The Great Reindeer Accident


—Originally published at on Dec 19, 2007.  

Disney owns the copyrights to these characters; I’m just borrowing them for a bit. After some suggestions, I’ve also changed the title from its original “Naughty/Nice” to something a bit more appropriate to the story.

The Great Reindeer Accident

Chapter 1

Three days out from Tortuga. Already things weren’t going right. In fact, things were downright wrong.

Hector Barbossa regretted everything about this trip. He regretted underestimating the crew of that brigantine that sank his own ship and left him afoot. He regretted going to Tortuga. But most of all, he regretted signing on as Jack Sparrow’s first mate. Sparrow had showed up looking for a crew to hunt gold. Barbossa knew better than to fall for that line, but he did need a ship. And Sparrow seemed idiot enough that Barbossa would doubtless have full control of the ship, the journey, and, if there was any, the gold. Even if there wasn’t, at least he’d be at sea again. Either way, it seemed simple enough.

But Jack Sparrow was turning out to be more of an idiot than Barbossa first thought. Sparrow concerned himself with the oddest things, like who slept where, rather than which men should stand watch, and whether the cook should serve biscuits or potatoes with ham. Yesterday he had carried on a running dialogue all day about women’s shoes, yet he neglected to keep a logbook and refused to allow Barbossa to take noonday sights or anything else to identify their position. His compass, he insisted, was enough. Barbossa believed that even if the treasure’s location was secret, it was absurd not to do any navigating.

It bothered Barbossa, too, that he didn’t even have the control he should, for half the time when he gave an order, Sparrow remanded it. Now, in perhaps the grandest show of stupidity yet, with the ship enveloped by one of the thickest fogs Barbossa had ever seen, Sparrow ordered two hands to bring all the available stores of rum on deck. Sparrow insisted he’d been shortchanged. He’d paid for three cases of rum and could only account for enough bottles to fill two. He had the hands setting bottles out on the deck so he could count them, once, and then a second time. When he started on the third tally, Barbossa interrupted him.

“Shall we drop anchor, cap’n?” Barbossa suggested, not wanting to risk giving another order without Sparrow’s approval. The men would soon stop listening to him if Sparrow kept on countermanding everything he did, and that would not help his position at all.

The captain grumbled about empty bottles and waved Barbossa off with a flutter of his fingers. “Don’t worry, I can count my bottles on a moving ship. Keep her goin’ as she is.”

The temptation to break one of the bottles over Sparrow’s empty head came strong in Barbossa’s mind, even though he knew it wouldn’t help. The Capuchin monkey on his shoulder made a rude noise which drew Barbossa’s attention back to the matter at hand. “It’s the fog,” he pointed out.

“Never mind the fog. I’ve got my trusty compass, we’ll not get lost. Go back to whatever you were doing. You’re interrupting my count. And take that annoying animal with you. That monkey makes me nervous. He looks too human to be runnin’ around naked like that.”

“Ye don’t expect me to put clothes on a monkey?”

Sparrow pursed his lips. “Why not nappies, at least? He’s making a mess o’ my ship.”

The monkey chattered harshly as if he understood the captain’s words. Sparrow snarled at the monkey in response.

“Puttin’ on airs, he is. You shouldn’t have named him ‘Sir Francis Drake’, it gives him grandiose ideas. If you’ve got to have a monkey, you should give it a simple monkey name.”

Barbossa muttered under his breath as he turned away. “Maybe I should call him Jack.”

Sharp looks from a couple of the hands told Barbossa he wasn’t the only one disenchanted with Sparrow. Barbossa shook his head at the men and went below deck to think. Or maybe not to think. Much more of this and he would start questioning his own sanity.

Barbossa stayed below deck for only a few minutes. The whole situation was wrong. This fog was far too thick for safety. Whether captain or first mate, he must consider the ship and the men on it. Bolstered by a belt of Irish whisky he kept in his own cabin, he determined to have it out with Sparrow. On deck, the captain still played with his bottles, arranging them now by size. Barbossa stopped dead in front of him.

“Captain Sparrow, have you even looked at the fog?”

Sparrow didn’t flinch. “Why? I’ve seen fog before.”

“It’s not safe.” Barbossa spoke slowly and very clearly. “We could run aground.”

“No, no, no, we won’t run aground.”

“Captain, I really think – ”

With a huff, Sparrow clambered to his feet. His dark eyes narrowed as he yanked the compass from his belt. “Look, Barbossa, this compass shows us where we’re goin’. If there’s something in the way, it’ll let us know. But it’s been holdin’ straight and true since we left Tortuga. Savvy?”

“We’ve all got a stake in this venture, and as such, we’ve a right to share in the –”

“Stop!” Sparrow waved both his arms at Barbossa and then almost literally shoved the compass at him. “This is where we’re goin’. Follow that heading, we’ll get to the Isla de Muerta and our treasure. Guaranteed.”

Barbossa did take note of the needle before Sparrow snatched the compass away and returned to his rum. Straight and true, eh? Well, well. Barbossa knew what that meant.

“Now run along like a good little first mate,” Sparrow said, “and do whatever it is I’m paying you to do. I’ve got my own worries.”

Rolling his eyes, Barbossa walked away from the captain. He strode to the far side of the ship and stopped beside two hands who were mending a net. One of the men glanced at the monkey sitting on Barbossa’s shoulder.

“That monkey’d make a better cap’n than Sparrow,” he said.

“Aye, he would.” Barbossa leaned heavily on the railing, closer to the two men, and lowered his voice. “But I’ve got the heading now. I know where we’re goin’. We may not need the captain much longer.”

“That’s the best news I’ve heard in weeks,” the hand agreed.

Barbossa started to smile. A loud crash from high in the rigging stopped him. All hands gaped up into the blankness of the fog. There followed the clatter of splintering wood and finally, a dark shape took form in the whiteness, tumbling down through the rigging. It landed hard, right in the middle of Sparrow’s rum bottles. Shattered glass and rum spattered all over the deck.

Sparrow sprang back out of the way. “What the bloody hell was that?”

Chapter 2

For several seconds a stunned silence held over the ship. The men stared at the object lying in the midst of Sparrow’s smashed rum bottles. Finally Barbossa took a step toward it.

“What is it?” one of the hands asked in a whisper.

“Looks like a goat,” another hand answered.

“It’s not a goat, it’s a dog,” said another.

“I never seed a dog looked like that,” said the first hand. “Dogs don’t have horns.”

“And look, it’s nose is all red.”

“Is it bleedin’?”

“Musta hit the mast head-on.”

“But how did it do that?”

“I never seen anythin’ like it.”

“Hush,” Barbossa said. He moved another step closer to the animal. It was near the size of a large sheep, only it had dark fur, antlers, and a definitely red nose. But it wasn’t blood.

Jack Sparrow cautiously joined him. “I know what that is.”

Barbossa nodded. “It be a reindeer.”

“Aye,” Sparrow agreed.

“A what?” one of the men asked.

“A reindeer,” the captain repeated. “They live up north someplace. Russia, if I recall. Or Finland, one o’ those places.”

“Then what’s it doin’ here?” the hand wanted to know.

“Is it alive?” another man asked.

Sparrow drove his elbow into the first mate’s arm. “Go see if the thing’s alive.”

Instantly Barbossa motioned toward one of the hands. “Pintel, go see if it’s alive.”

“Ragetti likes animals.” The short man who answered to Pintel nudged the thin man standing next to him. “You go look at it.”

The thin man adjusted a shabby eye patch but did not move. “Not me, I only got one eye. Besides, it ain’t natural, it bein’ here. Maybe it’s cursed.”

Before anyone else could speak, Barbossa’s monkey jumped down and ran over to the animal. He poked the reindeer in the side and the animal raised its head and moaned. The men fell back.

Sparrow drew his pistol. “I’ll take care of it!”

The men yelled in protest. They didn’t like the animal, but they didn’t like hurting it even more. Killing a strange beast could bring bad luck down on them all.

“It broke the rum, it deserves to die.” Sparrow took aim.

Barbossa knocked Sparrow’s arm out of line. “Heave to, captain. The men could be right. Think about it. What’s it doin’ out here, so far from home? And where did it come from? It couldn’t just drop from the sky. Reindeer don’t fly.”

The hands agreed with him, and Sparrow reluctantly put away his pistol. While the monkey stayed with the reindeer, the men tried to assess the damage it had caused. Barbossa sent a couple of hands into the rigging to check. They confirmed quite a bit of damage to the mast and the sails. Without a doubt the ship needed repairs if they were to continue.

Captain Sparrow took out his compass and studied it. “Yes, yes, I remember now.” He snapped the compass shut.

“Remember what?” Barbossa asked.

“There’s an island not far from here,” he said. “A tiny one, no amenities, but it would be a place to drop anchor while we perform the necessary ameliorations.”

“Now you’re thinkin’ like a captain,” Barbossa said approvingly. “Alright, let’s set course for the island and get this ship put back together.”

Sparrow gave the heading and then turned back to the reindeer. “I still say we shoot it. I’ve heard reindeer steaks are quite tasty, especially with gravy and lingonberry sauce. D’ you suppose the cook has lingonberries on board?”

“I agree with the men, cap’n. Since we don’t know where it came from or why, I’m thinkin’ we’d best look after the animal properly.”

Sparrow heaved a great sigh. “Oh, alright, Barbossa. Have it your way. Wrap the bloody thing up in a blanket and sing it lullabies if you like. But get the deck cleaned up, at least. I’m goin’ below. I need some sleep. Wake me when we get to the island.”

With Sparrow gone, the mood on deck lightened somewhat. The men seemed to lose their initial fear of the animal. It took four of them to move the heavy deer out of the way, and two of the other hands found a bit of thread and a smallish needle to stitch up a cut on its shoulder. Ragetti volunteered to fetch some water and wash the rum off its fur. Barbossa sent the cook to find some scraps to feed it. The remaining crewmen swept up the broken glass and splintered wood and swabbed the rum off the deck. Finally, as the whiteness of the fog began to go dark, they settled down to get some sleep.

Chapter 3

Barbossa woke shortly after midnight. For a moment he lay still, enjoying the silence. At least he’d got a few hours’ sleep without a major crisis. First mate? He felt more like a nursery maid. He’d done everything but wipe Sparrow’s backside, and the journey wasn’t over yet. What else would Sparrow expect him to do?

He sat up, threw off his blanket, and reached for his stockings and boots. His stockings hung on the chair by his bunk, but as he picked them up, their unexpected weight slid from his hands.

“Now what?” He hefted the stockings off the floor. Odd, round lumps distorted them both. Barbossa slid his hand gingerly into his stockings and pulled several apples out. He set them on the chair. Sparrow! What kind of joke was the captain playing now? Abruptly the monkey chattered. Barbossa turned. Sir Francis Drake sat at the foot of the bed, wearing a full suit of clothes. Fancy ones, too, with stripes and red ribbons and puffy white sleeves.

Barbossa chortled. A monkey wearing clothes? The captain didn’t know when to quit. Barbossa pulled on his stockings and boots. Sparrow should have been a court jester rather than a pirate. But the apples looked first-rate, unblemished and golden. And the monkey seemed to enjoy his new clothes. Barbossa could swear he was primping, though he couldn’t imagine how Sparrow had managed to dress the monkey, considering that he threatened to shoot Sir Francis at least twice a day.

The monkey skittered up to the chair and snatched one of the apples. He took a bite. Barbossa laughed.

“You are puttin’ on airs, Mister Sir Francis Drake. Maybe I shoulda given you a simpler name.”

Barbossa took the apple from the monkey’s hand and had a bite himself. It was crisp and delicious. Not green, which was his favorite, but at least Sparrow could pick good apples. However, if Sparrow thought a few apples and a dressed-up monkey was going to placate his first mate, he’d best think again. Hector Barbossa couldn’t be bought off that easy. Collecting his hat, coat, and the monkey, Barbossa went up on deck determined to be a first mate this time and not a nursery maid.

The fog had thinned out a good deal, and the first thing Barbossa concerned himself with was the broken mast. In the dim starlight, the mast appeared sound. From the earlier reports and the amount of wood on the deck, he’d expected the damage to be much worse. But now, standing on the deck, he could see no damage at all. Blasted hands, exaggerating everything. Only three days, and already they’d been around Sparrow too long.

But the deck was immaculate, with not a bit of glass or wood in sight. And the rum had all been mopped up. At least the men had done a good job of that.

As the ship raised up in a swell, something small rolled across the deck. Sir Francis ran to fetch it and handed it to Barbossa. It was a perfectly round piece of wood with a knot on one side that bore an uncommon resemblance to a human eyeball. Well, if Sparrow could play tricks, he could, too. One-eyed Ragetti was always whining about his eye patch. It was scratchy and didn’t fit right and kept falling off at inopportune moments. Barbossa would give this thing to him and see if anyone laughed.

Last he’d seen of Ragetti, the man was stretched out on the deck next to the reindeer. Ragetti was still in the same place, fast asleep, with Pintel lying nearby. But there was no reindeer. Barbossa walked over and kicked Ragetti in the foot.

“Where’s the animal?” he asked.

“Huh? What?” Ragetti struggled to sit up.

Pintel woke, too. They both seemed stunned that the mysterious red-nosed reindeer had vanished. Their bellowing roused the rest of the crew and soon all were searching the ship, stem to stern. Even Sparrow dragged himself into the hunt. The crew found the ship in perfect order, mast and all, everything unexpectedly clean, but no uninvited livestock.

“Not even a mouse,” the cook reported. “It’s odd.”

“But the mast fixed? The reindeer gone? And clothes on Sir Francis?” Barbossa said. “Sparrow, how did you manage it?”

“Manage what? I didn’t do a thing,” the captain said. “If I did, there’d be rum here, and you don’t see any rum, do you?”

“Who else could it have been? What about the apples in my stockings?”

“You think I put them there? Why would I give you apples? And by the way, your monkey looks ludicrous.”

Barbossa snorted.

Suddenly Sparrow took out his compass. He spun to the left. “Hold now, we should go this way.”

Through the clearing fog, they could just make out a small, solid glimmer against the dark sea.

“Land ho!” Pintel called out.

Sparrow nodded. “Our little island.”

Chapter 4

Sparrow gave orders to drop anchor and made plans to leave the ship immediately, even though they no longer needed to make repairs. The men didn’t want to go. They feared some spirit or spell had taken over the ship and wanted to leave the area as soon as possible.

“There’s nothin’ on that island, you said it yourself. Not even fresh water. And we’ve a treasure to find,” Barbossa reminded the captain.

“Have patience, man! We’ll get to it. Right now, this compass is tellin’ me to go ashore.”

“I’ll wager there’s not a man will go with ye.”

“Then you can wait here till I get back. And if I find treasure, I won’t share it with you.”

“I’ll go with you,” said one of the hands, a man named Bootstrap Bill.

“Good,” Sparrow replied. “You get some water and I’ll make sure the pistols are loaded, just in case.”

Barbossa marked Sparrow’s words, and as Bootstrap started down to the galley, Barbossa casually trailed after him. He cornered Bootstrap coming back out.

“A man should never ignore divine providence,” Barbossa said.

Bootstrap looked confused. “Divine providence?”

“Let me explain what that means.”

Captain Jack Sparrow and Bootstrap Bill returned to the ship a little more than an hour later.

“It’s a small island, ” Sparrow announced as he came aboard. “We need –”

But he never got to finish his sentence, for three men pounced on him and wrestled him to the ground. Barbossa calmly but deliberately drew his pistol on Bootstrap. He motioned to the bosun, who grabbed Bootstrap and pinioned his arms behind him.

“You were supposed to leave him behind,” said Barbossa.

“I couldn’t,” Bootstrap protested. “There’s nothin’ on that island, he’ll die.”

With a look from Barbossa, the bosun pulled Bootstrap’s arms tighter and the man yelped. Barbossa lowered his pistol.

“He’d get a fair chance,” Barbossa said. “We voted, remember? We decided we’ve had enough sailin’ under a mad captain. That man’s got problems we don’t need.”

“So that’s it,” Sparrow said. “I’m to be marooned.”

“You catch on fast,” said Barbossa. “Take his weapons.”

The men started unarming Sparrow, but the captain was sharp. He filched a pistol and wriggled away from them. He took aim straight at Barbossa’s chest. “Back off.”

Instantly a dozen crewmen drew their own weapons. But the first mate seemed unperturbed. “Back off where? You can’t get away.” And with three steps, he crossed the deck and stood before Sparrow.

The captain cocked the pistol.

“You won’t shoot me,” Barbossa said. “In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a least ten pistols pointed at you right now.”

“This is my ship, and you’ll not take it from me.”

With an impatient sigh, Barbossa snatched the pistol right out of Sparrow’s hand and slapped him hard across the face. Sparrow went to his knees. Barbossa handed the pistol to one of the crewmen and then turned toward Bootstrap. “You have a choice. Stay with us, or go with Captain Sparrow.”

For several seconds Bootstrap looked from the men to Sparrow and back again. Finally in defeat he bowed his head. “I can’t, Jack. I’ve got a wife and child.”

Sparrow sat on the deck, rubbing his head. “It’s alright, Bill. I understand.”

Barbossa turned back to Sparrow. “And now, captain, it’s time you took a little walk.”

By morning, the Black Pearl had become quite a different ship. With the fog gone, the black sails shone with a pristine darkness in the sun, the deck gleamed as it hadn’t since it was new. Sir Francis Drake, strutting in his new clothes, was renamed Jack and the men elected him honorary captain, fully expecting him to do a better job than the real Jack. Ragetti took the wooden ball and, finding it made a perfect replacement for his eye, ditched the lopsided patch. The cook discovered a goose had turned up among his chickens and roasted a fine dinner for the men, with apple pie for dessert. And Hector Barbossa once again took the helm of his own ship, now in search of Sparrow’s gold.

Long past noon, Barbossa remained at the wheel. A crewman named Twigg came up on deck and offered to relieve him but Barbossa turned him down. “I’ll stay here a while. A man couldn’t ask for a finer ship. Oh, and you can let Bootstrap out o’ the brig when he comes to, long as he minds his manners.”

“He surprised me, fightin’ like that when you put Sparrow to the plank. I’d’ve never thought it of old Bootstrap.”

“Bein’ married’s not a good thing for a pirate. It divides his loyalties. And he likes Sparrow, too. We’ll have to keep a sharp watch on him.”

“Aye, captain.”

“He could be trouble.” Barbossa looked up at the sky. “At least the fog has cleared. The weather looks like it’ll hold fine.”

“It does,” Twigg said.

“We did the right thing, not killin’ that reindeer. It wasn’t bad luck after all, it was good. We’ll be startin’ the new year with our hold full of gold.”

“Sounds like good luck to me.”

Barbossa made a slight adjustment to the wheel and smiled. “Sometimes the wind is with us, sometimes it’s against us. This time, we’re the fortunate ones.”

But Jack Sparrow had learned that fate wasn’t always what it seemed. As soon as he’d recovered from the stupor of being marooned, he consulted his compass and took up the trail he and Bootstrap had started earlier. Without a shovel, he had to use his hands to dig, but soon enough Sparrow found something more useful, in his eyes, than gold: a cache of rum. Someone must have put it there, and someone likely would be coming back for it. It was surely but a matter of time.

Jack planned to use that time to consider how to keep the rum’s owners from killing him outright. Shouldn’t be too hard. All he needed was something they considered important enough to keep him alive. And he has plenty such ideas stored away in his head. Just like he kept the days in his head. He didn’t need a log to know what day it was. Sparrow proffered a bottle of rum skyward in a toast of gratitude.

“‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people’,” he said. He knocked back a large mouthful of rum. “Excepting Hector Barbossa.”

And so, Captain Jack Sparrow spent the twenty-fifth of December lying on a beach in the sunny Caribbean, surrounded by glistening bottles of rum, pistol and compass close at hand, dreaming of what he would do when he caught up to his mutinous first mate again. He had quite a present in mind to give Hector Barbossa, and the day he delivered it would be the best Christmas day ever, whether it came in December or June. It would be a day to remember, to be sure.

the end


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