CCD Saturday Short Fiction – Robert McOuat – The Wayward Sea Dog

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by Camel City Dispatch

By Robert McOuat

Nay, me lad, I’m no pirate. Even if I was, I would not admit it to a drivelswigger like you. I have no intention of dancin’ the hempen jig from the gov’ner’s gallows. I’ve outlived most of me brethren of me former haunts. After a life of low wages and hard labor, I just want to sit here and watch the barnacles grow.

How old is ye’ boy? About 14? I met me first pirate when I was about your age. You could hold me knowledge of the world between your smallest toes. I warn ye, before ye start snoopin’ about askin’ for pirate stories, ye’d best be forewarned, for every pirate fact there are scores of picaroon legends. I swallered some stories you wouldn’t believe. Did ye’ know that some say Blackbeard’s headless body runs amok off the coast of the North Carolina seeking a new ship! But that ain’t the hardest to swaller, I’ll tell you! I got one that’s harder to swaller than an urchin’s spine! I reckon the knot tied between a lie and a good tale is a strong one. I’ll tell it ye me tale of the wayward sea dog if ye got some time.

the wayard sea dog
the wayard sea dog

My born name was Arthur Raceli. However, the name of yer’ birth is not the name the sea gives ye’. Like the ebb and flow on a coastline, a man can’t be near the sea without changing forever. When I was yer age, I set on a ship named Omasa. In all the seven seas, I never seen such a decrepit crew of salty dogs. In my youthful eyes, they all looked older than me grandfather, but since then, I learned it wasn’t the years that wore ‘em down – it was the sea. Among the sailors, whiskers were plenty while teeth and limbs seemed to be a want. Yeah, me lad, I was green. My mind was filled with stories of high adventure! A life at sea would surely be more fulfillin’ than a life on a farm or an apprenticeship with a blacksmith! How young and green I was! I spent me first two months at sea scrubbing the poop deck with a holystone – all the while just staring … staring at a flat horizon and a luffing mainsail. The black sea … That’s all there be fer’ day upon day. High adventure. What a folly! Hours upon hours with ne’er a creature to be seen, only the company of some gruff fellows and sour cider.

On the deck o’that ship is where I came in the acquaintance with Kama Goff. He took me under his wing. He was an oarsman and gunmen and I wer’ his powder monkey. His bunk wer’ over mine in the belly of the ship. He seemed to look upon my youth with a fond resentment. Where most of my ship mates spared na’er a word, me bunkmate loosened his tongue to the legends of the seven seas. He wallowed in his memories of days of free-booting the Spanish vessels as they rounded the horn at the furthest point to the south. I must have seemed anxious in my idleness for Kama counselled me to appreciate the placid days. He began a tale of the tempest that nearly took his life. Kama was my only teacher. His greatest lesson was this – “The wee deck gives no consolation when the sea gods are angry, savvy.” I remember it like he said it to me this mornin’

Kama’s tale ‘o woe began in an ancient port city called Jaffa. I’d never heard of a city named Jaffa, but I was green and unfamiliar with most of the world. Jaffa disn’t so much of a city – rather an out-croppin’ ‘o rocks near th’ harbor. Kama said that the harbor was the fairest in the seven seas – safe from th’ fickle Aeolus, god ‘o wind and Calyspo, the scorned sea witch.
Why would anyone want to leave such a port? Like me, like you, Kama wanted some high adventure! He first met the scallywags that signed-on to serve the ship. Pitiful crew – the dregs of society – but one stuck out, he looked different from the rest. Kama said his first sight ‘o th’ wayward sailor left a lastin’ impression. Kama knew he was different. He went by the Dhul-Nun, but Kama knew it was not his real name, and ye could spy wit’ ye eye he weren’t a buccaneer. Dhul-Nun was a sturdy bloke wit’ a beard that covered most ‘o his face. Th’ scraps ‘o leather that bound his feet, his sandals, were fer sand rather than th’ deck ‘o a ship. In a port city whar most men earned their livin’ from ship makin’ ‘n fishin’, he was stranger, a wanderer from far away. Like th’ rest ‘o th’ crew, he seemed more concerned ’bout whar he did not want to be rather than whar he wanted to be. Also, like th’ rest ‘o th’ crew, he seemed a wee below on his luck.

Upon the sea, Kama kept to his duties but kept an eye on Dhul-Nun. That’s a curse of the sailor – we can be a bit superstitious and anything that seems different. Anything unknown might bring a stroke o’ black luck. And sure enough, Kama’s suspicions were justified. Just when they’d been at sea so long that land was a lost memory, the doomed ship encountered rough waters. The worst storm that Kama had seen in all his seafarin’ days. th’ prow nodded back ‘n forth between th’ stars then to Davey Jones’ treasure chest. Kama had never seen Calypso so angry. He yelled “We must lighten th’ load. Throw th’ barrels overboard! Throw th’ stow overboard!” Th’ braces shivered ‘n halyards shook. First they tried rowin’ to shore, but th’ oars slipped from their hands. Th’ waves got even higher.
Kama prayed at th’ top ‘o his lungs, “Calypso, fair goddess, depart homeward! Let us be!” Yet Calypso was deaf to his plea. The pitiful ship convulsed from stem to stern, but th’ bulwark was shown no quarter by each ragin’ wave.

Every man looked at each other wit’ spite. Th’ unsuccessful voyage meant that th’ gods did not favor ‘em. Each saw th’ other as th’ cause ‘o god’s ire. In those olden’ times, each man on th’ sea carried with him a lucky amulet to ward off evil forces in times ‘o peril. Kama rubbed his whale bone to makes sure Aeolus kept his winds from escapin’. Each sailor mumbled to their charms grasped by blue-knuckled fin’ers.

Kama yelled to his fellow sailors, ”One ‘o us has lost favor ‘o th’ gods, we must throw th’ scallywag overboard.” Each scurvy dog threw his amulet to th’ deck. Ankhs, elements, mandalas, dream catchers, ‘n bones rolled as fate would take ‘em. Dhul-Nun threw a small wooden cross. Only his cross pointed to th’ west. His charm was th’ cursed one. He was th’ one wit’ th’ odd sandals, strange accent ‘n guilty disposition. Dhul-Nun was th’ most strange. Each o’ th’ crew simultaneously turned their firey eys toward Dhul-Nun ‘n found him cowerin’ among th’ coxcombin’.

But th’ crew grabbed him ‘n threw him overboard, “Avast, ye hornswoggle, may ye’ god escort ye to Davey Jones’ locker!”

Th’ crew had got th’ right scurvy dog. No sooner did Dhul-nun hit th’ rum then th’ sea calmed ‘n th’ sails filled wit’ a helpin’ wind. Th’ scorned Calypso was now appeased ‘n slept again in her cave at th’ bottom ‘o th’ sea. If ye’ think that’d be th’ end ‘o th’ story fer Dhul-Nun, then ye’d be wrong. Fate had more in store fer th’ scallywag. Davy Jones’ locker would have be his blessin’. No, he got swallered by a fish! Fer three days ‘n three nights Dhul-nun languished inside th’ fish’s belly. If ye’ think a fish smells a rot from th’ outside, ye can imagine one from th’ inside! On th’ third day, th’ fish spat him out on a remote island. His skin had burnt because ‘o th’ acids inside th’ fish’s gizzard. He was severely ill, ‘n when th’ sun rose, its rays burned his body. He could not bear th’ pain ‘n was screamin’ his agony. But th’ story ain’t over, me fine young bucko. ‘Tis God that got him threwn fro’ a ship, stuck in a fish’s rancid belly, ‘n near smelted his skin off …. do ye think Dhul-nun cursed ’tis god? Nay! He changed his moniker to Jonah ‘n spent th’ rest ‘o his life preachin’ th’ praises ‘o ’tis God! ‘o course, he never came within a league ‘o th’ ocean agin’ He kept his preachin’ to th’ deserts ‘n mountains, far from th’ clutches ‘o Calypso because he knows what Calypso would do to him if she ever caught him on her seven seas again!




Robert is currently writing a novel entitled “Shallow Brooks are Noisy.” The protagonist, Doug Zwerling, is a terminally single Economics professor who stumbles into a campus scandal. The scandal is loosely based on the fraudulent cancer research studies conducted by Dr. Anil Potti at Duke University.







wswriters_0Robert comes to CCD from Winston-Salem Writers. Find out about this vital local organization HERE.



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