Tuesday, May 1, 2012

a strange story

a strange story comes from the antarctic. on the morning of september 13th 17__, a vessel captained by the famous captain blackbeard was searching the waters directly north of the enderby abyssal plain in search of the giant cranch squid, when a longboat was spotted floating on the water. as night had fallen, it was impossible to make out if there were any inhabitants on board.

"we shall wait until morning, " announced the captain, with his habitual caution. "if it is still there, we shall ascertain its exact situation, and the situations of anyone who might happen to be on board."

"but captain," protested little nell, "there may be a map of the location of buried treasure on board the boat, or even a chest of treasure itself."

"indeed," added sinbad the sailor," see how low in the water the stern is. there may well be a treasure chest weighing it down."

"your point is well taken," replied blackbeard.

"we can hardly afford to miss this chance," cried the medicine man. "especially considering how poorly our fortunes have gone since setting out on this unfortunate voyage, nominally in search of the giant cranch squid. after ten long months - no treasure - and no squid."

"very well then," answered the captain. "the matter is settled. nellie, light a torch. lower a boat. an extra tot of rum, my lads, for every jolly jack tar who volunteers to board yon mysterious vessel - treasure or no treasure!"

"i volunteer!" cried sinbad. "i will board the vessel first. who's with me, eh?"

"i!" answered little nell. "i shall carry the torch!"

"and i!" cried the medicine man. "i shall man the left front oar, right behind nellie!"

"and i!" cried the wandering jew.

"and i" cried the jesuit.

"andI i!" cried the queen of clubs, shaking her curls.

"and i!" shouted the queen of spades, louder than all the rest. the moonlight glittered on her eye patch.

"oh, i shall go along," drawled the jack of diamonds, twirling his mustache.

"then we have a crew," exclaimed sinbad. "well done, comrades, well and truly done!"

in the twinkling of an eye the boat was lowered into the curiously placid water. with sinbad waving his cutlass and little nell holding the torch aloft, the little craft fairly sped along the surface toward the dark and silent vessel drifting in the mist.

(professor thunderby paused and relit his pipe)

and yet the drifting vessel seemed to remain curiously out of reach.

"harder, comrades! harder!" cried the medicine man. "pull with a will!"

a curious phosphorence played around the elusive craft, taunting the straining rowers.

finally they drew abreast of the silent craft. but they had lost sight of the ship behind them.

(professor thunderby's pipe went out again. the embers in the fireplace, likewise, flickered into darkness...)

sinbad reached out with a grappling hook and seized the gunwale and pulled the drifting vessel close to the longboat. a desperate shout went up from the weary but jubilant oarpullers.

little nell held her torch over the stern of the captured craft, which rode low and heavy in the water.

"look!" she cried. "look ye! here be no treasure!"

on the bottom of the boat, luridly lit by the flame of the torch, lay a body! the body of a young woman!"

"is she dead?" cried the medicine man, looking over the shouder of sinbad.

"dead?" he answered. "dead? aye, she looks like she's been dead these hundred years!"

voyage to star 25, part 2: mrs wilson's diner

for part one, click here

maisie was a philosopher
nothing disconcerted her
she had seen all the pictures, heard all the tales
still had a little wind in her sails

though her mind often seemed to drift
she was always on time for her shift
and had won mrs wilson's trust
without breaking through her solid crust

tonight, though, mrs wilson seemed vexed
well, perhaps just a little perplexed
her agitation gave maisie pause
and she wondered what was the cause

"some fellers came in tonight.
they just didn't look right."
maisie could hardly be more surprised
though nothing showed in her dark eyes

mrs wilson had run the diner for four decades
she was not a blushing maid
her patrons were not from the top drawer
maisie had never seen her discombobulated before

"um - what did these fellers say or do?
did they actually threaten you?
where was leroy? he's never around - "
maisie laughed " - when you need him, i have found"

"it wasn't what they did or said -
but i could see right into their heads!"
"well", maisie replied with opacity
"i never knew you had such a capacity."

"their evil ideas were fairly bursting forth
from their skulls with walpurgisnachtian froth - "
this was not mrs wilson's usual manner of speaking
maisie wondered if her brains were leaking

"well, leroy should be around soon
why don't you go on over to your room -"
(for mrs wilson lived right behind the shop)
" - and laudanum why don't you take a drop?"

"no, i don't want to sleep
who know what terrors in the deep
from which i may never return
may writhe and slime and slash and burn -"

maisie replied with a smile half bright
"but isn't that true every night?"
she proceeded to put her apron on
and wished mrs wilson would run along

"oh look, here comes leroy now"
around midnight leroy craved some chow
at morning noon and twilight too
his stomach rumblings would come due

leroy enforced the law in the little town
always had a smile, hardly ever a frown
he had a rusty badge and a billy club
and he was everybody's bub

he had a gun in his holster he had never drawn
in miscreants' faces he would yawn
and say why do you have to make a fuss
yes, leroy was an amiable cuss

"glad you decided to come round tonight
mrs wilson has had a fright"
but when maisie turned around
mrs wilson's agitation was not to be found

"it's nothing, leroy, don't worry yourself"
mrs wilson took a pie down from the shelf
"i was just being a neurotic old frump
sometimes i get down in the dumps"

incurious leroy, nowise upset
on his favorite stool down his carcass let
and with his customary yawning and stretching
said "maisie, my dear, tonight you look particularly fetching"

"and you too edna, you look as good as this pie"
leroy thoughtfully rubbed his eyes
things were back to normality
and proceeded with customary informality

some of the regulars came and went
a few hard earned dollars they spent
leroy continued to eat his fill
and maisie leaned against the grill

outside it started to rain, then thunder
maisie began to idly wonder
what had upset mrs wilson so
perhaps, she thought, i will never know

she heard a car pull up outside
and then the door flung open wide
leroy did not look back or up
but slowly put down his coffee cup

two customers stood in the door
that maisie had never seen before
they were very neatly dressed
their shirts were ironed and their ties were pressed

but such details seemed hardly germane
as they stood there in the wind and rain
their features maisie had never before seen
their eyes were red and their faces were green