Friday 24 September 2010

Friday Flash - The Dead Calm

Today's Fiction Friday prompt from the Write Anything website was;

Use this lyric from Shore Leave  to flavour your story: “Hong Kong drizzle on Cuban heels”

I decided to use it to tell the story of how Captain Scarlight got his ship. For more stories about Captain Scarlight, click here.

* * *

The rain pattered on the roof of the makeshift bar. Four men sat around a table. They clutched cards, and glared at each other. Nobody in the bar dared speak; all eyes were fixed on the card game in the corner.

“Whaddya got?” asked one man. Captain Jacob Gnarley. Thick blond hair curled down his back. Scars criss-crossed his face and arms. He kept stroking his goatee beard, and tapping the table. Sam Scarlight suspected it was his ‘lucky’ nervous tic.

“Two pair,” replied another man. Barnabas Welmsley. A bald man who hadn’t so much fallen out of the ugly tree, as chosen to live in an orchard of them.

“You, whaddya got?” asked Captain Gnarley.

He stared at Scarlight. The other man refused to look at him, his sullen face expressing his annoyance at losing so much. Scarlight recognised Sullen-Face as Swein, Captain Gnarley’s First Mate.

“Um…er…um…it looks like I have a Royal Flush. That’s good, isn’t it?” asked Scarlight.

He laid the cards out on the pitted wooden table. Welmsley inspected them, and nodded his agreement. Scarlight did indeed have a Royal Flush. Captain Gnarley roared, and slammed his fist on the table.

“How can ye, a young pup, keep beating me so, eh?”

“Um…er…I suppose you might call it beginner’s luck?”

“Another game!”

Captain Gnarley pounded the table again to emphasise his point. Scarlight hesitated before gathering the money from the centre. Even after 'losing' every third hand, he’d more than tripled the amount he brought with him. It didn’t surprise him. Being the best poker player in London grew boring after a while, and now he hussled card games in Hong Kong. His tender age sucked in the old, grizzly players.

“Captain, you haven’t got much left,” said Swein.

“Nonsense! I am winning! Aren’t I winning?”

The mugs of beer jumped on the table when he slammed his fist down again. Scarlight affected an expression of fear at the captain’s temper, but also respect for his reputation.

It’s just a pity his poker isn’t as good as his sailing, he thought.

Swein dealt the cards. Scarlight paid no attention to his. He chose to watch the reaction of the others to their own cards. None of them understood the concept of bluffing. Swein grimaced at his cards, and Welmsley looked hopeful. The Captain looked confused.

The players swapped cards with those in the central pile. Swein almost twisted his face inside out in an effort to gain extra mileage from his grimace. Scarlight guessed his hands was worse. Welmsley’s hope turned to annoyance, while the Captain remained baffled. Scarlight looked down at his cards. His face fell.

“Are ye all in?” asked the Captain.

“No. I fold,” said Swein.

“Oh what’s the point? I fold as well,” said Welmsley.

He threw his cards across the table. Before they landed face down, Scarlight saw a three of clubs, a nine of diamonds and a six of hearts.

“Looks like it’s just you and me, sonny,” said the Captain. ”What do ye put in?”

“Another forty, I think,” said Scarlight. “Gosh, I hope I’m doing the right thing.”

He glanced from his cards to the Captain, and back to his cards. He pushed his money into the centre of the table.

“I see yer forty, and raise ye sixty,” said the Captain.

“Captain, that’s all you have!” said Swein.

“Argh, quiet, Swein. Look at his face, his hand must be terrible,” said the Captain.

“I don’t know if it’s bad or not...tell you what, I need to go soon so I’ll see your sixty, and raise you the rest of my money,” said Scarlight.

“Fine. My ship is more than equal to yer winnin’s, boy.”

“You can’t bet the Dead Calm!” exclaimed Swein.

“I can, and I am. Do ye doubt me?”

“No, Captain.”

“Show my yer hand, boy,” said the Captain. “I’ll wager ye can’t beat my Three of a Kind!”

He laid out his hand. A two of clubs, a three of hearts and three Knaves fanned out on the table.

“Looks like I’ll be going home in the Dead Calm after all!”

“Um…er….no you won’t,” said Scarlight.

He laid out his Full House. The Captain’s face fell. Swein fought a smirk, and Welmsley spluttered in amazement.

“My Full House beats your Three of a Kind, so I’ll be taking the Dead Calm, thank you very much.”

Scarlight stood up. Swein stood up with him.

“Swein! Ye would leave me here, and go with this young pup?”

“Aye, Jacob, I will. I am the First Mate, I go where the ship goes,” replied Swein. A smile hovered around his thin lips.

“So sorry about this, Gnarley, but all’s fair in love and gambling,” said Scarlight.

He headed towards the door, ignoring Gnarley’s pleas for another hand. Swein held open the door for him.

“Where are we going, Captain Scarlight?”

“The Caribbean!”


Sam said...

...and that's why I never play cards for money, or ships, come to think of it. Anyway, where would I park a galleon if I won one?

Great story, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Just goes to prove it's the young, quiet ones you have to watch. ;)

Gorilla Bananas said...

Great writing, but poker stories where great winning hands occur one-after-the-other are highly implausible.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Sam - Thanks!

Gorilla - It's a story about a guy who goes on to become a pirate, and ends up with a telepathic parrot. I wasn't exactly going for realism.

A Writer's Vein said...

I could smell the salt and barnacles and hear the flintlock being cocked under the table. Even if the pirate captain was a little too 'thick' I laughed satisfyingly at the end! Nice story Icy.

Anonymous said...

I got totally sucked into this and really enjoyed it. I'm going to have to go and read more about Captain Scarlight.

Jim Bronyaur said...

What a great story! Playin' cards, bettin' ships... I love pirates.

Keep it up!


The Four Part Land said...

Loved it. Especially "A bald man who hadn’t so much fallen out of the ugly tree, as chosen to live in an orchard of them." That had me laughing.

Chloé P. Kovac said...

"A bald man who hadn’t so much fallen out of the ugly tree, as chosen to live in an orchard of them."
"Swein almost twisted his face inside out in an effort to gain extra mileage from his grimace."
Two best lines I've read all week.

I'm enjoying seeing this... shall we say "more sober side" of Scarlight too.

Icy Sedgwick said...

I'm glad people are enjoying this! My other favourite 'ugliness' phrase is "He had a face like a bag of spanners" but it didn't really fit in this context!

John Pender said...

Sam totally stole my comment.
Dead Calm ... named after the movie? Every time I saw that name, I thought of the movie.

Anonymous said...

Love it Icy, especially the name "Scarlight". Anyone who can right in dialogue so skillfully has my full admiration. Well done!

Anonymous said...

I meant "dialect", not "dialogue" - sheesh! Do I need a break or what? Please excuse me. :)

Eric J. Krause said...

Excellent story! Loved how he totally sucked the captain in by pretending he didn't know anything about cards. Lots of great lines in there.

Pamila Payne said...

Funny and very enjoyable, as all your pirate stories have been.

Unknown said...

Who knew Scarlight could ever pass for sweet and innocent? And of course he won his ship in a poker game. Perfectly fitting.

Love this look into his past. Well done, me lass. :)

Genevieve Jack said...

I love the "ugly tree" line also. The quirky characters bring life to the game, You have a knack for picking the perfect names too . Fun story.

Laura Rachel Fox said...

The orchard of ugly trees had me laughing. Fun story. I love all the great names.

Laura Eno said...

Another vote for the 'ugly tree' line! Scarlight is so much fun!

Mari said...

Ohhh, what a trickster this Scarlight is! Now I want to know how he ended up with Methuselah. Did he win the parrot on another poker game? I tend to think they got sort of stuck with each other, heh.

Shelli said...

Well-played! You could see Scarlight stringing him along. Too bad the old guy never caught on. That's ego for you. I enjoyed your story.

Anonymous said...

Hey ya, Icy.
Loving more stories about the Captain. Can't remember now if you've told the story of how Scarlight came to be in possession of Methuselah.
Loved the ugly line. There are a few more in Australia (that are probably universal): face like a dropped pie. Face like a kicked in biscuit tin.
So much fun.
Adam B @revhappiness

~Tim said...

Another fun look into Scarlight's life. I liked the ugly line too.

Alan W. Davidson said...

I loved the card game, Icy. It's a fine addition to your other Scarlight stories. I half expected the parrot to be about, reading his mind and blurting out his cards...

Icy Sedgwick said...

Aw, thank you to everyone for your lovely comments. You're all brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Old fool! That's what happens when pride takes over. Great story, Icy.

Stacey said...

Another one who loved the ugly orchard line!

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