Sunday, December 25, 2011

REPLAY: Pirate's Christmas Carol (PCC): A Visit From Jane Austen

Christmas was tomorrow. That was the first thing to be remembered. Christmas was tomorrow, and all my crew had lost their ever-lovin’ minds.

A chill was in the air—a mere 68 degrees on the Caribbean shore where we were currently docked to spend the holidays. You could tell it was Christmas, could practically smell the evergreen even though we were surrounded by palm trees. If it had started snowing, I was sure it would have the feel of a Dickens novel.

I hated Dickens. Mr. Anti-minimalist; that man must have been paid by the word. Jane Austen, now there was a fine novelist, and she wouldn’t have any sappy Christmas stories like the ones Dickens bandied about, manipulating perfectly rational pirates into decorating for weeks on end and making copious amounts of treats. Ridiculous.

I watched the ship festivities like I watched all the ship’s festivities: with suspicion and crankiness. This was a working ship, not a pleasure cruise. We were pirate writers! And here the crew was completely larking about, putting up tinsel, eating bon-bons, and singing. It was nauseating.

I was going to put a stop to it.

I opened the door to my office—and it was almost as if the theme to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly whistled across the deck, ooolie, ooolie, oooo—and all frivolities stopped. Santa clutched her ceramic bowl a little tighter to her chest, the butter and sugar within only half creamed. Sugar cookies, I suppose. Hal straddled the mizzenmast, a coil of evergreen and tinsel over one shoulder, but she was as still as a statue, as if she thought I wouldn’t notice that the top half of my ship was wrapped in garland and blinking colored lights. Honestly. Mo stood stock still, stirring a bowl of milky substance, though unfortunately for her when I came out of my office, she’d been pouring rum at the time. In her bid to pretend she was frozen in time, the rum bottle continued to pour. Then again, knowing Mo, that was probably the standard dosage of rum needed for an RWR eggnog punch.

I noted Terri and Sin were conspicuously absent. Probably buying nanos for all the orphans in China or something. As if orphans cared for the latest iTune by the Jonas brothers.

“What are you pirates doing?”

Mo put down the rum bottle and held her arms wide. “Does somebody need a hug?”

“I do not. Tell me what is going on.”

“It’s Christmas Eve.”

“I am aware what calendar day it is, Hal, but what are the pirates doing? What type of ship do you think I’m running here? Do you think I pay you to tack up gaudy decorations and eat bon-bons instead of write? Ridiculous!”

The trapdoor opened and Marn popped from its depths like a victorious Jack in the Box, waving a bit of greenery in her hand. “I found it! The mistletoe was where I thought. The Captain keeps it pinned above her bed and considering where above the bed it was pinned, I bet it’s a hint to Jack of where she wants to be kis….” Marn paused. “The Captain is standing right behind me, isn’t she?” She turned. “Good morrow, Hellie, how are you today?”


My gunner visibly swallowed. “I’m sorry to hear that, Hellie.”

“Do you know why I’m vexed? Because I have a shipful of crew who’d rather make cookies and sing God Rest Ye Merry Pirates than write on their manuscripts! How is the publishing world going to take us seriously when we lollygag all the livelong day?”

An odd cat-screeching sound vibrated up from beneath the floorboards. What the hell…were there ghosts on the ship? “What is that?”

Marn gave a wicked grin. “It’s more who is that. It’s Terri. She’s auditioning the Christmas Orgasm Elves to make sure none of them are duds.” The other pirates smirked. “So far, none of them have been.” Worse, they then started giggling. “The Bo’sun takes her job very seriously.”

They burst into raucous laughter as I narrowed a gimlet stare and said nothing. One by one, they hiccupped into silence, trying to look contrite. “Good. Now I trust you will remember yourselves for the rest of the day?”

“It’s just Christmas Eve,” Mo reminded me.

“Yes, and tomorrow’s Christmas. Tomorrow is the day you have off. Today you need to be writing.” I gestured to all the garland and cookies and eggnog. “Now put that away and get back to work—or I’ll have you fired! Ridiculous,” I muttered under my breath.

I stomped back to my cabin, slamming my door behind me. Sin bounced up and down in the chair before my desk. She was holding a brightly colored package in her hands. She looked…happy. Gah. I did not have the patience for this today.

“That package better contain the manuscript of your newly completed novel, my little spider monkey.”

Sin grinned, clearly not listening to the threat in my voice. Of course, she never had. Why would she start now?

“It’s even better! It’s your Christmas present!” She put the present in front of me.

I stared at the vivid paper and curling ribbons, then folded my hands on my desk. “What day is today?”

“Christmas Eve! Go ahead, open it!”

“That’s right, so tomorrow is Christmas.” I pushed the present back toward her. “Today is not a holiday, and you need to go back to your room and continue writing. Do you think your Nika Riley books are just going to manifest themselves? What is it you pirates have against working anyway?”

I opened my laptop to demonstrate what a hardworking pirate was supposed to be doing and stared at the cursor on the page. I had no idea what Adam should be doing next. Apparently he was taking the day off too. Was nobody working today?

“It’s Christmas!” Sin said, shutting my laptop. “It’s time for bon-bons and noodles and mashed potatoes and New Moon.”

“It’s time to finish our novels.”

“All work and no play makes the Captain a cranky ass.” She pushed the present back toward me. We began a small shoving war, which ended when the door opened again and in came two visitors. Landlubbers by the look of them, and jolly to boot. Was there no end to this hellish day?

“’ello, Captain Hellion, we are so pleased to meet you. Second Chance has told us so much about your ship. We know someone as successful as you are, running a blog about writing and managing a crew of novelists, you would be just as generous in your donations to those not as well off as you are.”

Just what I needed. Door-to-door telemarketers. This is what comes in asking rhetorical questions in which you know the situation is bound to get worse.

“People like who?” I asked, though I knew I would regret the answer. Still running them through would be frowned upon, even with my cantankerous reputation.

“You know. Fledging writers, those who don’t even consider themselves real writers. I know you’re more than willing to lead a seminar or donate money to send well-deserving….”

I better cut this off while I still had a chance. “Are there no more suicide hotlines? A dearth of chocolate? Are you suggesting these well-deserving wannabes are unable to avail themselves to bottles of rum?”

The two men exchanged frowns. I could only surmise this meeting was not going as they had planned. The bald one cleared his throat. “Well, yes, of course, there are hotlines….”

“Good. You had me worried. Have those doubting writers call the hotline then. I’m sure they’ll fare better than Virginia Woolf did. Best of all, it keeps those positive Pollyanna counselors working and off the streets, and in this economy every job counts, right?”


“Ernest Hemingway wrote several books with rum as his major character development and if that misogynist could get published, anyone can. Drink more rum. That’s what I always say. Now if you’re through trying to bilk me out of my hard-earned money, please find the plank and never return. Thank you.”

The skinny earnest one stared at me like I was the devil, only meaner. “But the writers….”

“If they want to write, they will write. They don’t need my coin to do it. Good day.”

The men left reluctantly with Sin showing them out. It was about time the wench remembered her place. I opened my laptop again and tapped out another four pages before I decided I was done fighting with Adam. Perhaps it was just as well that I had some supper and went to bed. It was too late to get any work out of my crew, and tomorrow was Christmas. I better rest up for it.

The ramen noodles I fixed were overcooked. I squirted in a bit more of the cock sauce to drown out the mushy flavor and settled down in my bed to read a little Sense & Sensibility. Colonel Brandon was always good for a nightcap. A lovely book—such a shame that ridiculous sea monsters version had come out. The Bo’sun had gotten me the Zombie Pride & Prejudice as a joke, but I found nothing funny about it. Jane Austen must be spinning in her grave.

The room felt drafty, a frosty chill in the air, and I pulled my comforter tighter around me. It was good to read Austen as she was meant to be enjoyed. Ah, to be as successful as she was. That is the most a pirate could ever hope for. Even she knew you had to choose one over the other. Love and family was better experienced in fiction, where everything turned out right in the end.

Not like real life.

A pirate couldn’t count on love, but writing, writing was always there. Tomorrow would be a good writing day, I knew. Oh, wait, it was Christmas. The crew would undoubtedly have a fit if I tried to write on Christmas. Ridiculous. I would write any day I wanted to. Christmas was just another day of the year. I sniffled and turned my face in the pillow a moment. Not that I was crying or anything, because I was not a weeper. The cold was just getting to my eyes, that’s all. And Christmas was a stupid, ridiculous holiday and I hated it. I opened my book back up and began reading the organized lives of Austen’s characters.

I must have dozed a little because I woke and realized I was not alone in my room.

Jane Austen frowned at me from my Captain’s chair. “I hope you’re happy.”

I screeched, clutching at my blankets and flipping out of my bed. I bounded up, barely noticing the pain. “You’re…you’re…you’re dead. You’re Jane Austen…and you’re dead.”

“It’s sad really. You seem intelligent—what with knowing who I am and my living circumstances, and yet like the others, you live in such a way that I have to visit you instead of having a nice and normal Christmas like other ghosts.”

I pointed at her and then around the room. “But…I…what….”

“Calm yourself, Captain. I am merely here to tell you two things. One, if you do not mend your ways, you will die like me: successful perhaps, in the narrow scope you view the world, but miserable, chained to the deck of this ship, bound to sail the perilous waters in search of treasure that can never be found. There is a chance that you can mend your future, but only if you listen….”

I was really going to have to stop eating ramen noodles so late at night. And definitely a no to the cock sauce.

“And two, you will be visited by three spirits this night.”

“Three more spirits? Are they, are they how I mend my future?”

“Yes. The first will visit you at the stroke of one of the clock. The second will visit you at the stroke of two; and the third…”

“The stroke of three?”

“No, actually he’ll be here at four. He’s always a little late but considering who he is, no one argues.”

“Who is he exactly?”

“You will see. My time grows short, and I must return to the Afterlife I have created for myself. One without any Mr. Darcy of my own, and one in which I live in infamy in having a book that was turned into a zombie satire. Ms. Hellion, do not make the same mistakes I have made.” Jane Austen went to the window, rest a hand against the sash. “Do not waste your second chance at true happiness.” And she disappeared as if she were never there.

I ran to the window and checked every edge, but the window was closed. Locked. There was no evidence at all that anyone had been in my room, although I thought I could smell the faint whisper of lavender.

It was the ramen. Sleep. That’s what I needed. I crawled back up into my bed and dismissed all absurdity from my mind. Three ghosts…ridiculous.

Stay tuned on Tuesday as Captain Hellion is visited by the first of the three spirits: the ghost of Christmas past. In the meantime, who is your favorite Scrooge and/or A Christmas Carol?


Bosun said...

Wow. Not one comment? LOL! Well, I think it still holds up. Well done!

*Bo'sun wonders off to pass out*

Demi Spawn said...

Not one comment? That's because I'm speechless. What can I say? its a brilliant piece of writing. And yes it still holds up.

Sin said...

I can't remember the order everyone wrote in. I just know I wrote the second piece. Bo'sun, did you write this one?

2nd Chance said...

I think Terri wrote the first, you the second...geez! I can't remember for the most part!

Of course, I'm in a chocolate coma...

Bosun said...

Hellie wrote this one. I thought Sin wrote the third and I know I wrote the last one. Because Hellie bitched and wasn't happy about how I ended it. The witch is so hard to please!