Death of a Sailsman


            “Heave the mizzen-mast, Mister Zulu. Tonight at high tide we be settin’ course for pot o’ gold,” announced Captain Tankard.


            The First Mate gave his head a jaunty cock (Rhode Island Red) and declared, “Thar be fair skies and good winds for the sailin’, that much be true, but along what bearing lies a pot o’ gold I hasn’t an inklin,’ Cap’n.”


            “O’ course ye hasn’t, swab. The inklin’ is in the strongbox in me cabin, all locked up good ‘n’ tight. All ye has to do is set the helm where I says and we’ll be reachin’ that pot o’ gold in good time.”


            “Aye, aye, Cap’n.”


            They pointed the bow of the S.S. Sibilance toward the open ocean. After an hour the Cap’n came on deck. “Why in the name o’ Davy Jones’ wrinkled bunions arrrr we not movin’?” He looked up at the masts. “The sails has to be unfurled to catch the wind! How many times does I has to tell ye land-lubbin’ swabs that?”



            “Sorry, Cap’n. I allas git those two confused.”


            “That’ll be a hog-callin’ the next time ye do, ye scurvy crab.”


            “You means a keel-haulin’?”


            “Kin ye cut bacon from a keel, swab? Now, git us underway! I’m going to take a few winks in me hammock. Wake me when ye spies the pot o’ gold.”


            The barque peeled away from the pier, which sank, naked, into the harbor. The Sibilance was at sea and her bowlines sang a spritely song of briny foam and dry rot. Seagulls pooped on the poop deck. A quarter moon rose and floated without enthusiasm just above the waves for some hours ere sinking again half-heartedly. The Southern Cross made a magnificent celestial signpost, pointing the way for anyone heading that way. Around it were the lesser constellations: the ear spoon, the tree-ruining beetle, the sea biscuit, and the broken whisk broom: all twinkling like lusty fireflies stuck to fireflypaper.


            Down the coast of Africa we go, around the horn (avoiding bass and drums), and across the Indian Ocean with the Indians in hot pursuit. In the Timor Sea there were so many big scary islands scattered about that our timorous craven navigator wouldn’t come out of his cabin, so there was nothing for it but to backtrack and skirt around Australia to the south (and a fine-looking skirt it was, too).


            We skipped across the broad Pacific until our feet got too sore for it. We tacked a crooked course through the Straits of Magellan, limped past the nuts on the coast of Brazil and finally made berth on the far side of Natal Island, right back where we set off from.


            Just then the Cap’n awoke and trotted Willy-Nilly (on his leash) down the gangplank, heading for a battered ramshackle just at the end of the pier. The good crew hoisted grog in the old Pot O’ Gold Tavern as one man and then hoisted a Tankard into the drink.