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Joseph Ferguson

Th' Thortee Cook

Ere's a story about pirats an ow dangerus crulty and vilence can be when ther shifted from yer suffrin brother back t'yer self. It's got real wisdom, but ain't fer lilly livered panzies az can't stand th' sight an' smell of blood.

Arter buryn th'treasure th'crew rowed back to the "Jolly Roger" an batened down th'atches real quick so's they could practice bein shiftless an sneaky one t'other an'look fierce like pirats do. But what they wanted most was ta get drunk. They did that with no effort, since they'ad lot'sa practice. They sloshed rum down till it nigh cum runnin out'a their ear'oles, an soon they wuz drunk az lords.

Th'Mate, a great sea chest of a man, name of Rambona, bragged about how much pain an misery he could stand. E'ad a voice like a foghorn, an'e says ta'seaman Bimbo, "Avast thar Bimbo, ya'lubber, tie me t'th mast an lay on fifty lashes o'thseaman's comfort, as we calls it." Eager t'please em, Bimbo set to layin on somthin like fifty strokes wiv energy, an a sly one for hisself. Not ta look like a bleedin coward, he arsts th'same pleasure of th'Mate an upps im twenty lashes. That'd make eighty good'uns ta his recknin mind, fer he'cud'na add ner count. This was ta show he were a better man. Th'Mate obliged'im wiv a crooked smile, an gave Bimbo one hundred twenty caresses. E cud'na add but 'e wuz proud 'e could count that far. Th'admirin crew set t'enjoy similar enertanment but after lashin th'selvs a good bit they got thirsty, an set t'drinkin again.

Th'Cook 'id come topside an'ad been watchin'm all curious like, an not scrutable (him bein a'Oriental). Then he begin ta laugh at'em all in'iz high-pitched laugh. They were surprised ta be laughed at, seein they'd been doin th'best they could, and they surrounded him like a brick wall. He knew they wuz bout ta slit hiz gizzrul, but he stared through them scornful like. Then they axed him why he wuz laughin at'm. "You lookie here, you think you brave man, lookie!" He held both hands high so they all could see that the last joint of both his little fingers were missin. They stared dumblike, jaws slobberin disappointment as th'idea of slittin his guzzrel faded fer a moment. His singsong voice scorned'm all. "You see how brave Oriental man likes pain, he chopee off fingers to show he no care. Spend many happy time in honorable practice of self-mutulation." The crew was abashed an hung their heads in shame an envy. They tried to repeat Cook's big word, "moo, tu, lashun, moch-u-las, moo-tu," some only said, "moo, moo, moo," an couldn't go no further. But even tho' he'd giv'em this good idea the crew remembered they was fixin ta kill'm. They didn't like bein laughed at ner'outdid by forign varments. They drew their knives an cutlasses like when they wus fixin t'eat, an Cook, he just stared'm all in th'eyes like they wuz dirt.

Th'Cap'n id'bin watchin from the poop deck, tryin ta remaine aloof. That's what Cap'ns do. He'd a keen head fer logic an knowed the cook wus'nt lyin about that'er self-muchulation. He puzzled why he'd never thot on it hisself. He cursed the crew t'let t'cook go. Then he fixes hiz remanin eye on Cook with a gleam of challenge an sayz, "Avast'er Cookie, I'm doin'yer one better." An slick's silk, 'e lops of 'iz and tossin iz cutlass ta th'Mate, picks it up an'ands it to th'shamefaced Oriental. A gleam of challenge lit on th'faces of all th'crew. Th'Mate, thinkin t'outdoo th'Capn an umiliate th'Cook even more, cuts of'is fingers one by one an plugs'm upright in t'belay pin'oles fer all ta'admire. Th'crew fingered their cutlery, envious like dyin't get inta' action.

Kjorn Svensen th'karpenter begin ta'saw'is'leg'orf, but 'e took so long about doin it an showed paine on 's face, so it didn't count. Jim th'cabin boy, allus' tryin ta'prove hisself a man, struggled t'lopp'iz'hed'off wiv'is jackknife, but he bein a mere boy, made a mess ofit. An 'e couldn't take th'pain and writhed on th'deck like a lilly livered panzy. Mate 'ad ta kick'm ta keep'm from embarrisin th'crew. Cook said 'e wuz too yong ta be nombered as a man. 'E laughed them scornful fer bein afraid of real fiendish agony an' says real proud like, "Oriental man more brave, catchee big onor from tortur isself t'death."

No pirat likes bein out-did in torcher, so th'Capn, t'Mate an th'croo whupped th'selves inta a frenzee an lay't severin an'hackin an'slicin t' accomidate their mates. An they dint groane ner moan ner cry, as sissies woulduv, and as you might expect. Th'only sound wuz swishin an' muffled steel nickin' bone. An they kept at it till there were nothin left ta do th'mutulatin wiv, ner on. Th'deck wus awash wiv gore.

Cook laffed 'is high pitch laff an danced around on the slippery deck like 'e wuz about ta split. When 'e 'ad a mind, 'e kicked th'whole pile of severed assortment over th side, where 'is pet vorashus sharks were waitin t' be fed leftovers from th' mess, an they had a grateful frenzy like it wus all their birthdays tagether. Cook mop't th' deck good an ship-shape. 'E wus a Ornienal but 'e wus a good seeman. Over th' side 'e goes in th' long-boat an, after pattin th' sharks on th' head, 'e rows t' th' island an' fetchez back th' tresher.

A clever feller, 'e sets sail all by hiz self, back ta Japan. Bein a fanatical loyal subjeck of th' Empror of Japan, he gives th' tresher ta' him. Th'Empror wuz real pleased an' made im like one of 'is own kin. Gave 'im a fine silk bathrobe so 'ed look real nice when they rewarded 'im for 'is loyalty. Empror offered ta have Cook torcherd t'death sos 'is ansestors 'id be proud of 'ow brave he wuz. Cook bowed proper like an' sed that was real 'onored of th'Empror, coz 'ed left 'iz native land ta scape th' worst torcher a family cud do to alovin son. When th' Empror herd of a wurs torcher 'e got real curios an commanded th'cook t' tell what it be. Cook's voice trembled wiv reluctance an fear, but 'e knew 'ed better tell. Common folk don't mess wiv Emprors. 'Ee told th' Empror what skert him most dreadful wuz'ta be married to a wooman. Thats what made 'im stowaway aboard th' Roger an live wiv th' big nose forin devils.

Th' Empror got a sly plesured look in is eyes, 'e liked torcherin fokes, liked t' find out what gave'em pain an misery, an giv'em lots of it. 'Ee wuzn't bad, it were just 'is nacher. 'Ee commanded layabout servants ta' bring in some marryin age of women an' Cook 'ad ta chuze one fer 'iz wife. Thats what th'Empror commanded. Cook made out like 'e wuz goin ta die from mizry an 'e crawled on th'floor like a dog beggin th' Empror not t' torcher 'im so fiendish. Empror laffed an laffed seein' how th'cook wuz tormented, 'e near fell off 'is golden throne. Then 'e got mad an'commanded real loud, "You chuze, chuze you unworthy son of a ansestor."

Cook dint like bein' called names, but 'e had t' chuze, so 'e choze the prettiest wooman. She was a real beyouty wiv shy eyes an a fearful doll face, like ta make a mortal man mizrable. Th' Empror admired 'im fer chuzin a girl azd give im th' most pain, make th' tochere better.

By trade, Joseph Ferguson is a sculptor and stained-glass maker. His essays have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor and elsewhere.

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