The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack belongs to Thurop Van Orman.
The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack belongs to Thurop Van Orman.
"Fate is not an eagle. It creeps like a rat." - Elizabeth Bowen
"What does "Moirae" mean…?"
"Oh, oh! I know this one, I know this one!" little boy Flapjack called out, sticking up his hand and waving it madly in the air. Stormalong's school teacher, Ms. Leading, looked to him with a smile on her face. She nodded her head "Moirae is the three personifications of fate, in Greek Mythology!"
"Very good, Flapjack!"
Like a canine a doggy-treat, the shapely teacher pulled a boiled sweet, wrapped in decorative plastic, from up her sleeve and flicked it in the direction of the blonde, malnourished, young boy, who laughed and applauded happily at his own success as he crunched on it. Sat on the mat beside him was his Captain, looking sulkily down at his knees, holding them bunched up to his chest. Captain K'nuckles looked at him, eyes narrowed.
"How did you even KNOW that?"
Flapjack shrugged, smacking his lips. He swallowed "Just did, I guess."
The washed-up old sailor huffed, having, once again, failed to answer any questions correctly, during their day of schooling, so while the other students (all of which were much, much younger than him) munched happily away on their sugary sweets, he crouched miserably in his usual seat on the floor, a small dunce's cap on the turn-up of his nose, his stomach empty of sweets. He hated school. Hate, hate, hated it.
"Well done, today, class. You are all dismissed," Ms. Leading announced, smiling sweetly to the class full of children, who sprang happily to their feet and ran laughing from the one-roomed school, out into the town, calling their goodbyes to their teacher and one another, before making their separate ways home. K'nuckles got unsteadily to his feet, the hinges in his legs creaking and his back cracking as he stood up straight.
"I'm too old for this," he grunted, lifting his hat, slightly, and rubbing his head "This whole thing is humiliatin', Flap."
"What thing?" his cabin-boy asked curiously.
"This whole "school" thing," he replied, crossing his arms and looking sour "Out-smarted by snot-nosed kids, havin' to sit on the floor, bein' treated like a little kid; I don't know why I keep coming here."
"Don't you remember what Bubbie said, Cap'n?" Flapjack said, clutching onto his arm. He then raised his arms and roared "You better keep takin' mah baby to learnin' classes, K'nuckles, or I'll teach you a thing or two!"
The Captain looked at him, bitterness in his gaze "… Dumb whale."
"Captain K'nuckles?" Ms. Leading was perched on her desk, her hands in her lap. He looked at her, a scowl still very much present on his features as she smiled sweetly towards him "You don't have to feel embarrassed about being a know-nothing."
"You can't say that to me!" he cried, looking very much disheartened "You're my teacher! You're supposed to encourage me!"
"Tsk, tsk. And you can not speak to me, like that, K'nuckles. I am your teacher," she replied, waggling her finger and shaking her head, unhappily. K'nuckles looked utterly miserable as he looked down at his boots. She smiled slightly "But don't fret, K'nuckles. I taught you the difference between your left and your right; I can certainly teach you something else. You just have to be patient."
The Captain huffed "But everybody else gets everything, easy-peasy! Like Flapjack new what that "Moirae" thing meant! I've never even HEARD that!"
"Well, K'nuckles, children retain information much more easily than we adults. Their brains are much more absorbent."
"Like sea sponges?" Flapjack asked, happily.
"Yes, Flapjack. Good job," she tossed him a second candy. K'nuckles sulked. She shook her head, with a slight roll of her eyes, before reaching forward and gently patting his shoulder "Don't you worry, K'nuckles. It may not seem like it, now, but in time, things will change. You just have to be patient. Besides, a sea-worthy sailor like you; your brain is probably riddled with life-lessons. And if you can remember those, then where is the hardship in learning a bit of general trivia?"
She didn't actually believe this; K'nuckles was as thick as a post and as dim as a burnt out gas-lamp. But then, even the most stupid of students needed encouragement and judging by the proud grin that had now appeared on his face, her words of consolation and support had, at the very least, stopped him from moaning, for a little while. She tittered, with a slight roll of her eyes, before plucking the small dunce's cap from the end of his nose and setting it down on her desk.
"Well, good afternoon, you two. I'll see you next time," she beamed, sweetly, automatically gaining a smile from the two in return, before taking her coat and exiting her class room. K'nuckles tilted his head, watching her go.
"… Just can't say no to that woman," he said, smiling slightly as he held his arms above his head and stretched "Half the time, I have no idea what she's talkin' about, but that figure o' hers, Flap," he wolf-whistled "Can't help but at least TRY to listen."
Flapjack shook his head, taking his Captain's arm and giving it a slight tug, before making his way out of the school house "She just makes me smile. You know, when she smiles and gives me candy? And then I smile, and eat the candy? Yeah… That's great…"
"Don't rub it in," K'nuckles said in a grumble, clunking along behind him "I bet she's just playing hard to get. Who cares if she's married? She wants me."
"'Cos you're the Candy Casanova, right Cap'n?" Flapjack cried, happily, no doubt proud of whatever reputation his Captain had gained. Even if he didn't know what it meant.
"Darn straight, boy," the sailor replied, ruffling his hair, the little boy laughing, readjusting his white, cotton cap. K'nuckles smiled "Welp, home to Bubbie. We need to get ready."
"Ready for what?"
"To go out, Flap! You're not going soft-headed on me, now are ya? It's Tuesday night! And you know what we always do on Tuesday night!"
The little boy broke into a huge grin, laughing away manically, jumping up and clinging excitedly to the Captain "We go to the Candy Barrel, and eat lotsa candy!"
"Bingo," K'nuckles beamed with a toothy smile, until Flapjack let out a happy sigh and buried his head in the crook of his neck. His smile faded and he fidgeted, pushing the boy off him "OK, Flapjack, that's enough of that. You'll give me a rash, or something'."
"I'm sorry," he looked miserably down at his feet. The man tilted his head to the side, smiling ever so slightly, before gently smacking the boy up the back of his head. Then he smirked.
"Race ya back to Bubbie!" he started at a mad run, Flapjack, laughing again, closely in tow.
It was late summer; three o'clock to those who even bothered to keep the time, and the sun was bright in the sky. It shone warmly down on the town of Stormalong; A town situated in the middle of the open sea, held up high on rickety wooden docks, which, though old and worn in appearance, still managed to keep the streets and its inhabitants from sinking deep down to the bottom of the ocean. Merchants for every other product, from fresh fish to second-hand umbrellas, riddled with holes and other imperfections, calling out to potential patrons. Anyone would do and sell anything for a bit of legal tender, even if such attempts resulted in failure. It was a poor town, there was no doubt about it, and its poorest residents were plodding along the streets, to the end of the dock, then down the stairs, towards the harbour, where Bubbie, a whale, floated, eyes sealed with sleep, from an afternoon nap.
"Hey, Bubbie! I need some money!" K'nuckles announced, reaching forward and tapping her cheek, until she finally awoke. Her eyes popped open, looking madly about, in surprise, before coming into focus on the Captain's haggard face. She narrowed her eyes.
"Hello, K'nuckles," she said, looking away from him, a scowl on her features. This scowl then softened when she looked to "her baby", Flapjack "Hey, Flappy Pie. How was school?"
"It was great, Bubbie! I answered so many questions and ate so much can-"
"Stupid teacher. Kept sayin' my answers were wrong on purpose. I think it's some sort of fetish of hers, or somethin'; denyin' me candy and then givin' it to others like she's passing out the plague."
"Cap'n, what's a feh… Tish?"
"A fetish is-"
"Nuh uh, old man," Bubbie interrupted, smacking a flipper over his mouth "Don't you go tellin' my baby things he's not old enough to hear."
"Now I REALLY wanna know!" the little boy cried, laughing. K'nuckles tried to explain again, but was merely smacked up the back of his head by the whale, with so much force that he fell heavily onto the dock with a thud. He lay in a heap, nose pushed into the ground, cursing under his breath.
"What you say, Hinges?!"
"Nothin', nothin'," he replied, sitting up. His back gave a painful sounding crack.
"Ooh, pretty sounds," the whale's voice dripped with sarcasm "K'nuckles, that back o' yours gets louder, everyday."
"No it does not!" he cried, in defence.
"Yes it does!"
"OK, FINE! I've got a bit of a bad back. But do you know how you GET a bad back?! By sleepin' on stupid whale tongues!" the Captain yelled, throwing his arms angrily above his head.
"Cap'n, you can't say that!"
He glared at the whale, and then the boy, the back to the whale, before heaving a deep sigh.
"… What I wouldn't give for a night in a real bed," K'nuckles then got miserably to his feet, stretching, cracking his back a second time. He smiled slightly "Hey, that one actually felt pretty good."
"Why'd we come back to Bubbie to get ready? We don't actually have anything to get ready WITH. You know, no clean clothes, or nothing."
"Aw, baby, I cleaned your clothes, yesterday!" Bubbie said, vexed, looking unhappy with her son and his Captain. The two of them looked at one another, and then grinned sheepishly. She sighed "Want me to go to laundry island?"
She bought her "hand" to her face, before turning away from the dock and swimming off into the distance, Flapjack calling after her "I love you, Bubbie!"
"Love you, too, sugar…"
K'nuckles watched her go, and then turned to Flapjack, with a smile.
"C'mon. Candy awaits."
The two of them jogged back up the stairs onto the higher regions of the dock, and then slowed to a steady walk as they began their trip across the small town to the Candy Barrel. Flapjack waved to passers by, while K'nuckles looked at him with hard, disapproving eyes, yet said nothing. There was no changing how friendly the boy was. The Captain would argue that being friendly got you killed, at sea, in the long run, but in truth, he couldn't help but feel somewhat envious that Flapjack, who had lived for no more than eight years, could so easily earn the respect of everyone in Stormalong, while next to nobody could not stand him and his heinous, lying ways. He grunted, a sharp pain in his back.
"Did you really mean what you said about wishing you could sleep in a real bed?"
K'nuckles looked at him. It sounded to him as though Flapjack believed his words to be the most loathsome of crimes "Well, yeah, Flap, don't you?"
"No," he said, shaking his head "I like sleeping on Bubbie's tongue. It's comfy," the Captain rolled his eyes, and huffed "… If you want a bed, so much, why don't you just buy one?"
"Oh, for the last time, Flapjack," he turned to face him, stopping in the street and taking him by his shoulders "We don't. Have. Any. Money. If we did, I'd buy all sorts of stuff; beds, tables, chairs. Anything I wanted, I'd buy it."
It was as he said this that they conveniently walked past a tall sign, next to a winding road that travelled up and up and up to the highest regions of the town. "To Upper Stormalong" the sign read. Now, K'nuckles couldn't read, but he'd walked past this sign enough times to know what it was for.
"What I wouldn't give to live like the people up there," he said, pointing up to the tall, pretty buildings, which all seemed to sparkle magically, out of place in the middle of the gloom of the streets "Like Lady Nickelbottom and girly Charles. Hell, even that mangy mutt of theirs seems to have a better life than we do, boy. At least it's got a bed."
Flapjack frowned "Aw, Cap'n… We don't need money to be happy."
The boy was wise, for his age. K'nuckles, on the other hand, who huffed and grumbled, before continuing along, on their journey, was an idiot for any kind of age.
"No, we need money and candy to be happy."
"What about love?"
"It'll get you killed, boy," he replied, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his coat "Do the rich people love each other?"
"… They love powder…"
"Yeah, but do they love EACHOTHER?"
"… It doesn't look that way, Cap'n…"
"Exactly. But they're happy, aren't they? Because they've got money and candy," he explained. Flapjack looked up at his Captain as though he were an oracle, or something "And I know a fine example of this. She's got money and candy, and no husband or family to love. And she is, without a doubt, the happiest woman in Stormalong."
"Wow, who's that Cap'n?"
K'nuckles wiggled his finger at the boy, silently telling him to wait and see as the Candy Barrel came into view. He held the door open, allowing Flapjack to walk through, and then followed suit, standing briefly in the doorway with a grin on his face and his hands on his hips. He gestured towards the bar.
"And thar she blows."
Rhubarb N. Custard, sat hunched at the bar, sucking on a sour apple candy, with an equally sour expression on her face, was, as usual, anything but happy. To those who didn't know her name, she was the "Boiled Sweet", the living ornament of the Candy Barrel, perched on a bar stool, sweet to look at, but as hot tempered as an over-boiling stove. She spoke not a word to anyone, but the bartender, a smiley, overly-friendly man, by the name of Peppermint Larry, who relentlessly laughed at nothing and made her sick to her stomach. He was always. So. Happy.
However, on some days, her no-speaking-to-anyone policy was broken whenever K'nuckles came stumbling in with or without little boy Flapjack in tow.
She had no choice, really. It wasn't that she particularly minded them; they were alright, K'nuckles, the first person she told her saddest tale to, especially. However, on the same night as her story-telling, she and the Captain made a wager between them. They drew a tie, the contest proving who was the light-weight between them, when it came to candy binges, and because of this, K'nuckles had to do one thing, and she had to do another. The sailor had to put his life straight; Start being a bit more considerate towards the one person he loved; the little boy who followed him around, and Rhubarb was to pay for whatever candy he and the boy wanted for an entire month.
"Good afternoon, Ms. Rhubarb," the Captain said, talking to her with puckered lips and babyish tone to his voice as he wriggled up onto the bar stool beside her. She didn't look at him.
"Dawn't talk to me like dat," her voice was dark and low, as ever "I'm not a baybeh. Just order what you want, Hinges, and leave me alawne."
She still didn't look at him.
"… OK…" he frowned slightly, but then his expression immediately brightened as Larry walked towards them, to take their order. Flapjack laughed excitedly as K'nuckles told the man what they each wanted, not noticing Rhubarb seethe as she set her money down on the table to pay for them. The bartender went away, and the Captain turned his attention back to the miserable young lady. He looked her up and down. Then frowned.
"Hey… You're not wearing a dress, today!"
"I haven't worn a dress, for t'ree weeks, Kuh'Nuhckahles," she replied, moodily, dressed in a baggy shirt and waist coat, trousers and worn-out boots. She still wouldn't look at him. He frowned. Then he looked at her ring finger.
"And you still haven't taken off that ring!"
"Why dawn't I just take your head off?!" she yelled, finally turning her gaze to him, getting right up in his face. Her eyes were red making a cloud pass over K'nuckles' features.
"Hey… Hey, hey, you been cryin', again?"
She fumed, turning away from him, stuffing a sour candy into her mouth "Naw!"
"Yes you have! You're eyes are all red and puffy!"
He yelped as she suddenly grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, yanking him forward so her forehead nearly bashed against his, her knuckles white, she held on that tightly. She growled to him, through gritted teeth "Dawn't play gehmes wid me, Kuh'Nuhckahles. Today is a BAD day."
"What's so bad about it?"
She sighed, releasing her grip on his clothes and turning back to face into the bar, her face dragging the floor "… Today was supposed to be my weddin' day, two years agaw…"
"… Oh…" K'nuckles fidgeted. He wasn't good at dealing with these sorts of things, when sober. He rubbed the back of his neck "Uh… I'm… Sor-"
"Dawn't pity me. You'll make me worse," she grumbled. Larry returned, setting the Captain and his Cabin-Boy's orders onto the table "… Just tale your drinks, and gaw…"
K'nuckles frowned, slipping his wooden hand into the handle of his glass "Rhubarb."
She looked at him.
"I wanna see you in a dress, tomorrow, awright?"
"'Cos quittin' is for quitters. If I have to set my life straight then so. Do. You," he shut his eyes, and turned his nose to the ceiling, slightly, a hand on his hips. She scowled.
"You ain't MY captain, Captain. And besides, dat wasn't part of dee wager."
"Fine. Then carry on cryin' your heart out over some jackass."
"Mehbbe I will!" she buried her face in he forearms and sulked, leaving K'nuckles to roll his eyes, taking his glass over to his favourite booth and sliding into a seat. Flapjack blinked, before tapping the miserable young woman on the shoulder with a shaky hand. She turned her head, looking at him.
"Uh…" he reached into his glass of candy, picking out a sour apple sweet. He then popped it on the counter and beamed, before running towards Captain K'nuckles, laughing like a maniac. He dived into the seat opposite the washed-up old sailor, immediately digging into his candy. The Captain looked at the boy, and then to Rhubarb, who stared at the sweet the boy had just given her and then slowly picked it up, popping it into her mouth. He smiled slightly, taking a gulp of his own candy.
"See what I mean, Flap? She's as happy as a camper."
"I've never been camping, before."
"Yes you have! Remember? We slept in that crate, on the dock."
"Oh, yeah! That was great, huh, Cap'n?"
"Sure was, boy. Sure was."