[Prompt: A pirate crew confronts their captain about his drinking problem ]
Tobias swabbed the deck and eyed his crew mates with a thoughtful look. Each one of the men had surprised him by agreeing to be part of the intervention. The crew of the Angry Kraken was different from other ships Tobias had served on. ‘Every scurvy dog for himself’ wasn’t the way the Kraken functioned, and it was part of the reason Tobias had worked so hard to join the crew.
As a young sailor, Tobias had drifted between ships, yearning for a captain to capture his adventurous soul. All he had found was men filled with greed, uncaring for the livelihood of their crew, and eager to send any naysayers to the plank. Tobias began to hear rumors of a ship with a captain who had the power to coax any man to his crew, and gain their pledge of undying loyalty in return for adventure and riches beyond their dreams. This piqued Tobias’ curiosity more than anything, but after reaching a port from yet another dismal voyage, Tobias vowed to find the ship with the charismatic captain.
It had taken Tobias a year, but he had finally tracked down the Angry Kraken, and after spending the last of his coin on rounds at the bar for some of the crew members and sharing two of his best stories, he was invited to join as the swabby. It wasn’t the most noble of positions, but it came with a hammock below deck and the guarantee of food in his stomach. But most of all, it gained him audience with the storied captain.
Tobias had been on the ship for a month now, and he was surprised to find how close to truth the rumors passed. An outsider couldn’t have expected the levels of loyalty the men actually held for their captain, but Tobias was starting to understand why after spending limited time around Jonas “Tall Tide” Carabis.
Captain Carabis had been on the sea his entire life. He’d been born on a ship and he’d die on a ship, and he claimed that the sea was the only lover he needed. His fiery red beard had braids and charms hanging without order, he had never shaved a day in his life. His arms were nearly as thick as a mast, and his well kept jacket hung like a proud sail across his chest. The hat on his head was worn and faded, but upon close inspection one would find that mending work had been dedicated to the cared for object. The cutlass that hung at his side had a golden pommel and was shaped like the upper half of a naked woman, the sheath the bottom half of a fish. When it swung from his hip, it was the prettiest mermaid a man could hope to meet, but would regret the thought if he ever found the sword wielded.
Captain Carabis was the living embodiment of Tobias’ vision of the perfect leader. The first time Tobias had seen him he’d immediately felt the swelling of pride in his chest. He was part of the crew. This was his leader. This was his captain. He wanted to follow this captain to riches and glory. He wanted to please this man.
But after two weeks a sea, Tobias had noticed that the legendary Captain Carabis possessed a serious flaw: rum was his mistress. It wasn’t glaringly apparent at first, the captain would keep to his quarters and drink alone, the rest of the crew oblivious and left to their tasks. But as the Kraken drifted further out to sea, and the evidence of land faded into the distance, the captain’s drinking habits became more bold. He began to wander about the ship with his stein filled to the brim, liquid slopping over the sides as he traipsed along the deck. Barking orders to crew already busy at work. The men felt unappreciated by this, they were already laboring hard to please their prodigious captain. This was when the storm began to brew.
Now, a month into the voyage, the men were disheartened by the captain’s behavior. Tobias had expected a mutiny to break out, but he was caught off guard when he found two of the crewmen crying over their supper, instead.
“I jus’ dun understand why he got ta be so mean.” Paddy said between bites, he appeared to be turning to food for comfort.
“There, there,” Olly reached a hand across the table to pat Paddy’s shoulder, “know ye cap’n be moody at sea. Thee storm shall pass.”
Paddy nodded, wiping his nose with his sleeve and shoveling another spoonful of food into his mouth, “Me know ye speak true, matey. Alas! I jus’ dun want ta see cap’n find Davy Jone’s Locker.”
At that, Olly had to reach up and wipe his eyes. Tobias had watched the scene unfold with his mouth agape, not quite sure of how to handle buccaneers with so much emotion. He had slinked back the way he’d come, leaving the men to their discussion.
But that night as Tobias swung back and forth in his hammock, he considered what Paddy and Olly had talked about. The crew supported Captain Carabis no matter how he behaved, and even Tobias found it difficult to hold the Captain accountable for his mood. There were many reasons the Captain could be drinking, and it didn’t necessarily make him a bad man. He just had a bad habit.
As Tobias fiddled with a loose thread of his hammock, he imagined the crew unwinding. If Captain Carabis fell too far into the bottle, the crew wouldn’t be able to stay behind him. There would definitely be a mutiny on their hands. The only way to save the voyage was to confront the captain about his drinking problem.
While Captain Carabis enjoyed sleeping in the next morning, most likely nursing a hangover, Tobias had approached each of the crew members and proposed his plan for an intervention. It hadn’t taken much convincing for the bulk of them, they all seemed to be upset for personal reason due to the captain’s behavior. The old salt, Errol, had been the only troublesome conversation. Tobias had to agree to take on Errol’s duties for the next week just to get the man to agree to stand on deck and witness the intervention. Errol refused to take part in the actual confrontation, muttering under his breath about scallywags and silly ideas.
Now, as Tobias pushed the mop back and forth, he watched the captain’s door with anticipation. The rest of the crew busied themselves above deck, awaiting the signal from Tobias. The silence on deck was as heavy as a whale, and as the door to captain’s chambers began to creak open, every man on deck turned his head to watch Carabis step out.
The captain reached up a hand in attempt to block out the intruding light. He swayed slightly, his balance not quite perfected. He had on his jacket and his cutlass was hanging from his hip as it always did. He reached up to pat the top of his head, realizing he’d forgotten his hat. Muttering under his breath, he looked around deck at the crew. His eyes widened slightly as the silence dawned on his sluggish mind, and the stare of his crew pierced small holes in his composure. Straightening up he fixed his sights on the nearest crewman, Garrick.
“Avast ye! What be ye all gawkin’ at?”
Garrick began to wring his hands nervously and looked to Tobias, unsure of how to react to the captain. Captain Carabis followed Garrick’s gaze, his eyes gliding to rest on Tobias’ small frame. Carabis let out a hearty laugh at Tobias’ blank look.
“What then, laddie? Ye got a bone ta pick wit me?” He smiled with mild amusement as he glanced around at other crew mates, then settled his eyes back on Tobias. “Out wit it then!”
Tobias shifted his weight from side to side and then let go of the mop, it slopped to lean against one side of the bucket and stood, unmoving. Taking a deep breath, he puffed out his chest and cleared his throat before answering. “Cap’n, me an’ the men are worried about ye.”
“What ye’s got to be worried for?” the amusement shone from the captain’s eyes.
“Well Cap’n, yer drinking,” Tobias glanced around at the other crew mates before returning the captain’s gaze, “we think ye got a problem wit it.”
A low rumble of a chuckle escaped Captain Carabis, and he began to look between each to the men, an eyebrow raised questioningly. “So, ye all agree wit the swabby, eh?” His laughter began to boom as he shook and doubled over, he reached a hand to wipe his watering eyes.
Tobias chewed on his lower lip, he hadn’t expected the captain to react in this manner. The other men were frozen, they seemed just as confused. Letting out a deep sigh, Tobias took a step forward to approach the captain.
The sound of metal sliding against metal stopped Tobias in his tracks. The laughter from Captain Carabis continued as he straightened up and drew his sword and point the end towards Tobias. His laughter subsided and he flashed a sinister grin at Tobias, “To the plank wit ye!”
Tobias looked around at the other men, desperate for support. He pleaded silently as his eyes darted between the men, he knew better than to call out like a coward.
Carabis motioned with the sword towards the plank, his mouth still upturned but his eyes burning with rage. Tobias swallowed hard and began to walk towards the plank, attempting to make eye contact with any of the men. Their gazes fell as Tobias’ eyes searched for help, unwilling to question their captain.
As Tobias approached the plank, his steps slowed with reluctance. He felt something sharp in the center of his lower back at this, and knew the captain’s sword was urging him forward. Wringing his hands and cursing his need to meddle, he took his first step out onto the plank.
The water swirled beneath Tobias, and he felt the cool spray of the ocean against his bare feet. He could feel sweat beading on his forehead, but was too afraid to move his arms for fear of losing his balance. His heart beat against his chest like a prisoner trying to escape.
The sword tip eased from Tobias’ back, a wave of relief washed over him as he strained to listen to the voices behind him.
“Who dare challenge their Cap’n?” Carabis spit the words, looking over his shoulder to locate the defiant voice.
“I daren’t challenge me Cap’n, but the swabby speaks a truth.”
Tobias was able to turn enough to see who was speaking and nearly lost his balance at the revelation. It was old Errol.
Errol’s face didn’t betray any emotion, but his voice was strong and sincere, “The laddie don’t deserve to be blown down, Cap’n. Ye should tell the men the truth and be done wit it.”
The ship drifted in the silence, Tobias could hear his heart in his ears, his wet feet felt unsure beneath him.
The captain’s voice shattered the stillness, “I…ye speak truly, Errol.” A heavy sigh was accompanied by the sound of metal against metal once more. Carabis had sheathed his sword.
Tobias felt a hand grasp his arm and was pulled backwards towards the ship, he fell to his backside on the deck. He had never felt such a wonderful sensation.
“As ye’s know, me birth was a sea, and me death shall be a sea. But ye’s don’t know the whole truth.” Carabis began to pace the deck as he told his story, his voice low but permeating the ship. “Ye see, ye Cap’n has a curse.” A collective gasp sounded at his revelation, but he continued without pause. “I, Jonas Carabis couldn’t join the lubbers even if I desired. Me feet cannot step on the sand. Me eyes can only long for the land. I cannot leave the sea.
“When me ma brung me into this world, she did so alone. Me ol’father was a god of the ocean, so says she. When she tried to bring me to solid ground, the sea swallowed the town on the coast and brought me back to it. Over me life I have tried but three other times to visit the land, each time ending in disaster. This week be me 50th year of life, and me heart yearns to leave the sea.”
The captain had stopped pacing and stared out into the endless blue, his large frame somehow seemed helpless as Tobias watched him.
“So I may over indulge wit me rum, but me reason is nary a thing you laddies can understand.”
From that day forward not one man looked twice at the captain when he trudged around with his stein. When Carabis barked orders, the men smiled and bore the commands, eager to please as before. As for Tobias, he had found a new problem to focus on. After hearing his captain’s harrowing tale and the longing in his voice, Tobias vowed to figure out a way to take his captain from the sea.