Written by Aaron Slipper
We left the ship and headed for the beach. It seemed to be a clear day. A clear day for me to clear out with a clean slate. They said there was honor amongst thieves. I, Fred, party of the first part, can attest to that. The contract was simple enough and I had fulfilled my side of it. My apprenticeship to the pirates was over. What did I know? Since I was a kid I had lived with this gang of orphans. It came about like this: my father told Ruth to apprentice me to a pilot, or so she thought. She heard “pirate” and found the kingpin of the gang. An uptown sort of guy, heading up a crew of others like him. He took me on, and Ruth, too. It wasn’t a bad life, the bad life. Ruth, the only broad I knew during those years at sea, was easy on the eyes, a lot easier than the pirates. So that day, I was hitting twenty-one, and the term of the contract was up. My days as an outlaw were done.
The guys gave me a good send-off. Knowing my feelings for Ruth, they said I should take her when I went back to being a law-abiding subject. They had been straight with me. So I was straight with them. When I got back to civilian life, I had to do what I had to do. They were a problem which I had to fix. I was going to fix it. Sure, I considered the fact that this mob were not winners. All that time we cruised around, looking for easy marks. They saw us coming, mostly. We had a rule, see. Orphans could keep their property. Who knew there were so many orphans off the coast of the city? But, as I say, an man has got to do…. I made them an offer, which they refused. I said I would forget about them, if they gave up the racket. No go. They moseyed off, leaving me and Ruth.
That was when I began to wise up. I saw this team of lambs put Ruth in the shade. All those years she had played me for a sucker. She was no doll. I told her to scram. Then I took cover.
Those dolls sure were something. I came right out and asked them to give a guy a hand at going straight. They weren’t buying it. Then, one of the sisters, a doll called Mabel, called them out and said she felt sorry for me. We hit it off. The others pretended to be interested in the weather, looking at us sideways, fooling no-body.
I decide to come clean about the gang. They were just about to leg it, when the pirates showed up. They stopped the girls from leaving with a line about getting hitched. My Mabel showed some pluck and warned the boys that their old man was a two-star general. Suddenly, there he was, introducing himself. A Major-General, and as it turned out, a major generalist. He sure was pleased as punch with himself and the sound of his own voice. Pop was not crazy about his girls going with the guys, leaving him on his lonesome. He knew the guys’ reputation around that city and worked the old orphan routine. Sticking with the script, the guys caved and let the dolls go, offering them honorary membership in the gang. Like I said, honor among thieves.
The old “orphan” Major-General and his daughters moseyed back to his major property. He knew he had lied, and couldn’t live with the knowledge. It ate away at him. His girls tried to get him to snap out of it. Suddenly, the cops arrived, jawboning about how they’re going to collar the racketeers. The girls were excited by the manliness on display. To them the cops were heroes about to be rubbed out by the mob.
I was supposed to lead the boys in blue to the hide-out of my old outfit. I figured this was my chance to make reparations for my past life. Just then, Ruth and the Boss showed up, waving the contract in my face. They had read the small print. I hadn’t fulfilled my side of it.
The math was a tough nut to swallow. I could only be free on my twenty-first birthday. My birthday was February 29th. Twenty one birthdays would mean I could only start a law-abiding life sometime in my eighties. That was it. Black and white. Nothing to be done. I was in the gang again, back to my old life. And there was more logic looking me in the eye and forcing my hand. Now that I was a pirate again, I had to tell the Boss about the old man not being an orphan. The Boss had no option. Bad things happen to people who cheat.
I found Mabel. She was cut up about the news, but I couldn’t let her get me to break my contract. The math didn’t lie. I had decades before I was free to marry her. She saw those long, long years stretch before her. The kid came up trumps. She would wait for me. I had to leave her, to do what a man has to do.
She told the cops that they were on their own, and had to confront the mob without my help. This struck a nerve. In their guts the boys in blue understood that outlaws and cops are pretty much the same when they’re not on the job. Just then, they heard the approach of the armed gang, coming to make the Major-General pay. Their trained reflexes cut in and the cops took cover.
Suddenly, the old soldier appeared, his nerves on edge. Sleeplessness from deep guilt will make a man crazy. The cops, acting as one, took cover to see why the old man was wandering about. The wind began to blow him here and there, and he started singing this weird little ditty. Just then his girls came looking for him. This was the moment for the gang to attack. The cops put up a defense, if you could call it that. But it wasn’t much. While his boys held down the cops, the Boss told the old soldier his number was up. Just then, something, maybe adrenaline, got to the sergeant. He went for a “Hail Mary” pass, betting that the mob still had a trace of national pride. With his voice almost cracking, he yelled out for justice and peace in Queen Victoria’s name. The gamble paid off. The pirates surrendered. The dame Ruth came clean about the pirate’s real background. Turns out they were all born high-hats and fat cats, who took a wrong turn. Noblesse oblige, yadda yadda. The M-G found it in his heart to forgive and hope for giving his girls away in holy matrimony to the pirates. And that’s how yours truly found himself hitched to Mabel. True story.