New Horizons

By E.D. Wivens, February 2006

Somebody once asked me how I became a freelancer. Let me try and explain...

'Twas a dark and stormy afternoon, back in the year '02. The Cap'n had spent the morning cursing and comparing to pond-life the agents who were allegedly trying to find him a ship. The comparison had not been a favourable one, at least as far as the agents were concerned. His already black mood wasn't being improved by the parrot on his shoulder which squawked out "pieces of seven" every few minutes. He now knew why it had been in the sale.

For several weeks he had done the round of the small cluster of shipping agents that infested the quayside. He had asked them to find him a ship and explained that he needed to be on his way quickly. He cast an anxious glance at the group of excise men which had been following him, and who now passed their time by casually wringing blood from the stones of the quay.

These pleas for urgency had fallen on deaf ears; in fact the agents had only shown an interest when he brought two short planks with him. It turned out that they thought he was bringing them the results of their IQ test. The accursed landlubbers had also demonstrated their complete lack of knowledge about a seafaring life and of even basic geography. They had asked him about his experiences in the South Seas, and they had been surprised when he had explained that Greenland was located elsewhere and that whalers didn't usually transport breadfruit plants.

They had at first seemed excited by the prospect of their cut of the treasure. They had pored over his papers and pronounced that with his experience he could get a high-ranking berth on nearly any vessel. The small group of head hunters that gathered around the smoking stove had also become excited, the bones through their noses wobbling almost uncontrollably at the prospect of the booty to come. They had all promised to send him a list of suitable berths.

Two months had now gone by and the only list he had acquired was down to the wear on his peg leg. He noticed that it now seemed to be infested with wet-rot which it certainly didn't have before he'd visited the agencies. Still at least it was drowning the woodworm he'd picked up on his last voyage.

A month or so back, he had visited a promising vessel and been offered a berth in the engine room. Unfortunately a few days later the American owner had taken the wheel, missed the harbour by several miles and run it hard aground on an unnoticed reef, with the loss of all hands. The Cap'n was only surprised that he wasn't actually aboard her at the time.

By now a cold mist was rolling in from the sea and the chill was entering his bones. The unequal manner of his gait was also starting to attract attention from the press gang. Not wishing to be retrained in the art of rowing, he pulled his greatcoat around him, tucked the crutch under his arm and stomped off back to the evil-smelling creek where his boat lay. As he climbed aboard, the lad who had been looking after it explained he had lost the paddle. The Cap'n just threw him a groat with a black spot on it, shrugged and seated himself at the tiller.

"Splice the mainbrace and break out the Jolly Roger, Boson Higgs", he ordered wiping the rust from his cutlass, "'tis time for a bit of privateering."

The author and owner of this work is E.D. Wivens. See http://www.katzphur.co.uk/ for more details.
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