Posts Tagged ‘Open End’

(This story follows The Pirate’s Story-1. b.)

Elixir Of Life ©

The night still hung over the Atlantic. Open End suddenly shot up in his bed and eyes snapped open. If there was a scream it just trailed away in a whimper. It was a bad dream all right and Snake-Eyes his valet was at hand to get him come out of it. Snake-Eyes, the man from Memphis, was also the bo’s’n, his physician and spirit counselor all rolled in one. “ Is the ship on course?” Open End asked. Snake-Eyes nodded and said he would fix him a jug of toddy. Open End drank. It tasted unlike anything he had ever tasted which went under the heading of toddy. Sheepishly the man from Memphis said it was a new concoction. In the end he volunteered to explain it was the food of the gods.
After a pause he asked, “You don’t like it Cap’n?” The pirate said it was indeed the food of the gods and he had nothing against the drink. “Only that S.E, I just dreamt a dream, a terrible one at that.” Open End moped his forehead and his bewilderment was still obvious. “In my dream I was the food for the gods.”
Before Snake-Eyes could digest this he asked in a puzzle,” What is a pulque?” No man came more superstitious than the man from Memphis and he
knew the matter was serious. He explained, ”It is a beverage made from the sap of Maguey or century plant.” Next moment he wondered loud, ”Those plants are only found in Mexico!”
“Why on earth would I want to think of pulque?” Open End still remained amazed. He had never for once tasted the fermented drink or heard the name mentioned; and yet he was speaking of matters real. “But it is a dream. What has it got to do with the real?” Open End considered his ship as real as his treasure chests that he had buried in places Snake-Eyes would have never dreamed of.
Had the man from Memphis said the drink was the favorite drink of a Huastec god it would have made the pirate nervous; and the thought it was what a sacrificial victim got to drink before being dispatched to the underworld would certainly have made him squirm. Snake-Eyes said instead,” Pulque is grown in Mexico and it is very much part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain; and we are in that world which explains your dream however fanciful…” Open End waved him away unable to stand some abstruse nonsense that did not peel an onion, as far as he was concerned. However. He was still shaking. Only the thought his dream was vivid and he was in a fancy dress playing some game in order to please some god was revolting enough.

While Snake-Eyes had perked up with their narrow escape from death, Open End remained troubled all the way to Trinidad, Cuba. He cast anchor in the open sea and put out a skiff to land ashore. Dusk had already fallen and he concealed his boat among a mangrove. He made off towards the town.
Cuba Trinidad. Nestling below the mauve cool shadows thrown by the Sierra del Escambray he had got in time to lose himself among the festive crowd. Every night seemed an occasion for some procession of sorts, only that they did not wear any masks or elaborate dresses of sequins or flounces.  Music blared from the white washed haciendas and shacks and those who had some cash wended to the bars and got some louder beats that came in an unbroken wave after wave. Either you danced or drank to senselessness or retreated to some darkened spot hoping to give the ears some rest. Open End went to a sidewalk and sat like a lord before a low slung tiled house. It had windows with wooden balconies. Cheek by jowl stood some four houses more or less of similar façade each reflecting Moorish influence on the south of Spain. It did not bother what his present surroundings had to do with some style imported from Old Spain anymore than his dream had to do with some drink of Mexico. What struck him was his awareness of the folding doors all louvered and opened. He could see flaming flambeaux inside and customers dressed in their every day clothes taking in the passing show. Open End was hungry and he looked around.
Immediately came a mulatto who said he would take the order. Even as he asked for specialty of the house a table was quickly set complete with service, cutlery and napkins. The hot steaming plate of sweet potatoes done to a crisp with dollops of chocolate which he had never had tasted (till the time the Man from Memphis had used it to spice up his toddy) put him into high spirits. “Here be the food of the gods!” he drooled at the thought it only cost him next to nothing. ‘Should I order anything on the side?’ he asked himself. It was such simple questions as to how he should wear his bandanna or what side dishes to order were the most difficult to answer. Before he could pursue it any further he saw a hand reaching from the blur of crowd towards him. As large as life. He could only watch it slowly develop. The calloused hand did not end there; and he shuddered to imagine it was on him the hand had taken a fancy. He drew back. Yet the fiendish hand sought him out. Then another, the good hand of the same faceless phantom, for all the start his other hand gave him, made its appearance.
The good hand that held on to his table was all that good and the rest as he could see was determined to make itself shown with all its sorry state. He knew the fellow was almost coming apart but for his inhuman will which somehow held it all together. He was decidedly for a chat. ‘I don’t know him. Why me?’ He felt it was unjust.
The uninvited guest was not a pretty sight.
The stranger was diseased and broken down on the wheel of life. His left hand was in splints and head was swathed in lint and was dirty as his person, which was obviously unwashed for days. Never had he seen a man so utterly abused by every day life. He would not have cared to touch even with a ten-foot barge pole. Open End winced at the figure who stood large in his line of vision and who did not fade though he pretended not to notice him.
His appetite somewhat evaporated.
His sympathy would have made a wave but the man who stood before him began shouting the foulest words of abuse once he had found his feet. Such words he had never in his own low life heard, quickly dried up what pity welled within. Having unburdened himself he said, ”You whoreson, did you not bring some cargo for me to sell last autumn?”
As the invectives streamed forth in a jet Open End was matching every blackguard from his Identity-kit of memory studying whom the beggar matched most. The only time he had sailed as far as the New World was the time he had some human cargo to sell in Jamaica. But he was in Cuba! ‘So the stranger must be someone who is connected with that sale’, he thought. That made his search narrowed down to a few. ‘Did he cut in to someone else’s deal?’ He could not think so. ‘Or did he make any enemies on that deal?’ He thought hard. ‘Those 230 grinning slaves from Benin glowing with rude health were thankful.’ he recalled. Slowly his forehead furrowed, “No it cannot be?” It came all in a flash. Suddenly his eyebrows shot up. ’Miguel, you mickle of Mickey Finn!” he exclaimed trying hard to play cool. It did not make Miguel stop his invectives, which like the deluge once opened up kept pouring down on Noah. “Fine thanks I get!” the pirate groaned.
Open End as matter of precaution drew his chair farther back. A mistake. Miguel stuck his good hand into his steaming plate. Open End could only look on. The only consolation was while he attacked his dinner he had forgotten him altogether. Open End was surprised he could watch him eat it all; and even while he gorged on chocolate in a disgustingly self-indulgent manner he realized he and Miguel could never rekindle the old magic as was in Mondego Bay.
He had on that occasion made his millions on a sale, which gave Miguel towards brokerage a tidy sum. What of him? All that he got on that deal went for so many recurring expenses, depreciation and incidentals as his steward would say, ‘enough to make minnow of a whale’. Whereas the man who called him names had no office or incidental expenses. Did he grudge that? No. After the sale he had paid for the wining and drinking. Two days of binge! He did not mind it. All because of friendship! ‘What Miguel was griping now for?’ What his brokerage firm was but his own person whereas he had to maintain a ship and an insatiable crew, for God’s sake!
He mused while Miguel said,” You palmed me off with dead meat, you scoundrel!” The pirate let out a groan knowing his dinner only gave him a fresh start. Before he could launch into another tirade he held his hands to stop him, “You, yourself said to the contrary. You don’t remember it uh?”
” Yes I was tricked at Mondego bay, you rascal!” he screamed,” Those slaves were polished to look healthy. Tricks of the trade!” Miguel explained,” Hardly had I sold them to my client who had put them in sugar cane plantations than the slaves began to show what stuff they were made of.” He gulped hard and Open End could see it was difficult for him to speak. ”The sun beat them hard and it was not sweat but lard oozing out of their pores.” He screamed hard,” What kind of slaves were you trying to palm off anyway? So well fed, what was the idea? So calculated that they would die off like flies once you got your money?” He gasped for breath and said somewhat subdued,” they were not good for working in the heat. So my client had them taken from working.”
“What became of them?”
“Carrion meat! That was what they became!” He once again keened like a banshee. Those who strolled along the street jumped like rabbits to keep out of trouble.
“My client was so wroth and wanted to give you a good whipping down,” Miguel shuddered and he spat out,” You had cleverly left the scene, and I had to face the music!”
“You made him see reason, I suppose?“
He convulsed severely in reply to the pirate’s query and his hideous face showed what he felt so tellingly. He cried. “ I was whipped, tarred and was hauled into his boat only to be keel-hauled.” He sobbed till he had the tocsin of his memory cleared off, ”Again I was in his boat for keel hauling. Why must I suffer for your sake?” Miguel began howling and tears poured out and he said, ”I wanted only brokerage and not expected to be broken down as this.”
Miguel launched into a fresh bout of weeping to which the pirate said under breath, ‘End of a beautiful friendship.’ There was still a touch of regret. They had come to the parting of ways. Open End casually asked if he could do anything to make his situation somewhat lighter. “I want to go to Havana. I heard there is a place, which dispenses the elixir of life. A swig of that fixes whatever is broken. Including hearts.”
Open End would have laughed outright had he not seen the man before. Nothing of frivolity came through when he brokered a deal last time. He was an eager beaver from his head to toe. It was now as then. Even in gutter as he found himself at the moment, he would have taken his percentage had he something of a deal.
Open End nodded to indicate Miguel spoke the truth. If a handout made it somewhat easy for one he would part with some money; If it would make one come out all right, one who looked no better than a piece of sugarcane drawn through a press one time too many, he was all for it. He caught the eye of the waiter and paid him. He had not the heart to think of eating. What with Miguel still burping over his order.
After he had his fill Miguel said he was for taking a passage in his ship bound for Havana, a piece of news which the pirate had never told any one. Miguel asked him,  “Take me with you, to Havana!” he wailed, ”for sympathy sake!”
Open End felt uneasy. His sympathy did not run that deep. He flatly refused to take Miguel along. Open End feared his presence would only jinx his own future. Promising him to meet him the next day by ten in the morning at the place (where the present Casa del Obispo stands) he went into the night.
Soon he heard footfalls in the night and he stopped dead on his tracks with his cutlass ready to use. It was the mulatto who had a little while ago served him. He said he had some piece of information that could save him. “It is for sale!” he said with some trepidation. “I guessed as much,” Open End said casually.
“Just a doubloon will do.” he offered. “No deal till I hear what kind of news I am getting.” The pirate was certain. The waiter said the man who had come to his table earlier in the evening was onto voodoo magic.” It does not work then, ”Open End said with a leer,” if practicing voodoo will make me so beggarly. Obviously?”
“It was a case of displeasing some Vodon (* spirits)”the mulatto replied. Open End said “No deal as I said, no deal.” and walked off.
Next morning Miguel came for a hand out which the pirate tossed with disdain and waved him away. Miguel left.
Three months later Open End sailed into Havana and without making a fuss he had taken a villa by the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. Next morning jauntily he walked along the esplanade keeping all the time his eye on the landmark (where El Morro presently situates) at Punta Barlovento, he saw someone coming towards him with a whoop. It was a hombre on two feet all right. He was in no mood to be run over by any one with the power of a whirlwind. His hands instinctively moved to his rapier, hell bent to stop the nuisance in his tracks. There were a few enjoying the salubrious autumn sunshine and they curiously looked at the man in motion then at one who just stopped dead. Many eyebrows were raised to see the man in motion in a flash stopping short before the one with his hand on the hilt.
“Hola!” the man said.
“Ditto!” replied the man curtly. His hand was still on the hilt. A pause. His hand fell on his sides and he said, ”Is it you Miguel?”
“Yes,” Miguel said seriously,” As I told you last time I just got out after my treatment.” Open End recalled something about the elixir. He waited. Miguel put his hand with a familiar air on his sleeve and said,” The elixir of life. It cost me only five pesos!”
Miguel looked chipper and full of bounce and he invited Open End to a restaurant on King’s Street and said the treat would be to his account. Open End would not hear of it. He insisted he would pay and was in no mood to be contradicted. Thus they strolled to the assigned place. Later in the evening Open End said he would also take the cure and admitted he at first thought it was some quackery. “But Miguel, I cannot but admit my foolish reservations. You glow with rude health and not a sign of disease clings to you as far as my eyes can detect; and your bones as far as your grip goes, well, carry some punch!” Open End asked to be taken to the place where he might buy elixir of life. Only one question he still had and he was all the more perturbed for it. Many times words came and died half expressed. He did not know if there was any deal.
“What are you sounding like a tinkling cymbal?” Miguel asked exasperated,” Speak up!” Open End came to the point. “Do you think I can buy the elixir lock, stock and barrel?” Open End had sensed his Midas touch in the little tremor of his left hand. The same tremor he had felt when Bozo first came to him with human cargo. If that deal had netted him millions he was here looking at his billions. ‘Who would not pay dearly for eternal youth?’ Open End asked him again.
Miguel frowned but he gave the question his full undivided attention and said,” I could perhaps swing it in your favor. Needless to say my brokerage as usual, is assured. Is it not?” Open End suddenly pulled back. “Agreed in principle. But I shall not deal until I know what figure we are talking about.” They parleyed even as they turned to a dingy darkened alley. “Yes I will part with hard cash.”
“Is that all you can speak of?”
“In thousands of reals.”Miguel just stopped and was a bit peeved. “Don’t be vague,” he said, ”You are playing with matters of life. The elixir of life is at stake here.” He also explained the entire stock lay in barrels and if they were to run off it would run on for one full year. “Not by drips and drabs, man!” Miguel was certain, “by gallons!”
Open End had a knack for arithmetic. He calculated mentally and divulged his highest offer would be anything between one million and 1,7 million. “That is reasonable, I suppose.” Miguel clapped his hands to press home a point. Unlike the last encounter Miguel was fit as a fiddle and his clapping reverberated through the alley. “You must be precise to the last peso.”
Open End fumbled and said, ”My limit is 1,705,350 reals. I can throw in say eighty pesos by way of some change.”
Open End had already seized the prospects of all titled heads including sultans as his clientele. It was a sure-fire operation that showed nothing but profits. Whichever way one dispensed the elixir
it made money.
They stopped in front of a house, which was unusual. It had only one door a heavy door studded with nails and Miguel rapped the knocker against the wood. At last the door creaked and a colored servant in livery opened. Seeing Miguel he let them inside. Open End saw a house typical of the domestic architecture in colonial style transplanted from Old Spain. The whole house was a half moon in masonry and wood. The façade painted in old Havana blue was beginning to show its age. Doors and windows painted in pink were open to let in sea breeze. There was an imposing colonnade that defined the front verandah that curved all the way. What struck the pirate were those who lounged. They were like zombies and looked as if they were past their present circumstances. ”They are waiting for their cure.” Miguel confided,” You are lucky you get preference over them. I spoke well on your behalf.” Miguel with a short laugh slapped on his back and said,” Cheer up. I am all for you!”
Open End felt the mood oppressive. The hairs on his arms prickled and he thought those who lounged sent shivers down his spine. Instinctively he clutched his sword. Miguel showed no change in his emotion but continued as ever voluble to paint the superlative merits of the treatment the house offered. Casa Half Moon strove not only for soundness of body but soul and spirit as well. He was certain. Miguel pointed to some cluster of stones that lay strewn here and there within the compound. “So much of stones lying waste!” Open End opined. “No, they are gods my friend.” Miguel nearly laughed at his ignorance. “There a harpy eagle with eyes of bones and in obsidian; and there a reclining figure a deity named Chacmool (* a divinity favored by the people of El Tajín in Meso-American times) and here are Elegguá, Changó, Yemaya and Ochún (four divinities in the Yoruban pantheon)”. Before the pirate could digest all these Miguel was expressing his amazement how the house could keep the practice with such low fees. “Mind you, only five pesos all I had to pay!”
Miguel’s effusion suffered a hiatus as soon as a giant of a Mestizo (of the Indian and Spanish stock) ambled towards them. His head was a melon size and it sat rather awkwardly on a massive body skipping the neck altogether. His eyes were gimlet like studying the newcomer. Miguel whispered to take note how he exuded health and vigor. “They don’t make people like him these days except in Casa Half Moon!” While the pirate was lost in a reverie he also reminded he was scrawny like every one else before he came there for the treatment. “He just stayed on!” and Miguel said in wonderment, ”he is the número uno!”
Open End in hushed voice conveyed his uneasiness at the way he was looking him over.  Miguel could not help laughing, ”Do not be silly. He is sizing you up. May be a regimen to get rid of all those poison from your system. You look, pardon my saying so, a little yellow around your eyes and there is a nervous tic on the left eye which is beginning to get out of line.”
Open End replied. ”I suppose it is in order if he just concentrates on my health. Something tells me he is sizing up my worth in pieces of eight.” The head of Casa Half Moon received them with a smile and said,” You can call me Vodun! I am the presiding spirit over your well being.” Without further ado he shepherded them into the cool depths of the house. Within the time taken for them to be registered before an Indian, a tall figure with a tonsured head and a wooden cross on his bare chest the director had arranged his entire personnel to the sole purpose making a new being out of Open End who they all seemed to have concluded was a disgrace to humanity. The motto “Man like unto gods!” was carved here and there. Miguel seemed to have come out with no complaint. ‘In such a case I ought not gripe about the place or the people.’ Open End tried his best to fight certain dark suspicions that welled from within. While Miguel spent quarter of an hour with Vodun he sidled up to the man who was behind the wooden table. He stopped writing and closed the thick book and laid his quill aside. Pleasantly he introduced himself, ’I am Dom Orteguilla, at your service.’
“Is this real or am I imagining things?” Open End asked. It was a long shot. The tonsured Indian glanced at Vodun and at Miguel and swung his glance towards the speaker. It was done so slowly as if it were a hint. Open End could have drawn his own conclusion. Among so many heathen gods and animistic spirits, which were installed in the Casa Half Moon, the image of a cross worn by Dom Orteguilla was somewhat familiar. Open End thought he had found an ally.
Miguel at last came out. With a laugh so broad and a cheery wave he said he would be around to pick him up after he had the elixir of Life, drinking of which signaled the end of the treatment. “Don’t forget a rooster for Elegguá!” Open End saw him race through the drive way and into the alley. The door closed behind him.
Open End within days realized what really meant with the expression of being shipshape. Keeping his mortal remains afloat after a regimen prescribed by Casa Half Moon just described it. The first day was spent in sweating out in sweltering heat, only to be thrown the next day into a box packed with ice ‘to keep a heat exchange between body and mind’ which sounded a load of nonsense to him. He did not die as much as the weekly bill which Vodun produced for his attention. There stood a figure of 40,000 reals! Open End could not believe his eyes! As much as he blinked the figure did not disappear or become any lesser. Open End would have liked to remonstrate with the número uno of the highhanded treatment that made any further attempts to pump life in him highly risky. Vodun looked at him as if he had been hurt really bad. He said with finality ”Impossible!” In somewhat subdued tone Open End asked how high would the expenses would be.
Vodun stood there as if he were lost in thought. If he called it thinking Open End knew thinking must be no more difficult than sneezing. He came up with a figure. 1,705,350 reals.
“But Miguel assured me it cost him only five pesos. I allowed myself your treatment only on the same charge.” “Five pesos for three months of cure, ”Vodun said with his saucer eyes ever widening,” and not to mention the elixir of life! AYSOS(* What planet are you from)?” Vodun laughed so hard that his assistants came to take in the hilarity of their chief. Before he strode off he said, ”We shall thank you for eighty pesos towards gratuity. Those poor fellows who serve. They deserve some consideration. No?” Open End felt small and his rage would have spiraled out of control had not he caught the eye of Orteguilla who signaled him to go easy. When they were left alone the pirate said, “At least I can carry the elixir of Life with me and make some money out of it.” “You must have been dreaming.” the Indian replied.
Open End thought perhaps he might go home. But he would have to pay still for the whole course was no option. Miguel had got his pound of flesh and it rankled. If he could at least get that robustness which Miguel rubbed on him rather heavily he would live to get his own back. Some day. He managed with great self-control to go through with motions of the cure offered to him. At the end of each week a bill was presented and he cried ’murder’ seeing he was paying a percentage to Miguel. He promised he would skewer Miguel next time he came across him.
One night Dom Orteguilla came to his cabin and chatted about various things. Slowly they established some kind of bond and got to talk of their past. Orteguilla said he had joined them purely from a scholar’s point of view. He spoke of his stay in Vera Cruz with some satisfaction. It was where he came across huachinango a la veracruzana, red chilies which were to become his life passion. At the moment he was busy examining the cult of orishas (divine beings of African animism). Suddenly he announced he was ready to go into the world to try new experiences. Open End did not take the hint. Before the day of drinking elixir of Life Orteguilla insisted Open End should empty his mind of every thing other than what positive good the elixir could ever do to a man.” Remember, Open End at what cost you have come this far. Drink it and you shall live to fight another battle.” Open End merely groaned.
Last day Vodun came to the cell where Open End was lodged and pressed him to pay up. The bill in all stood at 1,705,350 reals. “Not a real more, not a real less!” The burly Vodun declared. Open End gritted his teeth and said, ”Wrong!”
“How do you mean?” Vodun turned his eyes blazing and his nostril flared (and his milk white teeth were no less impressive and he looked threatening. Open End said, ”Wrong! You overlooked the little matter of eighty pesos. No?” Vodun relaxed and he said he would send Dom Orteguilla to him so they could discuss and arrange the bill to be paid at his earliest convenience. Shortly thereafter the Indian was sent to fetch his money from his caravel hidden below the Punta Barlovento in one of the coves. He was in a trap and if it could only be sprung by implicit trust in a total stranger who went by the name Orteguilla he had no choice. By noon he had settled the bill in full. He was so overcome with rage and dismay at being made a fool of. Even while he downed the elixir of Life all he could was to damn Miguel.
When he reached the door he accosted Orteguilla who said he was waiting for him to come. “You see a man who just blew a fortune goodbye, Orteguilla!” The pirate whined, ”So depressing”. “Buck up man,” the defrocked Indian said sternly, ”you just had the elixir of life!” But at what cost! In millions!” Open End was so upset. Dom Orteguilla gave a sweet smile and said, “ You got me instead!”
“I sincerely hope,” said he,” you are worth half as much!” The Indian jauntily closed the door shut behind him and followed the pirate who felt the effect of elixir had already begun to wear off.
The End
Total word count: 5061

Read Full Post »

Love Among The Ruins©

(This is another tale from the Adventures of Open End. Valentine’s Day is in the offing. It is only appropriate then to post an episode from the life of  this  scabrous pirate in which he is ready to give a shot at love.b)
It was the month of March. Open End was holed up in Cartegena, Colombia and from the day one it was clear to the pirate those who belonged to the Golden Cockerel were a breed apart. The Golden Cockerel was a club where every member had class.  It was housed in a palace. All the streets led to it and ornate carriages riding on sent swirls of dust and the locals were to accept them as a class apart.And they didn’t care two hoots if they were inconvenienced. Open End of course was not there to acquire any class but to clear a doubt: What made them special?
The palace stood in its solitary grandeur surrounded by a sea of manicured lawn dotted with every sort of tropical plants; and not a plant among them was allowed to be there by accident. They were chosen for its color, fruits and form and they served a purpose. The lush growth of greenery merely tickled the fancies of those chosen few as they drove through its serpentine driveway to be received by a liveried footman. Within the cool halls paved in marble the ones who were admitted could recapture through a fretwork of Moorish design, those bygone glories of Cordoba. Those who had come from their wearied travels to pant before an elaborately carved fountain in the central courtyard perhaps thought of pleasures of paradise to come. Where the senses wearied of every day smells and sounds here was a heaven on earth! It was a paradise, which the Moors longed for. It was an impossible dream but in Cartagena it was an every day reality. Of course for Open End it was a challenge that he could not escape.
At the Golden Cockerel no one lived in the past or for future. They held the glory of Spain in a palace, which was dedicated to uphold the highest ideals of the realm. The Palace of Thousand Ports. Yes those who streamed to its portals would have done business at thousands or more ports of the world. Only the blue blooded darkened its halls and there they lolled all day while an army of lackeys let themselves into a lather dancing to their tune. What was the name of the tune they so brazenly called for? Privileged We Are. It did not matter if it was out of tune but who sang and for whose benefit alone counted. Open End could not believe it. He had taken enough knocks as a pirate and told so many lies to gain an advantage he didn’t think his uppercase was the sole arbiter to his sanity. Whenever he felt confused all those money in his treasure chests seemed to convince him he was as good as those hidalgos whom he had in so many encounters worsted time and time again.  He took a hard and long look at himself. He was low born and lived a low life all through. Or was he under some delusion?
Somewhere some one had goofed. So much so he was certain! Otherwise why would he seek out three months ago the haberdasher by appointment to the King? Did he not tell him, ’Money is of no concern fellow? In reply he grimaced but took order meekly the man who took the measure of kings and fitted him out in clothes, which would have tickled any blue blooded duchess. He had paid in gold for pleasing his tailor who received it in his gloved hand as if it were all a mistake. A bag of silver had seen to his conveyance. The grubby fellow who supplied the carriage with plush cushions and a liveried driver looked at him as if his cat had left him overnight at his door. But the money was real and he had to accept him at its face value. All those accoutrements and money spent for his appearance pleased numerous tradesmen who still seemed not to take him for real. Did he belong to the privileged class? Or was it all a mistake?
What a flood in silver and gold had he let stream forth! He cut every inch a hidalgo of infinite dash and polish, which shimmered up to his ruff. Dressed with the best the money could buy he was as privileged as any. But his confusion didn’t just go away.
The Golden Cockerel set belonged to an exclusive club. The Golden Cockerel surely had sympathy for anyone whose credentials were his own person but the door nevertheless remained shut. No wonder Open End would have been thrown out unceremoniously had he ever tried to get in by his own steam. It was unfair. How the privileged had set themselves a class apart went against his grain so to speak. His ingrained democratic values were in for a shock at what he came up against in Cartagena. It was intolerable. Unknown to him he was privileged as they.
He would have wished to walk in and ask for admission but it was impossible. Only one way was open to him. He was told by those who knew how the system worked to cough up a fortune into the royal coffers. He balked at the idea. Paying Philip II for an entry into the Golden Cockerel was not an option. It so happened he came to know of one who just was heading towards the exclusive club armed with a pass signed by no less a person than the king himself. The abominable pirate only needed to wait for his man to show up. Buena Guerra who had just paid the king a fortune for the honor of becoming a member of the exclusive club had the misfortune of coming across Open End.
Open End was all for playing according to the rules. Having got what he wanted he did not give another thought to the man who lay in the ditch. All men were equal to him. Even dead, he so reckoned. He pored over the pass. It was an ostentatious but scrupulously worded document bearing the seal of the king issued to one Buena Guerra admitting him to all the facilities offered by the club. If such be the rule he belonged to the privileged class. By a royal decree. No less! Having got the parchment by a thrust of his knife under his third rib all he needed was to assume the name of Buena Guerra who was in no position to rise from the dead for the honor of a club membership. The membership of the Golden Cockerel set comprised of well heeled merchants, officers from Casa de Contratación ( or House of Trade) which so many years before, was set up in Seville by the King. Two admirals and two captain generals were among its members. What was common to all of them was their blue blood. Or gold which did not make blue bluer but made red just enough blue to be passed for the real. They were all for furthering the interests of their master Philip II. And in course of their line of duty they dropped in Cartegena representing the king. With one exception. Open End was there representing his own.
They all stayed at the Golden Cockerel.
To Cartagena, Colombia came they in many ships bearing the flag of Spain. There they spent the winter awaiting for flota the treasure fleet to bring silver from the mines of Peru. The year before the pirate had seen for himself the silver being carried by some 200 mules to Portobello, Panama. He had studied the way the King siphoned off the Indians in the Americas. He had to agree it was systematic bleeding the fortunes of the Indians, which was awesome. Yet he cried, Bah! Not that he did not have great respect for their technique but he considered his was much better. The Spanish king was as tenacious as he when it came to plunder. But the king was part of the system while he was on his own. Philip II took merely 50% of the takings, which he could not keep without that unwieldy machinery getting into the act. The Court and Castilian pride.
Hardly had his feet touched in Cartagena he  thought he was as good as any blue blooded Spaniard who jauntily walked past him. He thought for a lark he could hobnob with an admiral or two. Admirals in those times were only found among the Golden Blade set. It was a kind of a wheel within a wheel, the first-among-equals thing which one cannot shake off. All man are equal. In name of course. Rules of the Golden Cockerel Club gave every member the same privileges but always the Golden Blade set got a slice more. Those who were admitted into Golden Cockerel club could call the shots but some were heard before others. You know what I mean?
Next it so happened Open End was also toting a rapier as any other. If the haughty Spaniard stood on ceremonies he had two pages instantly acquired on hire to give his frosty look its correct glaze. His gloved hand concealed rubies and emeralds, which he saw to that others could get a glimpse off too often. He play acted as if he was all for understatement which in effect added to his image considerably. He had the document signed by the king in favor of one Buena Guerra but he brazenly would enter without it. He had his honor to think of.
He as a pirate instantly assume roles and there he was on a fine morning to be admitted into the roster of crème de la crème. He had allowed himself into Golden Cockerel to which an officer of the House of the Trade would not have entered on any other terms than putting down his name and various titles he held in the guest book of the club. He assumed the name Buena Guerra without any title whatsoever appended thereto.
When he was confronted by the Keeper of the Register he said that he hardly cared to affix his titles, which were killing him for their profusion. It was a slow death, he managed to let it be known.
“But it is rather irregular!” “So you want to make it regular,” BG drawled revealing his rapier on the side, as this?” He could feel the parchment tucked within his tunic but he was there to press a point. He was as privileged as they.
Admiral Juan de Benavides would have been horrified had he known that the amusing hidalgo who boasted of his lineage lying astride three empires and related by blood to Magellen on his mother’s side and to Hernan Cortez on the paternal side was none other than Open End a common crook. The admiral laughed uproariously at the shell game he introduced in the gaming room and he endorsed it with all his heart to his fellow Castilians as exciting as a parlor game. Producing a penny from an unsuspecting Admiral’s nose was clever; similarly having the Captain General spit out a farthing, however simulated it was, a trick which made all laugh except for the fact it somewhat bruised their patriotic feelings to be seen coughing up something of the hated English. Another time in the game of tapita (* played with bottle caps. In those days it was played with buttons of ivory.) the admiral lost in a row, which didn’t faze him. What was 150 reals of eight when compared to hobnob with a descendant of Cortez of hallowed memory?
After shooting pools one morning for points the worthies had retired to the refreshment room.
Over mint juleps they talked business where BG showed his distaste as typical of his birth as money grubbing. “I cannot enthuse myself to make more than that lie in the family vaults,” BG said annoyed at the fact that he was forced to touch upon the subject.
“I struck a goldmine in my youth,” he explained,” since then my life was never be the same.”
Against him were arrayed the hotshots who powered the mighty engines of Spanish Unilateralism.
“What is unilateralism, I hear?’ Open End was a trifle impatient after subjecting himself to a vow of silence for half an hour. “It gives unfettered access to every wealth that we can lay hands
on,” Don Juan de Lopez the second in command to Admiral Benavides, explained with pride,” There is none other to split profits with.”
“Pirates must be splitting their sides with laughter” he observed.
When Open End had, some eight months ago, come this side of the Spanish main to see for himself the conditions, he realized Havana would make the  ideal hub of his operations. He had come in touch with a monk by name Orteguilla who gave a boost to the sagging spirits of the pirate; he was not sure if he had belonged to the Dominican or Benedictine Order.
The Indian was a man of many talents among which what was lacking to which his superiors had often alluded but without success, was dogma. He was sent to their Mission in the Far East but all that the heathens benefited from his presence was the use of Cayenne pepper as seasoning to their dishes. He could play lute or compose a madrigal. Well anything except say his pater noster without a mistake. For all that no mistake about it, he was a scholar. He said that he wrote a treatise about The Ninety-nine Uses Of Chili Pepper. “One more to go and I am ready to come into print.” The Indian was hopeful.
There was so much to develop from their mutual admiration. With Dom Orteguilla by his side he just began thinking big and as a consequence he wanted to be in the middle where the action was. The defrocked friar took to himself to equip the pirate with some facts, which were essential for the success of his mission. He needed to make his ship sleek and fast. It was showing his age and needed repair badly. So she had to be hauled to be repaired in the yard where a team of Indians were ever vigilant and seeing to its progress. Had he as a monk only thought of his own holiness he could not have acquired his knowledge of seaworthiness of ships. He had been well connected in the service of the Church and out of it. Open End came more and more to depend upon his awesome knowledge.
As a mark of friendship he gave Open End a snuff-box made of silver and it had a secret compartment into which the wily Indian said that he could smuggle some deadly poison just in case.
“What makes you think that I want to use it?”
“I would not know,” the defrocked friar said,” In my youth I entered into a mystical union with  Christ.”
“You seem to have made a some what similar pact, with Death.” Orteguilla was not joking. Over rum and sweet potatoes and chocolate they were plumbing each other’s innermost depths. For two months while he remained in Havana he took a measure of Orteguilla and knew that whatever be his faults he was way up when it came to loyalty. Since then Open End kept the monk in high esteem.
Open End took a hacienda overlooking the beach where the Indian saw to that he did not get into serious trouble. He was interested in phrenology and in taking measure of the abominable pirate he said there was much to be said for bumps of his cranium.
“Another bump, I am afraid, will be a knock-out!”
“As an infant I was always falling off.” Open End mused. “The past can’t be helped,” Orteguilla commented,” See to that you don’t fall into fresh trouble.”
One morning he saw a vision of a merchant ship bearing its course to the haven where they sat. Open End was idly watching it grow larger before his eyes. It was from Spain and thrown off its course from other ships by a storm. It made what were merely nebulous thoughts of a ship coming to him bearing gifts as three magi to a babe, crystallize. Perhaps it did bring a fortune and cast it to his lap. No wonder he had daringly hatched a plan at the snap of fingers as the passengers came to the haven in many boats. He saw among the many a woman of twenty wearing a mantilla and a fan in her hand. Her eyes were jet black sheltered under two sharply drawn eyebrows. Her dress was silk with a sinuous band of lace peeping out of ermine thrown daintily like a boa over her compact figure. The points of lace were shimmering under the liquid sunlight, which jelled all his thoughts into one. Her bearing and her dress made no mistake in stating her station in life. And her image was as clear as the point of her shoes, which made its print on the wet sand. He thought she was a white dove, which just found its rest. Right before his eyes. Open End was sure it wasn’t rum that made his head reel. She was followed by her entourage, which came in all sizes. There were servants dumpy and small who scolded a pair mulatto boys in hoses and who wore gloves while passing on items demanded of them. They were of Creole and Indian origin and they merely served to cast attention to the one who could hold them all together. The girl with the mantilla was the star. Her whole deportment spoke of her privileged position. May be of royal birth. It didn’t put him off. He was in love.  Almost. He was certain.
He came to know later on Doña Inez was her name. She was accompanied by a woman whose plain dress and mien showed a woman who was stuck with one who was born to be a mistress. She was beautiful in a different sort of way. If the charm of Inez was in ermine and silk which set off the translucent skin to advantage the companion’s grace was that of an adder making its way along a sandy dune. Two lovely visions merging into one. Open End was in a fix. So little time, he sighed. To cut the matter of delays required in planning different approaches he took the easy way out. He fell in love with both.
The vision of a pretty well turned out foot was as heart stopping as its impression on the wet sand. Open End cherished that vision of Doña Inez who had just paused at the edge of the beach to remove a grit from her fancy shoe, and it had sealed his fate. She was heavenly. ‘Ivory is coarse in comparison’, he was beginning to feel he was a connoisseur on feminine form especially concerning foot. If her instep was so shaped he was sure that her toes must be just right for reverence. He dreamt that he drank gallons of rum from those tan colored shoes tipped with a fancy buckle and could still ask for more.  He was hopelessly in love. Meanwhile back of his mind was another image less heavenly though somewhat in simple elegance, it did not compete with his image of the dove. He knew the maid who carried merely a silken purse had long fingers which if they ever caressed his nape and asked for his head it would have been a trifle. He had already lost it. Twice over. Orteguilla advised extreme caution since love of a woman made the life of a pirate very vulnerable. But to fall for two at the same time was to give death unfair advantage.
“In whichever way I look at it,” the Indian was certain. “Tell that to my heart!” Open End quipped.
Open End did early rising to walk as a man possessed along the calm strand, which did not cure him; He let himself immersed in big wooden casks filled with cold water. His friend assured that he could make a poultice from certain herbs and cure him of his affliction if he really was in pain. While his messengers cooled their heels to report of the progress of the dry docked ship he was sighing or in a daze. He did not ask to be relieved of his misery he only wished to be left alone to revel in them. It was sweet rapture of misery, which passed for love!
Love was for him like a pneumatic drill worked on his heart. He hated the silence much more than   the wave of vibrations that pervaded all over. He sent Orteguilla to get some particulars as to the name of the enchantress. He soon had the address of her lodgings and where she was heading.
“So Doña Inez is an heiress and is visiting her beloved in Vera Crux where he is a captain general.” He mulled over the facts. “And the other?”
“Lucienta is from the same village where her parents are in the service of Admiral Don Juan de Lopez. She has not married and has not much except what the Admiral might settle on her. Unfortunate uh? The admiral has orchards, acres of olive oranges and vineyards. I think she need not expect much.”
“So the Admiral is a bit of miser. Well!”
Open End had plenty of time in his hands. He was in a curious way relieved he was free to pursue the affairs of his heart. He had his galley under  repair and the carpenters were fitting the rotten parts of the hull as good as new. ‘Let them take their time’, he mused. He was in love and Inez was first in his list of priorities. The fact that she was betrothed to another did not deter him. He let love take a turn for the better with a little help from him. “My heart is apt to get lost following the charms of a dream girl as Doña Inez.” He sighed at the intensity of his feelings. He was not deterred. Curiously Lucienta held some sort of directions to get him out if he were stuck in a limbo. As a lover he was all for desperate measures.
As luck would have it Lucienta had not missed a love sick fool; neither did her mistress. He had made himself often stick out like a lover, sick with passion in their line of vision. At first they thought the hombre with a sickly smile and a gait ill matched for a man whose fortune supposedly sprung from bloodletting and piracy was forever losing directions. From the way he mooned, rolling his eyes and smiling inanely, Lucienta was aroused to convince that here was free entertainment. She convinced her mistress not to miss the spectacle that was put on for her benefit.
In two weeks time Lucienta was knocking before his door asking him to help a damsel in distress. She came in a sweat and extreme fear saying that she was carrying a valise full of precious stones and papers that enemies to the court of Spain was after. “Can I rely on you? she asked her cheeks suffused in crimson.
“If it is caution you are looking for, I am your man!” the pirate said with a deep bow. Tongue in cheek he ad-libbed,” Unfortunately Abundant Caution is out of my hands!” He did not know but her sharp penetrating gaze plumbed his innermost depths and love made him as if he stood over live coals too long.
He gasped and said inanely, “So your mistress is related to the King?” “Not exactly,” she managed to explain,” Her father is in position of trust. So he asked his daughter to carry some items which he could not trust himself to carry.”
Open End looked at Lucienta and sighed. Lucienta blushed unable to stand the direct onslaught of a lover’s gaze. Open End thought Inez was his dream come true with pearls and amethyst freely thrown in. But as Lucienta stood there, she stood for herself. It was for real he convinced himself.
“Tell your mistress that I am at her command.” Bowing as gallantly as he could, he promised he would give them both his protection. She was full of thanks half expressed, for the gushing adoration of his dare devil attitude, which took her breath away. He took a signet ring knotted with a blood red ribbon and offered to the go-between. “Here take this,” Open End took hold of her delicate hand in his swarthy hands, ”your mistress only need to show and I shall move heaven and earth to fly to her side.” He was too involved in playing his part to notice her frown. “You will tell her what I feel for her from what you feel now.” He planted a slobbering wet kiss on her hand and almost fell over her. He thought he was killing two birds with one stone. What he failed to see in his recipient was her frown, from which one could have read anything: from disgust to murder.
Before long Lucienta had on behalf of her mistress entrusted him with a valise, which was heavy. Open End didn’t need to be told what it contained. ‘Diamonds and rubies!’ and he was burning with passion. He wanted to check their value. If priceless, he was for replacing them with something almost similar and imitation jewelry. ‘She may never know the difference’. He stopped suddenly in his tracks and realized he was thinking like a very stupid fellow. ‘If I woo her and gain her hand all these would be part of her dowry!’ he rubbed his hands in glee,’ and a castle in the country with vineyards as far as eyes could take in’. He knew how little did he know of life and of love. He was playing by rules of freebooters which  marked him outright bumpkin when he applied to love. “Yes I am in love!” and he shuddered to have almost blown his chance. Visions of domestic bliss brought a tear or two in the villain’s eyes. With inhuman self-control he left the valise under his bed.
A few times she came on various errands and she was given free run of his apartments. He compared her as an antelope as she ran up or down the cool steps and dodged herself always from his reach. Every time. She had become rather friendly but never let herself to be handled. Never a moment did he peek into her to know what made her tick. She took time out to indulge in flirting a little but it was all in his mind. Impetuous he was always pressing his luck and novice that he was in the game, never for once he saw her grimace or make faces at him and damn him to perdition with the sweetest smiles. He thought of offering some doubloons or pieces of eight to make her more interested in the game. But she laughed to his face. ‘She knew her price’, the villain was convinced. He did not up his offer. He was not that kind of a lover: nothing cooled his ardor as the idea of throwing money away over a girl. While he was saying sweet nothings he was thinking of her mistress and her castles in Spain.
He on his side filled her with some details as she showed some curiosity as to what brought him there. One day she let it out known that she had to be in Cadiz for two months.
“I take it that your mistress also shall be there?”
“Naturally,” Lucienta said with a laugh, “ We have a masked ball and the Admiral, father of my mistress invites for the occasion every officer of the House of trade and delegates from foreign parts. Every evening we keep a Open House at the House Pleasant Vistas which anyone coming to the city cannot miss. It is where Doña Inez receives the guests before the beginning of Lent. She is particular that you come this time since it is the last time she can invite whom she choose to.”
On another day she announced that she was accompanying her mistress to a certain place and Doña Inez would like to thank him personally. “Will tomorrow be convenient?”
“Oh No!” Open End cried in disappointment. ”I have a meeting with one who is down on his luck. He threatens to blow his brains out if I do not save him by buying his ship off his hands. You know what Castilian pride is, dearie?” “Of course,” she replied,” I am a Castilian myself.” Later Open End would wonder at that peculiar expression she wore when she said it. Lucienta said she understood that his ship was being fitted out. Showing her regrets at losing a prized gallant she left. To his intense joy she returned later in the day with a message her mistress would like to see him personally that very night around 10 o’clock and thank him for his services. “Is it too much to ask if you would be kind to bring the valise? It is rather heavy.”
“Where would you like that it be delivered my girl?”
“The house number and other particulars are written here.” She took out a slip of paper folded and sealed. She said it was from her mistress written in her hand. There were her crest and initials within a cartouche. It still carried the smell of lavender. She blushed to see that he was staring on goggle eyed as she took the missive from inside her blouse. He sighed rather pointedly.
Late that night Open End was dressed to kill and surrounded in a cloud of anticipations he strutted along the cobbled lanes towards the Bucks and Reals an inn where the establishment offered many kind of distractions none of which was the kind one could write home about. It was a locality steeped in infamy to say the least. There was an old woman who stood guard at the entrance and looked enquiringly. She sensed that he needed her services. She knew who was in demand and for how much and what was her specialty in the trade circles. She was taken aback when he asked if she would show where House of Warblers stood.
“It is silent now,” She pointed to the house in shadows across the street. She moped her brow, ”In my youth there were birds of paradise and warblers making music as much,” she peered at the stranger from the end of her shawl,” such as you never hoped to hear on this side of paradise. ”
She came towards him, “If the senor gave me a piece of silver I shall tell who lives there.”
Open End looked hard at the toothless crone to  show he was a hard nut to crack. “No point in paying for information I already have.” He laughed and strode off. He dreamt of taking a close look at the foot of Doña Inez before the night was out. He had already that opening line ready to bring all her defenses crashing down.
It took only a moment to lift the latch to a wrought iron gate and enter within the grounds. He stood at the porch and knocked. Somewhere the bell sounded its mournful chimes breaking the tomb-like silence with a titter of sorts. Then he heard footsteps coming down a creaking staircase. He peeped through a jalousie and in the gloom all he could see was a part of the hall and the vestibule. While his heart raced the lights from a candelabra came bobbing as some one descended the steps. There were two he decided. Through the chink he saw two pairs of feet in shadows and these took a pause before a heavy half closed damask curtain parted a little. One moved behind the heavy curtain and stopped. Open End took a deep breath and moped his forehead with a bandanna.
The door opened silently.
A figure stood concealed within the shadows. The lighted torches seemed to come from deep within.
The voice said mysteriously, ”Hush!” Open End was thrown off his guard. The voice said archly, ”My mistress shall reveal herself. Do not be surprised if she is veiled and cannot show herself.” Open End could understand.
“Have you brought her valise?”
“Here, I have it.” Open End handed it over.
The pirate was watching the figure who received the valise. She was in the shadows. His eyes only moved to take in a pair of feet as well shaped as that of Lucienta. He could not be sure. She had thrown a veil and the darkness lay thick on her. The voice and the figure seemed to match but was not entirely convincing. Last time her feet was sheathed in a long embroidered hose. Her shoes were leather and daintily adorned with a filigree work. But here he could see the foot was so unlike that of a maid. If Lucienta did come really hairy as the figure who just turned, well, he was a dupe of a girl who would stop at nothing. He had lost his heart for a slut! Had he the time and more suited place he would have caterwauled in utter dejection for his misplaced love. The hand that rocked the cradle of love was as hairy as her foot. In deep dejection of being trifled with he was all for rudely stopping her. Before he got to that he felt something hit him. Everything went blank.
When he opened his eyes he saw Orteguilla peering into his eyes. Light of the day flooded into his eyes. He had no idea what he was doing there.
His trusted friend said, “Here is a note.”
“Caution!” Underneath was scrawled in a different handwriting,” Abundant Caution!” They seemed to say something vague. His mind had gone complete blank! The past was completely wiped out.
Open End remained under the care of the Indian for a month. He treated him with every skill that he possessed to bring back the past. One week after at a lucid interval he recognized Orteguilla. All that he remembered was of being in Havana.
“Admiral Don Juan de Lopez!” he mumbled,” What has he to do with me?” Two days later he remembered the vision of Doña Inez. He recalled meeting her. That evening he sat up and said he had a rendezvous with a beautiful woman in Cadiz. When and in what context he did not know yet.
Slowly his memory returned in bits and pieces. He knew that his object of adoration had a father whose trail was not hard to miss. News was brought by his friend that Admiral Don Juan de Lopez  was at the moment stationed in Cartagena, Colombia. It was a tiny window opened in his psyche.
Before Open End boarded a vessel bound for Havana Orteguilla had come to see him. He offered two native boys to attend to his needs.
The Indian informed the pirate, “Doña Inez could not have made the assignment herself. That night.”
“Why not?”
“Doña Inez had left two days before with her entourage,” Orteguilla replied, ”Besides she never stayed in House of Warblers.”
“The house was taken in the name, which I am sure was an assumed name. One acting in proxy for another. “Moxy seems balderdash,” Orteguilla wrinkled his eyebrows unable to fathom the mystery of names as supplied by his informant. “Whoever it is had bought the services of Lucienta.”
“What for?”
“Why would she stay back and move to the house which stands in a place of ill repute. Why would she risk her dowry and other benefits which she could have expected from the Admiral?”
“Yes,” Open End sighed,” she bought her freedom too dearly.”
“There were two strangers who looked as if they were in service of the Ottomans. They were seen loitering around these parts on the day of your misadventure. That is what I could find out.” Open End could not say but stare at the note where two lines were scrawled in different hands. What it meant was beyond him. His mind was totally blank!
Watching the blank expression the Indian clued him in,” I can’t say what was their game; Lucienta or whatever her real name is, was on their pay.”
“ At least Doña Inez did not play with my feelings.”
The Indian did not reply. Open End felt that the news gave him a pick-me-up effect. Orteguilla said,” Lucienta is poison. Watch out for her!” He knew that the next time he came across Lucienta she would have hell to pay.
It was what brought Open End to Cartagena. No sooner had he landed than he was going under the name of Buena Guerra. In following the leads he came to the conclusion that he had an appointment with Destiny.
Nonchalantly he entered the Golden Cockerel and became a member of the Golden Blade set to which Admiral was also a member. He was certain of his noble rank and birth. A bump on his had erased his humble origin and it showed: if he in the past was somewhat tardy in picking a quarrel except where he could dispatch an unsuspecting victim with stab on the back here he was for strictly following with the rules of the game. He had a chip on his shoulder, which he believed was put there solely on account of his blue blood. He was ready to pick a quarrel and draw his sword as if he were born with the skills of a swordsman. The more he behaved outrageously to strangers the more friendly and effusive they were proving to be.
The more he was feted and made as one of their own in that gilded existence of privileges he felt a keen disappointment. He could not understand why. He threw dice and shot with pistols inlaid with mother of pearl in ebony which sent waves of pleasure to the members who took their loss as some kind part of a winning game. They could leave for posterity that they were rather on intimate terms with a descendant of Magellan. He cheated over the cards and spilled Madeira that the golden blade set took it as his matter of right. One day he slapped a waiter who was less than brisk in attending to his order. Before evening not less than four of the illustrious members of the club had followed the fashion of the day. In fact the Admiral had taken him under his wings and whatever he did became a pattern to be imitated.
‘Buena Guerra is a man after our hearts’, they all drank to his health. To counter this all round approbation that was anathema to the pirate, he had to keep his fragile mind focused on a few pieces of information that was all he had to go on.
Open End by force of events accepted the fact: that Castilian hauteur with which the noble scions judged him was real. He was a peer of the realm. How they doted on him! One day he promised Admiral Don Juan to read his mind, which had an electrifying effect on him. The older man instantly followed him to his suite of rooms.
“OK Admiral.” The pirate began casually, ”You are the moment going through a bit under the weather.”
“In what sense?”
“ The Ottoman empire has cast its net far and wide.” Open End paused at looked at him for clues.
“You are a man incorruptible! The king has complete trust in you. So have I.”
“Well, go on,” said the admiral drawing his chair closer to the abominable pirate.
“Since the spies cannot get at you they are after your daughter. ”he hissed. The admiral gasped which the pirate took as a good sign. “Did you leave some papers with your daughter?”
“Yes,” The admiral waved his hands to him as if saluting his uncanny powers. “Your daughter is Doña Inez is it not?” “Formidable psychic powers!” The admiral looked at him as if his jaw had     dropped. “Oh it just comes to me out of the blue,” replied the villain showing embarrassment,” it is nothing, really!” He added, “I must warn you though.”
“Her maid senorita Lucienta is not to be
trusted,” Buena Guerra was emphatic, ”she has been led astray by the spies sent by the Turks.”
“How uncanny!”, he exclaimed. ” My daughter caught up with me here. During her stay she had conveyed her suspicions to me. Now that you say it I can well believe it. It came all a big shock to us.”
“Is your daughter still here?”
“She left just two days before you landed here. Extraordinary.” Open End felt something breaking right within. “By the way did you get the papers from your daughter?”
“No, she said that it was found missing from her safe.”
“Of course Lucienta is at the bottom of this,” Buena Guerra insisted.
After a couple of days Buena Guerra wanted hurriedly to leave the place on a mission which he said had to do with catching up with two spies sent by the Sultan. “One always says ‘caution’ and the other keyword is  Abundant Caution.” Buena Guerra said with distaste, “I intend give chase to them and run my rapier through their foul hearts.”
He stood up to declaim,” The world was better rid of Abundant Caution, and Caution.” He gave a pose which was dashing to say the least,” By God’s Blood I intend to do it.”
“How do you intend to achieve it, Excellent BG?”
He quickly sketched his plan. It was simple. The Admiral Don Juan de Lopez whose admiration knew no bounds was dying to oblige him even if the plan was the most preposterous one he had ever heard in all his life. “The most admirable and excellent Buena Guerra intends to lead those two devilish spies in to a trap with a galley full of gold!” He had raised some objections half heartedly. He was for simulating rather than placing the real into jeopardy. Buena Guerra was adamant. He would not throw wool over his illustrious forbears by faking an attack with anything other than a Spanish ship and their gold. It needed a genuine bait to land the genuine desperados who were for destabilizing the might of Spain. The admiral could see the point.
Don Juan de Lopez had never taken part in a sea battle and his position only came through his position of influence. Whereas the man who titled himself as BG looked every inch a sea captain a dare devil and a man with uncommon psychic powers.
After he had wrangled a safe conduct and a sealed order that absolved him from all wrongdoing he could sit back and say that he was in hot pursuit of his two enemies. He was Destiny’s Child. He had the official order signed by the admiral that gave him the unquestioned authority to attack even a Spanish galleon if it came to that, with impunity. When he read through the passage preceding that clause he had to laugh. It ‘restrained every hand from interfering with the actions of Buena Guerra which might seem inimical but are not.’ The wording he thought was a stroke of genius. If the admiral said it was so, no two ways about it existed let alone being open to interpretation. The order was phrased and signed by the representative of the King. The admiral hoped that Buena Guerra would give a good role model to his seamen by his excellent qualities. The ship Gudalquivir weighed 75 tons and was manned by 25 seamen. It had plenty of storage space and cannons. It had an excellent sea captain, del Cano who did everything to win the approbation of his superior. It was at the disposal of Open End alias Buena Guerra.
All his grand ideas came all of a sudden even as he was in the thick of a doubtful skullduggery he would up his ante merely on a whim. To tease fate thus mercilessly was to invite hubris, so Orteguilla had said when he looked him up in Havana. The Indian appraised him of his ship which was ready for his pleasure. He promised to come back as soon as he had pulled a last one.
After having arranged his matters to his satisfaction Buena Guerra ordered del Cano to parley with the treasure ship, which was coming to join with those part of the flota already moored along Cartagena. Del Cano instantly signaled the Catalana, the ship, which BG had marked to separate from rest of the fleet to come around its broadside. In response Catalana sent a scout ship to investigate. Captain del Cano held discussions with del Munto the captain of the scout ship, who was lower in rank and waited for his order.
“Simple,” del Cano said, ”Do as the Order tells. Transfer the cargo from the Catalana to Guadelquivir.” The Order made the captain take it all in good grace. The king had willed it so. Never in his career had he come against anything like it. But who was he to object? He ordered him immediately to have the Gudalequivir filled to its maximum capacity. Over the night it was done.
Gudalaquivir was released only after Open End had transferred his booty to his ship, which was refurbished and sea-worthy.
Before he sailed towards Cadiz he wanted  Orteguilla to meet him in Cadiz before the beginning of Lent. “You can enquire at ‘The Loaded Dice’. It is run by a Venetian whose name I forget.” The next moment he turned and said with a smile, ”Bozo is his name, before I forget!”
The Indian pointed out to him that he was improving. “Some details of the past are catching you up.” He said.
“Why to Cadiz?”
“There I have an unfinished business to attend to.” He said. Before they parted the Indian gave an address and said, “Be sure to look up the address.”
Open End stared at it. It was the name of a house in Cadiz. A date also was scrawled there. ‘House of Pleasant Vistas’.
Open End enquired where he had found it. Orteguilla explained how he had gone through the House of Warblers thoroughly.
Open End said he would expect him for a masked Ball at the house of the name as given in the note.  It probably would solve the mystery he was looking for. The Indian before parting said a strange article he found in the House of Warblers. “There was a valise which was filled with nothing but rubbish.” Open End could not remember it.
He told the Indian he had to find the mystery of those two who had tricked Lucienta to rob her mistress which was an insult to his noble name. He had appended his name to be her protector did n’t he? His pride as a hidalgo from Castile was tarnished somewhat. It was not serious as to shed someone’s blood but just enough to follow a lead.
“Caution?” the defrocked friar asked. “Why then Abundant caution?” He could not explain why.
One morning Open End asked his valet to fill his silver snuff box. He had found the habit of particular interest since he could strike a pose while he went through the motions of dusting back of his hand and took a sniff. Jack Boots his second in command always watched the way he dusted his shirtfront after his constitutional, which the man from Memphis ( who was his boatswain) said, was princely. Standing on the deck the pirate received his snuff box and shook. Nothing happened.
After two attempts he showered some invectives, which he knew were calculated to raise the image of pirates a few notches higher, at whichever port these were said, he waited for his valet. He mumbled and said, he thought ‘it made a brilliant pepper shaker.’
Oh, furious he was. He tongue lashed at his valet and his second in command, and said he would do the task himself. “What this world is coming to? Open End could not believe,” I ask for snuff and I am given pepper instead!” Next moment he froze and let out a laughter so hysterical that Jack Boots  came in a hurry.
“Ho Snake-eyes, remind me,” he said in mirth,” When Dom Orteguilla comes to meet me.”
“What master?”
“Just say Chili Pepper dust.”
His steward looked at him as if he had finally cracked.
The House of Pleasant Vistas was well known to the denizens of Cadiz. It was a grand manor once upon a time, a jewel and meant to impress all the visitors to the port city of the wealth, which the owner had at his disposal. King’s Walk led to an imposing archway with a giant gate more calculated to give impression of lavishness than security. It was something of a bygone age where it was opened for a king who wanted to express his favor on the House of de Lopez, whose wealth had funded his little wars; at present had his descendent called on the occupants to do the same the Admiral would have been reduced to beggary. As keeping with the times he took a job; a honorary title of admiral was one way of saving the face of the ‘King’s provider’ as the first Lopez was honored by the king himself. Don Juan de Lopez was second in command to the fleet of Philip II along the Spanish main. The mansion was still imposing and whenever a ball was given under its vaulted arches and painted ceilings, great many flambeaux lit up ‘the ruins of eternity’ as a poet described the House for the great many artifacts transplanted from the New World. Had any one remotely connected to the Incas, Aztecs or Mayans did ever land in its midst in a time warp would have instantly felt at home.
A masked ball was given every year before Lent and it was for the young blades time to catch up with news had they by some reason missed them. Behind grotesque masks the aged showed their sweetest smile excusing their little indiscretions for stepping over the toes of young bucks or burping violently over the punch bowl. A few took refuge in clean dresses to hide their frayed collars and cheap cambric that were many times stitched over. Open End was sporting a devil’s costume the redness of which was unusual. The housekeeper who peeped from the service yard to take the cavorting guests was struck by his costume. The mulatto woman suspected that ‘de debil hem gone away with dem ole drapery’ and she knew that a similar one was for ages thrown over a giant stone Olmec head in the hall. Had she checked it she would have known that it was so indeed.
Open End had the drapery at hand. He could not have bothered the trouble of hiring a costume but would make do what the house provided free. A red drapery. Only he made it into a poncho. A tote bag from a corner served as a mask for which he had to work a little. He ripped with his knife across and two holes he made a little above. He looked at his handiwork. He knew it would fit him. All he needed was to stick his head into it. It was terrible but what the heck he thought. The liveried door men only let the fellow who strode in as a buccaneer. Had he seen him now would not have believed his eyes.
Open End had his own idea of himself whether real or playacting. Having donned his instant costume Open End checked with his friar. ‘I am in a devilish mood,’ he said. Orteguilla took that tote bag and only added two knots and stuck it back on his companion’s head. The reworked bag looked a mask, a devil’s mask. The friar had added to it a more verisimilitude of two horns. When Open End grinned through the big tear it was as if the devil had just lost his wits. The friar let himself past figures in their swirling costumes, which were weaving all around. He wanted to keep two of the guests in his line of vision. Caution. And Abundant Caution. Who they could be?
Open End in the meantime was busy. He traipsed past the guests and he knew that his heart was racing with excitement.
He had just missed the chiseled noble features of the man who just past him by. He was betrothed to Doña Inez who was feeling thirst and he had promptly gone to fetch a glass of sherbet for her.
Doña Inez looked lovelier than Open End had ever imagined a woman could ever look. She was tired and she had seated herself in an alcove, discreetly away from every eye. She had her feet thrown over a cushioned prie-dieu. Open End felt his head reeling. The foot of his beloved was there in all its glory for his eyes to feast on. In one bound he had changed his role to that of a professional gallant and he knelt by her side to profess his undying devotion. But that perfect rounded calf melting to a foot so divine in shape choked his passion. Instead of words that died half formed in his throat he just snuggled close claiming his prize. He threw his arms around her ankle. He was wondering whether he should kiss her calf or her toe. He did not notice a cry of alarm. He could not decide if it came from Doña Inez or from a man who was jumping about him as if he were a dice and needed to be rattled.
He wanted to say ‘this seat is taken’ just for giving a full expression to that devil may care attitude he had thought expressed him best.  He felt two strong hands lifting him. Only after he was thrown unceremoniously out of the door he realized that the hands belonged to a giant of a liveried foot man. He was for calling that man who ordered the gorilla to treat him roughly, to a duel. “It is a question of honor!” he said trying to save whatever dignity remained in him. There were two other footmen glaring at him. He thought the mansion had something going for the footmen by their sheer numbers who now converged to stare him down. He was about to make an exit but one in the costume of a footman clobbered him and he heard him say, ’Caution!’He could not decide if he did imagine it. He felt mercifully blank.
Orteguilla who lifted him up was the most concerned. The Indian thought that he had completely passed out and his memory was a goner.
Two footmen came to him to give him a hand. In an apologetic tone one said,” Two fellows ran out into the street!”
One said, ”Caution!” The other just added, ”Abundant Caution!” He was not then imagining things.
Turning to Orteguilla Open End said,” Proxy and Moxy just repaid an old debt.” He added, ”We are quits now.”
“How is your memory?”
“Absolutely fine.” Open End said,” I got back every little thing I had lost. The second knock out was perfect.” As they reached the gate a footman came running to claim the red drapery he still had on.
“This belongs to the House!” he said.
“Here take it, man” the pirate said, ”A tip for your pains,” He threw him a doubloon. A shiny gold  doubloon. Overcome with this windfall he ran back.
“You are expansive tonight!” his companion said.
“It was a dud, ”Open End exclaimed, ”Never fear that I kiss the foot that kicks me.”
He had the satisfaction he still had a precious souvenir for his visit to House of Pleasant Vistas. He was feeling serene and he held the red drapery as some kind of a security blanket even as he went back to the ship.

The Snake-eyes was waiting for the pirate. Seeing them together the second in command said, “Chili pepper dust!” “Orteguilla,” said Open End, ”I found the hundredth use for chili pepper!” “What is it?”
“To throw chili pepper into your victim’s eyes in order to temporarily blind him. ”The abominable pirate was jubilant,” What do you think?”
After a pause the Indian gave a sweet smile in appreciation. He thanked him and asked, “ May I use your name as a contributor, on the title page?”
“Well if that pleases you, well- yes!”
The End

Read Full Post »

How Open End Kept His Promise©
(selected from the Adventures of Open End. Open End was a pirate who only wanted a piece of the action at a time when the kings of Old Europe thought the Americas was ready for plucking. There was so much gold and silver over which no one had any exclusive rights, divine or otherwise. The Divine Rights that Europe touted in their domain didn’t extend there. Open End saw so much wealth and exclaimed, “I have needs therefore I exist.” Philosopher Descartes could not have summed it more succinctly. Only after he said ‘yea’ to free enterprise did he realize all he deserved for his pains was a rope from the yard arm. Well he knew how to play the game while the Kingdoms of this world played the Great Game.

Out of seven adventures this story is the first.)
…While Queen Elizabeth ruled England, Old Spain together with Portugal would have carved the wealth of Americas between themselves if they could. But news such as this cannot be hid for long. It was only a matter of time the news reached the ears of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
“The New World shall never survive this!” exclaimed those officials who counseled the Sultan; but he had his own plate full at the moment. He did not care for the Americas or Helios.
Helios was a one-camel town in his empire, which was collapsing under neglect. In a small town where the only exciting feature was the town- gate that led one out, Murcius, a young lad was dying of boredom. Day by day. He would have got out. But where to? He had no idea.
Oblivious of what momentous events were being played out on the open seas Murcius tried to liven up his miserable life a little. Helios did not particularly inspire him. He thought at first Tripoli was where the action was. For his neighbor’s son, the one who worked for an Agha in Istanbul had come on leave and told him the streets anywhere in the chief city of the Ottoman Empire were paved with gold. He said, ’Murcius you ought to do something with your life.’ Murcius, young and hot blooded that he was, knew he had a sure lead. He would not waste his life with slim pickings in Tripoli. So it was to Turkey he went before the law began showing undue interest in him. He knew he could be nailed over some petty thieving done in the past.
He laughed all the way to Asia Minor thinking what he had escaped. His town didn’t mean a thing. ”What a dump!” thus he dismissed the land of his fathers. He would have liked to step down in style in Istanbul but a little fracas aboard the dhow made it impossible. As a result the other passengers caught him hand and foot and threw him unceremoniously over board. They were also in that vessel for the same reason as he. ‘One less to compete with’, thought they.
This incident made him realize that it was a meeting with Destiny. There was no doubt of that. He saw a great white shark, which surfaced as if out of nowhere. The murderous shark didn’t waver but made a beeline towards him and it meant business. He was a good swimmer so he gave a stiff competition to it. He was saved in time. At that moment hazily he thought, an angel had come down, to save him. Just as what that old monk in Helios had been telling. From that moment he was sold out to his belief: he was a child of Destiny!
The wet bedraggled man in his early twenties was thankful to the shark, which spared his life. ‘That has been by design’,he could not help recalling the way it all turned out. Down there he was one moment at the mercy of a monster. In that brief moment the white- bellied monster transfixed him with its glassy eye he had promised another man in his place. “Do we have a deal?” he could not be sure. He thought the jet of air that rattled through its gills in a cloak of foam was its answer. His offer was accepted as a token of which its glazed eyes seemed to relax and dorsal fin quivered a little. Next instant in a thunderous scudding of waves, which ran pell-mell the leviathan had taken leave of him. That white shark merely answered to a higher call and let him off. He was convinced.
He knew he would come across the shark again.  The sign of the shark did show a crescent moon. A distinctive mark on its dorsal fin. Open End thought it meant Istanbul where the streets in his mind’s eye had already acquired a 24- karat look.
His savior, a stick-in-the mud type however didn’t have plans to take him to Istanbul but to his home in Izmir. He asked his chance find what his name was. He said, “Open End.” That name stuck.
Murcius or Open End was thus in the boat of Tarbuz whose wealth had made Izmir synonymous for watermelons. Tarbuz as he could see was still ecstatic of casaba (* a variety of winter melons) of which everything that was to be known he had imparted to his ward; the young man realized in whichever way he changed the subject, it somehow rolled back to casaba. He had nothing personal against watermelons. But. If anyone did think of forming an Anti-Casaba League, Open End was sure he would have put his name down in the first place.
Naturally his biggest letdown was yet to come.  In that little effusion of the milk of human kindness Tarbuz had acquired a slave for nothing. “I have been greatly mistaken!” Open End exclaimed as he set his foot on the soil of Izmir. Instead of gold he was picking watermelons for Tarbuz who made him work from sunrise till sundown. Whom he had thought was an angel made sure he worked till he dropped off in fatigue; where he believed in divine intervention from an untimely death, his master believed in the redeeming nature of work. He had cucumbers and sour yogurt day in and day out. Tarbuz intended to get the worth of every ounce of food he doled out to him. He ate what little he got to stay alive. All work and no play made him cunning, inhumanly cunning. Open End knew he needed to lie low as low as his spirits. “By the beard of Mar Chrys-o-stom,” he asked in disgust, “what Destiny were you talking me into?”
Two years of hard labor however paid dividends. In his case he was taken out from dirt and put in a not so seaworthy felucca. He was all for a watery grave than rubbing his nose any more in the dirt. So he happily took control of the Casaba. The first time he smelled the sea after two years of drudgery and felt its salty spray on his cheeks he thought it was time he gave Destiny a not so gentle nudge.
To two of his fellow workers who happened to have come from his village he explained.” Now, fellows you know what it is to catch a Turk?” The expression being new to them he took to apprise them his meaning. They could sense the general idea. “Well what of it?”
“We are it!”
“We caught a Turk! Didn’t we?”
“To catch a Tatar is terrible, we know. What about a Turk?” they asked. Proxy and Moxy were not so much endowed in the direction of catching a drift when given. “We give him trouble instead,” replied Open End. Proxy was for caution and Moxy was for Abundant caution. Open End thought they were stuck in a groove. Of commonplace. ’Getting them out was not easy,’ he knew. Two years of service had given Open End something more special while they were for caution.
Open End was all for striking out in a new direction if he knew how. After two months Proxy asked, “Have you heard of the New World?” “No,” said Open End whose world was stopped with the Ottomans. “Well what of it?” Open End had a low resistance to anything new. This New World was an eye opener. What with an eyeful of melons for months together his old values had already died. It was to such a lost soul Proxy had casually mentioned of a new world. “ A brave new world!” Open End whooped with joy, ”we will start our lives fresh!”
“Caution!” whispered Proxy.
“Abundant Caution!”
Open End thought these two were sent by Satan to try his patience. These two reminded him of that old monk Anselm, who shoved homilies down his throat and had warned,“ Murcius, what you need is patience. Patience of Job!” It was to such a soul who had heard the siren song of deliverance the duo applied their salve. “Caution?” he could have burst out, ’tell it to the birds’.
One evening they brought a piece of news which forever changed him. But they began as usual with such commonplace, trite expressions Open End thought his curiosity would die before they got to the point. To prevent himself from screaming, he gritted his teeth till they took their time, to tell of all that wealth which went their accustomed rounds. They did not notice the state of shock, which convulsed their listener and made his eyes grow wider. Those whom he thought were dull as ditchwater knew what he did not know. Besides they were asking him, “What will you do Open End?”
“Check it out, of course!”
“You will not overstep the law, will you?”
“No, of course not!”
“Abundant caution!” intoned Moxy.
Open End with the patience of Job looked at Proxy for his turn. “Caution!” said he and Open End was not disappointed. He let out a laugh the significance of which was lost to both. They had not realized the patience of Job was at last snapped. At that very moment he had come to a decision. If he were Destiny’s child they would be left to the gutter, he assured himself.
Expecting to conquer a brave a new world with their help was as good as looking for eggs from a mare’s nest.
Moxy was deep in thought. He opened up, “I was wondering if there could be a vessel we could lay hands on?” Proxy asked in his turn, “Perhaps the seamen may be drunk and all the loot lying there unattended. What will you do in such a case?”
“Abundant caution!” Open End said with a laugh.
“Yes, as I said, Abundant caution!” Moxy added as it were some sort of benediction. Open End could not believe that he ever seriously took those wretched fellows who would have not spared even a snail from advising caution and abundant caution.
Sometime in 1567,
only when Open End veered the course of his felucca from its normal course into the Atlantic Ocean he realized he was in the path of a great Battle Of Wits among the kingdoms of this world. The Zaragoza belonging to the Spanish fleet loomed before him. It had beaten the Portuguese and the English to the wealth of the New World, which were piled up within every inch of its hold. Against that setting sun it was like a phantom ship cast anchor in murky waters slowed down by a crew who had lately worked too hard and for too long. They needed a break. With no activity whatsoever aboard the vessel it looked ominous and awful.
Open End nudged his companions and they tensed. They could well imagine the wealth, which would greet upon their inspection. “Do we ask permission?” Proxy asked. “By way of caution?” Open End asked with a sneer.
“Only if we are challenged!” Moxy urged,
” Abundant caution!”
They had worked out a plan of sorts. Open End knew he had to play by the ear when they were at it. They were there aboard the Spanish ship to satisfy that urge which had grown out of all proportion and they would, if confronted, ask the Spaniards in all politeness. It was deceptively simple. Really. They went through it all over again. “We will merely invite ourselves to the captain and perhaps he may give each a doubloon to send us on our way.”
“If we are not challenged?” Proxy asked. “We will have to leave each a doubloon instead.” Open End was certain.
“Abundant Caution,” chimed Moxy dutifully.
Only after they boarded the unsuspecting ship Open End realised how easy it all was. Open End quickly let himself back into the boat with items carefully sought out; so did two of his associates whose hands flew all over the cargo, picking out what they wanted most from the cargo which they lugged on their backs without wasting time. For want of time they did not count their booty. How they managed to empty the cargo before the drunken sailors could realize what went on, would always remain a mystery to Open End. Only that he broke nearly his back carrying the load and nearly his neck with all those climbing down to his vessel under its weight and running back for more. His adrenalin rush must have been more in the class of a tsunami to have accomplished so much in so little time. He had made it. He set aside some doubloons for the seamen towards tip. A promise is a promise so he believed.
It surprised him that the fellows who shared the same risks as he for once worked without mentioning the damn word ‘caution’!
Open End had come aboard uninvited and once he made his getaway he realized he was a pirate! He couldn’t go back to his old life. His career as the captain of Casaba was once and for all ruined. Like Humpty-Dumpty he was smashed to smithereens! Open End of course at times rued that if he was ever caught all the kings men would not bother putting him together. “Why I will be drawn and quartered instead!” It sobered him up. No more did he think of going back to his old ways.
Instead he had Proxy and Moxy for company. They were forever applying their caution to fix things up. Open End listened to them as if all those riches had somewhat hampered his hearing.
One said, ”Caution!” and the other added of course, what was expected of him. Open End had with sheer will power learnt to let them bounce off. Instead he gave them an inscrutable smile in reply.
Proxy would have liked to check the extent of their pickings. Open End said, ”Well it is taken care of. Abundant caution you know.” Proxy did not get it. He asked why. Open End explained he had put up their old felucca for sale. He said he had something to worry about at the moment. “ The sale of Casaba is our immediate concern.” he said, ”What is the point of counting money which is there while we look for a buyer who is not here? ” Proxy and Moxy shook their heads as if they were faced with a conundrum.  For all their caution Open End played elusive and he did not show any of the loot to them. “Profit is not what we talk right now.” The pirate explained,” For mercy sake, a little caution will do nicely, thank you.”
Some days later he announced, “It is taken care of!” Open End said he had already arranged with a Venetian buyer, Bozo by name. “Proxy, you should not let the felucca out of sight!” The pirate warned him,” the buyer is a slim customer.” “Yes,” Open End moped his forehead, ”You both ought not leave Bozo out of sight.”
They stared as if they did not understand him.
As the buyer came in view Open End said in a whisper, ”You two go along with the buyer and engage him into a spiel.”  Proxy looked at Open End unable to fathom him. “ I shall deal with his notary and the paperwork, which of course, you do not want that?” Open End asked. Proxy and Moxy rued they had neglected their 3 R’s. ”Don’t you fellows want me to make sure we got to the last doubloon? If I let you fellows count, it would be ages before we come to close the sale.” “Something seems not right,“ Moxy exclaimed, “Abundant caution!”
“Just for once humor me will you?” Open End pleaded. Meanwhile Bozo the Venetian had come with his men to inspect the felucca and Proxy eyed him with suspicion. Moxy covered him from other side. These two fellows thought they were there to drum up a sale. Only when the buyer wanted them to climb aboard and show him the ropes they realised that there was more to a felucca than met the eye.
Did Open End feel a tear or two for dispatching two unsuspecting countrymen to a life long servitude? Even if he did he kept it all to himself. A pirate cannot be free with his feelings so he shut up as soon as he counted the blood money and put it away. What is known of his career was that he straightaway bought a galley which the Barbary pirates had fitted with a rigged lateen sail. It was a souped up job built for speed: it could achieve a speed of 10 knots (*18 kilometers per hour). It had weathered many storms and it still looked seaworthy. How Barbary pirates could make a getaway with her was beyond belief. Open End thought his luck again held in getting her at knock down price. He called her Rule Of Thumb. ( Why he chose the name has its own story to which I shall come by and by.) Forthwith he sailed to a cove in Bozburun close to Gulf of Kerme.
Open End had phenomenal luck. His booty from almost so juvenile in its conception and execution was an astronomical sum of four and half millions. It could have sustained him for at least ten generations. But he was all for the present. Those escudos and florins were stacked in chests; they were impressive but the thought they were many times handled by others and were tainted cooled his ardor somewhat. Not so with his jewels. There were bloodstones, zephyrs, diamonds and rubies in six chests that he could not look at without being affected. Overcome with a sensation that the saint from Avila would have well approved of, he would have shouted in joy. But he had to be careful since the Knights of St.John had set up their base of operations in the nearby.
Every time he resorted to an elaborate charade of sorts to throw off suspicion before he went his rounds. He had his treasure chests scattered in so many grottos so ingeniously hidden from all eyes. While he examined his beauties his face would drain off all color and see visions. Never had such moments assailed him in his callow youth but as a pirate he knew they were beyond explaining. Every time. Each stone glimmered with its lustrous sheen in his hands and he could feel its weight. Before long he would involuntarily close his eyes expecting to be struck dead by its very beauty. Each time his private devotions unnerved him, “I am lost if I take a look at these another minute!” Without exception he would put them back in an act of self- preservation muttering a prayer or two. It was not that he expected his patron saint would relieve him of his wealth; he was not stupid.( He worked for it, didn’t he?) His prayer was simple: ‘let me keep my fruits of labor; towards this give me a stronger stomach.’- He was modest in his needs- ‘Keep those simple pleasures of my life be long, as the years of Methuselah.’
What he had collected he found place for them along the least visited beaches of Kerme overlooking Aegean sea. Whenever he was busy checking his treasures had he been found out or his hiding place by another he would have killed him then and there. He could well imagine. He definitely wanted no one to witness his mystical moments. He was in a sense a mystic with two stranded pearls and amethyst for a crown of thorns!  He had such thoughts, which were not permitted to mortals to contemplate, visions no one can look on without cracking up into a frenzy. It was then that his soul rapped with such insistence for human company and he had to attend to his needs.
When he was lost among his fellow men he thought nothing but savoring the every day smell of humanity. They were the scum and low specimens who thought nothing but of liquor, women and loot. Ensconced in the smoke filled parlor and safe from all harm the adventurers of all stripes and colors would be there eying every customer who came in and those who straggled their way out. Mostly they were dreamers who dreamt of heists and waited for a change in fortunes. There they drank from black- jacks, spilt wine or dashed beer over their matted hair to give it a sheen.  While among them what he could surely expect was not any one saying ‘caution’ followed with another responding, ‘abundant caution’.
One day he happened to drop ashore at Bodrum along the gulf of Kerme. He hastened along the wharf as he was wont, checking the names of so many eateries gorged with hungry customers. He set his eyes on The Felafel, a dingy eat-house. He had passed along that place so often and each time without seeing it. That balmy noon as his eyes picked it out, as on purpose, his fervid brain tapped out some kind of significance. In a shiver he looked at that yellowed sign doing a jig in the breeze. He knew it had an unsettled matter with him to conclude then and there. He shook himself still smarting from all that violence which his wealth had set in motion.
The Felafel! Open End felt his heart racing and blood rushing to his head at the sight. He was all for checking out the Felafel. A new experience.
Yes, Open End was in for a surprise. That premonition he had while he took in the rocking signboard was true! Bozo the Venetian merchant was already in Felafel. What a small world he thought. He to whom he had sold the Casaba was at the point of finishing his lunch. He was deliriously happy.
Bozo saw him enter, almost lurching as if he had seen ghosts and his haggard face told it all. Bozo hailed him and the unfortunate man in response  burst out cackling. How his vacant eyes moved him! In that one look Bozo knew he was at the edge of madness and he had kindly brought him back to sanity. The Venetian hailed him and asked him to join him. Open End wanted to ask but Bozo preempted his move. ”Abundant caution!” He had finished his meal. Bringing his chair close to him Bozo took his pipe and lit it. He whispered that the felucca, which he bought did bring him luck. “Luck in what sense?” Open End loved a story and he was eager to hear him. “I sold Proxy and Moxy before they could infect me.” He burst out laughing. In between paroxysms of laughter he would punctuate with ”Caution!”. Open End could well understand.
“Yes, you took abundant caution in getting rid of their influence!” Open End shuddered at what might have been had he let them by his side for long.
The waiter materialized as if from nowhere and was ready to take order. The boy had a face like the full moon and he was round for all the running he did in a day’s work. He was sixteen and as cheeky as one who knew he was in demand by hungry customers throughout the day. He took orders as if he did them a favor and was familiar which did not go well with many. He did not mind. “Call me Ishamael,” announced he.
“Why should we call when you are already here?” Open End was surprised. “And you shall serve us. Won’t you?”
Open End asked Bozo in a whisper if he could trust the food provided by the establishment. It was the turn of Bozo who almost wilted at the sight of Ishmael and he found difficulty to find words. ”Give my good friend your best!” he croaked.
“Felafel!” the waiter younger by some eight years or so snapped, ”Nothing but felafel!”
“Why can’t you serve some venison for a change?” Bozo asked him. Ishmael quickly went off leaving him unnerved. “I have been here all these five days. Every time you have been hollering me down.” Bozo found his voice as his bugbear returned. “Not for once you have heard what I really would like to eat.” Bozo was obviously unhappy,” Venison I could have the next time I order here for.”
“In such a case we will have to change the name of the house.” came the retort. Bozo seemed to faint with disappointment.
Open End somehow was for obliging the waiter. He whispered to the Venetian who was in ill-humor,
”Think of his state. Poor boy having to work at all hours. Naturally his temper is bound to be all knotted up.”
Open End looked at the waiter and said sweetly, “My good fellow serve me some felafel.” The waiter launched himself into the vicissitudes of serving seamen who were seen one day and not seen thereafter. “I wonder where do they all disappear?”
“I have been here for five days,” Bozo whined.
“You don’t count!” Ishmael snapped.” Venison eh?”
“May be you could ask your chef to improve his cooking?” Open End was all for keeping the conversation going.” In such a case sea men will be here oftener.” He was beginning to feel those terrible thoughts which the stones had set off were somewhat deadened. “So you have already judged this eating house before you have had, even a bite!”
After a quarter of an hour of his monologue he suddenly came to a halt.
Open End seemed to him a customer not to be trifled with. “Ishmael you may have time on your hands,” Open End was beginning to feel the hunger like a wolf let loose on a scorched earth, “By the beard of Mar Chrysostom, give me felafel!”
“How do you wish it served?”
“In silence!” Bozo said, ”I want this good friend of mine served with your excellent felafel.”  “If you had seen where the chick-peas are grown you would hardly call the dish excellent.”
Within an hour he brought a dish, which tasted O.K. Open End was hungry so he wolfed it down and his mouth was burning hot. ”You could have used a clean plate, ”Bozo complained looking at the plate of his companion,” your thumb prints run all over.”
“ He has eaten only what was set therein or do you intend to lick his plate?” Bozo looked at Open End and smiled weakly.
Ishmael was very rude and he gave the impression he was established there to wreck whatever custom Felafel would have hoped to get.
“Less of your lip,” Open End almost got up with his eyes blazing, ”Here is a glass of wine,” the waiter insolently said,” I know the signs.”
Open End drank the proffered glass of wine which soothed him somewhat. “The cook throws black pepper with a heavy hand.” Ishmael added conversationally.
“Who pays for the wine?”
“It is on the house.” Ishmael had the last word.
“But for that overwhelming urge to meet people and hear some human voice I would not have come here!” Bozo said in a defeated tone. Open End realised, ‘here is a kindred spirit.’
They talked at length and in the end it was apparent Bozo had a whole gang of slaves whom he wanted to sell to the West Indies where sugar plantations needed them in galore. “If I had some transportation I could have taken them myself to the Spaniards who pay well,” Bozo sighed, “I would have been rolling in wealth. Alas that is not to be!” Open End liked what he heard. Bozo was a broker. If the transaction lined his pockets and it brought himself a windfall, well he was all for it. Bozo was a piece of humanity dropped on him as manna, an insurance against the terrible havoc, which went on in his soul while looking at the precious stones. He only knew too well how the sight of him had cleansed him through and through.
He followed Bozo to inspect the merchandise. Those slaves from Benin were cheap. 230 of them, men and women chained together. There they sat in a dark warehouse and suffered themselves to be checked, prodded and paraded as if Bozo were a circus master and he, a potentate for whose pleasure no effort was to be stinted. He smiled straight from his soul to see them. What appealed to him most was he would have human company for some three months. “Nothing like human beings to put rosy cheeks to a soul.”  While they negotiated over the price their initial friendliness took a severe beating and then as they talked in terms of hard cash they were again back to square one. They shook hands and agreed the price. They met in a private room over the Turkish Delights where money changed hands and the Venetian declared he was bouncing back once again. He admitted before he left how broke he was the day before he first did business with him. “The Casaba changed all that.” He smirked with satisfaction, “But by the day after I had my millions. Just when I needed some liquid cash!” Bozo was merely expressing the whirlwind of fortunes that was part of their career.
Open End said, “We shall meet again!” After he received the cargo he lost no time in fitting his galley with his new acquisition. They were sorry looking human cargo all lined up and bound in chains. He had the satisfaction he had company all the way to Mondego Bay.
Next morning Open End was to sail for the Caribbean Islands but disaster struck him. His cook had deserted in the blink of an eye! On such a short notice he didn’t know where he could find another cook. The human cargo who took every available space needed to be fed and every hour wasted meant only one thing. A financial disaster! Seven days he trudged his lonely furrow in search of a cook while his human cargo got their sustenance like a clockwork. It was nothing what one with a free will would have ordered but being bound by chains of iron the people from Benin ate just what was ladled out to them. Open End had instructed his steward a greasy bird who ate like a bird and went by the name Jack Boots to keep meticulous account of what they consumed daily.
Open End pored over the expenses, which Jack Boots had written in his crabbed hand and his heart sank. He was staring at disaster.
It was with some trepidation he took to the direction of Felafel. Perhaps Ishmael would prove to be man of the hour. If everything failed Open End vowed he would have to pressgang him into service. A dish of felafel night and day for a month would wreck his constitution beyond repair.  It was but a trifle compared to the prospects of a certain disaster that stared at him. He had to get rid of his human cargo before they made a meal of him.
That evening Felafel was overcrowded by those customers that had been aboard for long. Open End had seen the ship which had just moored in the open sea. As its crew streamed in so many boats they looked as large as life and he made enquiries. Not a single one of them wanted to join him as a cook. Neither for silver or for praise.
It was late in the night Open End had a chance to talk to Ishmael. “I know a disappointed youth checked in every turn by an underhand blow,” said Open End before Ishmael could catch his breath. ”Life can be cruel. Isn’t it?”
“Well what of it?”
“A ship’s cook has better prospects than a waiter.”
“In what way?”
“A waiter’s life is made to order.”
“So what?” Ishmael was beginning to look nasty.
“ You make your round from kitchen to table. What it gives you?”
Ishmael was tired of guessing. He kept his silence. “Tired feet!” Open End thought he was beginning to score over him. “A kitchen that I have, comes with everything that is latest in a ship. More ever the crew eats off the cook’s hands.” Open End paused for breath. “You know what a cook would feel being so much in demand?”
“Tired hands!” Ishmael was not impressed. “I shall clobber even if it is the captain who dares to lick my hand.”
“Aw come, come, “Open End laughed at the simpleton, ”We are talking in figure of speech. Aren’t we?”
“No” Ishmael retorted morosely, “ You are talking of my career!”  Open End drew himself up.
“O.K we shall come to the point!” he said.
“I need a cook for a three months voyage to Jamaica and back.” The pirate explained,” If you would serve me you shall at the end of your term, be a wealthy fellow by any standards. You can retire if you will as a gentleman of leisure with a country house in Marmarus.” He sat down.
“What sort of business are you in?” Ishmael came to the point. “Anything that can be carried in a galley.” Open End felt a little embarrassed, ”At the moment I have human cargo to sell.”
“That means I have to cook for the crew and not to mention you, and for all those slaves as well. Am I right?”
“Yes.” “ May be on the return you will help me find a vessel carrying treasures instead of human cargo.” Open End gave a mirthless laugh,” in that case you have cut your work out. What do you say?”
“So you are a pirate?”
“Yes, unabashedly!” He stood up and made a pirouette to show himself in a better light.
Ishmael looked at the abominable pirate in a felt, floppy wide-brimmed hat and a cutlass, which was dangling alongside. ”You are not much for hand to hand combat. Are you?”
Open End shuddered involuntarily.
“What makes you say that?”
“You cutlass is brand new.” Ishmael bent down to examine closely. Next moment he laughed
uproariously, which he tried to control with one hand on his mouth while the other pointed to his hapless weapon. It attracted the attention of every seaman who was unwinding after a couple of bottles of rum down the hatch.
“You haven’t even removed the price tag!” Ishmael reminded him. “For sale, as-where-is condition! For sale, going cheap!” One took up.
“A pirate and his cutlass as good as new!” Another added his refrain.
The rest of the sea men craned their necks to take it all in. They were really enjoying a free entertainment, which they all agreed was really their money’s worth. One said,” The waiter is an useless brat but so entertaining.”
For a quarter of an hour they took on the pathetic figure of a pirate who was fiddling with his weapon to get it out of its scabbard. He knew  he cut a sorry figure. He could not back out or make himself disappear. If he had his way he could have tried the cutlass first on the jackanapes who was rolling in mirth with his hand on his belly. At last he had the cutlass out. He held it aloft as if he was examining it and put it back again feeling very foolish. He had no choice but to take their ribbing. He wanted the fellow as a cook. Somehow.
He gritted his teeth and waited for the merriment to die down. It died sometime later. Ishmael said  he would be laughed out by every cook along the Mediterranean if he ever did tell he worked for a pirate who dared not spill blood. He looked at the lanky figure with a big nose and a head almost at the point of being bald.
“Hope you have enough money to pay for my services?” “What do you think?” Ishmael realized  he was foolish to push him further. “I shall take your offer, “Ishmael said,” if you promise to make me the captain at the end of three months.” Open End thought it over. It set Ishmael off once again: “A pirate who goes green at the thought of blood!” Against his will laughter broke out.
“Am I green?” Open End croaked boiling with rage, which increased his mirth several decibels higher.
Ishmael checked him out from his back, ”Look, he has a yellow streak Ho, Ho. Ho!” He was slapping himself hard overcome with his victim who merely quivered.
“Do I take you seriously?”
“You had better!”
“Why should I?”
“You are looking for a new position. Aren’t you?”
“Will you be then my cook?”
“Do you agree to pay me in time?”
“Agreed!” Open End said without flinching.
“Listen fellows!” Open End hollered overlooking some titter that greeted his posture as a pirate,” By the skull and crossed bones I have said it. Ishmael shall be the capt’in of my vessel once he has served me satisfactorily during the voyage to Jamaica.”
“Hurrah!” they greeted it as the owner of the establishment came to investigate. Inonu smelled in the hubbub some trouble. It could only be the work of Ishmael. He had his eye on the fellow who he suspected was systematically undermining the foundation of his business. His wife worked from morning till night without a break; so did he. If he did cut corners and added water to wine it was for keeping his head above insolvency. So many years of drudgery despite of his single error in judgment in letting Ishmael stay on, would crash on his head if he did not instantly attend to it. He knew it.
Ishmael was a one man wrecking crew. Inonu
rushed in as if his house was on fire. The scullery maid ( who was his daughter) just stood in his path  and informed him the news. He couldn’t believe it! Ishmael was leaving him that very night. It was mighty glad news!
It came to him the reason in a flash. The time he turned up there the first time he said that he would only work as a cook. “At the time being we have only a position as a waiter open.” He had said then. The pudding faced youth had taken it ill he could not straightaway prove his skills as a chef. That explained.
His wife said the fellow was holding the center stage and what’s more heaping insults after insults on a customer. “Preposterous!” He exclaimed at the cheek of his waiter. But when he listened to what went on he was somewhat at ease. “So some one wants to take him on as a cook!” Inonu said. “On a short notice,” the owner said to himself,” well good riddance. A plague on him!”
Open End had just made public with a nonchalant air worthy of a pirate “I have found me a cook!”
A fresh round of drinks were passed on which they toasted while the pirate enquired the imp of a waiter if he could cook. “A feast fit for a king!” Ishmael crowed.
“But judging from your service I thought you were a washout?” “As a waiter I am.” Ishmael was open about it, “But leave me to cook a meal I am what you call a miracle worker!”
“Promise you will make me the captain?” Ishmael added. “I promise you!” Open End said solemnly and the crowd greeted it with guffaws of merriment. Ishmael was satisfied too. “By the way what is the name of your ship?”
“Rule of Thumb!”
“No, it is not!” Ishmael was certain,” The Golden Tulip It is called.” “Come and see for yourself!” Open End was certain of his ship. “No, We shall fix it,” Ishmael said,” this very night if I were to step aboard her.” Open End realized his fate hung upon a single thread. So he gave in. “You are an excellent cook,” The pirate was not sure,” Are you not?”
“Of course I am!” Ishmael insisted,” Every day a feast for your table. Nothing less than that.”
“A promise is a promise!”
“Amen!” replied Open End.
Since Open End felt time was of the essence he wanted to move to the next matter. He was drunk as every other but he had not slackened his hold from the sleeve of Ishmael. He had to steer him to his ship and take off. He felt wine warming within; He was ready to declare peace with the world unconditionally but to let go his hold from the cook was impossible. He was his safe conduct from a certain disaster!
Open End and his ward as if drawn by mysterious pull gravitated towards the door making only a single loop to go to that alcove where Ishmael slept. In a trice the cook designate had collected his valise and his back wages and before he could say ‘Abou’s kous-kous’ he was out into the night, firmly held by a slightly tipsy pirate. There his ship stood in the silhouette with a few lights to give it some raffish air of a pirate’s ship.
“I am at your service master!” Ishmael was obviously impressed to take in its tall masts and ropes and tackles.
“Don’t you have your folks to take leave of?”
“Oh “ the imp replied,” Let not that worry you!”
“O.K ,“exclaimed Open End,” a family complicates matters. I agree with you!”
“Oh yes!”
At least Ishmael realized that he was in agreement with the pirate on certain things. He slept for the first time in a ship which was just christened The Golden Tulip. It was to be his world for some time to come. As a cook. He did not get to think beyond. He slept.
Ishmael was as good as his word. He supervised the larder and store. He took inventory of items and wrote down whatever he thought would make the captain’s table second to none. At the first landfall in Crete he ordered for new pewter service, which he said was reserved for Open End.
“In any other,” he said with tongue in cheek, will not show a feast fit for a king.”
It cost him money but Open End held his silence and told Jack Boots on whom lay the onerous duty of keeping accounts, to give Ishmael a long leash. ”Go and give your hand some rest, fellow!” Another time. “Since Ishmael was making his ship something of a talking point he might spend much more than I may myself want to spend”, he explained, “But did not you see how green with jealousy I am looked at?”. Yes all the pirates envied him and gave Open End credit for his excellent taste. The pirates judging from his tableware and quality of dishes suspected that he must have had a pact with Beelzebub.
Ishmael did not want to take credit but served a feast for a king. Each time.
The only flaw as far as Open End could see was the elaborate menu, which he tacked on his table and the words “A promise is a promise!” As The Golden Tulip held its course the dishes which Ishamael served were beginning to be very predictable. He served fish which had brought home to Open End,  whichever way Ishmael decided, fishes would have had a glorious death. So masterly he was in serving fish heads with its eyes peering above its watery grave. Open End knew from its look how lovingly his cook would have attended to its last rites.
Ishmael had only one complaint that he could serve fish head soup only for special days. It was just as well. For breakfast he served plaice and lunch was without exception, cod it was ; for dinner he always saved his masterly stroke. He could carve filets of tuna, slabs of which he placed for his master to chew on. As appetizing as his dishes were he never forgot to add, “A promise is a promise!”
One month later Open End was mentioning a dream that he had the night before. “I dreamt of lambs frolicking on grassy meadows of my town.“
“What is the sea for?” Ishmael said when Open End suggested whenever he dreamt of veal cutlets he had an urge to buy himself a dish at the next port of call. “I am beginning to dream more of cutlets, Ishmael!” Open End cried as the days went by.
One morning.“ You have had a nightmare, master” Ishmael said concerned,” I shall fix you some cloves and fennels fried in fish oil. I have my mother’s secret mix to keep you from recurring dreams.”
“Am I to drink it?” Open End asked when that night Ishmael brought him the stinker in a small leather bag. “Oh no, keep it by you bedside and it works while you sleep.” Ishmael bowled him over. If it were not for his cargo he might have committed cold blooded murder for the very stink which he had to endure whole night.
“Was it not effective?” the cook wanted to know.
“Sure!” Open End said next day mirthlessly,” the day has come and the glorious sun is over my head. It tells me Ishmael the night is no more a problem. But how come I cannot smell a thing but your fish oil?” His woebegone face was plain. A little later he added,” How long do you think it is going to last. One month?”
The master chef did not take the sarcasm; neither did he let cry from the heart swerve him from fulfilling his part of the bargain. Ishmael knew his mother’s secret formula was beyond compare and chased the recurring nightmares away. He was  confident,” it works like a dream! I knew it.”
But for Open End there was no reprieve. He was condemned to sleep badly and worse was his recurring day dreams. He saw the sun taking the shape of a sunny side up turning golden brown. He began mistaking those flocculent clouds for slivers of white meat done to a rare. Some days he stared at the menu for hours together wondering what kept eggs off his fare. He thought Ishmael had some unexplained grievance against poultry or pig trotters. Open End of course put up with the fare but he was somewhere cracking up and he could not put his finger on it. It was not his gullet or his belly the matter. Neither was it his tongue. Somewhere all that tutti frutti di mari clashed with his soul and he could barely look at his plate no matter how elaborate the menu had become with each day. He did scream inwardly. Never once did he complain to the high heavens about the cost as much as the absence of wild game or mutton. He murmured the cook could have caught some turtledoves, which flew about over head as the ship neared the land.
Only when the ship cast its anchor off Jamaica he realized that he had a human cargo to sell. All his thoughts were for weeks together seized off as it surfaced by a great urge: he drooled that he could splurge on red meat.
The Spanish broker who approached him with his service to dispose his cargo took one look at the slaves. He wrung his hands in joy, “Magnifico!” He knew Open End had the right stuff. All that he needed were the right moves. The swarthy sun burnt face of Miguel wreathed in smiles brought the abominable pirate to the present. “May I shake the hands of a millionaire?” the broker pointed out to those sleek and well fed slaves who were almost shining though somewhat marred by their shackles. The broker complimented the pirate profusely. Never for once he had done business with one who had invested in his cargo so assiduously as to increase their sale value. “They have been fed well all the way to Mondego Bay,” commented Miguel, “and they are fatted calf if I may say so!”
After the papers were exchanged and money passed hands Miguel left the pirate in a happy frame of mind. He saw those slaves still drawing the breath of the buyer away. It did not escape the notice of Open End either. When he was left to himself he called his master chef. “I have just one question, Ishmael,” he queried,” What were you feeding the slaves?”
“You don’t want to know master,” Ishmael was sheepish and explained,” I hated to waste even a sliver of fish. I saved every piece for your table.” There was a pained expression on the face of Open End. He asked, “What did you serve them?”
“Oh, I am sorry. Master, I have been rather mean, disgustingly so petty towards them.” “O.K” replied the pirate, “I shall not hold it against you. They are anyway out of our hands.”
A pause.
“What did you feed them?” “Salted beef and mutton,” Ishmael said embarrassed. He took his role rather seriously he said. He knew he had fallen from that high standard he had set for himself.
“ Now and then I served them veal cutlets when I could not bother with them. So unhealthy!” Ishmael said, “Sausages and bacon! A sure way to an early grave. Master I have been slack, and ashamed at my indifference to the best traditions of my profession.” While Open End mulled over this piece of information Ishmael exclaimed, ”A promise is a promise!”.
All the way to Bodrum Open End had time to think over. He viewed the sea turning green or turquoise blue as the sun swept its kindly eye during its daily rounds. For three months the sea had supplied his table with an assorted menu, and Ishmael had seen a feast fit for the king was set before him.
It was then that his eye caught on a flurry of foam the cause of which was obvious. A telltale shark’s fin signaled that its owner was waiting for The Golden Tulip to make the contact. Open End looked on transfixed against that darkening sky. Ishmael joined him at the deck and said, “A promise is a promise!”
Open End was friendly and pointed to him the great white shark, which he said was waiting for the galley to come in. “You mean the one with a funny tail?” Open End corrected him, “Dorsal fin, Ishmael!”
“It has a cut something of a crescent moon?” Ishmael knew that it looked kind of funny.
“A promise is a promise!” Open End observed.
“Yes, that is what I live by,” The master chef was emphatic,” A promise is a promise.”
The sliver of a moon could be seen suspended precariously as the dark rolling continents of clouds fled across. As if by a sign the shark was looming like a specter before them. At that moment two swarthy hands belonging to the boatswain picked up Ishmael from behind.
The chubby cheeked boy giggled and then he became maniacal ranting on a single theme ‘A promise is a promise!” Hearing his voice run high and low and teetering to that of a caterwauling tomcat, the fellow who held him up from behind laughed.
Ishmael who didn’t get the joke shouted, “A promise is a promise!” He shouted again this time a few decibels higher. Open End was past caring. He had heard the same strain with every meal for the past three months; but however so much he hollered and screamed his head off Open End could take it with unflappable composure. What he felt was so different from the time he felt with all those fishes he chewed on, with emotions turning from violence to extreme violence he thought he owed himself to give Ishmael a clear unvarnished look into his soul which could only take so much and no more.
His self-composure was inhuman he knew. ‘A promise is a promise’ he mused.
” Are you going to keep your promise?”
“Of course,” Open End said with a laugh,” Only that I promised that shark first.” The bo’s’n caught his eye. He nodded.
Next instant Open End looked as a cat who just had washed his whiskers in bowl of milk while waters below splashed in a frenzy which was least of his concern. He had just kept his promise to the great white shark with a peculiar dorsal fin.
The End

Read Full Post »