Battle of Wits
Gary L Dorion
We were keeping low across the cobblestone street waiting for our next opportunity when a carriage stopped right in front of us and obscured our view, then the horse did his business right then and there and, together with the hot noon sun and the wind wafting the aroma our way, we decided to move a bit. So we crawled on our hands and knees along the hedge away from the odor. Then Jack spotted Brooksy a’lyin' on his belly at the corner of the schoolhouse.
“That knumbskull,” said Jack. “Look at him. Do you see him? What a horse's ass! Trying to spy on us-the damn fool! You seen him?”
“Yeah but is he really spyin' on us? Maybe he’s a'hunting for worms or maybe he’s sick,” I said.
“No, moron! Just one look at that cross-eyed son of a goat’s ass and I knowed that master sent him to spy on us and turn us in if ever he sees us. Don’t pop your head up yet idiot!”
“What are we gonna do?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” said Jack. Let me chew on it a few minutes.
Brooksy wasn’t bein' very subtle at all, sittin' up one moment and popping his head around the corner, then a’lyin' on his belly again with his rump in the air.
We were looking through the spaces in the shrubbery. This was exactly what Jack liked the most-a challenge that he could figure out how to beat, especially when it came from an enemy that he hated with passion. True to form he came up with another ingenious twist in his plan. At least I thought so until I learned it was me takin' all the risks.
“Hey! I’ve got it. Brooks hates me but he wants to be your friend so that’s how we get him on our side instead of master’s. But is has to be done quick or we’ll have to ditch the whole plan. Master thinks he’s so smart getting Brooksy to spy on us but he’s got to be dumber than Brooksy if he thinks Brooksy wasn’t goin' to give hisself away like he did. I mean he sent out a complete moron to do battle with experienced pirates like ourselves. Well kiddies, now we’ll just have to defeat his little pathetic attempt to get the goods on us. What a moron! No wonder he can’t do anything but teach in that stupid little poor excuse for a school. No-one would want him anywhere else! Here he’s like a big frog in a little pond. But now he’s met his match, more than met his match.
“So you go around the building and come up behind Brooksy.”
“Why me?” I protested. “He’ll tattle and that’ll be it for me. I’ll flunk the whole year and have to repeat the fifth grade. And master’ll see to it that I get a whoopin' on top of it all.”
“No you won’t,” said Jack, “because you’re gonna convince Brooksy to be on our side and convince him that master will never know it so long as he does exactly what he’s told.”
“What do I tell him then?” I said.
“Say what any pirate worthy of his name would say. Tell him we’ll bring him to our fort across the river and initiate him into the Midnight Raiders.”
“But you said we would never let anyone else into the fort but us,” I again protested.
“A good pirate must go where the wind blows and right now that wind is a’blowin' in the direction of letting Brooksy in because it is to our advantage and the Midnight Raiders must defeat Master Whittemore in this war. We can’t afford to lose this one. It has to go according to plan and I’m the captain. You’re like the helmsman. You steer the ship but I give the orders around here. Without someone in command no plan can ever work out. To beat Master Whittemore we’ve got to be one step ahead of him all of the time. We slip up once and he’s got us. And you can’t back out now cuz you’ve given your word as a pirate in the band of the Midnight Raiders. And as for it being just you and me, that’s over now. We have to have a spy who is in with us. Brooksy will do whatever you ask him to do and in the end he will be loyal to us because he will do anything to be a Midnight Raider. Tell him that tomorrow we’ll perform the blood sacrifice and initiate him into our secret organization. Tell him he can’t tell a living soul nor a dead one about the plan.”
“Yeh well what is the plan, what exactly do we tell him?”
Jack laughed. “That’s the good part. First you find out from Brooksy what Whittemore’s plan is then run back and report it to me. We have to know what that old crafty cook is up to. Now go.”
“That’s it. What else?”
“That’s it for now. You see, this plan that has up to now been so brilliantly successful has got to proceed with care, step by step, especially after you learn the enemy is trying to outflank us and that’s what master is about right now. He’s using Brooksy to identify us when we go to knock again. That’s why we need to turn Brooksy to our side and master will think he’s still with him. Still we need to know exactly what master’s next move is. There’s not much time. So go on now!”
Followers and Leaders
I did what I said I’d do. I most always do what Jack wants in the end, however much protesting is done. But I must admit Jack sure knew how to attract adventure. You just could not be ever sure what would happen next when Jack was around. He could take any ordinary day and any ordinary boy or group of boys and get them all into some great adventure that he cooked up. It just always seemed that ordinariness wasn’t suited to Jack. Things always happened around him. And he needed to be at the center.
“Welcome To Our Side”
And so I found myself sneaking up behind Brooksy who was sitting against the wall, not even acting like a proper lookout, and picking his nose.
“Stop that boy!” I shouted, and Brooksy nearly jumped through his skin.
“Where…where did you come from...you scared me. I thought you was sick or something.”
“Well you thought wrong,” I said. “I see you’re out spying on us for the master.”
“No I wasn’t,” he replied. “Not really. I mean I wasn’t gonna tell him nothing anyhow.”
“Right just that you saw Jack and me when we would knock on the door again…yeh…you’re gonna tattle aren’t ya?
“No I wasn’t! Master told me to come out here to look for you two and identify you when he comes out to get his report, that’s all, and I was gonna say I saw nothing.”
“Even when he asks you who knocked on the door a second time?” I said.
“I just was gonna say I saw nothing.”
“What did he promise you for tattling?”
“He said I’d probably pass the fifth grade and would be in big trouble if I didn‘t do as he asked. I need to pass the fifth grade this time. I’ve been two times not passing. I gotta pass.”
“You’ll pass and you’ll do as we say, not what Whittemore says, or else your gonna get a visit from the Midnight Raiders just when you least expects it.” I drew my index finger across my throat. Look, whose side do you want to be on? Whittemore’s and get the black mark on your bedroom window from the Midnight Raiders? Or do you want to join our side, join the Midnight Raiders and become a fierce loyal pirate and see our fort across the river?”
“Me? A Midnight Raider?”
“Yes. We want you to join our ranks and become a fierce and loyal pirate like us. But you can never, never tell anyone about our activities or you’ll receive the black mark one night on your bedroom windowpane and you know what that means, don’t you.” I again trailed my index finger across my throat. We’ll have the blood ceremony Saturday and after that you are sworn to total secrecy and can never reveal nothing about the Midnight Raiders to no-one and especially not to Master Whittemore. He is the enemy and the penalty for colloboratin' with the enemy is walking the plank.”
“What plank? What’s a plank?”
“Believe me, you don’t want to know,” I said importantly.
Brooksy looked scared enough so now I popped the question. "Well, what'cha gonna do?"
“I want to be a Midnight Raider more than anything in the world. Count me in with you. I’m with you forever and I’ll never turn you in to master even if he canes me to death. I’ll never reveal the secrets of the Midnight Raiders. But…what do I do about master?”
“You just hold tight and I’ll be right back with more specific orders from the Captain. Welcome to our side!”
I ran across the road and reported to Jack.
“So I was dead right,” he said. “Go back and tell Brooksy to crawl back inside right away and tell master he’s got a bad stomach ache from eating grass that he thinks a dog peed on. Master‘ll have to believe that because he‘ll know that Brooksy's way too dumb to ever have that kind of imagination.”
“I don’t know Jack. Why don’t we just tell him to tell master he saw who knocked on the door and it wasn’t us and it wasn’t anyone he’d ever seen before? He can just say he thought it was two runaway negroes.”
“Nah…too complicated. Master will interrogate him and find out he was a’lyin. Then he’ll be on to us. Besides we want him to think it was us and not someone else. We just don’t want him to know for certain. Believe me son, I know what I’m doin'. So run along sonny boy and give the order just like I said it.”
“Good,” I said, and I scrambled back. “The order has come. You have to follow orders from now on exactly as they’re given from the captain. If he says do somethin' you just do it and ask no questions. If he says don’t do somethin', don’t do it. It’s that simple. Followin' orders is easy. So no more actin' like you’re a damn fool dummie and a nobody. You’re a Midnight Raider, unofficially, and tomorrow it’ll be official, so be sure to act like one. Remember, from now on you’re a Midnight Raider so don’t ever tell anyone that you are one, don’t even talk about the Midnight Raiders to anyone-not even your closest friend. Now go back inside and tell master right away that you just got a bad stomach ache cuz you ate some grass ya think that a dog a peed on. Don’t tell him anything else. Make it quick cuz we are going to attack in five minutes. That way you’ll be inside again when we come a-knockin at master’s schoolhouse door. We’ll meet tonight at Jack‘s barn.”
I watched him climb back into the privy. “Good luck,” said I, “and welcome to our den.”
One, Two, Three, Charge!
We waited and watched like lions about to spring. Jack picked out of a little burlap bag he was carrying a large smooth white stone as round as an apple and twice as a big. The time was getting nearer and Jack pulled out two handkerchiefs and gave one to me. “Tie this one around your head,” he said. His fingers caressed the white stone like it was one of his favorite things in the whole world. Then I remembered it was the same stone that was missing from master’s rock collection he kept in the classroom, the one that Mike got blamed for cuz Jimmy Swanson said Jack told him he saw it in Mike’s tree house.
“Okay, we gotta do this together,” said Jack. “We run to the door and I’ll bang on it three times-three times is the Midnight Raiders’ signal for danger and possible doom but the very first thing we do is you stick the note using the tack on the door. Stick it in real good. Whittemore has to get that note. Look I wrote a new one because our plans changed.”
I looked and it surprisingly was printed real neat and it said:
“Dere Masta Witmor
You betta get on your nees right now before the whol class and say your sory to Mike or youl git the black mark on your windo pane.
The Midnite Raders
“Remember, stick it on real good and I’ll take care of the bangin'. Then we run like the dickens around the corner around the other side and go in different directions home and go right to bed. But crawl under the windows of the school cuz, believe me, when I bang on that door, every kid in that place is goin to have their eyes glued to the windows and doors and we can’t be seen. So crawl and crawl fast like you was in the army and the enemy is at your heels. Got it?”
“Yeh, no sweat,” I said. “Let’s do it.”
“Okay then. On three. One. Two. Three! Charge!” Jack said, and we hightailed it across the road, me with my note and tack and Jack with his big white rock just a’gleaming in the sunlight that was streamin' through the magnolias. We catapulted underneath the first window and crawled fast as black racer snakes to the door and then I pinned the note but it was the wrong side so Jack said pin it the other way around, then the wind blew it away but I grabbed it in the air and turned back and pinned it to the door good and tight. It looked pretty and official sitting there waiting for master to read it.
“Read it and weep!” Jack said, and he went bang, bang, bang so hard with the rock I thought he was gonna break the door in and then we dove under the next window just like soldiers would and even faster for my money and two seconds later we had cleared it and we started to head back to our homes when Jack said, “no, wait! We’ve gotta see the expression on his face. Quick follow me,” and me having no time to consider I just obeyed and we ended up diving over the hedges across the street again hoping no-one saw us.
Master’s Venomous Tirade
We waited. And waited. Nothing happened for a full two minutes. We we’re both breathin' so hard and our hearts were a’poundin'. Then it opened and master stood there in the doorway looking for us. We was peekin' through the bushes. He was mad and he screamed at the top of his voice louder than we ever heard him yell, “You boys are going to pay! You’re going to pay for this you little criminals! You’re going to get it now! You just wait!”
Jack was rolling on the ground behind the hedge laughing so hard and tears comin' out of his eyes just like the time when we watched Mike looking stupidly for his missing tree house. Then master looked at the door which was badly dented, the red paint bein' scraped right off, and he pulled the note off. He read it and then looked across the street right where we was at. “You just wait you damn criminals. You’re going to jail for destroying city property. You here that Stone! You’re going to jail just like your old man did! And you’ll end up a drunken bum just like him! I’m going to get you. You just wait!“
And master slammed the door shut. “Wow was he mad!”
“Let’s get outta here,” said Jack, “He can’t take a joke.“ And we backed out into the woods and went way around and both of us went home and climbed into bed.
Be sure to tune in for the next chapter when master pays a visit to Jeremy's house the same day. Follow by email on the sidebar to get notifications of new posts.