Jack

Puerto Lempira, Honduras

They had become experts at minding the boats. Not a single longboat in their charge was let to be carried off by wind or wave or swelling tide, nor any thieving scoundrel what lay his eye on it. Not that any such scoundrel ever did attempt to commandeer one of the rundown miniature vessels. But if one ever had, Pintel and Ragetti would surely have an answer, much like an irritated mother lioness. If minding the boats was the only duty assigned to the pair whenever they came ashore, they would try to carry it out with the utmost efficiency. The fact that doing so required them only to sit on their bums for a few hours and chat made no difference to the men… most of the time.

"…Soft."

"Sift."

"…Lift."

"…Loft."

"…Laughed."

"No, that ain't one. It's too long an' it don' got no 'F' in it."

"Oh… Left, then."

"…Deft."

"…Daft."

"…Dart."

"…Dark."

"Park."

"…Pork."

"…Port."

"…Fort"

"…Sort."

"Sword."

"No, Rags, that's got a 'W' in there. I told ye, ye have ta know how ta spell ta play this game. It ain't all just about sounds."

"…Sorry, Pint. Let's play somethin' else, then."

"Must ye always be playin'? Why can't we just sit quiet fer a bit. It's not all the time we gets a moment to ourselves. Only when we comes ashore an' those blighters leave us behind…"

"Ya really mind it that much?"

"I wouldn't if some other blokes were to take their turn at it once in a while. Why's it always us?"

"I reck'n 'cos we're best at it."

"Best at it? Best at wot? Best at makin' sure a couple o' inanimate object don' go driftin' off on their own? A monkey could do it…"

Ragetti looked down at the sand submissively, sensing Pintel's growing resentment for their current obligation. When his uncle began speaking in such a way, he knew it was time to stay silent, lest he should utter something worthy of a smack to the head. He didn't quite mind this seemingly lowly task. For going on two years now, he'd become well acquainted with the great importance that Captain Barbossa placed on keeping his things safe. A few of the aforementioned smacks to the head had sent the most valuable of those things catapulting from the lad's socket, reducing him to a frantic whimpering mess, scurrying on all fours and praying silently that he'd recover it before Barbossa were to find out. Yes, guarding the Captain's precious articles was viewed by the younger fellow to be equally as important as joining in the raid of a small coastal town. Deep down, he knew it was a blessing from the old former first mate. As his piece-bearer, Ragetti was, too, viewed as a precious possession and was made to stay out of harm's way when reasonable. That's not to say, of course, that the boy hadn't seen his fair share of battle, as he was reinstated as a cannoneer since the mutiny and had little hesitation in making use of his pistol and cutlass during on deck combat. But he, and his uncle by consequence, were often at the end of the queue when it came to full frontal attacks. Pintel would probably never appreciate this setup like his nephew did, however, as the old cutthroat always craved a good fight.

The blonde youth scooted his scrawny rear off of the boat's ledge where he'd been perched, his legs dangling out and his toes barely grazing the surface of the beach. He hit the sand with a thud before pushing himself up to his feet and brushing the grains off the back of his breeches. Pintel rose slightly from his horizontal position on the floor of the longboat and peered over the edge to see what the young man was up to. Ragetti had begun trudging through the sand toward the trees' edge.

"Oi! Where d'ya think yer goin'?"

"Nowheres. I'll be right back."

"Oh, ye'll be right back from 'nowheres,' eh? Ye heard wot the Cap'n said. No leavin' yer post!"

"I'll be right back!"

"…Where are ya goin', ya melodramatic cur? Ya think I'm mad at yeh?"

"No!"

Ragetti all but screeched that answer like a dying parrot, loud and high-pitched, as he tried to amplify his voice over the distance he'd already put between Pintel and himself. When the older man seemed to grow even more irked and began to haul his stocky frame out of the boat in chase, Ragetti grunted and kicked the sand, sending the particles flying in a juvenile display.

"I needs ta take a leak! Wanna come hold me hand?" he shouted, spinning around violently to face the man.

Pintel scoffed at the lad's angsty reply. Satisfied that he now knew where his young charge was off to, he slumped back into the boat.

"Why didn't ye just tell me that in the first place?" he called.

"Ya don' have ta know everything I'm doin' no more. I'm a full-grown man now!"

"Off with ye, then. I'm in no mood ta argue that again tonight… An' don' go too far!"

Ragetti turned and continued toward the trees, quickening his pace as the chilly evening breeze worsened his pent-up urge. As much as the young man disliked the smothering and sometimes demeaning way in which his uncle showed his concern, he complied with the man's entreaty to stay close by. He stopped a few meters in, where he felt he had just enough privacy, before unfastening the buttons of his breeches to relieve himself. Just as he was finishing, he felt a something small and hard hit the back of his head. He whipped around and placed his hand on his sword, scanning the area for his assailant. There was no one in sight.

"…Y-ye'd best get away, you. I'm n-n-not alone."

He backed toward the beach, hoping to emerge from the trees before any hidden attacker were to pounce so that Pintel would see and would be able to spring into action should he need the support. As he cautiously stepped backward, he dropped his bare foot on a hard, jagged object. He flinched and peered down to see what it was. No doubt, this was the item that had hit him. After closer inspection, he saw that it was simply a nutshell. Obviously, some small creature had discarded it from up in the trees. Relived at this, Ragetti continued to make his way back to the boats. But before he could even take three more steps, however, a loud screeching sound startled him so terribly that he lost his footing in the wild vegetation and toppled forward, slamming his face hard against the trunk of a palm.

"Stupid hairy mongrel…" he muttered, brushing the long, puffy sleeve of his pale red shirt gingerly against his cheek. It was scraped pretty badly and he felt the blood dripping all the way to his chin. Now what would Pintel think about his ability to take care of himself? He shuddered as he thought of the impending lecture of inadequacy. As he kept on dabbing his face with his sleeve, he came upon a horrifying revelation.

"Me eye!"

Immediately, he was down on his hands and knees, combing the overgrowth with his fingers as he searched for the missing orb. Forget what Pintel would have to say. If he didn't find his Captain's piece of eight, he'd sooner hang himself from one of these trees than confront the pirate lord. As fortune would have it, though, he eventually did spot the stray prosthetic. But fortune went as quickly as it had come, as a tiny little hand grabbed the wooden sphere much faster than Ragetti's spindly fingers could.

"Oi!... Oi, you mangy beast! That's not a nut!"

But the pintsized capuchin paid no heed. Seeming to want this claim proven by its own means, the primate opened its tiny mouth as wide as it could and bit its teeth down on the eye. It did this several times before giving an irritated screech and hopping onto the nearest tree trunk, scaling it in seconds.

"No! No, don' bite it! Come back!"

Ragetti scrambled to his feet and rushed over to the tree that held the little bandit. He spit in his palms and rubbed his hands together, preparing for his ascent. The monkey still clutched the wooden ball and was staring down at the slender form that inched its way toward it. The animal seemed to leer at the slow-paced, feeble man as it watched. When Ragetti was only a few inches from his prize, the monkey turned and leaped into the branches of an adjacent tree.

"No fair!" Ragetti whined, becoming agitated and afraid. He hadn't yet been told what the punishment for losing the piece of eight was, but Barbossa did mention that the lad would be better off having a smoldering piece coal shoved into his socket than to face him if he ever had... and they left it at that.

Minutes of chasing after the tiny thief soon turned to hours and by that time, Ragetti had completely lost track of both the time and his location within the dense foliage. The monkey always kept just out of his grasp in an almost taunting way. He tried to knock it out of the trees with rocks and sticks, but the agile primate evaded everything that was thrown at it. He decided against using his pistol, not sure what the consequences of shooting the beast would be with the rest of the crew and the Captain surely within hearing distance. He didn't even think the shot would hit its mark anyway. This was a hyper little devil…

Ragetti grew tired. He panted and wiped several beads of cool sweat from his brow. The night was well upon him now and the dark shadows cast by the trees made it especially difficult for his already limited vision to keep pace with the monkey. The eye was gone. On realizing this sobering fact, the lad felt his heart sink heavily into his abdomen. His head began to ache and he started to cry. He pulled his knees up tightly against his chest and sat alongside the trunk of a large palm, weeping bitterly and shaking in fear. Before he'd been nervous about how deeply he'd wandered into the wood. Now he only wished he was deep enough. He prayed that Barbossa would never find him and that he'd die in peace without ever seeing the horrors of that undisclosed fate. He still had his pistol…

"I'm tellin' ya, I heard somethin' over 'ere!"

Ragetti sat up instantly, perked up and wary like a prairie dog. The voice he heard sounded an awful lot like his uncle's, but he wouldn't call to him until he was one hundred percent sure. He continued to listen and the scattered, muffled words coming from what seemed to be only a short distance away confirmed his relieving thoughts. But just as he was about to go bounding toward the voice and curl himself against Pintel's chest in a sobbing, sniveling, shameless exhibition, it dawned on him that the older man's words suggested that he was speaking to somebody that was with him.

"Aye, but we've been trekking in this direction fer near an hour now an' I don't see so much as a flaxen hair of the lad. Me thinks yer worried mind has ye hearin' things what aren't there."

The thoughts were swarming around in the boy's head like a flock of gulls around a barrel of fish. He knew exactly whose voice that was and with every fiber of his being he was willing for himself to somehow disappear. If only the earth could swallow him up. He didn't move, he didn't breathe, he didn't even blink for fear Barbossa would chance to hear it. He also thanked the heavens that his bladder was empty.

"Master Ragetti, if yer in here may ye show yerself before I stumble upon yer shabby carcass meself!"

These bellowing words were what did it. Ragetti's meager plan of simply hiding in the darkness was shattered as the stern command of his Captain brought forth a loud and revealing gulp. He knew it had been heard immediately, as the sound of rustling footsteps ceased.

"…Rags?"

"Ahhh, the lad's not ready ta come out yet, is he? Havin' too much fun playin' in the jungle? Or is there another reason?"

These last words were frighteningly clear and as Ragetti slowly turned his head toward the voice, he was greeted by Barbossa's sneering face, inches away from his own. He shrieked as the Captain quickly gripped his arm and harshly yanked him to his feet.

"Is there somethin' ye want ta be tellin' me, boy?"

"No," was all that Ragetti could muster, in a barely audible whisper.

"Ye don't want ta be tellin' yer old Cap'n what happened to his piece?"

This question was added after Barbossa had inspected Ragetti's face, confirming his suspicion as to why the lad would want to hide.

"I couldn't… I-I I couldn't h- couldn't help it! The m-m-monkey! I fell down an' t-t-t-the monkey c-c-came. He took it! He took it…"

Ragetti was now completely drained of energy. He hung limp in Barbossa's grasp, wishing his fatigue would kill him.

"I've come ta love ye like a son, lad, an' believe me when I tell ye that it'll truly pain me… but I told ye there'd be consequences should that piece be lost… and I'm a man of my word," Barbossa spoke solemnly.

"Isn't there something he can do?" Pintel pleaded, his voice shaking more than Ragetti had ever heard before.

"…Only thing he could do is ta find me piece…"

"Well, give him some time, please!"

"…Well, I'm a charitable man, ta be sure…an' given that the lad seems to be repentant enough, I suppose I could…"

Barbossa's sentence was cut short as a small, dark figure flew at him, clinging to his shoulder and gripping his long hair.

"Gah!" the Captain shouted, dropping Ragetti's wilted body as he jerked back, trying to get a look at the tiny foe. The animal chirped and hooted as it clung to the man. Then, with one swift motion, he hurled the wooden sphere at his forehead.

"How dare you! Why, I should rip yer tail off fer-"

"Me eye!"

Ragetti scooped up his lost prosthetic and dribbled a sticky string of saliva onto it before inserting it into his socket.

"…Well, now! What a pleasant turn of events, eh lad?" Barbossa said, chuckling in disbelief.

"That stupid hairy blighter!" Ragetti was about ready to pounce on the monkey when Barbossa put out his arm and caught him.

"Now, now, laddie. I do believe there's some thanks in order here."

"…Sir?"

"This monkey just saved yer skin, boy."

"…Err, thank you…"

"Off with ye, now, ye li'l thief."

Barbossa shooed the monkey, but it remained firmly planted on his shoulder, chirping softly.

"I think he's takin' a shine ta yeh, Cap'n," Pintel laughed, pulling his nephew up and wrapping a bulky arm around his back to support him.

"Aye, I think so too… I do like monkeys."

"…Cap'n?" Ragetti's eyes, both real and wood, were as wide as saucers. Barbossa couldn't be considering what he thought he was…

"No harm in havin' a pet aboard, then, eh? Especially one who's keen on makin' sure me piece stays safe, right, Master Ragetti?"

"…R-r-right."

"Well, come on, gents. We've gotten what came here for. It's time ta set sail."

The monkey, seeming to understand Barbossa's words, yipped and hollered as it bounced up and down on his shoulder.

"What a smart li'l thing! What shall I call you…"

"It's a thievin' li'l hairy monster, that's wot I'll call it," Ragetti said.

"A thievin' li'l hairy monster… I think I'll call it Jack." Barbossa quipped.

This earned a laugh from the trio, and even Jack the monkey appeared to share in the hilarity, screeching even louder.

"What a good li'l first mate ye are, Jack! Are ye gonna help daddy find the Isle de Muerta, eh? Yes you are!"

Pintel and Ragetti exchanged a glance and a muffled snigger at the Captain's severely uncharacteristic display. The first mate was a monkey. And they named the monkey Jack.