The Pirates, Parts III-V
by Lindsay Parnell
The Pirate, Part iii (or, ‘Birth of a Mermaid Undead’)
a. With each palm he holds a bent knee so her limbs splay outwards. Squinting and searching, like Cousteau but on land, the Pirate has never held a map before but her legs still meet at the angle he knows best. Not his girl but his arachnid.
His sickle rusts with a neck unwound. Kissing her before a bite, hooking the pulse inside her like a trout. Her mouth loose as ocean silt while he turns her head further until she sleeps, sinking into the wreck
beneath the current she is not drowning but falling with wings waterlogged. She breathes with the clandestine gills he bought in Chinatown. Her grasp heaves at each armored rung of his ribcage. Crippled and silent, her skull and bloated boughs won’t plant. He brands her barren in this season.
To sea level she rises, spine swaying with spirals of each current forgotten.
it is so. The Pirate’s hook is meat heavy, his wrist limp with the weight before slop falls into a pile deep as it is wide.
b. Order for One: His
PICK-UP * EAT-IN * WE DELIVER
Buffalo Chicken Cheesesteak $7.70
Bleu Cheese (None)
Italian Hot Dog $5.75
Extra Green Peppers
Sauerkraut (No Charge)
Chili Cheese Fries $4.55
Mozzarella Sticks $5.75
20 Piece BBQ Chicken Wings $15.95
Sausage Roll $10.35
Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza, LG 16” $19.20
2 Liter Pepsi (Delivery Only) $2.95
Delivery Fee FREE
Order for One: Hers
Afterbirth before the birth $ MARKET VALUE
4 lbs. (+/- 1 lb.)
TOTAL CASH ONLY
c. Through the skylight clouds curl like a closed fist. He’s a cold motherfucker, the Pirate, salt hungry and thirsty for earth, the old boy of galactic fame who despises the hymns of strangers.
Her face pressed into the sin he planted. The sodden heap is twice the man the Pirate is but born without a name day. She’s tongue slick with the departed when he says “finish all of it before we leave.” It’s the mutt with the lame hind legs who sees her last.
The Pirate, Part iv (or, ‘The Case of the Missing Mermaid’)
The Mermaid loves her Mama but forgot to call on the Lord’s day, so help was called upon in the weekend pages.
WANTED: Detective and/or Private Eye
Details upon inquiry. Please help.
MISSING: The Mermaid
THE DETECTIVE keeps time by the bottle cap count in her breast pocket. The Detective got sad and tired all at once because she couldn’t no doesn’t sleep, lusts for the tools of married men, loves words and speed, fried calamari tentacles and the treasures best sucked and swallowed. She hasn’t learned her zip code yet but sometimes drinks salt-water pints to get the poison up and solves crimes after sunset. The Detective charges a flat rate fee on days blessed by Saints.
The Mermaid is missing two days since Jesus last rose. And her Mama like His, worries at the mouth of an empty tomb.
She walks on condom wrappers, paper coffee cups, cigarette butts stained by whores. These are not clues. Empty tobacco tins and high street receipts are not clues. “I didn’t baptize her,” the Mermaid’s mother had said on the phone. “But there was a Pirate once—start there…”
Rotten fruit and shellfish and the business cards of accountants, the garbage bags behind the halal cart near the river. Pigeons scavenge plastic wounds, picking at kebab scraps and wine corks. Clues are stillborn in daylight; the Detective knows this letting poison slide from her gullet to her bowels. The ulcer is spreading but its edges pull slow enough to remain undetected, a submarine of decay.
The boat shop has no windows and a door lined with strips of cheap metal heat warped lazy. The Pirate is a seafaring marauder who fixes vacuums and flashlights and pontoons masquerading as time machines. The Pirate hates funerals the way he loves Mid-Atlantic currents. The Pirate worships the bodies of benevolent sailors who fight sea monsters. The Pirate loves the torsos of men and the wallets of women.
“…these are the clues,” the Mermaid’s mother had said. “Start there.”
Tugboats noosed to the dock with leashes slack by the yard. Suspended cable cords slope from the highest planks of the bridge towards the traffic threading beneath it. Between docked battleships Mid-Atlantic caverns sink like empty eye sockets. The harbor is untouched by footprints because the Pirate leaves no trace or no trail when he’s thinking. But he’ll make a mistake, much like Judas; this is what the Detective knows. The Detective knows on land is where the Pirate will grow careless. Waiting underneath the awning of Aries Adult Boutique and Video (proceeds from the $5 DVD bin go to Haiti relief), the Detective smokes Lucky Strikes because she knows no better. South of Broad clues breed in sewer drains, phone booths, the pockets of parking attendants, the mouths of strangers with working eyesight.
WITNESS 01: INTERVIEW [Homeless Man]
“He don’t eat meat and he don’t wander in sunlight neither. He keep the door closed up most of the time and sometimes there aint a kid around but mostly there’s a kid around. The kid aint right. He’s bugged eye and screams a lot. He don’t talk with words and for some reason, I don’t know the reason case you’re wondering, he always got a pink face and red marks round the throat.”
WITNESS 02: INTERVIEW [Waitress at the Chinese takeaway place]
“He doesn’t know what to do on land. He’s careful but he’s stupid too. He doesn’t talk to people and he doesn’t clean up his messes. It’s not the outside you should be worried about. It’s the inside that’s got what you’re looking for.”
The Detective bends at the waist to run her fingertips along the curb. She palms a roach, its feet shudder against her flesh, hissing and frantic. Where there is filth there are clues. But not outside, behind closed doors.
Rent is paid timely, early in fact, the landlord says. He didn’t know when it was that they started sleeping in the same bed for consecutive nights, sharing meals and washing machines. They pay in cash always, the landlord tells her. He says they keep the doors locked, the Pirate and the Mermaid, except for when they don’t, except when they forget.
The key copy is found in the lockbox of a banker who knew the Mermaid back at school. He lives in the mountains and counts coins. He asks the Detective no questions and gives no instructions other than to turn around when he tells her to. And to say that she asked for it. That she likes it because she wants it.
Weightless and anchored to the floor, the rot has begun. The Detective places her hand of the head of each still mutt and mouths prayer before she catalogs the Pirate’s mistakes:
Smeared handprints of motor oil
2nd Grade Report Card
Battlefield Earth (3rd Edition - Paperback)
Takeaway receipt from the chain waffle place off Broad Street
A can of Spinach
The twelve dogs and electricity are dead.
The boy has a pup collar fastened around his neck. His hands are covered in soot and his nails ragged, pupils dull as ball bearings and knees are stamped with scabbed triangles. The Detective kicks him twice before pulling the clasp loose so he knows she is to be thanked.
WITNESS 03: The Riverboat Prince
“I’m not supposed to talk to nobody but I know why you’re here. I smell the dogs too, every day. Sometimes the dogs come here but the Pirate takes them across the way to die. The Pirate hunts seals in all the seasons and dogs are just seals that shit on land. I said I know why you’re here – I bet you want to know about the Mermaid and where she went. Where the Pirate took her – they think I’m dumb but I know more than them. I had me a cigarette once and I know all the best shrimp places in town.
He does tricks on the Mermaid and her mind when he shoves a soup can into each of her hands, like he do me, and asks her questions about every dirty thing that she’s ever done, like he do me. But he’s not a witch, he’s the Pirate and he loves the gold he steals more than anything. Maybe you think this time they don’t come back, but I know they will. He’s got rent to pay and his boy to feed and I aint swallowed nothing for three days so it’ll be soon I bet.
The Pirate can’t drown. Where his blood should be is seawater. He don’t know how to hold himself on land so don’t forget your matches.”
The Pirate, Part v (or, ‘A Conspiracy at 2nd and Trotters Alley’)
THE PIRATE, PART V (OR, ‘A CONSPIRACY AT 2nd AND TROTTERS ALLEY’) was first presented in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 22, 2015 with the following cast:
THE DETECTIVE, a woman of twenty-eight, registered independent, homesick for places she never been; OxyContin Addict.
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE, a child of nine whose daddy is a big boy now and answers to the name he gave himself, ‘The Pirate.’
Directed by RIP OFF RED, GIRL DETECTIVE (RIP Kathy, the Greatest there ever Was)
ACT ONE, SCENE ONE.
A street corner in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Out front of a piano bar called “Sylvia’s.” A sandwich board highlighting daily specials of brisket pierogis, fried pickle spears, crudité with hummus, cheesesteak spring rolls. An open trashcan planted at the base of a street lamp. Discarded weeklies and last night’s depleted beer bottles. Take out containers and chicken bones stripped to marrow.
THE DETECTIVE steps from Sylvia’s onto the public sidewalk of 2nd Street. She tongues a cigarette and cups her palms to light the tip. She takes drags, kneads her knuckles into her eyes then picks at the loose thread of her lapels. THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE enters from the block’s western intersection. He is shirtless. The waistband of his jeans pulls at his hips. His skin is blue and pale and bruised fresh. He looks about the city block and eventually settles, standing adjacent THE DETECTIVE.
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: I’m here because I said I would be because I’m no liar. I’m here but I still think you’re a mean old bitch.
THE DETECTIVE: Am I the only one who know you aint mute?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: I bet I’ll let you kiss me if you ask nice.
THE DETECTIVE: I’ll press a gun barrel to your temple before I do something like that.
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: You don’t know how smart I am– I talk pretty in my audits. You wouldn’t even believe it.
THE DETECITVE: No shit, let’s hear it, big boy.
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: You aint worth it. You aint chosen, you just trash.
THE DETECTIVE: That so? Your daddy hate you as much as he hates the Mermaid?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: You can ask me the things I said you could ask me and I said you couldn’t ask me that. I know more than you, you mean old bitch. I aint the one with questions to ask.
THE DETECTIVE: He know you’re gone?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: He won’t for another three hours – he’s working on his time machine. Gonna make him a billion dollars you know.
THE DETECTIVE: Where they been?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: How do I know you’re the real deal? You never showed me no credentials.
THE DETECTIVE: I don’t have credentials – I’m no officer of the law.
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: I don’t have to tell you nothing then.
THE DETECTIVE: You want your throat slit?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: Wouldn’t matter if you did or you didn’t. Would just give the Pirate another murder to clean up.
THE DETECTIVE pulls a small card from her purse flicks it to him.
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: Aint nobody given me a gift before.
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE reads.
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: “The Detective. Jurisdiction: Northeast Corridor. Matters Tended: Murder, Missing Persons, Illicit Activities, Solicitations. Serious Inquiries Only.” You got a boyfriend?
THE DETECTIVE: Only at nighttime and weekends.
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: It’s a sin to take things that don’t belong to you.
THE DETECTIVE: So it is – what’ll you be when you grow up then?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: Same as you.
THE DETECTIVE: What’s that?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: A tough dame.
THE DETECTIVE: [Smiles.] Where they been?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: Same place they always go. Same place they always go to be.
THE DETECTIVE: I don’t get it –
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: What’s there to get? She got a wallet and he’s got limbs like ladder rungs.
THE DETECTIVE: So what?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: His favorite things are counting and climbing and pirating but where they go is where they go I guess.
THE DETECTIVE: Where’s that?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: They go sailing but they’re the only two who know where they end up.
THE DETECTIVE: Says who?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: I know more than you so you can’t ask me things like that. You can ask me the things I say you can, but I’m not dumb.
THE DETECTIVE pauses. Steps back into the bar and returns with a large and grease-soaked bag. She tosses it to fall near the trashcan.
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: [Dives onto the pavement letting his knees break the fall of the corpse the Pirate gave him. Hamburgers still wrapped are bitten without breaths, pan-fried beef and wax paper swallowed. He speaks through chewing cud]: Where’s the fries? And the mozzarella sticks? Where are they?
THE DETECTIVE: When’d they get back?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: Last week.
THE DETECTIVE: [Reaches for the bag as he lunges towards her feet. Her boot heel catches his jaw before she shoves the bag into the trashcan. She kicks him six times until she kicks him ten.] If they got back last week, why is it we’re standing here today?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: [Wheezing] He don’t know it – know that you’re looking for her. But if he did it wouldn’t matter. He don’t rate you, he don’t care what you think or do. He won’t talk. But she’ll talk as soon as she hears something. She don’t know you’re looking for her.
THE DETECTIVE: Says who?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: Says me because I know more than you. The only reason we’re standing here at all is because I know more than you.
THE DETECTIVE spits her cigarette butt at the ground and reaches into the trashcan. From it she pulls the bag of food.
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: [Receives the bag of food and presses his face into the wet mound of paper.] She won’t talk just yet. We got a full house for a week but she’ll talk soon.
THE DETECTIVE: Since when does company call?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: His Mama hates Jesus more than him but she loves a birthday party same as anyone else. [He finishes the bag of food in full.]
THE DETECTIVE: No shit?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: She’s rotting between her legs from all the nasty she’s rode and rotting in the mind from the pain pills. She wakes up in surgery cause there’s nothing out there strong enough to make her sleep. You be careful with that stuff unless you want to end up like her.
THE DETECTIVE: She the Pirate’s mama proper?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: He slithered out of her just like I did my mama. But her throat’s rotting now too. She don’t even cough, it’s these hacks that sputter till blood coats her palm and the towels in the bathroom. She says my fingernails are too dirty, says that Santa don’t come round because Santa don’t like dirty fingernails.
THE DETECTIVE: Santa don’t like junkies with lady rot neither. What’s her name then?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: She’s called by the weather and the season. This time she’s Autumn. In Baltimore she told folks she was June. The Pirate says when I was born she was Rain.
THE DETECTIVE: What a card.
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: [He smirks while his eyes dart from each intersection corner of the western city block to another. Once he deems his safety, he digs into his front pocket to retrieve a key and hands it to THE DETECTIVE.] You got from six to eight tomorrow night. We’re all going down to the arcade. Don’t forget to lock up on your way out.
THE DETECTIVE: I already got the key – the banker gave me the one she kept locked away from everybody.
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: Not to his place you don’t. He’s still gotta place with saws and a work bench and a room on the side where he hides all the clues. When you done toss the key into the Delaware. Don’t gotta weigh it down, just make sure it’s wet is all. And be careful with the boxes.
THE DETECTIVE: What boxes?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: I built a rocket ship. You’d think it was some big stack of boxes if you’d seen it but it had a control panel and a joystick to steer it – it was the real deal the rocket ship I built. But he said it was silly. He rolled a tire into it so it would fall and it did.
THE DETECTIVE: Why?
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: Say that it was silly?
THE DETECTIVE: Yeah.
THE RIVERBOAT PRINCE: Mermaids never been to space before, never gonna go to space. Mermaids live in the ocean until it’s time for them to get murdered on land. Don’t you know anything, you mean old bitch?
Lindsay Parnell published her debut novel DOGWOOD with Linen Press in 2015. Her short fiction has appeared in 3AM Magazine, Honest Ulsterman, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Prague Revue, The FEM, and others.She shares a birthday with the eighth wonder of the world, Meryl Streep