Monday, February 4, 2008

My First Three Pages of RED HOLLOW

The funeral for Captain James Hook was a short and dry-eyed event. The remaining pirates threw his belongings overboard and laughed. But it was short-lived, for their own lives teetered on the brink of extinction as well.

Now that the old captain was gone, the council could do what they wanted. As William Depth looked around the table, he wondered why they didn't overthrow that overstuffed, snooty self-server a long time ago. He sucked on a lizard bone and leaned back into the shadows, as the second-in-command, Smelter Seas took control of the meeting.

"Brethren! Order!"

The chattering ceased instantly and many of the men removed their ornate hats to reveal greasy, long, braided, black, brown, blonde, even some red-haired heads. William himself desperately needed a bath, but usually only allowed water to touch his skin when he was thrown overboard against his will.

"We have convened this council to decide our next move," Smelter continued, his hat still in place. Several of the men started shouting at once. Smelter let them continue for a moment before banging his hand on the table, rattling the mugs, coins, and other odd collections of loot.

"Shut it!" he commanded, slipping from his formal demeanor. "One at a time. Let's raise hands, shall we?" He adjusted his collar as every hand except William's flew into the air.

"Mister Shark."

"Listen, mates. We got rid of that there old cap'n. It's time to do what we've always wanted."

"I agree Sharky!"

"Mister Reef! You did not raise your hand!"

The Reefer heaved a huge sigh and glanced at William, who had a small smile playing on his lips.

"Smelt, come on. The time is now. The boys has left, all that's here is us. We needs us some more boys!"

A chorus of agreement followed the Reefer's statement, followed by a loud clattering of mugs as the men clanked them against other mugs and then the table. William remained cloaked in a half-shadow, the lizard bone bouncing in his mouth.

Smelter held up his hands. "Okay, okay. But we have a problem, my friends."

The men wiped dirty hands across their foamy lips and looked back to the head of the table. They all knew what the problem was.

"We don't need 'em," the Shark said.

"Yes, we do!"



"What fer? We can convince a few lads to come without 'em!"

"Shut it!"

"You shut it!"

"Men! Men! Everyone SHUT IT!" Smelter finally banged his proper English cane on the floor, and the men did indeed, shut it.

Smelter stood breathing heavily and adjusting his shirtsleeves. Some of the other men had stood during the exchange and they flopped back into their chairs. None of them adjusted anything, but took another swig from their mugs instead.

"A little democracy seems to be in order. How about a vote?" Smelter looked around the table with his eyebrows raised. Several of the men shrugged and in the shadows, William suppressed a huge sigh.

"Good. All in favor of finding more boys?"

Every hand went up, including Mister Depth's.

"It is unanimous. Now the question comes from the method."

"Would you speak normal?"

"I am speaking 'normal' Mister Barracuda! It is you who speaks improperly!"

"What did ya say? Improper?" Mister Barracuda stood and unsheathed a dagger. The kind with two blades, that he polished everyday even though there were no boys to use it on. He took a step toward the head of the table.

"Whoa there, Bucky. No swords at the council," Reef said, blocking Bucky's path.

"This ain't a sword, Coral!"

"Don't call me Coral!" And Reef flashed out his own impressive knife.

"Men! Men!"

"Get 'im Buck!"

"You can take him Reefy!"

Smelter backed up to the far wall, shaking his head. He knew he couldn't continue the meeting until the duel was done. Once swords were drawn, the challenge was on and nothing stood in the way. Most of the other men got up and made room for Reefer and Bucky as they carefully held their weapons out, circling.

William flipped the lizard bone into the trash can and reached for another. He watched the fight without any interest, but the other men had started chanting.

"Reefy! Reefy! Reefy!"

While others tried to out-do them with "Buc-keeee! Buc-keeee! Buc-keeee!"

Reefy and Bucky both smiled at the same time, one long and slow, the other quick and blinding. Reefy struck first, a quick attack that Bucky barely had time to deflect.

"Ah, ha! Nearly gotcha there!"

Bucky growled, his brilliant smile vanishing. He regained his position in the circle dance and twirled the hilt of his dagger in his hand.

Then he lunged, and the two men engaged in full swordplay. They parried, thrust, and spun. The clang of metal on metal rang throughout the cabin, even above the shouts of the other men. In great flashes of movement, roars and laughter, stomping and swearing, the duel only lasted for half a minute.

Then the action stopped with the tip of Reef's knife poking into the flesh under Bucky's chin.

"Gotcha," Reef said in an extremely superior voice, his slow smile spreading again.

Bucky twisted and raised his weapon. "Get off me!"

"Alright! Men! Order!"

Having completed the challenge, Reef pulled his chair back to the table while pocketing his knife. Bucky mumbled some unintelligible words under his breath and regained his seat too.

"Pirates," Smelter muttered under his breath and the whole table erupted into a cheer, with more clanging of cups and battering of fists.

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