Author Archives: Dusty

About Dusty

I would like to be a famous and influential writer. But I'll live with being a happy one. I've already got that pretty well down. I am married with no children (happily on both counts), I teach high school English by day and read and write and participate in various nerdy pursuits and pop cultural phenomena by night.

Log #60: Karma

“Tell me all of it,” I ordered my bosun.

The Englishmen had tramped aboard at a quick march; together with the dark men, they outnumbered my depleted crew, and outgunned them, as well. O’Gallows had seen the folly of fighting, and had instantly ordered surrender – “Though he bloody well choked on the words, Cap’n. Had to cough and spit t’ get ’em out with heft enow to be heard.” But say those words he had, and my men had obeyed. Hobbes and the Shadowman had bound the wrists of my crew and tied them to the rails.

Kelly grinned then, which split his injured mouth and sent fresh trickles of blood down his chin – a most gruesomely piratical grin, it was. “They tied us – but they did not search us proper. I had a knife in me boot, and so did half the others. Salty had a full marlinspike in his trousers, though I don’t know how they missed that. P’raps they thought ’twas his cock.” His eyes widened then, even as I managed a small smile, and he ducked his head to Mistress Rosenblum, who was dabbing at his cuts with a cloth dipped in something the color of old blood – “Iodine” was writ on the bottle, though I know not this physic. “Begging your pardon, Mistress,” he said, but she shook her head and patted his cheek gently. “You’re a sailor, young man. And I live on a boat.” She flashed a smile at her man. “With a sailor,” she said, and both of them grinned like mischievous children.

Kelly went on. “They had bound me beside MacTeigue, and he and I whispered together when the men guarding us walked away – ’twas the dark men, for the Englishers were making ready to sail. O’Gallows they kept on the poop deck with Hobbes and that thin bastard; that thin one wanted to know where you were, Cap’n, and when you’d be back. I weren’t close enow to hear all of it, but your name was shouted more than once.” He met my gaze then, though he had been lying back on the bench as he spoke. “Hobbes, he wanted you something fierce, true enough. He surely does.”

“Aye,” I said. “‘Tis mutual.”

“But while I could not hear all that they were sayin’, I did hear this: two of the dark men who kept the watch on us spoke on how much longer the business would last. I got the idea that they were hired hands, sir – pressed just for the taking of the ship. For one said, ‘We don’t be sailing on this ship, do we man?’ And t’other shook his head and said, “Nah, man, they be taking this to the Triangle. Make we no business there. The Houndman – he don’t need us, once the boat go. We stay here.’ T’other one laughed and said, ‘He no need us for this at all, man. Him a real bad mo-jo man. Him use us for that he no want no blood spilled, not in the clash and botheration and all.'”

When he spoke as the dark men, Kelly’s deep rumble of a voice and his thick Irish brogue vanished, his voice and accent becoming that of another man entire; I had heard him perform thus in the past, but the Rosenblums were startled. It is indeed remarkable to hear another’s voice coming from that mighty frame, but I have never known a better mimic than he. I stopped Kelly then, however, for I had questions to ask: “Houndman? Be that what they called their master, the thin one? And mo-jo man?” I leaned forward in my excitement and grabbed his wrist, but he winced at the touch and I drew back my hand. But not the query, which I pressed again.

But ’twas Master Rosenblum who spoke. “I don’t know about Houndman, but mo-jo is a word for magic, like witchcraft, or vudu. And if that was an island accent – didn’t it sound like the islands, Iris?” He turned to his lady, who nodded vigorously and murmured compliments for Kelly’s mimicry. Master Rosenblum went on. “If those men were from the islands, then the ‘Triangle’ is probably the Bermuda Triangle.

“They’re taking your ship to Bermuda.”

***

Kelly told the rest of his tale, but I confess I listened with but half an ear, having heard all that I wanted to know: their destination. Having heard this from the dark men, and knowing as he did the need to get this information to me, Kelly had resolved to find a way off the ship; but before he could cut his bonds and make his escape, the Grace had weighed anchor and left the dock. Kelly despaired, then, but soon another came to the rescue. That is, came to my rescue; for ’twas nearly the doom of poor Kelly. His staunch loyalty does him the greatest of honor. ‘Twas my true friend, Ian O’Gallows, who saw the way: being that the theft was accomplished and the Grace was under sail, Hobbes and the Houndman dismissed O’Gallows. My mate went to sound the men, whispering queries under the guise of checking for any hurts or malcontents; and finding them determined, he whispered his plan: one of them must feign death, so as to be thrown overboard. If they acted swiftly, the false corpse would be close enough to shore to swim it, and then return to Pier Eighty-Three and wait for my arrival. They could not simply slip one man over the rail, as the guards would see, and the thunder-guns tear him to pieces. O’Gallows had left them then, before the guards grew over-suspicious; the rest of the crew had consulted, and decided quickly that there was only one course to chart: since the dark men had stated that their shadowy master wanted no blood spilled, then any fighting would surely be done with fists, not with blades or bullets. So one of the Grace’s men would slip his bonds and attack, and be beaten to the appearance of death; the man would need to pretend it, but not too soon – not until he had suffered sufficient injury that could cause a man’s demise – so the guards would believe. Vaughn could attest to the man’s apparent death. This man would then be cast over the rail, and find himself buffeting the cold waves for perhaps a mile or more; this distance continuing to grow as they conferred in whispers snatched behind the backs of the dark men, as the Grace sailed farther and farther out to sea.

Kelly was the only choice. He was the largest, the strongest, and the most tar-headed of all the men; this folly would need to be his. O’Gallows had meandered over, heard the plan, agreed to carry word of his role to Vaughn on the poop deck, and then he ordered them to proceed. No sooner had the mate walked away than Kelly had cut his bonds, handed the blade to Salty so the fisticuffs would not escalate to blood-letting, and then leapt to the fray. The result, I saw before me – though in telling of it, Kelly smiled around bloody teeth and said, “Aye, Cap’n – but ye should see them other bastards.”

Having heard all that Kelly could tell, I thanked him, most sincerely, and ordered him to the hospital, accompanied by the Rosenblums and ferried by Brother Bob and the wagon and team. Lynch, MacManus and I were kindly given permission to remain aboard the Volare as we charted our future course. The last favor I asked of the already-generous Rosenblums was the answer to a single question: how best to hie to Bermuda in pursuit of my Grace?

Master Rosenblum pursed his lips and shook his head. “You’d have to fly. Or sail, though you’d need an ocean-ready boat. It’s an island, and a pretty good ways away – a thousand miles from here. Maybe two. Out into open ocean – and it’s hurricane season.”

Aye. I admit it. When they had gone, leaving me unattended and in command of their craft, I did consider taking it and setting sail. But in truth, the craft was too small to make a sea voyage of that distance – and though the Emperor Grable, two berths down-pier, was larger, it would be difficult for we three to sail it through heavy seas; the same was true for any craft large enough to brave rough weather. Too, doing this would require abandoning Kelly to be held ransom, and I had no doubt that Brother Bob would summon la policia were I to add to my list of crimes.

The which I very nearly did, and on his person, when the man returned from his errand; for this sanctimonious fool of an unfrocked priest had words for me. Nay: ’twas but one word.

“Karma,” quoth he, as Lynch and MacManus were aiding the Rosenblums down from the wagon and aboard the Volare. I had queried them as they arrived as to my bosun’s situation, and been told that he would be well, but was required to abide in the hospital until the morrow. I stayed for a moment, brooding on this – would we need to flee the attention of another Accountman? At this rate we might run through all of the hospitals in America! – when Brother Bob spoke. Distracted, I turned to him and made some interrogatory noise, thus releasing the flood.

“Karma. K-A-R-M-A. It’s the word we use for when the universe balances the scales, and gives you exactly what you deserve.”

I scoffed at him. “The godly men that I have known would call that Divine Justice. But then, they had faith in the will of the Lord.” Aye, ’twas uncouth to badger him so over a thing so personal to a man as his faith, but I had no patience left for Brother Bob’s carping, having carried that weight so far and for so long; most particularly at this hour was I not a-brim with patience.

“Yes – I mean, I do believe in God’s justice. I was only – fine. Divine justice, then. You’re looking right at it.” He slapped his hand down on the wooden seat under him. “You stole this wagon – and now your ship has been stolen from you. ‘Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.'”

In a trice, I had leapt up onto the seat, and took his shirt in my hands, torn between throwing the Puritanical prig to the ground, and lifting him up to put his donkey’s ears close enough to hear my words properly. I settled on the latter course. “You think those men were godly?” I hissed at him, my anger boiling in my blood – anger set aflame by Hobbes and his pillaging, by my own frustration at how close I had come to sailing free on my own ship, and how far I was now from regaining her: a thousand miles or more? Across open ocean in hurricane season? Christ and Danu! – anger that now had a focus. I shook him just to hear his teeth rattle in his flap-hinged mouth. “You think that bloodsucking bastard Hobbes is the tool of Providence? Yon black-eyed cur has murdered more than half of my men! Chased us across the ocean, pushed us here, to this – this abyss unfit for any man of honor or of worth – and all for what? For bloody prize-money! I shook him again, harder; I did wish that it were Hobbes in my grasp. “That is justice? You call it so? What of Kelly? Is his pain, the risk of his life – is that my punishment for this wagon? Or perhaps for these horses?” I tore my hands from his cloth, then, staggering back to stand straight in the bed of the wagon, my every effort bent on resisting the urge to strike him down – an effort aided somewhat by the fact that I was unarmed.

Brother Bob did not make my forbearance easy. He shook his finger in my face and shouted, “It’s all your fault! You brought this on yourself and on your men! You are pursued by violent men because you are a violent man! These are the wages of your sins! Your men suffer because you led them into iniquity! You are the villain here!”

Teeth gritted, my vision turned the color of blood, I drew back my fist to strike – and was clasped about the wrist by MacManus, who had returned to quell the shouting. “Captain,” he said, and I rounded on him, though I retained sense enough to resist lashing out at any who stood before me; facing my loyal friend now began to cool my ire. Shane met my gaze and said, “We are for the ship, sir. For the Grace of Ireland. Stay the course.”

‘Twas enough. Without turning back or uttering another word to Brother Bob, I leapt down from the wagon. I took a deep and calming breath, and then blew it out. I nodded to MacManus and clapped him on the shoulder. I pointed to the wagon and its load of folly. “Watch him. See he doesn’t leave.” I smoothed a hand over the near horse’s back, aware (albeit too late) of how our dispute had agitated them. I spoke softly, now. “This may be our only means of transport.” Brother Bob, hearing this, began to harangue and hector me anew, now with the theme of my worthless promises, my broken word that he could return the wagon and team. I turned my gaze on him, and ’twas enough to close his mouth, the look in my eye.

Softly, still, for the sake of the horses’ nerves, I said to him, “I told you that the wagon and the beasts would be returned after we reached my ship.” I looked weightily at the empty space where the Grace had been – ah, ’twas reflected in the empty space in my heart! – and then raised an eyebrow at him. I turned my back on his red-faced silence and walked towards the Volare.

Divine justice. Bah.

Of course he was right. Of course he was. The fault is mine. But so too was MacManus right: I am for the Grace. I must stay the course. If I must suffer to atone for my sins, I will do so: but I will do it aboard the deck of my ship. Then I will bleed as the gods will it.

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

Log #59: Curses

BLOODY BUGGERING POXY HELLFIRE GOBSHITE!

Bah! It is no help.

Ye gods, ye gods! She is gone. How can this be?

Perhaps it is not. I swooned, I think, though my men will not say so for the shame of my weakness. But when we saw the empty space where my Grace

Ah, God, I cannot write her name.

Please, God. I beg of Thee. I must have my ship. I cannot live without her, Lord. Please. Hear me. Help me. God. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In Nomine Patri, et fi – I cannot remember it. Stab me, split me, burn me, and sink me, I cannot remember it!

Please, Almighty God. Amen.

Later

I would that I knew how to pray, what words, what language – the Gaelic for the gods of my mother, to be sure; is it Latin for the God of my father? Or is it enough that my heart cries out to the skies and to the heavens above, wordless cries of anguish and grief and rage?

BAH! No. I will not. I will not pray to the god of Devil Cromwell, the god of the Inquisition. The god of Puritan rapists. Aye, aye, I did just that on this very page, not two hours past. But that I did write in the depths of black despair. I seek now for the words to give my gratitude to those powers and deities that watch me, and that saw fit to set me on my path. I would thank the gods for the knowledge of my ship’s fate. For I know that she lives, still. I know where she has gone, and wherefore.

And for every laud, every psalm, every paean I would wing up to those beings above for their kind guidance, I have a thousand curses to heap on the head of Nicholas Hobbes for his vile iniquity. ‘Twas he.

I have not time for this log. But I will write my thanks, for I wrote my plea, and ’twas answered; perhaps it is this pen, this ink, this paper that carries my words, my thoughts, my soul aloft into the eyes and ears of the Divine.

I would tear out that place where I turned to my father’s despised and despicable god, both from these papers and from my breast; but as it clearly rests within me even now, let my shameful cowardice remain here, as well. I knew not what I wrote; the roots are sunk deep in me, that this hypocrisy flows so readily from me in my extremity. Aye: it be in my blood, not so? Some awe, some dread, some desperate – longing? Nay!

Bah. Enough. ‘Tis not the time to meditate on my faltering.

I thank thee, Danu, Lugh, Manannan Mac Lir, Lord of the Sea. I thank thee, oh Fates, who weave the tapestry of our lives. I thank thee, Mother Earth, and Father Ocean, for thy kind succor in my time of need. Thou wilt all have my fealty, my obeisance, and my right arm to defend thee.

And in exchange, if any of you be listening: I will have my ship. And Nicholas Hobbes’s head. For if I cannot take God’s head, then the Devil’s will serve.

Later

Perhaps I should not have written what I did about beheading the Almighty. It would seem that the powers above take such threats amiss – aye, well, not amiss, for I did aim and hit my mark, in truth; they be not pleased with it, nor me, is my meaning – and seek to chastise me by the simple expedient of setting my passions aflame, lighting the fuse to the powderkeg that is my heart, and blowing me to Kingdom Come.

Nay, to be sure it is not so, as I have just been disputing with that rock-headed, burnt-arsed dolt, Brother Bob. I but jest, and ’tis not having the desired calming effect on myself.

I will turn the page to hide all this, and begin anew.

Now: I have a task, and my task is to find peace, to soothe my thrumming nerves and cool my sparking, sputtering temper. I have taken to the water and bathed ‘neath the waves, at MacManus’s urging; clever man. The struggle against the tide and the chop has eased my limbs, tautened by the need to fight, to attack, that has squeezed me and slashed at me from the moment I could put a name and a face to my Nemesis, the one who has stolen my Grace. Now my arms, my legs, my back, are all pleasantly wearied. It is my hope that the effort of writing out all of this day’s events in this log will have a similar effect on my mind and heart, and this ink will act as did the cool waters on my heated flesh, the taste of salt on my lips that quieted my tongue that did thirst for the blood of my enemies, and aye, even my friends. I have tried to spill that good blood, this day, more than once. Curse me for a hot-tempered fool.

But now the tale, and a hope for serenity at its close.

We arrived here, at Pier Eighty-Three in Brooklyn-of-New-York, and looked for the masts; for though there are dozens of ships docked here, none of them are sailing ships like my Grace. And at the end of the pier, we did see masts upthrust from the water; overjoyed at this sight, I leapt from the wagon, followed on the instant by Lynch, and we raced to those masts, laughing and capering like buffoons – or like sailors coming home at last. Only to find that these were not the masts we were looking for.

These masts belonged to a pair of small pleasure craft of this time, not to my beautiful Grace of Ireland. But in seeing the names writ on the sides and stern of these craft – the smaller one called the Volare, the larger the Emperor Grable – I knew we were in the right place, for these were the names Vaughn had told me, of the sister ships whose masters had served as boon companions to my men after the bitch-storm Irene.

But the Grace was gone.

I sent Lynch and MacManus to search the entire pier, and to confirm that ’twas Pier Eighty-Three in Brooklyn-of-New-York, while I would search the water, so far as I could see. But we found nothing. I returned to Brother Bob, who waited atop the wagon seat, a look of concern returned to his kind features, effacing the condemnation that had twisted his mien since Amish lands. I wrote something in my log while awaiting my men’s report, I know not what without looking, the which I shall not do for the sake of my would-be equanimity. Then Lynch called out to me from farther up the pier: “Captain! ‘Tis the right pier, but no sign of her, sir. Shall we search the next piers, as well?” I shouted aye, search all the eighties (For perhaps they had needed to move berths to avoid la policia or some such – but if ’twere true, they would not go far. Would they? I cursed myself then for not determining a second meet-point in case of discovery and tribulations, like a green captain new to the Brotherhood, the which I most certainly am not.). Lynch called out, “Aye, Captain!” and raced off to tell MacManus.

As I walked to and fro in my agitation, then, of a sudden I was hailed, from the smaller of the masted pleasure craft nearby. “Excuse me, sir. Are you the Captain? Captain Kane?”

My blood surged at the words, even as I surged forward to the ship’s rail. “Aye, I am Damnation Kane, captain of the – Grace of Ireland.” I coughed to clear the clot from my throat. “Do I know you, sir?”

The man who stood by the hatchway that led below the little craft’s deck shook his grey-locked head. “No, you don’t. But this man knows you.” He reached down, grasped an outstretched hand – a very large outstretched hand – and aided two people up to the deck: a woman as grey-haired and bent-backed as he, who was almost vanished under the man whose arm was around her shoulders for support as he staggered up the ladder: my bosun, Ceallachan Ó Duibhdabhoireann. Kelly.

I cried out with joy at he sight, and leapt aboard to relieve the oldsters of their prodigious burden; in the process, all the four of us stumbled our way to berths on the cushioned benches on deck. As the kindly old folk – Master and Mistress Rosenblum, they informed me – as they gasped and coughed, sore winded by the massive man they had been hauling about, I took stock of my man, and saw on the instant why he had needed the support of a granny to make it up the ladder: I have never seen a man more gravely beaten. His flesh was black and blue, where it was not reddened with dried blood, over nearly every inch the eye could touch upon. His face had been washed, but was so swollen and cut from lip to nose to eye, so that only his size and the patch he wore over his missing left eye – lost in our second battle with that motherless bastard Hobbes – could identify him.

I asked after his health, and was assured that he would recover – which statement was cast into some doubt by the cough that racked him while he answered, and the blood that he spat to the deck after he coughed; though I could see that this claret came from but a split lip, and not from the lungs – that naught was broken but a few ribs and his fingers. “I ne’er thought you’d find a skull harder than your fist, man,” I jested, and Kelly smiled, so far as he could.

“Twas by reason o’ quantity, like, Cap’n, not the hardness,” he said. Then he coughed again, one hand on his side; I lifted his shirt, and saw a great black mark there, stretched from his first rib to his last; he had taken a mighty blow, perhaps struck with a mallet, or an oar.

“He needs a hospital,” Mistress Rosenblum said, as she came quickly up from below with a cup of water, the which she held to Kelly’s bloody lips as he drank thirstily. “He needs to see a doctor.” She looked at me with a gimlet eye. “But he wouldn’t leave. Said he had to wait for you. He was sure you would come.”

I nodded and patted his knee through his breeches, as I could not see a place on him that wasn’t bloody or bruised. “Aye, he’s a good man. Fear not, Madame, I shall have him seen to.”

Kelly pushed away the cup with another weak cough, and then his one good eye, swollen near shut and bloodshot as well, fixed on me.

“‘Twas Hobbes, Captain. ‘Twas the Devil’s Lash. He took the Grace.”

And ’twas then that I swooned. At the least, I have no memory of the next few breaths, until I came to myself sprawled athwart the cushioned bench, my heart galloping and my skin turned all to gooseflesh. My breath panted shallow and quick, like a beast at bay, and my lips curled around every curse and oath that I have ever heard, and all directed at Thomas Hobbes. Fortunately, I spoke too low for the lady to hear, and I ceased as soon as I knew where and who I was, and gathered myself once more. That is to say: I ceased forming the words with my mouth, though they continued on marching in rank and column through my mind. They do it still, waving the flag of Hobbes before them.

Kelly told me, once I had begged a drink stronger than water from the hospitable Master Rosenblum, of all that had befallen the day before – but one day! Curse the fates for that. Curse me for leaving that dragon-train, and for allowing myself to be taken and robbed. Had I been here one day earlier, then I would be the one sailing away aboard my ship, and not that walking mass of pig shite and brimstone.

“They asked permission, Cap’n. Permission to come aboard. Said they had news of you – knew your name, Cap’n. Had it from Hobbes, I reckon.”

I frowned at him. “You let those English bastards aboard?”

He shook his head, and winced at it. “Nay, Cap’n, not they. ‘Twas six or seven dark men, Africans, like, wi’ long knotted hair. Long as a woman’s braids, but all over the head, like.”

“They call them dread-locks,” Mistress Rosenblum interjected.

My blood turned to ice, then. “Was one of them clean-headed, thin as a whip, with a smile like a death’s head?”

Kelly nodded. “Aye, Cap’n. ‘Twas him what did the talking.”

Once O’Gallows – who had never seen the Shadowman, as I had, and therefore had no reason to suspect foul play – had given them permission to board, the dark men had drawn pistolas and taken O’Gallows, Vaughn, and two others captive; a signal had been given, and from behind a warehouse came the English bearing thunder-guns. And something else.

“They had the Scourged Lady, Cap’n.”

I goggled at him. “The figurehead? From the Sea-Cat?”

He nodded. “Aye. And when they had the Grace, and all of us bound and tethered to the rails, Hobbes ordered her lashed to the foremast.”

It came to me then. “We sank her. We sank his ship, didn’t we.”

“Aye, Cap’n. I reckon so.”

The momentary sense of triumph fell away. “And now he’s taken mine, in return.”

Kelly nodded. “Aye, Cap’n. I reckon so.”

My hands clenched into fists. “Then we will take it back,” I said, my throat choked near closed with hatred. But my words were heard, for Kelly nodded once more. “Aye, Cap’n,” quoth he, his voice like thunder rumbling in the distance – a storm coming soon. “I reckon so.”

It took some effort to unbend my fingers, to loosen the taut knot of my throat, but I did so; the whiskey that Master Rosenblum had kindly provided was a true helpmeet in this. I took several deep breaths, and my enkindled blood cooled slightly. For the nonce. “Tell me all of it,” I ordered my bosun.

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Since the Adventures have now been published, I will be removing the old posts. I’m going to keep the first few, which will serve as an introduction for new readers; and all of Book II, which has not yet been turned into books. For the rest, if you want to read ’em, you’re going to have to buy ’em!

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Log #58: Horror, Fool, and the Cliff

Log

September 19

Arrrr, blast me brain and sink me to the depths, ye scurvy scalawags.

I do not know why I wrote that. I have not the will nor the strength to blot it nor tear it from the page. My reserves are not merely depleted, but entirely exhausted: there is nothing left. All I can do is follow the road, this black, unyielding, iron-shot, soul-searing – this never-ending infernal road! All of my might is focused merely on continuing to breathe this foul air, with its smokes and its stinks. I am grateful that Brother Bob has accompanied us, and what’s more, that he has not only ceased to speak of our sins in taking this wagon and team (By the gods, I do not care to imagine what we would be if but our feet carried us thus far and forward from here: skeletons atop bloody stumps with madness in our eyes, methinks), but he has also most generously volunteered to purchase provisions for the four of us, and thus have we been fed on this journey; I assume he knows that my men would be taking food as we took the wagon, at the end of the pistola, and thus to avoid, he opens his purse-strings for us. ‘Tis well: I do not wish to have la policia know of us this far north; if they should commune with their brethren to the south, they would soon find our names black-marked in Charleston. Best we avoid notice. Aye, aye, the wagon, but – ’twas necessary. And has not yet brought misfortune to us, so we will keep hope, and carry on. On this thrice-damned Hell-burned road.

I find my pen is run dry: not of ink, but of words. I have this day seen yet another – monstrosity – of this age. I know not how to describe it for these pages. How many of these horrors can I find, and then enscribe herein, before they all blur into a single grotesque of metal and smoke and unnatural foulness?

What is this age? Who are these men? How can they live thus?

They cannot even claim to lack examples of a more proper life, for even if they forget their history, the time when I was born and where I should be, they have these Amish men to show them a better way – and yet they eschew the green fields, the woods, the open land; they build cities, and ride in the bellies of beast-wagons and dragon-trains and air-planes. And, now that we have crossed the bounds of this state Brother Bob names New Jersey, we find that they poison the very earth beneath their feet, the very air they breathe.

It began with a stench, a stench I cannot describe – smoke and death, like a midden heap outside a slaughterhouse, doused with tar and set afire and then heaped with damp and rotten straw to increase the smoke. Aye, well, I can describe it, true enough. Fah – ’tis a great frustration to me, to find myself so bone-wearied by my journey and by my fears for my ship and my men and our future path even after we reunite, and then atop that to see terrible, soul-darkening sights, day after day after day. I cannot tell (Aye, again, perhaps I can, but I know not where I find the strength to draw the words, what well sinks deep enough within to fill my pen with a stream of language that may be pure. But I must wonder: do I drink of that purity and goodness within, and am I thus renewed? Or do I draw out and spill forth on these pages, with these words, my last remaining goodness, my last featherweight of beauty? Be there more within, or now less and now less and now less? Aye, and here is another fear to weigh upon me, and perhaps to taint but more of that goodness within.), I cannot say how truly I long for the ocean, and no sight but wind and waves to all horizons.

After the stink, there was the sight: here I know not what to say, truly. It was a construct, a mass of metal and stone rising from the ground, as large as any other I have seen, fortress nor palace nor cathedral. Tall chimneys rose up like towers above a keep, but rather than flying pennons in the air, they flew flags of black smoke, rising for miles into the sky, darkening the blue of heaven with their foulness – and spreading the stench we had been breathing all that morning.

I asked aloud what it was, and Brother Bob – who had paid it no mind, a fact I find as chilling as the fact of this thing’s very existence, for it means that such corruption is common in his life, in this world – said it was an oil refinery. I did shake my head. “There is nothing fine, nor refined, about yon Hell,” I told him. He but shrugged his shoulders. Brother Bob finds us poor company, now. Though why he sees our small crime as a worse offense to the eyes of the gods, or of his One God, than that refinery, I know not.

“That’s industry,” he said. “That’s jobs. If it’s a choice between the environment suffering a little smoke, a little spilled oil, or men starving without work, watching their families go hungry, then it’s no choice at all.”

Aye, I grasp that. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of my countrymen starved after Devil Cromwell conquered us, and his Puritan men prevented the Irish from growing food for themselves, slaughtering our livestock and burning our fields. But I do not see men hard at work in this age. I have seen no man tilling a field, not in the hundreds of miles we have traveled: I have seen more metal engines, which Bob named combines and tractors and threshers. I have seen no man bringing his goods from one place to another on these roads: I have seen beast-wagons. I have seen no men at work manufacturing products for market: I have seen this oil refinery, and many another place Bob has called “industry.” But how can a man be industrious when his own hands are idle, when his own feet move not nor bear his weight, when he but rides in a machine and commands other machines to do the work?

I think the devil has found here a whole nation of men ready to listen to his whispers, and their hands are thus made idle. Aye, and their souls, too, and their minds, and their hearts, as well.

I must go home.

September 20

Tomorrow I think we will arrive. Bob says we are close. I endeavored to find a telephone that could reach out to my friend Vaughn, but we passed none. No matter: tomorrow I will speak to him with my own mouth, to his own ears. Tomorrow, I will stand aboard my ship. Tomorrow.

Today, we met a fool. Two, in truth.

We made for the ocean, this morning, to let its salty winds blow from our noses the stench of this age’s industry, to let the sight of those mighty waves ease the turmoil in our hearts. The road offered us a choice, and when Bob told us where those ways led, we made our choice with no thought and no hesitation: to the Jersey Shore, we said, and thus went we.

Many and many a man had made the same choice, it seems; alas, but they have built too many houses, too many shops, too many piers: they block the ocean’s beauty. Aye, this is not new to this age; every coastal city I have seen, and many a small village, too, builds as near to atop the waves as they can. Merely evidence that men know their need for the sea, and wish to be within it, held in the bosom of the water, like the embrace of Gaia herself – or of Danu, to hear my mother tell it in the language of the Druids.

Two of these men saw us, and pointed and laughed, long and loud. MacManus and Lynch were atop the wagon’s bench at the time, with Lynch at the reins; as the day was sunny and warm, they wore the wide-brimmed black hats we had found tucked beneath the bench when first we took this wagon – hats that belonged to the Amish boys who had ridden here before. They had left other baggage, which included well-made shirts of white cloth, soft as fine wool, and short coats of black cloth; as our own clothing had grown ragged, we had made use of this wardrobe thus offered (all of us but Bob, of course, who would touch nothing that he deemed “stolen”). Thus we three ancient Irishmen were dressed to resemble Amish men. This, in combination with our mode of transport – so rare that we have seen not one other such in all our days on this road – seemed to be the source of their hilarity. I could not but assume they had never seen a mirror, nor their reflection in a pond of still water: for they had dyed their skin, it seemed, as our Celtic ancestors once did with woad before they marched to war, but these men had chosen – dirt. Reddish brown, or orange, dirt; Spanish clay has a similar hue, I think. They wore loose pantaloons and tight tunics, and hats that did not fit, but merely rested atop their heads, with strange abbreviated brims that they wore away from their faces, and so clearly served no purpose in keeping the sun from one’s eyes; too they had these tinted eye-pieces we have seen on so many Americalish, but again, these fools did not wear them before their eyes: they wore them at their necks, where they served no clear purpose whatsoever. They shielded their eyes from the burning sun with their hands. I cannot understand why a man would do this.

Like their dress and actions, their speech was too hard for me to understand, at first; but their laughter needed no translation. We were at a stop, at Brother Bob’s request; he required a place of relief, and had stepped into an inn by the road to answer nature’s call. Many people had seen us and pointed and whispered, but in the main, they waved and greeted us in amicable fashion, greetings we gladly returned. Until these two, with their loud laughter and wild gesticulations, slapping each other on the back and holding their hands before their mouths as though they would sneeze or cough, but naught emerged but howls of mirth.

They approached us close. Lynch paid mind to the horses, clucking at them to keep calm despite the mass of people crowding close around them; MacManus was seated closest, and he held his gaze on them: for Shane is no fool, and he knew that such men often try to play up strangers for amusement – to the strangers’ sorrow. And just so, with these two.

As they approached closer, they nonetheless spoke loudly, as though we were too far to hear, or as though they played to an audience, though none stopped to watch their antics. This made it simpler to understand their speech, though I can but render some of their words as I heard them, knowing not the meaning. “Nah, bro, Amish don’t fight back! For real, check me out, bro!” The nearer fool stepped up to MacManus and fondled himself obscenely. “Suck this, bro!” he shouted, and the two fell over laughing. MacManus looked back at me and raised one brow. I shrugged. “We do not want a brouhaha,” I said. “But I’ll not tell ye to surrender honor.” He nodded understanding, and turned back to face the two.

“Nice swag, bro – where’d you get that shit, like the dark ages?” This was their next sally, which brought forth more peals of laughter, and still naught but indifference from MacManus. I did see his hand tighten into a fist, though, as the gesticulations of the two seemed to be disturbing our horses, still calmed by Lynch’s soothing, but nonetheless growing more nervous the louder and more rambunctious grew our pair of jesters.

It was their third act that brought a response from MacManus: one of them held a cup of some frothy white drink, and he threw this at Shane, soaking the leg of his breeches. What was more, the horse attempted to rear, feeling the liquid splash against its flank, and only a quick leap to its side by Lynch, who held his hands over the beast’s eyes and whispered softly into its ears to soothe it once more, prevented serious trouble.

MacManus stepped down from the bench and stood before the two. Their laughter but grew the louder. One said, “Come at me, bro!” which brought shouts of delight. The other then reached out and pushed at Shane’s shoulder; the first leaned forward and knocked Shane’s wide black hat from his head, and then drew back his fist as if to throw a blow, the two of them laughing all the while.

So Shane shot him.

It was but a glancing shot, as Shane intended; fools should be thrust away when they grow bothersome, but it is never their fault if the gods made their brains as thin as gruel, and as incapable of sense. A crease in the lower leg, drawing blood but doing no permanent harm – though Shane did raise the pistola and place his aim on their foolish faces, faces no longer amused but rather dumb with shock; for the time had come and passed for these two to abandon their game and depart. Shane said nothing, merely raised one eyebrow, his weapon more eloquent than any words. The two fell over each other running away, the one with the scratched leg screaming and crying, “He shot me, bro! He shot me!”

Now, that was an amusing sight.

The crowd had gone entirely silent as the scene unfolded; after the two ran away, MacManus tucked his pistola back into his sash and climbed into the wagon seat once more, as did Lynch, the horse now calmed and still. Brother Bob returned at that moment, and perceiving naught amiss, climbed in back and said, “Let’s go.” Thus we went.

And for our final farewell to the Jersey Shore, we heard a voice from behind us speak softly into the silence these words: “Those are the baddest mother-fucking Amish I ever heard of.”

September 21

We have reached New York. Taller than mountains, is this place: the sun does not fall to the street, blocked by the buildings of men. We have crossed bridges that would dwarf the mighty span of London, seen more beast-wagons than a man could count.

And every step, every passing moment, my heart has grown colder and darker in my chest. somewhat is wrong, I know it.

We have found a guide, however, and I am most gladdened that someone in this stone Hell has a warm and welcoming heart. He is of the City Watch – aye, of la policia, of the New York house by his badges, worn proudly over his heart and on his brow – but he is mounted properly atop a steed, a living, breathing horse, and he approached us as a friend, greeting our horses with a smile, and saluting us kindly and with deep respect. Though he, as did the fools of Jersey, thinks us Amish; perhaps his friendship would be colder if he knew us for what we are. But perhaps not, for there is a warm heart, indeed, beneath that silver badge. He is guiding us through the streets to the proper place, once we had named the harbor where our ship is located; he said he couldn’t just leave a fellow horseman to wander the stone streets of this city. A good man: a welcome treasure, no matter where ’tis found.

We will be there soon, he says. Ah! My eyes strain to see her, my heart races to be near my Grace.

Yet I am afraid. I know not why. I wish I had spoken to Vaughn.

Bah! We will be there soon. And all will be well. Aye, all will be well. It must be.

***

We have found the place, we are sure: this is, our mounted policia guide tells us, Pier Eighty-Three in Brooklyn. We have spoken to a lad, from a craft named The Emperor Grable, who knows my ship, and his father knows Vaughn, and O’Gallows. This is the proper place, our destination on this endless, evil journey, where we would find our friends, and our way home.

But the Grace of Ireland is gone. My ship, and my friends, are gone. My home, my way, is gone.

All is lost.

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Log #57: On the Wagon

Log

September the 18th, in the year 2011

Oh, what a glory it is to ride! What a wonder is a wheel, and a wagon upon it. What a relief to recline upon a bench, and watch the world unfurl before you, the tapestry of time embroidered with the lives of men, in colors dyed and thread spun by the gods – or perhaps by the men themselves, who can say? As this lovely day’s travel has come to pass thanks to our chosen acts, I believe I will believe that men are the masters of their fates, and the weavers of the web of the world.

‘Tis remarkable, how the words flow, how the thoughts rise up in the mind, when one is not stumbling to sleep, footsore and exhausted. How easy it is to think and write when one has ridden all day, rather than marched mile after mile. My favorite object in this world is still my Grace – but methinks this wagon comes just behind her. I wonder if I should keep it, lash it to a line and float it behind; ’tis wooden, and ‘twould wade over waves. Though that does leave me caring for horses aboard, or else forcing my men to pull the wagon when ashore. Perhaps the latter, if I can find more crew. Ah! I recall now a conversation I had with Brother Bob, in the midst of one of our long slogs afoot, one which I had not the wherewithal to record at the end of that day, and do so now.

We were discussing my ship, and my need for crew. I had told him – and Lynch and MacManus, as well – of my intention to gain the Grace and make straight for Ireland, and home, regardless of the risk; at mention of this risk, the which I would not detail for him, not wishing to seem a madman with tales of ancient enemies and witchcraft and ships that sail somehow through Time itself, he inquired as to the opportunities presented by such a lovely craft as my Grace, for I have told him everything about her, in the hours we have spent staring at the road ahead and feeling every foot of the road behind. I told him that before I could pursue any alternate course, I would need more men; I can only pray that Vaughn and O’Gallows have not lost any more, for if so, we will hardly be able to steer her homeward, even without the threat of the Devil’s Lash and his dark shadow. But in these times, I do not know where to find the men; I do not think, first, that anyone knows the style of ship I sail, the tasks that keep and steer her, nor the commands that drive the crew as a single body, as these Americalish keep only boats that move as the Coast Guard’s iron ships, without sail, or at most a single-masted pinnace, barely more than a ship’s boat; in all our time on these shores, we have seen nothing else, nothing like my Grace. However, that is not so much of a much, as I would trust my ship and my crew to teach a good man the ins and outs of sailing after our manner: the question is, where to find good men, in this age, in this land? There’s the rub.

But it was to this point that Brother Bob had somewhat of a suggestion. He told me that there were many men – thousands of men – who had served their country in the Americalish armies, fighting abroad or guarding the borders of the nation against incursion. And though these thousands of men, these veterans, were purportedly venerated as their bravery and their honor deserved, still many and many a man found little chance of prosperity after turning his sword to a plowshare.

I understand this. There are thousands such in Ireland, as well, and more than a few in my own crew: men who served in the wars against the English, men who took up arms to guard their homes, only to see their homes burned, when all their efforts could not stop Devil Cromwell. And when the conquest of our home was completed, and there were no more left to fight, what could these men do? They had sought honor in battle, and had found only defeat; many of them felt there was no other chance to win honor anew, to wipe away the stains of past failure. Too, there were those who had won victories, here, there, even if only from a small skirmish – still, in Irish eyes, a victory in a skirmish, if it be a victory over the English, is an honor unmatched – and once their days of fighting for their homeland were ended, by injury of by the infirmity of age, what then could they do to recapture that glory? Aye, ’tis Achilles’s curse, living on through every fighting man, even to the world we find ourselves in this day. A man who seeks honor and glory in battle must choose: a short life and a proud one, or many years of humility. Such is the soldier’s way. Aye, and the pirate’s too, no doubt.

So I told Brother Bob, and commiserated with him over these poor lost souls, the which, I expect, count myself and my crew among their number – for a pirate knows his life will end atop the gallows or beneath the waves, and in short order, most like – and we understood one another. But Bob had a different thrust to his conversation: I could hire these men, he said, these veterans of foreign wars. Many of them retired from the fray in their youth, between 25 and 30 years of age – in truth, a good age for a sailor, especially if a man has grown accustomed to following orders and maintaining discipline. He told me there were places where such men gathered, sometimes informally, sometimes with a purpose, and that many of them were seeking employment they could not find, for the Americalish nation is beset by hard times, it seems. He avoided that subject, though; Brother Bob has opined several times over these last days that men should not talk of religion, nor of politics, if they seek to remain friends. I think back to Ireland, and the discussions in the taverns of just those two issues, and I think of the brawls and brouhaha that inevitably followed; I think perhaps Brother Bob is correct.

Should I, therefore, find myself aboard my ship and in need of men, I will seek out these veteran soldiers, and offer them employment as pirates. Though perhaps not in those words. But then, Squire McNally did say that pirates be somewhat beloved of the people, these days. Perhaps I will simply stride into a gathering place of soldier-men, in all my finery with my sword drawn, and ask them who wishes to join me pirate crew. I wonder: would there be any who would stand and say Aye?

Yes, Brother Bob has accompanied us well, these past days; offering pleasing conversations and excellent guidance, and unflagging cheer to help pass the miles on our poor benighted feet. That is, until this day. This day, he has not been a cheerful nor a pleasant companion. This day, he has been a shrew, and a bother.

It started simply enough: he asked me if I was a Christian. I commented that he was opening a discussion I thought he would rather avoid, and he replied – quite coldly – that such a rule only applied when one sought to remain friendly. At the which I could only laugh, and respond that I did not consider myself a Christian. He professed surprise at this, considering my race; it seems my people have won a reputation for devotion to the Church, over the years. I told him that I had been baptized, of course, and had taken the catechism, but that my knowledge of pure Christian men was too deep, too complete, for me to wish to count myself among their number. This silenced him for a time.

Then he took up his true thread, the which he had hoped to tease out using God as his needle: theft.

“All right, you aren’t a Christian, but do you believe in right and wrong? Do you know right from wrong, when you see it?”

“Of course I do,” I replied. We were lounging in the rear of the wagon while MacManus drove with Lynch beside; the countryside was beauteous, though we were fast approaching Philadelphia and so seeing the beginnings of the city’s stone, spread across the earth like the welts and sores of the plague or the pox. Well, and I was lounging; Brother Bob sat upright and rigid, as he has remained since we acquired the wagon. This, I assumed, was the center of his thought, and I was right.

“Then don’t you know that stealing this wagon was wrong? You stole it from Amish men, too – the most harmless people in the world, sworn not to commit any violent act, even in defense of themselves!”

At this intelligence, I exchanged a glance with MacManus; we would remember this in future: the Amish are easy prey, though likely not rich prizes, for the very same reason. “Well, Brother,” I began, as my comfortable feet made me wish to wax rhetorical, “I do see that, and then again, I do not. On the one hand, the men we left afoot, who had been riding previous to meeting us, they are now likely unhappy. Causing misery is indeed wrong, and I do regret that. But then again, if they are so miserable, there are a thousand means whereby they can find joy anew, and if they fail to see even one such way back to pleasure, then I can hardly consider myself responsible for their blindness. I did cause some misery, but not so very much, and the wrong, methinks, is commensurate with the misery – not so very much.

“And then there is the other hand: by that very same act, I made myself, and at least two of my companions, most assuredly happy. Our feet are singing my praises, at this very moment.” Lynch and MacManus laughed with me, at this, though I spoke naught but the truth. “This, then, by the same logic, would be a righteous act – and is not the key to a good life, Brother, simply maintaining the balance, creating good to set against ills?”

“But you stole! It doesn’t matter if it makes you happy, you had no right to this wagon and those horses! You took them by force!”

“I did no such thing. I offered the men aboard this wagon a choice, and they chose. Not one drop of blood was spilled in the taking of this wagon.”

“You pointed a gun at them, or he did, at your order,” Brother Bob said, indicating MacManus, who touched his brow in salute, to acknowledge his part in the acquisition of the wagon (the which he knew earned him only honor from his shipmates, for whom the argument largely stopped where I had placed it, on the line of ‘This act made me and my brethren happy, and therefore is it good.’ A simple life, is the life of a pirate. Alas for Brother Bob.) “You threatened them with violence, and used that threat to take their lawful property. How can that be anything but wrong?”

“Look, Brother: do you believe those two boys –” for the men aboard this wagon when we waylaid it were but youths, no more than a few years above Lynch, and far wetter behind their ears than my man – “those boys were the true owners of this wagon and team? Of course not. It belongs to their father. He gave them permission to use it, and the horses, as well. So those two boys did not shape the wagon, nor raise the team that drew it; they did not earn the wealth to buy it. Their ownership of it came only of possession, and as the result of a choice, a free choice made by a free man, weighing in either hand the benefits and the costs of his choice. Their father knew that giving his boys the wagon would lose him its use for a time, and too, it might – depending on how worthy those boys are – present some risk; perhaps they would drive too fast, and lame the horses, or lose the road and break a wheel, as boys are wont to do. Perhaps they would forget their given task, if the wagon were put into their hands to do a piece of work for the father, which I think likely, and they would wander the roads, costing the father hours or days of lost work, both from his wagon and from his sons. But despite those risks, that father chose to lend his wagon. By so doing, he gave up possession, and thus ownership of it, into the hands of his sons – though of course, he could expect to receive his wagon back from them, assuming they did not ruin it in the meantime through ill use.

“All I did, Brother, was offer those two boys – now the owners of that wagon – another choice. They weighed the costs and the profits of that choice, and they chose. They gave us their wagon, the which we now own, and gratefully so. That was the more profitable course for them, and they knew it, and chose it wisely – which would, one hopes, ameliorate their misery resulting from the loss of ownership of this fine wagon, and the resultant footaches, and the possible heartaches that may come from telling their father of what happened. But then, again, I would expect their father would be happiest that his sons were not harmed, nor yet the horses, if he is a man who cares for his beasts as a farmer should. Thus the misery is again alleviated.

“So I ask you, Brother,” I drew to a close, waving my arms grandly, “where is the wrong in this? I am joyed by the new ownership of this fine wagon and team, and the former owners are joyed by their continued good health. All is well.”

This argument did not appease Brother Bob. Though again, as yesterday, he did not leave our company, and he did not alert la policia to our presence. I think he does not want to see us hang as thieves, and he takes me at my word that he will be allowed to take the wagon and team back to these peace-loving Dutchmen (So unlike the Dutchmen of my own time) when we have reached the Grace. And my sophistry, as well as my desire to keep and float this fine conveyance, put aside, he is right to believe this, for it is only the truth. Brother Bob will not join my crew, and allowing him to right the wrong he believes we have committed, and offering those Amish boys their property back again, will but spread more joy in this world of sorrow and darkness. Therefore it is good, says I.

So say we all.

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Log #56: Poe and Pennsylvania Dutch

Log

10 September 2011

We have hiked many miles today, perhaps ten or twelve as the crow flies and half again as many around curves and over hills, before MacManus’s leg gave out. Brave man, to make that distance without complaint. The roads are as magnificent as all Americalish roads I have seen, which serves to make the miles slip by with greater ease than would the same distance on what passes for Irish roads, all mud and sharp stones.

Brother Bob was of the belief that we should not be on foot at all this day; we followed a wide black-stoned road, the which he said was an inter-state highway, and for much of it, Bob walked with his hand outthrust, with fist clenched and thumb prominently upraised. He called this “hitching a ride,” and claimed that beast-wagons would stop for us to embark and travel in speed and comfort within their steel bellies.

But the miles and the sun crossing the sky proved him wrong. Thousands of beast-wagons – perhaps ten thousands – passed us by, and nary a one slowed. My mates and I were unsurprised, as we do not share Brother Bob’s unflagging faith in the goodness of life, and of our fellow men

Ah, well. Tomorrow is another day. Who can say what Providence has in store? Perhaps we will hitch a ride. And if not – another fifteen miles toward our goal.

 

11 September 2011

This day was, it seems, a sad day for America; ’twas the tenth year passed since a terrible attack slaughtered thousands in a single day. Hearing of this put me in mind of Drogheda, and my mother and her kin who suffered so at the hands of Devil Cromwell and his Puritan savages – savages like my father. Brother Bob was most solemn this day. We had made camp on a soft green sward some few hundred paces away from the highway, beyond a hedgerow; when we woke with the dawn, we found that we lay within sight of a graveyard, which had been impossible to discern in the dim light of the night before. We Irish were confused that no church nor kirk stood guard over the graves, but we did not pose our curiosity to Bob: he had already bowed his head and was praying, facing a tall pole that bore the flag of this nation – a field of white and crimson stripes with a starred blue field atop it, in colors derived from the British flag, it seems. When Bob finished his prayer, he told us that the day was one of mourning for his nation, and as we broke our fast and began our journey once more, he told us of the attack: it seems the enemy stole air-planes, the same sort that Meredith Vance pilots, and drove them into buildings filled with people. There were great explosions – I must assume the air-planes were armed, and the collision struck off the powder rooms – and the buildings collapsed, like Jericho’s walls at Joshua’s trump, thus ending thousands of lives. These air-planes are a terrible weapon, it would seem. Now I imagine them as ships-of-the-line, but borne on the wind, rather than on the waves. It shudders me to imagine one such stooping down on my Grace from above, a falcon o’er a mere mouse, talons stretched and reaching, and a death-cry tearing from its throat. Terrible.

Though a sad day for this nation, it was a happier day for us: a man stopped and hitched us a ride. We made as many miles today in the back of his beast-wagon (And this one was properly wagon-shaped, with a covered bench in front and a high-sided bed behind for carrying goods) as we did all of yesterday, and he carried us for but half an hour or so. A kind man, he sat on the covered bench with Brother Bob while we three scalawags rode behind, the wind of our passing forcing us to silence, which merely allowed us to appreciate the sights of the countryside. It is a lovely land, here, green and verdant as home. I find the roads to be somewhat of an imposition on the greenery, though perhaps that is simply that I am unused to seeing their broad black expanse, far more apparent to the eyes than a dirt track would be. The driver, Bob told us later, was a veteran of an Americalish war, as Brother Bob himself was; that was the reason for the man’s stopping to retrieve us on this day, a day when, Bob said, people of America come together to help and succour one another. A happy outcome of an old tragedy. Would that the Irish had the same spirit, but our divisions go back through far too many centuries for the suffering caused by Cromwell to heal it. I find myself admiring these Americalish their patriot’s hearts.

Our kind Americalish patriot took us into the city of Baltimore, another of the great cities of this nation. I would write of its wonders, but what can I say that I have not said of Washington? Baltimore is large. It has too many buildings, and too many people. There are not enough trees. All the land, all the life, is crushed under stone and metal and glass and the feet of men. The ocean is near enough to smell on the air, but the smell is blocked by the stink of the city’s beast-wagons. Though I will freely admit that the scent of these Americalish cities is far kinder to the nose than London-town, which smells of nothing but sewage and rotting waste, for many and many a mile. The beast-wagons, as bad as their effluvia is, are better than that.

We have found lodging as we found it the night before we left Washington: in a hostel, what would be called a hospital, a place for sheltering the indigent and desperate, supervised by a religious order. We have offered our labor, and were rewarded with a meal and a place to sleep, the which we now mean to enjoy.

 

12th September

We have walked out of Baltimore and back into the countryside today, and I am happy to say it. I do not like these cities. So many people should not exist in one place. I felt the same of London, when I visited – I could not depart fast enough. Even the fields and forests and mountains of this land feel the footsteps of more people than I would wish, but then they are not my fields, nor my people. I do wish them joy of their land and their prodigious legions of fellows. I only want to return to my ship.

Brother Bob made me a present this day. During our passage through Baltimore, we saw many and many a sign or a graven image, a statue or a shop, which made reference to someone named Poe; when I inquired of Bob as to this Poe and his great fame in the city of Baltimore, Bob was shocked to hear that I had no knowledge of him. He bought me a book, filled with poems by Edgar Allan Poe. I mean to read myself to sleep this night, and I am pleased by it.

 

Later

I understand now why this Poe is so revered in the city of his birth. What brilliance! I have not known the like, not since the great poems of old, the ones my mother told me, and my uncles sang to me at night, under Irish stars. But this – here, I will copy it here.

 

From childhood’s hour I have not been

As others were; I have not seen

As others saw; I could not bring

My passions from a common spring.

From the same source I have not taken

My sorrow; I could not awaken

My heart to joy at the same tone;

And all I loved, I loved alone.

Then- in my childhood, in the dawn

Of a most stormy life- was drawn

From every depth of good and ill

The mystery which binds me still:

From the torrent, or the fountain,

From the red cliff of the mountain,

From the sun that round me rolled

In its autumn tint of gold,

From the lightning in the sky

As it passed me flying by,

From the thunder and the storm,

And the cloud that took the form

(When the rest of Heaven was blue)

Of a demon in my view.

 

This man has known what I see when I look out on this land. Indeed, when I think on it, I may very well have felt this for the whole of my life. Gods. And it is titled “Alone.” Aye. Aye, ’tis the gods’ own truth, it is.

I wonder if this Poe was a man out of his own time, as am I. Perhaps if not one in fact, he was such in spirit. I would pity him, if he were not already in the peace of the grave, and myself still alive to suffer here.

I must read more.

 

13th September

I slept but little, this past night, and we walked many miles today – still no rides hitched to us. I must sleep.

 

14th September

No rides. More miles. Nothing to report. I am weary.

 

15th September

We have reached the outskirts of yet another city – Wilmington, this one is called, in the land of Delaware. Sweet mother of Christ, how bloody many of these Americalish are there? Where do they get the food to sustain these people? We have passed through farmland, for most of the miles that have not been drowned in buildings and cities and people – but surely they could not grow sufficient wheat for this many. Millions. Brother Bob said there are millions along this coast, what he calls the East Coast – which only tells me this land has a West Coast, perhaps with millions more. Damn me, there are not enough fish in the sea to feed this many. This is the entire world, in but one land!

I found myself growing desperate for something that is familiar, something from home. I would speak to my traveling companions, but I fear we have spent too long in each others’ pockets, and too many miles have rubbed us raw against one another. Our tempers are short, and the very sound of our voices sure to set them aflame, regardless of what is said. So I could not ask them to ease my home-sickness, nor keep fond company with me – and Brother Bob, of course, though his cheer is unfailing (and all the more irritating for that, as our spirits have descended), does not make me feel of home. So as the sun touched the horizon and we called a stop to this day’s slog, I used a telephone Lynch spotted for me to call the number that connects me to the Grace. It took several attempts, spread over the next hour or two, while we earned our night’s lodging in yet another shelter (I am correct: there are simply too many people here. The land cannot sustain them all, and some must rely on the charity of others to survive. Why have they not realized this? The answer, after all, is simple: they must leave. Take up sail, take up service in the army of one nation or another – go out and seek fortune in this wide world. Find a place where there are fewer people, who thus have more to eat. It is foolish to stay somewhere you must live like these people live. But then, I have ever thought the same when I do see beggars on the streets of cities who are neither halt nor lame nor plagued. I simply extend this query to people who must live in this place, with so many, many neighbors.), but at last, a voice answered, and when I requested Llewellyn Vaughn, soon brought that fine man to speak with me.

My heart was eased almost at once, though Vaughn’s tidings soon brought some worry back to my poor belabored mind. At the first, I confided in my friend that the miles and miles of people and people were wearing on me heavily; he quickly confirmed that the same darkness was gathering about the hearts of the men on board; New York, he told me, was larger and more populous than any place he would dare to imagine – it sounds of Washington, again. How can this be? How can there be two such cities in one land, a mere few hundreds of miles separated one from the other? With Baltimore, and Wilmington, in between, and who knows how many more?

We then moved on to happier tidings: the ship has been repaired, as the men found a source of wealth which bought them materials and men to apply them. They stand ready to sail, the very minute that we three do arrive. Ah! I am ready to be there now. My feet ache to stand on her boards, my eyes ache to see her lines. My heart aches for my Grace.

At the end, Vaughn did tell me that he was beginning to grow uneasy: the money they had was largely spent on the repairs and on reprovisioning for the voyage; their daily upkeep, though it was largely defrayed by the kindness shown them by their piermates – it seems my men have done some good turns for the ships docked alongside the Grace, and have received friendship and assistance in return – it will begin to grow too dear. I was right: there are not enough fish in the ocean for all of these people, and my men cannot draw any food from the waves, not without going for a cruise – and our experiences at sea have shown that this is no small matter. Vaughn and Ian do not want to weigh anchor without my presence; and so they wait; but Vaughn urged me to all haste in our trek.

We must move faster. For my men, and for our own sanity. MacManus and Lynch have just nearly come to blows over which should have the bunk closest to the door – Lynch claiming he was the more alert, with better hearing and faster reflexes, and MacManus opining that Lynch could do naught but awaken a better man to defend us, should any hazard approach; ’twas then that I set down my pen and separated the two, pointing out that there was potential danger all around, and we would all have to be alert and ready to defend, and then forcing a concession from Shane as to Lynch’s value in a fight, the which he grudgingly gave with a sigh and a curse. My ship needs me, and we all need her.

We must move faster.

 

17th September

Ha! Now we will move faster.

We left Wilmington and soon crossed into the land of Pennsylvania. Lovely countryside, it was thereabouts; farmland and field, woods and rivers – beautiful and green and alive. Most refreshing to be away from so much city – though Brother Bob tells us we will soon reach yet another great city, of a size proportionate to Washington and New York, called Philadelphia; my men and I can only shake our heads and wonder. City of Brotherly Love, is the meaning of that name in the Latin; methinks there is too much brotherly love in this land, and too many brothers.

But before we reached that place of stone and metal and men, we passed by some farms that sent our hearts winging back to our home: for we saw men swinging scythes, and women in bonnets, and horses drawing plows, and not a beast-wagon anywhere about. We expressed wonder to Brother Bob, who told us that we were then passing through Amish country: the Pennsylvania Dutch, he called them, though apparently there are several different such groups hereabouts, and he was not sure which these were. Still: these are people who have kept to the old ways, and done themselves and their land honor thereby.

More importantly, for our needs, these people use a conveyance with which my men and I are very familiar. They drive wagons – wooden wagons, drawn by actual horses. And when stopped on the road by a kindly hail, and then threatened with pistolas drawn, they do not fight back. Hah! ‘Twas the simplest highwayman’s work imaginable – the two young men, little more than Lynch’s age, slowed as they came near, and stopped when we hailed them; I saw our chance, and so I stepped up, took hold of the reins of their team, and shouted out to my men, who were quick to draw their weapons – and that was that. No resistance at all, simply a bit of Christian disapproval of our actions, a sentiment heartily and repeatedly echoed by Brother Bob, who, I fear, did not realize he was in the company of pirates. But his scruples bother me not at all: I am a pirate. I did need a means of travel faster and easier than my own feet, which have worn through the shoes I purchased in Charleston. They had such means; I took it. I have told Brother Bob that he may leave us at any time, or he may accompany us to the end of our road, at which point he may take this wagon and team back to their owners, if such is his will; I will have no more need of them, once we reach my ship. He has begrudgingly accepted this plan. I have given MacManus orders to keep an eye on him, between now and then. If he causes trouble, he will find himself afoot, and lucky if he is not stripped and bound first. I do not wish for that; I am fond of Brother Bob, who is a fine and kind man and a good road companion. But nothing will keep me from my ship.

Now, thanks to the Amish, we have a wagon, and a fine matched team to draw them. Now we will see how quickly we can reach New York.

I only hope there will not be too many cities between here and there.

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Log #55: Free Men

Log

9 September 2011

In Ireland, there was a man, who spent aye his time in the public houses slurping from the bottom of a tankard, named Seamus O’Monaghan. And though Auld Seamus, as he was known (or Old Shame-Us, as some wags referred to him, with a gimlet eye and a curse for his old bones) ne’er stirred himself to set his idle hands to any honest work, still his cup ne’er went dry for long. Auld Seamus, you see, was the finest talker in a country famed for drunkards and poets. Famed to us, at the least: I know not how Ireland has fared over the years. I will ask Brother Bob on the morrow.

Aye, Auld Seamus, he could talk. He would spin a tale that would have left Shakespeare gaping in wonder, or Amergin mac Eccit himself a-dandling on his harp strings, empty of poetry. Auld Seamus could paint a scene with words that would have you not only seeing every leaf and every blade of grass, but smelling it, too. He could make his voice as high as a maiden’s or as gruff as the Devil himself, and his face and his hands would follow the same road, his eyelids fluttering and lips pursing delicately as his maiden hands sought demurely to hide his face – despite the snowy stubble across that chin, mind – or his brow lowering, his wide mouth curled into a sneer and a leer, both at once, his every feature turned infernal. Auld Seamus knew every tale, from books or from villages across the land, and he’d tell any that was asked for, so long as it was asked for with a full mug of ale. And Auld Seamus never went thirsty.

In between tales, while other men would argue over the weather or women or warfare, Auld Seamus would weigh in with his views, of the which he ever had a plenitude, suited for any topic and any occasion; and though his words in conversation never earned him any ale (for every man has an opinion, and no one’s are of value close to my own, in my eyes), those opinions would oft bring the conversation to a close – thus drawing the house down into a lull, which would never last more than a few heartbeats before someone would call out “Give us a tale, then, Seamus!” And he would place his hands on either side of his empty tankard and wait. Aye, there was no dust on Auld Seamus, for all his white hair.

And how would Auld Seamus scuttle a topic? Why, by proffering opinions so absurd, so fantastical – and yet so seemingly logical – that no man could possibly refute them. For the wise would know the argument to be too mad to merit rebuttal, and the fools (of which there are always a majority) would either believe Auld Seamus’s words as he spake them, or be so enchanted by them that they would profess belief merely to amuse themselves in repeating and chuckling over what Auld Seamus had said. Such as the one about rain being the soul’s tears, that was a favored speech, I recall. Some men were arguing over the rain, which was surprisingly sparse that year, and whether or not it would return to its usual pattern in time to increase the crops, or if they would stay dry and thin. Auld Seamus, he broke in with this: “O’ course there has been na’ rain: the English hath gone home, have they na’?” Well, naturally the crowd needed to hear how these two statements related, one to the other, so Auld Seamus explained: it was misery that made rain fall. The more people there were suffering, the more tears, not true? Of course all agreed, in terms of sheer volume of salt water. Ah! And where the men have hearts of lions, and the women, as well, and they turn hard as stones and shed not the tears brought by their suffering, where then, Auld Seamus asked, do those unshed tears go? Why, they travel up into the sky, like mist rising in the morning, and when enough such tears gather in the clouds, they fall as rain. That is why fair Ireland, ever beset by foes and ravaged by feud and turmoil – and where, Auld Seamus said, the people are wise enough to know their misery, and hath long memories for past sufferings, too – Ireland is nigh flooded with precipitation, and Scotland, the same; England, of course, suffers less, and France less still; the Holy Land, where our Lord and Savior walked, will ever be a place of joyful hearts, made so by the memory of the Christ, regardless of what strife may tear at the land; thus it will remain a desert of smiling faces. And, he finished, since the English are now leaving Ireland (’twas when Charles II returned to his throne, after the happy death of Devil Cromwell), the Irish are not suffering sufficiently to bring the rain to our crops.

Aye – it works, does it not? Wherever the people are in the main more blissful and content, the skies are, in the main, more clear. Rain is soul’s tears. Auld Seamus said so.

Here is another of Auld Seamus’s finest oratorical meanderings: Ireland, though plagued by marauders and savage Englishmen, was nevertheless – free. Or at least more free than the homeland of those same Englishmen. “For Ireland hath na’ king, is’t not so?”

“Aye,” the befuddled listeners would answer. “For we are conquered by the damned English, who rule us.”

“Aye, and precisely where my aim lieth, lads!” crowed Auld Seamus. “For a king – a good king, a wise king, just and manly – maketh men loyal. Loyal men follow the laws set down, like stones in a wall, by that just, wise king. That’s what taketh off a man’s freedom: his own choice to loyally follow the laws of his righteous lord.

“But when ’tis a foreign conqueror behind the laws, or an evil king – a man like Devil Cromwell, aye, struth – then no one feeleth the sting o’ conscience when the law be broken nor bent. Then the only matter is, can ye avoid bein’ caught? And any Irishman wi’ a brain in his head and two eyes to see, and two feet to run, will ne’er be caught by those English clods. That’s why we are free!”

And then the men pause, and ponder; then shrug and say, “That’s Auld Seamus!” Then all share a laugh and a round of full mugs. But not a one argues against Auld Seamus’s words. How can you?

Damn me but I miss the old gaffer. Him and all the rest.

It seems to me that if Auld Seamus could have set sail from Ireland (on a ship filled with casks of ale, of course) and settled his own land, where the only history is what Auld Seamus tells them, and the only philosophy what he offers them over a full mug, that land would be America. For surely, this place is madder than any land that has ever reverberated to the tread of man. This day, what I have seen, and what I have heard said, with all sincerity, by Brother Bob, has shown this to be true, and put me in mind of Auld Seamus that was. So now, like then, I will shrug my shoulders and say, “That’s America.” Then call for an ale. There is nothing else that I can do in the face of such lunacy as that of these free men.

We rose early and walked on, after an easy meal of bread and crisp bacon. The woods did not last more than half a mile – surely why Lynch had no luck in hunting – and then opened up to a view of wonder, and horror, both. We looked down from that hill and saw – city. Nothing else but city, from horizon to horizon, as far as the eye could leap: buildings and streets and beast-wagons, followed by more buildings and more streets and more wagons. And then still more.

Brother Bob stood with a smile on his face (As, it seems, he does at most every moment, regardless of circumstance – a fine jolly man, he is.) and said, “Isn’t that amazing? That right there, gentlemen, is Washington, D.C. The capitol city of this magnificent country.” (Brother Bob cleared up my confusion regarding the name, which I had believed to be partly French: the city is called the District of Columbia, and given the initials to differentiate it from another place named Washington. I asked him from whence this term originated, but he knew not.)

We made appropriate noises of awe and amaze, and then began the trek down into that labyrinth of humanity and all their works. And who did we find, once we plunged past the outskirts, behind the veil of buildings? Any man who has been to Dublin, or London, Paris, Lisbon, or Rome, anyone who has walked from without to within one of the world’s great cities knows the answer: we found poverty, misery, corruption, degradation, and suffering. We found humanity, in all the tattered glory that is a city of men.

It was perhaps less apparent to our eyes, I and my two fellow ancients, than it would have been to a native of this land; we did not recognize houses and edifices that are shoddy, shabby, small and lowly – to us they are all incredible giants, filled with sparkling glass and the eldritch light made in glass balls they call electricity. But we knew beggars when we saw them, and good folk wasted by poverty and hunger, and young men turned to surly, hard-hearted toughs – turned by anger that has no target, no release, and no respite. Aye, we knew these people well: they are our people. They are we.

Brother Bob did not show poorly, as we made our way down streets filled with the idle, the inebriated, the insane, and the indigent; I have seen many an American turn away and ignore his fellow – a habit I saw as well in the English these people so resemble. But Brother Bob behaved more like an Irishman among his brothers: he met their gaze, whether the eyes behind were mad or sad or forlorn, and nodded and smiled and murmured greetings and well wishes, raising his hand to the men and giving a slight bow of respect to the ladies he passed: whether granny or child or painted harlot, he spurned none. My shipmates and I exchanged a glance and a smile; we might be in the wrong place (For ye must pity the poor and destitute, but among ’em, remember to watch thy purse) and the wrong time, but we were with the right man.

After a time – a longish time, and a good distance: four or five miles, methinks, though these buildings so close and so looming-tall do make it hard to judge distance over land – we passed out of the outer city and into the inner city, the home of the prosperous and the noble. A spring came into Brother Bob’s step again, and he began to point out sights for our amazement and edification. He asked if we had ever seen the White House, and when we confirmed our innocence of such, he clapped his hands with glee and turned us down a street crying, “This way!” and setting off with vigor.

Indeed, we were amazed again. This White House was a palace beyond any we had ever seen – perhaps rivaling St. Peter’s in Rome, or that place Louis of France was rumored to be building, in Versailles, if I remember aright, though I have never seen either, to compare. ‘Tis a mighty colonnaded manor, as white as new-fallen snow, seen at a fair distance across perfectly kept grounds behind a tall black iron fence with guards posted at the entry gate, kept busy by swarms of courtiers and audience-seekers, as any palace must be.

I inquired of Brother Bob the name of the sovereign who ruled there – curious I was, whether these once-English colonies were now under a Tudor, or a Stuart, or perhaps a Bourbon. But he scoffed at this. “We don’t have kings here! This is a free country!”

I set my gaze on that White House, this lavish prodigy built for one man’s vanity and comfort, and I scoffed in return. “I have seen palaces ere this, my brother – and that is a palace. With palaces come kings.” He shook his head, saying I did not understand, and I let it pass.

He led us to more magnificence then – more great buildings, all of them pure white and colonnaded (clearly meant to flatter the king by imitating the style of his palace), which he called the Capitol, and the Supreme Court, and other such; this Capitol, quoth Bob, housed what he called the Senate – as in Rome of old – and a House that he compared to Parliament, a term that we three ancient Irishmen, who had lived through the rule of Devil Cromwell and his Parliamentarians, started at and exchanged glances over. Perhaps it is true that they have no kings here, I thought and whispered to my compatriots: if their Parliament has beheaded them as Cromwell did to Charles of England. Then Brother Bob showed us the monuments – built in one of the loveliest places I have seen, in this land or any other, in a park with a pool of water that reflected the clear blue sky above, and pavilions, graceful and clean, all about.

There were monuments to the glorious dead, fallen in battle – one, Bob said, for an unknown soldier, which befuddled me: why would you cast shame on the dead, being forgotten, or on yourselves for forgetting him? Another, where Brother Bob took some time to visit and say prayers, was a vast wall of black stone, with thousands of names carved into it – the names of all the men torn from this world by fire and by sword in that war. I must say, ’twas a magnificent tribute, a fine way to honor lost heroes. ‘Twas most affecting to us all. Especially when we realized the sheer extent of it, and the number of the fallen – a terrible weight of names, in truth, and of lives lost.

Then Brother Bob showed us the memorials for past kings. And these showed once more that my surmise regarding the White House was correct – a point I made to Brother Bob. This Lincoln, this Jefferson, and most particularly this Washington for whom the city is named – who raised himself a pagan obelisk taller than any spire I have ever seen, taller by far than the great cathedrals of Europe, as if this man would set his glory above that of God himself – clearly, these men, though they wore no crowns, were kings of old.

“You don’t understand,” said Brother Bob. “This is a free country. It’s a democracy. We choose our leaders.”

“Aye, so did the Romans,” I rejoined. “‘The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.’ Is that it? You have chosen to set these men so far above you that they ‘bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonourable graves.’ Aye? ‘I know he would not be a wolf but that he sees the Romans are but sheep.’ Be that your meaning?”

He shook his head. “No! We cast votes, and select our leaders of our own free will. They only rule by the consent of the governed, by the will of the people, and according to the laws of the country.”

I frowned at him. “So then the people – those people, living in squalor and deprivation out there, miles of misery surrounding this opulence, this splendid vainglory – they choose this? They cast a vote for men who live thus, and who allow them to continue to live like that – and each within a stone’s throw of the other?” I laughed. “No, my friend, it is but a child’s story, meant to placate.” (It was here, indeed, that I thought of Auld Seamus.) “There is no freedom here. This is despotism, whatever they may tell you to the contrary.”

We stood beneath the prodigious Washington Monument, and Brother Bob – somewhat exercised now, and spluttering – pointed up at it and said, “No. They wanted to make him a king, wanted him to lead for the rest of his life. He refused. He gave up his power after only eight years. And every president” (This is the term they apply to themselves, these American kings, and most clever are they to refer to their rule as “presiding,” rather than ruling. Somewhat like Julius Caesar choosing the title of dictator – speaker, commander – rather than Imperator or Rex. And just as truthful as Caesar, methinks.) “– every president since then – well, almost every one – has stuck to that. Now it’s in the laws: no one can be in charge for more than eight years, and that’s only if they win two national elections.”

“Eight years?” quoth I. “Caesar himself ruled for less. As did Caligula. And Bloody Mary. Devil Cromwell himself held sway for not more than twice that span. Surely a tyrant may cause untold harm in eight years. I fail to see how that makes you free.”

“Because the President doesn’t have absolute power!”

“This President of yours: does he demand show of obeisance? Does he walk into a room with a fanfare, and must others stand, or bow?”

“Well, yes, but –”

“Does he have a personal guard, loyal to the death, who will kill any who threaten him?”

“The Secret Service, yes, but –”

“Does he take all of the laurels for good fortune unto himself, and push all blame onto his subordinates and rivals?”

“Okay, yes, but still –”

“Then he’s a king.”

“But we elect them,” Brother Bob said. “We have free choice!”

“Can ye choose to elect none of them, to rule yourselves?” He shook his head. “Well then,” I went on, “can any man become king? Any man may choose any name to cast a vote for?”

“Well, no,” he said, hedging and retreating, as he must. “There are two major parties, and we pick from those.”

I had to laugh. “Aye – like the War of the Roses, is’t not? This House or that House, White or Red, and not a hair’s difference between the two. All of them leave your people in poverty. All of them put good men in gaol. All of them send young men to die in wars, fought for the ruler’s glory and at his command.

“No, my friend. Take it from me: I know what it is to be ruled by a tyrant who uses noble and lofty speech to describe the ravaging of a land and her people. This is a kingdom, under the feet of despots, whether they be one single man or one of a faction. You are not free.”

Brother Bob had naught to say. So, pitying him – for it is most painful when the scales fall from one’s eyes (if indeed they did fall – Auld Seamus never surrendered his opinions, even if someone did argue, as happened once or twice) – we set out on our northward journey once more, and left politics behind. Within a mile, Brother Bob had cast off his melancholy and was back to his cheerful self. He took us then to a house of comfort, where the poor were given food and shelter; he spoke with the proprietor, a kind soul by the name of Beatrice Everstone, and then proposed to we three that we should spend the remainder of that day there, offering what assistance we could in exchange for a meal and a bed for the night.

Such generous terms were well to our liking, and we swiftly agreed. We were able to offer ourselves as carpenters, making various repairs, as well as maidservants and serving wenches, cleaning the sprawling hall and doling out victuals to the paupers. MacManus and I even kept the peace, stepping into an argument that was fast turning to fisticuffs, but for our timely intervention and stern correction.

The labor made the simple fare delicious, and the beds into sumptuous bowers. I put a hand on Brother Bob’s shoulder as we readied ourselves for sleep, smiled and said, “Here is where men are free. Tyrants hold no sway in generous hearts.” He smiled and nodded in return.

And so, after keeping this log, to bed.

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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.

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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

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