Story for the Day: The Hole in the Deck

We have two new books coming out in October: The Ship's Crew, the third in the Marridon novellas featuring Danaco, Bartleby, and Rannig, and I Hate Summer, a side project I have been doing about my abhorrence for the past season. If you have not read The Baracan, the second in the Marridon series, it is now on sale HERE, and at all major online retailers. So much writing to finish, so little time...

  Read an excerpt of the Baracan HERE

The rest of the evening passed agreeably: the crew had their games on the main deck, resigning
themselves to Sirs and dice now that dancing was out, those who would go ashore to enjoy the dining halls and tea houses went after their matches were lost, and those who remained either took themselves off to an early rest or remained with the musicians, to sing out the remainder of the evening by way of a few round songs, calling out verses in melodic dissonance, singing the history of Good Marrie the Whore and though there were “Ten hands in her purse, there was still room for one more!” Bartleby, clinging to his leaf flute, was still raving about the destiny of his poor bedchamber—and he was sure he did not care about how many hands Marrie had tucked away in her purse—Rannig, together with Ujaro and Brogan, was mending the deck under Bartleby’s watchful eye, and Captain Danaco was standing by, joining the dice game and throwing in another mark to the betting pool.
                “Five to start and ten more after you roll your first die, Shanyi,” the captain declared. “There’s for your roll, and you had better roll above a three, and that is all.”
                Shanyi blew on the dice. “I will do my best, captain, but you know how odds go.”
                “I know someone who should tell you to hang your odds.”
                Here was a sagacious look, and everyone in the dice game made a sly glance at Bartleby, who was invigilating the reconstruction of the deck with feverish animation.
                “What are you doing there with that beam?” the old man frothed, glaring violently at the top of Brogan’s head. “And why do you have a sanding stone in your hand?
                “Roundin’ the edges o’ the board,” said the top of Brogan’s head, his copper hair bobbing up and down through the hole in the deck. “Gotta shave ‘em down a bit so’s I can slot it in to joint. I don’t round ‘em down, they won’t fit proper.”
                “Properly, you barleychild,” said Bartleby sharply. “Properly. If I am going to be made to listen to your agronomist cant all evening, I will have you speak properly.”
                Brogan’s head vanished momentarily. “That a fancy werd fer a famrer?” he murmured to someone below him.
                There was a short silence, and then, after a few shrugs and some musing, Ujaro’s voice said, “I suppose so, in that context.”
                “Ain’t no harm in bein’ a farmer, auljin,” said Brogan presently, the top of his head returning to the hole. “My talkin’s what it is. Only learned it from the farms ‘cause I grew up on ‘em. Sure, everyone talks like this where I’m from. I sound just fine to me. Yer the one with the funny accent.”
                Bartleby snuffed. “I, the one with the accent? Ha! I learned how to speak properly from first-rate masters at the Academy, you soilspawn. You learned your elocution from a potato patch.”
                “Pretty sharp patch, then, ‘cause it musta taught me to read and write too.”
                A whisper from the hole quietly begged Brogan not to agitate the old man, but it was far too late for warnings; Bartleby was in the first ardours of a capital rant, his nostrils throbbing and furnishings standing at attention, the exsibilations of air being hissed through clenched teeth the overture of the grand display.
                “Listen here to me, you sullied pea-poddy,” Bartleby raged, his fists shaking at his sides in strained fury. “You will fix the hole that you and the boy have made in the deck, and you will do it without noise and without remonstration. Nobody wants to hear your farmstead bibble-babble or anything else you have to say—nobody!-- so be quiet and finish your work without comment.” Brogan was about to say that he was being quiet when Bartleby had asked him a question, prompting him to speak, when the old man continued with, “--And if I hear one word out of turn—one word about my being the one who has the barbarous drite of an accent-- I will wait until you and your pillowpartner are in the violent throes of flesh-frotting one another and have you tarred together!”
                There was a pause. Brogan’s hair flounced as sounds of subdued mirth echoed from below.
                “What are you sniggering at?” Bartleby demanded, his whiskers bristling.
                Brogan’s hair jostled as he laughed. “Yer actin’ like we wouldn’t like bein’ stuck together.”
                “Yes, well,” Bartleby sniffed. “You make a very good show of your affection—no, don’t mouth-maul him now! There is a hole to fix—“ There was a strange pause, and the tops of two heads below turned toward Bartleby to give him a chary look. “—Hang your insinuations! You know very well what I meant. Do not twist my meaning, however you might confuse it. No one is amused with your fledgling japes, no one at all, so you may stop laughing this moment and continue fixing the deck you broke. Get on with rounding your planks or whatever it is you were doing and mend this monstrosity. I want it done before nightfall. My bedtime is coming on— gah!“
                A hand emerged from the hole, and it gripped the front of Bartleby’s hat and pulled it down over his eyes.
                 “He is mauling me, captain!” Bartleby wailed, pulling up his hat and failing about. “The southern savage is absolutely mauling me!”
                “What is happening there?” Danaco called out, looking over from across the deck. “Brogan, are you slashing the old man?”
                Brogan’s head emerged from the hole. “Just pulled his hat down so’s he’d hush up his racket, cap’n.”
                “He will make a noise, I grant you, Brogan, but ripe old date-palms will rattle louder when agitated.”
                “He abused me, captain!” Bartebly cried, stabbing a finger at Brogan’s head. “Did you see how this barm-barbarian lunged at me and glaumed my hat?”
                “He did not hurt you, surely. He has only ruffled your feathers, my little cucubate, that is all. Well done, Shanyi. I needed those twos for my score. Now a seven, if you please, and I will not take anything less than that.”
                The captain turned back to his dice game, and Bartleby gave a firm tut.  
                “A man does not touch another man’s hat,” Bartleby grumbled, rearranding the sit of his hat. “It not done. It is scandalous to touch what another man wears on his head.”
                “Dangerous too,” said Brogan’s voice, from the hole. “Now my fingers smell like dead moths.”
                Bartleby snarled and his wrinkles crimsoned. “There’s for your ruffled feathers,” he hissed, kicking his foot at Brogan. “You see how this cumbering smatchet speaks to his elders, captain? And you still have not punished him for manipulating me.”
                “You will please not to be so severe on my carpenter, Bartleby,” said the captain, looking over again from his dice game. “He has not hurt you, surely. Brogan is all love and milkiness, as most Frewyns are. Where has he hurt you? I see no marks on you, and I shall not dissemble and say I see them.”
                “But he has hurt my feelings, captain,” Bartleby avowed, his hands trembling in violent agony. “My feelings!”
                “Well, he does no wrong there. You feelings are so easily injured, my old friend, I should wonder how they have not died long ago. Shanyi, man, what do you do there with those dice? Did not I tell you I need a seven to win? And here you have rolled a five.”
                “I am sorry, sir,” said Shanyi, who was sitting by his knee, “but despite what we all might like, I cannot roll twos and sevens every time.”
                “You can very well with Feiza’s dice.”
                “Yes, sir, I can, but so can anyone who uses Feiza’s dice.”
                “Quite so,” said the captain, smiling.
                Feiza protested against having any such designedly surreptitious dice, and if his dice did roll sevens every time, it was no more than they were meant to do, for, as Feiza reminded the party, “It weren’t right to be tellin’ the dice how to roll ‘emselves, if they’re wantin’ to roll a seven or a two, sure’n us’nt gonna tell ‘em what to do.”
                He made a firm pout and pretended to be morally wounded, but wry glances went round the party, and while Feiza was flurning and petting his slighted dice, which he was disallowed using in the current game, the captain was exchanging smiles with the rest of his men, all of them inclined to admit that while the challenge of a game of chance always held a charm for them, the powers of Feiza’s dice were sometimes welcome.
                “Very well,” said the captain, “I will not cheat when there is anything like a wager on the table. Here’s for the pot,“ putting a few gold coins down, “and you will roll a seven this time, or I will have the tatti-pratti man peel you and put you in his vats.”
                Shanyi held the dice in his hand on considered this. “Well, I would be rather crisp after a good fry.”
                “Go on, man, and throw the dice,” the captain laughed, “and we shall see whether you end up  peeled and pobbled.”
                The dice game went on, sevens were rolled, and another winning combination brought about regales and gapes as Brogan and Ujaro continued their work on the hole in the deck. Bartleby still mantled over them, investigating their progress with a suspicious eye, and Rannig soon joined them, to bring round their evening tea and help mend the hole he had made. He came from the galley by way of the dice game, to see whether anyone should like their evening cup, and after approaching the hole and giving the last two cups to Brogan and Ujaro, Rannig lay his trey aside and climbed down the hole, to continue the work that Brogan had begun on the planks.