Showing posts with label rum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rum. Show all posts

Saturday, April 14, 2012

“Bloody Pirates”: a terribleminds flash fiction challenge

The flash fiction challenge at terribleminds this week is to feature DEATH in 1000 words. Incredibly appropriate, I thought, because after the break-in at our house this week, I felt like ki—ahem. Well. Let’s just say that if I was a different person than I am, this might have been a flash NONfiction challenge….

“Four-fifteen, right on time,” Dave teased as we pulled into my driveway. A double-decker train was nearing the house as I parked the truck; we could already feel it coming. Two-plus miles of cargo at less than forty miles an hour equaled almost seven minutes of rumble. Right on time.
We were sore and tired after another long festival weekend, too old to keep getting smacked around with cutlasses anymore…but it was always fun. We were Captain John Weston and the Crew of the Red Herring, with my neighbor Dave as my trusty Quarter-master and a handful of other ne’er-do-wells for comic relief. Scallywag fun for the whole family: three shows daily. I buckled my sword-belt, then pulled on the leather great-coat and hat—easier to wear than carry them. The jolly roger yard flag rippled in the passing train’s breeze and beyond it I noticed a moving van next door at the empty house. Had there been a for-sale sign? Maybe they were renting.
Dave was fidgety. “Gimme the keys, man, my teeth are floatin’.” I tossed them over while collecting gear to unload. He must have taken the porch stairs two at once to get in so quick.
About the time I noticed the gap on my living-room wall where the plasma screen should’ve been, I heard Dave upstairs, shouting. And another man, yelling back. Something crashed. More shouting. I ran for the stairs. There shouldn’t be anybody else up—
My .69cal converted cartridge pistol discharged up there, rattling the house. I’d left it on the workbench; had I also left a charge in it? “What the fuck!! Dave?!”
More breakage. A skinny powder-burned meth-head thundered down the stairs away from Dave, who was limping, brandishing the pistol like a club. The guy piled into me, clutching my laptop —my new laptop! —and a bottle of rum. Right then I was angry enough to use him for every piratical torture method I’d ever known. The roar I let out as I shoved him backward and drew my steel was no act.
He threw the bottle at me but I deflected it with the blade as he made a break for the front door. The bottle crashed against the bookcase, filling the room with a warm spicy vapor. I only had one rum that smelled like that.
“Motherfucker! That was thirty-year Cuban!”
One of Dave’s throwing knives whistled past me and caught Tweaker in the calf just as he reached the door, sending him ass-over-teakettle down the stairs to the parking lot. My laptop cartwheeled away from him to freedom, only to burst into shrapnel on the concrete. Fuck.
The moving van next door suddenly revved and peeled out of the driveway, careening down the street with the door still up. They hadn’t been moving anything in at all: they’d been moving me out.
Tweaker flipped onto his back, pulled a gun out of his pants. The punk-ass held it sideways, ghetto-style, which pissed me off so much I even stopped caring that he was holding a gun.
Until he fired it.
Time crawled. I felt the slug pass close by my ear; it blew my tricorn off and shattered the living-room window into a huge spider-web…and then I stopped thinking. Next thing I knew, I was standing over a deceased Tweaker whose sternum had sprouted my un-edged cutlass. Dave was behind me on his cell, screaming panicked obscenities at an emergency dispatcher, and just like that, time resumed its normal speed…maybe a little faster.
“Jesus, I killed him! Oh my fucking God, I killed him! Ohshit ohshit….” Blood was soaking his grimy shirt, pooling red in the fir needles. This wasn’t an re-enactment and that wasn’t stage blood. I stumbled over to the bushes and puked.
Police cruisers showed up fast: lights and sirens. A sheeplike flock of gossiping neighbors gathered across the street. Weapons drawn, the cops barked commands and slammed us against the house: took awhile to remove the considerable arsenal I was wearing but when I produced my ID things calmed down somewhat. They seemed impressed that I could even move, packing that much weaponry, let alone sword-fight. Tweaker had stabbed Dave in the knee —not deep, luckily—and hit him with a lamp. Dave had grabbed the flintlock just to scare him, not realizing it was loaded, although Tweaker hadn’t really ‘dodged the bullet’. The gun’s stage-friendly powder charge wasn’t lethal, but it sure would’ve burned at close range. It could’ve even set the office on fire. Adrenaline made us jittery as we talked. Meanwhile, officers kept staring at us like they’d never seen grown men dressed from cocked hats to bucket boots like authentic Golden Age pirates. Three shows daily.
An officer followed me around to inventory what was missing. The big-screen? Gone—but the assholes left the remote, adding insult to injury. Three whole shelves of CDs, high-end stereo gear, DVR, change jar? All gone. I stared at the empty entertainment wall: something else had been there.
“The X-box! Fuck me, they took the X-box…and the games! I was forty-two hours in on Mass Effect 3! Shit.”
“No great loss there, Mr. Weston,” the officer smirked, making notes. “Trust me, you’d have hated the ending anyway. He did you a favor.”
Sometime that evening they removed the body and let Dave go home. I wandered around in shock. Didn’t bother mentioning that my hand-blown glass bong and herbs had disappeared, but I could’ve used a hit just then. My shit was looted, pillaged, plundered. Bloody pirates!
Eventually the sergeant said no charges would be filed against us: it was “justifiable homicide.” They were confident they could recover my stuff, too. Tweaker and his ring were not the sharpest tools: county lockup was their second home. Their rap-sheets were long enough to fill a filing cabinet.
“You’d think when they saw the pirate flag they woulda known better than to try this house,” he joked. “Looks like self-defense to me…Cap’n.”

Saturday, March 17, 2012

“The Fire of the Gods”: a terribleminds flash fiction challenge

The terribleminds flash fiction challenge this week is to pen a 1000-word story with a specific title: “The Fire of the Gods.” I wrote this using one of the best characters I’ve ever worked with: a thoroughly tortured fellow inspired by my writing friend, Fred Hellmig. Given all the trials and tribulations we’ve visited upon poor Hell, I hope to all that’s holy that we never meet him in person.

 “Señor Williams, you must tell us everything.” The governor of Trinidad leaned forward solemnly. “You are the only one we know who has spoken to him. He has defied all our efforts to apprehend him.”
One of the governor’s officials handed me a flask. My trembling hands nearly dropped it but I gulped some of its contents: rum burned like fire all the way down. Feeling a little steadier, I nodded and handed it back.
“The Prometheus left the Guinea Coast three months ago with a nearly-full hold,” I began. “We were bound for Hispaniola after taking on more cargo in the Canaries. Cap’n said the Colonials would pay handsome if all those Africans didn’t take sick and die first….”
“Where did you encounter the ship? What was its ensign?”
“We were just east of Barbados; I was on lookout when we spotted her. She was sailing fast with a fresh breeze on her quarter, making straight for us. Cap’n said she looked Spanish, and ordered us to raise the Burgundy Cross….”


I glassed her again. “She’s hoisting the saltire too, sir!”
“Good. Helm, stay your heading. Company to stations!”
But she wasn’t Spanish at all: once we were too close to escape she dropped the Spanish ensign and raised colours I’d never seen: a snarling dog’s head on a crimson field. It was a Red Jack, and we were beset by pirates.
Their sleek low-hulled craft was painted gray and rust, bearing a triangular headsail and huge blood-red Moorish lateens on both cocked masts. This profile lent her the appearance of prowling shark fins, and we would soon come to realize the truth of this predatory likeness. She crossed our bow with all ports open, displaying a fearsome array of armament we had no hope of countering with our small deck guns. Cap’n surrendered and we were quickly boarded by the crew of the Red Dog.
Such dedicated purpose I’ve never seen! They were so efficient it was as though they knew each other’s minds, hardly speaking a word betwixt them. In a flash they had our entire crew collected and restrained. The fools who resisted were ruthlessly cut down where they stood. The rest of us feared even to pray aloud and thus risk undue attention.
Their captain boarded us then, and under his fell gaze I must admit feeling like a doomed sparrow charmed by a serpent. This man had a dark presence about him that was difficult to quantify but easily felt. He was young and fair, slight of stature, well dressed. While not Spanish he was clearly of European descent, with reddish-blonde hair pulled back in a loose tail and hawk-sharp sea-green eyes. The sword he held at his side was long and thin, delicately curved with a long leather-wrapped hilt. As he approached, his men forced our captain down to his knees.
“Sir, you fly a Spanish flag. Whither bound and whence come you?” he calmly demanded, with a hint of an indistinct accent.
“From Arguin and Las Palmas, bound for Santo Domingo.”
The pirate’s eyes narrowed evilly. “You carry slaves to New Spain? Under Spanish contract?”
“Aye, a cargo of three-and-seventy remaining, all of good health and strong backs. We lost less than a score to the flux on this passage. Take all our cargo; just please set us free. We expected a substantial profit in Hispaniola. This sale will make you all rich men.”
He smirked at this and shook his head. “You are a far greater merchant than I, to seek trade in human souls, my lord.” His voice bore a deathly chill. “Shall I bow to you?”
I would not have believed what followed had I not seen it myself. In one smooth motion he performed a courtly bow, drawing a sweeping flourish with his sword arm. At the depth of his gesture, our good captain’s head parted neatly from his body and both pieces tumbled to the deck in a gory fountain.
The pirate straightened, casually flicked a spray of blood from the blade, and fixed us with a demon’s glare. “Now that I have your attention, hear your fate. You will sail under my command. Resist and be swiftly reunited with your captain. Comply willingly and live a while longer.”
I glanced at my fellows but saw none stupid enough to resist: they all looked as ill as I felt. The Mate nodded dumbly and called us to duty.
We sailed west to a forested islet where we released the slaves with provisions and basic tools. He took me aboard his ship while his crew collected our weapons and remaining valuables. They confined my former crew in the Prometheus’ hold; I watched with dread as the pirates broke open oil casks and set her weather-deck and sails alight. Then the Dog’s crew set the slave-ship adrift and fired a devastating broadside which must have killed most of my mates instantly. Hearing screams, I gaped in horror at the conflagration and sank to my knees.
The captain strolled up, watching the flames. “Prometheus, eh?” he mused. “It is dangerous to play with the fire of the gods, mortal, lest you get burned. Deliver this message for me in exchange for your life.”


I’d started shivering while recounting my ordeal and when offered the flask again, I emptied it.
“He freed me just this morning. His name is Captain Hell. I was to tell you: ‘Hell preys on Spain and those who serve it, in retribution for sins of Inquisition committed against both God and Man. Stop searching for the three treasure galleons you lost this spring. Their wealth is beyond your reach, being put to good use against you.’ ”
This last made them all flush. A heated exchange of some length ensued in Spanish, which I could not follow. The governor rose with a carefully-diplomatic expression and personally escorted me to the door.
“Señor Williams, you have been most cooperative. Thank you for your time.”

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kenna's Drinking Game

Kenna MacLeod is a troublemaking Scots privateer and one of the three protagonists in the major project in our pipeline right now. This was a scene I did just for fun awhile back, but it doesn’t fit anywhere in the story arc. I bump into it in the working-files folder ever so often and decided today that it could go up on the blog since it’s got nothing better to do. Theres not nearly enough piracy up here yet, anyway.

A gentle breeze drifted through Corsair Harbour on a beautiful mid-June afternoon in 1756, cooling the sunbaked cobblestones along the wharf and putting Captain Kenna MacLeod in the mood for mischief. She lounged on a crate in front of the Curr’s Head, chuckling to herself at a snobbish, petulant gentlewoman passing by on the seawall.
The woman was overdressed for the tropical heat in a striped gown of the London fashion, complete with corset and matching—and completely useless—lace-trimmed parasol. She shrieked in panic at a handful of gulls swooping in to join more than a dozen others swirling around her feet. Her foppish, equally-overdressed escort wondered aloud at the reason for their sudden charge as he shooed them off, but they only retreated a few steps, chattering among themselves as if planning the next attack. Gentleman and Lady had no sooner turned to continue their stroll than the birds were charging across the boardwalk at them again, forcing Man to grab Lady’s parasol to swing at them in comically feeble defense.
Kenna giggled and raised the bottle for a drink, toasting the man for his valor. He shot a look her way but thought better of saying anything when she drummed her fingers over the pistol resting on her crossed knees. Taking his now quite hysterical companion by the elbow, he made to hurry on but stopped as a piece of bread the size of an orange landed just in front of him. The pair quickly found themselves besieged by a feathered, squealing feeding frenzy.
Behind them Kenna pulled a soft piece off the loaf for herself and cackled wickedly. This bread was still warm and fresh: probably better used in mopping up thick beef juices than feeding the birds, but she was feeling fickle and wanton at the moment. And rather drunk.
“So you’re the one behind all this,” a familiar deep voice came from her left, sounding somewhat put-upon. “Why am I not entirely surprised?”
Still snickering through a rum-soaked mouthful, she squinted up at the man standing there. “Aye, Constable Tucker,” she said, then hiccupped. “I’m findin’ this port o’ yers a mite boring.” As the next likely target came into range she pulled off another small piece and sent it skittering ahead of a high-strung palfrey. A trio of gulls ran straight out in front of the horse, chasing the morsel down with open wings. The horse crow-hopped sideways in terror, slamming its rump into a knot of pedestrians and nearly knocking its cursing rider into the water. Kenna laughed herself to tears amid shouts of disgruntled passers-by and took another long pull off the bottle.
“You’re bored, Lady? So you made up a drinkin’ game to torment the townsfolk?” He sighed. “Can you not find another means of entertaining yourself? Maybe one that doesn’t come at someone else’s expense?”
“Och, this bread and rum, sir, came at my expense, I’ll have you know,” she slurred. “What’s a little inconvenience on the part o’ these fine folk here havin’ to dodge a bird ‘r two—’r twenty, heh—when I’m so grossly inconvenienced by havin’ t’ be stuck here sendin’ gulls at ‘em in the first place? I could be harassin’ the Colonials up north right now if the Talon was in one piece, but she’s not. She’s still off yonder in dry-dock and so I’m…sssstuck here.” She smiled lazily and offered him the loaf. “Ye should try it: oddly cathartic, sendin’ a beast out to harass someone at yer whims. Almost makes a lass feel empowered.” She paused, regarding him. “Oh yeah…I guess ye would know about that then, wouldn’t ye, Constable?” When he shook his head, she shrugged. “The rum’s not bad, neither, but ye only get to drink if ye piss somebody off. Them’s the rules.”
“Is that so? Hmm. You’ve been at this awhile now, ‘twould seem. How long does this game continue?”
“Well…ye play until there’s no more rum.”
“All right, I’ll have a go at it.”
She grinned crookedly and handed him the bread again.
“Now bear with me, Cap’n. You’re not the only clever one in this port.”
He tore off a little piece and chucked it out onto the path. It was squashed almost instantly; the gulls milled about until the traffic cleared enough that one could run in to snatch it. None of the passers-by even seemed to notice. Kenna shook her head and leaned back with a disgusted snort, raising the bottle to take a swig.
“Not so fast, there. I’m not finished yet.” He reached over abruptly and grabbed the bottle away from her, downing the last shot.
“Just a mite outta order, but them’s the rules. You only get to drink when you piss somebody off, and you play until there’s no more rum,” he smiled, waggling the empty bottle. “Good rum, too. Now go home, Cap’n. Try to be patient…and try to stay outta trouble?”