The Word of a Pirate

K.S. Riggin

Tip used to take pleasure in the chores he did. He’d never been fond of emptying the captain’s pot, but bringing down the captain’s meals and toting things to him or bringing messages from the crew had made him feel important. Sometimes he'd even thought that one day he might get to be captain and write in the huge log that told everybody everything significant about their ship, the Edam.

But things were different after the pirates took over. Poor Captain Clem had gone overboard with a blood-stained shirt and a head dangling limply in death.

“Shark’s food,” the pirates had jeered, and Tip had swallowed hard and tried not to imagine that scene.

“Join us, lad,” Old One-Eye’d told him, and Tip, with tears in his eyes had nodded, but it had not been enough for the new captain.

“You must give your word. Be ‘ya with us, or against us, lad,” Captain Ruthless had ordered, and the sword had pierced Tip’s cheek. With blood dripping from the stab of pain, Tip had given his pledge.

"Good enough for me," said the captain, and he slapped the boy on the back, half-knocking him into the first mate, Bloody.

So Tip became Captain Ruthless’ boy with the run of the galley and ship. He began to know his place and think that maybe one day he would be a pirate just like them. Daily he practiced with the cudgel and sword under the stern eyes of Captain Ruthless and Bloody, and because of that, the pirates began to toss the young lad small bits of friendship.

Fifteen days passed like one night, and then foul storms battled the sea. As if all the blood on deck must be purged by the restless waves, the good ship, Edam, tossed about, like a cork on a river’s rapids. Tip slept on the floor of the captain's room, and Captain Ruthless began to speak to him of a pirate's life and the ways of the cudgel and sword. Like a father and son they grew close during that storm, and Tip pledged once more to be a brave-hearted pirate.

Then on the sixteenth day, the sky and the sea calmed, and the ocean turned back into crystals, shiny and smiling with sun.

Tip had just finished emptying the captain’s pot, and the sharks who patrolled the ocean’s depths were eyeing him with eager hunger, when Tip heard a shout from the Edam’s mast, and Old One-Eye called down, “Ship ahoy.”

Tip ran the pot down to the captain’s room. He saluted Ruthless and said, “Another ship has been spotted, Sir.”

The captain bolted up from his seat and glared into Tip’s eyes.

“You’ll not be telling falsehoods, lad?”

“No, sir, I swear, sir. Tis true. One-Eye just sang it down.”

The captain bellowed a laugh and shoved Tip aside. Then he took the steps two-by-two and flung the door half-off its hinges.

“What ship be strolling this ocean part? Tell me quick, One-Eye.”

The answer given, Captain Ruthless laughed again, and drew his pendulous sword. "Hey, lad. Come here,” he roared, and Tip moved closer.

“Be ya’ pirate, or be ya’ Yank?” Captain Ruthless questioned the boy, and the tip of the sword once more pierced the poor lad’s cheekbone.

Tip trembled and wished he’d peed over the side earlier when the sharks had been glaring at him. "I'm a pirate, sir,” Tip answered, but his eyes teared in fear.

Captain Ruthless glowered a moment; then he turned and hollered to his first mate. “Lock him up, Bloody. I’ve no time to watch me back when the Yank ship comes astern us.”

Tip said nothing as he was thrown down into the brig. But when the door shut, he squatted over the pot and relieved himself, moaning from the relief of it. Then, he tried the door, but was hardly surprised to find that it was soundly bolted shut. He found a corner and sat down to wait for the skirmish to end.

Darkness and stillness brought on the rats. Tip fought off their sharp, biting teeth with his boot. Meanwhile another battle raged above him. He heard the cannons fire. The curses of raging men filled the air, and later the screams of wounded and dying filtered their way down into the dark of the brig underneath the Edam’s galley.

As the hours drew on, and Tip’s arm grew weary of fighting off rats and fatigue, he became more and more sure that the Edam had been boarded by the other ship’s crew. The noise had grown fierce as the battle waged, and the pounding on the deck above him spoke of hand-to-hand combat. Tip shivered from cold and fear.

Then he smelled fire. The ship had caught. The smell of smoke stopped the attack of the rats. They squealed and left Tip alone.

The boy ran to the door and pounded, coughing as the air grew thick, and the stench of burning flesh and wood sucked up all the oxygen in the small enclosed brig. Tip dropped to the wooden floor, realizing that his fate would be the same as the Edam’s. He prayed to God to forgive his sins, then he asked for a quick and merciful death.

His prayers were only half answered for the door burst open, and an arm pulled him out, and thrust him over a shoulder. Tip blacked-out before ever he left the Edam. He never knew when he was taken to safety.

So the Edam burned before it sank into the depths of the Caribbean Sea, and Tip returned to the city of Boston. There he found work in a newspaper room and never went back to sea.

The scourge of the sea still churns up fear in the souls of the land fast, and mariners quake when the black of the scull and crossbow comes into sight. But my father, safe in his room, still reaps the coins of his tales as he writes book after book and tells the stories of the time when he was a lad named Tip, who once gave his word to the mighty Captain Ruthless.


© 2010 K. S. Riggin.  All rights reserved.

  Shaara Shaarvan, penname K.S. Riggin, teaches second graders during the day, but during evenings, weekends, and vacations, she transposes alternate realities into words and scenes. Shaarvan mainly writes science fiction and fantasy novels, but also keeps a portfolio of short stories, essays, poems, and artwork at http://shaara.Writing.Com/