Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ahoy, Long John Bellairs!

Captain Red Beard (aka Jonathan Barnavelt)
In honor of National Talk Like a Pirate Day we bring forth an exciting account of this roarin’ tale of the sea from one Long John Bellairs, that of Ye Cabin with a Timepiece in Thee Walls.

The buccaneers sailed for hours in to sundown. They swung the lamp at scuttlebutt and sailed past mere dots of land covered with dying algae and through a mess of fishes, rippling the water. Up crest and down crest they bobbed, through windy pockets of the night that made the seadogs heave-ho over the rails if ye legs weren't supportin' ye the right way. By twilight, they were miles from Port Zebedee.

They be on their way to land when Captain Red Beard – for no reason at all – ceased wit the wheel and stood staring at thar sparse moonlight glistening off th' water.

"Yar! Why the heave-to, Captain?" asked Lewis.

"Argh! Me keeps hearin’ the sounds of ship's bells somewhere," said the Captain. "Do ye hear it, Florence?"

"Ahoy," said Mrs. Zimmermann, eyein’ her captain strangely. "But what scurvy maggots be runnin’ a rig? There be privateers in these waters at night, says I."

"Argh?" said Captain Red Beard in a strange voice. He stepped down from the poop deck and down the musty, wooden staircase. "Don’t ye go nowhere," he said to them. He walked toward the stern, listening. Lewis could hear nothing but the leeward winds and the sky gave off odd colors as in an ox-eye. The vessel bobbed slightly as the waves crested, and now Lewis could see a single light on the horizon rising out of a gully and then dipping into the next one.

Captain Red Beard jostled his way back to the deck. “Shiver me timbers, she be the scourge of the seven seas!” With a jolly shout to the cockswain, the captain ordered the crew to the mizzen to raise fast the Jolly Roger.

Lewis was frightened. "Avast?" he asked.

"Argh, no time! Set sail smartly! Ahoy, Florence, what be th’ best way back to th’ mainland?"

“Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning. And step on it. I don't like the cut of their jib."

Many times, when he had been out sailing with his father and mother, Lewis had pretended that scavengers and swabs were perusing them. It was a good game to pass the time on long dull trips at sea, and he remembered how he had always felt disappointed when the mystery rigger charted a new course after many long leagues, sailing for the mainland or a deserted island. But tonight the game was for real.

Through the waves they sailed, lurching dangerously and soaking over the bulkheads. Up waves, down waves, then seventy or eighty nautical miles per hour on the straightaway, which were not really straight since they were on ever-moving water. Lewis had never seen the captain maneuver so fast, or so recklessly. But no matter how fast they sailed, the two gold circles of light still burned behind them like doubloons.

Both Mrs. Zimmermann and Captain Red Beard seemed to know who or what was in the brig behind them – and it wasn't Davy Shea or Dr. Patch – and they seemed to know that it was something that had the power to do harm. But they said as little as possible, except to confer now and then about the compass, to check the mast and mind the wayward winds. So Lewis just sat there, with no motion, trying to feel comforted by St. Elmo's Fire that burnt green, and blue, and white and reflected off the wheel. Of course, he also felt comforted by the two wizards, but he knew that they were scared, and that made him twice as scared.

I think we need to lay off the grog.

1 comment:

Jay said...

Wonderful post! And yes, too much grog.