Down by the docks

This afternoon, I went down to the marina, and stood on one of the docks. Plodding along the dock came a tall, strong, heavy man with a tarry pigtail falling over the shoulder of his soiled blue coat, muttering under his breath and occasionally breaking out into song:

  Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest,
      Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum…

He sang in a high, old tottering voice that sounded like it had been tuned and broken at the capstan bars. As he came closer, I could see a scar across one cheek, an old sabre cut that now showed a dirty, livid white on his nut-brown face.

And then from the other direction came a man with a wooden leg. At first the tall man with the scarred face made as if to walk past without speaking. But the one-legged man spoke to him: “Come now, you know me; you know an old shipmate, surely,” he said in a wheedling voice.

“Black Dog, is it?” said the tall man with the scarred face, looking none too pleased. “Well, then, you’ve run me down; here I am, speak up; what is it?”

“You won’t forget?” said the one-legged man. “You won’t forget what tomorrow is?”

“Course I won’t forget,” said the other. “No more’n I’d forget to bring down the topsails in the face of a quickening north wind. No more’n I’d forget to order grog for all hands at six bells!” He finished scornfully, “Thunder, as if I don’t know they’d tip the Black Spot on me, if I forgot.”

They paused for a moment, and stared out at sea in silence.

“And what about you?” said the tall man. “What about you? If you have a drain o’ rum, you’ll be like an old hulk on a lee shore, you will. An’ more like you to have three goes o’ rum, or more. You — you’re sure to forget!”

“I’m no precious old sea-calf,” said the one-legged man sullenly. “I won’t forget. I’ll put on my old cockerel hat, put the parrot on my shoulder, and — why, I’ll talk like a pirate. Shiver my timbers, I’ll talk like a pirate! Nor you won’t stop me, neither, for — dash my buttons! — I am a pirate!”

“Shake up your timbers, then, and be off with you,” said the tall one. “One more word of your sauce, and I’ll call you down and fight you!”

When the one-legged man had stumped off, the tall man spoke again. “Here, you, matey,” he said, turning and looking at me with his red-rimmed eyes. “Don’t you forget, neither — tomorrow’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

How could I possibly forget after a reminder like that?

[Much of this dialogue and description stolen from that paradigmatic pirate book, Treasure Island.]

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