November 15, 2012 Fiction






November fiction is all about pirates,  feisty girls who sail, death, ghosts, and love told to us by two unique and talented story tellers: Carole Johnston and Paul William Johnstone.





Carole Johnston



Nets  envelope the Key West shrimp docks like great  spider webs hanging between sea and sky.  You pass through this veil –  you enter  pirate world.

     Melon can sense it. Walking among the hairy nets, she  feels the boardwalk flinch. She stumbles.

     One solitary shrimper sits on the dock mending nets that surround him like a cocoon. He is young, shirtless, long black hair curling around his shoulders. She stares at him for a second and shouts.

   “Hey.  You work on one of these boats?”

   “Yup.” He looks up.

   “You know a captain named Roy Crow.?”

   “Yup.” He drops the net.

   “Well, where can I find him? “

   “End of the pier.  That way – boat named the Black Cat. “ He points.

   “O.K. thanks.”

   “I’d stay away from Roy Crow, if I was you,” he growls, black eyes looking her up and down.  She tugs at the frayed edges of her cut off jeans..


The shrimper shoves the net aside and stutters.

   “Well –  old Roy Crow –  he cursed God one night – in a storm. Just up and shouted Fuck You God , You faggot.”

The man pauses staring into Melon’s eyes.

   “ Then he pulled out his gun and they say he shot the second man and the crew. Called the coast guard –  and then his boat started sinking.”

The shrimper waves his arms like a wild man and Melon starts backing away from him.

   “ When the coast guard got there, he was the only one on board and they just watched that boat go down.   Claimed he didn’t know what happened to the other two men.”

He brushes the damp hair from his face, sweating in the morning sun.

    “I was there when they brought him in and there was some kind of  a eerie –  silence that morning.  I can tell you that.  Everybody’s scared o’ that son a bitch. Don’t think you can handle him. How old are you anyway, 16?”

   “Twenty One,” She lies, backing away.

   “Oh yeah…Tell me another one, kid.   You get involved with Roy Crow – don’t say I never warned ya. If ya cross Roy Crow –  he gets this glossy kind of a –  gleam in his eye and that’s when you got to run, kid. I say it again. I’d steer clear o’ old Roy if I was you.”

Melon stumbles backing away.

   “I can take care of myself. I’ve been around.  So don’t worry about me but thanks for the advice  What ‘s your name?” 

   “Name’s Johnny. Don’t tell him I sent ya now –  I don’t want him comin’ after me.”

Melon wanders down the pier.   It’s already 90 degrees at eight A.M. Sweltering.  When she finds  the Black Cat, Roy Crow is leaning over the rail squinting into  blue  distance –  a wiry man, red hair  wrapped in a black bandanna – blue eyes sharp as swords.  He tips a beer, wipes his mouth with his hand and stares as Melon marches up in her ragged cut off jeans and blue work  shirt.

   “Your name Roy Crow.?”

   “Yeah Baby.  What can I do for you?”

   “I need money and  I can work hard.  Will you take me out?”

   “What?  Take a woman out shrimping?  You think I’m a lunatic?  How old are you anyway   babe?”

   “Twenty one.” Sweat breaks out on her brow.

   “Forget it kid. I don’t believe ya. What are you anyway, some kind of ‘flower child?’ ”

   “I got a birth certificate back at my house. I can get it if you want.”

Roy Crow contemplates Melon’s bare legs.

   “You know it’s bad luck to take a woman out on a shrimp boat, right?”

   “You believe that old wive’s tale?”

   “That’s an old fisherman’s tale.  That’s what that is, girl. You better believe it too.” He hesitates. Scratches his head. Grins. Blue eyes flare.  “But then, I always wanted to spend a couple a days out on the gulf with a pretty young girl like you.”

She glares at him.

   “Man, I really need the money.”

   “You runnin’ from the law or somethin’, darlin’?”

   “Hell, no.”  Melon looks him straight in face and lies to save her life.

   “Tell you what. Meet me here at five and I’ll see what i can do.”

   “I’ll be here.”

He doesn’t even ask her name.


     The Black Cat departs at five. It cruises out into the gulf of Mexico.  Melon leans over the rail blending with blue and white and quiet until dark when the  trawling begins. 

     The sea contains disgusting beasts which look even worse when they are dumped into a  writhing mass of slime in the middle of the night.  “Loggerhead” sponges like three foot turds, “Ugly” fish with faces just like  gorillas.  “Poison fish” whose bite can kill a man or a girl.  Shrimpers trawl the bottom all night, empty  nets and pick through a scrambled pile of nightmare, extracting  elusive shrimp.  Melon puts on the rubber gloves and plunges her hands into the pile.  She tries  but  lasts  only ten minutes  –  spends the rest of the night in the cabin, head between her knees. 

     She is not prepared for  morning when  remnants of that pile of sea junk cling to nets baking in the sun.  Seagulls line up on the hanging doors like vultures,  deadly silent.  The gulf is like glass; the sky, ice blue but the deck so hot it burns her feet.  The stench of dead fish sits on the boat like sleep.  Melon drags herself from the bottom bunk onto the deck.  Nausea creeps.

At that moment, Roy’s blue eyes catch fire. He stands in the cabin like he’s just remembered she’s  there.

   “Hey Babe, come on in the bunk and keep me company.”

   “No thanks.”

   “Thanks is what I deserve, girl.  I bring you out here to work and you get sick after ten minutes. I do all the fishing and head all the shrimp myself.  You owe me, Babe.  So come in here and keep me company.” Melon hangs her head over the rail watching  sharks  following the boat.

   “I said no.”

Roy grabs her arm and drags her into the bunk.  When she kicks him in the shin he lets out a roar and slams her into the wall. 

   “Leave me alone, you creep.”

   “You know I can’t do that darlin’.”  She can feel his breath on her neck.  She kicks him again.

        All this time Roy ignores the thunderhead that hovers in the distance. This monster cumulous cloud undulates and expands.  It mutates from white to grey to black.  Pain drives Roy  to finally see the sky.

   “Fuck!!   That cloud!.. We’re the only boat left in the whole damn Gulf. Everyone else has raced back to Key West. It’s all  your fault you bitch. I told you it’s bad luck to take a woman fishing.” 

     Then the storm explodes.

     Rain –  crazy horizontal striped rain and wind make the boat roll.   Melon hangs on to the bunk  as water crashes through the window.  Roy staggers to the wheelhouse and grabs the steering wheel.

   “God damn you crazy bitch.”  He wrestles with the wheel  for a solid hour forcing it to turn his way. Melon hunkers down in the cabin, trying to decide whether she will go down with the boat or grab a shard when it splinters, hang onto it and die trying.

   “Girl, if I don’t find the channel marker we’re both dead. You understand that? Help me turn this fucking wheel.”

     She forces herself to attack the wheel and turn it with him.  She can smell his panic – feel his heart racing in a staccato dysrhythmia with hers.  Waves soak the bunks. Coolers and generators rip and slosh over the deck. The sea fights like a great shark.  The sea loses.

     Miracle!  He manages to find a channel marker and aim the boat toward the Key West docks.  Wind smashes a  refrigerator into Melons right knee.  The pain shoots up and down her leg. It makes her stinging frenzied just as  the boat reaches the pier, she quits thinking – loses control – picks up a chair and rams it into Roy’s head.  He falls like a rag doll.  Melon jumps to the dock, lands on the injured knee and lurches forward as  rain pours down on Roy.  The same rain that washes away every trace of her blood from the scene. No one knows of her voyage on the Black Cat.  Even Johnny doesn’t know for sure.

     Next day the headline reads:

          KEY WEST:


     Word around the shrimp docks is that Roy Crow has cursed God one time too many. The sea has finally got him.


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  1. Jan Anderson January 02, at 13:20

    This story is so close to home so to speak. It brings to mind at this time of year that I was blessed with so many happy times to remember my father yet so many people do not have that opportunity. A father gone before his child was born or barely time to know who he was is tragic. A father to take over that position is a blessing though not such a blessing as your own father. I cry for those who have such sorrow and applaud those who take their place. A beautiful read. thank you.

    • Paul Johnstone January 12, at 13:23

      Thanks Jan i am always hesitant to reply to people praise bt your words touched me, thank you very much.

  2. Rosie Kightly Stoker December 09, at 19:36

    Such a lovingly woven story about the realities of loss and how life must, and essentially does, move on. Emphasis on life, as the conclusion is so sad that it has a sorrowful claustrophobia hanging above the "what ifs" about after we pass from this mortal coil. The build through each perspective has a soft harshness about how strength to move on with life essentially crushes the ability of any happiness for the ones left behind. It has an air of callousness when read with the perspective of the father on his own, which I think was a lovely twist to have as the story unfurls from unrequited love to the movement of life. A brilliant read, thank you.

  3. James Bruce November 19, at 16:52

    Wonderfull,unique like Edgar Allen Poe at his best on a good day.


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