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Catch of the Day
Lord, here we go.
A tiger striped bottle, a pair of yellow daffodils and a smack of starfruit. All arranged just so on that little granny china plate. Clearly, this is not the day where I wake up from the gray world of sleep and ghosts to find myself free of my kidnapper’s affections. Today is not the day where I can ignore the pressed fruit punch cotton dress with black velvet snaking up the back laid out on the bureau. Nor is it the day where I can neglect tying up my tangle of brunette curls and clicking on my only pair of heels. And most certainly, it is not the day where I have any other choice but to traipse up to the top deck and find myself fixed between the devil and the deep blue sea with nothing for comfort except two dribbles of blackberry chardonnay sorbet on an overturned barrel.
The demon from the pit in question wears the identity of Captain only. Captain Hook? Captain Sparrow? No, God doesn’t like me that much. Just a boulder of a man with a face foreign to the legends and history books; believe me I’ve checked. He’s got these gray tomcat eyes, the craggiest nose and a grizzly complexion. Not to mention the way he smooshes that blonde hair back so it looks like a duck’s ass bobbing out of the water. He wears the same suit everyday too, bit disgusting actually. We’re surrounded by water, the least he could do is pick up a scrub brush and keep the meat juices at bay. Honestly it’s as if he woke up this morning and thought to himself ‘how can I look as unattractive as possible’ and found a pretty damn good answer.
“Camilla Stork, why you get lovelier every day.”
“Well one of us has too.”
“Come here and give your Captain a kiss.”
“I’d rather swap spit with Captain Morgan.”
“Just as well, seeing as you two are practically joined at the mouth as it is.”
“Take a long walk off a short pier.”
“Come now Camilla, you can’t afford to lose another friend.”
“I wouldn’t exactly call us friends.”
“I was talking about originality.”
He beckoned me forward with one talon while the rest fingered the tobacco stains in his five-o-clock shadow. Believe it or not, he is only a pirate by first impression, not by reputation. In fact, as far as I know I’m his first toe out of line. I’ve known him longer than I’d like to acknowledge but well enough that I can brag. I know his habits, his sayings, his meals, his fears, his routine and his desires. But the most important thing I know is that he never docks this termite guesthouse he calls a ship, which means I can’t even remember the last time I stepped on shore. During my time here I’ve been given a bed as downy as swan-feathers, three far from meager meals a day, paint and canvases, books, and clothes I imagine have seen the innermost scandals of a kingdom off somewhere.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the way he’s treated me but the justification behind all the comfort spoils the illusion. Every evening I’m expected to dine with him in the Master’s chambers, and every evening for years on end he has tried to seduce me. It’s not a pretty sight. His eyebrows do the mambo and the stuffy room seems to hang his coat up for him so as to make room for the sweet nothings about to slip past that sneer. I tell him he’s intoxicated and he stares me down and says that’s about the only thing we can agree on. Those anticlimactic evenings always ended with me leaving him in his stupor to seek refuge in my room. He never comes after me; he’s not a dangerous drunk. That’s why up until last night, I held the upper hand. That’s also why the Captain decided to bring a guest to dinner, a drippy fellow by the name of Morgan.
For the first time I was seduced; by one Captain and then the other. So try as I might on the morning after to scowl at the man who took me from my home and imprisoned me for the latter part of my adolescence, I still grinned as I felt last night’s kiss linger on my lips like a bold sangria.
“There’s that smile. After all, I’d hate to see you unhappy on the day you leave my company.”
The barrel I was sitting on almost keeled over as my jaw just about collided with my kneecaps.
“Why, have you grown tired of me at last?”
“I must admit you were a challenge, but after last night, that attraction has no longer become you Camilla. You are now only a treat to look at, but not to taste.”
He dug into the sorbet and lifted a teaspoon to his lips, all the while that ‘ain’t life grand’ grin plastered on his face. But I didn’t care; it wasn’t a face I’d have to look at much longer. I was leaving. He could dust off and dish out all the back-handed compliments he wanted but I was still getting off this godforsaken ship. A ship devoid of a crew or destination, greened and grimed out for a Sunday drive into days of yore. It was something out of a storybook but I’m ready for a change of scene.
“Of course before you leave the nest you will help me find a replacement.”
The happy little bubble in my chest popped. “You’re kidding me right?”
“I can’t possibly sail around the world alone, you know that. Perhaps this time I’ll track down two ingénues to keep in my care.”
“You’re a monster.”
“And you’re overdue.” He leaned around the barrel and squeezed below my dress. “No sorbet for you today dear, it would be a crime to soften these curves.”
“Wow, I could spread that line on cracker and serve it with a glass of wine.”
“Oh excellent idea, would you do the honors and fetch us a few glasses?”
“Aye Captain…” It’s not like I have a choice you old boozehound.
Of course; simply letting me go would be a rather poor sport for the man. Instead he goes ahead and dangles that carrot in front of my face one more time and expects me to jump through hoops in search for another rabbit. Bothersome man. I’m telling ya, it’s as cruel as finding an Indian with a shooting star on your Tootsie Pop wrapper only to find out you’ve got to waste your time mailing in buckets of wrappers for one free gob of stale candy.
He wants wine? Very well, I’ll send him to the moon. I'll give him a grand old farewell the Captain will never forget.
“Damn, where is that girl?” I wondered aloud to no one in particular. Honestly, how hard is it to scurry downstairs, grab a bottle of hooch and head on back up? Boy, Morgan must’ve really put one over on her.
Curse that rum! She was doing so well. I emptied my liquor cabinet on her for years and no sangria, scotch, shots, beer, vodka, whiskey, bourbon, wine, champagne or any other alcohol ever even so much as made her twiddle her thumbs. That Morgan though, he sure did do the trick. Supposedly I knew this all along seeing as it was her father’s pocket drink. I guess that rum was the final test to see if she was ready to go back to the realm of men and not let herself be taken advantage of again.
I’ll never forget the day when I first met those china blue eyes. I thought I was looking at a full-scale porcelain doll with pinkish-white skin the coloring of cherry blossoms, being manhandled down an alleyway by an oaf saturated in schnapps and rum. Nothing on this earth will ever silence her screams as I watched her entered by her old man nor the yowls of sick pleasure the bastard received from it. She couldn’t be more than eleven when he left her sticky, sweaty and panting from his lust in the gutter with the rats. After she blacked out from exhaustion I stole her away like a thief in the night and onto my ship to save the poor child from any more grief. But she was still so beautiful and pure; as right as rain as good as bread and as transparent as seaglass. The brutes aboard my vessel couldn’t help but be drawn to her and mount her one at a time or all at once. On the day I walked in on them ambushing her after I had sworn my protection; blood filled my vision, my knuckles bled and two guns were emptied before I came back to myself and found my ship empty of vermin.
Since then it’s just been the two of us and I’ve posed myself as the only danger aboard. For years I forced liquor down her throat, not only to build up her tolerance levels but to wipe her memory clean of her lost girlhood. It seems like her body and mind developed over night. Willowy, slender, graceful, and perfectly packaged with a velvety voice and waspish nature; ready to drag to the depths anything the world threw at her.
Everything was running smoothly up until last night when Morgan came to dinner. She just lost herself and opened up to the likes of me who was already six or seven sheets to the wind. Her body folded into mine perfectly as my lips trailed across her creamy chest all the way down to those legs that stretched for miles. When she climaxed I had the strangest notion that it wasn’t the alcohol talking and that she, Camilla Stork, was accepting my love and when she cried out I buried myself in her once more. The evening concluded with her fainting and me carrying her bridal style to her bed before retreating back to my own quarters. What sort of savage was I to get carried away like that?
But I looked truth in the eye and the stone cold fact is I did not rape a child. Camilla is a full-fledged adult ready to pick and choose who she loves. In her drunken state she made the terrible mistake of consenting to our union between the sheets. Now I only know one thing for sure; she must get off this ship and re-inhabit the real world. She must get off this ship before I hurt her again.
“Took you long enough babe,” he grumbled when at last I emerged from below the barracks.
“But oh what is this, my sweet? You didn’t have to change for me. You know I like you best wearing what nature intended.”
He flashed a toothy grin like the big cat he was.
For this sure-to-be-special occasion, I had slipped on a butterscotch silk number with rosebuds wreathed around the hips cut with a knee-high slit up one leg. His eyes dilated for a split second as the slit spoke for itself while I laid the tray of confections on the barrel between us.
“Feast your eyes Captain.”
“Oh now you’re just being redundant.”
I ignored him. “Behold, the Smoking Stork. Pure Argentinian plum extract blended with Belgian dark chocolate liquor.”
His lamp-like eyes perused over the two goblets swirling with purple mist, then settled on me at half-mast.
“Darling must you fiddle with your easy bake oven now; I thought we were going to tear a pheasant.”
“Shut up you old seadog, don’t you understand? This may be the single greatest drink you’ve ever tasted.”
“Vanity thy name is Camilla,” he drawled. My eyes flashed dangerously. He snickered. “Why does it look like its bomb about to go off?”
“The smoke,” he said tartly waving to the gas clouds billowing around the cup.
“Interesting observation there Captain. You see I’ve also poisoned one of these goblets.”
“Oh lord, Camilla that is the oldest trick in the book, really for an intelligent girl your age sometimes you can be a real dolt.”
“Really, then which cup has the poison in it?”
“Well obviously the one that’s smoking less. Please dear give me a real challenge.”
“The smoke isn’t the poison. That’s just the chemical reaction you get when you set alcohol afire.”
“Why would you set your precious drink on fire?”
“For flair of course, like baked Alaska.”
“Speaking of which what is this?” He stared down his crooked nose at the slab of coconut cake accompanying the goblets.
“Just some dessert to help wash down the Smoking Stork. For a milky aftertaste it sure does leave your throat dry.”
“I’m not a fool Camilla. Just what was your secret ingredient in this little surprise? Cyanide frosting? Gunpowder flour?”
“Not at all, just rum to give it that extra kick. I think we’ve seen the last of Captain Morgan.” I added.
“I see, and what sort of poison have you chosen to do your dirty work today my love?”
“I’m afraid yesterday was the last of my dirty work Captain. However if you need to make port again I’m sure we can make some sort of arrangement.” I batted my eyes and folded my arms under the low cut dress.
“Really Camilla, promiscuity is not at all becoming on you.”
“Who are you my father?”
The overgrown schoolboy faded for a minute and in his place sat an old man with indigo lines underscoring his cheeks. The eyes sobered over, like shutters had closed behind them. Then he was back, with that funhouse smile intact.
He snatched a cup. “I suppose it was snake venom that you spiked this goblet with,” he mused while sniffing the contents.
“Wrong on both accounts.” He peered at me. “It was arsenic and you might want to be more careful in picking your cup.”
He threw back the drink. “As should you in choosing your lies.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“Did you forget that I worked as a druggist for seven years before your sorry ass came aboard my vessel? Arsenic began as a powder in ancient Egypt. More widely known as rat poison, it can be liquidized if melted at the right degree. However, side effects include headaches, confusion, drowsiness and organ failure. Since I haven’t experienced any of these complications instantaneously I can assume this is a slow acting poison. Also arsenic tastes like bitter almonds and you’ve explicitly expressed that this is laced with plum and chocolate and Miss Stork; you’ve got that face on again.”
“The He’s-Sexy-When-He’s-Clever face.”
“This is my normal face.”
“Yes it is.”
“Captain I’m trying to murder you.”
“Yes dear, that isn’t the sort of thing that would slip my mind.”
“You really think this is the time to pull out your bag of charms?”
“My senses are always sharpened when I’m seducing a woman.” He slicked back his hair and favored me with the look a lion gives a gazelle carcass. “Exactly why are you now just trying to dispose of me my dear? I’ve been wreaking havoc on you for years. Smart girl like you could’ve slipped a sleeping potion in my ear by now.”
“This isn’t Hamlet, Captain. But I will say misery has acquainted me with nasty bedfellows. I can’t bear the thought of you imposing such an evil on another poor, innocent soul.”
“Ahh so this is about your replacement. If you’re jealous love, then simply stay on board.”
“Not a chance.”
“What could the outside world possibly offer you that I can’t?”
“Captain, I don’t want to toss my fortunes into the ocean anymore. I’m tired of feeling like I have no purpose. I want to exchange watercolor skies for water-cooler moments. I want to leave the buttermilk sunshine for buttoned up winters. I want mugs of eggnog and cider wreathed with holly for the holidays instead of a stocked liquor cabinet.”
“Are you quite finished? All these sweet dreams; it’s like listening to an annoyingly long Splenda advertisement.”
“I don’t want to live on a boat anymore, especially with a boar like you.”
“Hostility, much more refreshing thank you.”
“You seem to be forgetting that you have a gobletful of deadly poison acting inside you at this very moment Captain. Are you going to die making asinine jokes or are you prepared to do something about it?”
“Easy sweet cheeks. My, murder does get you going doesn’t it?” he smirked. Then his brow furrowed. “What a minute, so this was the cup that was poisoned? Argh!” He cried out, stabbed the cake and inhaled several bites. “God that stuff is dry.”
“All right enough is enough. As much as I want to see you at the bottom of the ocean, I don’t want your blood on my hands. I’m not a killer. Here drink the other cup, it has the antidote. I kept one goblet clean in case I accidentally drank the poison.”
He lunged for the second glass and downed it in one gulp. “Holy hell,” he gasped and this time used his hand to forklift a massive piece of cake into his mouth. “My throat is burning,” he mumbled through the crumbs.
Then he stumbled around for a few minutes, gagging and rasping away while I sat idly by waiting for the tantrum to pass. A pelican dove into thrashing waters and scooped up a trout, the sky bruised over like a bloody rag had been torn threw it, and the wind started having conversations with the ship’s loose floorboards before the man could compose himself.
He fixed me with a cold eye. “You coward. You let yourself be thwarted by your own heart. I always knew behind that catty tigress was nothing but a cold fish.”
“Oh Captain, haven’t you learned? Behind every man there’s a woman; a loving caring woman. This one just happens to have tricked you into drinking two poisoned goblets,” I said coolly while helping myself to a paper thin slice of cake.
His fists shook like sails in a storm. Silence. Then an almighty roar was cast into the heavens before ricocheting across the open sea. I had swallowed but two mouthfuls when his hands clamped on my shoulders, yanked me to my feet, and held me inches away from his nose.
“After everything I did for you?” he snarled. “I gave you seven course dinners, fruits in and out of season and pressed duck. I gave you gowns that are equal the value of small European countries. I let you read, paint, draw, skip, run, dance and curse at me three dozen times a day; whatever your sacred, queasy heart desired. And this is how you repay me? This is what I get for saving you from nymphomaniac men everywhere including your jackass father!”
He was hollering now, a stark raving lunatic and it was all that I could do to keep up with his madness.
“Liar! The only jackass I needed keeping away from was you, and it’s high time I did something about it!”
The Captain reared his ugly head and exorcised an ugly laugh. “Camilla sweetheart,” he hissed. “Your father was a perverted son of a b**** who rode you five times a day. Before lunch. I had a weak moment of sympathy and stole you out of there before you got impregnated. But then my crew took advantage of a dolled up creature like you and I had to shoot them all and roll their bodies overboard for the hammerheads. It’s because of me that you have any resistance to booze and are able to fight your own battles, as you’ve shown today.”
“I don’t believe you. Sorry, I don’t remember any rapist encounters with my dad or sailor gangbangs. If this is your way of trying to save your life you’ve got to come up with better horseshit than that.”
His boot sent the barrel flying and glued the cake to the floor. “You blocked out those memories because I’ve been pouring shots down your throat since the day you stepped on board.”
“I can’t you’re just going to have to trust me!”
“Is that right? Then explain why if you were supposedly acting as my guardian angel this whole time you screwed me last night?”
“Because I felt sorry for you and you let me.”
I gave him a flat stare.
“Look, I’m a man. You’re the only woman I’ve seen for close to ten years, you’re beautiful; you’ve got a shady untamed passion thing going on and an ass that won’t quit. What do you want from me?”
He released me then and squared his shoulders.
“Captain, take a seat.” I said tonelessly.
He obeyed, cracked his knuckles and sighed.
“I think you’re bluffing. You’re scared of the truth more than I am but here it is anyway out in the open and on the table. You love me.”
His eyes made a long, full rotation. “Don’t flatter yourself sweetheart, how could I love a shrew like you?” he scoffed.
“Because this morning I awoke to two daffodils in a tiger-striped bottle and a piece of starfruit on your mother’s little granny china plate that you laid out the night before as a way of saying sorry about Captain Morgan.”
“Women. Always take the littlest things and interpret some huge mess out of what? Some piss-colored flowers and an oddly shaped bowel-mover? Miss Stork you can’t be serious.”
“You tell me Captain. In the last hour of your life, you tell me if I’m making anything up.”
He smiled wolfishly. Then slowly took a stand, wrapped me in his arms, dipped me and kissed my neck before whispering in my ear those four little words, “Over my dead body,” and dropped me on my ass.
Chuckling like an idiot, he dusted his hands off and placed them on his waist. “Camilla you child, have you so quickly forgot the revulsion that forged the bonds of our relationship?”
“Well Captain, the funny thing is you can’t hate someone without loving them too because you think about them all the time, and I do Captain. Hate you that is.”
The corners of his mouth turned up in a lopsided manner and I matched it.
“How about instead of listening to more of your cryptic messages, I take you to my bedroom and give you better things to do with your mouth, eh honey?”
“Not even on your life. Pig.”
“I thought you might say that,” he said matter-of-factly and cocked a revolver at me.
“Seriously, just when we were getting along? The whole If-I’m-Going-Down-Then-You’re-Going-Down-With-Me crap?”
“In a word yes. And while we’re on the subject of hackneyed clichés my darling, here’s another one just for you.” He dragged me over to the gap between the railings to face a watery grave, and aimed the gun. “Women, can’t live with ‘em; can definitely live without ‘em.”
There was a noise like the punting of a flabby football and I sniggered. The Captain clanged his revolver on the railing and cursed. “Can’t get rid of me that easily babe; you’ve been cleaned out of ammo.”
“Well where the hell is it Stork?”
“Let’s just say I’m not the only thing here that’s giving you a toothache.”
I moved the silky dress aside to extract the pistol strapped onto my slitless leg and pointed it at him. The Captain chucked the revolver over his shoulder and watched it skid across the floor until it wedged into the remaining cake flattened to the ground. He turned back to me sneering.
“The drinks were never poisoned,” he finally said.
“You were right. Gunpowder flour. One shot and we’re blown to smithereens.”
“Your master escape plan was just a rum-soaked dessert?”
“I thought it was the icing on the cake.” We snorted. “And who said anything about escaping?”
His pupils widened to the size of dinner plates. “Camilla, this is not your time. You’ve got so much to offer. What happened to exploring the world, stepping foot on land?”
“This world has nothing to offer without you.”
“Then don’t shoot.”
“If I don’t come through, you’ll just dump me off somewhere, replace my hide and torture another girl for years.” He opened his mouth to argue but I cut him off. “Forget it mister, I know a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, until I blew her brains out that is. Make peace with your gods.”
The sunwhipped sky had finally dilated to an inky black pockmarked with stars.
“Miss Stork, I just want to let you know you were magnificent tonight.”
“I’m always magnificent at night,” I threw back sounding twice my age.
“Camilla, is there any way you can get out of this? This isn’t what I want for you. Is there any way to save yourself?”
“Whine, whine, whine is that all you do? No wonder you’re a staggering drunk.”
“Don’t hold your breath.”
His face was the color of ashes, his suit still unwashed, his complexion still grizzly and his duck’s ass of a hairstyle still bobbing. But in that moment as I gazed into those gray tomcat eyes, I could see the entrance to a million chapels. Oh well. Perhaps in the next life.
“Be ready to make one hell of a ‘last seconds of Pompeii’ pose Captain, because this is volcano day.”
And with that I was tucked away in his embrace, our lips brushed together like the touch of a feather and light surged over a thousand hilltops. Before my finger snagged.