The swashing and buckling just won’t stop!
This month's Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour is featuring The Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka. You can read Polivika's blog here.
Today, in honor of Polika’s high seas pirate adventure novel, we have a pirate short story!
The Ballad of Ichabod the Scourge
by Ichabod the Scourge
by Ichabod the Scourge
This is the sorriest bunch o’ land-lubbers I e’er laid eyes on in me life! But we’ll make real piratey pirates out o’ ye yet! I’m here to tell ya a story that’ll put real hair on yer chests! It’s called “The Ballad o’ Ichabod the Sailor and how he became the nastiest meanest, low-downest, dirtiest sailor ever to ply the seven and a half seas.”
Arrgh, once upon a time, the nastiest, meanest, low-downest, dirtiest sailor e’er to ply the seven an’ a half seas was Rupert the Scum. And Rupert had a snivelly, wet-nosed young lubber of a cabin boy by the name o’ Billy.
Now, one o’ the pirates’ favoritest past-times is a-roastin’ marshmallows. And fer the captain of a ship, it’s usually the cabin boy what does the marshmallow roastin’ fer ‘im. Now, every pirate lahks ‘is marshmallows different, ya see. Rupert liked his evenly browned on every side, which is difficul’, cuz it means holdin’ the mallow o’er the coals where there ain’t no flame, and turnin’ it around ‘til it’s nice an’ even. An’ so Billy the cabin boy was a-roastin’ a marshmallow fer Rupert the Scum. But he didn’ pay close attention, see, and so--wham! The marshmallow caught fahr! And Billy excitedly lifted it out o’ the fahr and started waving it around to put it out, and then the marshmallow flew off the stick and landed right on Rupert the Scum’s fancy-shmancy piratey captain’s hat! And Rupert the Scum was burnin’ mad, cuz ‘is hat was sticky and scorched, an’ so ‘e had Billy the cabin boy keel-hauled. Ya know what that is? They tie a man on a big ‘ol rope to the back of a ship, and they they throw him off the front, let the weight o’ th’ ‘ole ship scrape o’er the top of ‘im. Some men it kills outright, others it drives mad!
An’ this ‘ol cabin boy went crazy, ne'er the same since. Then came the day he took up a pistol and plugged ol’ Rupert right in the heart. He took the ship and became the low-downest..et cetera...pirate ever. He took the piratey name o’ Pinkbeard, an’ there weren’t nobody in all the seven and a half seas that weren’t terrified of ol’ Pinkbeard. He pillaged without parley, destroyed without distinction, and rampaged without remorse.
Whal, it was about that time I was a-sailin’ with a scurvy dog by the name o’ Floyd the Scourge. Now Floyd, well, ‘e was an idiot. He was so dumb, he could only fit fourteen men on a dead man’s chest. And he was such a wimp, he sang, “Yo ho ho and a bottle o’ weak tea.”
But nonetheless, I were on ol’ Floyd’s crew, havin’ been recently shanghaied in Shanghai. An’ one day, we were all up on deck singin’ one o’ the pirate’s favorite little ditties: “Oh, ninety-nine bottles o’ rum on the wall, ninety-nine bottles o’ rum! Take one down an’ drink some o’ that grog, ‘n’ then pass it on to th’ other scurvy dogs! There’s ninety-eight bottles o’ rum on the wall!”
Well, there we were havin’ a jolly ol’ time. But up in the Crow’s Nest, our lookout, Cutthroat Carl, suddenly gave a loud hulloo! An’ Floyd called up, “What’s you yellin’ up thar fer, Carl? It’s me favorite part o’ the song! ‘Oh, thirty-two bottles o’ rum on the wall, thirty-two bottles o’ rum....’”
“Thar’s a ship, Cap’n,” Carl yelled back. “An’ she’s comin’ up fast off to fore.”
Well, Cap’n Floyd had to interrupt ‘is singin’, and he went to have a look. An’ then he got all trembly-like, and he called out, “We’re all lost. I’s Pinkbeard hisself!” An’ shore enough, it was! We all could see th’ infamous flag o’ the meanest, nastiest, dirtiest, low-downest pirate ever: a big skull and crossbones, set on a pink background. Thar waren’t no sailor in them days that wouldna go all shaky in the knees an’ weak in th’ arms at the sight o’ tha’ flag.
Well, Pinkbeard had us righ’ whar ‘e wanted us. We were head-on to ‘im, an’ he had his entire starboard pointed our way, cannons at the ready. Floyd put us to work to bring us about, but we couldn’t change direction fast enough before Pinkbeard began to fire. Cannonballs missed us to port, cannonballs missed us to starboard, cannonballs missed us to fore, and then cannonballs hit us right smack on!
Well, the shot did exactly what Pinkbeard had in mind. The cannonball crashed through the mast o’ the mainsail and brought the whole thing down with the riggin’ in a tremendous smash! Several men were caught under the falling wood or tackle or sails. The decks were littered with the debris, and we were disabled and dead in the water. Pinkbeard didn’t wanna sink us, ya see. He wanted the ship to add to his fleet. And so after th’ initial burst of ‘is cannonade, he turned his ship, The Fairly Amiable Roger, until he was coming up on us to starboard. Another well-aimed cannon took down th’ other mast, and we could see on the deck that a boarding party was prepared to attack our ship.
An’ we all quaked with fear, cuz we saw some o’ the meanest pirates ever in that lot--there was the wicked Gravy Crocket, who was known always to liquefy ‘is food before eatin’ it; next to ‘im was ‘is infamous lady-friend, Madame Puree; and there was also Sojourner Lies, one o’ the nastiest woman pirates on all the high seas, armed to the teeth with two sabers, two pistols, and a knife in each boot; there was also Abraham Lynchin, Napoleon Blowyouapart, Thomas Slobbs, and another woman pirate named Florid Nightingale, who had a beet-red face but could sing like a songbird--right before she cut yer throat!
Pinkbeard hisself, lookin’ wicked and cruel, stood up on the deck o’ The Fairly Amiable Roger and called out to Floyd the Scourge, “Floyd, you yellow-bellied, chicken-livered, water-kneed, irritable-bowled land-lubber of a rapscallion, surrender yer vessel to me or watch it taken from ya th’ ‘ard way!”
Wahl, Floyd by this point was curled up on the deck and were so scared, he weren’t sayin’ nothin’. Pinkbeard took that as a no, and so they threw planks from their ship to ours and swung across on ropes, and then the fightin’ was goin’ full-speed.
It was as well-timed as it could be. We’d not had time enough to load the cannons before we was fightin’ hand-to-hand fer our lives. We grabbed up sabers and cutlasses and loaded pistols to use against the ruthless mob o’ Pinkbeard’s men. I quickly found meself drawing blades against one o’ Pinkbeard’s most feared and ruthless buccaneers, th’ infamous Samuel Briquette--who was known only to do ‘is cookin’ on a barbecue. He had a gold ring in his nose and a blackened tooth in the front and a murderous look in ‘is one remainin’ eye. Well, we swashed and we buckled back and forth on the deck! It was a sight to behold. I even leapt onto a crate and jumped down at him at one point. And another time, I lost me sword and then a beautiful woman--I never figgered out where she came from--yelled, “Here!” and tossed it back to me just in time fer me to fend off Samuel’s savage blow!
Then the red rage took ‘old o’ me an’ I saw red! My whole vision was nothin’ but a continuous sea o’ red! Then I realized me bandana had fallen down over me eyes! So I quickly put it back where it belonged and went at Samuel again. I dealt him a mighty strike that sent him reeling to the ground, and I knocked the saber clean from his grasp, and then I raised me sword fer the final cut!
And then before me I saw Pinkbeard hisself walkin’ through the smoke and the fray, laughin’ as his long, faded overcoat swirled about his heavy boot and his one peg leg, which thumped rhythmically upon the deck. He peered at me with deep blue eyes--disarming eyes, so seemingly innocent in a face scarred from the barnacles that had tore at him when he was keel-hauled. Only those eyes survived that torture, as if they belonged in a different head, the head of an innocent, bright cabin boy who had never known the cold, breathless dark o’ the brine under the weighty hulk of a cutter, a hairsbreadth away from Davy Jones hisself. An’ those eyes were lookin’ right at me, seemin’ to peer inta me very soul.
“Good,” he laughed, clappin’ his hands, seein’ how I’d brought down Samuel, “good. Now finish him, and take his place at my side!”
I was about to do it, but somethin’ stopped me and I cast aside me blade. “No,” I said. “I am a pirate, like me father before me.”
Pinkbeard grinned hard and said, “So be it, pirate.”
Then he drew a pistol from under that swirlin’ overcoat an’ pointed it right at me heart. Well, I knew I was done fer!
But just then, someone shouted, “Look! It’s Her Majesty’s Navy!” And everyone gasped cuz fer pirates, Her Majesty’s Navy is first to be feared right after Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Well, we all looked, and there comin’ up to port was one o’ the most famous and fearsome o’ the Navy’s Man o’ Wars, a giant, heavily armed sailing ship known as the Brawny. An’ standing on ‘er deck was none other than ‘er famous captain, Captain Blah!
“Mistuh Chris-chun,” Captain Blah ordered his first mate, “bank hawd to port and give those blokers a volley!”
Well, ol’ Pinkbeard knew he couldna defend ‘is ship while he was busy attackin’ ours, an’ so he swiftly ordered a retreat an’ his men piled back aboard the Fairly Amiable Roger. But they was too late! Billows o’ smoke rose in a line from the side o’ the Brawny--the firing of ‘er cannons, evera one pointed at the Fairly Amiable Roger!
I knew now was the time to act, but Cap’n Floyd was still so scared, he weren’t movin’. So I ordered the men down below and told them to load our own cannons, and then the Roger would be struck from both sides. The men feverishly loaded in the black powder and the heavy cannon balls, and then kindled the matches and our own fifty guns unloaded into the Roger, the cannon balls blowin’ out the other side in a balloonin’ cloud o’ splinters! With the two well-aimed blasts from both our ships, the Roger was scuttled. She began tippin’ to port, and the last sight we saw o’ her was o’ Pinkbeard on the deck, saber in hand, cursin’ us as ‘is ship went belly-up. An’ as it turned over, we saw, glistenin’ and drippin’ brine, the very underside where Pinkbeard had scraped the day ‘e descended inta madness. And now the sea that hadn’t conquered him then was takin’ ‘im at last, and he was sinkin’ deep inta the dark an’ cold o’ Davy Jones’ Locker--which is in Davy Jones’ Locker Room, right next to Davy Jones’ Gymnasium.
But we weren’t outta the woods yet! Captain Blah knew he’d sunk ol’ Pinkbeard, but he weren’t too sure who we was. An’ if he found out we was pirates too, he’d sink us just the same! Fortunately, with our masts down, our piratey flags weren’t showin’. I ordered them snatched from the deck and stowed out o’ sight, and then I had Rupert dragged inta ‘is cabin wi’ the door shut. Then I had all the men pull down their bandanas an’ tie ‘em under their chins!
Well, Captain Blah brought the Brawny right up alongside and he peered at all of us as we gazed back innocently.
“What ship is this?” he asked, looking down his nose.
“Why,” I said, “this is th’ Anna Mae, an’ we’re jus’ a poor li’l ol bunch o’ ladies out on a pleasure cruise.”
Well, Captain Blah looked at us suspicious-like, as if’n mebbe ‘e thought it was funny, a bunch of ol’ grannies growin’ beards. But finally, he shouted to his mate, “Mistuh Chris-chun, Ah think we’re done here.”
An’ then the Brawny made off, an’ we was safe. We all gave off a big cheer, and then I ordered a makeshift mast rigged, and we set off fer Pirate’s Cove ta do some repairs and engage in some old-fashioned, piratey carousin’. An’ cuz Floyd was still out of it, I was named the new captain--Ichabod the Scourge, and I was swiftly known as the low-downest, not-nicest, meanest, dirtiest, ugliest, wickedest, baddest pirate in the seven an’ a half seas!
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