Posts Tagged With: Elliott Schluchzer

Log 35: The Gallows Log

Ian O’Gallows

19th of July

When first I was put in this place, I feared I would ne’er see the Sun, nor breathe Free Air again. I feared I would ha’ my neck stretched ere a Week had passed. In Truth I was somewhat stunned that the Cap’n o’ the Coast GuardShip what took us did not hang every man Jack of us from the yardarm, and send us with our Ship to Davy Jones, with a Curse to chase us down to Hell. Sure and he had evidence enow to know our Crimes and our Guilt.

Now that I ha’ been here three days, I fear only that tiresome hours, without any employment, amusement, or e’en punishment, will pile up so high they smother me. So, to avoid this fate, I ha’ requested paper and pen from my captors, so that I may follow the lead o’ me Cap’n, Damnation Kane, who doth keep the log faithfully.

So here be me log.

They did capture us on July the 15th, four days ago. They made it back to shore in two or three hours, with us all manacled and sitting on the stern deck o’ that thundering steel Hell-ship. That devil’s boat made thirty, forty knots, without sail nor oar. At least that many! Methinks I did not need to do what I did, and give them the Grace’s heading. Sure and they could ha’ found us as easy as they took us, as easy as they brought us back.

They kept us from talking on the ship, tho speeches were made with the eyes. If O’Flaherty could ha’ killed me with his glare, I would ha’ been spared these empty days in this cell, aye. Burke, as well. Tho the opposite do be true, too: if my hands had been free, them two mutineers would lie flat wi’ wrung necks and black tongues by now. Aye, and perhaps a puling pissbucket of a rapist, as well, tho that tub o’ maggoty fishguts Shlocksir be barely worth the effort to strangle. But he be worth it, na’theless. He cried, the suety fop, like a bairn without his mam’s teat to fill his mouth. Fair made me sick.

We made the Keys ere night fell, and they put us into three cells at the fortress. And they took off the manacles, and left us unguarded. Ha! The minute the door shut behind the guard, I took hold o’ that damned O’Flaherty and flung him into the bars, head-first. He reeled back, stunned and bleeding, but he be an Irishman, and he put up a fight, aye. But tho he be the stronger, I be younger and faster. And smarter and prettier, while we be talking on it, ha ha! Burke he would ha’ come to his man’s aid, but he were in another cell, as was Carter, who might ha’ done the same. Burke roared at me, laying on the curses like mortar on a wall, until Kelly, me good mate Kelly, took it in his mind that Burke should be hushed, and then he made it so, wi’ but three good blows of those cannonballs he calls fists. Burke be paid back for what he did to Kelly back in Ireland, when Burke took the Bosun’s Whistle from Kelly.

O’Flaherty took a bit more convincing, but soon enow he was down for a wee nap, too, and sleeping like a babe, aye. I could ha’ strangled him then, but I had cooled a mite. Too, I felt that killing a man while in gaol and about to be tried for my life would be somewhat rash. I but gave him a kick in the teeth to remember me by. Then I spoke wi’ the men.

“Listen, all o’ ye,” I said. “I don’t give a fig for who ye would ha’ for Cap’n o’ this crew, or if ye think ye be a crew at all. I say we be the men o’ the Grace o’ Ireland, and o’ the blood o’ Old Erin herself. We be the wolves o’ the Irish seas, sons o’ Lugh and Cormac, Cuchulain and Fionn MacCumhaill. Aye?” They growled and grumbled an Aye to that. Then I lowered my voice and looked every man in the eye. “Men o’ Ireland ha’ nothing to say to the men o’ the law. Not to the gaolers, not to the judges, not to the headsman, if it come to that. Nothing but our names, that they may remember us, and a curse for them to choke on. Be we agreed?”

And they agreed, every man. Then the guards came in, saw O’Flaherty and Burke unconscious on the floors, and asked after the events leading to such a state. And the men, they did me proud. Not a damned word did they give those bastards. Naught but a hard stare and a few mouthfuls o’ spit cast to the floor at their feet. Good men, they are. All but Shlocksir, o’ course. He opened his gob and drew breath to squeak like the bilge rat he be. But Arthur Gallagher, old Lark, as we call him for his singing, Lark threw a punch, quick as a fox, into Shlocksir’s ballocks, and knocked the traitorous air right out o’ him, without the guards bein’ any the wiser.

In an English prison, they’d ha’ every man of us flogged for fighting. Here they mere posted a man outside our cells to watch us. The men grew confident at that, for sure and we’d all expected the flogging, and the air eased somewhat. We stayed silent for an hour or more, glaring at the guard. Then Lark started singing. Soon enough we’d all joined in, and we sang down the moon and up the sun.

Then they came for us. Manacled, led into a great beast of a wagon, like a tinker’s house on wheels, but with two long benches the only furniture in it. Half the men in one wagon, half in another just like the first, and they drove us to another gaol. This’n be larger, but with smaller cells. The cell where I lay now and write these words be three paces by four, with two bunks stacked on one wall. I share with Lochlan O’Neill, him the men call Salty for the white in his hair and whiskers and his thirty years before the mast, which ha’ pickled and tanned his hide with sun and sea air. Salty be a fine bunkmate, aye, quiet and thankfully free o’ stench. Sure and these bitty cells might weigh on many a man, but for tars like us, who would sleep six men in hammocks in this same space when the ship be full o’ cargo and the weather bad abovedecks, this be a fine cabin for two.

Naturally I figured that once we met the local Inquisition, they’d drag us out o’ these fine quarters and lock us in the dankest pit they had. These cells must be the reward they hold out for waggling your tongue, I thought. That and the food, which is better than what I’ve eaten on most voyages once the fresh grub be gone. Yet they ha’ not taken these luxuries away. Not yet.

They do not torture, either. Or they be right slow in getting to it. That first full day, they came for each o’ us, three at a time, tho they put one man into one room, sitting at table with two men dressed like merchants, with open coats and neck-scarves, clean white shirts and shoes which shone. They asked us questions for an hour or two. And that’s all: they but asked. They did not even strike us. Not even Salty, tho he told us later in the galley (Aye, the gaol has a galley, where all the prisoners sit and eat together.) that he had cursed them till his tongue was raw. But nothing, naught but question after question. Soon I found I could simply ignore them as they blathered on at me. Made me feel quite like a married man, ha ha.

Nay: my difficult hour came when I had to face my Cap’n, my friend and the man I had betrayed, when I gave his ship to these men with their soft hearts and their thunder-guns. Cap’n Kane came the second day we were in the small cells. The guards summoned me out and brought me to the main portcullis, at the end o’ the corridor lined by our cells, and there, two paces from the bars, stood my Cap’n, his brow thundrous and his eyes flashing lightning.

I made my report, and he responded as a cap’n should. Enough said o’ that. I am right glad that he be wise enow to see where fault truly lies, for while I ha’ surely sinned, I be no cursed mutineer. I ha’ failed. But I did not betray.

Then, yesterday, a man came to us, starting with myself, and said he be our lawyer, name of McNally. He said he were engaged by Cap’n Kane. He bore proof, a note in the Cap’n’s hand which instructed us to listen to this man’s advice, and I did so. McNally heard the whole tale from my lips, tho he knew much of it from the Cap’n, including my own hand in our capture and in protecting the virtue of our hostages from the yot. Instead o’ callin’ me traitor for giving up the Grace, McNally told me this was a good thing, that my actions were – laudable, I think he said. He complimented us too on not speaking to the law in our questioning sessions, which earned a laugh from me. “Does anyone?” I asked him. “Why? For fear of their foul breath?”

But now McNally says I need to talk to them, and tell them everything. He says the law needs a sacrifice, a patsy, he called it. Someone to point the finger of justice at and proclaim There be the guilty one! A trophy for the wall, that’s all it is. But McNally says we must give them this. And what’s more, he says that the Cap’n has ordered it so, has ordered us to talk to these bastards, these – they’re not English, but they might as well be for the way they treat us. Not cruel, no, but like we be beneath them, like dirt, or spittle under their bootheel which must be scraped off and washed away. As tho we be filth to be cleansed, instead of men. Aye, they be English, in truth. They be West English, that’s what they be.

And I am to confess to these West English? To the law? Aye, Nate ordered it, I believe McNally’s word on that. I see the Cap’n’s reasons, too. If we talk, it be O’Flaherty and Burke, Carter and Shlocksir wi’ the noose about their necks. Them what led, and them who did the killing. And for their mutiny against my Cap’n and friend, they should do the Devil’s dance at the end of a rope, aye, for certain sure, and I’d watch ’em and smile, for what they done.

But he wants me to talk to the law. He wants me to cooperate, and turn on my fellow pirates. Aye, it be an order, but we’re not on ship. And curse me for it, but Cap’n’s been wrong afore – ne’er should ha’ hired on that Shlocksir, ne’er should ha’ whipped him just for trying on that girl. Turned the men against him, and look at us now.

I don’t know what to do.

20th of July

McNally came back again today. He told me the men be waiting on me to talk. All except for Shlocksir. That whoreson be singing hymns from the choir loft, all about his innocence and all our evil ways, how we forced him to do it all against his will. Figures that even in saving his own greasy skin, he comes out a coward and a weakling.

McNally told me too that the West English all but promised that if we tell the tale, and if it be true, then we’d go free. He says they don’t believe Shlocksir, for the witnesses from the land-grabs and the yot tell a tale somewhat different from the one that poxy bastard be spinning. A tale what our story will line with right fine, methinks. McNally’s not sure about me, nor Kelly. I was on the yot, with a cutlass, and Kelly broke in doors for the land-grabs. We may have to stay in here. Tho he swears we will not swing for what we done, even if they hold us to our crimes.

After he left, I had other visitors. The two lasses we took off the yot, who Kelly and me stood guard over. They came to – to thank us. For protecting them. Christ.

I’ll talk. There be good men in this crew, in this gaol, and they shouldn’t be here. Perhaps I can talk them out of here, even if I can’t find my own way to freedom.

26th of July

No need to write in this of late. I been busy reciting my lessons for the West English, and I don’t want to recount that tale. Damn me, but they want to hear the same story over and over and over, like wee bairns at bedtime. “Tell us again, Uncle Ian, about the yot. Tell us the one about when the Coast Guard caught ye.” My tongue be tired of it.

But it worked. The men’ll be released today, all but Kelly and me, and the four bastards who be our scapegoats, our sacrificial lambs. Tho really, they be more weasels and mongrels. Our sacrificial mongrel-weasels. They be staying here.

McNally says, and the West English agree, that if Kelly and me agree to stand in court and testify against the four mongrel-weasels, we’ll be set free, too. We’ll plead guilty to theft and the like, and leave wi’ time served and parole that would keep us here in Florida. West England, says I, whate’er flowery name they write on the map.

Be it too much? To stand before a magistrate, point my finger, put the noose on them myself? I sailed with those men, whate’er they done. Carter was a good man, too, a good tar, and Burke ha’ fought many a battle for us. O’Flaherty, too, standing side by side with me with lead flying and steel singing. Can I do that to them? Can I kill them with the law?

27th of July

Aye, I can. Hurts to write. With the men gone and Kelly elsewhere, Burke and O’Flaherty caught me in the galley and tried to beat me to death. Did a fair job of it, too. And all the while cursing me for opening my gob to the law.

Damn them anyway, I be no coward. If I clap shut now, they’ll think they beat a fear into me. I’ll not have that.

I’ll tell myself we’re on ship. They be mutineers, and I be the first mate. I’d be the one to tie the knot on their necks and cast them off the yardarm, asea. So aye, I’ll do it here, too. For my Cap’n, and my – is it honor? Is it? Do I have any of that? Will I still, after I do this, after I help the English to kill Irishmen?

I know not. I know nothing. It all hurts.

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Log 29: Innocent

Log 29

I was addressed by the older man. He and the lady – likely his wife, by their clasped hands – looked on me somewhat strangely, though I wore my maid’s uniform this day, and MacTeigue wore simple sailor’s clothes, canvas pants and a brown homespun shirt. I could not have known them, of course, but still they appeared somewhat familiar.

“Aye,” I said, and extended my hand. “I am Damnation Kane, the rightful owner of that ship, which was stolen from me by those dastardly rogues.”

The man clasped my hand. “Elliott Shluxer.”

Needless to say I was taken aback. Peering closely, I could see some of the vile Shluxer’s features in these two: the mother and father of that raping, thieving, mutinous rogue. Ere I could speak again, the man said, “Elliott Shluxer is our son. Do you know him? Have you seen him? Is he all right?”

I pulled back my hand – which took some force, as he had clasped me tightly, with the strength of a parent’s desperation – and I began galloping through my mind for somewhat to say; for these people were innocent, whatever their despicable son had done, and did not deserve to share in his opprobrium; which, alas, was the entirety of what I could think at this moment. Then I was saved.

“Shluxer! Come to the window, please. Shluxer.” It was the guard in the glass box, and as he spoke, Master Shluxer turned away from me instantly, and he and Goodwife Shluxer hurried to the window. The guard informed them that the younger (viler) Shluxer would come to the barred door, and they could speak to him through it, but they had to stand back out of reach. A guard emerged from the glass box and led the couple to a spot some six feet from the portcullis, and then nodded to the two guards remaining in the box. I beckoned to MacTeigue, and we quickly withdrew to the top of the stairwell, out of sight but still within hearing.

I have not the stomach to record precisely all that this mewling, white-livered cur vomited out to his parents. He cried his innocence, of course, and begged them to believe and succor him. I took his pleas for their credulity as clear sign that he lied with every breath he took and with every venomous syllable which hissed out between his serpent’s lips; an honest man trusts in the truth, and takes his reputation, the knowledge of his character, as his only witness. But clearly his parents doted on him, and took him largely at his word. Not entire: there was some question as to how he had fallen in with – are they my crew, still? Mine enough, aye – with my crew, as he had apparently vanished without trace from his place of employment, and the prevailing opinion had been that he had simply run off, a child trying to escape responsibility, as Shluxer was apparently wont to do, intelligence which did not surprise me at all. And then – what was unknown to me previously – it came out that he had stolen from them! From his own mother and father, from his blood, from his home and theirs! I spat in disgust, hearing this new evidence of Shluxer’s corruption.

But the weak-hearted blackguard cried most piteously, and told his doting, gullible parents that he had been kidnapped and pressed into service, that he had been whipped by the ship’s master for his unwillingness to do their – our – evil bidding MacTeigue had to restrain me at these slanderous accusations, directed entirely at me, though thankfully Shluxer did not name me; in retrospect, I presume he wanted to lay the whole blame at the feet of his own erstwhile companions, rather than cast fault at some apparition the authorities knew not. I mastered myself quickly enough, aided by the disgust I felt at this mongrel’s bootlicking, at his puling, his lies, his cowardly attempts to escape all culpability for his actions; disgust which quickly subsumed my rage. To be insulted by this dog – why, that were no dishonor, at all.

Soon enough their time was finished, and Shluxer’s cries and pleas grew quiet – slowly, as he kept up his carping, like the lowing of a hungry calf mixed with the whimpers of a spoiled lapdog, even as they dragged him away to his cell. His parents called out assurances, saying they would engage a lawyer for him – at which I felt some relief; there was to be a trial, then, with lawyers and perhaps a judge, even a jury? Excellent: perhaps that gave us some time – and calling out something about bail, a term I knew only as it referred to removing water from a leaking boat. But the Shluxer elders said they would “bail him out;” was this metaphor? They would save the sinking ship of his fate? I knew not, and I determined to enquire.

The Shluxers did not look at us nor speak as they hurried past, the woman huddled miserably in her husband’s arms, with tears streaming down her cheeks. Ah, such power, such purity in a mother’s love! Alas, that such goodness should be so wasted. Once they had departed, MacTeigue and I returned to the antechamber and were hailed by the guards in the glass box presently.

“Who do you want to see?” the man asked through his metal wand, which seemed to carry sound like a speaking tube.

“Ian O’Gallows,” I answered promptly. I longed to demand Shluxer’s return, so I could slap his fat cheek and force him to recant his lies; I longed even more profoundly to summon O’Flaherty, so I could avenge myself on he who began my undoing; but I knew I would not be able to lay hands on either rogue, not with guards and portcullis between us. My next greatest desire was for the truth – and to confirm the hope that my good friend had not, in fact, betrayed me.

“Have a seat. We’ll bring him to the door. Did you hear the procedure?”

“Aye – two paces back and no contact.”

He nodded. “It’ll be a minute.”

It was somewhat extraordinary to stand there, MacTeigue at my side and the guard flanking us, and watch as Ian was brought along the corridor beyond the portcullis; I watched his expression turn from confusion – who would be calling for him? – to astonishment when he recognized me, to deep sorrow when he knew that he would now have to face his crimes, whatever they were. He came to the portcullis with head bent, and then slowly raised it and met my gaze.

“Captain,” he said, acknowledging me. Then he waited.

I gave him time to think, knowing that silence and a man’s own conscience are often the only tools needed to elicit a confession. But he neither spoke nor lowered his gaze, though I held his eyes with my own for a good minute or more. Perhaps his conscience did not weigh him down, after all – but he had shown sorrow on the sight of me; what of that?

At last I spoke. “Stand you in mutiny, O’Gallows? Or are you loyal, still?” I spat the last words, as if dubious of that remote possibility, though I had the word of Lynch and Vaughn and MacTeigue that Ian was and had always been true to me.

His eyes flashed fire, and he drew himself up proudly. “I have never wavered in my loyalty, Captain. You, and God above, be my only masters, sir, from now ’til I do rest in Neptune’s cold bosom.” Then he slumped again, and his gaze at last fell to the floor. “But I have failed ye, Captain. Failed ye and failed in my duty to the good ship we both love.”

I looked him over from head to toe. I believed him, in his protestations of loyalty; but I agreed with him in his estimations of his performance. I crossed my arms and said, “I will hear your explanation.”

He took a deep breath, clasped the portcullis with both hands, and then told his tale.

He began to describe their crime, the addlepated assault on what Vaughn’s broadsheets had called a yacht, a pleasure boat on a pleasure cruise with her wealthy owners and their guests; I cut him off, as I had known of this already from those same broadsheets, which described the boarding, murder, robbery, and the stealing away of two innocent lasses, surely bound for Shluxer’s foul lusts, and perhaps some others’ evil attentions, as well. I hurried him on to the capture of my ship, and made clear I wanted to know of her condition, and how he had protected my Grace from those who would do her harm.

He turned first to the guard. “There is a letter in my effects, which was intended for this man, and is so addressed over its seal. Can he have this from thee?”

The guard considered. “I’ll ask.” He knocked on the door to the glass cube, which was opened; he relayed O’Gallows’s request within, and was answered. He nodded and stepped back out, and then addressed me. “You can read it here, but you’ll have to put it back in evidence after you’re done. Do you want it?” I glanced at Ian, who nodded, and then I assented. The guard signaled one within the cube, who stepped out to take his place watching MacTeigue and I, and then the first guard departed down the stairs.

Ian drew in a deep breath. “All right. The letter will tell ye of all I have to say on the mutiny and the attack on the yacht.” He drew himself to attention, and then he reported.

“We were heading east, a few points north of due, clear weather, making five knots with current but little wind. ‘Twas just after dawn, and I had the watch with Desmond on the wheel. I looked to our stern, and I – I saw the ship. No sail, but it bore down on us like a falcon stooping on a rabbit, and as it drew nearer, I could make out the swivel guns on the bow, so I knew who it was, aye.” He looked me in the eye and said, “I did not raise the alarm. I knew they might fire on us, without warning, perhaps, but I did desire that they take the ship, and I sought to give her to them.” He shook his head slowly. “I’ll not apologize for it, sir. I hoped they’d keep the ship whole if we did not fight, and I deemed it better if she be in their hands, than in ours.”

I bit my tongue. I disagreed with him, for I could have taken my ship back with some ease, I thought, if my men still crewed her, if I could remind them of their former loyalty, and put the question to them as to which captain they had flourished under; but now she was out of my reach more surely than before, and only the mercy of the gods kept her afloat, rather than holed and sunk in the pursuit. But I only nodded, and motioned for him to go on.

“But fortune failed me, and O’Flaherty rose then. As he came out of his cabin, he did look astern, and spied our pursuer. Aye, one could hear it, by then, too, and perhaps this is what roused him at that poor moment. He did raise the alarm, and men leapt to stations. A great, booming voice blasted to us across the waves, ordering us to surrender without resistance. But O’Flaherty ordered us to come about and fire the starboard cannons into their bow. Desmond began to spin the wheel, and the men jumped to the shrouds – and then they did open fire on us, aye.”
He shook his head, ran his hand through his hair. “I have never heard nor seen the like. It sounded something like thunder, with storm-waves crashing on rocks below. It sounded like an avalanche of iron, if such a thing could be. And we took fire as if a thousand swivel guns were aimed at us, rather than the one. It chopped up the sails and the shrouds, and we lost the wind. Then it paused and a single rifle shot rang out, and Desmond fell, wounded – a miracle of marksmanship, to hit a man on one moving ship from another with a single aimed shot – and then the thunder roared again, and the wheel just – disappeared, in a hail of splinters.” He showed a gash in his forearm, now partly healed. “I dove to the main deck, but a splinter caught me in the air. ‘Tis a wonder that Desmond survived.” He looked me in the eye again. “It confirmed for me that I had chosen aright. We could not have resisted that assault. Perhaps our cannon could have disabled them, but as that ship was solid steel, I think not – but damn me if they couldn’t ha’ sunk us without breathing hard.

“They came up to our stern, and raked the sails once more with that thunder-gun. They grappled and boarded, their booming voice calling again for our surrender. O’Flaherty and Burke had mustered the crew on the deck and were shouting at us to fight to the death. But just as the men of the steel ship began to leap aboard, I struck.

“I grabbed a hold of the chain on Burke’s wrist and clubbed him with my sword hilt. I swung him, half-stunned, into O’Flaherty, felling them both. Carter spun about with a snarl, but I flung my sword and fouled his aim before he could fire at me; then I was on him, and laid him out with my fists, the slack-brained lout. The men knew not how to respond, to take my side or O’Flaherty’s. I heard a shout and spun about to see Kelly, who had been below guarding the two lasses; he had come above and was just finishing off O’Grady, who had leveled his aim at me and was now off to a pleasant nap with something of a lump on his skull. Then men turned to look at Kelly, then back at me, and by then the steel ship’s crew had all of us in their sights.”

He sighed and dropped his gaze, wrapping his hands around the bars of the portcullis. “‘Twas then, and I’m right sorry to bring ye the news, Captain – aye, and you, too, Owen – but your cousin, Hugh Moran, did draw and aim with a shout. They cut him down. I ha’ ne’er seen the like: every man had a thunder-gun, and ’twas not as if he were shot, but rather like he exploded like a grenado, blood spraying from a hundred wounds in seconds. He do be dead, Captain.”

I nodded. “Were any others hurt?”

“No, sir. The rest of them surrendered, following my lead, and Kelly’s – aye, and Shluxer, that milk-hearted coward, though he was crying and begging for mercy when he threw his weapons down. Our men kept their pride, even in defeat, sir.

“They manacled us and put us below. They towed the Grace back with us, and docked her at their fortress. I think – I hope – she be there still. They ha’ taken Desmond to a surgeon, and put the rest of us in these cells.” He spread his hands. “And here we be.”

I nodded. The guard returned then with his letter, which I read on the spot. I looked Ian over, and then closed my eyes and took as deep a breath as lungs could hold. Then I let it out, and pronounced my judgment.

“Ye have not failed in your duty to the ship. You protected her as well as you could, and I have no doubt she still rides on the water instead of resting below it because of you.” He straightened with every word, as if heavy weight fell from his broad shoulders. But I raised a hand. “But you have failed me, O’Gallows. For you put my ship out of my reach, and though you did not steal her, still you could not bring her back to me, nor remind my men of their loyalty to me and not O’Flaherty.” He hung his head, nodding once as he acknowledged the truth of what I said.

I turned to MacTeigue. “Come, we are done here.” I nodded to the guard. “We are done. Put him back in his cell. He can think on his actions there.” And without looking back at my friend, I strode out.

Of course it was but posturing. I knew it unfair, even absurd, to hold O’Gallows responsible for the way I had lost my ship. If I should not blame those who took her – and aye, I blamed them – the only other fault must be mine own. I kept secrets from my men, and thus lost their trust, and then I let those bastards trick me and steal from me. But absurd or not, I could not but feel a deep, burning anger at all those who lost me my ship – of which Ian was one. Thus, my childish tantrum.

I will get him out, aye. I will get them all out. With a lawyer and this bail of which the Shluxers spoke, if possible. But if not that, then I will use force. Mutinous or not, they are my crew, my countrymen, the only others of my time in this peculiar world, and I will have them back by my side.

Though I do not know how.

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Log 27: Letter from the Gallows

Date Unknown: The 9th Day after the Cursed Mutiny.

A Letter to my Captain and the Man I once called Friend, and would give my Right Hand to call such again: Damnation Kane, EVER AND ALWAYS Master of the Grace of Ireland.

Captain,

I do beg ye not to misapprehend the apparent Coolness of my Address. ‘Tis not because I love ye any the less than when I called ye Nate, and thought of ye as my Brother. But I ha’ failed ye so utterly that I cannot speak ye familiar until I ha’ redeemed myself. I may ne’er do so. I will not ask Forgiveness, for how could any Man of true Heart and hot Blood forgive Betrayal so base as ye ha’ suffered? Na’theless, I do, ‘pon my knees, offer to ye my humblest and deepest Apologies and Regrets. When ye did set me Mate, an honor that warms my Soul e’en now, in the black depths of my despair, ye gave me the task of preserving your command, your fine ship, above all else. And now I do fear she will be lost.

Curse me, ye will ne’er forgive me. Curse me to the end of days. And curse that gut-worm Shlocksir thrice again. Ye ha’ ne’er failed as Captain, sir, but perhaps that once, when ye allowed that Spawn of Corruption into our company, whate’er our need may ha’ been. Aye and perhaps one other time, when ye let those pestilent mongrels O’Flaherty and Burke take authority that ye should ha’ kept. Well I know that the men did give ye little choice. But blast me, Captain, better ye had taken on whole new crew than keep those two aboard with daggers e’er pointed at your Heart, and Lust for your Ship in theirs.

But whate’er missteps our twisted and malignant Fate has pushed ye into, ye ne’er lost our Ship. Nay, that sin be mine, and the fault lies in me that landed those poxy fools on the poop deck in your place.

‘Twas Shlocksir’s plan, Captain, tho I know O’Flaherty and Burke and Carter all pressed for a Sea Battle. The land-grabs we ha’ done e’er since stealing your Grace ha’ brought a fine heap o’ paper, and little else besides, pleasing no one but our ferret-eyed whore’s son of a Carpenter. Too, the loss of the boat means we can no longer anchor the Grace and reach the shore at our Leisure, and that too pushed us into this ill-fated Folly.

We did try to take a Ship, this day. A Ship bearing passengers, as Shlocksir avowed that our sweet Grace could not threaten the cargo vessels that sail these Seas, so large as those Ships be. But Shlocksir told us of the Ships of the wealthiest merchants, Ships he called yots, if that were his word aright. These yots sailed Unarmed and Unsuspecting of Attack, and we could hail the yotsmen as if in Friendship, or perhaps as tho we were in Distress, and we should find Riches aboard.

We made South-South-West for a day, headed for the Keys, as Shlocksir named them, islands where the yots made passage to and fro. We sighted a Fine Specimen, a Ship twice the Grace from stem to stern, with three decks, white as snow and with music and good cheer pouring out to our ears e’en a half mile distant. Shlocksir called it a “party boat,” a “day-tripper,” and said we could handle it with ease, may the Devil gnaw at his greedy heart.

Shlocksir ordered us to come alongside and board her. Why that bag of rancid suet fancies himself capable or deserving of command, I ha’ not an idea. And less why O’Flaherty and Burke allow it. But they do, for Shlocksir is e’er shouting commands, e’er the wrong ones, and they ne’er gainsay him but when the Ship should sink if they held their tongues, as when he ordered us to come to port when he meant starboard, and there were rocks to port. Yet all other orders we follow, in our Folly and to our Doom. We did so now, tho he railed at the slowness of our approach for some minutes, until Burke took him aside roughly and pointed out the direction of the wind, which was against us, but apparently past the understanding of a calf-brained lubber such as this.

But he was not the only calf-brained lubber, it seemed, as the Captain of the yot did nothing to stem our approach, nor to escape. He came to the rail and bespoke us through some Magickal Device that made his Voice boom like storm waves crashing ashore. All vile Shlocksir spake in return was that we be Pirates looking for a good time, and bearing Grog. He did ask for permission to come aboard, and had me and Sweeney smile and wave. Certain ’tis that we two looked less Forbidding than Burke or Kelly. And that, it seemed, were enough, as we were able to come alongside and make Fast to their rail.

Then we climbed aboard, and the time for smiling was done. We went armed, secured the Men, there being but ten aboard and eight Women, one lass in uniform, which did Mystify us, but Shlocksir claims ’tis the way of things here. Tho I know not why we do continue to take his word, the Mendacious Idiot. They did not believe our Menace until Carter, who has been almost continually drunk these past nine days, shot the Mate, killing him on the spot, his blood pooling on the deck making a most Persuasive Argument. The Captain then, too late, did raise a Shout, but Burke beat him unconscious and then heaved him o’erboard. All was silent but for Tears after that.

We searched the Ship, finding little enough of value. Some Spirits, some Victuals, a fair quantity o’ jewelry on the passengers, some strange objects Shlocksir claimed valuable, naming them selfowns and laptops. Nothing worth the hanging we surely now have waiting for us ashore. We trussed up the remaining passengers and crew and made to Depart. But then Shlocksir said that we should take hostages.

I did see his eye fall on the comeliest female passengers, both wearing little more than skin, both young and shapely. I knew he did not mean to keep them as hostages. I saw other men, Burke, and Carter, and perhaps more, grin at Shlocksir’s idea. I did speak against it, Loud and strong, aye. I named Shlocksir a Vile Rapist.

His response? Naught but a grin and the words, “No, man, I’m a pirate.”

I moved to strike him then, but he drew his pistol on me. I had no doubt he would use it. I might ha’ charged anyway, for I could ha’ had him o’er the rail e’en as he killed me, and then he would drown and save the women, but I could not abandon the Grace. And so, to my Shame, I backed down, and let Shlocksir and Burke haul those poor screaming lasses aboard our ship, our ship blessed by your own Sainted Mother and baptized in your Blood.

Ah, God, what have I done?

I could not, Captain. I could not let them get away with this, not this. As we were departing and preparing to cut loose from the yot, I did loosen the bonds of one of the Crewmen. I did whisper to him that we would likely head East, as Shlocksir had mentioned afore, aiming for Bermuda or a similar port of call.

I gave him our Ship, Captain. I know that, even as we sail away filled with good Cheer at our Success, the forces of Just Retribution are descending on us. I know that the Magick of this day, of this place, can surely find us wheresoe’er we go, can surely outrun and outgun us. Shlocksir has said this many a time, making much of our ability to Surprise as our Greatest Asset, and our ability to sneak away and vanish in the vasty Ocean.

But now they know where we are. They will find us. They will likely destroy us, and your Ship with us.

I am sorry, Nate. So very sorry. I will await your Forgiveness, or your Vengeance, when I am in Hell, my corpse dangling from a gibbet.

I be standing guard o’er the hostages. Kelly is with me, and sober for a Wonder. We are agreed that Blood will spill afore we allow Innocents to be despoiled on our Blessed Ship. Kelly rests now, and I write so that I may stay awake. It has been two days, and hard days, since I did sleep, and ten since I did sleep well.

With each Sunset I do gain another day’s doubts. Every night, I lay in my bunk, for I be demoted from Mate, o’ course, and broken down to a sailor’s berth, and as I lay I do cast back o’er the last day, the last two or three or ten days. Did I do all that I might? Did I choose aright, this day? These last ten nights, the Question that consumes my Mind is this: did I do what I could to bring back the Grace? To bring her back to her Owner and Captain, to bring her back to the course she was meant to sail?

I cannot think how we could ha’ done differently.

That first day we thought ye in your cabin. I swear that to be God’s Own Truth. I remember drinking too much Wine and falling asleep at table the night afore; Master Vaughn feels sure we were drugged, as he also fell unconscious in his cups tho he had but one or two glasses of Wine, and for myself, I ha’ not lost my wits to drink since I was a wee lad. In the morning, my head pounding like the Devil’s dancing hoofsteps, I asked after ye, and O’Flaherty said ye were sleeping off the Wine and should not be disturbed. He did say we should make way, tho, so as not to lose the Tide; he said that ‘twould be a fine Surprise for ye to wake and see the Grace far out to Sea already.

I suppose it was, at that.

Ye ha’ been in the habit o’ staying in your Cabin of late, and my head Ached so that I could not but wish I was asleep, myself. Surely I could not, did not think straight, else I would have, I should have!, checked to see ye for myself. But I did not, to my Shame, both as Mate and Friend. Instead I did take Command in your Absence from the poop deck, and got us out to Sea and running well.

‘Twas then, four bells through the midmorning watch, that the Truth was Revealed. O’Flaherty put Carter on the wheel and called all Hands on Deck. Then he told us that ye had been relieved o’ your Command. He told us that ye had not only Beaten and Whipped a man Unjustly, and tho Shlocksir be unfamiliar to the men, his crime is not mysterious to their thoughts, and so they fear his Fate for themselves, as I did try to tell ye then, Curse me, but also he did say that ye had Lied to us. Ye had withheld vital information, because ye did not trust us to take it like Men, and, he said, ye likely had some Villainous Plot in mind, perhaps to Betray us and take on new crew, men more to your way o’ thinking. I stood to defend ye and your decisions as Captain, but was Silenced by what O’Flaherty said next. We ha’ traveled through Time, he said. Three hundred years, he said, and more. All that we did know then, all is now dust and ashes, and Relicks in a Museum.

We were so stunned by this that we did not object when O’Flaherty took Command, naming Moran as Mate, Burke to Gunner, Carter as the Bosun and Shlocksir as Navigator. He told us his intentions: we would find our way back to our own Time, but first we had to do what ye, in your Cowardice and broken-minded befuddlement, Forgive me for repeating his words, what ye had failed to do. We must take advantage of this strange Miracle which Providence had cast in our way. For we do be the only Pirates in these Seas, the only Pirates in Two Hundred Years! He said the people here do be soft and trusting as Lambs. He did not even need to look at Shlocksir to make his point, for we all knew that he was right. He said we did not even need to Pluck this ripened Fruit that hung all around us; all we need do is open our mouths and let the rich Juices run down our gullets ’til our bellies be filled. Then we would find our way home, and live like Kings.

‘Twas a masterful job, Captain. He scattered our wits with his Revelation, like a grenado cast into our midst, and then in one stroke, he blamed ye for the Devastation he had wrought and also gave us a Way out of it, one which appealed to our Greed as well as offering a chance to not feel the Terror of being 300 years Lost.

Ye should ha’ told us, Nate. Tho the result be not deserved, still ye should ha’ told us. It went poorly when I asked after ye. The men shouted me down and named ye Traitor to the Company for keeping such a Secret. When Moran stood and did swear that ye lived and were unharmed, that he would ne’er spill the blood of his own Cousin, the men were well satisfied, and agreed on the spot to follow O’Flaherty as Captain o’ our Grace.

There were Three, tho, who came to me later and did express deep Misgivings about your loss and O’Flaherty’s gain. We met again, often, o’er the next few days, as our Misgivings grew under O’Flaherty’s Command and Shlocksir’s guidance. When we saw the heading they intended for us to follow, we decided to take Action.

‘Twas miserable, Captain. The only one excited was Shlocksir, who sweated and capered about so you’d think him a young Horse, new-broken and ridden hard and let to Pasture. The crew did question the value in such a simple and unambitious Assault, for we put four men in the boat and rowed ashore at night, and robbed a Store, something named Seven-Eleven. We took their paper money and some small supplies, and Naught else. Aye, ’twas easy and free o’ Risk, but where were the great Rewards promised us? That were the grumbles.

Tho I admit: those Potato Chips are entirely Delicious.

The next night, to Silence those grumblings, our Target was a Grog Shop. Along with more paper, of which Shlocksir seems inordinately fond, we captured crates of Liquor, and had a fine proper Drunkening. The next night we waited until later, and then took a Tavern, just after it closed, using Kelly to burst the door in. We took a grand lot o’ paper that night, aye, and more Rum to keep the crew jolly.

We saw then, myself and my three Companions in Misery, that this would be our Fate: we would run up and down the Coastline, Robbing local shopkeeps o’ paper and Potato chips and Grog. Shlocksir would be happy with his piles o’ green scraps, O’Flaherty with his usurped Command; Burke would surely find opportunities to Exercise his Cruelty (He has already flogged two men, and Savagely), and the men would merely stay drunk, and Complacent Thereby.

We four could not Stomack this. What Pride was there, what Glory, in Midnight raids on unarmed townsfolk? We are Pirates, by God, Gentlemen of Fortune! And Irishmen, too! Half of us joined this crew because we did know that Damnation Kane would give us the chance to spill English blood, and to Fight, in some small way, for our Country against her Oppressors. Who were we fighting now, Seven-Eleven? We found it less than satisfying.

But the men were Drunk. And the course we followed was, if nothing else, Supremely Easy. We made out to Sea at night, fished and lazed during the Day, then sailed to shore after nightfall, cruising until we spotted a Target, when we would anchor and send out the boat, with Shlocksir, Burke, and two men to row. Why would the crew Rebel against that?

We needed our Leader, the Man who could wake up their Blood and give them Purpose again. We needed ye, Captain.

So finally, we four decided to steal the boat, and Make our way back to ye. I agreed to stay aboard the Grace, to watch out for Her so Well as I could. Three nights ago we had our Chance, when O’Flaherty found a quiet cove to anchor in after our petty theft, and Declared we would spend the night at rest, without a watch, so that all could Celebrate the ease of our Success. They did get Masterfully Drunk, and we did steal their boat.

In the morning, when they did find the boat gone, and with it their ability to make these easy raids on townsfolk, our Leaders decided to make an Assault on a Ship.

And here we are.

Now my three Compatriots, young Lynch, your cousin Owen MacTeigue, and Master Vaughn, are gone with the boat, and I know not what has become of them. And I squat in the companionway outside the Mate’s Cabin belowdecks, and listen to the Wailings and Whimpers of two Terrified and Innocent women who are prisoned where once I made my berth. I hope it will not come to Blows if they come for the women, for Kelly and I will stand Honorably, but we will not win, and I hate that Blood may be spilled on our lovely Ship. And I hope that the local Navymen will find us, but will not sink us, for I Dread most of all if these Serpents in the shape of men be allowed to Pillage and Plunder at their will. If they earn some ill Repute for their Beastly deeds and Savage treatment of Innocents, then what show of force, what sort of Ship, what manner of destructive Magick incomprehensible and Terrible to us will be brought to bear? We must not risk that. This cruise must be Stopped now.

God Almighty, let the Risks I take be for the best for my Ship, my Captain, and my Friends. I Beg of Thee.

Ian O’Gallows, Mate of the Grace of Ireland

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Log #19: Mutiny

Captain’s Log

Date: 4 July 2011

Location: Miami, Florida

Conditions: Betrayed, bereft, abandoned. Determined nonetheless.

 

It has required much of the past two days to unknot the tangles in my memory, to see through the snarled skeins and remember: who betrayed me, and how. (It has not helped that this day, apparently one of violent celebration – perhaps a tyrant has been overthrown? – I am continuously awakened and disturbed by explosions. Child’s toys, I am told, that explode in smoke and noise more than flame. Had I my ship, I would show them a proper booming: the roar of a full broadside. That for the Em-eighty, ha! Without the Grace, I have no desire to celebrate.) I have spent the time striving most earnestly, and I believe I have remembered it all, or nearly so.

The time I have not been casting back inside my aching skull has only served to dizzy me more. By a most remarkable turn of events – led by a most remarkable woman – I abide no longer in the Glass Palace. I am lodged in a smaller, more human and far more comfortable domicile, the which lies in South Miami, according to my most generous hostess, Flora Lopez. The maid of the Glass Palace, my erstwhile hostage, and would-be victim of the foul Shluxer’s lust.

This is what I remember: the Grace had been made ready, and I had given orders that we would sail with the morning tide. I bided in my cabin aboard, as I had been for the hours and days following Shluxer’s flogging – though I cannot now recall much of that span, nor how I occupied it; all is blurred and befogged.

It was O’Grady’s suggestion. I remember that. But does that make him a conspirator? Or was he led, a mere puppet? Fah! It matters not. Clearly they are all mutinied, every man jack of them, the faithless bastards.

O’Grady came to me and said he had prepared a special feast, a farewell to the Palace we were abandoning. He told me it were best served ashore, in the Palace itself, with the plate and crystal and cutlery found there in their native setting, as it were. He told me, too, that my officers wished a proper dinner, with the Captain at the head of his table, all the gentlemen of the ship to break bread together. Grateful for the opportunity to smooth the feathers ruffled by the Shluxer affair – and pleased by the apparent abandonment of the usual course that required all of the ship’s crew to eat together as equals, a policy to which I generally do not object, but occasionally one does tire of sailors’ manners at table – I agreed, and we dined well. Indeed, ’twas a most cheerful company, with a sumptuous repast and a vast quantity of wine.

I assume it was in the wine, whatever foul concoction they poisoned me with. I tasted nothing untoward, but many of the vintages here are uncommon strange to my ancient Irish tongue. I will say that I suspected nothing, saw no hint in their behavior that they planned this blackguardery. Shluxer was sullen, as one would expect given his tender back and wounded pride; the others, O’Flaherty, Burke, Moran, Ian O’Gallows, were all joyed at the ship’s recovery and our departure anon. Vaughn was his usual distracted self, responding to direct queries with direct answers, all in seriousness fitting to a churchman – frequently therefore becoming the butt of many crude jokes made at his expense but without his disapproval; I swear that man lacks the tiniest morsel of humor – but elsewise silent and contemplative.

The dizziness came on me suddenly, and I presumed it was but the wine and the food as my cup did runneth over. I excused myself and rose, and staggered, to much laughter. I remember catching myself on the table and upsetting dishes. I might have wondered why the wine so affected me, an Irish sailor – what potable on this green Earth could make such a man stumble? With whiskey in my blood and the sea in my legs, how could I lose equilibrium? – but I do not recall it, and if I did, I was too addled to make aught of the issue. Then – was it O’Flaherty? Or Ian? One or both gave me a shoulder, suggested the upstairs Palace rooms rather than my cabin aboard, as recommended by proximity and my extremely shakeous pins. I do not recall agreeing, nor arguing; I do not recall staggering, nor walking upright and manful, nor being carried like a babe to my bed.

No: I recall coming to myself in monstrous befuddlement, my vision blurred, my head spinning like a ship’s wheel as it comes about in a headwind, my belly churning like a storm surging o’er the rocky shore – face-down on my bed while someone bound my hands together behind my back. When I protested, muzzily, I was hauled upright – and I promptly vomited on at least one of my captors. There were curses, and perhaps some laughter, though that might be my memory’s failing; then one of them – presumably he who had received my offering of lightly-used provender – struck me a mighty blow, and all went dark. Then after a time of no time, I woke sprawled on the floor, my shoulders aching mightily from my bonds, my ankles trussed as well, and men’s boots around my head, their voices murmuring over me. I may have groaned, I may have moved; whatever the cause, they fell on me, striking me again and again. There were many hands that struck me, and I have a village-worth of bruises to show for it; but I could not look up from the rug under my nose, and I cannot recall any specific voice – save one.

Shluxer.

They put me in the closet, bound hand and foot, and put a bag over my head; I do distinctly remember Shluxer striking me then, for I recall his grunt of effort and words of encouragement from another voice, which said the name Shluxer. The raper gave me a series of weakish blows that nonetheless accomplished a fair piece of work, bleeding and bruising my face and head quite satisfactorily. I fell and was kicked; my ribs are sprung from it even now. My consciousness was lost then.

I awoke to daylight peeking under the door. After a goodly time spent praying for death to end my suffering, and many fruitless attempts to free my limbs – though the bag on my head, loose and untethered, came away easily enough – I managed to put my benumbed fingers on the blade that is ever in my boot, and was soon freed, though still terrible sick and dizzied, weak and battered. I burst forth from the closet in spite of my maladies, intent on rushing any guard left without, but there was none. I collapsed to the floor, spent by the effort, and the time again goes blank.

It was not long before I awoke once more, as I was lying in bright sun, yet my skin remained largely chilled. I managed to regain my feet, and with the walls as my guide and necessary support, I made it down the stairs and out onto the terrace. I looked out upon that beauteous little cove, with its white sand and its bright blue sea, the gentle curve of the spit, like a mother’s arm gathering her children to her bosom, the gentle strength of the tall, supple trees – and I cursed the sight, cursed it for its one lack.

My ship – my Grace – was gone.

I must have collapsed, then, still weak from poison and beating and betrayal. The next thing I recall was the blessed relief of a damp cloth daubing gently at my face, cleaning away the sticky blood, though not, alas, the pain. I opened my eyes, and when my vision cleared, I beheld Flora, the maid of the Palace, kneeling beside me with a cloth and an admixture of terror and pity on her gentle face.

After a moment of confusticated thoughts, which ended with the relieved awareness that she was unarmed and likely to remain so, I closed my eyes again and said, “Thank you.”

In a shaking voice, she asked, “They – they are gone, see? The others?”

I tried to nod, but the motion spun my head like a child’s top. “Aye, they be gone, sure as sure can be. And not apt to return to this place, curse them all to the blackest pits.”

She returned to cleansing my wounds, now with a surer touch. I opened my eyes again, and saw that the terror had largely left her features; she flashed a brief smile at me when she met my gaze.

Unable to do otherwise, I surrendered myself to her ministrations, and in a short time my wounds were cleaned, daubed with a strange-smelling salve from within the Palace, and plastered over with odd, sticky, flesh-colored patches; whatever mysteries these things held, still I felt much improved. I begged her for a glass of water, which she gave me, retrieving another for herself. I toasted her, and she tapped my glass with her own, a faint smile again on her features.

She said, “You no can stay.”

I sighed and turned my face away from her. I had no wish to consider any exigencies but one: my ship was stolen from me. I had no wish to consider any proposition save one: to regain my lovely Grace. All else came to ashes and dust beside that.

The lady pressed me. “You no stay. Missus, she come home, today. You no can stay! She call pole-ees.” This broke through my despondency and rage, reaching the practicality in me. I had no wish to confront the Enchantress, nor to explain to her the damage we had done to her home and grounds, her servants – and especially her larder, and her cellar, fast emptied by a score of hungry pirates.

But my newfound and unexpected helpmeet had still more kind succor to offer me. “You come, my house. Yes?”

I looked at her, her bedraggled state, unwashed these past days of her captivity; at her kind smile, despite the haunted look lingering in her eyes. And, gratefully, I nodded my acquiescence.

Thus do I find myself the guest – albeit not an entirely welcome one, as Flora does not dwell here alone, and her good mother and her brothers, the same Juan and Ignacio I had as my guests priorwise, do not look kindly on my tenancy here – of my former captive, whom my former ally and present Nemesis, the cursed black-hearted Shluxer, did attempt to defile. For nigh on two days I have slept in a pallet in a sort of store shed they call a “garradge,” I have recovered from my hurts, steadied my spinning brain-case, and with the kind gift of paper and a sort of charcoal wand named a “pen-sill” by mine hosts, I have writ down my memories of betrayal, both old and new, familiar ache and newfound sharpness. Should I recover the GraceWhen I recover the Grace – I will place this with the rest of my log. It is still a Captain’s log, by damn, even if my ship be far from me; still and always she is mine, to the death.

One more matter should be noted: yesterday, while I largely and profoundly slept, I did awaken once to the sound of raised voices near to the walls of my garradge. I waited until the shouting stopped, hand on my knife as small but welcome defense, for though I knew not the words – ’twas the Spanisher’s tongue, I feel – I could hear the menace and violence in the voices. When it was over, and I had heard the departure of a deep-growling beast-wagon, I groaned myself to my feet and, feeling a great thirst, staggered into the galley for water; into the house entered the brothers Lopez, who checked on seeing me and then shook their heads and went back to muttering in their own speech, though they cast glances both suspicious and irate at me the while. I know not what troubles them, but I have no doubt as to my part in their misery. Nor would any who know me doubt that I shall remove my thorny self from their hide, just as quickly as I can; I have no wish to be a burden on anyone, be they friend or foe. I have imposed on this family enough, and more than enough.

I must find my own way, to my proper place once more.

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Log 17: Coming Up to Speed

Captain’s Log

Date: 29 June 1678 2011

Location: Glass Palace Beach House, 10 mi. South of Miami, Florida, United States of America

Conditions: Improving Ship repairs near completion

 

I don’t know how to tell the men.

They have been busy, working steadily – after first celebrating Shluxer’s bounty. They emptied a crate of rum that first night, not realizing that Shluxer’s rum is more potent than the rum we knew. They were near paralyzed with remorse the following morning. In the afternoon, though, O’Flaherty and Burke got them up and back to work on the Grace. They also sent Shluxer for more rum, which he retrieved without difficulty. The which made him, once more, the hero in the hearts of my crew.

I will not kill him. I was in my cups myself when I wrote that last entry, having commandeered the whiskey and made a most strenuous and valiant attempt to consume every drop; without mixing it with water, I might add. I spent all of yesterday thus engaged in my cabin, which necessitated this day be spent recovering. At last, I have been able to eat some food, and now I drink but clean water from the Palace’s taps. Ah – it is a beach house, not a Palace, avers Shluxer.

I will not kill Shluxer, no. It would not change our situation, I know. He was but the messenger. Too, he has proved most helpful. Not only has he taken up the mantle of ship’s carpenter, helping the men to repair the hole in the Grace’s hull to anyone’s satisfaction, and then retrieving for us a great quantity of a white paste he calls caulk, though it bears little resemblance to the tarred rope fibers we have always used to fill the cracks between the planks of the hull – he has also shown us much about this Beach House we have inhabited, and made our daily lives far easier.

I found today that he released our hostages. All but the woman, Flora, the Palace maid. Apparently, at some time on the night of revelry, he struck up a conversation with Ian – and I must note that my dear friend and great ally took responsibility for the ship and crew whilst I was out of my mind with Shluxer’s revelations; it was Ian who stayed sober and ensured that watches were kept; we had moved our landward watch post to the gate Shluxer found for us, the which we have reinforced with blockades on the road, and locked in place with hammered wedges and chains. The men stationed there have begun to grow accustomed to the beast-wagons – Shluxer names them “cars” – for they pass by the gate with mind-numbing regularity. But to the point, to the point – too many wonders, too many distractions. Shluxer spoke with Ian, Ian told me later, and mentioned that the owner of the car, the wagon named Kia which we used to retrieve O’Flaherty, would be irate when he saw the damage done to his beast. Ian, laughing, said they could ask the man, as he was locked and under guard along with the other hostages inside the Beach House. Shluxer was most put out by this intelligence, though Ian said he grew calmer when he heard they had been held for no more than a single day, at that point. He asked to be taken to the hostages, which he was; he then told Ian that they must be released immediately, or else the militia assault we have feared would become imminent and inevitable – he called the militia the “police,” which seems to be the word that the Lopez siblings had used more than once in conversation with me, and also, inexplicably, the Five Oh and the Po-Po. Shluxer has the strangest tongue I have yet known. I despair of mastering it.

Any road, Shluxer and Ian came to my rooms and were repulsed without entry by myself and my fermented companion; they went to O’Flaherty instead, who was nearly as drunk but far more companionable. He granted Shluxer and Ian the authority to handle the situation. Shluxer, in subsequent conversation with the Brothers Lopez, was relieved to hear that they were themselves illegal, and thus unlikely, he claimed, to summon the police, or have said police summoned on their behalf, which seemed his greater worry, since he said we had confiscated their “sellfones.” Ian knew not to what Shluxer then referred. Shluxer determined that we should keep their sister as assurance of their continued silence, and then he returned their belongings, saw them into their Kia-wagon, and sent them away.

I want to believe that Shluxer has done us a great service. But I fear that he is gaining a taste for power, power granted him by his knowledge of this world – this time – that is so strange to us. I surmise that he has seldom if ever had authority over others, and like most such men, he revels in his elevation. But as England’s Shakespeare put it, “‘Tis the bright day that brings forth the adder, and that craves wary walking. Crown him that, and then I grant we put a sting in him, that at his will he may do danger with.”

The Bard refers to the crowning of Julius Caesar. I fear I may be cast in the role of Brutus.

For the nonce, though, we need Shluxer and his knowledge, his power. Using the maid’s beast-wagon, he has procured all manner of supplies: fresh tar for the ropes and the hull, spices for O’Grady and a remarkable quantity of salt, the which O’Grady has used to preserve the remaining meat from Ian’s trading mission; Shluxer has brought us new provisions, as well, nearly as fine as the goods Ian brought. Though I have not enjoyed all that he brought – those Doritos are vile things, like burnt, flattened goat turds dipped in gunpowder and salt – I must speak well of these Twinkie cakes. Delicious.

When Shluxer learned that we had been drinking the water from the pool on the terrace despite its bitter taste – which he called “cloreen,” or some such – he showed us that the fixtures in this dwelling provide limitless fresh water. But to speak truth, as my mother taught me I ever should, to a tongue raised on new rain caught in clay jugs and copper pots, and to the crisp cool drink of mountain springs, the water from within tastes little better than that from the pool. Of course, life on board ship nearly always entails the drinking of stale and sour water; the moment it is stored in casks, it begins to turn, but we needs must drink it anyway. ‘Tis at least part of the reason the men prefer grog – though now they are grown mighty fond of the beer Shluxer brought us in metal barrels, this Coors that he insists on referring to as the silver bullet.

What matters most to me is that Shluxer has indeed managed to repair my lovely ship. The hull appears to be even more watertight than when she was new. We will let his caulk dry another day, and then cover it with tar and float the ship once the tide is high. If she doesn’t take on water then, we will sail, in three days’ time.

Though I do not know where we will go then.

 

 

Captain’s Log

Date: 1 July 2011

Location: Beach House Cove

Conditions: Improved, at last.

The caulking and tarring is done. The mast is repaired, and the men have begun digging out the sand around the Grace to the level of the tide; when the water flows in, it will, with the blessings of fortune, float our ship, and we will once more be men of the sea. I find I am tired of standing on this land. I have been considering a return to Ireland, though I know not what we will find there in this time. I have not consulted with Shluxer on the matter, though if past conversation be any guide, his knowledge of the great nations of Europe is spotty at best. He claims there are no more kings in the world, at least not in any but the darkest and most savage nations; this gave me a cold chill, as it brought to mind Devil Cromwell and his Parliamentarians, and my father. But Shluxer knew nothing at all of Cromwell, or the wars for Charles’s throne, or the devastation of Ireland under the New Model Army. It is most odd, what he knows and what he does not.

But however odd the man is, I had best become accustomed to him: he has signed the Articles, and joined the crew of the Grace of Ireland as our carpenter. He was sponsored by O’Flaherty and Carter, with whom he has grown most amicable, but his great benefit to our ship and crew would have been enough regardless.

I confess I hold reservations about the man’s inclusion in our merry band. When I asked him about the home and family he would leave behind to become a rover – he has mentioned his mother and father before – he shrugged and said, “Fuck them – I want to be a pirate. Yo ho!” He is most fond of that phrase. But it was the first part of that utterance that stuck with me. What loyalty can a man have, if he have none to his own blood?

But perhaps I should ask my father that question.

 

 

Captain’s Log

Date: 2 July 2011

Location: Beach House Cove

Conditions: The ship is once more on water. Situation on land, alas, has sunk to the depths.

I was right not to trust Shluxer.

This past night, while the men slept on the beach, I came off the Grace, where I had been sleeping in my cabin; I find it far more comfortable for its familiarity than even the softest bed in this house. I went inside in search of a cool drink of water. When I entered the kitchen, I heard some noise of struggle; investigating I found the guard outside the prisoner’s chamber had been dismissed, and inside, I found Shluxer attempting to defile the maid, Flora. I prevented him, and struck him down; this morning, at dawn, I had him tied to the mast and given twenty lashes. I twice had to order Burke to put his back into it. Burke – the man who wears a devil’s grin at the mere thought of applying stripes to a man’s back – now he grows reluctant? In truth, I have never heard caterwauling and pleas like those uttered by Shluxer once his pale, scarless skin felt the bite of the lash; he has lived a soft life till now. No more.

O’Flaherty came to me with objection, for my assault on the foul rapist. The stripes he earned, according to our Articles, which prescribe this penalty for any man who attempts to force his attentions on any unwilling woman, and death or marooning for any man who is successful in his vile designs; but those same Articles expressly forbid any member of the crew, and any officer, from striking another. And I had struck Shluxer many times, in my rage. I argued that the defense of our own honor required my actions in order to stop Shluxer, and though O’Flaherty grumbled, he went away.

But he was succeeded by Ian. Who repeated the complaint. Though his reasoning was more pragmatic: in our dire straits, he said we need Shluxer more than we need justice. He felt I should have simply warned the bastard away and doubled the woman’s guard, so as to avoid dissension and resentment among the crew, for whom Shluxer has gained a most favorable hue of approval – and whose crime, generally speaking, is frequently shrugged at indifferently. I am afraid Ian and I both became intemperate in our discussion of this matter, until at last I ejected him from my cabin and locked myself in, to keep this log and to brood on our circumstance. And aye, to keep from laying eyes on that slug Shluxer, lest I open his belly for the gulls.

I cannot face the crew. I cannot lie to them, and I cannot speak to them without addressing our situation; I know the talk amongst them is of little else but where we are, and where we must go. I hope once we put out to sea, I will gain the courage and the strength to tell them the truth; I know if I do not, then Shluxer will, and he will say it – poorly. Until then, I have given my orders, and I will stay in my cabin while they are carried out. I have entrusted the maid’s safety to Lynch and MacTeigue until we depart, as they see the situation my way, I know – indeed, Lynch was so enraged he demanded Shluxer’s throat be cut for his crime, but I ordered him to let the blood spilled by the lash suffice. After all, I did prevent Shluxer from achieving his intent. Lynch was not satisfied, but he agreed and swore to abide by my wishes.

We must get to sea. All will be well when we are on the waves once more.

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Log 16: Elliott’s Beer Run

I can’t believe this. I mean, seriously, I just can’t fuckin believe this shit.

You know in A Princess Bride how Vizzini always says “Inconceivable!” and Inigo finally says “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” That’s how I feel. This shit here is inconceivable. But just like with Vizzini, who says that about shit that’s already happening, which means it’s, like, conceivable, this shit that I can’t believe is happening right now.

I’m on a beer run with a pirate.

I glance in the rearview – which catches me a look at the hole that huge dude Kelly put in the roof with his dagger – and then I stop at a Stop sign. And next to me, this guy Ian – who, no homo, but he’s like the best-looking guy I’ve ever seen, all sparkling blue eyes and curly red-gold hair and tan skin and white teeth (How does a pirate get white teeth? What, did they jack a floss shipment? For that matter, I thought British people all had fucked-up teeth. Whatever: homey’s got prom king genes, that’s all.) – Ian throws his hands up on the dash to stop himself from flying through the windshield, even though I didn’t actually stop hard at all. And he laughs through those shiny white teeth and he’s all “She stops like a horse refusing a fence. How do ye keep from flailin’ about?” in that Irish accent.

Oh, I have got to go clubbing with this guy. Just being seen with his castoffs would up my game, like, ten levels.

I shrug. “You just get used to it, I guess. I dunno. I had to stop for the sign.” Road’s clear, so I step on it. The Kia – which is hot, so I’m a little freaked out about driving it around, but it wasn’t too bad, I had my shit pretty together, until Kelly just whipped out his dagger and punched it through the roof like it was fucking nothing, and then I thought “What exactly did they do with the guy who owned this car, and all those keys and shit they had? And who owns that house? Fucking beach front with a private cove, that place was like two, three million dollars worth of Florida real estate, easy. So where’s the owner? Why did he let a bunch of raggedy-ass thugs dressed up like pirates crash in his crib?” And then I started thinking – maybe they’re not just crazy-looking. And maybe the people who own the house, and the cars and the keys, maybe they won’t be calling the po-po any time soon because they’re, like, buried in the backyard or cut up in pieces and sunk in the ocean, like on Dexter. Then I started getting a little freaked out like: I’m driving around in a dead dude’s car. With the dude who fuckin killed him. Cause that Kelly guy was big, and had no problem stabbing shit, and those four guys we chased down were all thugged up and all – but if any of these guys has ever capped anyone, it’s that Damnation guy. When he was pissed off about his boys treatin him like a bitch – man, just looking at him and you know that muthafucka’s cold-blooded, like ice cold. Him or that crazy fuck with no thumbs. So I’m glad they’re out of the car, and I’m just rollin with Pretty-Boy here.

No homo.

Anyway – what was I saying? Oh, right: the Kia’s actually got some cojones, way more than you would expect from the car that drives those fuckin hamsters around (and I figure maybe the cholos who drive it suped that shit up a little) so it pushes us back in the seats when I hit the gas, and Ian laughs and says “Good Lord of Hosts, this wagon is truly a miracle. It doesna live, and it has na horses nor oxen to pull it. How does it go?”

So I start to tell him – not that I know everything about cars, not a fuckin gearhead or whatever – but you can’t tell this guy anything. I’m all “When I step on this pedal –” and he goes “What’s a pedal?” So I point to the gas and brake, right, and he comes, like, into my fuckin lap to stare down at them, bending over me like he’s about to start polishing my tool. and I’m all “Whoa, back the fuck up, you fag!” and he sits back and says “A lever,” but he says it all weird, like, “LEE-ver,” and I’m all “A what?” and he goes “A LEE-ver, a pedal’s a LEE-ver for your foot.” And then I realize what he’s saying and I nod and shit, and then I say “So when I step on it, it sends more gas to the engine –”
And he goes “What is gas?”

You can’t tell this guy anything. You shoulda heard how he took traffic lights, when we got stuck at a long red on Kennedy Drive. He fuckin thought there were like, monkeys or something inside it, with lanterns, changing the colored lights. You fuckin try explaining computers and automatic timers and shit – fuck, try explaining electricity. Once you get past “It’s lightning,” what the fuck do you say next?

Who the fuck are these guys, anyway?

So we get to Casa de Schluchzer, and we’re in luck – the parentals are both out. Good, because I do not want to explain who my “little friend” is to my mom, and fuck, what if the Depot called here looking for me? Or what if the cops came by? Maybe they think I got kidnapped, I dunno.

Whatever. I leave Ian with the TV, after I show him like three buttons on the remote – and which channel has porn on it – and I go get my shit. First thing is in Dad’s office, in the back of his top right desk drawer – it’s his “emergency” credit card. Well, Pops, this is a fuckin emergency if I ever saw one. Then I bust a quick shower, cause I’m all stankin from running with that bag on my head and sweatin like a mutherfucker when they kidnapped me and shit, and then I go to my room and pack some shit, just the essentials.

And I get my sword. It’s a Crusader broadsword, and it cost me like 400 bucks online, and that shit’s for real. I feel better knowing I’m armed. Then I stash away a nice little boot-knife I got at a Faire, because it feels even better to be armed when nobody else knows you’re armed, am I right? I wish we had a fuckin 9-millimeter, but Mom’s anti-gun and Dad’s a pussy. Whatever.

I think about leaving them a note, but then I think Fuck ’em. Let ’em wonder. I get Ian and we roll out for the liquor store.

I talk to Ian, and he says they got twenty guys back at their crib – well, no, first he says there’s a “score” of ’em, but I’m like “Score? What score? What the fuck’s a score? Like a game score?” and then he says there’s twenty. So I ask what they like to drink, and he says ale and whiskey and grog. And wine for the captain. And I’m all “Aight, what the fuck is grog?” So he says – check this shit – it’s rum mixed with water and fuckin gunpowder. And I’m all “No shit?” and he grins and he’s all like “Aye – it gives it a wee kick. Like a beestung mule.”

So okay, we go in and get like a case of whiskey and three cases of rum, and I get the guy to bring out three kegs of Coors and a tap, and I ask him to pick out, like, a dozen bottles of wine for the captain. And he asks how I’m paying, and I bust out the credit card and my ID – and for maybe the first time in my life, I’m glad I’m Elliott Schluchzer, Junior.

Ian loads all that shit in the car while I’m paying – after I run out to pop the trunk, instead of trying to explain to him how to do it – and then we roll out and head back.

We drive past Home Depot, and I think about stopping in to tell them I quit – maybe taking a table saw as my severance, like – but I see a cop car in the lot, and I’m thinking they might still be looking for the crazy fuckers who stole a couple hundred bucks’ worth of lumber and nothing else. And I’m thinking they might be thinking I was in on it, since I disappeared with them and people around here know I’m into the Ren Faires and pirate festivals and shit. So we drive on by. And I’m thinking I might never be coming back here, if the idea that’s bouncing around in my head turns out, and I think about my job, and my car, and my room, and my computers, and my parents, and my whole life – and I think leaving it all behind would suit me just fine. Fuck all of it.

We get back to the crib, and I stop the car at the top of the driveway, where there’s a wall all covered with ivy and shit and a bunch of tall trees, mostly palms, and I know there’s a rolling metal gate stuck back behind some bushes, and when I reach in and grab it and roll it out, Ian’s all shocked and shit that I even knew it was back there. But I’m all, “Homey, no house like this doesn’t have a gate on the drive.” It just got left open by somebody, probably because it’s not automatic – it’s an old gate, like from the fifties or something, before they had remotes, and whoever lives here probably didn’t want to fuck it up installing a chain drive and sensors and shit. But Ian’s all jizzed up and says the captain will be pleased, and I’m like “Eeeeex-cellent” like Mr. Burns in my head. My plans are coming together.

We drive up to the crib – and when I see it, really see it, with no bag over my head and my thoughts not all fucked up by what’s going on around me, I think Yeah, I could live like this. Even if – no, better if they stole it, even capped the guy who lived here and sunk him in the cove tied to a rock and shit. We drive up and Ian gets like the full hero’s welcome – and that’s before we break out the booze that’s got the Kia’s back end scraping the ground, the shit’s so heavy. Then me and Ian both get three cheers.

And Captain Kane comes out and smiles and slaps us on the back and everything – I hold up for a high-five, but he just looks at me like “What the fuck are you waving at?” and leaves me hanging. But for sure he’s happy to see me, and he says so. He thanks me for doing the liquor run, and for driving to catch up with his boys. So I turn to him, and I go like this, talking all slow and raspy and shit: “Some day – and that day may never come – I may call upon you to do a favor for me. Until that day, accept this as a gift.” And he looks at me all thoughtful and calculating, and then he nods and says, “Done,” and shakes my hand.

And he didn’t even know that was from The Godfather, Part I. That clinches it.

“So Damn,” I say, and throw my arm around his shoulders. “Tell me. What year do you think it is?”

 

 

Captain’s Log

Date: 27 June, 2011.

Location: 2011.

Conditions: All is lost.

We have traveled through time, he tells me. It’s the future, he tells me. He was smiling.

It cannot be true. I must find a reason why Shluxer would lie to me. Then I can kill him and it won’t be true.

Three hundred and thirty-three years. All is dust. Everything and everyone we know is dust, now. All – all is lost.

All is lost.

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Log 15: Joyriding

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”

It came to be known that the keys for the beast-wagon lay in the miscellany of odds and ends we had taken from the Dominicans’ pockets before locking them in; we identified the correct ring, from among several small rings of tiny-seeming keys, with Shluxer’s guidance. Then I must needs ask for volunteers, with myself as first example – though all gods in heaven and earth know that I would rather dive into a whale’s mouth from the crow’s nest than ride on that thing. But I cannot ask my men to do a thing the which I would not do; if not for honor’s sake, then simply because they would refuse to do it, with mine own example as sufficient justification. But with myself standing tall, and Shluxer smirking at us, soon enough Kelly stepped forward, with only a slight stagger to reveal the source of his courage; and then my good friend Ian took a surer step to join him. Lynch tried to step up, but I ordered the youth back into line. Such heart in a small and youthful chest shamed two more men into taking the step, Lochlan O’Neill and my cousin, Owen MacTeigue. I chose O’Neill, as he is a fast friend of Donal Carter and could sway the man to listen to reason; also I trusted MacTeigue to stay behind and supervise the fortifications of the Palace should all this go for naught.

Kelly offered to sit on the rear of the wagon, where a footman might ride if it were the carriage it somewhat resembled, but Shluxer refused him and demanded we all crawl inside, after he used the key to open the – doors, I suppose they are, though damned if they don’t more resemble a bird’s wings, or the fins of a fish.

Perhaps this thing is fashioned from the skeleton of some fantastic beast?

Any road, Shluxer and I were trying to coax Kelly into the sternward bench when there was a crash of glass; on the port side of the beast, Ian O’Gallows was knocking out the last few fragments from the sternward fin-door with the butt of his pistol. I feared for a moment that this attack would anger the beast – and my men stepped back with me, all eyes on O’Gallows – but Shluxer cursed and said he would “roll down the fucking windows.” Which made no sense as one cannot roll glass. While we discussed it, however, Kelly found a mount to his liking: he stood on the metal edge below the bench, with one hand grasping the open door-fin-wing, and stabbed his dagger through the – the scalp? The back? The thin metal (or perhaps bone) plate atop the beast, whichever side of the thing one calls it. It gave him a fine hold, and he declared himself ready to weigh anchor. Shluxer yelled and swore again, but I and my men took heart: this further injury once more provoked no response at all from the beast. Perhaps it was not to be feared.

We all took our places, Ian behind Shluxer on the port side and Kelly hanging off the beast’s starboard side behind me, with O’Neill white-faced between the two sternward stalwarts. I took the forward bench beside Shluxer, who sat behind a wheel, though I know not how that could steer the beast. He said, “All right, hold on to your butts,” (at which saying we all took hold of our pistols) and then applied the key; now we heard the beast roar and growl. Mysteriously, we also heard a blast of music, but Shluxer poked the beast in the mystically-engraved panel facing us, and it stopped. Once Shluxer coaxed Kelly back onto the thing’s flank, he having leapt off and drawn his iron at the sound of the thing’s roaring, my new navigator plied his hands and feet in an arcane manner, and – we were off!

It was, at first, simply a wonder. Shluxer somehow made the glass window beside me vanish, and then, as we moved farther away from the Glass Palace at a speed faster than a grown man’s trot, I could feel the wind, though only from my side. Straight ahead I watched the ground move, the trees coming closer, and yet it seemed unreal – the motion too smooth, and without a direct wind in my face coming from the forward quarter, it felt wrong to me.

Then we reached the road – we had been moving along the track from the Palace, which was lengthy and narrow; this that lay ahead was a smooth-paved road four times the width, at least – and turned to starboard, and suddenly we were moving faster than I have ever moved before on this Earth, faster than a horse at the gallop, faster than ever the fleetest ship raced before the wind and tide. At first I felt near a swoon – a sensation increased, along with my terror, when I saw another beast-wagon apparently aimed directly at us and charging, before it missed us just to our port side, as though we were jousters in the lists. It was followed by another beast-wagon, and another, and another. The road turned to the left, and then the right; the beast-wagon barely slowed, and with each turn, I and my men drifted to the side, like green sailors in their first swell, with cries and murmurs of alarm. It was the most frightful experience of my life, saving only, perhaps, the encounters with Hobbes and the Sea-Cat.

Then Ian started laughing.

I looked back at him, incredulous; it was in my mind that he had lost his sanity and was in hysterics. But no, he met my gaze and I saw that he was himself. He had thrust his head out through the porthole in the door-wing where he had broken the glass pane, and the wind of his passing was tearing through his hair and blowing out the collar of his shirt. “Try it, Nate!” he shouted to me, grinning like a child on Christmas morning – though he did flinch away from the oncoming beast-wagons, which trumpeted their strange cries at him, or perhaps at our beast. Shluxer cursed and steered us farther to starboard, giving Ian room away from the jousting wagons. Then I heard a whoop from Kelly on the other side, but his head was above the top of the opening he stood in and could not be seen. I glanced at O’Neill, and saw that he was not amused: his gaze was glassy, his mouth open and slack, his skin pallid and rapidly becoming green; I recalled that O’Neill was one of those who struggled with sea-sickness, and I surmised that the beast-wagon’s strange motion was too much for him. It certainly put a flutter in my own gut, though the like didn’t affect me at sea, but this thing jerked from side to side far more rapidly than any ship, and the movement forward pressed us back into our seats before the long turns pulled us to the outward side, and it was all very strange. I clapped O’Neill on the knee, and he met my gaze, swallowing painfully, beads of sweat on his brow. “Will ye live?” I asked him.

He started to nod, then closed his eyes and shivered. “Aye.”

I turned to Shluxer. “How much longer?” I had to repeat the question, as his attention was fixed on Kelly and Ian; Ian was now seated in the porthole, his entire trunk outside the beast-wagon. He and Kelly were shouting back and forth and in unison, no words, just cries of pure joy.

“WHEEEEE!”

“AYYYIIIIEEEEEEE!!”

“YAAAA-HAAAA-HAAAA!”

“Shouldn’t that be ‘Yo-ho-ho?'” Shluxer muttered.

I said his name again, and he glanced at me.

“Oh, right – uh, how much longer? I dunno – five minutes if they haven’t left this road. Maybe less.”

I nodded and then clapped O’Neill on the knee again. “Ye’ll live, man. If ye have to purge, do it towards Kelly.” Then I put my head out the window, as well, to see what all the fuss was about.

The moment I felt the wind on my face, coming from what my eyes and mind told me was the proper direction, rather than blowing from a quarter-turn to the side, then the sensation of strangeness disappeared. My gut subsided its churning, the clench of my jaw eased; suddenly it was as if we were sailing the swiftest ship across calm waters, or riding the fleetest horse with the smoothest gait – I know not how to describe it! Our speed was magnificent, but there was no sense of the motion, none of the up-and-down or back-to-front jerking that accompanied any other means of such speed, whether it be a horse’s hoofbeats or a team pulling a wagon or a ship going over waves and swells. I have never felt anything like it. I presume this is what the birds feel when they spread their wings and glide through the air. It was glorious. Soon all three of us, Ian, Kelly, and myself, were crying out with joy as we leaned out of the beast-wagon and waved our hands in the wind.

But then, as I was seated on my own porthole and turned towards Ian to share a grin, Kelly shouted “Captain!” I glanced to him, and he nodded to the starboard bow quarter and shouted, “‘Tis them, sir.” I turned quickly and spotted my wayward bully boys immediately: there were no other people on this road – reasonable, considering the speed and frequency of beast-wagons on it! These folk must have separate roads for people to walk or ride more ordinary steeds. Their clothing, too, stood out clearly against the dull green mangroves and other trees to either side of us. They had not yet noticed us as different from any other beast-wagon.

I ducked back into the beast-wagon and marked the target for Shluxer, who muttered, “No shit, Sherlock.” I swear, the man speaks an English almost incomprehensible to me. But he turned and stopped, all of a sudden, just as we passed them, bringing us to a dead halt not twenty feet from the four runaways. Remarkable.

Kelly was already off the wagon and facing them, weapons in hands. I opened the portal – after Shluxer pointed out the handle to me – and stood by him; behind his great frame, O’Neill crawled from the beast’s guts and heaved up his own. Ian, his face still red and grinning from the wind, leapt to the top of the wagon and struck a stance, fists on hips. He cried, “What ho, me hearties!”

I looked at my men with somewhat less joy. Of the four, Moran looked the most abashed, and would not meet my gaze. Carter simply stood and looked at us with both equanimity and a certain amount of wonder at the means of our arrival; Burke sneered and smirked; and O’Flaherty clenched his jaw with anger. I strode slowly up to them, looking from one face to the next.

“Out for a wee stroll, are we?” I asked sardonically.

“Aye,” O’Flaherty spat back. “Out to correct that one’s failure,” he said, pointing a thumb at O’Gallows. Ian’s good humor ended instantly, and he leapt down from the beast-wagon and marched toward O’Flaherty with grim intent, but I waved him back.

“You think the provisions he gathered for us insufficient?”

O’Flaherty, who had been sneering a challenge at Ian, now looked back to me. “Aye, o’ course t’were insufficient, man. Ye canna expect a pirate crew to live without spirits. Especially not in the midst of all this madness we go through in this place where you brought us, Captain.” He stepped closer. “And don’t try to foist it off on me, again. Ye put on a nice bit o’ theater for the men, but ye canna have it both ways. If ye be the captain, then the responsibility for our mishaps be yours. And ye knows it.”

I nodded, for he was in the right. “Aye, I’ve made many mistakes, o’ course. Any man in command will do the same. What matter, though, is that I must recognize my mistakes, and ensure that more and poorer choices do not worsen our situation beyond repair – as this little excursion of yours would do. What in the name of all the hells were you thinking, Sean?” I shouted, throwing my hands up in exasperation.

Never one to back down, O’Flaherty bellowed right back. “Your man there said t’were no guards! The boys need a bit o’ cheer, and we mean to get it for them.”

“You daft fool,” spake I, with perhaps less diplomacy than the circumstances asked, “I sent Ian off with mere trinkets, and he traded them for a month’s provisions. Did ye think we couldn’t do the same twice, only this time with rum as the goal? What, do ye not remember the remaining wealth in the Palace we took? – Aye, took under my command?”

O’Flaherty laughed, without mirth. “Trade? We’re not merchants, Nate. We be pirates. We take what we want.” Carter and Burke both nodded at this, and Moran looked as though he wanted to.

I laughed back. “Pirates, Sean? Ye be pirates?” I stepped up and pressed my chest to his. “Then where be your ship?” I shouted in his face. He stepped back then, but I stepped with him. “You know where. She be on the beach. On her side in the sand, wi’ a great hole blown in her flank. You know – you all know,” I said, turning to include the other three with a look and a gesture, “you know that I have no compunction against taking what I desire. The world owes me that, as it owes each of you. Aye?” They nodded again, and from behind me, Ian growled, “Aye, it bloody well does.”

I turned back to O’Flaherty. I stopped shouting; we needed to remove the spark from this discussion, not throw it into the powder keg. “But we need the ship. We need the Grace, Sean – need her in the water and catching the wind. Aye, of course I took note when Ian said there were no guards at the Piggly-Wiggly, but think ye we have no enemies hereabouts? If this be a colony, there will be troops here, somewhere; if it be a sovereign nation, they will have militia. Either way, your little raid would bring them down on us. Now, if we could escape to sea in our fair ship, then I would lead the way, and carry a cask of rum myself! I planned to do just that. But not –” and here I shouted once more, as I felt this point deserving of special emphasis: “NOT UNTIL WE HAVE OUR SHIP BACK!”

O’Flaherty and I glared at each other in silence. I knew what he wanted: he wanted to name me coward, shame me with my unwillingness to take this risk when such an easy prize beckoned. But he knew that if he said it, I would draw arms to defend my honor – and he would lose against me, with pistol or with blade, and he knew that, too. So we waited, and I watched him swallow the words he wanted to say to me then. They looked bitter.

Then another voice broke into the tableau we had made: “Hey!” We all turned and looked: it was Shluxer, standing with his arms crossed, his face pale and nervous. “If you dudes, you know, want some booze or something, you know, I can get it for you.”

I raised one eyebrow and asked what we all wondered: “What is booze?”

He rolled his eyes. “You know, booze. Liquor, beer, whiskey, wine, shit like that.” He shrugged. “I can get other shit, too, if you want to get really fucked up. But booze, that’s easy.”

“How much?” O’Flaherty asked, even as I asked, “What risks will there be?” We glared at each other some more.

“As much as you want. No trouble – I got this shit covered, yo.”

I looked the question at O’Flaherty, and after a moment, he nodded. I turned back to Shluxer and said, “Yo-ho-ho.”

So it went: Ian accompanied Shluxer in the beast-wagon, and the rest of us marched back to the Palace, in silence but for some brief muttering between O’Flaherty and Burke, and Burke and Moran, and then a low conversation between Carter and O’Neill, once O’Neill recovered from his illness – which largely came the moment he found he would not have to mount the wagon once more. I was chagrined to see that Carter did much of the talking, but if I walked closer, they turned to silence until I moved away. Perhaps I should not have brought O’Neill.

I am sure this is not the last trouble these four will cause me, but I have no idea how to prevent them.

The situation is fast becoming dire.

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Log 13: Conversations with a Carpenter

Captain’s Log

Date: 27th of June, 1678

Location: Glass Palace

Conditions: Situation improving, but morale flags.

 

I stood before the man O’Flaherty had so basely stolen away. I did wonder if my quartermaster had not, in fact, taken a journeyman, or even an apprentice, rather than the master carpenter; he seemed very young, the skin of his face and hands smooth and unlined but for a youth’s blemishes, of the which he wore several. He was certainly fat enough to be wealthy, which might have brought O’Flaherty’s gimlet eye ‘pon him; Sean has ever had an itch to stab at men of wealth and quality wheresoever he finds them. He was certainly as terrified as any man I’ve ever seen, wide-eyed and sheened with sweat.

Damn your liver, Sean. How could I win this youth over now, to gain his willing assistance? I confess that for a moment I was tempted simply to follow O’Flaherty’s lead and compel the man with the strength of arms; but I will not put my ship’s fate into the hands of a fearful and desperate man. How can you trust the work of men you have pressed into service? We should have to drag him along with us, to compel any further repairs due to his slipshod work – or even sabotage – with an unending chain of threats against his life and well-being. I would not take this man from his home merely because I could not think of a better way to get what I need. I find I have no taste for stealing men away from their homes.

At least the first step to winning the man’s favor was obvious. I whistled up MacTeigue and ordered him to cut the man’s bonds at once, and fetch him a bottle of wine, if any were left. I held Owen for another moment, and whispered further orders in his ear: my cousin was to stay out of easy sight, but keep a close watch in case the man slipped away from me. I did not wish to compel his service, but I could not have him raising the alarm, perhaps bringing a militia or a troop of King’s men down on us.

I made use of the minutes whilst MacTeigue sought out refreshment to tender to the man the most humble and genteel apology I could compose. I pride myself on my apologies; they have kept many a colleen from drumming a beat ‘pon my pate with cookware, as Irish lasses are wont to do when they discover themselves members of a plurality, rather than the sole monarch of an Irishman’s heart. Ah, now, they say it takes a village to raise a child; I fail to see why a man cannot be so raised, as well. Parts of him, at least.

My final flourishes and bon mots flowered the air as MacTeigue returned with a bottle of clear golden wine; I swallowed a long draught to show there was no poison, and then handed it to my erstwhile guest. He took it with a shaking hand and took a sip, grimacing at the taste. I had found several of the Glass Palace’s vintages too sweet, as well, but this one was quite nice; perhaps he had a foul taste in his mouth before. MacTeigue shrugged and removed himself from sight. I sat and invited the man to do the same, the which he did following a moment of wary staring.

“I am Damnation Kane, captain of the ship Grace of Ireland.” I held out my hand to him, and after a pause – which is often occasioned by the first mention of my name – he met it with his own somewhat clammier hand. “Elliott Shluxer,” he told me then (I can but guess at the spelling of it, never having encountered the name before). “Where do ye hail from, Sir Shluxer?” I queried. “We live in The Hammocks,” he said (again, I am unsure of the writing of the name), taking a pull of his wine; its taste, like so many others, was improved with repeated applications. “And you are a carpenter, in truth?” I tried to keep my tone simple and friendly-like, but if his answer here were in the negative, he would shortly find himself clapped with a hand-full of Dominicans, and O’Flaherty would be walking home to Ireland.

After a moment, punctuated by several eyeblinks and the forming of a new sheen of sweat, the man said, “I guess, yeah. I mean, I work with wood.”
Well at least O’Flaherty didn’t attack a pig farmer.

“It is my fondest wish, Master Shluxer, that my compatriots’ overzealous introductions of your good self to our humble band will not destroy the chance that we might work together, you and I, and both be enriched by the experience.” Aye: many a colleen. They may be won by the line of one’s jaw, the turn of a calf, white teeth and a roguish smile – but they are kept by the tongue.

This man, for all that he lacked a grown man’s creased brow, or a working man’s physique, or, apparently, the brains of a schoolboy, still he was no colleen. “You guys are fucking nuts,” was his response to my sally.

I informed the man – politely, despite his tone, for I was determined to take no offense from his words, my own men having offered offense enough for all – that I was unfamiliar with this particular colloquialism. “You’re nuts, you’re all fucking crackpots. A bunch of crazy fucking lunatics,” he expanded.

“Ah,” I exclaimed, grasping his meaning, “you mean we are madmen.” I laughed at this. “Such was never in doubt, good squire. Nonetheless, I have sailed with many and many a madman afore this, and I have found that their gold spends as well as that of a man in full control of his senses.” I took a doubloon from my purse, then, and let him see its golden shine. “Sometimes,” I went on, and here I added a second bit of shine to my palm, “sometimes it even spends twice as well.” I grasped his wrist, turned up his palm, and placed my two most persuasive arguments therein with a gentle clinking.

Shluxer put down his wine bottle and looked at the coins. “Holy fuck,” he said, an oath I had never heard – and considering the scruples of most saints, including Our Lord and Savior, it was an oath I found rather puzzling. “Are these real?”

“Indeed they are, stout yeoman. And Spanish weight, not Irish, I assure you. For ’twas a Spaniard we liberated them from, along with many of their brethren formerly trapped in Spanish pockets.”

He looked up at me then, his mouth unfortunately hanging agape: unfortunate, for his physiognomy did not vouch to me proof of his competence and intelligence, nor even his comprehension of my words. “You’re giving me these?” he asked.

I resolved to speak slower, and perhaps a bit louder: I could discern the dirt in his ears from where I sat; perhaps his hearing was blocked by effluvia. Or perhaps it was his thoughts. “I am giving you those, and I will give you more of you will agree to work with me.” I accompanied these words with a brief pantomime of sawing and hammering, so my meaning would be clear, it was to be hoped. I gave my belt pouch a jingle, as well.

Shluxer wiped at his brow, and then pressed his hands into his eyes, like a man waking from an unlikely dream into an even more improbable reality. “I don’t fucking believe this,” he muttered. He stared at the coins once more, turning them to glance at the visage of King Phillip IV minted on one side. Then he took another pull at the wine bottle, and met my gaze at last. “What exactly do you want me to do?” he asked me.

I clapped him on the shoulder – perhaps a trifle too vigorously, as he lost his balance and needed to be uprighted, though he had certainly suffered a shock from O’Flaherty’s treatment which might explain his weakness – and rose to show him the task at hand. I guided him to the Grace, offered an introduction to my good friend Ian – who explained the provenance of his surname, a tale which generally wins a laugh, but garnered us merely a stupefied gaze and more doubts as to our guest’s mental capacity – and showed him the hole in the Grace’s hull, and the missing yardarm on the mainmast. He gazed into the hole for some minutes, looking as well at the stack of finished planks the men had placed nearby, the only intelligent acquisition they had made, as my present companion apparently possessed less wit than that same pile of wood.

To wit: “You want me to help you fix the hole,” he said then.

I nodded, slowly. “And replace the yardarm on the mainmast, and help make her water-tight and sea-worthy. Aye.”

“And you’ll pay me for it.”

Another slow, exaggerated nod. “At twice your going rate. Aye.”

He held up the doubloons. “In gold, like this.”

I shrugged. “Perhaps some silver. We generally have a fair motley of coins about us, considering their variegated sources.”

He blinked, and I sighed. “Yes. We will pay in gold.”

“That’s why you kidnapped me?”

I winced. I took a breath, ready to explain that the political realities of O’Flaherty’s rank despite his incompetence and rash judgment, but Ian stepped in then, smooth as cream.

“Of course we will offer you wergild for that offense against your honor, along with the apology you have already received from our generous captain.” This last part came with a glance my way, which met a nod; but Ian could be confident that I would have apologized, first because he knew me for a gentlemen of breeding, and second because he has frequently been apologizing to his own colleen even as I mollify mine. “Or perhaps you would rather have a boon, if there is some service we might offer,” Ian finished.

It was then that I first spied the crafty look come into the eyes of Elliott Shluxer. It was a look I would become most familiar with, to my deep regret. How much would have been easier for me, had I only paid more attention then! I should have known that such apparent imbecility was sure to be joined with a low, animal cunning, and the savage, wanton greed of a starving dog.

“A boon? Like a favor?” Something akin to a smile curved his lips. “What kind of a favor are we talking about here?”

Ian looked my way, unwilling to speak further in my stead. I smiled at the carpenter and raised my open palms. “We have a fine ship and a good crew, once we can set sail once more. We would be honored to transport yourself, or whatever goods you wished, to the destination of your choice. Even back to England, or Spain or France, perhaps.” Ian looked a question at me for this over-generous offer, but I ignored it. I would fill the hold with another man’s profit if it meant I could take my ship and my men home again. “Or we could lend the strengths of our arms and backs, if you need land cleared, or a barn raised or other such tasks.”

But this struck no spark of joy in the visage of our would-be carpenter. I tried again, my tone growing soft and shadowy, like the subject of this speaking – I would offer craft to this crafty man, if it would get my ship back on the water. “Then there are our more surreptitious skills, the which we could offer into your service.”

Shluxer seemed intrigued, and I went on. “Perhaps there are goods of some kind, that are wrongfully in the possession of another man: a situation we could easily remedy. Or,” and I laid a hand ostentatiously on the butt of my pistol, “perhaps there is a personage whose acquaintance you would like to un-make.”

A smile creased the greasy face of my new ally. “Whoa, shit! You guys – you’ll cap someone on my say-so?”

I had to blink at the wording, but how many meanings could there be in this conversation? I nodded, slowly so he would understand me. He did, and rubbed his hands together in unmistakable glee.

This is ever the way, it would seem. If you offer a man a generous profit, advancement for himself and his kin in your right hand – and vengeance, no matter how petty, in your left hand, ’tis always the second hand he’ll grasp in agreement. The sinister hand.

It was while Shluxer was considering his possible targets and I was pondering the chance that I would regret my offer – sadly a most likely occurrence, but what choice had I? – that I heard a voice call out “Captain!” I turned and stepped quickly toward the Palace, from whence the call came; young Lynch dashed out to meet me.

“Captain – it’s the Quartermaster, sir, and the Bosun. And Carter, and Gunner Moran, too. They’ve gone.”

I loosed an oath then that would strike my old granny dead, did she hear it from my lips. “Where have they gone?”

Lynch, who had stopped to admire my swearing, now turned grim once more. “They’ve gone to the Piggly Wiggly, sir. They’ve gone to steal grog.”

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Log #11: Der Tale of Der Waffenmeister

Ye Olde Tale Of Ye Man Who Wouldeth Be A Pyrate Kyng

by Elliot Schluchzer Waffenmeister

 

When I woke up on that fateful morning, alone and lonesome in my lonely bed, I thought it would be a day like any other.

I was wrong.

Entirely and completely wrong.

Wrong.

But wait! Gentle Reader, let me begin at the beginning. A good place to start, one may perhaps presume, peradventure.

 

Fuck, this is hard. Fuck it: I should just, whatever, say it. What happened.

So I woke up like twenty minutes late or something. I was up late playing Dead Space 2. Oh, not the campaign; I already won that – are you kidding me? What are you, a retard? I beat that shit like three times the first day it was released. Finished on Hard Core. Might have been the first one in Florida, I don’t know, it’s being looked into. But they released new multiplayer maps for Xbox like three weeks ago, and I figure I might write a guide, sell to whoever publishes those, the Dummies or whatever. I guarantee my shit would be better than anyone else they got working on it. I keep my shit locked down tight, you know?

Oh right – my name’s Elliot Schluchzer. Waffenmeister is my handle. It means “Warlord.” You’ve seen it if you’re on XBox Live, all over the leaderboards. Especially CoD. Or on WoW. I’m getting into live action now, the Society for Creative Anachronism, but I just started that like two years ago, so I’m not as known. But I will be: I’m getting into building shit, armor, barding, shields. Maybe siege weapons, if I can find designs good enough for what I’d want to do. I’m good with wood, since that’s my job in the mundane world. I work at Home Depot, mostly in the lumber section. I’m on the table saw a lot. I don’t really like talking to the customers, especially the OJs (Old Jews – Miami’s fuckin filled to the brim with them.), but I like cutting their wood to the size and shape they want. I’m a craftsman, you know? A carpenter, like. At least, maybe a journeyman carpenter. I still work at Home Depot, after all. But I’ll get out of it. I’ll start making furniture or something, maybe carve stuff. Shit I can sell at Ren Faires and pirate festivals. Those guys make bank doing that. Plus there’s, like, acres of chicks at those things, and they all want to be either princesses or saucy tavern wenches, so they either want to get rescued or ravished, or both. I may not look like Prince Charming, but if I got the doubloons, right? I mean, Donald Trump looks like a fuckin gargoyle with a bad toupee, but that dude marries models. And who knows what he’s got going on the side.*

Anyway, I woke up late, so I had to hurry to get to work. That’s okay, it just means I skip the shower this morning. Back in the day they only showered like, once a year, so whatever. I still had time to take a dump and eat breakfast, though I had to eat those shitty generic PopTarts my mom keeps buying, so it was like I was just pushing shit out to make room to put shit in.

Heh. That’s pretty good. Garbage in, garbage out, right? I learned that in my programming class at Miami Dade Community College. I finished almost two semesters there before I dropped out, what, four years ago? Five? Well, in real life it’s, shit in, shit out. Then again, donuts in, Taco Bell in, fuckin pulled-pork Cuban sandwich in, it’s all shit out. So what does it all matter, anyway?

So I make it to work, and only two minutes late, which wasn’t my fault at all, but only because my fuckin Subaru wouldn’t start. My dad said he was going to take it and get it checked out this last weekend, but did he? Nooooo. Too busy going to temple and mowing the fuckin lawn. I swear, I gotta do every fuckin thing myself. Isn’t it enough that I work full, well, almost full-time? I buy my own stuff, never ask for money. I even kick down for groceries sometimes, when Mom doesn’t buy enough Pringles or Dew or something. Or frozen pizzas – she always buys the wrong kind. It’s all about the Tombstone, baby. I mean, really, I’m their child, they’re supposed to pay for me. If they couldn’t afford me, they shouldn’t have had me. Besides, I’m their only kid, so without me, the family name would die out. They should be grateful to me. Not that I’m looking to have kids any time soon. And dude, not like Schluchzer is a name that needs to live on. The only cool thing about it is it means, like, “sob” in German. So I figure, nobody would take the name “Sob” because they cry a lot, right? You’d take the name if you MADE people fuckin cry. So I think we’re descended from, like, torturers or Nazis or something. Which is badass. Even if we are Jewish.

So yeah, I got to work like two minutes late, three minutes tops. Maybe five. If I had a supervisor who knew what he was doing, it wouldn’t even be a problem. See, a guy who knows what he’s doing knows the most important thing is this: you gotta keep the Man off your back. The key to keeping the Man off your back is knowing when you’re being watched, and when you can just chill out. So at Home Depot, like, there’s a store manager, a guy who wears a suit and stays in the office upstairs. He’s in charge of the floor supervisors, and he’s on the phone all day kissing Corporate ass. So if that guy – in my store it’s a Cubano named Randy Martinez, if you can believe it – if Big Randy knew what he was doing, he’d just keep feeding Corporate a line of bullshit, and then, because Corporate never actually comes to the store, he’d run the store however he wanted, because he knows he’s not being watched. Then, most important, he could let all his employees do whatever they wanted. You should always keep your employees happy. Happy employees work harder, and get shit done faster, so they have more time to just relax after. Then the customers are happy, because the employees are happy, and everything’s perfect. That would be best. It would be so primo if the whole store was just laid back like that. But see, even if it couldn’t all be that sweet – even if Randy is a giant fuckin tool, which he is – then the floor supervisors could do the same thing, only smaller. Because Randy never really comes out on the floor, and when he does, he just wants to know that every customer has been asked if he needs help. So when he comes down from upstairs, which he does, like, once a month or something, he walks around and asks every customer he sees, “Are you being helped? Did someone in an orange apron come by and offer to help you with that?” Okay, so the floor supervisors get reamed – reamed by Randy, hah – if the customers aren’t being helped, yeah. But a floor supervisor who knew what he was doing could handle it, instead of just reaming all of us regular employees out after Randy gets done with them. They’d find a way to distract Randy, or maybe find out in advance when he was going to come down, so we could, like, blitzkrieg the whole store, run down all the aisles asking if anyone needs help. Something, you know, to handle it, just to take the pressure off, keep the Man off our backs, so all us regular people can relax a little bit, and not have to spend all fuckin day walking around in this ass-hot warehouse asking “Do you need any help? Do you need any help?”

Fuck, they want us to help a lot.

So here’s my idea, and I know I’m off topic, but whatever, this is my story, shut the fuck up, okay. You put like an employee mini-lounge – make a permanent display of lounge chairs or something – right by the front doors, and just ask every customer right when he comes in if they want any help. And if they say no, just be all, “Okay, well you know where to find us if you have any questions.” Then they can shop without being hassled by the Orange Apron squad, and all the employees can hang out. Then if Randy comes down from his throne atop Isengard (Not that Randy’s badass enough to be Saruman the White. But maybe he could pull off Wormtongue.) and roams the store, asking people if they’ve been offered help, they all have to say yes. Then we could just relax and play XBox, or something. Then this job would be sweet. If we had a boss who knew what he was doing.

But we have Randy. And Mr. Zuckow.

“You’re late, Elliot. Again.”

And I want to bust out a bo staff and hit him like 35 times in 3 seconds, and then stand over his writhing, crying busted-ass body and be all, “The name’s Waffenmeister, you corporate scum.” But I guess if I could do that, I wouldn’t be fuckin working here, would I?

“Sorry, Mr. Zuckow.” That’s what I say instead.

“Go hit your locker and sweep the section. Then set up the Makita table saw and the scroll saw. You’re giving the demo today, remember. Ten o’clock.”

Fuuuuuuuuck. “Okay.”

See, even if what happened hadn’t happened, I was still wrong when I woke up and thought this would be a regular Monday. Because it’s not: it’s a Demo Day. Fuck my fuckin life.

We do a demo every day, here at Home Depot. Take some of the big, shiny tools out front, and from ten til noon, we have to build shit. Or fix shit. Or turn shit on and off. Or assemble shit. Or take shit apart. And the whole time, the sun’s just beating down on you like Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor. And when you work in lumber, like I do, whenever it’s your turn you have to do woodworking shit, of course, and so you’re sucking sawdust and getting splinters the whole time. Then, when it’s over, you gotta clean shit up. I mean, what the fuck.
But the worst part? It’s the OJs.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully not anti-Semitic. Fuck, I am Jewish. My dad’s an OJ, so’s my granddad and my uncle Peter. I’m down with the old Jews.

But those guys love to talk. They live for it. And they want to save money by doing their own home repairs, but they don’t know shit about shit. So they ask questions. A neverending stream of questions, question after question after question. “Where do you get that?” “What does that button do?” “Can I get that in pine?” “If I use one of these, can I do the same thing as that?” “How much did you say that is? Oy! What about with a senior discount?” And all you can do with all these questions is smile, and answer every. Single. One. Because when you’re out front doing a demo, every boss in the place is right up your ass, and you better fuckin smile and you better fuckin talk to all the customers, and you better fuckin help em all. Unbelievable.

So all right, this sucks. It’s my turn to do demo day. I spend an hour or so sweeping, and then I start hauling out the saws, and the lumber. I bring out an extra big pile of lumber, so I’ll have plenty to work on and won’t have to go back in for more. I paste on my happy smile, and at 10:00, maybe a minute or two late, I start sawing. I know I’ll have to stop the saws and talk to the OJs, but maybe I can, what is it, minimize that shit: the more I saw, the less I’ll have to talk. Maybe I’ll get lucky and there’ll be a big sale on bagels or something, and they won’t come by today. I can hope, right? Maybe I’ll get lucky. For once.

But that’s not what happens.

What happens is the craziest fucking thing that could ever happen to me.

What happens is my whole life changes, in less than a minute.

So I’m sawing, right? I got this OJ in front of me, and he’s trying to ask me a question but I just keep sawing, and smiling, and trying to pretend I can’t hear him. And then I hear something else. I hear shouting. Loud shouting, not like somebody-got-in-a-fender-bender shouting, but like asteroids-are-falling-from-the-sky-and-blowing-shit-up shouting, the kind of sheer, total volume that goth kids pay bank to hear in concert and all the rest of us avoid at all costs. So I stop sawing, and I turn around to look where the sound’s coming from.

Charging from around the corner, where the Garden Center guys have their tree-and-shrub display, come like ten guys. At first, I think it might be the SCA pulling a joke raid or something, but it only takes maybe two seconds for me to realize: this is not the SCA, and this is not a joke. These guys are nothing like my medieval-reenactment brothers.

These guys are fucking scary.

They’re filthy, blackened with soot and dirt and old bloodstains from head to foot. They are – disfigured is the only word for it: I see fingers missing, eyes missing, parts of noses and whole ears missing. Jesus, that one guy in front, spinning black chains around like some crazy-ass kung fu movie, is missing both his thumbs. And they got scars everywhere, livid red-brown scars, raised ridges and deep trenches in their skin, like they’ve never even seen Neosporin and a Bandaid, let alone a doctor. And they are armed, with cutlasses and battle axes and old flintlock pistols, and I’ve seen replica weapons, I spend a lot of my time with replica weapons, and just by looking at these, I can tell: these are the real fuckin things. And their eyes are wild and crazy, and they are screaming louder than I’ve ever heard a person scream.

And they’re all coming right at me.

I barely have time to back away and say, “No – please!” in a shaky voice when one of them vaults over my table saw and plows into me, putting the haft of his two-handed axe right into my chest, throwing me back five feet into my pile of lumber. That crazy fucker with the chains swings one down into my table saw, and the blade snaps right out of its housing and goes flying like some giant shuriken, and I’d yell Watch out! but I think I’ve had every breath I’ve ever taken in my life knocked out of me, and I won’t be saying anything for quite a while. Chain Guy keeps spinning the other chain in a circle by his left side, and he snarls at the OJ – I mean actually snarls at him, growling like a fuckin dog – and the OJ doesn’t even say a word, he just turns and runs off into the parking lot.

Then this other one, this older one with a gray-streaked beard and the most seriously broken nose I’ve ever seen, he starts barking orders, telling the others to grab as much of my lumber pile as they can carry, starting with the widest planks. And he comes up to me and bends down and smiles at me with brown teeth and he says, “I’d be obliged for the favor of your services, good squire.”

Then somebody puts a bag over my head, and they tie my wrists together. They make me stand up and run, with my hands holding onto somebody’s belt, and somebody else shoving a gun barrel in my back and telling me to stop, and duck, and go faster – or they’d kill me.

And I am so scared. So very scared.

We run, and duck, and hide, and run some more, and it seems like it takes hours, but who knows how long it takes time to pass when you’ve got a bag over your head, and you’ve already pissed yourself, and you know that these guys are terrorists, fuckin Islamic jihadists – though that sounded like an Irish accent, maybe, but whatever, that’s like some ex-IRA guy who’s now a mercenary or some shit – and as soon as you get where you’re going, they’re going to sit you in a chair and cut your fuckin head off and put it on YouTube.

What I’m saying is, you can’t estimate time or distance when you know you’re about to die.

And then, after forever of running and my legs are killing me and my hands are throbbing and burning from the circulation being cut off (and all I can think is “Ligature marks. CSI will find ligature marks on my wrists.”) and I feel like so much sweat has poured out of my head inside this bag that now it must be blood I feel running down my face and neck, and this bag stinks and I can’t breathe and my lungs are collapsing, and ah, God, they’re going to cut my head off – they slow down. I hear some shouting back and forth, and then everything goes quiet, except for me whooping for air and trying to get enough breath to beg for my life. Then they yank the bag off.

The sunlight hurts, at first, but we’re inside a house or something, so it isn’t too bad, and I can breathe. When my eyes adjust and I can blink some of the blood-sweat out of my eyes, I see that I am standing in front of an honest-to-God, no-shit, Jack Sparrow pirate, everything from the tri-corner hat to the sash with the sword and the flintlock pistols in it to the turned-down leather boots. He’s looking at me, and he looks pissed. Pissed on a scale I don’t even want to think about, like not like Mr. Zuckow’s going to yell at me, but more like Captain Jack is actually going to take out those guns and shoot someone in the face; like this guy’s temper already goes to 11, but right now he’s on 26.

He points at me, looks at Gray-Beard, and he says, “What, in the name of Satan and all the saints he’s burning, have ye done, O’Flaherty?”

 

 

*Author’s note: I’d just like to point out that I originally wrote this in 2013. Just sayin’.

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