Monday, February 4, 2013

"Blood Brothers and Pirates": The Continuing Serialization of the Novel, "Jack"

                                                    Chapter 21
                   The Midnight Raiders

Charleston, S.C., with Charleston Harbor in the Background.
Civil War Era Lithograph
    “Hey! Where did you get this thing?” I asked Jack, staring wide-eyed at the wooden canoe that was covered by thick bushes just a’settin' there in the little backwater that was an offshoot of the river. It was covered with vines and reeds and you really had to be looking right at it to see it if you happened to be goin' by that way. But nobody except for some fishermen now and then would have much reason to drift off the river into that swamp. So Jack knew what he was doing when he hid the boat in that particular place.        
      “Is this that ole Indian’s canoe you said you took one day ‘cross the river and then lost again Jack?” I said.
      “No, no! This here is my daddy’s canoe,” said Brooksy, “the same one that Master Whittemore tole the class yesterday that Jack done stole it from my daddy for a handful of cheap marbles.”
      “Well that darn fool’s goin' ahead and blabbin' off his mouth again. We traded fair and square, didn’t we?” Jack asked Brooksy. “And beside that was supposed to be a secret bargain that no-one was supposed to know so how did master learn it?”

      “He made me tell him or else I’d fail the fifth grade again,” Brooksy said. “He asked me in front of the whole class how I knew about fractions and I said Jimmy bought my marbles for a half-dollar so then he made me tell ‘em where I done got them marbles so I refused but he said I better do it so I had to tell him so I tole ‘em. That’s when he tole the class you showed yo true colors and did a slippery deal and stole my daddy’s canoe for a handful of cheap marbles.”
      “Well he’s a blubberin’ idiot who don’t know the value of true friendship just cuz he’s never had a friend in his life he thinks no-one else should neither!” said Jack. 
      “So are we really friends?” Brooksy said.
      “Course we is,” Jack said. “You don’t think I’d be dumb enough to ask some nobody to join the Midnight Raiders who wasn't a friend, do you? Com’on Brooksy, where’s your sense anyway?”
      “Masta tole me I ain’t got no sense so I donno. Maybe I’ll get some now,” said Brooksy.
      “Course you got sense!” Jack said. “You don’t think we’d be stupid enough to allow some dimwit to join our ranks and become a pirate do you if he ain’t had no sense?” asked Jack.
      “No. Guess not. But everyone thinks I’m stupid, even masta, though yesterday he was actin' like I was the smartest kid in the class.”
      “You’re not goin' to fall for Whittemore’s tricks are you? He’s just playin’ ya, don’t ya see it?” Jack asked. “We’re not playin' ya, we know you is smart or we’d never ask you in,” Jack said. “Don’t listen to that poor excuse for a teacher. He ain’t no teacher. He’s a goat’s ass as sure as I’m a’standin’ here. Brooksy, your problem isn’t that you is dumb-you isn’t. Your problem is that you want everyone to like you too much so people take advantage of you. But now, things have changed and you is under the protection of the Midnight Raiders. If you have a problem with somebody, you report it at our official meetings here in the tree-house and then we make a plan right here. We stick together and we attack if we have to when the enemy least expects it - at midnight. So Brooksy, you just remember when we all three go to school next, you just remember to say nothing to Whittemore but what you already told him. He’s the enemy now and now we are pirates in blood forever and we always come to each other’s assistance and never give one of us up to the enemy, never.” 

Chapter 22
                A Tree House “Just Like Mike’s”

       It was not hard to see that Jack took advantage of poor, dumb Brooksy but then the whole world took advantage of him and so, the way I saw it, it might as well be a friend a’takin’ advantage of him before some stranger did who knew nothing nor cared nothing for Brooksy. And now Brooksy was getting the benefit of using the canoe almost like it was his own property again, although it was of course Brooksy’s father’s. But he probably never knowed the difference anyhow as he had his boat launch on the river and had lots of canoes so one less probably made no difference to him. And the midnight raiders needed that canoe to launch attacks and make plans against the enemy, Whittemore. At least that’s what Jack said. Besides, Jack said he always intended to give it back one day and that he wasn’t even goin’ to ask for the marbles back. Jack did have a generous side.
      So we got in the boat and began a’paddlin’ ‘cross that river to the other bank Saturday morning. The river was tricky in parts. Jack steered in the back and I was in the front-Jack called the positions the stern for the back and the bow for the front. He knew how to negotiate the swirling water that all of a sudden would start to push the canoe in a circle if we didn’t watch out. But Jack always mastered it. “Go with the current,” he said. And he taught us how to read the water. “Look at how the current is moving and then follow it to where you want to go. When you want to go backwards look for current that reverses itself and try to catch it and turn the boat around.”
      We jumped out knee deep in mud on the other side. Brooksy said it was the most fun he’d ever had except for last night at Whittemore’s which he said nothing could ever beat for sheer excitement and pleasure. But Brooksy didn’t know Jack and had no idea of just how much excitement Jack could find. But he was a’goin’ to find out, that’s for sure, bein' a Midnight Raider and all.
     After climbin' up the muddy bank with vines and bushes and tree roots cutting through the mud walls we located the tree house. Brooksy was astonished. “Looks just like Mike’s,” he said, as Jack and me exchanged knowing looks.
      “It is just like Mike’s you idiot. And that’s cuz it is Mike’s. But you better never reveal it to no-one, got it?”
     “Yeah. I won’t. I keep my secrets,” said Brooksy.

  Chapter 23
                     Blood Brothers and Pirates

      “Yeah, well, don’t tell anyone about it sonny boy,” said Jack, “While that was Mike’s tree house, it’s ours now. We found it, and took it fair and square just like any self-respectin’ pirate would and we made it the legal property of the Midnight Raiders so now it would have to be some other genuine pirate who could take it away from us if he had a mind to. Nobody else - not even Mike - could take it legally. And you’ve got to swear at the blood ceremony that you’ll never reveal it’s location even under pain of death.”
      “No I won’t.”
     “That’s not good enough. You have to swear it while we are performin’ the blood ceremony.” Jack said, pulling out his buck knife from his burlap bag, the same one that he borrowed from his uncle’s store late one night.
      “See this knife. It’s for cutting other pirates' heads off and hangin’ ‘em from the trees as a lesson to all other pirates that they can’t mess with the Midnight Raiders without bad consequences. Give me your arm.”
      “We’re doin’ the sacrifice now.”
      “Is it goin’ to hurt?”
      “Naw,” it’s just a little teeny slice out of your arm, you’ll never know it’s even gone,” Jack said.
      “Look Brooksy I did it too, we both did,” I said and showed him the tiny cut on the inside of my wrist. 
      “Don’t hurt a bit except unless you is a sissy,” said Jack, and then we would not want any sissy to join us anyway.”
      “Okay, well cut away,” said Brooksy. “I don’t mind a little cut.”
      So Jack performed the operation but first made sure the knife was perfectly clean and washed it in the nearby brook. He squeezed Brooksy’s skin on his wrist between his thumb and index finger and then made a neat half-inch slit and blood came to the surface. Then we each did it to our own wrists and we joined our blood by crossing our wrists, first Jack and Brooksy, then me and Brooksy, then me and Jack even though we had already crossed wrists with our blood on them months ago. Jack said it had to be done again so that we would officially be one pirate gang. So that’s what we did.
      “The one last thing you gotta do Brooksy,” said Jack, “is to steal something of Mike’s and bring it to this here tree house.”
      “Why?” said Brooksy.
      “Sonny, if you is gonna be a Midnight Raider you don’t question an order by your captain,” said Jack. “You just do it no matter what.”
      “Okay,” said Brooksy. “I won’t question any orders.”
      “We stole the tree house, and moved it piece by piece with the boat over here. Now you’ve gotta do something to show your own worth and to build up our tree house which is our secret fort at Mike’s expense. So Mike has a boat and some fishing stuff. Ya know where he keeps it?”
       “No,” said Brooksie.”
       “Well the fool keeps it right behind his house and fishing tackle is right in the boat. He doesn’t even have the smarts to even hide it even after somebody stole his tree house.What a moron!” said Jack. “Anyway Brooksy, “take his boat tonight and paddle it across and leave it tied right here. That way, we’ll know for certain you’re one our side and that you are a real honest-to-goodness Midnight Raider and not just some fake who’ll turn us in and reveal our secrets at the drop of a hat or when Whittemore or even Mike threatens you. Cuz once you steal Mike’s canoe, you’ll get in big trouble if anyone else finds out, not only with the Midnight Raiders but you’ll go to jail for life.”
      On Monday when we all three went to school - Jack said he wanted to see master’s defeat close up and sit there a-smiling all day - there was a big surprise a’waitin’ for us.

Be sure to check back this week for the next set of chapters beginning with, "The Indictment," and then, "The Trial" as master puts Jack, Jeremy and others on trial in class for playing "tag" and "acting like the priest" at a nearby church the previous weekend.


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