It’s short story time again…

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Eye of the Storm

“What ye got there, give it me, give it me now blast yer eyes,” One Eye snarled, as he snatched the pretty bauble from my grip.

Ever since I had become his unwilling slave aboard this stinking, barely seaworthy, ancient pirate hulk a few months ago when his captain and crew captured our ship, One Eye had made my existence sheer hell. No matter what I did to please him it was never enough. Whenever I found something I thought I could call my own he instantly took it from me. He constantly beat me, telling me that it, was for my own good. “Now get below and fetch me vittles – quickly now blast yer eyes, else ye’ll be sorry!”

I scurried below, relieved to be out of his cruel reach, however briefly. I searched among the debris of the food locker and the bilge.

“To hell with him!” I muttered to myself.

My own hunger came first as I gnawed on some old brick hard, weevil ridden sea biscuits and on the half consumed remains of a wheel of mouldy cheese that had fallen between the loose planks of the locker’s deck, into the bilge below.

“Where’s me vittles blast ye?” One Eye bellowed down to me through the open hatch.

I hurried back above to where he sat belching and picking his teeth, carrying as much of the cheese and sea biscuits as my young arms would allow. One Eye bit into one of the sea biscuits and broke a tooth.

“Ye young spalpeen, when I get’s me hands on yer I’ll flog yer to the backbone! I’ll rip yer gizzard out! I’ll skin yer alive and eat yer innards so I will!”

I didn’t wait around, but ran quickly back down below into the stinking darkness of the bilges; at least down here I was safe from One Eye’s murderous wrath. He was far too fat and lame to chase after me and because of the loss of his eye a few years back, his vision was seriously impaired.

The old hulk ominously creaked and groaned as it wallowed its way through the choppy seas. High above on the main deck, despite the howling wind, I heard the mate shout the command to shorten sail. Even down here I knew a storm was brewing by the way the hulk rode the seas.

I peered through the crack in the deck planks above my head towards the open hatch. My ears strained for any audible sign that One Eye was hunting for me. But all I heard from him was a low moan and a lot of muttered curses at the loss of the one good tooth left among the jagged stumps in his savage blackened mouth.

A strangely familiar odour wafted past my nostrils. Somewhere down here was some long forgotten discarded salt beef. Hunger took over my soul, temporarily freeing my mind from my fear of One Eye, I began searching along the entire length of the old hulk’s bilges.

I eventually found it slopping in the fetid water of the bilge directly below the captain’s quarters. The decking of his cabin was as loose as all the other timbers aboard this floating coffin. The salt beef must have fallen through the cracks. Here at last was a chance to fill my belly beyond One Eye’s reach. Thankfully, the stinking water trapped here had washed most of the salt away.

As I sat on my haunches savouring the exquisite delights of the salt preserved beef, a commotion above my head caused me to stop chewing mid mouthful and listen.

“Beg pardon Cap’n, ye need to come on deck, we’re too close to the rocks and the storm is gettin stronger by the minute, we daresn’t continue on our present course!” the mate’s voice quivered in fear.

“Storm sail mister mate, rig the storm sail. Order aback blast ye and bring her bow round across the wind d’ye understand mister!”

“Aye Cap’n.”

The old hulk began to scream in protest as the gathering storm intensified. I returned to my feast of beef. Three bells signalled the hour. The sound of men fighting flailing rotting canvas and frayed rope as the storm intensified, drifted down to where I sat in the dark.

The storm grew stronger. The old hulk’s timbers creaked and slowly her planks began to spring under the strain.

“Avast below – rocks! Rocks on the port beam!”

Even before the lookout aloft had screamed out his warning to all aboard I was rapidly returning aft, back to the locker as fast as my legs would carry me. Water was rising below me as I climbed up the ladder to where One Eye sat still nursing his mouth.

Despite the fact that I hated him more than any other being alive, I shouted out to him as I grabbed the pretty bauble he had taken from me earlier.

“We’re foundering yer old tyrant, time to abandon ship – come on blast yer, lest yer want to drown!”

~~~

The morning arrived and the sea was calm once more. A graceful ship of the line hove into view from around the southerly point of the bay and sailed slowly through the wreckage that bobbed up and down on the morning tide. All along the shore the splintered wreckage of the ship she had been hunting could be seen. The bodies of its crew lay face down in the sea. Eagle eyes searched the rocky shore for any signs of survivors. A skiff was launched and the captain and some of his crew went ashore.

“Good morrow sir.”

“And to you sir,” the captain replied as he shook the local Revenue man’s hand.

“The Black Bess has led me a merry dance sir. I’ve been chasing her for months since her captain Red John and his scurvy crew boarded the packet that carried my dear wife and only child home from Gibraltar sir – damn his eyes!” The captain’s head lowered in grief, already realizing the sad truth.

“Sadly your wife and child are not here good sir, only the bodies of his crew. I found this locket on the beach sir; would it belong to your wife? Not even Red John’s body is here. I fear he and your wife and child are down below with Davy Jones. Good riddance to him I say sir,” the revenue man concluded, sad to give the captain even more bad news than he was suffering already as he handed over the precious bauble.

“Were there no survivors sir?” the young midshipman who had accompanied his captain ashore, anxiously enquired of the Revenue man.

“Nought but two ships rats young master – one old, fat, half blind and toothless that soon died – drownded by all accounts. The other young and well fed who scurried off as quick as lightening as soon as his feet touched dry land, dropping the locket from his mouth in his eagerness to be gone from here I shouldn’t wonder. I saw them jump ship when the eye of the storm briefly calmed the sea moments before the Black Bess foundered on yon rocks.”

~~~

I watched from behind the rocks feeling sorrow for the Captain, as he tearfully clutched the locket he had given his wife while his crew rowed him back to his ship. As sorry for him as I was one thing was clear. I was finally rid of One Eye…

😉

Control

 
It was Friday night and time for the television war yet again. The never ending argument was about to begin in the Montague household over the ownership of the television remote control.
Debbie wanted to watch her favourite soap opera – Lover’s Tryst, while Chuck insisted on watching the football game.
Chuck’s position was that it was the penultimate game before the grand final, and besides, as the head of the household and sole breadwinner it was his right to choose the programmes they watched.
Debbie argued quite logically that tonight’s episode of the soap opera was the cliff hanger ending to the current series, and anyway he could watch the game equally well on the other television in the bedroom.
As usual Debbie nagged, pleaded, sighed loudly, stroked his hair, kissed the lobes of his ears, and talked incessantly in a loud voice about nothing and everything, using anything she could think of to make Chuck’s enjoyment of the game evaporate to get her own way.
When that didn’t work she briefly left the room before returning with the vacuum cleaner and began meticulously cleaning the carpet directly between the couch where Chuck sat with the remote control firmly fixed in his grip, and the television.
She constantly walked in front of him rearranging the position of the coffee table and the magazines on it, repeatedly making him lift his legs as she poked the business end of the vacuum cleaner under the couch, doing anything and everything to obstruct his view of the game while regaling in her most annoying tone, the events of the day.
Despite his best efforts to shut out her continuous annoyingly loud monologue and the noise of the vacuum cleaner, gradually Debbie’s relentless audio bombardment destroyed his concentration. In sheer frustration and anger he pointed the remote at her like a weapon and hit the red button, telling her to “just shut up for Christ sake!”
What happened next stunned both of them as Debbie was instantly struck dumb!
Chuck’s attention quickly returned to the game with not the least concern for his wife’s current predicament. At least now he could watch the game without her constant noise making.
Debbie stood rooted to the spot crying silently with her hands stroking her neck, for the moment totally preoccupied with having mysteriously lost her voice.
Chuck was by now concentrating on the game. As he at last relaxed he put the remote down to watch the play.
Debbie soon recovered from her lack of voice and in her anger she sat down heavily on the couch beside him before picking up the remote to change the channel back to her soap opera.
Chuck reacted equally angrily, reaching across her in an attempt to snatch the remote back from her.
In the vigorous struggle for physical control over the remote Debbie’s finger inadvertently pressed the blue button. She watched with a mixture of horror, revenge and delicious satisfaction as Chuck evaporated in front of her eyes.
Still angry and not the least bit concerned that her husband had vanished she settled down to watch her soap. For the next hour she was totally engrossed in the final scenes of the programme when just before the soap ended and the credits began to roll down the screen, she disappeared to.
Smokey congratulated herself. She smiled her enigmatic feline smile while purring with contentment as she began licking her fur; meticulously grooming herself after retracted her claws.
Pressing the green button had finally brought peace to her house at long last…

A Mouse’s Tail

 
A Door mouse named Sparkle lived in a pile of leaves high up inside an old hollow tree in a forest not far from here.
Once she had warmed up, she was a very busy little soul. But when it was cold, or when it rained or snowed, she simply curled up in a ball with her beautiful golden feathery tail wrapped about her with just her tiny nose poking out.
The winter had been a particularly harsh and cold one. Traces of snow from the last heavy fall still clung to the old tree’s foliage above Sparkle’s nest as it gradually melted in the weak warmth of the early spring sunshine. All throughout the land new signs of life stirred now that the weather was changing for the better.
Sparkle’s nose twitched. A great sneeze escaped as she involuntarily rid herself of a tiny feather that had found a temporary home in one of her nostrils at sometime during the winter while she slept.
She opened one eye and peered out from behind the protection of her tail.
All around her she could hear her neighbours stirring from their winter slumber as the sun slowly warmed the world.
Sparkle yawned, stretched and open her other eye. It was time once more for life to continue in its age old way.
She rolled over and stood for a few moments as her heart pumped furiously, rapidly driving away the torpor she had been in throughout the long dark months of winter.
Sparkle busied herself tidying her nest, grooming her fur and magnificent tail before she plucked up the courage to hunt for food.
It was still too early for her to collect her favourite berries. But she knew her secret larder at the foot of the tree beneath one of its giant roots would be full of the nuts and berries she had gathered last autumn; always providing of course that the squirrels hadn’t found it and emptied it.
Sparkle timidly peered out at the world.
Beyond the safety of her nest she had many enemies who like her were ravenously hungry and would not think twice about catching her for their supper. Fortunately for her, the old tree she lived in already had its new covering of leaves, meaning she could hide from the vigilant eyes of her woodland nemesis, the grey owl that lived close by. If danger presented itself she had an alternative route down to the ground inside the trunk.
Many times during her short lifetime Sparkle had nearly been caught by the wily owl. She had often escaped at the last possible second by diving beneath a leaf, or by clinging to the underside of the branch she was on, before dropping to the leaf litter on the forest floor below where she could quickly disappear from view.
As the sun climbed higher in the sky she decided to take a chance and step outside. She sat in the entrance to her nest for a short time checking for signs of danger before scurrying down the tree’s great trunk to the ground below.
Sparkle uncovered the entrance to her larder and peered nervously inside. Last year, she had nearly been caught by an Adder who had made her larder its new home. But thankfully all was clear as she entered. She ate her fill before beginning her long climb back to her nest, this time in the relative safety of the old tree’s hollow interior.
There was so much to do in the coming weeks. She hoped that the male she tolerated would be back. By now Sparkle was two years old, a great age for a Door mouse. She needed to have a brood of her own before the year turned once again to winter.
The sun disappeared below the horizon bringing the day to a close. Sparkle busied herself before bedtime rearranging the new supply of leaves on top of the old in her nest.
A noise outside her home made her extremely nervous.
When the sun appeared again the following morning, a beam of sunlight tracked slowly across the hollow in the tree’s trunk revealing all that was left of Sparkle. Her magnificent golden feathery tail lay discarded in the now empty nest.
A Pine Martin had found its evening meal…