Pieces of eight

It’s a gold coin which sets me imagining; just a plastic one with a skull and cross bones depiction. A piratical kid has dropped a doubloon. Finders keepers.

It’s all it takes to set me to considering that we are pirates, plundering both from seaborne traders and each other. Flush with the success of taking an English sloop from under the noses of the Spanish, we are white-shirted Calico Jack and red-haired Anne Bonny, and our bounty is time, its coinage seconds, minutes, hours. Open our treasure chest, and you will find it filled with gold and silver pieces of eight, each real de a ocho standing for a kiss, a touch, a taste. In lieu of diamonds, capes which cut a dash and silk dresses which fall so easily from a wanton girl’s shoulders; instead of jewel-encrusted goblets and grails, tight-fitting necklaces and the finest examples of the glassblower’s art.

Or perhaps it begins this way, that I am the pirate, and you are my captive, the kidnapped wife whose enigmatic allure would dissuade me from seeking to make good on any ransom. I imagine holding my cutlass to your throat till a jewel of liquid red beads at its tip. But never any more than a bead before I would press the flat of its blade against the part of you which is most tender, and ask you the wickedest questions, such as only a pirate would ask of another – Which would you choose, if you had to give up one; either rum, or fucking? – and I would state the paired options having already divined that you cannot live without either. And though there is no right way to answer, I would tell you – Give me the wrong answer, and you walk the plank. A spurious statement, since you would already be standing upon it, but also because you know that the defiant jut of your chin and your clever tongue have already saved you from the circling sharks, though they may not from the irons of love. As he settles on thirty lashes, to be administered at the Captain’s leisure in the privacy of his cabin, your captor would say – I might just make a pirate of you yet.

I think there would come a time though when we would want to have done with buccaneering and privateering. We would yearn to remove ourselves somewhere far from the shifting, treacherous sands of Tortuga. We would dream of a Cornish cove from where we could indulge ourselves in a spot of harmless smuggling; or of tending olives and grazing goats on a Greek hillside high above the sea; or perhaps of servicing the liquid inspiration required by the inhabitants of an artists’ colony on an oceanic coast. No doubt you would prove to be their muse, breaking hearts and giving an unrequited charge to their portraits or poetry, while others, more level-headed, would listen to the tales of our adventures, labouring  with quill and ink to make a truth stranger than fiction sing.

But the truth is that Calico Jack would not be happier if it were a crow’s nest atop the highest of the moors from which your piratical mind and body sprang. The seven seas aside, a pirate has no home to which to return save for where his lover lies abed; where she would be happiest making the contents of that chest of treasure last a lifetime. That’s where this pirate would like to lay down his cutlass and hang his tricorne hat. It’s what Jack would dream of, if he chanced to find himself standing by the gallows, waiting, not entirely fearless, but content to know that his Anne had evaded the law by pleading her belly. A single tear would fall for the child with whom he would never sail; fall till its salt met the parched, sea-roughened lips of a smile.


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