A Bother no Longer – Chapter 7
A Bother no Longer
The boys stood there in the sand, looking back at the youngsters around them. Then Andrew spoke, with a nervous crackling voice. “But why? And how? I mean … what…
“What are we doin here?” asked a pitiful looking soul. “We’re here cause… cause we didn’t listen to our Dads and Mums. Cause… we didn’t come straight home from school! Cause… we were snatched up, by the Great Golden Hawk and carried off! Here! To Zug Island!” Then the youngster began to sob. “If only, I had paid em mind. I miss my home! My Dad and Mum!”
Just then, the startling sound of a cracking whip. Snap! And up, walked a trio of rats. Dirty, stinking, barking, ugly rats. With a bamboo switch in one hand, and a makeshift whip in the other.
“Welcome, welcome, welcome! And many thanks to the Great Hawk for two more volunteers.” said the leader of the three. He cracked his whip again, and shouted… “Now fall into line, and march! A good day’s work is waitin for ya. And a crack on the backside if ya try one funny slip!”
The group of young Shrew were herded together. Then they began a slow march off the beach, and up the hill toward the mountains.
Drew whispered to a fellow prisoner… “Where to? What sort of work is this?” The little Shrew looked sadly back at him. “To the hills… to the mines… to dig!”
With a look of great worry, Andrew asked… “Dig? Dig for what?” The little Shrew looked back and said… “You’ll know when you find it. Just dig! That’s what they tell us. And that’s what we do. Every day. All Day. We just dig, and dig some more.”
Upon hearing this, Willie let out a sad moan. “What now Drew? What to do now?” he whispered. As the line of Shrew made their way into the tropical wood, Drew looked back from the hill and saw… a small schooner, tied to a dock. And many rats with servant Shrew unloading supplies. He turned to calm his worried pal. “Well. Where there’s a Willie, there’s a way.” he quipped. And as they marched off into the hot jungle, the tired and haggard slaves began to sing…
So far from home, no sorrier Shrew.
We dig all the day, we’re blistered and blue.
There’s no crumb of bread, no pudding or stew.
A crack on the back, for me and for you.
So dream away, dream away, dream away Shrew.
A crack on the back for me and for you.
After an hour’s march through the blistering tropics, the lead rat gave a shout for all to stop near a running stream. “A short rest and drink, and off we go!” he shouted.
The boys drank from the stream, and thought of family, their classroom seat in school, and how they wished for home. Drew thought of his Dad and brothers looking everywhere for him. And his poor grand-dad falling into the sea. His eyes swelled with tears.
“Hey now Will.” He whispered. “I’ve got a plan see? There’s a boat back at the beach that we make our way to. But first… we need… a distraction.”
“What distraction this time?” Said Will. “I think we’re fresh out of distractions.”
Just then… the lead rat let out the loudest of screams. “Whaaaaa! Help me motherrrr!” he cried. And the startled group of little Shrew looked up to see that a giant snake had him by the scruff, and was taking him off into the jungle.
“Run Willie! Run!” cried Drew.
Shrew and rat alike, were running for dear life now. They scattered in every direction through the thick brush.
“Downhill Will!” cried Drew as they ran. They stopped to rest only when they felt sure to be far enough from rats, or snakes, or any other unfriendly creature of this ghastly place. And once they were back near the shore, they hid in a patch of thick palms.
Short of breath… their hearts pounding… the frightened boys huddled silently together.
And then… they fell fast asleep.
Early dawn broke to the sound of cruel, bossy, whip cracking rat’s. They were barking orders at a line of little Shrew who carried baskets and barrels of supplies.
“Come on ya little monkeys! The tide is in, and we be settin sail!”
The boys were wide awake now. They hunkered in the low brush, and gazed out at their only chance of escape… the schooner that Andrew had spotted the day before. He whispered to his pal… “That be us Will. We have to get on board before it gets too light.” Willie pulled his pocket knife, and cut some ferns. They stuffed them in their shirts and trousers, and held them all around.
When the rats became busy with themselves for just a moment, the boys saw their chance. “This is it Will.” Drew whispered. “On the count of three. One… two… now!”
They were off! A scurrying little shrubbery, scooting along the beach. Stop, and go. Stop, and go. Until… “we made it!” said Willie, as they slipped slowly into a basket parked at the foot of the dock. A basket full of… “fish again!” said Drew. They covered themselves over, and were soon carried on board, then stowed below.
The small crew of bullfrog and rat scurried about. And it wasn’t long before the boat was sailing out to sea. When it seemed safe enough, Andrew and William slipped out and began to look for a better hiding spot. “Something… not as smelly and slimy this time.” said Will.”
As the boys crept around the holds of the ship, it rocked and swayed, and began to slam down on a more turbulent sea. And… little did they know… someone was watching them the whole time. A large frog. A sailor who had been hiding down below for a lazy nap. Suddenly he jumped up and caught the boys by surprise.
“What’s this?” Stowaway Shrew?” he cried. “Not again.” said Drew. And just as quick as he sprang up to pounce… he was whacked over the head with a stiff dead fish, and down he went! Knocked clean out! Cold as a clam!
The boys stood there in shock! Their mouths dropped open. Their hands fell to their sides. And standing there was the figure, of one much welcome sight!
“Pop!” cried Andrew. “Well I’ll be…” said Willie.
The threesome threw their arms around each other. Their eyes a swell, with tears of joy.
“I thought you were lost at sea!” cried Andrew. “And I thought sure that you two, were eaten by the hawk!” said Pop. “But how can this be?” they both said in unison.
Then, they sat and looked at each other for a long moment. And Pop began first.
“Well… I fell through the sky. Down I went. I said me prayers… then splash! When I thought that I was done for sure, and I could sink no deeper… I felt myself swiftly rising toward the surface. Then I came up. Spit up half the ocean. And there… was a porpoise. A chattering talkative creature, who rode me all the way to the stern of this boat. He drove me crazy with questions, but I was surely grateful. I climbed aboard, and here I am. Well now. What about the two of you? Tell me… how are you here?”
Andrew became flustered, but tried his best to put into words their harrowing story. “Well… The hawk carried us to Zug Island and dropped us there. It was full of young Shrew, missing from home! Then came the rats! They marched us through the jungle. Then a giant snake! And we ran to the beach. We hid in the fish! And got on the ship! And…”
Drew was interrupted with the sound of sailors rushing about on deck. Then the cry of the crow’s nest lookout… “Battle stations boys! Ready yourself for a fight! It’s the scourge of the seas, dead ahead… Gustav the Greek!”
“No… not Gustav!” said Pop. “Who’s this Pop? Who’s this fellow then?” asked Drew.
“Not who lad… more like what! Gustav The Greek, is the greatest of the giant Octopi. Big as a battleship, and mean as meddling mother-in-law! He’s taken down many a ship, right straight to Davy Jones Locker!”
Suddenly, a loud crash! Then, the breaking and dragging of wood. The ship began to list to port. Then to starboard. Blood wrenching screams cried out from the crew as they fought the creature with cannon and harpoon. The three little Shrew clasped their hands together and closed their eyes.
“Stay close to me boys, and say your prayers now! Let’s hope that the monster is just hungry for rats and frogs, and leaves the ship afloat!”
Willie mumbled over and over to himself… “I wish I were home… I wish I were home.” And Drew wondered how… when all he ever wanted was an adventure… that this fine mess had come to be. And then… everything stopped.
All grew quiet in an instant. Except for the creaking of the ship, not a voice was heard. The trio opened their eyes, then quickly scurried topside to find… the giant creature
swimming away to the east. His tentacles were flailing about, with frogs and rats wrapped all in them. The entire crew was gone. The boys looked on in disbelief. Then suddenly…
Cannon fire! And upon looking out from the bow, there… was a large warship. And standing on the forward deck… “Commodore Pratt!” said Pop. There he was. Unchained, and waiving a cutlass. His two trusty mates were running to and fro, giving orders to reload and fire again.
Pop ran to the bridge and took hold of the helm. Giving it a hard turn to starboard, he then shouted to Drew and Will. “Batten her down boys, and prepare for battle!” The boys ran about not knowing the first thing to do, when suddenly…. the ship started into a wide spin, and a swirling, gaping hole opened in the ocean.
It was a whirlpool so big, that it struck a fear never felt before into all the sailors there. Both ships were caught in it, and starting to spin. The Commodore fired his cannons again.
Pop cried out… “Stinking rat! Is that all you’ve got?” And just when one might think that things were going quite sour… up in the stormy grey skies, appeared the Great Golden Hawk! He circled above the ship of Shrew, screeching out and swooping down to once again recapture his escaped prisoners.
Lightening crashed! Cannons fired! The Octopi ate. The Great Hawk soared! And the giant whirlpool spun the ship faster and faster toward the dark, swirling hole in the ocean.
Just before they were to be sucked down forever into the deep… Andrew turned to his best mate and cried…
“Hey now Will! So sorry for all this! Friends forever mate! Yes?” Willie looked sadly into Andrews eyes. “Friends forever!” he said back. They clasped hands tightly, and closed their eyes.
The ship spun wildly down… down into the abyss. Then all grew dark, and silent.
A long, quiet moment followed. Then, a familiar voice was heard. Very faint at first, it grew louder and louder… “Andrew James! Andrew James Shrew!”
Drew opened his eyes to find… his Mum. Standing there with her hands on her hips, and a firm expression on her face. He sprang up quickly and looked about. There he sat, on a stump in the wood shed. Sitting across… his Dad. Fast asleep with the corkscrew willow switch cross his chest. And sleeping next to him… his Grand dad. Snoring away with his pipe between his lips, and tobacco pouch in hand.
“Mum! Oh Mum!” said Andrew, as he jumped up and threw his arms around her. “I dreamed… that I ran away, and sailed to sea! I dreamed… of evil rats and skunks, the Great Hawk, a giant Greek Octopus! Singing mermaids! And a snake so big!”
And Willie was with me! And the hawk flew us off to Zug! And Pop! He hit the frog with a fish! And the giant whirlpool sucked us all in! And Mum… I love you so much! And I promise! My most sincere promise… I’ll be… a bother no longer… I promise Mum!”
Drew’s Mother smiled. She bent over and took him in her arms. She kissed him hard on the cheek and held him tight, then whispered… “never a bother are you… my wee boy.” Now wake your Dad and Grand dad, and come inside for supper.
Then, she turned and walked toward the house, slipping Andrew’s farewell note into her pocket.
COPYRIGHT 2016 JEFFREY DUCHENE
For more great stories by Jeffrey Duchene, check out author page
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