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When Among the Living

A Pirate Short Story

By Canan DevorakPublished 3 years ago 4 min read

A tavern dances to the music that carouses through the small harbor town. Joyous voices accompany the hurdy-gurdy and the drumming past the docks, past the ships, and throughout the cove. Inside, groups shuffle haphazardly atop tables; others drain tankards of woody rum and ale, its smell clashing with that of salt and sweat. Everything moves without inherent purpose.

Stomping rhythmically on the bar in time with the clapping of other sailors, a maiden dances with an uncontrollable grin. However, her appearance is not analogous with that of a traditional maiden. Although her wavy red hair reaches down to her lower back, Alcie wears a man’s trousers; she wears a man’s shirt, coat, belt, and boots in addition. Every bearded, calloused sailor in the tavern knows her name and respects it, so her feet move freely over glass bottles and sacks of gold pieces. Before long, the seemingly never-ending song concludes and this praised performer reclines into an open space in the corner booth.

“T’was some mighty fancy footwork ye had up there,” called a hearty across the table, “When’d ye learn all that?” This was one of three pirates who were sitting at the table; his most noticeable trait was the brand burned into his face. Of the others, one was still a child while the other’s hair was fully greyed out. Alcie shrugged at the question.

“I haven’t the faintest idea. When ye spend twenty-something years squiffy on the open sea, all ye Crack Jenny’s teacups and port havens feel the same, savvy?” Alcie answers before grabbing a tankard of liquor off a nearby serving tray and taking a gulp. “It must be getting late if old Barnabas is already dishin’ out the grog!” The nearby company snickers.

“Aye. With them coffers we dug up, I’d gamble he’s trying to squeeze as much coin out of us as he can. In fact, me ribs are already crackin’,” replies the seadog, inviting a fuller laugh out of the others.

“Good, ‘bout time you licked the dust,” chimed the first. The group cackles as fists and tankards collide with the table.

The old salt continues, “My timbers, twenty-thousand doubloons for each of us. An’ all that was stashed on some wayward cog! What do ye even do with it?”

“What don’t ye do with it?” said the branded pirate, “Me share is going towards securing a plantation in the tropics; escape the clutches of the trading companies. With this much coin, I’m set for life. What plans have ye, buckos?”

“Don’t know yet, but know ye can find me in me own bathroom first,” says the kid. The larger sailor next to him ruffles the boy’s hair.

“Aye. We could all do with a good scrub, lad! Alcie, ye ain’t the type to retire to the world of landlubbers. What’re you doin’ with ye coin?” he asks. Alcie, rather than responding, hesitates to pull a necklace out from beneath her shirt. A faded and almost crusted golden ring dangles from the leather string.

“Blimey, ye snagged yourself a man?” gawks the branded buccaneer, leaning forward in his seat.

“No, I snagged myself a lady,” she responds. The present company howls at that answer; grog splashes across the table. She chugs what is left in her tankard and says, “I plan to use me share to purchase a nicer house for me wife. It’s been our dream to properly move in together, but I ain’t had the coin ‘til now.”

The conversation continues between the other three at the table while Alcie drowns herself in another tankard of grog. Eventually, the tavern empties out and she sits alone at the bar, where Barnabas finds her fiddling with her ring again. He adjusts his tailored vest before leaning on the opposite side of the bar.

“So, why have I never met this wife of yours?” he starts. Noticing her agape mouth and tensed movements, he explains, “I see and hear everything that happens in my tavern, and your conversation is no exception. I typically refrain from engaging with my customers, but I suppose my curiosity has gotten the better of me.” She relaxes into her barstool once more.

“She’s never liked the pirating life and won’t come near the tavern. She’d much rather keep to herself in a library,” Alcie answers, gazing with glossy eyes into her empty tankard. Barnabas sighs and his features soften slightly.

“Because you are my highest paying customer and you always bring plentiful business with you, I will ask you this: what saddens you this evening?” he says. Alcie raises an eyebrow.

“It ain’t that she’s done me wrong or that I don’t love her, but we still got fights. I love ‘er so much, so I can’t get angry when it happens. It’s so damn frustrating though, so instead, I put on me sea legs an’ hornswoggle till me heart’s content. I’ll come back weeks later and we act like nothin’ happened. Or at least we do ‘til we end up fightin’ again,” Alcie explains. She scratches at the wood of the bar – Barnabas physically removes her hand to prevent further damage to his tavern.

“This might sound like a ridiculous suggestion, but perhaps refrain from casting off in that manner,” Barnabas says. Alcie wants to protest, but she refrains and ponders the thought.

“I suppose,” she mutters. “The more ye force the buoy down, the more it’ll want to go up. Alrighty, I’ll make me way home and stay there for good. Ye want a coin for me troubles?”

“No need. If you keep your word, we will likely never meet again. Consider it a parting gift,” Barnabas says with a smile – a gesture which Alcie returns. He escorts her out of the tavern where he locks the door, and they exchange goodbyes.

Beyond the border of the harbor town, Alcie grips her hands into fists and walks through the threshold. She greets her wife and apologizes before sitting next to an unlit fireplace. From her bag, Alcie removes a small black notebook, in which she records all her tales, and reads out loud the most recent and final entries.

Her voice echoes unanswered through the blackened remains of the house’s foundations.


About the Creator

Canan Devorak

I am an amalgamation of many things - some weigh me down while others lift me up - which makes me a mess. Yet, despite all odds, I am still here.

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    Canan DevorakWritten by Canan Devorak

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