“The night was still. Fog as thick as a cauldrons brew. One of those nights there ain't no stars to guide ya’. Travelin’ lone in a wilderness of mist and prayers.”
It was a fitting start to yet another of Karl’s tales. His name was Karl Weiss—more known as Captain Karl. He was a gruff looking man, but yet he had a pleasant look about him. Nearing his sixty-fifth birthday he was showing the telltale signs of aging—slight wrinkling around the eyes, a case of yellowing teeth, but other than that, he was tip-top.
As a restaurant owner he didn’t exactly have a nine-to-five job. It was hard work cleaning, cooking, and preparing food. He would like to say it was him doing it all, but credibly it was his wife that wore the pants in this family. She considered Karl to be one lazy oaf—a permanent fixture attached at the rump to his rickety beer soiled armchair, and in some cases she was spot on.
But Karl wasn’t totally useless. He had a knack for telling stories, and it was those stories that kept parents bringing their kids back for more. As it turned out, Story Time was a great draw inviting people of all ages to come and visit The Pirate restaurant—a pleasant little nook nestled between the Grand Wok Chinese buffet and Meaty Joe’s, home of the twelve-inch long hot dog that Joe appropriately named Bigfoot. One time Joe topped a dog with two heaping tablespoons of peanut butter and a dab of marshmallow fluff.
The menu at the pirate consisted mostly of fish and seafood. The adults could stuff their faces with all they can eat fried fritters while their kids eagerly kept an ear to Karl’s pirate tales, and Karl certainly played his part well.
Wetting his lips with a sip from his cup, he continued with his story.
“A ghostly fog lay ahead. The ship... our ship, was the fastest of all the treasure ships. Her wood rails were cold and sweaty. Sea mist and ocean spray pounded the planks below. The sails were wide and masts strong as our lookouts kept watch. These scallywags couldn’t see much really, a clipper moving that fast in this mist, they’d be lucky to spot the Jolly Roger flying not two feet in front of their deadlights they would.”
By now the children’s imaginations had drifted off to a land only Karl could describe. They could practically see the ocean, and nearly taste its salty spray upon their lips, and thanks to Karl’s attention to detail, he set the stage perfectly, right down to the moth-ridden clothes the lookouts wore.
High in the crow’s nest the lookouts did their best to see what lay ahead, but the fog hid mostly everything from sight. “Ayyy... This fog be thicker than a bowl of split pea,” one mate said as he took a swallow of spit down his throat. The other mate said nothing and simply turned and nodded.
The massive ship rocked left sending an empty rum bottle rolling across the deck which startled the lookouts, but they quickly turned their sights back to the seas.
“Nights like this be twistin’ me inards,” one mate said to the other, as if to say fear had left his stomach in knots.
“Shhhh—quiet," the other mate said. “Did you ‘ear something?”
With his mate’s finger pressed firmly against his lips he shook his head as if to answer that he hadn’t.
The sticky wind flicked back their eyelids as they gazed frog-eyed through the grimy mist. One mate rubbed his eyes as though he was trying to get a better look. He was uncertain if he had seen something, and with another quick blink his worst fears had come true. It was a ship—a war ship flying the colors of piracy, and the dreaded skull and crossbones beaming brightly upon the pitch-black cloth. There was no mistaking it, it was the dreaded Jolly Roger.
At least the flag was black, red would have been worse—far worse. When a ship sails black she might show quarter—a bit of mercy perhaps, rob you of your goods and leave you on your merry way. But if she flew red, she was out for blood. It was the locker of Davey Jones you’ll be visitin’.
One lookout tried to shout, but his throat swelled like he had just swallowed a toad. His first attempt passed some scratchy air through his gullet, but it was hardly enough for anyone outside a stone’s throw to hear him. Then, finally he managed to kick some volume into those vocal chords of his and call a warning hail. “PIRATE HO!”
Making sure to ring the sounding bell loudly, he alerted the others on board. After that, it was utter chaos. Men began scrambling to their posts with their swords drawn and pistols ready. One mate was in such a hurry he stumbled on deck with his trousers drooped half way down to his knees.
A thunderous shot whacked the ship portside. Wooden planks burst out like a thousand toothpicks in every direction as the devastating cannonball ripped through the boat squaring a crewman dead in the chest. His body flew nearly twenty feet before colliding with the lookout mast. As the lookouts gazed down to see what was left of the poor man, they gave each other a once over and then ducked for cover. There wasn’t much room in the crow’s basket, but they managed to hide just as well.
Strapping on his gun-belt the ship’s first officer emerged from below. He was decked out in full naval gear with shoulder boards of gold and a breast-full of medals on his coat facings.
It wasn’t uncommon for a treasure ship to have highly skilled officers aboard. Commissioned from the Royal Navy they were known as privateers—hired guns so-to-speak employed to protect precious cargo, and the lives of those aboard.
“Man the cannons,” the first officer bellowed. “You there,” pointing to a nearby mate. “Get below and gather munitions. They’ll be boarding us soon.”
The first officer was a bold sort. Having seen this before he knew just what to do, and it wasn’t long before the pirate ropes began slinging on deck. Their heavy hooks clamped around the wooden rails tightly and the pirates began sliding their way across.
One by one they landed on deck wielding their swords and guns. They were ornery looking men, the kind found belly-up at the bar with their faces drowning in a pool of puke, and they reeked of booze, so much so that their sweat even smelled of it. Their clothes weren’t much better either. Like strands of tattered cotton half draped over their bodies, if it weren’t for the drawstring waistband and tapered cuffs at the knees, one could easily mistake them for a soiled set of bed sheets. It was obvious hygiene wasn’t on top of these fellas “to-do” list. A disease ridden set of choppers would attest to that. Heck, it was surprising they had any teeth at all.
The first officer fired a shot. As the sizzling smoke billowed from his barrel the lead ball sped through the air striking a pirate mid-swing. The stunning slug blasted him right in the chest sending his body into the murky sea.
As the fight grew heavy, dozens of crewman began appearing on deck. Each of them was unmatched in skill and swordsmanship, but one crewman stood out from the rest. His courage and technique was unequaled. Swinging his blade he was leaving bodies in a bloody heap behind him, but as one pirate fell, another quickly took his place. He fended them off best he could, but he knew he was bested. There were simply too many of the booty-hungry savages and he was quickly overrun. Swirling a glob of chewing tobacco in his mouth the crewman spit it at the filthy pirate’s feet. “Damn you all,” he shouted before feeling a cold slug penetrate deep into his mid-section. Knowing no pirate could have matched him at swordplay, he simply smiled at the filthy scallywag who needed to take a cowardly shot.
Pirates weren’t known for being fair. Actually they took pride in fighting dirty. Their reputation for pillaging towns and stripping ships of their gold made pirates the most feared threat in the sea. They were cutthroat rogues who wouldn’t think twice to use your guts for garters, and these pirates were no different.
With blades and guns blazing the brave crewmen held their ground firm, but there seemed to be an endless supply of pirates, one more gruesome than the next. The rotting bodies began to stack higher, and higher while the boarding pirates simply climbed over them and charged. Then suddenly a barreling grapeshot rang out. The blistering blunderbuss pelted a crewman in the torso slamming three heavy pellets into his side. The shotgun’s blast was so powerful, the slugs passed clean through the crewman’s body bloodying his white frilly long-sleeve. Helplessly he looked upward at the scurvy dog who was standing with his gun barrel smoldering and a rotted smile stretched across his crater-filled face. It looked like he’d been struck with the ugly stick—twice. But ugly or not, it seemed he would be the one to crack Jenny’s tea cup, or for that matter live to get drunk another day. He showed no sorrow, not a hint of remorse as he watched the crewman slump over and die.
The crew were heavily armed and skillfully trained. After all, they had to be. The Royal Magistrate’s would never entrust their riches to mere peasants. These men needed to be the best, and although they were trained to be, they couldn’t possibly have prepared themselves for a pirate attack of this size. Pirate vessels were large—three-deckers holding enough men to handle any siege, and these men smelled treasure.
Seeing that they were grossly outnumbered, a nearby crewman scrambled his cowardly bones below. Straining his weary legs he made his way down the corridor coming to a stop at a door. It was crafted of seasoned oak which was blackened with age and had a polished brass sign mounted firmly upon it that read, CAPTAIN’S QUARTERS.
“Cap’n!” he shouted, pounding the door with the butt of his sword.
At first, there was silence—no movement, not a peep. He continued to knock until finally hearing the clunk of the door lock unlatching, and the door swung open. Captain Karl Weiss stood stout wearing his navy best. Although his clothes were military grade, they seemed a bit worse for wear. His cotton blue jacket was slightly torn at the cuffs, and the buttons were in need of a shine, but overall he was neat and orderly, except maybe for his hair, grey and stringy it hung well past his shoulders. He may not have been the most swashing of men, but undoubtedly he was the bravest.
His quarters were elegant yet everything seemed old and disheveled. Crushed velvet high back chairs surrounded a sturdy oak table. These chairs certainly screamed royalty! At one time they could have served the Queen’s army, but now they were reduced to a pile of smudged cheesecloth with cotton batting exploding at the seams. Windows allowed for some light to enter into the room, but it was still quite dark and sultry.
“Cap—Cap’n... We’re under attack!” said the crewman while catching his breath.
Captain Karl with his back turned seemed to be fiddling with something. Taking a moment he swung around holding two frosty mugs filled with ICE CREAM!
What in the name of Blackbeard’s ghoul is ice cream doing aboard an eighteenth century treasure ship? Actually, it wasn’t. It’s fun being whisked away into one of Karl’s delightful pirate tales, but it was getting late, and the children had been listening to his storytelling for nearly an hour.
It was Karl’s wife Abby who cut the tale short by handing out ice cream. It was a reality check that had yanked the children from their swashbuckling story of the high seas landing them safely on their bums in the restaurant. And just like that, Karl’s tale had come to an abrupt end. He was furious. If it were up to Karl he would have kept those kids there all day. But Abby was right, best to leave the storytelling for another day.
Abby was a pleasant woman of Irish decent. She spoke a heavy brogue and wore her hair in a bun. It was silver and very soft to the touch. Being the manager and decorator, she made sure to pay attention to details. Decked out in the eighteenth century Ye 'Ol Pirate décor, the restaurant really took on the appearance of a rustic Spanish galleon. Tucked in the corner was a rusty chain draped over a vintage rum barrel. The barrel was an oak replica, complete with a medium toast, bung, wooden spigot and stand. Fisherman’s netting was slung across the ceiling rafters giving an added feel of the sea—although the plastic lobsters and crabs were a bit tacky. And no pirate themed restaurant would be complete without a bunch of bloodcurdling black pirate flags. They were scattered everywhere—at the entrance, the seating area, and especially the story room where one hung proudly above a decrepit treasure chest filled with hundreds of gold doubloons, which really put the finishing touches on the place. Here’s the best part, the doubloons were actually solid pieces of chocolate wrapped in gold foil—the kids loved them.
At the center of the shop was Karl’s pride—a remnant from Blackbeard’s famous eighteenth century galleon, the Queen Anne’s Revenge. It was a massive replica of the ship’s helm covered in twenty-two layers of shellac. There was no wheel shinier. It was also perfect for stacking cold lobster and clams on ice for the raw bar.
“Must you serve ice cream, NOW!” Karl bellowed at his wife. “Smack in the middle of me story!”
Ignoring her husband’s rudeness Abby huffed and continued handing out her frosty treats. “I thought the children would like some ice cream,” she said with a smile.
At a loss for words old rough and tumble Karl Weiss would go weak in the knees when it came to Abby. So he pressed his palm to his forehead smearing it down his face. “Away with you woman!” he demanded.
“Away nothin’,” she replied. “You won’t be tellin' me wat’ to do, ya' big oaf.”
Karl grumbled as he rolled his fingertips along the tabletop like a drum, and Abby, didn’t seem the least bit concerned. She kept handing out those sundaes making sure the one with the strawberry topping was set-aside for Timmy.
Timmy Barnes had just celebrated his twelfth birthday, and strawberry was his favorite—the more the better. According to Timmy, you could never have enough strawberries. His partially freckled face peered upward donning a simple smile. “Was it really like that?” he asked with a hint of exuberance in his tone. “Back in the pirate days?”
“Well—” replied Abby.
“Of course it was,” Karl interjected.
Abby smiled and chuckled a bit. She was amused to see that Timmy had shown such interest in Karl’s stories.
“They’re just tales is all,” she said with a smile.
Staring over at his rude bride, Karl huffed before taking his leave.
“He makes them sound so real,” Timmy said to Abby as he plunged his spoon deep into the sundae.
“That’s why we have story-time here at the Pirate dear,” she said while topping his ice cream with yet another spoonful of strawberries. Timmy looked up and smiled before gobbling up another spoonful.
After finishing their dessert the children headed for the door. In passing Timmy spotted Karl seated alone with tears welling up in his eyes. He was staring at a piece of paper—a sketch of a crest medallion.
“Are you okay?” Timmy asked sadly.
Caught completely by surprise Karl wiped away his tears and quickly hid the drawing.
“Aye... What’s that you say?” asked Karl rubbing his sleeve across his face.
“Are you okay?” asked Timmy.
“Of course my good lad,” Karl replied still a bit teary-eyed. “Just reading a bit of fine literature is all.”
Karl held a book outward to show the title—it was a fictional story of no importance, but his sudden movement caused the drawing to slip from his hand landing it on the floor at Timmy’s feet. They both reached for it, but Timmy managed to grab it first. Holding the fragile paper within his hand he couldn’t help but look.
“Give that here now,” Karl said hastily snatching the paper from Timmy’s grasp.
“What is it?" Timmy asked.
“This... Nothing really,” Karl replied
“It looks familiar,” Timmy said.
“Does it now?” Karl said with a laugh, thinking it was unlikely Timmy could possibly have known what it was. But Karl saw the excitement on Timmy’s face, and being the eager storyteller that he was, he couldn’t resist an opportunity to tell another tale. “Well—ya' see...” he said while clearing his throat. “This here be a crest.”
“Crest?” asked Timmy.
“Well... it’s more of a seal really,” Karl added taking a quick breath. “Ya’ see... this crest was sacred—the sacred crest of the Royal Navy.”
“Whoa,” Timmy replied. “Can I hold it?”
Karl hesitated, but then he slowly handed it over. It was old and slightly yellowed, but well taken care of.
“Eh... Easy now boy,” Karl said cautiously. “That be the only one I got.”
Timmy handled the paper like a water balloon over a stack of needles. “Who made it?” he asked.
“My brother, John,” Karl replied sorrowfully.
“Your brother was a navy captain too?” Timmy asked.
“Uh... not exactly lad,” Karl answered while taking back the drawing. He gently folded it and placed it safely between the pages of his book. A bit of dust swept out as he closed the cover before returning it to its proper spot on the shelf.
“I’ve seen that before,” Timmy said.
“Have ya’ now?” Karl snickered.
“Yes, but I don’t remember where,” Timmy replied.
Karl crouched forward placing his hand on Timmy’s shoulder. “Maybe in yer’ dreams,” he said with a smile. “Run along now, your mom’s probably worried sick about ya'.”
Timmy’s curiosity always got the better of him. Wanting to hear more he was reluctant to leave.
“Go on. Get!” Karl said with a nudge. “Come back next week and I’ll tell ya’ about the Kraken.”
“The Kraken?” Timmy asked.
Showing his yellowing teeth Karl whispered, “only the meanest, biggest, most horrifying blood-thirsty monster of the sea.”
Timmy’s eyes lit up like Christmas morning.
“Now get!” Karl barked.
“Okay, goodbye Captain Karl,” Timmy said waving as he stepped out the door.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish