Do Angels Smell of Rum?
(Takes place sometime before POTC 1 on a tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean under the hot, blistering sun. It's a first person perspective of Jack from a (mostly) proper English lady…)
Apparently, he had not learned—or chose to ignore—the social graces of a gentleman keeping a polite distance from a lady.
Heaven isn't suppose to hurt so much, is it? Do angels smell of rum? I thought not and yet it was too hard to think otherwise with all the pain and sickness I felt.
The endless excruciating roar of the ocean pounded in my head without mercy and my arm, somehow trapped and unbending, burned with pain of a broken bone. This could not be heaven with the ever present torrid taste of coconut milk on my tongue—very unpleasant.
There he was again... coming out of the darkness, hovering above me with a colorful assortment of trinkets dancing around dark, smoldering eyes and wearing a red halo. Those eyes seemed more devilish then holy, but they were filled with compassion and concern every time I saw them. No, I'm sure I must be dead because I could not have survived otherwise.
Snatches of a violent storm and drowning in the thrashing waves clawed at my consciousness. My father shouting... the salty sea filling my mouth... gagging, choking and pulling me under then gagging and choking on sand... out of the water and unmoving, slipping into the sometimes hot, sometimes cold darkness of... hell? Bloody hell! Did I really deserve this after being such a good girl all my life?
I opened my eyes and found I was laying on my right side. My left arm—obviously broken—was secured in a makeshift splint and propped on my hip with rags. My hair had been pulled back and tied with a rag. The rampant roar in my head had simmered down to a dull drum roll. I felt hot, gritty, achey and so very, very thirsty. I was on a beach with the first colors of sunrise chasing away the night. The last of a fire crackled in front of this crude shelter we were under and this fellow was stretched out on his back with several rags shoved under his head and empty bottles at hand.
This was not my father.
I gasped and screamed for him as I struggled to sit up with my good arm. The sudden movement turned my stomach into a tight tempest of nausea as bile filled my mouth. He was at my side in an instant, holding me up as I wretched into the sand. He told me to take deep breaths in a soothing slur until I collapsed back down on my side, completely spent.
"You'll sleep better now and not feel so sick." I watched as he scooped and smoothed the sand in front of me away until the mess was gone. He eased another softer, something folded under my head. I heard a cork pop and then my face was wiped clean with a cloth soaked in wine. "No quick moves again, 'ay? Slow and easy, darling."
Sleep rolled over me like a fog. He put a hand to my forehead, sighed in relief and stroked my cheek. I remembered that feeling from before... I was so cold it felt like the rest of my bones would break from the shaking. I thought there must be monkeys all around me from the constant chatter I heard, which I now realized were my teeth.
I felt him curl up against me from behind, engulfing me in his warmth under some sort of covering. A warm hand massaged my cheeks and jaw until my teeth stopped chattering. As he leaned over me, I felt little feathers tickling my neck and ear—the braids of his beard. He whispered warm, soothing thoughts in my ear: darling, this is a tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean, how can you be so cold? You can't be cold, luv. Not good... no fevers allowed here, savvy? There's a hot, blistering sun beating down on us with no shade... Alright, that's not entirely true. There is plenty of shade, but for our purposes here, darling, think no shade...
Different thoughts floated up from dreamland: Angels have warm hands; I wanted that silky whisper to stay in my ear and hold me forever; I don't like coconut so why do I keep tasting it; I'm getting use to the reek of rum and wine; I'm not in hell but on a tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean; why can't I have some water, or better yet, a spot of tea...?
Whap-whap-whap! I opened my eyes, but didn't move. The fellow sat cross-legged facing me in the shade of this makeshift shelter we were under. He had cracked open a coconut by tapping the seam with handle end of a kitchen knife. He scrutinized the inside of the two halves before tossing one over his shoulder and carved a slice of the meat out from the half he kept.
"Who are you?" I croaked. Somehow speech was hard to manage with a parched throat.
"Ahh, you're awake! That's a good sign, 'ay?" He held up the knife in admonishment, "but no quick moves, savvy?" I nodded. "Good. Slow and steady for you, I think."
He dropped the white coconut chunk into his mouth and chewed thoughtfully, studying me as I got a better look at him. Two braids hung from his chin secured with beads. There were colorful beads and trinkets tangled in his hair about his face and the rest of the mess was secured with a red bandana—not a halo. Ahhh, so this was the angel—or devil—that smelled of rum and wine. Barefoot, he wore bedraggled breeches and a dirty, once-was-white shirt. A long, ragged red and white sash was wrapped about his waist and held a knife.
"Captain Jack Sparrow, at your service." He said with the sweep of his hand and bow of his head as though he was announcing a hero and expected applause. He sighed ruefully at the lack of recognition on my part and grabbed an open bottle of wine without having to look where it was. He lifted it up, saw that it was empty and pitched it aside.
"I don't remember seeing... I thought my father and I were the only passengers." I cautiously lifted my head. He dropped the coconut he was still clutching in the other hand and scooted over to me. He eased me up into a sitting position. Once I was securely upright without problems, he sat back down right in front of me, knee to knee, watching me with quiet amusement. Apparently, he had not learned—or chose to ignore—the social graces of a gentleman keeping a polite distance from a lady.
I was about to say something when I saw all the wreckage strewn about the beach. Salvageable and useful items had been sorted into loose piles of clothes, jewelry, valuables, assorted cutlery and other kitchen utensils along with a fair amount of wine and liquor bottles. These were lined up in several neat rows in the shade of two palm trees. Here and there were small piles of coconuts.
He shook his head and reached back to the small pile of coconuts behind him and picked up the knife. With the handle end he poked at the three knots that looked like eyes and a nose until two of them were pushed in like a cork forced into a bottle. He sniffed at the holes, smiled and held it up in a salute before tipping his head back. He let the contents dribble into his open mouth. Once it was drained, he smacked his lips in satisfaction.
I licked my dry, cracked lips longingly. He obliged me with another coconut and helped me drink it when I almost dropped from my one good hand. I drank it with a grimace, but it did slack my thirst somewhat.
"It's just us, then?" I asked in a small voice. "My father...?" He shook his head and I was touched by the sympathy in his eyes. "What happened? We were in our cabin and I remember a storm—"
"Aye, there was storm."
"But it wasn't that bad—a bit of a drenching rain and the waves were high—but not enough to cause a shipwreck."
"There was an explosion. I have no idea... gunpowder, mostly likely. In the bow it was, but with the storm raging, it sank the ship fast."
The complete candor in his voice was also unsettling. I got the impression it was not used very often and I realized why with quick clarity: His manner of being completely harmless along with the casually friendly, slightly sodden slur put you at ease enough to eventually let your guard down.
"Your father was struggling to hold your head above the water while shoving you on to a part of the mast." Jack continued. "You were out cold... Had one arm up and it flopped back in the water—broken—wouldn't hold at all. I helped him get you half on it by pulling you from the other side... he must have been injured badly—hardly any strength left to heave himself up. Hanging on to you, I tried to pull him up, but the waves..."
He paused and sighed as my eyes filled with tears. He disliked being the bearer of bad news. "I'm sorry, luv. He shouted for me to save you before he went under. So there we were, you and I, at mercy of the wind and waves, clinging to this wood and hanging on to your arm for dear life. Don't know how long till the storm cleared and we were swept towards this spit of land."
I could not hold back the sobs. His hands came up hovering between us, unsure of what to do. Hug me? Pat me on the shoulders? Silently he got up, leaving me respectfully alone to my grief or to retreat from a despairing damsel.
However, I soon discovered it hurt my head too much to cry and the tears stung my sunburned face. I felt hot and grimy in this soiled, shipwrecked dress and my broken arm ached and itched against the splint. It did not take me long to compose myself as I watched him sashay back with a bottle of brandy and two unbroken tea cups.
"I say, you're the prisoner they were keeping down in the hold!"
He stopped dead in tracks and looked around as though he was making sure no one else heard and shushed me. He put a finger up to his lips as he crept up and hunched down to sit under the shelter beside me. He then leaned on me so close I could feel his breath on my face. I was tempted to move away, but decided to stay still. I was not about to give him the satisfaction of unsettling me with ungentlemanly manners.
"I'll have you know," he slurred as he dropped the cups in my lap, "that I was being held against my will."
"Oh really, isn't that what most prisoners claim?"
"Wouldn't know," he shrugged as he straightened up to struggle with the cork of the bottle. "I never considered me-self a prisoner." That, I could see, was an outright lie. He freed the cork and sniffed the contents approvingly. "Brandy for m'lady?"
"Miss," I corrected offhandedly as I picked up one of the cups. "Miss Barrett. Lord Barrett was my father."
"Ohhhh, I see, my apologies, Miss." He sat up straighter, brushed the sand from his breeches and smoothed out his shirt.
I studied the cup and held it up to the light. Not a single crack... fine porcelain china survived a shipwreck, but not flesh and bone. Well, we can't be that far from Port Royal—we had only been at sea a few days...
He sighed impatiently. "Ahh, miss, if you're not going to drink..."
"Oh, sorry..." I held the cup out to him and he poured a small serving into it. I thanked him and raised it to my lips.
"Just a sip, luv. Wouldn't want you to get sick again."
I took a tiny sip and almost choked. I felt it burn on the way down but by the time it hit my stomach, it suffused me with a warm glow.
In one quick move, he had the brandy and the other cup in his hands. He carelessly poured the brandy until it sloshed out of cup. I stared, somewhat pointedly, at the brimming brandy, taken aback at the lack of manners. Unabashedly, he raised it high in a salute. "To Lord Barrett," he declared and drained the cup in one swallow. "And to his lovely daughter, Miss...?"
"Julia," he purred. "Pretty. Like a jewel, 'ay? Jewel-lee-ah."
I blushed as I was never one to delude myself in front of a mirror. I could be really smart looking at times with my hair done up and a bit of makeup applied just right. Nevertheless, my eyes were more a dull gray then green and my straight straw colored hair did not curl in lovely waves about my shoulders. Most importantly, I was a little too flat on top and a little too wide on the bottom. But when my name rolled off his tongue like a precious gem, I felt chills go down my spine.
He flung the cup aside and took a long swig directly from the bottle. I gasped and glared at him.
"What? Now that we've been properly introduced there's no need for formalities, 'ay? You won't get any from me, luv, but what you choose to do is, well, what you choose to do. And, you need to eat," he declared. He put the brandy bottle down between us and reached for the coconut he had drank out of earlier.
"No, really, I couldn't."
He said nothing, but smiled like a cat about to pounce on a mouse. He expertly tapped along the seam with the kitchen knife handle until it split open. He cut away several small chunks, speared one on the knife and handed it to me. My face wrinkled in distaste.
"No use keeping airs about the food either. This is it, darling, if you want to survive. There's jerky in the barrel over yon, but I wouldn't recommend it."
I looked over at the barrel and turned back to the knife. He handed it to me without dropping the meat on the blade. I managed to swallow it and had to admit I felt better with something in my stomach. I washed it down with another small sip of brandy.
"Just beef jerky? But how amazing how all those bottles of wine survived intact and, what? Washed up on shore with nary a broken cork?"
He raised a finger up as though he were about to impart an important secret. "The key to survival is priorities, darling. One can only save so much before it's lost to the sea. And who knows how many more," he choked back a fake sob, "that will never see the light of day? I just couldn't save 'em all..."
"I see. And what are these?" I picked up one of the empty, unmarked dusty bottles and sniffed. The rum was pungent in strength. "Certainly nothing the Royal Navy would have served."
He looked away with in mock guilt and shame. "I'm sorry, darling, I truly am. I discovered the cache several days ago, and well... the truth is," this last part came out in a rush, "that was the last of it." He cringed like a slave about to be hit. "I had no idea if you were going to survive—but thankfully you did!—or I would have saved you some of the rum. Honest."
"I see... well, as you can imagine I am deeply crushed. I suppose it was a matter of those "survival priorities" you spoke of and I will just have to take your word that you would have saved me some if you knew I would survive. Well, what is done is done and my priority now is for you to help me up and get me out of this blistering hot and heavy dress."
Jack put a hand up to his ear. "Ay? Did I hear you say you want me to undress you?! Or was that a trick of the wind?"
I sighed in exasperation and struggled to stand up. "Just please help me. Obviously I can't manage undoing all these laces with one hand, or believe me, I would."
"Oh yes, I know exactly what you mean, luv. All those laces can be such a nuisance."
He scrambled to his feet and had me up by the one hand before I might change my mind. Temporarily blinded by being thrust into the sun, he whipped out the knife in his sash before I could protest. In one expert slash, the dress fell away from my body. Next came the corset without any hesitation.
Freed from the weight and constriction of the heavy material, I took a deep breath and sighed in delight. "Ahhh. Oh, thank you, Jack, it feels—no, never you mind that! This stays on." In the brief pause of the blade, I managed to put a hand of protest over the laces of my chemise as I had nothing else on. And he knew that.
"Ah well, can't blame a pirate for trying. 'Take what you can and give nothing back', is our motto." He paused in thought. "Actually, one of several mottos."
I almost gasped out loud—a pirate?! I suppose I knew that all along, but some how his admitting to it seemed like admitting to a criminal act. I kept my composure so as not to offend him. "Yes, well, that is all the accommodation I need, thank you very much."
I took a step and almost tripped on the hem dragging in the sand. The proper thing would be to hold the chemise up just high enough to walk without showing any leg whatsoever. However, I was on a tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean full of sand and would prefer not to be hampered in movement.
Jack looked down as well with gleeful anticipation, twirling the blade in his hands.
"Alright, there is obviously one more thing you could accommodate me that I would appreciate. Can you please cut the hem off enough—no, not that high!" He had grabbed the seam well above the knees. "Just enough so I can walk about freely. Lower... Jack, please! I'm feeling a bit faint and you know exactly what I mean."
Without further ado, he did a nice job of slicing off just enough hem to be functional and still retain my respectability. He took my hand and helped me back down.
"Thank you, sir. I do believe I shall rest before dinner is served." He backed up and bowed like a servant being dismissed, then weaved away in search of another bottle.
I sighed as I closed my eyes. Pirates are not angels, no doubt about that, but this one saved my life...
(No tea cups, corsets or coconuts were harmed during the production of this story.
The somewhat unsavory—not to mention—possibly unholy comparison of Jack to angels used with permission (Angels Union Local Heaven). The devil didn't give damn one way or another, so I took that as implied consent.
Captain Jack Sparrow and the world of Pirates of the Caribbean are the property of Disney—and Mr Depp who really should have gotten the Oscar—I'm just visiting for a little fun and not for profit, savvy?
I'm actually feeling rather good about this. I think we've all arrived at a very special place, 'ay? Spiritually. Ecumenically. Grammatically... jk, 11/2008.)