27th June

Jack and the Captain

An old sea captain washed up, looking for a berth. Jack’s mother took him in. He was a fierce old fellow who liked rum and bananas and lying in his bed. He kept his worldly possessions in a chest under it. ‘You keep an eye out for strangers,’ he told Jack. ‘Seafaring men like me. Off you go, lad.’ And Jack went.

Jack’s mother kept the captain company for an hour each afternoon with the door firmly shut. ‘Och, he likes tae talk,’ she explained to Jack. ‘I feel sorry for him. We share a banana or two.’ And that was odd, because Jack’s mother never felt sorry for anybody and she didn’t like bananas either.

One day when she’d gone to the shop for more bananas, another old man, in dark glasses and tap-tapping with a stick, turned up. ‘Will you help a poor chap that’s reduced to a demeaning occupation to earn a crust?’ he says in a shaky voice. ‘I will,’ says Jack, and gives him his arm. The old boy hisses, ‘Now take me in to the captain or I’ll break your wrist.’ So Jack takes him in. ‘Is that you, captain?’ says the blind man. ‘Is that you, Pugh?’ says the captain, white as the sheet he’s lying on. With Jack’s assistance the blind man puts a bit of paper in the captain’s hand. ‘And now that’s done,’ he says, ditching the stick and shades and skipping off back to town.

‘Jack, lad, I’m finished,’ the captain cries. ‘That was a messenger-at-arms, and this here’s a summons that’ll bankrupt me.’ And he starts up from his pillow, and then falls back down on it, stone dead.

Jack’s mother was very upset when she returned. ‘Whit the hell dae I dae wi aw these bananas?’ she wept. They went through the captain’s chest and found enough money to pay for his funeral and a high tea for two afterwards, and that was that. The captain’s clothes went to Oxfam and the chest they chopped for firewood, and they burned the summons. Oh, and a dirty old map that they couldn’t make head nor tail of, that went in the fire too.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Subscribe here for more stories & music