Gaargh, a first mate on ship be often the subject of a crews’ dislike and moanin’. Ye might think it fittin’ then that my first mate, Billy No Mates was so naturally suited to such daily loathin’. Aye, tis convenient. But tis not the story entire, for Billy were once a man with a mate or two…
Billy’s been me first mate since the day I laid me eye upon the Good Ship Lollipop as she transported lucky orphans to a happier place. Back then it were just me, Cack Handed Mick (aye, he were once in possession of a pair o‘ paws) and an emptied tavern of recently incarcerated drunks, dead set on a few weeks in the sun.
Billy was a bright-eyed young lad who’d fled the circus with high hopes of swashbucklin’ romance and wenchery. He’d been much impressed by me and Mick’s pub-based posturing. Now we’d been stringin’ him along for drinks for some while and ye tab was growin’ fearsome in proportion to the shrinking of his purse. Twas time for action, of a hasty and ill-planned nature. Tis what we do best. Since it was carnival season twas likely we could half-inch ye vessel with the use o’ costumery and dramatic license. We enticed Billy into the role of diversion.
And so, we loitered by the docks beneath an assortment of reeking nets and lobster pots, awaiting young Billy’s signal (the ringing of a tiny bell). There came forth no peals of success and me belly rolled with a tolling of woe. Then we heard a terrible crash, and suddenly the incumbent crew took it upon themselves to flee their vessel, their leaps taking them into the harbour as much as onto the dock. Strange. With a hint of trepidation we unhooked ourselves from our hiding place and hurried aboard, casting off as we went.
On the mid-deck I stopped short in horror. Spreadeagled on deck were the wings of a vast ocean-going bird known to all mariners, an albatross. The creature seemed dead, which accounted for the former crew’s swift exit. I considered following them, but for two reasons: one, we were already adrift and two, the plainly human legs which even now twitched and regained their normal relationship with ye deck.
Not being blessed with seaborne know-how, Billy had selected the costume most like his own circus garb, bein’ formerly of the clowning trapeze variety. I’d thought perhaps a harbour-master’s guise, or an allurin’ nun. Instead Billy had chosen a harbinger o’ maritime doom.
He never washed the taint o’ bad charm from himself. Ye might think that the removal of the costume would be enough to cleanse him. Normally, aye. Yet Billy’s method of acquiring the albatross were both impressive and damning. He’d attempted to thieve a costume from the ladies with the giant papier-mache bosoms, but they’d caught him and chased him with knives up the tower adjacent to ye docks. But they’d not reckoned with his circus roots, for he sped up the tower and onto its roof.
As the unfeasibly proportioned women climbed up to meet him, Billy spotted the albatross gliding past. With a cry he leapt for the beast, and grasped it firmly about the neck. The albatross was unprepared for becoming a double act and nose-dived into the deck of the Good Ship Lollipop.
Gaargh, we were undecided, but after detailed analysis over how the luck of an albatross affects a ship, we concluded that since Billy’d plainly killed the beast in self-defence (though not from the bird) and the ship’d been a-dock and not upon ye waves at the point o’ impact, then at worst the ill luck’d reside with Billy and not the Lollipop.
From that point on he were Billy No Mates; a fine crewman but prone to whingeing about his bad luck. Tis a remote possibility that some o’ that luck may have rubbed off onto ye Good Ship Lollipop, for we have been somewhat prone to misadventure.