Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pirates and Breakfast

Exterior. Day. Fade-in. Okay.

There's an ocean. Long, rolling waves. Waves are the long, wide backs of big animals swimming in a line. Big animals like manatees. Extra big. Bigger than the biggest whale. Bigger than any other animal. Backs are green, mottled with white, all barnacle-covered. They swim at you, and you roll across their backs. The ship rides like a roller coaster up one manatee, down the other side, up the next. Their big, bristly whiskers brush the sea floor, leaving parallel lines. Like the sand-floor of one of those Japanese gardens, raked into parallel lines.

A pirate comes across the deck carrying a tray. Breakfast. Covered dish with bacon smells coming out from underneath. Silverware rolled up in a crisp white napkin. Bowl of cantaloupe slices, and a tulip in a little bud vase.

The captain's had a hard night, deserves breakfast in bed. Up all night lashed to the tiller in case a storm was coming. Heard it on the pirate radio weather forecast. Usually the pirate radio just plays this weird industrial music that the kids who run the pirate radio station record in their basement. The FCC's onto them, but they move the station every four hours or so, so the FCC boys can't get a fix on it.

The music today—the captain has it turned down low—music today is some kind of big steam engine with what sounds like a stick running back and fourth across a picket fence. Rhythmic. The weather report last night was wrong. No storm. Just long tendrils of glowing stuff, purple like the raver-kids' necklaces, drifting by the hull and eddying off the back.

The captain had an argument with the quartermaster. Quartermaster said, "In the northern hemisphere, the phosphorescent eddies swirl clockwise. In the southern hemisphere they go counterclockwise."

"Is that so?" said the captain. "Then why are they swirling in both directions off the stern, there?"

The quartermaster said they must be sailing exactly along the equator, hence the eddies on either side went in opposite directions. The Coriolanus effect, he said it was.

The captain thought the Coriolanus effect was something to do with Shakespeare. The swirling effect had another name. And besides, if they were sailing along the equator, what was the North Star doing there, directly in line with the bowsprit?

"That's not the North Star," said the quartermaster.

"It bloody well is the North Star," said the captain. "I think I'd know the North Star when I see it, and who's the captain here, anyway?"

The quartermaster shook his head and muttered something about heathens.

The captain said of course he was a bloody heathen. He was a pirate, wasn't he? Violated all ten commandments right after breakfast as a warm-up for the day. And the coveting your neighbor's wife one was a damn challenge, let me tell you, since there were no women on board that he knew of.

"Are there?" he paused to ask, and the quartermaster shrugged.

There were no women on board, so he had to covet Gabardine Jack's wife back there in Kingston, and if you got a look at her last time we were there you'd know that coveting her was a damn sight more work than coveting Gabardine Jack's cattle. He half suspected she had been one of the cattle until Jack brought her in the house.

The quartermaster sauntered off toward the bow, whistling, and the captain went to bed with a migraine.

So here we are this morning with the pirate carrying the breakfast tray across the deck, peg leg knocking every other step with the slapping bare foot—knock-slap-knock-slap-knock-slap.

The peg leg gets stuck in a knothole, and the pirate stumbles forward, barely catching himself on the rail. The tray and breakfast sail out into the air, each piece of bacon and half a grapefruit turning slowly in the air, half of them clockwise and the other half counterclockwise. All drop in with fifteen tiny splashes, and the nearest giant manatee rolls over and swallows the whole thing. Astern, you can see it spitting out the tray, the plates, and one tulip in a bud vase.

No comments:

Post a Comment