlay, who can swim like a selkie, and he dove in and brought it under the ship and to t’other side, where he came up a rope ladder we lowered him. Then we brought the blue tarpaulin under the ship, brought it up and tied it fast. And by Neptune’s barnacled arse, the bloody leaks stopped dead! Well, we raised three cheers to our new Turkomen mates, and shared a keg o’ rum with ’em as well, by Lucifer.

We ha’ spent the last day and night trying to keep our ship afloat, and we joined the Turkomen, for one of them had good English, fellow named Mahmoud, in moving up and down the pier, calling on all the ships what had docked there, to see if they were in any need. Vaughn has been sewin’ and bandagin’ like a madman, for few o’ these people has any doctoring. Tho he be sending the real hurts off to the hospitallers.

I asked him about that. Seems like I ha’ seen ship’s surgeons take on the bad cases, the broken bones and the bullet holes, the men ripped up by fire and flying splinters after a sea battle. Why, I asked him, ha’ ye been passing by the ones what be needing your help the most? I didn’t ask, but was thinking: why did ye throw our Captain over to that poxy wart of a hospital, when we could ha’ kept him aboard, if Vaughn ha’ done his job proper-like.

Aye, and he told me, right enough. He asked me how many men I ha’ seen still talking and walking after a sawbones got into ’em, with the leeches and the knives and the clamps, and how many men I ha’ seen be wrapped in a sail and dropped o’erboard after. Aye. He be right. If that bloody place can keep the Captain alive, and Lynch and me mate Shane, as well, then good and proper, I name them.

But if they ha’ died, by the Morrigan’s claws, I’ll come down on that hospital like the plagues of Egypt.

But aye: ‘tween Vaughn’s skills and the boys’ hard work, both given freely to those in need, we are become well-loved. Much of our time here has been spent ashore, in truth, where the storm has thrown down all that was built up, and torn up all that was held down. Aye, very well-loved. O’ course, the rum and grog, of which we had a plenty, and which we ha’ shared out as freely as our backs and hands, has had somewhat to do with our newfound friendships, aye. But no matter: every crew o’ the Brotherhood shares a bond built with casks o’ rum. That or else the lash. God’s truth.

Captain’s Log

Date: August 29th, 2011

Location: Brooklyn Harbor

Conditions: As before.

Our friendships ha’ brought rewards, aye, burn me else. The Harbormaster came about looking after papers, documents, the De’il knows what-all. Such as we don’t ha’ none of, sure.

But our mates, they stood for us. The Captain from two ships down, what sails a merchant ship o’ sorts name Belo Oceano, came o’er and tore up the Harborman right well indeed. “Ask those men, those good men, for papers? They be heroes! They be savin’ lives and property! What the hell ha’ you been doin’ since that bitch Irene blew through, sittin’ on your own dick?” Aye, we had a good roarin’ laugh o’er that one, later. He’s a good man, he is. Portugee. Name o’ Verrasow or some such. Joaquin be his Christian name, and he insists we use such. Cap’n Joaquin ha’ told the harborman that if we were smugglers, we’d not sail on an old wood ship wi’ masts and canvas, an’ if we be boat people, he called it, tho I know not what he meant, then we’d not still be aboard but would ha’ skarkered off to the city streets in the madness after the storm. I sent Vaughn in to ease the tension, for Cap’n Joaquin was right scarlet wi’ rage, spittin’ and fumin’ like Stromboli fit to burst, and Vaughn told the man as we were a pleasure craft a-cruising to Bermuda from Ireland, what got caught in the storm and blown westward to shore. He said as soon as we was repaired proper, we’d be off again, and none the worse for it.

And then we bribed the rotten bastard. Took up what was left of our treasury, may God blight his bones with pox and pus.

We still need a mast, and ha’ no thought how to find one. The leaks be sealed but not repaired, as we ha’ no place to careen and patch, and no way to leave here without a working rudder. We can ha’ the Grace lifted out into dry dock: they ha’ mechanicals what can take ten times her tonnage, and berths that’ll hold twenty times her length and beam. But such costs plenty o’ clink, and we be near out. We ha’ gratitude and friendship from the ships on our flanks, but they ha’ nae money too.

We need Nate. But he’s not here, and we cannot call him. The telephones be out, Vaughn says.

I don’t know what to do.

Setpembr 4

Wee havint fown the Captin yet. We surch the streets. We fown the jail an askt but no Captin. Wee surch al the beest waginz. Al the shops.

Its warm and wee sleep in aleez. Mee an Macmanis. Hiz leg hurts. My syde hurts. Wen Macmanis sleeps I reed this log.

Hee lovs hur. Hee sez so. Alot. Goddam tal skinee red hed bitch showing hur tits al the tyme. Wy do they al look at tits? Jus big bumps. Lyke cows. Jus maik milk an if they dont then no good at all jus flop arown. So wat?

Hee lovs hur.

I lov him. All hee sez abowt hur I think abowt him. I lov him. Wen I look at him my hart powns so hard it hurts but it feelz good. Heez so beauteous, lyke hee calz hur. Tal an strong an so braiv an so smart. Hee saivd my lyfe agin an agin. I want to kis him. Lyke hee kist hur. I want him to giv mee a pritty neklus. I want him to look at mee lyke hee looks at hur.

Hee wont. I no.

I jus want him to bee saif and sown.

Categories: Book II, Not-The-Captain's Log | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Log 51: Dear Diary

September 3, 2011

Dear Diary,

Wow – can’t be that dear, can you? I haven’t written in you in years, not since – hold on.

God. Not since Mom and Dad.

Well that was unexpectedly painful. Looking back, seeing what I wrote about them right after their funeral felt like I swallowed a great big ball of ice and it burned all the way down. Still hurts. Hurts to swallow and my stomach hurts. I wish you could be here, Daddy, to hug me. Mom, you too, even though you weren’t the hugging type. But that was me, too. I was always Daddy’s Little Girl. Even became a pilot, Dad, just like you. Even after it killed you and Mom. People never understood about that. Especially not Nana. “How can you get in one of those contraptions after all it took from you? Do you want to end up the same way?”

Yes, actually, Nana, I would love to end up the same way. They were so happy. They were so in love, so totally enchanted by each other that sometimes they even forgot about me, sort of, but that was OK because I had Nana, and she always paid attention to me.

Haha, sometimes she paid too much attention. Remember that time when she heard through her winevine (She always called it that. “Because the grapes have aged, girl. But they matured into a fine and potent vintage, yes indeed.”) about me running around with Carey Broussard, and how we used to ditch school and go parking in his car behind the Episcopal Church, and Nana was so outraged she marched down there looking for us, and she found us, alright, buck naked and humping like, well, like horny teenagers in the backseat of a Lincoln Towncar. My stars, I believe I’m actually getting a bit misty remembering that car. It was very comfortable, indeed. Carey not so much, though that is no criticism: I’d rather a man be – let’s say, exciting than relaxing. And it was certainly not relaxing when my Nana came right up to the window and yelled, “Meredith Rose Vance, you get off that boy this instant! How dare you, girl? In the very shadow of the Lord’s House? Even if those Episcopals are heathens and heretics, they are Christians and do not deserve to have their property turned into a place of sin! And on a school day!” Haha, I don’t know what upset her most, that I was ditching school, that I was having sex near a church, or that it was an “addlepated lump” like Carey Broussard, if I recall correctly how she referred to that young man. Well, she was right about Carey. Of course, Nana was right about everything: just ask her. Carey was a dim bulb, yes indeed. But so cute! That jet black hair, and those blue eyes, and that little half-smile, mmmm oh yes. And he was always happy to let me be on top. In the pilot’s position, as we say. We pilots always love to be on top. In command. You understand, I’m sure.

Speaking of cute boys . . . That’s why I started writing in you in the first place, Diary Dear. Because I’ve been living with a man. A very handsome man. Under my Nana’s own roof! My stars and garters, the scandal, Miss Scarlett! Haha. Well, to tell the truth and shame the devil, I’ve been living with three men. Three outlaws. Irish outlaws, for a fact. But only one of them was cute. One was a little too rough-looking – so many scars! And the other was just a teenager, 14 or small for 15. But oh, Diary, that one!

All right. Enough. It’s been fun pretending to be a giggly schoolgirl, but I’m not. And yes, he was cute, lean muscles and strong hands, black hair and bright green eyes, but he was not all that he seemed. I do not believe him. I do not believe he and his friends are Irish. I do not believe his name is actually Damnation Kane. Damnation! Who names a child that in this day and age? Or any day and age, for that matter? I do not believe that his manners were actually that fine, like an Old World nobleman, like a Southern gentleman is supposed to be and none are, in my personal experience, not a one.

Though he never did try anything while he was here that would have forced me to deck him. Not even when I flirted shamelessly in my yoga clothes. And he did give me the loveliest gift I believe I have ever received. And the loveliest kiss, too. Oh, yes.

But here’s what I believe about Mr. Damnation Kane. I believe he is a con artist. I believe he put on a fine manner to get into my Nana’s good graces. I believe he has read romance novels. Probably quite a number, actually, for he did seem intelligent and literate, I will say. It was his writing in his own logbook, he called it, which inspired me to dig this old diary out again.

Stop it, Meredith! He is a con artist, and a LIAR. There. That’s better. As I was saying, he read romance novels and found that modern women swoon over the Old World type, most especially with an accent. Yes indeed, my God, that accent! No. Stop it! Be strong. He said he never heard of an airplane. Never heard of an airplane! Didn’t recognize the word!

No. It was a lie. Everything he said. I will bet that his name is actually Mortimer Snodgrass, that he hails from the slums outside of Pittsburgh, and that he steals money from lonely old ladies, using a fake Irish accent when he learns the lady has an Irish name, and a private hospital room, which tells him she has money to steal. And he’s had plastic surgery. Extensive plastic surgery, like butt implants. And he wears a toupee. And has a tiny little uncircumcised dick.

He’s just a con artist, that’s all. And he used Nana and me to get out of paying his hospital bill, and then once he was on the street, he went and made some connection with his dealer, at that payphone. Digging up $5000 in cash, indeed! And a pistol, too! And then I bought him and his two friends a free train ticket to New York! God, Meredith! How did your Nana raise such a fool?

Well, fool me once, shame on you, Mr. Mortimer Snodgrass of Butthole, Indiana (I have decided that he is actually from Indiana. From a small, ugly town called Butthole. Where he was raised by possums and one-eyed alley cats.) Fool me twice, and I will break you in half. And I guarantee you will never come near my Nana again. Good riddance to him. Bad rubbish.

He said it looked like me. It does. He said he would love me forever. And he kissed me like he meant it.

Fuck.

***

Captain’s Log

Date: August 12, 2011

Location: Charleston Harbor

Conditions: Christ’s blood and bones, I don’now. Bad. Could be worse yet, aye.

Captain Kane be off of the ship now, so I do think this falls to me. Ship’s Surgeon insisted three of ours be left with the medics of the here-and-now, else they’ll not live, says he. So my dear friend and Captain, along with two other of our finest boys, ha’ been handed o’er to whosoe’er Surgeon Vaughn finds who’ll take o’er the keeping of them. I don’now. It feels right bloody awful, and no lie, that. I be ‘gainst leaving men behind in any cause, and the Captain? We sail his ship without himself on board? Bloody close to mutiny, and we seen enough of that, aye, and twicet enough.

But we cannt stay. The cursed Devil’s Lash Hobbes may follow, and we must draw him away from our fallen mates. Vaughn and I and MacTeigue spoke on it: Hobbes did not fire on us, even with the greater weight of cannon. His men tore up the deck, but we were all below, as he had to see; sure and they meant to stop our sailing and board us. So he does not want us all dead, nor this ship sunk. He wants the ship, or he wants her crew alive and captive, or he wants both. And what greater prize than the Captain his own self? We cann’t stand guard, not against those damned thunder-guns.

And so like a bloody mother bird we must limp away from the nest where our helpless bairns lie, trusting that the bloody serpent will not find them despite the ruse. Praying too that we can escape our own selfs, at the last moment.

I ha’ managed to sniff out somewhat as will help us in our limping. While Vaughn and Kelly and four of the boys took the Captain and Lynch and MacManus away to the sawbones, MacTeigue manned the Grace at anchor in the harbor, and Salty O’Neill and I did cast off into the city to seek supplies. A simple question to the nearest native who did not look o’er-doltish, and we were directed to a Rite-Aid. We walked the aisles, Salty and me, o’ercome by all the whatnots and hugger-mugger, until a man asked if we be needing help finding anything. Aye, sure enough, did we. I mere showed the man the clink I carried, tho it be o’ the folding kind, not the clinking kind, in truth, some 500 of the dollars they use here-and-now, and said I had friends wi’ small hurts, cuts and sores and burns and the like. We put ourselves in his hands, and he did lade us heavy, aye. We thanked him, paid him, returned to the ship and tossed it all into Vaughn’s cabin to sort out on his return. Then we went, in cover o’ night, to a spot nearby where we buried somewhat against the Captain’s need when he recovers.

Now we do wait. When Vaughn returns, we’ll set our course (I think to the north, as the south holds enemies and the east the same) and then sail, ready for whate’er may come.

Pray it be nothing at all.

Ian O’Gallows, Mate of the Grace of Ireland

Captain’s Log

Date: August 13, 2011

Location: North of Charleston, in a wooded cove.

Conditions: Nae so fine as a king, nor so poor as a corpse.

We ha’ laid up, near forty miles north of Charleston, where we left the Captain, by a part of the coast that be unpeopled, to our eyes and ears. Here we stay while the men recover to Vaughn’s satisfaction. MacTeigue took Rearden and Doyle ashore to hunt, came back with half a brace of fowl and a wee hog, so we feasted well.

***

We will stay for two days, no more. I do feel a prickle at the back o’ my neck, as if someone watches and stalks closer with every hour. ‘Tis maddening.

Captain’s Log

Date: August 17, 2011

Location: 300 miles north, fifty east of last position, near enough.

Conditions: Weather glorious, men healed, sails fixed. All is well, but for the men we left behind.

Aye, life be fine and good. I struck a bargain with Vaughn, who wanted to lay up until the men were full healed and the ship repaired. We took damage to sails, rails and rigging from the thunder-guns. Nothing we could not fix aboard, but it all takes time, particular the splicing of new cordage. But I did not trust the Devil’s Lash to stay away from our backs. So we sail a night and a day, and rest a night and a day, and so hop north by degrees. Every time we lay up, and then again before we weigh anchor, Vaughn goes ashore and calls for the Captain as he arranged. So far, nothing.

The salves and bandages I ha’ from Rite-Aid be wonders: a hurt heals twicet as fast under ’em as without ’em. We be good as new. Surely they ha’ the same for Nate and the boys?

Any road, we be ready for the Captain’s return, at last. We ha’ finished repairs from the battle, at last, and the men be well enow to scrub the last of the blood from the deck. Nate’s blood clung harder than any other stain. Took two extra holystonings before the planks was clean. He bled more than the rest of us. And even his blood cleaves to his ship, aye, God’s truth.

Captain’s Log

Date: Devil take it, who knows?

Location: We’re in a harbor somewhere, and thanks to Christ for it.

Conditions: Neptune’s beard, we’re right well fucked.

Lord God Amighty, surely this storm was blown from Gabriel’s trumpet itself, to sound the Day of Judgment and bring all us sinners to the Heavenly Seat for our eternal rewards. Or else we already be judged, and this be our infernal home, now. Storm-wracked seas and a crippled ship to sail ’em.

Bloody tired. Wrung out. ‘Tis a day and a night of fighting, fighting the waves that try to turn us and roll us, thrash us and break us, and wash us o’er the side all the while. A day and a night of fighting a wind like I’ve only seen twicet, maybe three times, or four? Not very bloody oft afore now, and never one that’s lasted so cursed long! Skin my eyes, the spray reaches higher than the mast! The waves be walls of water, keeps, castles, whole bloody cities of sea-green and salt, tossed at us again and again and again!

The blasted wind near tore the mast off when the first blow fell. We were riding with it, meaning to stay ahead of it. Fools to think we could. I heard the mast creak, felt the deck shudder as the collar and bolts strained to hold on, but the wind was as fierce as God’s wrath. But the ship would not fly with it! And that be the trouble, aye. We lowered the sails, almost lost Sweeney o’erboard doing it, and lashed tight for a storm, all hands below but for a lookout for rocks before and the steersman and myself aft, and two men at the pumps at all times. We did finally lose the foremast. A wave struck us, taller than the sides of the ship, and did sweep across, and take the mast with it. Thanks be that the boys at the pumps were lashed to rings set in the deck. The mast were weakened by that first wind, and the canvas was heavy with rain and spray. One more blow was all it took.

But ‘pon my blackened soul, I ha’ seen this ship take blow after blow after blow, and ne’er the worse for it. We ha’ sailed through storms before, some black-hearted and fire-spitting beasts of the sky, and always, the Grace ha’ sailed true to her name, dancing atop the waves and flying with the wind. She did not sail so, for us. Mayhap this storm was the king – the emperor – of all such cattyclisms. More like, Nate be a finer commander than I, with a bloody fine sense for the true course to take to move through the storm and not ‘gainst it.

All I know is this. This ship sails better for Nate than it e’er will for another. Even one who sails her with his blessing. Which I hope I have.

We near wrecked a dozen times, rolled by waves or crashed on rocks. But we made safe. We came into a great sheltered bay, which blocked the worst of the waves from us. With naught but the blasted devil’s wind, we could steer better, though still the ship turned slow and sailed heavy in the water. She mopes. She pines for her Captain, says I. We can see nothing of the land, apart from dark shadows less than a mile off. ‘Tis night now, and the storm eases but still blows hard. We be at anchor, riding o’er the waves, small swells as in Irish seas and familiar. I ha’ recorded our plight. Now I must sleep. And if I ne’er wake, may Neptune choke on my bones!

Ian o’Gallows, mate, Grace of Ireland

Septembr 2 I think

Wee havint fown the Captin. Wee surcht al the train-hal. Wee crept unseen into the bak of the hal. Wee wur not alowd thair but wee went aneewai. Hee wazint thair.

I fown blood wen I fown the log. It wuz in the pissroom. Maihap hee wuz hurt. Is the blood hiz? Hee wuz so mad on the train lyke hee went mad lyke I dont no the wurd but troolee mad. Hee cood uv hit sumwun. Maid them bleed.

Hee woodint leev his log. Wood hee? Hee woodint leev us. Captin is loyul. Captin iz alwaiz loyul.

No. Hee woodint leev us. I wil prai wee fyned him.

MacManis askt sumwun. A man saw a tal man with blak hair cum owt uv the pissroom with blood on his fais and hee wuz stumbuling lyke hee wuz hurt. The man askt if hee wuz alryte and the bloodee man sed I, I bee fyne az a sumir breez. That sownz lyke Captin. The man sed the bloodee man went owtsyde. Wee ar leeving the train-hal. Macmanis thinks wee can fyned him kwiklee. Hee iz asking abowt the sittee owtsyde the train-hal and I am ceeping the log for Captin. I prai wee wil fyned him. I prai hee wil bee saif.

Categories: Book II, Not-The-Captain's Log | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Log 50: Madness

Log

September 2

I am glad that no other sees these pages, for the weakness described herein must unman me. I started this log with the intention of cataloging the tale of my adventures, but it has become something else. I know not if I will ever have the opportunity to tell my tale to another, for now the narration must show me for a madman; nonetheless, there is good in this log, for the keeping of it, the enscription of my thoughts, my passions, my woes and triumphs, the description of the vagaries and vicissitudes of this life – this world – this brief time upon the grand stage: it brings a respite to the feverish workings of my poor overtaxed brain. It is a balm to my injuries and a salve to my soul. But for every instance when I have poured my awe and wrath onto these pages – ink splashed everywhere like blood on the arena sands – every narration, when revisited, shows me for a lesser man. To read these words is to know, in meticulous detail, each and every time I have felt fear – weakness – befuddlement – aye, even cupidity. My glories, what there are of them, are drowned and sunk, swallowed up by a thousand failures.

Aye: is that not the lot of man? When counted, one to one to one, are there not always an hundred destructions for each single victory?

Perhaps. Perhaps this is but another example of the human condition. Perhaps it is merely that I must ever be thus; perhaps ’tis my fate. Perhaps it is simply that – I live up to my name.

Howbeit: none will ever see these pages but me. (And I must be sure to secure my larger log, the ship’s log, when I reach the Grace.) None will peruse the chronicle of my imperfection. Especially not those who would call me captain and believe me fit to lead them.

God forbid.

I feel a dark cloud hangs over me, dogs my steps and obstructs the light of hope. I do not know when it began to gather, when it became prodigious enough, heavy enough, to be noticed – but now it cannot be missed. Every breath I draw is dark and dank and leaden. Every sight I cast my eyes upon stands in shadow, black with omen. With doom. My heart feels stretched taut, like a thread of spider’s silk that thrums with the breeze and the falling rain; I cannot fill my lungs – ’tis as though a chain enwrapped me, holding me captive, constrained.

I am trammeled by despair. And I cannot break free.

Perhaps I am too long from my ship. Perhaps I am too long from my home, the land of my birth. Perhaps it is because the time is out of joint: the wheels slip, the hours seem to draw out, and then contract, and so one moment passes in but a breath, and the next moment lasts a lifetime. And always, I am unprepared: I wish the hour to draw out when it speeds, and I wish it to fly when it crawls. All that I do is wrong. All that I attempt fails, and in the failing, I do sink deeper and deeper. Perhaps it is not a dark cloud overhead: perhaps I sink into a sea of black hopelessness. Of slow, agonizing death.

Writing this is not helping. Where is my balm, now?

 

Later

‘Twas sleep that was needful, more than the recording of my sorrows. This last passage I wrote in the dark watches of the night, as I sat wakeful, unable to find my way to rest while I am riding in the belly of this steel dragon. I surmised ‘twould be simple enough; I have a double bench to myself; Lynch and MacManus sit across the aisle – both sleep, now. MacManus snores. The motion, the noise, the closeness and number of strangers – all of this is familiar to me, all circumstances I have known at sea, where I have slept two to a bunk belowdecks, surrounded by strange men, on a ship tossed by storm’s waves and winds.

But there is a strangeness here that I do not know. The motion of this – this enormous serpent that carries us forward, it is nothing like the rolling and rocking of a ship at sea; neither are the noises that rattle and clacket and drive into the ears. They are too cold, too harsh – metal scraping over metal, rather than the gentle, living creak of wood, the splashing of waves and the sighing of wind.

Nonetheless, I did manage a few hours rest. Now it is near dawn, and not so lonely nor cold, for the sunlight will be joining me soon – thank the gods these people put windows into the hide of this beast, to let in the rays of heaven and the comfort they ever bring.

 

Later

The people who surround me – ye gods! I cannot comprehend them. Their bizarreries, their grotesqueries, they stab my eyes, my mind. I cannot look at them, and yet even when I look away, I hear them, and in my mind I can see them still.

They are so fat. Yet I cannot stomach their food. They are surrounded by wonders, yet their eyes are dead. They stare at their magic windows, their magic mirrors, at their Verizon-stones – they look at nothing else. They seal themselves away from the good Earth that birthed them, raised them, fed them; they lock her out, their mother, with steel and glass and plass-tick. Even when they have windows, they do not look – Look! Just now, I glanced up the rows of benches, mainly filled with people now-waked. The light of a dawning sun brightens the sky to starboard, and would fill the train – but for the curtains which are drawn shut to block it out. I look out my window, and I am granted a view of sublime and surpassing beauty and majesty: we ride through a great forest, trees a hundred paces high, leading down a long and gentle slope to where a wide, tranquil river sparkles like gemstones in the sunlight. It is wondrous, and all it lacks is a breath of open air, so that the clean scent of this land could fill me, release the bands prisoning my heart. But the windows do not open, and the air on this demon-train smells old and stale and dead. Like the beast we ride in, which does not live. Like the people who surround me, who do not seem to wish to.

And despite this great beauty outside, when I look up through the benches (set on both sides of the train like slaves’ rowing benches in a Moorish galley) I do not see faced bathed in sunlight. I see corpses – animate corpses – gleaming pale in the blue witch-light of their gods-rotted magic windows. I see naught but blue-glowing rectangles, magic mirrors and Verizon-stones, cell-‘phones and – lap-tops, they are called, as I just inquired of the man in the bench behind me. He wears ivy strands with bulbs at the end in his ears, attached to his magic window; he had to remove these to answer my query as to the name of the thing he was hooked to. One after another, bench after bench – and when I turn and look behind me, ’tis the same: naught but cell-‘phones and lap-tops. Not one even glances outside. They will not open the shades to let in the world. They wish to be devoured, digested, dissolved by this cursed – poxy – rattling steel BEHEMOTH!

I must get out.

 

***

 

I am somewhat more at ease now. I have moved up from the bowels of the dragon to its throat – perhaps its mouth. The metaphor fails. There is not even as much life, as much genuine reflection of the glory of nature’s creation, in this whore-spawned, thrice-cursed train as would be in an infernal hell-beast from the deepest abysses of the Underworld.

I have left my galley-bench and the segment of train in which I rode, as doors allow passage between segments of the train, like bulkheads giving entrance to holds and cabins. I moved through three more chambers of grotesque dead-eyed gluttons blocking out the sun so they could stare at their magic windows; with each chamber, the air felt closer, less wholesome, and my lungs grew desperate, I panted like a hound, my heart racing, my whole body crying for freedom – for release – for air. I think these people exude some miasma, some effluvium that doth poison me.

And then, at the ragged edge of despair, I reached a place awash in bright sunlight. ‘Tis the observation car – where I sit now as I write this. the walls and roof are all windows – true windows, not magic, windows that reveal the free and magnificent world outside this train. The sight has soothed my ravaged nerves. Though still I long for fresh air, for one clean breath.

Anon – I can smell food. Perhaps there is somewhat to sustain and replenish me.

 

BLOODY FOUL FUCKING REEKING WORMS! Gods-damned pox-ridden pig-kissing goat-swiving whoresons, may crows take their useless eyes from their putrid, pustulent faces while DOGS tear out their white and empty livers, the craven, foul-hearted black-blooded mongrels!

Damn me. NO! Damn them. Damn them all. Where is my sword? I need my sword. Good steel in hand, bending to my will – instead of this cursed steel box that ensconces me, entraps me, that is driving me mad! I must get out. I will leave at the next port, at the next stop. I will get off. I will not – NOT – share a train with her.

***

 

We are off now. I spat on that devil-spawned beast as I left it – and then for many minutes, I simply breathed. Ah, gods, the air! At last, true air. Lynch, clever lad, thought to ask the liveried attendant aboard that accursed train where we were, and if another train would come by. We are in Alexandria, in Virginia, a name I recognize (and even that small familiarity makes this place seem more comfortable, more real). The man told Lynch (I was too maddened with rage and desperation to hear, though I stood hard by as they spoke – I think MacManus tried to calm me, to gentle me like a frightened horse or a thunderstruck mule, but I do not remember.) that we were near to a place called Washing-town, Lynch thought it was; the man added a French word, what Lynch thought was dici, though he has only a few words of that tongue (I know not this word, myself, but guess at the writing of it.). Regardless, the attendant told him that many trains passed through this place every day – it is one of the great cities of this land, this Washing-town.

The place we wait now is sufficient for me; a hundred or more people departed the train when we did. But, horror of horrors, at least twice that many got on! I cannot imagine. I know I would have lost my solitary bench in the jostling, and I am sure I would have lost my mind, trapped in steel, without air, and with so many of these stinking corpse-men pressing close about me. Why, I could not have survived it.

More likely, that harridan to whom I spoke in the observation car – she would not have survived it, for I would have strangled the hag and then stomped on her lifeless corpse until I ground her bones to powder.

I was seated before a window – a marvelous window, tall as I and wider than my two arms outstretched – and looking out on beauty. I had found the kitchens in the observation car, on the lower level, and though they did not have the whiskey I so sorely needed, they had the sweet golden juice – ’tis called orange juice, which may tickle my memory; do they have such fruit in Spain? – and a pastry that is achingly sweet, almost too much so. But I did enjoy the food, which was returning my strength to me, and my sanity with it, as long as I sat in bright sunshine.

Then I heard a cough from behind me. I did not wish to converse with these people, who had turned my stomach and addled my wits, so I ignored it. Then I felt a finger poke fiercely at my shoulder, and a girl’s voice – with a tone of speech through the nose which grated on my sore nerves – said “Excuse me!” most rudely. Lucky that she was a lass, or else the poke would have earned a wallop from me for such impudence. I turned, slowly and without word, and arched a brow. A young woman, perhaps fourteen or fifteen, stood – too close! – behind me. She might have been a pretty maid, had she clothed or carried herself in anything like a maidenly manner, but her clothing, where it was not diaphanous, was as tight and clinging as Meredith’s Yoga attire, the which, on a lass of tender age, was merely indecent. Too, she wore an excess of cosmetics and paints on her face, and her jewelry – gods! She wore metal rings and rods thrust through her lip, her nose, and her eyebrow as well as her ears. I have seen savages from the Orient with less strange embellishments.

As I stared in horrification, she pointed impertinently, her hand thrusting nearly under my nose. She thrust out her hip and stamped a foot pettishly. I turned – slowly, again; clearly the lass needed to learn patience – and looked, but saw nothing of import. She pointed toward the base of the window, but there was naught there to see – the trees directly outside were small and stunted and flew by too quickly for interest. I turned slowly back, my face studiously blank. ‘Twas difficult – she smelled. She wore a scent stronger than a midden full of rotten fruit, under which I could still detect, this close, the stench of unwashed flesh.

She rolled her eyes and stomped the other foot. “Could you move?” she quoth. “I need the out-let.” She held up a strange object, a black cord – it looked somewhat like the ivy strands from St. Vincent’s – that terminated in a squarish object, the width of two fingers or so, with two flat pieces of metal protruding. I looked at the object and then back at her, and said nothing.

She gave a harsh exhalation, apparently exasperated with me. “Oh my God, are you deaf or just a retard? I need to charge my ‘phone!” She held up a cell-‘phone.

My temper snapped. I stood quickly to my full height, and she stepped back. I pointed at the plaque in her hand. “You do not need that fey thing,” I said, though I think I growled more than is my wont. “You need that!” and I pointed without, at the sun, the sky, the trees beyond the window. “You damned people with your cell-‘phones! They are naught but a prison for your minds – what feeble wits you may have left to you.”

At first, the girl looked somewhat cowed by my height and my fury, but then as I spoke, she smiled, most sardonically. When I finished, though my anger kept me muttering under my breath all the while she spoke, she said, “All right, wavy-gravy, whatever – hater’s gun a-hate. Don’t blame me if you were like, raised in a cave, and I know how to live in the modern world – the real world.” She held up the black glass plaque, her cell-‘phone. “What did you call this? A cell? It’s an eye-phone, dumb-ass. And I bet I’ve seen more of the world with it than you’ll ever see staring out the window of a train.”

“Bah!” I spat, and stepped out into the aisle. “What does that show but illusion? ‘Tis not real – ’tis not the world, but a picture of it, cast by fey means to enchant your eyes and enfeeble your mind. The map is not the country, the image is not the thing itself. We are creatures of life – we belong in the world!”

She laughed, slouching back and crossing her arms. “Tell you what, loser: you go out, like, for a walk in the trees, and I’ll take an on line class, design a new killer ap, make millions, and then buy up the forest and turn it all into fucking chopsticks and like, coffee filters, O’Kay?” She shook her head and turned away from me, flicking her fingers in my face as though brushing away a fly. She stepped into the seat I had vacated, and thrust the metal protrusions into a matching slot in the wall, at the base of the window where she had pointed. Then she turned to face me again. “Do you even know what year it is? It’s 2011, and you can’t do anything without an eye-phone or a lap-top. Nothing worth doing, anyway. We belong in the world? The whole world is in here, dumb-ass – you don’t have a life unless you’re on line. Believe me, sweetie, if you’re not on line, if you’re not jacked in, then you’re just slowing the rest of us down. You’re just getting in the way.” She looked me up and down, shook her head and smirked. Then she sat and set her eye-phone before those same organs. I ceased to exist for her, being outside of her world.

I said nothing. I did nothing. If I had not turned and left the observation car that instant, I would have wrung her neck with my empty hands. All of the hatred I felt – I feel – for this time, this place, these people: it all focused in her wretched form. Even when I returned to my bench, I could not keep from my mind the thoughts – the happy thoughts, pleasant thoughts – of collecting my wheel-gun from Lynch and returning to blow a hole in her skull, to empty her head – though likely of naught but dust and rubbish – onto the window she refused to look through, to take her out of the world she so despises.

That is why we had to leave the train. My nerves are too frayed, my judgment gone, my prudence, my forethought – I have nothing left of will or restraint.

I must

 

 

I dont no wat haz hapind. Captin Cain is gon. This iz hiz log it sez so. He is gon. I fown this on the grown in the train-hal but he iz gon. Thair iz blood on the grown. Me and Macmanis ull go look for Captin.

Pleez God maik him saif.

– B. Lynch

Categories: Book II, Captain's Log, Not-The-Captain's Log | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

My Random Thoughts

There is More than One Way to Look at Life

Ramirez Reviews

Movie Reviews from a Film Student

Zezee with Books

...random as my thoughts go...

Branwen Reads

Fantasy book reviews

Lit Lens

Take a Look through our Lens

Thrice Read

A book blog by 3 best friends.

Pompous Porcupines

Predictably Pretentious yet Irresistibly Excellent

RiverMoose-Reads

Books, Reviews, Writing, & Rambling

Live, Laugh, Love With Gladz

All Things Beauty, Books And Anything In Between