Wednesday

Gentleman Jack's Springtime Shore Leave

Gather 'round the galley stove, shipmates! Once again, it's Gentleman Jack; the Terror of the Ladies, the Cleaner of Heads, The Wet-Nurse of Greenhands, The Technicolor Yawn, The Cats' Meow, Old Salty Himself! Deckhand, Officer, Skipper and Son of a Bitch. Up through the Hawse. Here he is with another tale of Seafaring Daring-Do and Adventure! 


Episode One: Shore Leave.

There were moments on that cold Aberdeen evening when it bloody near came to blows. 

Your humble servant and correspondent typically avoids fisticuffs, and is appalled at such behavior, familiar as it is to the kind of classes that low tides bring into common waterfront ale houses. I often assert that drinking is a civilized pursuit, and if one cannot muster the basic decorum to drink and interact with others, one should not be drinking at all. Under no circumstances should one insult or anger the barmaid. This not only paints one as a brigand, but also makes it difficult, nigh, impossible, to drink in a small town with only one or two public houses. It seems terribly foolish to limit your options. 

There are other concerns; serving aboard a large traditional vessel is hardly a clandestine affair. Those living ashore most certainly have heard of the arrival of an "old" or "pirate" ship, and any one possessing an I.Q. greater than that of an semi-retarded chimpanzee can logically gather from the smell of unwashed humanity and bilge water that you are the crew, specifically when you arrive in a tar-stained "tee-shirt" with the bloody vessel's name emblazoned upon it! Uncouth behavior from a band such as this easily points the finger at the vessel in port, and has a negative effect upon the reputation of the vessel and crew. 

Far from being a stick in the mud, I most certainly enjoy a pitcher of stout and shelled oysters before a good roger in the cable tiers, however, I would do nothing to draw negative attention to the vessel, crew or master in a way that would mean I could not enjoy the services of the port again. There have been grave errors in this field, from trying to jump overboard in a state of undress (Los Angeles Harbor, dear readers, is no place to take up drunken, naked swimming, I can tell you from personal experience), to rogering in the shore shower facilities, and being witnessed by a lay preachers wife. God's Holy Trousers, shipmates, this is no way. Simply isn't done, you see. I was once given sagely advice; Pillage, THEN burn. Capital advice for anyone who cares to take it. 

Where was I? Ah, yes, yes. Aberdeen. 

Well, it was myself, two sea captains and a deckhand whom had left the service of the vessel months previous. We were enjoying a pint or two of the bitter, and trading yarns and tobacco products. Joviality was the order of the evening; at least that was until out of the head, like a bear in heat, comes stumbling a enormous drunken fisherman who nearly parts the door from it's hinges. I could tell from the smell of whiskey and fresh urine that he was recently in town too, and from the residue of white powder about his nostrils, I could surmise that he had likewise recently left the paid employ of an inspected vessel. Face flushed red, and his impressive bulk filling the doorway, he gazed in cross-eyed stupor about the room. His gaze fell to our table, and my blood ran cold. 

A moment, dear readers, and allow me to describe my company a bit further. I was at a table surrounded by the largest men I've ever sailed with; Captain Dickel was a mountain of a man who, when he orders a beer, orders four and holds them between his fingers like chopsticks. He was a local, and had a taste for pugilism of the unlicensed type. Captain Isaiah was slightly smaller; a full grown black bear would be comparable. In his Carhartt coveralls would fit three of your humble correspondent. Pearse is the kind of chap that the Romans lost an entire legion to when they invaded the home of the Pics north of England, or present day Scotland. He was in fine fettle, wearing kilt and Tam O' Shanter, and drinking beer from a pitcher. He was not sharing. This collective mountain of meat was shielding five and a half feet of yours truly from what was beginning to look like a hazard to my navigation. Namely, to the door. The troglodyte saunters up to Dickel, who was at that point in the middle of a story as to why he himself had bloody knuckles and a broken billiard cue. When the shadow of Candy Nose fell upon him, he finished his sentence, and clenched his right fist on the table. Isaiah had a bottle by the neck, discreetly under the table. Pearse downed his pitcher with a mighty gulp that might have swallowed Jonah. "Christ" I thought. "This is no place for old Jack." But bollocks have it, there the ape was in between myself and the doorway! Suddenly, the Neanderthal spoke.

"Hey..." he breathed heavily. "Are you... Scottish?" The question was directed toward Dickel, whom at that moment began to wipe the day old encrusted blood off his devastating right. It was not his blood. 

"Yes. Yes I am." came the latent, delayed answer. 

"What the fuck are you doing here?" Candy Nose returned.

"I live here, and my friends and I are having a drink." The captain spoke in an even, measure voice that betrayed the reality that he was drunk as a Lord. 

Next to me, more drunken fisherman, whom I suspected were also in that head doing God knows what to each other, moved into position beside their fellow inebriate, I assume to back his ill-advised play. Your humble corespondent had now moved through the gamut from apprehension, dismay, resting finally on animal-like, survivalist, abject terror. Half of my body was already out of the chair ready to charge the door, while one fist was clenched to do what I may have to do. You know the old Jack one- two; get in one good punch to the nose and run like hell. Don't think me a coward; well... do if you must, but I've seen what happens to chaps caught under an elephant stampede. Not at all pretty. The ape was preparing to speak again.

"You're... huge, man. Fucking huge." If not before, now it began to take a bizarre twist, with undertones of buggery lacing the alcohol, drugs and violence.

"Well..." the Cro-Magnon stuttered, gathering the necessary wit for his next utterance. It wasn't much. "Are we gonna fuckin' fight or what?" Poetic...

"I'd rather not" came Captain Dickel's reply, and I nearly wept for joy. The beast seemed to react to my shipmate's comment in similar fashion. He visibly relaxed his shoulders, but I had not yet come to the decision to likewise un-pucker my sphincter. 

"Oh, good, man" the fisherman sighed. "I thought, that, y'know we were gonna fight, but then I saw you, and y'know thought that you were Scottish too, and maybe we were like... brothers." Christ in Heaven, where was this heading? I was aghast. Just when I thought I had narrowly escaped the brown trousers, it takes a turn for the surreal into some kind of backwoods pulp novelette. 

"Cool, man." Dickel offered. Captain Isaiah put down his bottle. Rounds were ordered, introductions made. All seemed well. I fumbled shakily for a cigarette. In those days, loyal readers, a civilized man could have a civilized smoke in a civilized public house. No longer, I'm afraid. With Hun-like brutality, they've taken that right. But that is another story. All's well that ends well, as the Bard once said. But it wouldn't have been complete without one more macabre turn; the ape turns to me, looks me up and down, and with a breath that smelled worse, I'll wager, than the hold of his derelict trawler, asked "Can I have your number?"

Sometimes, dear shipmates, it's better to stay the night on the Ship.

No comments:

Post a Comment