Travis Bucky awoke to the terrible noise of what sounded like a rabid hyena making love to a chicken. He felt blocked up in one nostril, like his hay fever was acting up – a sign Spring had begun. Still with eyes half closed he attempted to pick his nose, discovering there was in fact a cigarette stuck up there. He removed it and stuck it in his mouth and searched his pockets feebly for the lighter, writhing and turning. The noise upstairs continued.
‘Jesus!’ he called upstairs. ‘What kind of depraved fuckin’ orgy is going on up there, you goddamn perverts?!’
Kat Velcro was eating an ostrich burger at the farmers market down the bottom of Queens Park. It had cost her six pounds and fifty pence.
‘It’s a damn liberty!’ the Kid snapped.
‘I thought you said you were hungry’ Kat replied. ‘I offered to pay. I don’t mind buying us both lunch.’
‘I have the money! That doesn’t change the fact it’s too much. It’s not even that big. There should be chips on the side for six fifty.’
On the grass across from them a boy was wrestling the stick away from a large Alsatian’s jaws. The Kid imagined the dog tearing into the boy’s young flesh.
‘Hard to Port Starboard Mr. Bucky!’ called out Captain Flak from the Wheel as he spun it with all his might.
‘They’re fair gainin’ on us Capt’n’ said Midshipman Sensible. ‘Shall I wake the Admiral?’
‘Fuck no!’ said Captain Flak, brushing his long black hair out of his eyes. ‘That’s all the bollocks we need.’
Midshipman Sensible ran across the deck to assist First Mate Bucky rally the crew out of bed. Bucky had his trusty belt out and was whipping the men beneath the covers with it.
‘You lazy sods!’ Bucky shouted. ‘What does the company pay you for?! We’ve a whale to catch, now come on an get out there.’
Blood splatted from the behind of one of the larger men as he scurried up the stairs to the main deck.
‘Is that the last of them Mr. Sensible?’ asked Bucky.
‘That’s them all up, sir’ replied Sensible.
‘Oh thank God for that’ Bucky said, flopping down onto one of the men’s racks for a quick little rest before going back to work. ‘So whit’s happening wi you these days? How’s yir old dad then?’
Sensible stole a guilty glance up the stairs, then remembered he had a little flask of rum in his coat pocket. He unbound the leather on the cork and had himself a wee swig. ‘He’s alright like, aye!’
Suddenly a loud banging rocked the ship back and forth and Bucky fell out of bed. When he looked up, Sensible was in the corner huddled over the flask like it was his only child and there was a tiger giving them both the evil eye.
‘Oh fuck,’ said Bucky. ‘That’ll be the whale!’
‘Oh my God, you are such a pyoor dobber man!’ quipped Bucky to Flak before digging into his sausage sandwich.
‘Fuckin, how um ah?’
‘Nae other cunt puts that much mustard in a sandwich, mate. It’s heavy bowfin the amount you dolloped in there.’
Flak looked back at Bucky, hurt and sad. He reached inside his security uniform and scratched his armpit.
‘You’re heavy one to talk about moderation, ye bampot’ Flak said, practically welling up with tears. Bucky looked back at him and understood his mistake and said nothing. He picked up the remote control for the television, fumbling with it and gazing at the multi-coloured buttons with some confusion. Finally he picked the right thing to press and turned on the snooker.
The door to Bucky’s flat was off its hinges and Kat pushed it open to let herself in. Bucky was standing in his un-ironed blue suit staring at the ceiling.
‘We’re going to be late’ she said, looking at her watch. ‘Apologies. Are you ready?’
Bucky shushed her urgently and made an aggressive yet flailing motion with his arms that Kat found tremendously insulting.
‘What?’ she shouted back. ‘I didn’t have to come here at all, you know! I’m not your bloody chauffeur….’
‘Quiet!’ Bucky cut back. ‘Can’t you hear? I’m trying to understand…’
‘The hyena, it’s speaking. Sounds like French. Something about some Howard cunt. Who else is up there?’
‘I’ve never met your neighbours.’
‘Neither have I? Listen.’
Kat heard something in English. ‘Did he say something about a ‘grassy knoll?’
‘See! Aye, eh!’ Bucky grinned. ‘Told ya something was going on!’
Doctor Hobknob spied the H.M.S. Fatsman through the telescope and ordered The Kid not to spare the whip.
Kat pulled her sailor’s cap down to shield the sun from her eyes. Hobknob had come dressed as Louis the 14th, and she as Dizzy Gillespie. The Kid was chained naked to the treasure chest.
‘This time we’re going to ride this bitch right into the side of her hull’ Hobknob cried, drooling at the prospect of total destruction.
The Great White Whale beneath their feet whistled beautifully over the sound of The Kid’s attempts to beat it with the whip he wielded in his one free hand. He groaned as the whip came down and he twisted his other handcuffed arm.
‘Hurry it up, man!’ shouted Hobknob. ‘We need speed if we’re gonna wreck this fucker.’
The crew of the Fatsman could hear the sound of the whale-call from the deck.
‘Mr. Bucky,’ said Captain Flak, gravely. ‘Mr. Sensible.’
‘Yes, Captain’ replied the Midshipman while First Mate Bucky stared at the glare of the sun cut in twain by the mainmast.
‘You know what to do.’ Midshipman Sensible nodded in understanding, and Captain Flak ran up the stairs signalling the men to make ready.
Bucky and Sensible returned from the armoury both carrying with tommy guns. They took a look over the side. The Whale was 20 feet away.
Neither spoke. They waited 10 seconds for the Whale and it’s captors to come a little closer to being in range, and then blindly opened fire.
Bucky looked glumly at the shop floor and the mountain of sweets which had fallen from the torn lining of his pockets. The Woolworths security guard said, ‘son, this is a serious matter’ and ushered the boy to the back offices.
‘Go on, honey’ the other security guard in the office said to the CCTV monitor. ‘Take it all off.’ Bucky caught a glimpse of a woman in a changing booth before the guard stood up and blocked his vision.
‘Chris, this boy’s been stealing sweets from the pick’n’mix’ said the guard behind Bucky pushing him in. ‘What’s the minimum sentence for shoplifting? 6 months inside?’
‘I thought it was a whole year mate.’ Chris said, chuckling. ‘What’s your name? How old are you?’
Bucky trembled. ‘I’m 11. My name’s Travis.’
‘That’s a stupid name,’ Chris said. ‘But you’re obviously a very stupid boy, aren’t ya?’
Bucky wouldn’t answer. He glared at the floor wishing he could feel more anger. He felt tears behind his eyes. He tried to throw a punch at Chris, but the unnamed guard grabbed his arm.
‘What ye gonnae do? Make a break for it? Sit down ye wee shite.’
Bucky sat on the chair in front of the monitors. He sat for two hours in silence watching people change. He could not make out the faces well. One woman undressed entirely to try on a tight-fitting dress he imagined was red while gazing at her on the black and white screen. She stood in front of the mirror, admiring herself. It looked as if she was speaking, or perhaps whispering to the mirror. He watched in silence with Chris. Neither of them looked at the other. Bucky gazed at the television, falling in love with her. He memorised her every outline, paying special regard to her hips, and also the way she had her long hair tied back. When she had returned to her regular clothes and was hanging up the red dress Chris smiled at him and said. ‘Your sister is coming to pick you up in ten minutes.’
When Bucky looked back at the screen the woman was gone. He stared at the empty room and wished he was inside it, and could hide there forever.
Bucky fed his faithful parrot, Chico a cracker while he hobbled around the deck, pretending to have a peg-leg. He had changed into the Captain’s jacket, put on an eye-patch and striped long-johns, and had been referring to himself as Long-John Bucky for the past half an hour.
‘You’ll never get away with this!’ cried Captain Flak, struggling pointlessly against the ropes tying him to the mist-mast.
‘Avast ye scuppers!’ thundered back Bucky. ‘I have heavy taken total control of this here vessel.’
‘How could you betray us like this?’ shouted Midshipman Sensible.
‘For I am Buckbeard the Pirate, ye see. And ah’m all about doubloons. Also Captain Flak kept half the rum hidden in his cabin, and I thought it wisnae fair and we should pyoor get some. So all ye who would like to drink merry, serve under me! And all will be cooshty.’
‘Ah’m with ye!’ cried Sensible.
‘Awright then’ said Bucky. ‘Doctor Hobknob, let the prisoner go.’
Hobknob, having just tied up the Midshipman, strode over to Bucky, nostrils flaring with red indignation.
‘Hold on a minute, Travis,’ he gasped. ‘Are you fuckin’ kiddin’ me? What?! You think you’re the captain of this ship, now? Just cos you’ve got a parrot?’
‘Aye, I dae actually,’ said Bucky. ‘What you gonna do about it?’
‘True sailing is dead,’ said Sensible.
‘I mean,’ Bucky began thinking aloud. ‘You just think you should pyoor be in charge cos you rode in on a whale. Now the whale is in the hull paddling or whatever the fuck a whale does and taking us fuck knows where. Looks like you lost control, mate.’
‘And you’re taking over?’
‘As far as that goes, aye. I’m like the Queen of England. I’ve got ma costume, so ah’m happy as a….hahahaha’
Bucky continued to laugh and the rest of them watched him.
Kat Velcro returned from the hull with a bottle of rum and a cigar hanging out of her mouth.
‘I’ve had a word with the whale. I hope you cunts can breathe underwater cos he’s hungry, and that means we’re going under.’
‘Oh fuck,’ said Hobknob.
Kat knocked on the door of the upstairs neighbour while Bucky complained.
‘I don’t like knowing who my neighbours are. It only means I’ll have to talk to them when I see them, and that will be all the time and it’ll be awful.’
There was no sound inside.
‘We know you’re in there!’ Kat called out.
‘Hyenas don’t have thumbs like,’ Bucky said. ‘How are they gonnae open the door?’
‘Oh for fuck’s sake,’ replied Kat. ‘Fine, let’s just go then. We’re really late now anyway.’
They went downstairs and got into Kat’s E-Type. Bucky turned on the radio and Z.Z. Hill’s ‘Am I Grooving You?’ came on and he was so happy.
‘So,’ Kat began to say, regretting opening her mouth while speaking. ‘who do you think killed Kennedy?’
‘Fuckin’ neighbours man.’
They arrived at the fish restaurant. Sensible was outside smoking a fag. He looked at Bucky and stood on one leg and stubbed the cigarette out on the soul of his shoe, providing the signal that Flak was inside.
Kat passed Bucky the revolver.
‘Remember, it’s to be done through the head or we only get half,’ she said, grabbing his arm.
He got out of the car, keeping his eyes fixed on hers – neither giving anything away. It was cold. He buttoned his coat and went inside.
He asked the waiter where the toilet was. It was on the other side of the room. He walked past Flak’s table and went inside. The window wasn’t large and he had a tough time climbing out, ripping his trousers and dropping the gun along the way. He hit the ground shoulder first, and thought he might have broken it. Nonetheless, he managed to get himself up onto his feet quickly, and from there ran as fast as he could towards the country.