Story Go Round 03/15/2003, round 1, #1

John Dublin, Old Salt Dawg

"Pirate's brig or Queen's navy - it ain't much different to a common jack." This is what I heard John Dublin mutter as we were boarded, and the colors struck. Funny, much as I'd thought I'd loved the old ensign, I felt cold and numb - hardly anything at all, stonefaced, thinking about my future prospects. "They'll still need hands to reef and tack, and you're a likely fellow, Bill - " I nodded, though John hadn't taken his eyes off the scurvy lot pouring over the scuppers. "Step lively, sing a bit and you'll be fine - "

I wanted to yell at them all, curse their uncommon boldness in taking us on so close to Havana. Instead I swallowed hard, and struck up a dispirited rendition of "99 Bottles of Ale." Dubs cringed like he had been struck by the enemy from behind and opened his lungs full-force with a bawdy rendition of "Old Salt Dawg' to drown me out. I joined in at the top of my lungs - he was my captain now, and I'd follow him to the bitter end. It was strange to watch the ebony, chap-skinned louts taking our old positions. They were covered in tattoos of unspeakable things, and showed a love of strife and disorder. "Trying to cow us, mate, and don't forget it," Dubs assured me. "It's their gold and their rum they care about, and nothing else. Same as our backers back home, ain't it? Pirates and kings still want their supper alike and all, and a bit of skirt after." This made me shudder all the more. The doctrine of the universal common nature of humankind, put forth by Mencenius, and now echoed by John Dublin, ordinary seaman - it turned my university days on their end. Somehow, I wanted to think I was better than such scum.

As though he'd read my mind, I heard John musing, "Aye, they're scum enough to me, but then we all be someone else's scum, now don't we. There ain't a lady I've laid eyes on that would even look askance at me, and yet there be folks who'd consider them beneath notice."

Dubs was a survivor. He told me he'd been at sea for the last ten years, and I believed at least half of them. If he could keep us from being run over by our fear til it was too late then he wouldn't be the only one facing the brigands when they reached the fo'castle, and the Courageous might stand some slim chance of keeping her freedom.

I stayed above the riff-raff for the next week until the incident with the pea soup. There was me, Dublin, and Kit, standing in a semi-circle. We were swabbing the deck, making her pretty for the dirtbags.

And then there it was, coming out of Kit's nose. His mop hit the deck, clattering - and Kit followed it, twitching and shaking, his limbs flying about. And this green goop foaming out his mouth + nose. Yes, we'd had pea soup that mess - but none of the rest of us had come down possessed. Kit had never had fits before. "He said he'd been seeing ghosts - " I ventured, as we held him down.

"Every salt dog sees ghosts -- " Dubs growled.

"Poison?" I tried next, dodging a glob of green spittle.

"He's faking it, fool, so we can stage a mutiny. You slept through the meeting, remember?

Personally, I thought Kit deserved to be in the Globe Theatre.

"Just follow my lead. Here they come."

The sound of their bare feet slapping on the deck approached quickly. I couldn't bring myself to raise my head and make eye contact, for fear I would give something away.

Amber is purple; John is pink; Terry is orange; Habeeb is grey