Home Student WorksFiction Writings “Land Ho!” by Alex Pavljuk

“Land Ho!” by Alex Pavljuk

by Alex Pavljuk

The waves danced slow and steady under the hull of this once English schooner now loaded to the gills with armaments of war, ancient treasure and scurvy-ridden sailors.

The taste of rum still tickled the tongue of young Desmond Cutler. He hadn’t had but a drop since their last docking ashore in Bermuda three nights ago. Now, laid down in a shabbily constructed hammock of mostly dirty linens, he gently swayed back and forth atop the riggings of the mast amidst the warm Southern Atlantic breeze.

After many months away from the taunting shores of the mainland, Desmond couldn’t help but long for a night where he didn’t need to fight for the floorboard closest to the ship’s only cook, Johnny Stale-Bread, and his missing hand outfitted with, not a hook, but a wooden spoon. The men fought for this rich plot of wood so that, while the rest of the vessel shook and shivered in the ghostly night’s breath, one or two lucky sailors could be kept warm from the smoldering embers which maintained Chef Stale-Bread’s 14-and-a-half-year stew which he never seized stirring, even amid an enemy boarding party.

Yet for now, Desmond, perched amongst the winds and gulls, was far from his worries and where his mind could float like driftwood in what felt like an ever-expanding sea of nightmares and passing dreams.

Yet, his rest was not for long as a warning shot from not so far away splashed its presence upon the sailors below.

“Spanish galleon off the starboard side! Lock down all buckles and cannons, yee scrappy sea dogs!” yelled Captain Sandy Snake Eyes. His commanding howls bellowed from the stern of the ship as he plowed through the doors of his quarters.

They called him Captain Snake Eyes because of the two eye patches he wore over both of his very functional eyes. He was once told by a fortune teller in a tavern at Port-Au-Prince that if he was ever to set sail on the high seas again and look out onto the horizon where no land could even be imagined, he would be burdened with the eyesight of a wounded garden snake.

It was fair to say that the Captain didn’t take that curse lightly.

The ship in the distance was massive. Guns leaked from the belly of the devilish beast which could topple an island. Desmond, who had already swung out of his resting place and begun climbing down rapidly to give a hand to his crewmates, stopped for a moment and looked out upon the ship. The galleon was now positioned to ram and board the dirty pirate ship.

Before Desmond could shake himself from this waking night terror of incalculable odds, a broadside cannon from the hull of the schooner released a shot that splintered a chunk off of the approaching ship’s main deck. The sailors cheered tentatively as the once sleeping giant now swayed itself from a position of patience to a now enraged and scornful sentence of death.

Desmond swallowed sharply and closed his eyes, for a vast wall of fire and iron came flying across the bridge of the ship striking what seemed to be everything in its path. The masthead, which he clung to, cracked in the barrage and dropped him down and into the air where he hung upside down. His left boot was trapped in the tangle of now splintered ropes and riggings which left him suspended amongst the smoke.

With each passing blow, the sailors transcended into the great beyond where Davy Jones would be waiting with a deathly smile.

As he swung and swayed, a small mirage in the distance glimmered with hope. The fire and charcoal of this once floating vessel now met with the salty waves of an unforgiving sea. Captain Snake Eyes, knowing what was to come of his fate, unveiled but one of his sheathed eyes and looked out onto the horizon. He gripped onto the trimming of the ship’s wheel and, despite knowing he was to go down with his wooden lover, called out to his crew with mist in his eye.

“Land Ho!”


Two hours after the sinking, and three since the Spanish Galleon had plundered the already once plundered treasures and treats of the scornfully sunken schooner, Desmond Cutler washed ashore the glorified sandbar and ancient reef graveyard.

The sun was getting low and the pinkish-orange hue of cresting end-of-day sky exuded unimaginable life across this perceivably lifeless rock in which the shipwrecked sailor found himself. The tide, which still was coming in, washed over Desmond, who floated there in wonder.

Then, to his surprise, he felt a tap greet him on the bottom of his foot. He lifted his head just so and squinted down toward the tide to see a crate, now too, marooned on this isle of despair.

Slowly he slinked upward and crawled through the sand toward the box. He scratched at it for a moment but it was sealed up tight. He took a breath and looked around.

Then, reaching for a small and jagged rock within his grasp, the rained blows upon the wooden temptress.

With one final crash of the stone, the cream-colored sky opened up and shined upon the depths of the crate. Desmond peaked in and with an exuberant and unshakeable smile, he eked a weak gasp of joy and allowed a cracking laugh of self-pity to fill the air around him as he pulled one of a dozen bottles of Bermudian Dark Rum buried beneath a mound of compact hay and wool sailing sweaters of which the now dead Captain Snake Eyes had been hiding away in his padlocked quarters.

Slowly Desmond shuffled his way inland toward a fallen tree where he sat down and popped the cork of a bottle with his teeth.

Staring outwards toward the majestic Atlantic Ocean, Desmond’s smile grew tenfold as the taste of rum once more tickled his tongue and the sounds of the waves crested down on the shallow shores of his own peaceful paradise where, once again, his mind could float like driftwood.

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