Rathscum, the Lion, and the Pink Flag
By: “Little Miss Aki”
Dread Pirates Summer Beach Bash Short Story Contest 3rd Place Winner
The Summer heat of a Colorado July beat down on the deck of the Smeeworthy’s Treehouse. The crew, consisting of four rag tag rabble rousers clad in jumpers and jeans, lounged in the shade of the great Oak’s cheerful green verdure. A Capri-sun juice bag suddenly skyrocketed through the air, launched from a calloused hand into a steel cattle trough that was wedged up against the tree, filled with water for the fifty head of cattle that milled about in the southern hay meadow.
“You better remember to get that or else Uncle Rodger will get mad at you.” A long haired brunette of a 8 year old girl said, playing with a green leaf in her small hands. Her dark blue eyes fascinated by the intricate fabric of the foliage, her blue jeans and white t-shirt dirtied from climbing up the side of the neighboring trees to put a baby bird, fallen from its nest, back in its rightful place, gave her the air of a nymph or tree fairy.
“Why don’t you make me, Mel?” growled the boy, a dirty blond with flashing hazel eyes. He wore a pair of sunglasses on the top of his head, holding back his ruffled hair, his freckles and tan skin slightly pink with sunburn. He too wore jeans and a blue polo shirt he pulled at as though it were something offensive.
“Leave her be, Timmy, she just doesn’t want us getting yelled at.” A boy perhaps a inch taller than his companions, leaned down from the branch above the treehouse. He wore a pair of overalls over a white tanktop and had a piece of wheat bit between his teeth, the end of it waving in the air. His short brown hair and beady brown eyes fixed on Timmy and then glanced at Mel who rapped on the wooden side of the treehouse. The canvas roof had blown away sometime in the spring and though they’d wanted to fix it, no adult would assist.
“Sally Ho!” Up through the floor on a little cotton rope climbed a blond girl with bright, cheerful green eyes, her long hair neatly braided, her face marked with mud and dirt, her blue overalls matching her brothers with a pink blouse beneath now stained with grass and dirt.
“What have you been doing, Lil Jess?” asked her large brother as he hauled her up onto the deck.
“Nothin’ illegal, Xander…I hope.” Mel volunteered, but Jess made a big smile on her face.
“I been a naughty niece…” and she grinned, holding up her prize. A pair of bright white fuzzy dice swung joyously in the afternoon sun, tarred with dirt but otherwise unharmed.
“My sisters dice?” Mel looked nonplussed at Jess who squished the dice.
“She never lets us borrow em when we’re playing games, so I stoled them from her car! Crawled in the window!” Jess giggled and looked at the dice like a thief with his clay pigeon.
“And you were getting on me for my juice box in the drinker…she’s going to get us fried, not me.” Timmy was on his feet and took the fuzzy dice from the little girl who instantly climbed up the branches of the tree to where Xander had been sitting earlier. She pulled off her pink shirt, leaving her just in her overalls, bare-chested in her little-girl joy. She hung her pink shirt on a branch flag style and Timmy tossed her the fuzzy dice which she tied around the stick, making a pink flag with the dice as its banner.
“I say my good chaps, wot!” laughed Jess as she jumped down, looking proudly at her flag.
“A fine banner for the crew of the Smeeworthy!” laughed Timmy, running to the “pirates chest” in the corner of the treehouse, a little steel toolbox which had in it every size of stick. He drew out what he believed a cutlass and poked Mel in the ribs.
“Come on me hearties! Let us set sail and way anchor and all that jolly hoot! We’ll go out and hunt ourselves and golden load of loot!” Timmy rhymed happily in his best pirate swagger. Mel pulled her hair back in a pony tail and then opened up the tool box for a Halloween pirates eyepatch which she pulled over one eye. Timmy tossed her a bandanna from the trove to complete the look and she drew out a shorter stick she envisioned as a small sword. Xander spat out the weed he chewed on and picked up the remains of a coat hanger he held in his hand like a hook, drawing out a large curved stick he pictured an axe.
“Who we gonna be killin’ taday, Cap’n Tim!” Jess squealed excitedly, grabbing a stick.
“Don’ be calling me Cap’n Tim, swab! I’m Cap’n Rathscum! The scariest and deadliest of all the Main seas! I pillaged and plundered and murdered and laughed, that I did, when I gutted my First Mate, some scally wag of a Kid!”
Jess laughed as Timmy demonstrated his gutting technique. Mel ran to the flag and pointed with a stick.
“Cap’n Rathscum, sah! The winds are heavenly, we aught to make landfall shortly!”
“Landfall where, First Matey Mel!? I haven’t even said where we’re going.” Timmy asked, but Mel pointed off the bowsprit with her stick.
“The beaches of Bermuda! The lost island of El Dorado, sir! You said yerself we were going to get our loot! What better place than the city of Gold!” Jess looked off towards the southern meadow which in a flash of her young eyes was transformed into a long stretch of white sand and blue ocean with a great volcano rising up from green palm trees and lush bushes.
“Why it is! Cap’n! The Isle of Gold herself!” Xander yelled cheerfully, now dressed in true buccaneer style, golden earring and black tattoo’s of viciousness. Mel was dressed in hearty corsair flare, and Timmy wore a great black hat and coat with buccaneer boots, his sword glittering with gold and ruby pommel.
“Don’t just sitting their jabbing, ya gobs! Man the boat!” they ran for the small skiff and slid down the rope into her, Jess and Xander manning the oars as Rathscum and First Mate Mel climbed down after them. They began to haul for the shore, coming up big waves, onto the glassy lagoon before making the shore.
“The Isle of El Dorado!” Xander gawked, looking up at the great volcano as First Mate Mel pulled out a spy glass and glanced about for signs of life.
“Seems deserted, Cap’n. Shall we proceed?” she asked, glancing back seaward towards the Smeeworthy. Jess was already charging up white sands towards the trees of the rainforest when Xander gave a holler.
“FREEZE UP, JESSY!” He dropped his stick, the pirates garb vanished as he charged through the hay meadow after his prancing sister. Timmy and Mel both gave a holler. Jess turned as Xander tackled her out of the way of a great black and gray and brown cat with great big ears and angry yellow eyes. It gave a snarling roar and sent a clawed paw shooting at Xander’s unprotected arms. Jess gave a scream as she saw his face tighten in pain as the big bobcats claws caught his soft flesh. Jess was on her feet and beating the cat off him with her little stick.
“GEDDAWAY FROM MY BWOTHER!” She was red-faced and crying as the cat hissed and snapped at her. Timmy and Mel came charging with sticks waving and the bobcat took off through the meadow.
“Xander!?” the young boy was crying, holding his cut arm as he rolled in the grass. Some of the cattle from down the way were coming to investigate the commotion.
“Come on, Xander!” Timmy dropped his stick and grabbed the boy around the middle as Jess and Mel hauled him onto his feet, helping him walk back towards the Smeeworthy. Some of the cattle were running to catch up to them and Jess gave a frightened glance back.
“Its was a mountain lion!” Timmy growled angrily, his shirt covered in his friends blood as Xander wailed. They got back to the stock tank and shoved Xanders arm in the cold water to rinse it off. Jess scampered up the rope to get her shirt and the dice. They wrapped the screaming boys arm in the makeshift bandage and tied it on with the dice’s strings. Mel glanced at Timmy.
“You and Jess aughta run back to the Ranch House, Timmy…get Uncle Rodger.”
“XANDER’S GONNA DIE!!!” wailed Jess, but Tim clapped a hand over her mouth.
“We’ll be interrupting their big party for your sister, Mel…” Timmy started but then he glanced at the crying Xander who was rocking back and forth holding his arm.
“Right…right…”and he grabbed Jess and took off at a run through the tree’s. Mel looked back at Xander and took off her bandanna, wiping his tears.
“That was brave…saving Jess like that. Really brave. So stop crying and be brave…it isn’t that bad…” but Jess’s shirt was already red and Xander shook his head.
Uncle Rodger had a thick belly, rawhide skin, and a sneer. His beady brown eyes under bushy eyebrows, and his Sam Adams brew were shaded in the afternoon sun as Vanessa’s Graduation Party continued on. He’d made note earlier as young Jess had climbed in and out of the Chevy Blazers open window to steal the famed fuzzy dice of Vanessa and secretly hoped whatever adventure the four young ones were having, was more exciting than this hip-hop identity-confused party. Hot dogs and burgers were grilled up as flies buzzed around the garbage tank, another steel tank set up a few feet away filled with beers and sodas. It was like a stinking family reunion…
Timmy and Jess? He sat up in his lawn chair as he saw the two charging through the tall grass of the main meadow up from the gulch and the creek bottom. Where was Mel and Xander? Rodger was on his feet, beer aside as he ran to his blue ’85 Silverado. He fired it up, grabbing his .22 from the passenger seat and setting it in his lap as he drove to meet the two young ones. Both were teary-faced and gasping as he pulled up aside them.
“HE’S GONNA DIE!!!” Jess wailed.
“A..A…MOUNTAIN LION…GOT…XAN…” Rodgers eyes went wide, his eyebrows lifting up in surprise as he motioned to the back of the pick up. The two kids climbed up the tires into the bed of the truck, crashing on the rubber matting in the back as he drove down the hill.
Mel glanced up from the tank, waiting for Jess and Timmy’s return when she felt the hairs on her neck rise. Xander made a squeak of fright as she turned around to see the cat running up to the tank, she ran forward, unsure of what to do, but put her arms wide, protectively shielding Xander from the creature which lunged up and put its paws on the edge of the tank, drinking deeply of the bloodied water.
Mel was frozen and Xander was trying to hide behind the tank. The cat noticed the floating Capri-sun wrapper and snarled at it, smacking it with its paw. Xander let out a terrified whimper and Mel felt as though she was going to lose her balance and fall. The sound of a gun went off loud in the afternoon and the cat gave a cry as it fell back. Uncle Rodger was running down the hill with gun in hand. Timmy and Jess behind him at a scampering sprint. Two more shots at the wounded animal and it was over. Mel grabbed Xander and took off running to Rodger who shuffled them back behind his body, walking forward to the cat. He fired once more just for certainty and then nodded.
“Hardly a mountain lion, just a liddle one…God forsaken critters, getting shoved this way by all the construction towards the west. Poor blighter…” He slung the great cat over his shoulder like it weighed nothing and began hiking back to the truck, idling on the hill. Xander hurried along after him, the pain forgotten as he stared at the cat and his Uncle.
“Whatcha gonna do with, Uncle Hodge?” Jess asked, running to climb into the truck.
“Well, we’re going to take a look at that arm of Xanders…and then stuff this critter. Make a nice mantle piece.” Rodger replied, grinning like a kid at Christmas. Jess grinned form ear to ear. Xander climbed into the front with Rodger as the others piled in back.
“Sally Forth! Crew of the Smeeworthy! We’re off to El Dorado!” she laughed, and Mel and Timmy gave her a failing glare. But Jess was already back on the sailing ship, rolling up the green waves of a Colorado July.
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