Thursday, June 14, 2012

Captain's Log, Day 76: Hanging the Mainsail (and other nautical nonsense)

          "Be careful!! Don't fall!"
          Had my mouth not been full of rope and tarp, I would have yelled "DUH!!!" back down at Captain Obvious. My sister, Quill, was never entirely comfortable with some of my crazy schemes, and in her book, this one was one of my craziest yet.
          My current position was 15 feet off the ground and upside-down relative to the rest of the world. A death grip on the rafter helped keep my 13-year-old kiester from ending up a red streak on the haybarn floor. My mission: to shimmy my way up the rafter and tie the one corner of the tarp to the rafter.
          "You know, we don't need a mainsail," Quill pointed out anxiously.
          That statement REQUIRED a retort. I let go of the rafter with one hand so I could remove the stuff from my mouth. "Of COURSE we need a mainsail! Pirates don't row!"
          "Sure they do!" Nemesis pointed out, citing Pirates of the Caribbean, the inspiration for hyperactive imagination landing me in my current state.
          "Whatever. But I'M not," I retorted, stuffing the "mainsail" components back in my mouth and continuing up the rafter. Once I reached a suitable location, I held on to the rafter with one hand and both legs so I could tie the tarp up.
          "Be careful!" Quill warned me anxiously.
          I rolled my eyes at her, finished my self-appointed task, and scurried back across and down the rafter with much greater speed than I had going up. I opted to jump the last eight feet to the barn floor, promptly getting a splinter in my foot upon landing; a common occurrence, since I never wore any type of footwear during the summer...and sometimes not during the winter, too, if Mom didn't catch me.
          "There! That's one corner done!" I announced proudly as I removed the foreign object from my foot.
          "That's good enough," Quill agreed.
          Nemesis and I stared at her, aghast. "No it's not!" I gestured at the drooping tarp. "It looks crappy!"
          "We could pretend that it got destroyed in a storm?" Quill suggested hopefully.
          I grabbed another piece of rope, ignoring her. "Nemesis, can you throw that side of the tarp up to me when I grab the beam there?"
          "Sure," Nemesis nodded affably. I stuck the rope in my mouth, scrambled up on a bike that I propped against the wall, and made a flying leap for the rafter.
          Two more tries later, I finally managed to grab the rafter with my fingertips. A little frantic wiggling, and my legs held the rafter in a death grip. I reached down, caught the tarp on the first try when Nemesis threw it up, and repeated the earlier process of tying the corner to the beam.
          "Now we need a bowsprit," I commented once I regained the deck. "How about the basketball hoop?"
          "And the area under Dad's office can be the cabin!" Quill exclaimed excitedly, finally getting into the spirit of things now that I was no longer in danger of death. Dad built an office in the upper third of the haybarn, but area under it was as yet undeveloped. There were stairs leading up to the landing, where we tied a hula hoop for use as a wheel. Removing the upper half of a small plastic basketball hoop left the bottom half looking remarkably like a cannon, so we tied the other half to the large basketball hoop as part of the bowsprit. Bicycles were placed in front of the big haybarn doors for a railing, and after distributing the swords and guns (and hunting up our youngest sibling, Squirrel), we were ready to sail.
          The swords were our pride and joy. They were made out of pieces of fiberglass poles that were stolen from Dad's shop downstairs and furnished with duct tape handles. I cut up a few pop bottles and made a beautiful handguard for mine, as I was tired of Nemesis's wild swings landing on my knuckles. The others were slightly jealous of that, so after some slight wheedling I consented to furnish them with similar, although not as fancy, handguards. These swords traveled with us all over the farm, including into the house and the kitchen, where we were usually ordered to "put those stupid poles away and come eat!" (we were only allowed in the house during meals and nights during the summer, as our levels of destructiveness rose exponentially during that season.)
          The guns were built out of wood by Nemesis and me and decorated with--you guessed it--duct tape. We originally made them for our games of "Alien Raider," "Star Wars," and "Space Explorers" that we played out in the treehouse, but they were easily adaptable to "Pirates." We gave a few to our rather skeptical sisters and tried to explain some of the extra features on the guns, but they never used them. Many were the rather surprised pirates who tried to board our ship and were met with a face-full of laser fire.
          Of course, before we could sail, we had to get down to the laborious and argumentative task of choosing names for ourselves. Since I was never fast enough on the draw, Quill inevitably claimed the name Jack Sparrow and lambasted anyone bold enough to challenge her right to the title. My brother, liking the ease of memorization that came with the use of his own name, chose to remain as Nemesis but accepting the last name of Sparrow. Since I was denied the right to use Jack Sparrow, hated Will Turner, and still going through a Star Wars phase, I chose the name Anakin Skywalker. (My sword could deflect bullets.) Squirrel, who wasn't really into the whole story, decided on as fanciful a name as possible and changed it every five minutes. She preferred to not take part in the fighting, but instead was the cook and in charge of the treasure. I usually named the ship...and it was called the "Phantom Menace." Quill claimed it was called the "Black Pearl," but Ben and I ignored her. Squirrel was ambivalent.
          Our storyline for our game never varied and went a little something like this. Once upon a time, there were four orphans with an immense fortune that was seized by a cruel uncle, who turned them out into the wilderness to fend for themselves. Nothing daunted, they raided a blacksmith shop, stole some swords and some highly advanced pistols, commandeered a ship of the Royal Navy, and lived on the high seas as pirates, fending off both the Royal Navy and other pirates. We would raid the ships and settlements of the evil uncle; the amount of battles we got into within a three-hour period would have astonished anyone who was even remotely familiar with the vast amounts of water needed to travel to find all these fights, but we were children. The facts of space, time and plausibility were conveniently ignored.
          Combat never took place without an appropriate soundtrack. We brought out a boombox and a CD of the Pirates of the Caribbean music and played appropriate tracks during out battles. Sometimes, the fight would be interrupted by someone screeching "WAIT!!!" and rushing over to change the song to a more lively and more fitting tune.
          These stories of ours were never ended. It was assumed that we eventually defeated the evil uncle in some fashion, but before we could get to the final battle, there would be an internal conflict, or someone would get bored, or Mom would call us in for dinner. We never picked up the story where we left off. It was always preferable to start over.
          And surprisingly, Dad didn't care about the tarp hanging from the barn rafters, but we never told the parental unit about HOW we got it up there until the appropriate time for punishment was long in about 5 more years or so, this can be revealed!

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