Tag: pirates

Flash Fiction: Benjamin Franklin in the Bermuda Triangle

Couretsy Fist Full of Seamen

For the Terribleminds request for pulp insanity, we return to the adventures of a revolutionary wizard.


The lingering storm clouds made way for the moon, and that was when it began.

The crew of the fluyt Eenhoorn lit lamps on-deck to throw back the darkness. The ocean nearby rippled and swooned, small waves crashing over one another. To Captain Kroeger, the phenomenon was entirely unnatural. He gave the wheel to his first mate, passed a deckhand being sick over the rail, and went into the cabin where their passenger sat, reading.

“Mister Franklin, we need you on deck.”

The American looked up over the rims of his spectacles.

“I take it the storm has ended?”

“Yes. But something else has begun.”

Franklin put his book aside and rose. He picked up a collapsing umbrella from his belongings and ventured out with the captain. He took one look at the swirling waters nearby and frowned.

“Captain, you may want to have your men man their battle stations.”

“Sir?”

“We passed Bermuda this morning, correct? And are taking a southern course?”

“Yes, but…”

“Then we are in dangerous waters.”

“We spotted no other ships nearby! Neither the English nor the Spanish are…”

The roar of the sea in upheaval drowned out the captain. From the swirling pool burst the prow of a ship. Its hull rose into the moonlight like a breaching whale, its masts hung with seaweed instead of sails and tackle. Kroeger’s breath caught in his throat when he beheld the opposing crew. They shambled rather than walked, in various states of decay, many an eye missing from its socket and those still intact smoldering with murderous intent.

“Battle stations! Run out the guns! Prepare to repel boarders!”

Benjamin Franklin furrowed his brow as he studied the enemy ship. Any colors it would have flown had long been consumed by the wildlife beneath them. Sliding the long umbrella into his belt, he climbed the rigging towards the crow’s nest. The Eenhoorn reeled under the superior firepower of the enemy vessel, despite said vessel’s cannon having been underwater moments before. Franklin nearly lost his grip more than once, but he refused to let go completely, gritting his teeth against the spray of the sea and the smell of battle. He alighted into the crow’s nest and took stock of the situation.

The enemy ship was closing in on the Eenhoorn. The half-eaten ambulatory corpses and oddly animated skeletons moved towards the railing closest to the fluyt, wielding grappling lines. Franklin knew it was now or never. He reached down the front of his shirt for the key that hung around his neck. When he freed it from the silver chain, it made his fingers tingle. He slid it around the top of the umbrella, opened the device, and held it above his head.

The storm clouds high above began to shudder and growl. Lights went off like cannon fire within the dark surfaces, and as Franklin pitched the umbrella towards the enemy ship, there was a momentary feeling that his hair was standing on end, his skin about to catch fire. A bolt of lightning snapped into existence, connecting the cloud to the umbrella as it sailed over the ghost ship. The steel spines of the device conveyed smaller bolts onto the ghost ship’s deck, catching a few of the undead crew on fire. A cheer went up from the Dutchmen as Franklin climbed back down.

“That was brilliant, Mister Franklin!”

“Thank you, Captain, but it only slowed them down. I need to find a more permanent solution, and I only brought the one umbrella with me. Hold them off as best you can. Excuse me.”

He grabbed his jar of salt from his belongings and made his way below decks, to the lowest point in the ship. He set a box down and carefully laid out the circle he’d need. Praying the Eenhoorn did not list too much, he touched the circle with both hands.

“Come up from your Locker,” he said. “Come up from your Locker, Come up from your Locker, Davy Jones, Davy Jones.”

The shadows in the bilge seem to grow longer, and in the circle, two saucer-like eyes appeared, blinking at Franklin.

“Ye be a bold soul to summon me, human.” Blue smoke wafted from the spirit’s nostrils. “Release me, and I’ll not drag your ship down to me Locker.”

“I will release you when you take back the ship attacking us.”

“Ye have no business at sea, Benjamin Franklin.”

“Shall we parley, then?”

There was an annoyed puff of blue smoke. “Go on.”

“My destination is Barbados. I have business there with a voudoun priestess.”

“I know of whom ye speak. She be a long way from home.”

“I want to offer her help. Perhaps bring her back to our colonies.”

“Two of ye at sea, then? I should indeed drag ye down now.”

“We will do no harm and work no further magic while at sea. You have my word.”

Jones reached up with a hand to stroke one of his horns. His tail swished in the dark.

“And what benefit be Davy Jones getting out of this bargain? I drown ye now, I’d have me no worries.”

“I wouldn’t go down without a fight. And if we fight, we draw the attention of ocean powers greater than you.”

Jones grinned, his eyes alight. Three rows of teeth glistened in the semi-darkness. “Ye’d lose, little wizard.”

“Maybe. But not before hurting you just in time for your king to arrive.”

The smile vanished. “Fine, then. I give ye safe passage to Barbados and back. But this not be something Davy Jones will forget, Benjamin Franklin.”

“Nor shall I.” Fingers broke the circle and the spirit was gone. He climbed through the decks to find the crew celebrating.

“The sea swallowed them up again!” Captain Kroeger slapped Benjamin on the back. “How did you do it?”

“The fine art of parley, captain. Now, let us get to Barbados with all possible speed. The less time we spend in these waters, the better.”

Our Heroes And Their Booze

Alcohol!

I was thinking about putting together a post on the death of the newspaper. I was going to invoke the classic film All The President’s Men and the more recent State of Play. I was then going to ask where journalistic integrity has gone. But now I realize that was going to go in a political direction and I promised I’d keep politics and religion out of the blog. That’s what WhineLiveJournal is for. Thanks to Chuck, I am no longer thinking of such things. I am, instead, thinking about booze.

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the alcohol they drink. I’m not entirely sure WHO says that, but I know it’s been said. The same goes for fictional characters, or at least I believe it should. Let’s look at a few to see how the saying holds up.

And if I just coined it, I want a dime any time anybody says it.

Courtesy Disney

Captain Jack Sparrow

It’s Talk Like A Pirate Day and I’m sparing ye… er, you the increased difficulty of reading this post in pirate-speak. Instead, let’s look at the chosen intoxicant of one of the craziest and coolest pirates ever to sail the Caribbean, Jack Sparrow. Sorry, that’s Captain Jack Sparrow.

Jack is defined by a question. Normally it’s not “Who am I?” or “Which magical MacGuffin will get us out of this particular mess?” No, that question usually is “Why is the rum gone?” Considering how much rum there was to be had in the West Indies, it’s not surprising this was Jack’s booze of choice. But what does it say about him?

Rum is distilled from sugarcane by-products, usually yielding a sweeter drink that’s more palatable on its own than, say, vodka or tequila. You don’t need to chase a shot of straight rum with salt and the juice of a lemon. Technically you don’t need to do that with tequila either, but I happen to be fond of my taste buds and would prefer them unscalded. Anyway, it’s easier to drink by itself and, as I mentioned, there was a lot of it floating around the West Indies during the time period in which the Pirates of the Caribbean films are set.

So it was easy to acquire, easy to drink, easy to carry around. Jack likes things easy. He doesn’t even need a big ship, technically speaking. The last shot in the last film is Jack, alone, in a little dinghy with a magic map and plenty of rum. No attachments, no worries, no responsibility. That’s Jack in a nutshell. Or a dinghy, rather. For all of his antics, spontaneous flashes of genius in concocting gambits and daring acts of heroism, he’d just as soon not be bothered. He’s concerned when the rum is gone not just because he’s without booze – it means he actually has to do shit.

Courtesy Universal Pictures

The Dude

Here’s a guy you’ll never see swinging on a rope, sword-fighting with Lovecraftian horrors or even pulling one over on the smarmy merchant prince who wants to put an end to piracy (explain again why this is a bad thing) – Jeff Lebowski. “The Dude”. The epitome of slackerhood. His drink of choice is the White Russian. The Caucasian. Damn close to the only alcoholic beverage my wife can stand.

She likes Woodchuck, though, so she does have good taste. Other than marrying Yours Truly.

Back to the Dude. His drink is a combination of vodka, coffee liqueur and half-and-half. Now, breaking these elements down, it’s a surprisingly effective mixture. Vodka is made from grain or potatoes, and as far as I’m concerned, is specifically designed to get you drunk as quickly and cheaply as possible. Even good vodka takes on the flavors of whatever you mix with it, meaning cheap vodka only tastes like vodka if you drink it straight. Mix it with something like coffee liqueur and you’re not only doubling the booze presence but covering up the turpentine-like vodka with something halfway palatable. The half-and-half smooths the drink out, giving it more of the creamy consistency of a glass of milk or an iced latte.

The Dude, then, knows he wants to get drunk but isn’t going to pound tequila shooters to do it. The most expensive item in the list is the liqueur and even that isn’t all that pricey. Somewhere along the line, he realized the best way to make a consistently drinkable alcoholic beverage and figured out the right mix so it comes out well every time. He’s a creature of habit, and more intelligent than he lets on. And even if he runs out of something, the grocery store still takes checks, right? The Dude abides.

Courtesy LionsGate

The Punisher

On the other side of things, we have Frank Castle. This isn’t really touched on in the comics, but in the first recent film, starring the somewhat underrated Thomas Jane, we see Frank drinking Wild Turkey straight from the bottle. A lot. His regimen of physical activity, such as blowing up bad guys and causing head trauma to assassins with a paper cutter blade keeps him from falling out of shape due to this habit. But for the taciturn Frank, the bourbon speaks volumes.

Bourbon is a corn derivative that’s usually pretty strong – 80 proof, or about 43% alcohol per volume. Wild Turkey is even more powerful, weighing in at 101 proof which puts at 50% apv. It’s also thoroughly American. Now, you can do things like mix it with Coke or water to dilute its potency, but the ‘manly’ thing to do is a straight shot. Or several in a row.

Clearly, then, Frank isn’t somebody who messes around. When he wants to get drunk, he does it fast and hard. The same way he takes down mob peons and destroys the lives of their bosses. He drinks his bourbon the way he shoots his guns – straight, fast and intent on maximum damage. Despite the fact he’s doing this damage to himself, we know he can take it because he is the motherfucking Punisher.

Courtesy LionsGate
Booze or no, I would not want to pick a fight with this guy.

Name a favorite character of yours whom you’ve seen boozing. What was the booze? What do you think it says about them?

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