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    AC Benus
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

OMOO - A Lost Soul in the South Seas - A Film Script - 2. Parts 3 and 4

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[Part 3 – Cooped Up – I: Preparing to Escape the Arcturion]

EXT. MAIN DECK OF THE ARCTURION – LATE EVENING

It is a cloudless dusk. JARL looks up through the rigging from the main deck at the sails lightly billowing in a warm breeze. Jarl glances aft and sees REDBURN at the helm. As Jarl makes his way to his partner, he notes a couple of forms on the deck curled up and soundly asleep.

 

EXT. HELM OF THE ARCTURION

REDBURN is steering and enjoying the still of the evening. JARL has made his way to the helm and comes to stand at Redburn’s side. After a few silent moments, Redburn turns a warm smile on Jarl.

 

REDBURN

Chummie, how go the preparations?

 

JARL

Only two others on this watch, and both are prone to drossiness.

 

REDBURN

And the provisions…?

 

JARL

Word came to open the hold tomorrow and for several breakers of water to be raised. You and I will direct their placement near our selected whaleboat.

 

REDBURN

You sound ill at ease – it’s a credit to you, Jarl, that even the hint of a deception grates against your honest nature. I suppose…you are like the prodigal son’s father – first wrestling hard to convince the loved one of an error, but failing, your grip turns to a supporting embrace.

 

JARL

(grins with pleasure, but clicking his tongue)

The way you talk…. What about your part? Did you get to the salt beef?

 

REDBURN

Yes. I’ve packed a cask full; pilfering it cube by cube from the large open barrel so it won’t be missed.

 

JARL

Clothes are packed – don’t omit your needle….

 

REDBURN

You’ll have plenty of time for your sewing.

 

JARL

My chief concern is that the boat’s watertight keg is intact. God help us if its compass is missing. In that damned

piece of banded wood lies cooped up life or death for us.

 

REDBURN

(smiles – ribbing)

The way you talk.

 

JARL

What?

 

REDBURN

I have a bag of biscuits in the ready too.

 

The two men pause and watch the evening roll on.

 

JARL

Tomorrow then. It will be new moon. We’ll stand the midnight watch, and they will snooze as they do tonight – it’s our time to go.

 

Jarl places a hand on Redburn’s shoulder, and squeezes affectionately. Redburn has a brief flashback of The Greenlander standing with him like this on the Highlander. Redburn looks sad.

 

REDBURN

Jarl? Do you think I’m a good sailor?

 

JARL

Apart from the ship-jumping?

 

REDBURN

Yes.

 

JARL

Lad, you are a good sailor. Why do you ask?

 

REDBURN

This reminds me of a time on another ship…far away—

 

JARL

Your rescue ship? The Julia?

 

REDBURN

Well – No, but…the Julia…. What a rescue. I’d jumped from the pan into the fire.

 

[Part 3 – II: Fight in the Julia’s Forecastle]

INT. FORECASTLE OF THE JULIA – NIGHT

Members of the CREW sit on their chests, eating: CHIPS and BUNGS together; SALEM and ROPY together, and THE FINN by himself. Chips and Bungs are heavy with drink, and slur their words slightly. Another four SICK MEN are in their bunks, two of whom peep out like ghosts to observe the proceeding. The other two sick, do not stir much. LONG GHOST hurries down the ladder and then turns to assist REDBURN down. Once Redburn is down, Ropy smiles warmly, hoping Redburn remembers him from the cabin. Redburn nods at him. Ropy gives a shove on Salem’s shoulder, knocking some crumbs loose from a biscuit Salem is biting. Ropy scoots to the edge of his chest, and motions for Redburn to sit between him and Salem. Long Ghost helps Redburn over, and sets him on the chest as Ropy wants.

 

ROPY

I’m Ropy, remember? That’s Salem. He’s a Yank like you.

 

Redburn turns and nods at Salem.

 

SALEM

Where’d you ship from?

 

REDBURN

New Bedford. Salem, for you, huh?

 

Salem raises his eyebrows, then half stands and reaches over to plunk some meat and sea biscuits on a plate. He hands it to Redburn.

 

SALEM

The rest of this surly lot and can introduce themselves, as they see fit.

 

CHIPS

(wipes his mouth)

Have you seen our resident savage – Bembo?—

 

Redburn begins to eat. He nods at Chips.

 

ROPY

(low)

That’s Chips, our carpenter.

 

CHIPS

…He holds little intercourse with anybody but Jarman, the First Mate, who speaks his lingo. If you ever need that one, look ye first to the bowsprit where he spends most of his time fishing for the elusive albacore.

 

BUNGS

Aye—

 

ROPY

That’s Bungs, the cooper.

 

BUNGS

…And watch ye your slumbers too. That Māori often wakes all hands of a dark night. See, he sometimes fancies to dance him a native fandango all by his-self on our forecastle roof.

 

Others mutter agreement. Long Ghost goes over to Redburn with a mug in his hand. He gives it to him.

 

LONG GHOST

Well – first, we must discuss the First Mate, and never a scrappier officer prowled the quarterdeck. Ya see, Redburn, our First Mate is not the kind of man content to lead from behind. Whenever these bluff tars come to blows, Jarman is just the thing to hold them in noisy subjection.

 

Long Ghost stands like a boxer, illustrating a blow-by-blow fight. Redburn takes a sip. There is something bitter in it. He sniffs and eyes Long Ghost. He won’t drink any more.

 

LONG GHOST (CONT’D)

Upon the emergency, he flies in amongst the braggards, showering them with equal fisticuffs, right and left, and creates a sensation in every direction.

 

Long Ghost comes to a stop. He noticed Redburn refuses to drink, so he blithely sweeps up the mug and drains it. Redburn thinks Long Ghost is also under the influence of something.

 

LONG GHOST (CONT’D)

But, the very men Jarman flogs love him as a brother – for he has such an irresistibly good-natured way of knocking them down, that no heart bears him malice, and he has a heart as big as a bullock’s – you can see it first glance.

 

Long Ghost slams the mug down angrily in front of Redburn. He goes and sits near The Finn.

 

LONG GHOST (CONT’D)

A sober, dignified officer could do nothing with this lot. These ruffians would have such an officer, and his dignity, overboard in a flash.

 

Ropy laughs a little too freely for Chip’s tastes. Chips glowers at him until Salem blocks his view with his own hostile glare.

 

THE FINN

Jarman’s a good man, but too drawn to strong waters.

 

Redburn looks to Ropy.

 

ROPY

Van – The Finn.

 

THE FINN

You know what I am saying! – He hates weak infusions—

 

The Finn holds up his battered teacup.

 

THE FINN (CONT’D)

…And cleaves manfully to strong drink.

 

SALEM

(aside to Redburn – glancing at Chips and Bungs)

Like some among the crew—

 

REDBURN

Booze on English ships is too freely handed out, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I believe moderate quantities do a man good – brightens his eye, regulates his pulse, and sweeps the cobwebs from his brain—

 

CHIPS

(aside to Bungs)

Well – La Ti Da…

 

REDBURN

(holds back his anger)

…But, too much leadens a man’s brain and leads him to think with his fists.

 

BUNGS

(peace-maker)

Mind ye lad to develop a taste for our ‘Lil Jule’s’ biscuits, for her other provisions are worse than poor. Take it from me, I’ve seen the banging open of our barrels of salt-pork – the meat looks preserved in iron rust. And the stench…? Like a musty ragu left over from Caesar’s army.

 

LONG GHOST

It still beats the salt ‘beef.’ Be wary of that fibrous, tough and tasteless ruiner of health.

 

ROPY

(enthusiastically to Redburn)

The cook told me one day, stirring up a vat of the salt beef, a horse hoof rose to the surface through

all the slime – it was still shod with a rusty shoe!

 

CHIPS

Silence! Idiot.

 

Chips advises Redburn.

 

CHIPS (CONT’D)

Never listen to greenhorn here on matters

of import.

 

SALEM

(to Redburn with raised eyebrows and a half-grin)

Look above cook’s door – you’ll see the shoe for yourself.

 

Ropy takes a bite of biscuit, then turns smiling eyes on Chips, crumbs falling out of his grin.

 

SALEM (CONT’D)

As for you, carpenter, watch your lip. You never know when a blow will come to fatten it for ya.

 

CHIPS

(under his breath to Bungs)

Yank, punk.

 

Bungs snickers at Salem.

 

SALEM

(back to Redburn)

But food-wise, every other day, we get what the Limey tars call ‘shot soup.’ Picture it – great round peas, stone-hard, polishing themselves like creek pebbles in tepid green mud.

 

The plates are collected and banged into the empty serving kid. All hands, except Redburn’s, pat pockets for pipes and tobacco. Smokes are lit, and Salem draws mightily on his before bumping Redburn’s arm with his elbow. Salem passes his pipe to him. As Redburn smokes, he sees the albatross wing spread-eagle on the bulkhead above the ladder. Ropy passes his pipe to Salem to share. Motioning with smoke, Redburn points to the wing.

 

REDBURN

Who amongst you are purveyors of ill omens; of good fortunes; or of predictions general?

 

The men stiffen at this strange question. Eyes drift to The Finn.

 

REDBURN (CONT’D)

(to The Finn)

The albatross wing nailed there – doesn’t it bode doom of this ship? I mean, sailors are wont to say killing one is bad luck, much less mutilating one for reasons of décor – not that I credit the superstition, much.

 

The men are uneasy. Redburn turns and winks at Long Ghost who tries to suppress a laugh.

 

THE FINN

The wing be damned. What can it do to us? But my hearties, know this – yesterday while I was at the helm, I saw it all too clearly. In three weeks’ time, the Captain will be gone from the Julia, and so will two thirds of us. Believe it, if you will – or best shut it out, forever.

 

The crew exchange looks, not knowing to laugh or probe for more information. Suddenly the quiet is broken by JARMAN’s loud voice. He is on deck at the hatch to the forecastle.

 

JARMAN (O.S.)

Where’s that skulk, Chips?!

 

All glance slack-jawed to Chips.

 

CHIPS

(leans back on his elbows)

Taking his ease, do ye see? Down here, on his chest, if you want to know.

 

THWACK. Jarman pounds the hatch.

 

 

JARMAN (O.S.)

God Almighty! – There’s doings up on deck for a carpenter – any of ye know one?

 

The crew laughs despite themselves.

 

SALEM

(confidence to Redburn)

Jarman never comes down here. It’s dark, and he can’t see a blow coming.

 

JARMAN (O.S.)

Tumble up now! Come on up with ye, or I’ll jump down and make you leap for deck.

 

CHIPS

I beg you to go about it, at once.

 

In a flash all the men stumble to their feet – Jarman has jumped down and latched onto Chips’ throat.

 

THE FINN

(restrains Bungs)

Let them have fair play.

 

JARMAN

Now. Come on deck.

 

CHIPS

(drunken spittle in Jarman’s face)

Take me there.

 

Chips bends to throw Jarman off balance, but Jarman grips Chips behind the knee to carry him up to the deck. Chips breaks Jarman’s grip and pushes him back. At the same time Chips lunges for Jarman, grappling around Jarman’s arms and chest. The two struggle, with the crew keeping out of their way. Chips and Jarman bang heads on the bulkhead. Panting, Jarman slips and falls to the floor, with Chips holding on and ripping Jarman’s jersey at the collar. Chips is cut above the eye. Chips crashes on top of Jarman, who moans loudly. While Jarman wriggles under his weight, Chips rises to his knees and straddles Jarman’s arms and chest with his legs. Chips sits on Jarman’s chest.

 

CHIPS

(pants and drips blood on Jarman’s face)

Now – I believe you owe an apology for your rude attitude.

 

Jarman struggles to rise – grimaces, cries out, and foam collects at the corners of his mouth. GUY calls from the hatch.

 

CAPTAIN GUY (O.S.)

(weakly)

I say….

 

LONG GHOST

(motions for quiet)

Hark! What sound is that? A titmouse cry?

 

Long Ghost gestures for Salem to pass him the cold pot of tea.

 

CAPTAIN GUY (O.S.)

(louder – throat clearing)

Why – I say! What’s this – I say, all about. Mr. Jarman? Carpenter – Mr. Jarman, carpenter, I say. What are you about down there? Come on deck. Come on deck at once.

 

LONG GHOST

(mocking little-girl tone)

I say, Little-Miss-Guy, is that you? Toddle off to school now, missy. You’re in danger of a broken nose – or a black eye.

 

The crew laughs.

 

CAPTAIN GUY (O.S.)

OH – Pooh on you, sir, whoever you are, sir. I was addressing Mr. Jarman. Have the kindness, Mr. Jarman, to come on deck posthaste!

 

All look to Jarman still pinned on the floor.

 

JARMAN

(roars)

And how in the hell am I supposed to

get there?!

 

BUNGS

Jump down here, Captain Guy. Show yourself a man.

 

JARMAN

(struggles and gains ground)

Let me up, you damn Chips! Unhand me, I say! Or you will pay dearly for this – D’ye hear!

 

LONG GHOST

(taunts Guy)

Go along with you, cabin boy – count your curlers and hairpins. Leave the fighting for the fellas.

 

Long Ghost hears Guy begin to descend the ladder. He readies the contents of the teapot by tossing the lid to the floor and drawing it back.

 

CAPTAIN GUY

(angry)

Have done with this nonsense! Let Jarman on deck.

 

Long Ghost splashes Guy full in the face. Guy drops his hands by his side in shock and turns to stumble up the ladder. The men double over in laughter, and Jarman breaks free, following Guy. The men push on deck behind them, still laughing hard.

 

EXT. MAIN DECK OF THE JULIA

BEMBO hears the commotions and goes forward to the group of men. GUY is wiping tealeaves out of his eyes and bitterly sneering at JARMAN.

 

JARMAN

A lot of good you did me—

 

CAPTAIN GUY

You’re the one went down there…idiot!

 

The CREW, with CHIPS and BUNGS in the lead, advance on Jarman and Guy. Chips cracks his knuckles. Suddenly Bembo steps between Chips and Jarman.

 

BEMBO

Enough.

 

The men back off. As Jarman and Guy move aft to the cabin, Bembo follows them backwards, keeping his eye on the crew. After Jarman, Guy and Bembo enter the cabin, the men turn to each other and laugh. There are backslaps for Chips, and THE FINN, SALEM and ROPY return to the forecastle in high spirits. LONG GHOST steps to the far bulwark, and in a moment, REDBURN follows. Chips starts for the forecastle, but Bungs grabs his arm and makes him face him. Bungs pulls down on Chips jersey to look at his eyebrow. Bungs licks his thumb, and presses it into the still bleeding cut. Chips eyes narrow in pain, but hold Bungs’ gaze.

 

REDBURN

(comes up behind a distracted Long Ghost)

What was it you put in my drink?

 

LONG GHOST

Something to take the edge off, my boy. A little laudanum. To make you sleep.

 

REDBURN

Dope?

 

LONG GHOST

(mockingly)

Dope? A harsh word – for something so noble. It ‘clears the cobwebs,’ as you said.

 

REDBURN

It’s not for me.

 

LONG GHOST

(distracted)

Suit yourself….

 

Long Ghost sees Bungs and Chips.

 

LONG GHOST (CONT’D)

(SINGS)

”Pisco for a cut –

Pisco for a bruise –

Pisco for all but

Death’s everlasting cruise.”

 

Glancing at Long Ghost, Bungs hugs Chips around his neck and hauls him towards the forecastle.

 

[Part 3 – III: Two Roving Encounters]

EXT. SPARKLING WATER OF THE SOUTH SEAS – AN ISLAND – MORNING

During the following voiceover, REDBURN describes two encounters with islanders while on board the Julia. Tropical water gives way to an emerald isle. The ship tacks about 2 miles off shore. GUY is rowed ashore by JARMAN, BEMBO and two members of the CREW. Guy holds pistols aloft. On the Julia, the rest of the CREW crowds the bulwark to watch. LONG GHOST comes up to Redburn with a spyglass. He observes for a moment then passes it to Redburn. Guy’s boat is rocked in the surf. Bembo pulls the boat onto the beach, and Jarman helps Guy ashore. No one is there, and the men are suspicious. They hunch down and creep into the foliage. BANG. A gunshot is heard and Jarman, Guy and Bembo come running back to the boat. As they shove off, several NATIVE MEN run onto the beach. Guy levels his pistol at a YOUNG MAN and shoots. The natives retreat, but the youth falls to the sand and grips his leg. He tries to crawl for cover as the boat makes its way back to the Julia.

 

REDBURN (V.O.)

The doctor’s wishes came true. Captain Guy grew steadily weaker with fever, and our ‘Lil Jule’ cut the sparkling South Seas with no whales in sight. Weeks trailed, and a suspicious seaman might say the albatross wing shooed our quarry away while still miles before us. We touched a pair of tropical islands. At the first, Hythyhoo, the Julia was tacked two miles off shore, and the daily dose of Pisco doubled, so the men wouldn’t try to swim it. Guy was rowed to land, his pistols cocked, for he was hunting seamen to fill our forecastle. On shore, no one was there to greet them, and they were on guard entering the groves beyond the beach. A shot was heard. They came running back and into their boat. A party of braves appeared, and Guy leveled his gun at a lad no more than sixteen. He shot the boy, but his aim being so bad, it entered the boy’s leg, and not his heart. Too often passing ships make blood-sport of these defenseless people, for no more gall than want of a lark to laugh at. But, were I to level an aim at the boy’s would-be assassin, a fair shot would dispatch a murderous Guy to the place he belongs.

 

EXT. A TRANQUIL ISLAND BAY – MAIN DECK OF THE JULIA – LATE AFTERNOON

REDBURN describes a second encounter while on board the Julia. The boat is tacked two miles off shore. A royal-sized canoe comes out to the ship. The dignitary on board is a white WARLORD in native finery, and body tattooing. This man climbs on board and is reluctantly greeted by GUY and JARMAN. They move off for a conference in the cabin, and the warlord makes eye contact with Redburn.

 

REDBURN (CONT’D – V.O.)

At the second island, Saint Christina, there us a spot named Vaitahu which produced a remarkable roving experience. For here a noble-looking savage white man was rowed out to our ship in the grandeur of state. This island warrior, I was to learn later, was born far away on the cold Isle of Anglesea. A stranded sailor, as I had been, he began to relish his island life and to assist in his tribe’s hostile forays. Soon, he led the campaigns and stood next to his father-in-law king as chief minister of armaments, and grew as rich as Solomon. Tattooed, his adopted home valued him more than Victoria ever did any of her subjects.

 

EXT. MAIN DECK OF THE JULIA – EVENING – LATER

GUY, JARMAN, and the WARLORD emerge from the cabin. REDBURN is hanging around to talk to the visitor. He catches the warlord’s eye again, and Redburn takes him aside for a private conversation. He feels linked to this man whom he might have become. The sun sets over their shoulders.

 

REDBURN (CONT’D – V.O.)

I snagged him the moment after the official business was concluded to learn about his history, which I had suspected, and to ask him about my lost companion. On the second quarry, he slowly shook his head, and his tattooed form before me was like looking into a mirror of a future not to have been. His fate was perhaps my fate had I chosen to stay among the Typee. I bid him farewell: he bade me the best of luck in finding my friend.

 

[Part 4 – Velis et Remis – I: The Night Watch Escape]

EXT. MAIN DECK ON THE ARCTURION – MIDNIGHT

The watch is about to change. REDBURN stands below the quarterdeck with his hands buried in the pockets of a lightweight monkey jacket. His attention drifts up to the hazy, purple-black sky above the rigging. Some rolling clouds obscure murky stars, but there is no moon. As the slow and soft tolling of eight bells begin – DING. DING. DING. etc. Redburn watches the deck, and sings softly to himself, keeping time with the bells. Seemingly lifeless lumps rise and stretch from various parts of the deck. Four members of the CREW of the old watch rouse themselves and stumble forward to the forecastle.

 

REDBURN

(SINGS)

“The moon, she must be monstrous coy,

To show as she does now, a new face,

When daring deeds tremble ahoy

And dark intent though hid with us strides apace.

 

True it is that when Cynthia

Deems to show a round and chubby disc,

For aught astrology’s idea,

Jeweler-safes and maiden-hearts are still at risk.

 

But virgin heart and maidenhead

Are thought best burgled in moonless night,

Where one is pressed; one rifled, tis said,

To sway felonious under all its might.”

 

(recap: “The moon, she must…” etc.)

 

The old watch is replaced by two sleepy members of the CREW. These men poke about, looking for comfortable places to continue their slumbers. Redburn turns to see JARL, smoking a pipe, come down from the quarterdeck and stand by his side. One sailor finds a ‘nest’ of old pea coats and plunks down. Jarl hails the other before he can settle.

 

JARL

Ahoy, Mark, my boy. Stand at the helm tonight – I’m feeling a touch of the rheumatism creep upon me apace.

 

MARK tosses his hand up in friendly acceptance. Redburn and Jarl eye Mark as he ascends the quarterdeck ladder. Jarl bumps Redburn’s arm and extends his pipe. Redburn sniffs at it suspiciously.

 

REDBURN

Your, funny, Indian Weed?

 

JARL

Aye.

 

REDBURN

None for me – need to keep my head clean tonight.

 

JARL

Suit yourself. I need it to keep my head clear, any night.

 

REDBURN

Well, matey, it’s velis et remis

 

JARL

Aye?

 

REDBURN

‘With Sails and Oars,’ as the Romans seafarers told each other. Meaning, it’s ‘Do or Die.’

 

JARL

Not till we hear them sound asleep.

 

Jarl lays a finger on the side of his nose.

 

EXT. BULWARK WITH LONGBOAT ON THE ARCTURION – ONE A.M.

REDBURN and JARL tiptoe up barefoot, shoes in hand, to a longboat already lowered to the height of the bulwark. They quietly place their shoes into the boat. Jarl moves to the ropes securing the boat aft, and Redburn to the same position forward. With a hand signal from Jarl, both quietly untie their ropes, coil the slack tightly around their arms, and step into the boat. The ropes CREAK, and the boat KNOCKS loudly on the side of the ship. The men pause, looking at each other as they strain to hear if anyone was roused on deck. After a moment, Redburn nods and they begin to let out the ropes, lowering the boat closer to the water.

 

INT. LONGBOAT

REDBURN and JARL continue to lower themselves, while the hull of the ship forms a wall to their side. The sound of WATER moving under the boat grows loud. Jarl gives another signal, and both stop letting out rope.

 

JARL

(after a pause – a horse whisper)

Better brace yourself!

 

Redburn leans back at a strained angle. He reaches until his free hand can touch the seat in the bow of the boat. Jarl does the same aft.

 

REDBURN

(normal volume)

All ready, Jarl, my Viking?

 

JARL

(normal volume)

Ready.

 

REDBURN

(top of his lungs)

Man Overboard!!

 

Simultaneously, they release the ropes and the boat crashes into the water with a tremendous THUMP. Redburn and Jarl scramble to pull jackknives from their sides and cut the lines dragging them alongside the ship. Once free, they pick up the oars and push away from the vessel now sailing on without them.

 

MARK (O.S.)

(shouts from the quarterdeck)

Man Overboard! Sound the Bell!! Man Overboard!

 

Redburn and Jarl man the oars and start rowing in the opposite direction the ship is moving. The ship’s bell starts to sound furiously. DING, DING, DING, etc. In the dark, Redburn and Jarl begin to hear HEAVY FOOTFALLS on deck, men shouting to each other ”Man overboard!” and shouts of “Heave to!”; “All hands on deck!”

 

REDBURN

What a horrible sound for a sailor to hear.

 

Jarl gives Redburn an angry ‘hush finger.’ The bell trails off and the mayhem on deck resolves into directed action.

 

FIRST MATE (O.S.)

Down helm! Back the main yard! Quick lads, to the boats!

 

MARK (O.S.)

But sir, one’s down already!

 

FIRST MATE (O.S.)

Good work, lads – one’s enough!

 

MARK (O.S.)

(relays the order)

Hold the other boats! Hold them back, I say!

 

Several voices protest at once from on deck: ”Cut all!”; “Lower away!”; “Lower away!”

 

CAPTAIN VANG (O.S.)

Heave the ship to. Hold fast everything. One boat’s away – one’s enough. Show a light from the mizzen-top, there. They need to see our position!

 

Jarl motions for Redburn to stop rowing. He holds out his hand for pause. In dead silence, only the sound of the WATER around their boat, Jarl and Redburn slowly see a light appear about a quarter-mile behind them.

 

CAPTAIN V VANG (CONT’D – O.S.)

Boat, ahoy! Have you got your man? Ahoy, there!

 

There is a pause.

 

CAPTAIN VANG (CONT’D – O.S.)

Pull, Men! Pull and save Him!!

 

JARL

(shouts)

Aye, aye, sir…!

 

Jarl, as he takes up his oar, motions for Redburn to start rowing again.

 

JARL (CONT’D)

(shouts)

…Pulling as hard as ever we can, sir!

 

Jarl rains a devilish smile down on Redburn.

 

[Part 4 – II: Dead Men Floating]

INT. THE LONGBOAT AT SEA – EARLY MORNING

REDBURN and JARL are rowing hard and look pooped. Redburn stands and scans the horizon. In the distance, about eight miles off, the pale sails of the Arcturion bob up and down.

 

REDBURN

Let’s set the sail. She’s a good way off now, and sailing north-east.

 

Jarl stands and puts his hand to his forehead. He shakes his head.

 

JARL

Think of it…

 

REDBURN

I know – it breaks my heart to let them believe we are lost – forcing them to give us up for dead.

 

JARL

It makes the world a strange place to live in when others regard you as lost to it, forever.

 

REDBURN

To our business, Jarl, to our business.

 

JARL

(a lively change)

Aye –

 

Jarl goes to the seat in the bow, and kneels. He rummages around and extracts a small wooden keg. This keg has a leather pouch attached to its side. Redburn comes up close. Jarl opens the pouch and pulls out a small hatchet that has a cord connecting its handle to the head hoop of the keg. Jarl gives Redburn a ‘Well, here goes nothing’ look, and breaks the top of the keg. Jarl pulls off the wooden top and peers inside. He roots around, tossing aside a tin box with tinder and a steel; several unwrapped biscuits, and finally, he pulls out a bundle wrapped in red fabric and twine. He unwraps it, and a smile spreads across his whole body. He rises and lifts a new compass to sparkle in the sunlight.

 

JARL

Thank God!

 

Redburn slaps Jarl on the shoulder, and as Jarl goes aft to look for a position to mount his pride and joy, Redburn pats the pockets of his monkey jacket. He feels for something and extracts a yellow bandana. Jarl looks over Redburn’s shoulder as Redburn unwraps a picture case with a raised scallop design in the center. Redburn presses the case to his lips.

 

[Part 4 – III: Jarman’s First Attempt at Leadership]

INT. FORECASTLE OF THE JULIA – LATE MORNING

Besides the four SICK MEN in their bunks, SALEM is reclining in his bunk, his feet propped up, whittling on a stick with his jackknife. REDBURN and LONG GHOST sit on sea chests facing one another, with a chessboard between them. As they play, Redburn notices Salem stop whittling and take his knife to the hull of the ship. The timbers are dark with age and rot, and Salem roots around in a soft spot, flicking clumps of wet splinters on the floor. ROPY enters breathless.

 

ROPY

(from halfway down the ladder)

Doc!

 

Redburn and Salem see Ropy, but Long Ghost only rubs his chin and considers the gameboard. Ropy rushes down and stands by Long Ghost’s side. Redburn puts his hand behind his head, and reclines on his sea chest, ready to enjoy the scene.

 

ROPY (CONT’D)

Doctor! Come quick, the First Mate sent me.

 

LONG GHOST

(not looking up)

Hum…?

 

ROPY

It’s the Captain. The fever’s come back stronger than ever. Jarman thinks he’s going to die.

 

LONG GHOST

(uninvolved)

Jarman knows I will never set foot in that cabin, so long as that ‘cabin boy’ is in it.

 

ROPY

Me…?

 

LONG GHOST

(first time looking at Ropy – furrowed brows)

Not you – that Little-Miss-Guy!

 

Inspired, Long Ghost quickly moves a chess piece.

 

LONG GHOST (CONT’D)

(gloats to Redburn)

See?!

Ropy eyes Salem for help. Salem nods and pantomimes a pair of strongman arms. Ropy gets the idea.

 

ROPY

(becomes forceful)

Swallow your pride – a doctor is called for. You held the hand of Gonsalves as he died, though all the rest of us feared catching the fever. A man needs you.

 

LONG GHOST

(sighs lackadaisically)

Oh, well – Hero to the rescue. Again!

 

Long Ghost rises and stretches. Ropy bounds up the ladder, and Long Ghost follows in no great hurry. Redburn stands and goes to the foot of Salem’s bunk.

 

REDBURN

Busy jackknife?

 

SALEM

This tub is running to shreds. Look

at these…

 

Salem plunges his knife into the wet wood of the hull.

 

SALEM (CONT’D)

…Dank; rotten. And to think this kindling is ribbing us, like the whale around Jonah.

 

REDBURN

From where I stand, it seems ‘Old Jule’ is still doing her best to float us along home. These moist planks are the one and only inch between us and a sea that would thoughtlessly take all our lives.

 

SALEM

Since this ship was condemned in an Aussie shipyard, perhaps too are all who foolishly stepped aboard her after her death sentence.

 

Salem offers Redburn a genuine and warm smile. This buoys Redburn’s want of connection with Salem.

 

REDBURN

(after a pause)

Are you and Ropy…chummies?

 

Salem’s warmth instantly turns suspicious, but after a moment, he sees only affirmation in Redburn.

 

SALEM

Aye.

 

REDBURN

Seems he’s a good lad – Like he does his best to keep your temper down.

 

SALEM

(whittles)

He is. I mean, he’s a good lad, and a good mate to me. I try to keep the others from too much mishandling of him.

 

REDBURN

(laughs)

We Yanks make the best partners, and your brand of hothead reminds me of – well…

 

Salem is drawn to a close inspection of Redburn by his stammering pause.

 

REDBURN (CONT’D)

…Well. Of someone.

 

SALEM

(whittles)

I’d be wary of too much contact with him.

 

REDBURN

Long Ghost? Why?

 

SALEM

There’s nothing worse than a sailor telling tales out of school, but let’s just say it’s a good thing for Ropy that the doctor is out of the cabin. Too much of his ‘wee drams’ puts the younger ones in peril, if you know what I mean.

 

REDBURN

But – I’m sure he – he is not like, we are.

 

SALEM

Aye – not like us. As I say, tales out of school, but remember them, for your own good. So, are you and, Long Ghost…?

 

REDBURN

No. – Let’s just say he and I are cultivating a close acquaintance. Otherwise, we have a mutual disregard for each other.

 

SALEM

Doesn’t look that way….

 

Redburn makes a puzzled face.

 

INT. CABIN OF THE JULIA – NOON

The cabin is dim. CAPTAIN GUY is lying on top of his bed with open shirt. His chest and face glisten with sweat as he sleeps fitfully. LONG GHOST slowly lowers his face close to Guy’s mouth, listening to Guy’s breathing. Long Ghost seems concerned, and puts the back of his hand on Guy’s forehead. Then he gently lifts Guy’s wrist to take his pulse. Guy awakens with a start.

 

CAPTAIN GUY

You…?

 

Guy tries to rise. Long Ghost pushes him back with unnecessary force.

 

LONG GHOST

Quiet. I’m taking your pulse.

 

Guy lies back uncomfortably. He scans the room for Jarman or Ropy. The Captain finds they are alone, and this doubles his unease.

 

CAPTAIN GUY

(placates)

Jonathan…let’s mend our ways – I—

 

LONG GHOST

This is a professional call. I am not here in any other capacity.

 

CAPTAIN GUY

Move back into the cabin – you don’t belong in the forecastle with the crew.

 

LONG GHOST

I get along with all – well – all but the occupant of the cabin. Hush, now. You, sir, are burning with fever – a fever we must break. I will go and tell the First Mate to ready a cool sea-bath for you…

 

Long Ghost rises and casts a malicious sneer down on Guy.

 

LONG GHOST (CONT’D)

…Out on deck.

 

Long Ghost moves to the door. Guy struggles to sit up in bed.

 

CAPTAIN GUY

Not on the deck—

 

Long Ghost opens the door, and turns to see the light blind Guy. He pauses half in, half out.

 

LONG GHOST

Yes. Air is good for you – so out on deck it must be.

 

Long Ghost leaves. Guy sinks back into his bed with pained panting.

 

EXT. MAIN DECK OF THE JULIA – AFTERNOON

BUNGS and REDBURN work to hoist a soaked rope over the bulwarks. Attached to it is a bucket of seawater. They slosh it down on the deck, and SALEM unties the rope, lifts it by its bail, walks it over to a canvas tub set up near the cabin door, and dumps it in. As Salem turns, he nearly runs into CHIPS with another full bucket. On the quarterdeck above, LONG GHOST officiates with hands behind his back, and self-contented toe to heel rises and falls. On deck, between the wall of the quarterdeck and the tub, JARMAN directs the bucket brigade. Sitting in a chair next to him, and wearing an overcoat, is GUY. ROPY stands next to Guy on the other side of his chair. BEMBO, THE FINN and other members of the CREW stand in front of the tub watching it fill.

 

JARMAN

That’s enough, men.

 

Jarman looks to Long Ghost who nods consent.

 

JARMAN (CONT’D)

Now – let’s – Ropy! Strip that dressing gown.

 

Ropy casts a wary eye on the crew standing full force by the tub to watch; many are sneering and cross-armed. Ropy peels the robe from Guy’s shoulders, after having helped the man extract his arms one at a time while still seated. Jarman makes to lift Guy, and Ropy acts like he will assist. Jarman glowers at him to get out of the way and motions for Bembo, who comes up immediately. Jarman goes behind the chair and puts his arms under Guy’s armpits. Bembo readies himself at Guy’s shins. The two men lift, and Guy rises naked out of his chair. Bungs, Chips and Salem belittle the Captain and make tiny pinch marks with their fingers. Redburn’s attention rises to Long Ghost, as a malicious grin rips over the doctor’s face. Jarman and Bembo position Guy over the tub and begin to slowly lower him in, but the moment the water touches Guy, they pause. Guy has stiffened and winced like he was just stung by an electric current. Bembo and Jarman exchange puzzled looks, and then Jarman peers up to Long Ghost. Long Ghost purses his lips and makes lowering motions with open palms. Jarman and Bembo lower the Captain into the water, and Guy begins to shiver uncontrollably. In a moment it looks as if the man is convulsing in the water, and is prone to drowning. Redburn rushed up to the side of the tub.

 

REDBURN

(to Jarman)

That’s enough!

 

Jarman looks uneasy at Long Ghost, but then quickly bends and nods to Bembo. They lift Guy out with difficulty because of the uncontrolled body movements. As they raise Guy, they accidentally spill him, with a boney crash, onto the deck. Guy curls up and shakes violently.

 

JARMAN

(to Ropy – near panic)

Blankets, boy!

 

Ropy runs to the cabin as Jarman and Bembo scoop up Guy and follow him. The moment the party makes it through the cabin door, all the crew, except Redburn, laugh riotously. To Redburn’s scolding gaze, Long Ghost makes an offensive wink.

 

INT. CABIN OF THE JULIA – EARLY EVENING

CAPTAIN GUY is in bed. Several blankets are pushed all the way to his chin. His eyes are closed, but he is trembling and his teeth are chattering uncontrollably. The cabin’s hanging light is lit. It sways mildly over the table where JARMAN and BEMBO sit and watch Guy. In Jarman’s hand is a bottle of whiskey. Two glasses sit on the table. Jarman swings his body in his chair to face the glasses and Bembo. He uncorks the bottle with his teeth and spits the stopper on the table. Jarman pours himself a drink. Downing it, he holds the bottle towards Bembo, who shakes his head dourly. Jarman pours himself another.

 

JARMAN

(low)

I’ll be damned if I let that Australian quack in this cabin again.

 

JARMAN (CONT’D)

(in POLYNESIAN, with subtitles)

His idea of a joke – nearly killing a man!

 

BEMBO

(in POLYNESIAN, with subtitles)

Enough drink. You need to think about the crew now – you need a clear head.

 

JARMAN

(in POLYNESIAN, with subtitles)

This is the only thing that keeps my brain normal – without pain – understand?

 

Bembo forcefully grabs Jarman’s hand with the shot glass and sends it to the floor.

 

BEMBO

(in POLYNESIAN, with subtitles)

When will you lead us, Jarman? After the Captain dies? After it is too late?

 

Jarman closes his open mouth, sets the bottle down and extracts his hand from Bembo’s punishing grip.

 

JARMAN

What do you mean?

 

BEMBO

(in POLYNESIAN, with subtitles)

The men respect you. The men think you are Guy’s tool, and maybe you are, but now you can take command; get the crew to follow your wants, not theirs.

 

Jarman roils back in his seat.

 

JARMAN

My wants? I want a hold full of sperm oil. I want to line my pockets at the end of this accursèd voyage.

 

Bembo relaxes back in his chair as well. His hands go to the back of his head.

 

BEMBO

Make them want it too.

 

Jarman leans on the table with his elbows. A new light comes to his eyes as he licks his lips.

 

EXT. MAIN DECK OF THE JULIA – SUNSET

JARMAN and BEMBO stand on the windlass. In front of them, REDBURN, ROPY, SALEM, CHIPS, BUNGS, and other members of the CREW chat noisily. LONG GHOST stands apart, half leaning on the bulwarks. He toys with an unlit pipe in his mouth.

 

JARMAN

Hush it up, men, I have something to say to ye. There’s none but Bembo here belongs aft, so I’ll open up my heart to you with full honesty. The Captain’s anchor is pretty nigh atrip – I shouldn’t wonder if he croaked afore morning light catches us. So – what’s to be done? If we sew his corpse up for the drink, some of you pirates of the forecastle may take it into your brains to run the ship yourselves. But I’m hell-bound determined to remain at the tiller. Now, I don’t want to do it unless I’ve good men to back me – to make things fair and square if ever we get back home.

 

CHIPS

What are you on about!

 

JARMAN

I’ll tell you what it is, men. If the skipper dies, I want one and all of ye to oath me a solemn vow to follow my lead. If you obey my orders, I guarantee a three months tour will load our hatches to the brim with whale oil – enough to give every mother’s son of ye a sack full of dollars when we anchor in Sydney! Come on men, what say ye!

 

A positive murmur ripples through the crew. As Long Ghost begins to speak, people start to take notice of him.

 

LONG GHOST

I hate to burst your soap bubbles – Jarman – but by law, if the Captain dies, you are required to sail to the nearest port with an English Consulate and turn the ship over.

 

JARMAN

To hell with that – this whole trip with nothing in you men’s pockets?! No! We’re here to hunt.

 

Long Ghost walks to the windlass with affected disinterest, and the men make way.

 

LONG GHOST

Nearest is Tahiti – But, if the men are with your path, I’ll stick my nose out of it.

 

BUNGS

Aye. Tahiti!

 

Various crewmembers all speak at once: ”Aye – set a course”; “Let’s go!”; “Enough of this accursèd voyage!”

 

JARMAN

Men. Men, listen to me. What good does it do a soul to try, to strain against fate down to the marrow of your being, if you pitch in when the chance to quit shows its cowardly face?!

 

Jarman leers at Long Ghost.

 

LONG GHOST (CONT’D)

Man of faith put their faith in The Good Book, and in a God to threaten them. Sailors put their faith in a Good Ship, and in a Skipper to lead them.

 

There is a contemplative silence.

 

CHIPS

No.

 

BUNGS

The doc is right – put us to port, and the crew can be discharged.

 

A Chorus of crewmembers chime: ”Aye – put us to port”; “Let us go, Jarman!”; “Enough is enough!”

 

Bembo touches Jarman’s elbow and draws him into a conference. Jarman comes back to them with a spiteful ire.

 

JARMAN

(holds out his hands for quiet)

All right. Maybe it’s best I be rid of you. A crew’s no crew that can’t follow a leader. We set a course for Tahiti—

 

The crew cheer.

 

JARMAN (CONT’D)

To deliver poor Guy to medicine and comfort. God help the rest of you when we get there.

 

Cheers rise again as Bembo helps Jarman dismount from the windlass, and both move aft to the cabin. Bungs raises his arms to lead the men in a celebratory song.

 

BUNGS

(SINGS)

”A jolly jack tar

Is a navigable star

The maids want to kiss

Lest we sink to the abyss

With iron-clad fist

And King Neptune to assist.”

 

CHIPS, THE FINN, SALEM, ROPY and BUNGS

(SING)

”Then sing hearty, lad,

With lively Ahoy and Ahoy –

Then ring truly bad

The good to Annoy and Annoy!”

 

While the men sing, Long Ghost moves to the bulwarks by himself. Soon Redburn follows, and the two watch the sea roll by.

 

REDBURN

Your trick nearly killed him.

 

LONG GHOST

(devilish grin)

No regrets. I’d do it again. You saw how the men laughed at him – anything to undermine.

 

Redburn turns to the sea in brooding silence.

 

REDBURN

I’ll be happy to be anchored and discharged – leave the damned to the damned—

 

LONG GHOST

(rhapsodically)

Tahiti, my boy. Tahiti, the jewel of the South Pacific.

 

REDBURN

(quietly)

It’s right where I want to be.

 

_

Copyright © 2017 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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