Did I ever tell you that I grew up on a pirate vessel?
There were eight total – a small pirate crew – nine if you counted the dog.
Yes, it is unusual to have a dog on a pirate ship.
She was a good dog though. The best.
She knew when storms were brewing, and the crew knew to heed her ears down and tail lowered.
The captain was like most pirate captains you read about – abusive, demanding, unpredictable.
The captain’s wife was part of the crew. Again – super unusual.
I would not have wanted to be first mate on this ship.
First mate is a misnomer, by the way, or at least it was on this ship.
The captain trusted no one to run the ship, but demanded more than was possible from the first mate – and second – and the whole crew. As you imagine, the crew was bone weary before the ship was very far out to sea.
But out to sea she went, that shitty old vessel.
The crew was constantly plugging leaks, and even though they did their best job (and also never signed up to be pirates), they were met with the captain’s insane demands for more and better.
The youngest of the crew had the misfortune to be incorrigible. Because he was so different, and the captain’s wife promised to keep him out of sight and doing the only thing he was good at, which was taking things apart (whether they needed to be or not), he was left mostly alone.
The captain drank – a lot – as many captains are rumored to do – and the more he drank, the more onerous his instructions and demands. Even the captain’s wife began imbibing as much as the captain, and their fighting became more and more ferocious until finally the captain challenged his wife to a duel.
Ok, there wasn’t actually a challenge, but the captain did tell his wife to walk the plank because he wanted to see how quickly the sharks would get her.
She did walk the plank with the captain’s musket trained on her – and she plunged into the murky depths.
The rest of the crew did not know what to do. And only three of them were on deck when the captain challenged her thus, and they got themselves below decks as fast as possible and started pushing barrels and crates, and all manner of objects to thwart the captain’s attempts at finding new targets.
Turns out, the captain’s wife jumped straight into a pod of humpback whales on their way to their breeding grounds, and they took pity on the strange creature they seemed to know was not of the sea (the lack of gills or fins was probably a giveaway).
The whales surrounded and buoyed her up to the stern where she was able to climb onboard unnoticed by the captain.
But the whales weren’t done.
The captain’s wife edged her way toward the ladder to reach the crew below decks and assess any damage in her absence while the captain screamed obscenities from the bow into the night air.
The captain was so enraged that he walked onto the plank, challenging Poseidon himself to a duel.
The whales took that very moment to ram the ship’s side, and the captain fell open-mouthed into the drink.
The first mate climbed up to the deck to see what had bashed into the ship, and he saw the captain flailing about in the sea.
He turned away and set a new course to the first harbor without a backward glance.
Most of the crew came back on deck to assess the damage for themselves, surprised and delighted to see a group of whales breaching nearby, spouting and gamboling through the deep.
Several crew mates watched as the whales surrounded the flailing captain before dragging him down to Davey Jones’ locker.
The captain’s wife, unaccustomed to freedom, decided to finish the barrel of rum left in the hold and was no good to anyone for the rest of the trip.
The crew managed the best they could until they found the nearest land.
The youngest crew member did not come above board after the captain was relieved of his command because he had been terrified by the captain’s screaming, and the whale’s blows against the ship, and convinced himself that rival pirates were about to come aboard and kill the whole crew.
He locked himself in the hold and ran in circles until he finally knocked himself out when he ran into a beam he mistook for a group of marauding pirates.
After the crew docked at Satan’s Den, the nearest harbor the first mate found, the crew disembarked, carrying the unconscious youngest crew member with them.
They found shelter above the village tavern.
The two oldest crew mates sold the pirate vessel for a more seaworthy ship, replenished their stores, and told the crew that they were setting out for the new world. The captain’s wife was sad to see them go, but she chose to stay ashore and kept the four other crew members with her.
Later, in relief at being liberated from the terrible captain, the captain’s wife went down to the tavern where there was laughter and drink, and she stayed all night.
The rest of the weary crew went up to their quarters and slept.
The next morning, the captain’s wife was nowhere to be found, so the four crew members talked about what they should do. They decided to set out from Satan’s Den to find a life away from the sea.
The youngest crew members missed the captain’s wife, and after tearful goodbyes with the next two oldest crew members, they turned back to Satan’s Den to wait for her return.
The captain’s wife did return several days later when the youngest crew members were about to give up hope, but she seemed annoyed at seeing them waiting for her.
She told them that a group of landlubbers she met at the tavern told her about a life she could never have imagined existed, and they wanted her to come with them. She reluctantly said the youngest two crew members could come with her.
They looked at each other, each deciding that their best chance at survival was following the captain’s wife.
Unfortunately, the youngest crew member only knew how to function out at sea, and even though the next oldest tried to help him learn the ways of being on land, he told her that dragons were surrounding them and wanted to burn them and eat them.
Even though the older crew member could not see the dragons, the youngest insisted they were there.
She didn’t know what to do, and the captain’s wife had started out without them.
The youngest was too afraid to live on the land or at sea, and even though she tried and tried, she could not help him.
She gave him all she knew how to give, and told him where she would be if he ever needed her.
And that’s the story so far.
© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current