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A Pirate's Story
Aye, me mateys--they done me wrong. Left me here for to rot in this godforsaken place with but a few doubloons. But wait! I'm getting ahead of meself. If it weren't for the wizard of the wood, me tale wouldn't be told at all. So, lads and ladies gather round, for this old pirate has a story to tell.
In the year of our Lord 1588, I, John Smyth, was but fourteen. Yet I signed on to sail on the pinnace Gabriel from Pilgrim, under Lord Howard to meet the mighty Spanish Armada in the Channel. The Gabriel was a fair sailing merchant vessel that had been hastily refitted for war. She was a warship by no means. Being so young, I was mightily afeared when we finally spied their ships. Thankfully, we did not engage them directly. Someone got a good idea and we loosed two old ships aburning into their midst while they lay anchored in the fog off the Calais coast. We scared them mightily with that fire. They cut their anchors and fled to sea.
Once we had em in the open water of the Channel, we commenced to battle, firing at will for an entire day. I must say that cannonballs whizzing overhead and smashing into sail and mast put the fear in me. We sunk four of them ships and they one of ours. And then we scattered like dogs for safe port wilst most of those heavy galleons sailed for Ireland. Before arriving, they was beset by a mighty gale that wrecked most them ships wilst we was safely in the shelter of our ports. Me hatred of the Spanish was born that day and it's lasted all me life.
Sir Francis Drake was legend in me youth. As a boy known as Smythy, a name I sore hated, but stuck, I dreamed of sailing the Spanish Main and bringing back treasure like Sir Francis did. So it was that in 1590 I sailed with the good ship Mary Anne under Captain Alfred Blake for the British West Indies. I was young and strong and dreamt of me own ship one day--and getting rich. Alas, it was not to be. Near Nassau, we ran into a gale and the Mary Anne ran aground in the shallows. I was lucky to escape with me life and a few of me mateys in small boats. From then on I joined in with privateers. The lowlifes who raped, plundered, and pillaged, not only the Spanish, aye, but any hapless French or English merchant ship that had anything of value on it as it floated on by.
Many's a gold coin or silver ingot passed through me hands in those days. But life was but for the moment and I feared not rest to see what I had become--just an evil pirate with nothing to show for his miserable life but his mateys. I joined many a ship and captain and fought many a battle. Though me wounds hurt, bled, and scarred me mightily, I was neer mortally wounded. Aye, thou I watched many mateys fall to the death. Before I know it, it was 1630 and I was feelin ill. Many years of hard drinking had done me liver in. Me mateys could tell because me weathered skin had turned an awful yellow palour. All me teeth had long rotted away, and me hair was thinning and gray. No longer could I lift me sword to fight, and I ached to me very bones.
One-Eyed Jones was scrounging up a crew in the Cinnamon camp I was lounging in. Jones said he had good word that a galleon filled with gold was anchored nearby gathering provisions on its way back to Spain. We sailed in Jones's pinnace, Scarab, by the dark of night with only the moon and stars to guide us. Jones and the boys boarded the galleon on anchor before dawn. I stood ready by cannon to fire and load. But it was not necessary. Jones, with his motley crew and a few Cinnamons, killed them all. We then took what the ship was carrying--some bullion, doubloons, and fine Spanish silverware.
Seeing as I had only manned the cannon instead of done the killing like the others, I was given only half a share. Still, it was more than I'd had in me hand in over twenty years. Fully provisioned from the galleon, Jones decided that we would head for England before winter set in. It was right with me, because what I had from the raid would be enough to put me up in a pension for the rest of me life. We dropped the Cinnamons off, and set sail for England on a warm September day.
We sailed the Gulf Stream toward Bermuda and was tacking on a good breeze when I spied a huge white cloud of danger looming in the south. A mighty hurricane was fast on us and there was no way round her. We lashed everything down, struck the mainsail, and pointed her into the wind. Never in all me days have I seen such a storm. She lashed us for three days and left us awash with a broken foremast far north of our course. Unable to sail for England in this shape, Jones decided we'd make for Boston and winter there.
As fate would have it, I gambled a bit, and lost near everything I had. Old One-Eye, he took sick with the croup and died on us. Me mateys decided that they wanted to turn back to the Indies to cast their fortunes. When I complained of it, they decided I wasn't of much use to them anymore. The next morning when I awoke, they ready had me bound and tied and put in a small skiff to take ashore. I cursed em when they rowed off, but there was nothing I could do to change their minds. They left me with some moldy bread, me sword and scabbard, a pint of rum, and six doubloons.
With painful steps I paced me new surroundings. It was a beautiful place, with a large river flowing into the sea and a deep forest up to the edge of high cliffs that I could not get around. I was grateful there was no Indians abiding. For with only doubloons to trade, I would surely die among them.
I found ample water in little streams and some berries to pick the bears left behind. But in a fortnight, me rations were all gone and there was no more berries to find. Even with me great coat, the rain came more often and wet me to the core. It grew colder day-by-day and I wandered aimlessly just to keep warm. Me gut retched from hunger and I stooped to eating acorns like the squirrels. At first I split them with me sword, crushed the insides with a rock, and swallowed them like a bitter pill. They filled me stomach, but did not digest.
I feared dying more than anything because I knew sure that the Devil, he was gonna come and get me. So's I kept moving, hoping he wouldn't find me when I died. At night I'd crawl up under trees like a bear, unable to sleep because of the pain in me gut and the cold. I've got so cold that only shivering could keep me warm. Still, I kept putting wood in me stomach and kept walking. Finally, when I was about give out, swallowed some acorns whole, seeing as I had no teeth. That was me worst mistake of all.
That night the wind came up and it rained a bit and turned bitter cold. I crawled to a hollow place overlooking the river and took me last stand. I covered meself with leaves and prayed. The acorns in me stomach ground together like two cannonballs about to explode and the cold wind tore at me limbs until they was numb. Fearing death, I cried out for the Lord to save me. But the howling wind drowned out me feeble words so's only the Devil heard.
It began to snow. It was strangely warm and white. Before long, it covered me like a blanket and I fell into a dream. The dream was all white and out of the white came a warm glow and a voice. The voice said, "I am the wizard of the wood. I protect all things that dwell here from the winter. I will protect you, too."
Warm at last, I rested in the dream. When the snow above me melted into ice, I could see the passing of the days--the light and dark of day and night as they passed me way. And so I passed the winter in peace. The northern lights and constantly moving stars filled me nights. Me days felt the warmth of the sun. Squirrels played over me and birds pecked above but did not see. I was content in me wintery womb. Alas, winter too, must pass, and with it I felt the trickle of water running down me brow. It tickled and was icy cold, but I could not scratch or wipe it away.
Before long the sun melted the ice and snow and I lay, with me greatcoat on, naked before the sun. I could feel meself rotting away, me flesh sliding down me bones. Worse, the crows had found me, pecking at me eyeballs an any part of me exposed through me coat. Beneath me, I could feel the worms and beetles crawling into me back. If this is Hell, I said to meself, then why can't I feel them hurting me? I sensed them doing it, and what they were doing--those disciples from the Devil--but I did not hurt and that was good.
As the days passed me stomach grew bloated though I'd had no food. There was a stirring there that disturbed even me. Unable to do anything about it, I just waited and wasted away. Finally, a single green leaf thrust its way through me rotting flesh to light. It was marvelous, as though I had birthed a tree. Once it reached the light, and with me innards as food and drink, it grew quickly in the warm spring sun and wrapped its fine young roots around me bones, sucking minerals for to make it strong.
That summer passed swiftly and before I knew, me sapling had grown to a swords' height above me. It was strong and straight with a few leaves drinking in the rain and shining in the sun. With the passing of summer its leaves turned a golden brown and gradually blew away, one by one. Snow came early and covered me and me little offspring, mercifully from the nibbling habits of the rabbits and the passing of an occasional hungry deer.
And so it was that me tree grew fast and stronger than the rest in the shelter of me hollow and withstood nature's test. The years came quickly now and so the tree grew. Soon, it was having acorns of its own. I felt its spreading roots take hold, and watched its canopy grow. Birds came to rest a bit, and search its bark for bugs. Storms came and whipped its branches about, but me young tree was as flexible as it was stout. Now shaded by its spreading leaves I spent me days lounging about as in a Cinnamon camp.
The years came, and the years did go. Tall and strong me tree did grow. The squirrels soon found haven its high branches and rotting knots. The birds haven in its spreading plumage. Me lay in the shade of its growing crown and soon found that only the sun of the early morn and eventime cast its warmth on me bones wound up in its roots. Me tree had grown and conquered its domain. Neither wind nor lightning nor cold of winter could challenge its mighty strength. All things below now lived in its shade. A monarch of the forest to whom all was beholden.
So me rested in me final resting place. Sheltered, as it were, by the mighty monarch rising from me last remains. Years to decades, and decades to centuries, time moved on. And so it was to be, until me mighty protector would die, as all things, even oaks, do.
Hark, although I have heard the cries and laughter of children, and the occasional muffled voice of conversation above the chatter of the squirrels, the singing of songbirds, and the raucous call of the crows, I now hear the loud clanking of swords or perhaps chains. And the snorting of a boar. A loud and boisterous sound that grows louder and sounds less like a boar and more like something more sinister. Could it be Him, after all these years, finally come to get me?
And lo, what's that I hear? It is a sound of a thousand bees abuzzing and screaming like banshees in me ear. I can feel it too. Me home is vibrating like a man in death's throw. Believe me, I've seen it with me own eye. It's been going on for the longest. The bees have turned to banshees screaming, and the clanking is joined by a mighty roar. “Shiver me timbers!” Methinks it is not bees and wild boars that make these sounds. Maybe the Devil’s come to get me? Surely these sounds are not natural. For though they sound like something me hear before, surely they could be of Him, too.
Oh, me bones go crazy! The banshees are howling and the vibrations are tearing me very soul apart! There is a crashing all-around. As though some monster is knocking me tree down. And he is close. His clanking is in me ear. But it's not the clanking that I fear--its the roar! Never in me born days have I heard such a sound!
I can feel it! He's moved the tree above me! The weight of it has flown off and I can feel the warmth of the sun again! I’m in for it now! If only I could raise me sword! Hark! Can you feel that? It's moving me and I be mightily afraid!
"Wait! There are bones! Stop the bulldozer! Damn! Call the archaeologist. I just knew we were gonna run into trouble trying to build here in this Virgin timber. If that old oak hadn’t been so diseased, I could have left the damn thing there and not have to put up with this crap!"
Oh, me be so relieved. Thought sure that I'd be consumed by hellfire by now. Maybe it's me mateys come back to give me a proper burial at sea. Thoughs me don't relish being eaten by fishes and crabs much. It's been peaceful for some time, quiet, though I do hear legion excited voices and the sun feels hot after lo, such a long time.
What's that? They be tickling me with brushes and feathers! Will they ever stop! Oh, dear God! The banshees are wailing again! Am I to be freed from this tree only to be thrown into the fire! At last it is stopped--that fearsome noise that no bee can make. Ah, I am back in a cool, dark place again. I hope this time He will not come back.
This place is strange, but calm. I hear the flutter of voices and the hollow sound of a great hall. I feel no cold of winter nor heat of summer--just the humming of some strange wind that comes and goes. But hark! I hear footsteps ...
"Look Daddy! Look at his bones! All grown into the root like that! He must've been a pirate. He had to be a pirate. Look at that silver sword and scabbard! Look at those Spanish doubloons and his boots. Daddy, I wish I could be a pirate."
"C'mon son, there's lots more to see. How a pirate could end up in the roots of a four hundred year-old white oak is beyond me. It was contrived, I’d say. What will these museum guys think of next?"
The wizard of the wood smiled as me rested in peace.
Ronald W. Hull
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|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|This is spectacular: love the vernacular of speech, the action, and the story itself! Great write, Ron; thanks for sharing! Very well done; bravo!!
(((HUGS))) and much love, your Tx. friend, Karen Lynn. :D
I am saving this one!