By James Mitchener
The water sliced into the bow of the ship as it cut through the relentless harbour-waters. The boat had travelled these seas every day for almost a decade, its small hull bouncing up and down in waters far stronger than the old and decaying wood of the vessel. It was a harbour built for the tankers that littered it; large, choppy, and relentless waves crashing up against any ship that tried to pass. At night, the evening sky would be painted orange by a sun that lay hidden behind countless skyscrapers along the shoreline.
Hong Kong harbour was no place for the weak-hearted.
Captain Limie, a name he had given to himself after a boat he had served on almost thirty years ago had burned to nothing in the waters of the English Channel killing all but two of the twelve-member-crew, stood at the stern of his ship. He proudly held a spear in hand as he hung over the side, stabbing randomly into the oily surface of the water, yelling nothing but noise at the sea with his every jab.
“Sink me, I see her!” he screamed loudly, jabbing his long spear into the water once again as the waves splashed up around him. “She won’t be gettin’ away again! Percivus! Be ready to pull her aboard! She be mine now!”
One of the crew members walked to the stern of the ship behind the captain, watching as he jabbed carelessly into the water with a fork tied to a long stick.
“Are ye ready, Percivus?”
“Yes, sir,” said Percivus quietly.
“I see her, just below the surf! She been followin’ us since we hit the open waters!”
The crew member leaned over the railing at the back of the small boat, looking out into the surf being churned up by the two-thousand horsepower engine. “I see nothing, sir.”
“Arrr! There she be! Below the surf!”
Once again, the sea-hand looked over the railing on the rear of the boat. There was nothing in the water but oil and foam, the powerful engine churning up what little sea life existed in such a busy port.
“No sir, I don’t see anything.”
“You be useless to me, Percivus! I will capture her meself, and when I do, the gold will all be mine!”
The sea-hand stood silently beside his captain for several minutes, watching him jab randomly into the churning water at the rear of the boat with his spear. “Do mermaids give gold to those who capture them then, Sir?”
Captain Limie looked over at Percivus who was still looking blankly out into the surf. “Ye fool, mermaids always be carrying their most precious riches with them!”
“Then I wish you the best in capturing her, sir,” he said as he stepped away from the railing.
The captain turned back to the water and began glancing rapidly from one direction to the next. With every turn of his head, he leaned further over the railing, his nose inching closer and closer to the water. “Percivus, ye damned fool! She be gone! Ye scared her off!”
“Did I, Sir? Perhaps it was the spear you were thrusting into the water so wildly.”
“How dare ye question me mermaid catching methods! All pirates be aware that a mermaid can’t see the gleam of a silver weapon. It be like glass to their eyes.”
“And that, Sir, is why you are the captain of this ship, and not myself.”
“That be right. Now, me poop deck be needin’ a mopping. To work with ya!”
“Aye aye, captain,” said Percivus, walking off to grab a mop and bucket to start cleaning the deck.”
Captain Limie scratched at his eye patch as he limped to the control room of his ship where all the instruments were housed to help navigate across the harbour and its surrounding waters. The captain pushed open the door and stepped into the small room where another man sat behind the wheel of the ship. Muffled voices echoed across the cabin from the small radio transmitter situated in front of the steering wheel. “Where we be headed, Cornellius?”
The radio echoed with a list of numbers. As each number was spoken, Cornellius silently wrote it down on a piece of paper next to a map of the harbour.
“Those are our coordinates, Captain. We just got a distress call from a stranded ship a few miles off shore. They are requesting immediate assistance.”
Captain Limie grabbed a pencil and began plotting a course on the large map. “Well, Cornellius, prepare the ship. If we be planning on getting to that ship before anyone else, we best move fast!”
The captain turned around and threw open the door to the cabin. “Percivus, Julius! All hands on deck! We be headed to gather our plunder!”
The two sea-hands sighed to one another, then began to prepare the winch for what was to come.
Captain Limie stepped out of the cabin and moved quickly to the bow of the ship. There he stood, watching the horizon as his small sea vessel navigated the congested waters towards a ship several miles away. “We be coming fer ya!” he screamed out into the ocean. Captain Limie broke into a shrill laugh, his voice breaking every time the boat cut through a wave.
Still laughing, he reached into his coat pocket and removed a small telescope, which he placed upon his un-patched eye and began scanning the seas for the stranded vessel. He spotted it between two barges; a large fishing vessel with its nets pulled in, bobbing up and down in the rough waters.
“There she be!” screamed the captain, “Dead ahead! Percivus, tell Cornellius to hold course!”
Percivus pushed open the door to the cabin, and over the roaring waters, the captain could hear the faint voices of two of his crew members speaking.
“Hey, Charlie, Captain says the ship is dead ahead.”
“I realize that, Phillip. It’s called modern navigation. I have been talking to the ship’s captain this whole time.”
“Well, he told me to tell you. Jonathan is outside prepping the winch for when we arrive at the vessel.”
“Good. We will be there shortly. Here, take the Captain his rum. You know he’ll want to be sloshed before we reach the ship.”
Phillip grabbed the bottle of rum off the counter and carried it to the bow of the ship.
“Arrr, Percivus, fetch me m’rum. Squiffy be the only way to seize a ship.”
“Here you go, Captain,” said the sea-hand as he handed the captain his bottle of rum.
“Arrr, Percivus, ye make a good deck-hand!”
“Thank you, Sir. Cornellius wanted me to tell you that we are almost there.”
“I already be seeing that, Percivus! I been watching through me spy-glass!”
“Ah, very good sir. Try not to get any rum on the lens this time. We would hate for you to lose the use of your other eye as well.”
“Arrrr, that be the fault an old bar wench! She tried to poison me at port!”
“Really sir? I remember it being because you spilled rum on your ‘spyglass,’ then when you put it to your eye, you shocked yourself with the pain and poked your own eye out.”
Captain Limie paused for several seconds. “I see you been talkin’ to the wench. Percivus, it be bad to listen to the lies of port-scum! Now go, it almost be time.”
Phillip nodded and walked back to the stern, checking the ropes along the side of the ship as he went.
Captain Limie opened up his half-empty bottle of rum, touched it to his lips, and threw the bottle base up into the air. He raced to beat the flow of fluid from the bottle, swallowing enormous gulps of the liquid until all that remained in the bottle was a small amount of condensation from his lungs and the brisk sea breeze.
The captain lifted his eye patch and scratched at his sunken eyelid. His boat was almost alongside the stranded fishing vessel, and he knew that it was almost time for glorious art of piracy to begin. As carefully as he could, the liquor quickly slowing his movements, Captain Limie made his way back to the driver’s booth. As he walked through the door, his driver was mid communication with the stranded vessel:
“…and for his behaviour, I apologize. Here he is now.”
Captain Limie grabbed the radio communicator from his ship’s steer-master and looked him carefully in the eyes. “Thank you, Cornellius,” he slurred before raising the microphone to his lips. “This be Captain Limie of The Whale’s Tail. Throw all yer weapons overboard, and we might not harm ye.”
There was a long silence over the radio, then some muffled conversation on the other line followed by a confused and cautious response. “I’m sorry, Captain Limie, but we have no weapons onboard.”
“Arrr, ye think me so foolish as to believe such lies? I am tired of these games already. Prepare to be winched!” The captain threw the radio communicator onto the floor, then looked over to Charlie and said, “Keep the Whale’s Tail steady, Cornellius, it be time to do what I do best.”
By the time Captain Limie had finished with his radio call to the nearby vessel, Phillip and Jonathon were already preparing the winch to be connected to the nearby ship. “Percivus,” yelled the captain over the roaring of the winches motors, “attach her up to that there ship so we can tow her to the docks and collect our bounty! I will be dealin’ with the crew!”
With that, the captain removed his shirt, grabbed his spear, and dove straight into the merky water, swimming to the Chinese fishing vessel. Grabbing onto one of the tires hanging onto the side of the ship, Captain Limie began pulling himself onboard. The alcohol was already starting to affect his limbs, and he found his body extremely heavy. He lost his footing on the tire and toppled backwards into the water, throwing his spear as he went. He quickly surfaced, grabbing hold of the tire once again. He cast about for his spear, but with all the mess of floating junk in the harbour, it was impossible to distinguish which floating stick was his. “Blimey! I is in deep if they be carrying arms!” he cursed as he once again tried to pull himself onto the ship.
As his hand reached over the fishing vessel’s starboard railing, he felt a hand grasp around his forearm. With an enormous yank, he was pulled up over the railing and onto the deck.
“You up now,” said a man in a thick Chinese accent, quickly wrapping a towel around the captain. “You alright? Fall overboard fixing winch?”
“Arr! Unhand me! I be here to ensure you come quietly!” screamed the captain, jumping up onto his feet. The sudden movement made his head spin as blood rushed through his alcohol loaded body. As quickly as he rose, his feet gave out from under him and collapsed back onto the floor. His head slammed into the metal deck and he let out an enormous groan of discomfort.
“You okay, sir?” said the Chinese man who was now crouched on one knee beside the captain.
“I be in a terrible blunder. Where be me ship?” asked Captain Limie, his head spinning out of control.
“Over there. The winch is being attached now.”
Captain Limie rose to his feet once again, pulled himself to the edge of the boat, and toppled over into the cold harbour waters. The shock of being back in the ocean quickly brought him to his senses, and he swan slowly toward his ship, his head throbbing with every stroke of his arms.
Phillip reached out and grabbed the captain by the arm, yanking him back onto the deck. “Percivus, they stole me spear. They be menacing fighters, this crew.”
“I know sir. But you subdued them. The winch is in place, and we are heading back port now.”
“Arr, to fetch me bounty!”
“Yes Captain, to fetch your bounty.”
Captain Limie let out a quiet little chuckle, then rolled over on the deck and passed out.
When he awoke several hours later, he was on the floor of the cabin, his ship docked at port. His brain was pounding on the inside of his skull, his one good eye shooting pains through his head as the light filtered through its lens. The door to the cabin swung open, and Phillip walked in carrying a small envelope.
“Here you go, Captain,” he said, handing him the envelope.
Captain Limie ripped open the envelope and removed the small rectangular piece of paper tucked within. It read: “Pay to the order of: Captain Limie’s Tugboats, Capt. Donald Lime. 5250 Hong Kong Dollars. Signed: Hong Kong Harbour Control”
“Ah, at last, it be me bounty!”
“Yes, Captain, that’s the bounty,” said Phillip, kneeling on the floor beside his captain. “Or a pay check, as most people seem to call it.”
Captain Limie quickly walked over to the corner of the cabin and lifted up a loose floorboard in the corner. Looking back over his shoulder to see if Phillip were watching, he tucked dropped the check into its hiding spot and replaced the floorboard.
“Do you plan on cashing those checks anytime soon?” asked Phillip, smiling at Captain Limie as he slowly pulled himself to his feet.
“Nay, I be burying me treasures on a desert island soon.”
“Well, I hope you don’t mind if I cash mine. Someone has to keep this ship in working order.”
“This be the best ship in the ocean, Percivus! Ye best not ferget that, ‘cause one day, she’ll be yers, passed down to ya as me father passed her down to me.”
“You bought this boat from a retired tug-boat captain almost a decade ago, Dad.”
Captain Limie paused, scatching his head in thought. “Arr, that be it, it was stolen from a lesser pirate!”
Phillip shook his head and smiled. “That’s right, Captain. I forgot.”
The radio echoed in the background, the familiar sound of a ship summoning their little tugboat out to sea in order to be guided into port.
“Another ship be calling us for capture!” screamed the captain, climbing back onto his feet. “Percivus, fetch me Cornellius and Julius! There be more plunder a’calling!”
“Aye aye, Captain Limie,” said Phillip, smiling to himself as he closed the door to the tugboat’s small cabin, leaving the captain alone to prepare for their next voyage into the harbour and back again.
© Sagebrush Review Volume V Spring 2010