Drudge the Neglected
by N.T. Brown

It doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to. In the old days, I’d get angry and sullen every time a history textbook forgot me—or worse, when they remembered me, discussed me at their meetings, and still left me out. Couldn’t I at least get a footnote? Damned historians and their agendas.

Some people might point out that your rival, Brown, also gets left out.

As do most of the pirates. But they were outlaws. Should we glorify outlaws by giving them long sections in history books? Wouldn’t that encourage our children to become outlaws? Do you put today’s most notorious criminals on the covers of your magazines?

We do, actually, though there is some controversy about it.

As well there should be! Only two parties should be honored: the victims, and the protectors. Never the criminals. Notoriety is exactly what the criminal wants.

Should Hitler then be excluded from the books?

What a question. How about Genghis Khan? Bloody Mary? Ivan the Terrible? Everyone has a role in history. I only lament that my role was not deemed significant enough to warrant a paragraph.

Now’s your chance to present your case.

I’ve done some research. I surveyed over a hundred different history textbooks from all grade levels throughout America, and while neither I nor my childhood friend and rival, Brown, get a mention, there is another pirate who does: Blackbeard. Two of the books mention him as the fiercest of all pirates. Certainly if a brigand of that nature can be mentioned, so can the force which brought him to justice. Beside the fact that Blackbeard was not the fiercest pirate. Not even close.

He eluded you several times, didn’t he?

He did. Blackbeard may have been the wiliest of all the pirates I dealt with. His real name was Edward Teach and he was a very smart man. He could keep a non-seaworthy vessel afloat longer than anyone I’ve ever seen. We blasted his ship with cannonballs on numerous occasions but he always just sailed away. My men feared his ship was cursed and that Blackbeard was the devil himself. But he was finally captured, just like the rest of them.

Brugard who got him, wasn’t it?

Of course Brugard. As fine a patrolman as any I knew.

What led you to become a pirate hunter?

That’s like asking a worm: What led you to this dark underground tunnel? I became a patrolman because that’s what I was destined to become, just as Brown was destined to become a pirate. Our fates were intertwined from the start.

Talk about your boyhood together.

On the Southern coast of England, in our day, there wasn’t much to do. We would go down to the beach and construct miniature forts made of rocks and driftwood, and populate them with toy soldiers. Here is an interesting thing about Brown: in our war games, his soldiers always surrendered. He couldn’t bear for any of them to “die” in battle. When my army confronted his, with the Atlantic crashing behind us, he would try to unite the two groups into some sort of utopia. That was always his dream. He carried a tattered copy of Thomas Moore’s book everywhere with him. Ultimately, that is what he sought in the Caribbean—a paradise where everyone got along, where resources were shared freely. I had no problem with this vision, though of course Brown’s methods of obtaining it were flawed.

You mean his raping and pillaging.

Brown never raped. Let’s get our facts straight right now. This is another reason the history books can’t get anything right: they choose to wallow in fantastical notions. To them, all pirates were rapists, and Blackbeard was the worst of them. Now, I can’t say if Edward Teach ever forced himself on a woman, but I know for a fact that Brown never did. All of his female captives were treated with the utmost respect. You see, Brown hoped to lure them to his utopian community, the village he aspired to set up in Jamaica. He needed women to populate the place. But everyone had to be willing. Unwilling slaves would contradict the idea of utopia in the first place. Brown was quite a gentle man, altogether.

Who then was the fiercest pirate, if not Blackbeard?

The fiercest one I ever encountered was a man nearly forgotten by history, Almond Thusby. Slender, effeminate man. Wavy golden hair, always with a tub of grease poured on it. Most pirates were unshorn, unkempt. Thusby took pains with his appearance, which is how he eluded capture for so long. He could walk down the street in Charleston, or Kingston, or Tampa Bay, and no one could guess who he was. When his ship was finally taken—Brugard, again, I believe—the patrolmen found, in the captain’s quarters, dozens of mirrors. Thusby was a vain bastard. They also found a jar full of ears that he had taken purely for sport. Thusby loved especially to capture children, if he could, and to toss them overboard into shark-filled waters. When he was finally dragged back to England, the courts deemed him unfit to stand trial. He died an old man, slobbering over himself in an asylum.

Your remorse at betraying Brown is well-documented.

Certainly I felt melancholy for a while. But ‘betray’ is a strong word. As I said, our fates were intertwined from the beginning. I don’t feel I betrayed Brown any more than he betrayed me. We each followed our natural path.

Do you have any further reminisces about Brown and yourself?

Thousands.

Can you describe one for us, briefly?

Ten years old, the two of us, out on the jetty, fishing. We spent lots of time out there. Brown had no father, and his mother was a drunk, and my family was always a step away from debtor’s prison, so we went to the jetty to escape. It was a jagged, primal place, out among those rocks. Salt water sprayed us, the sun burned us. It prepared us for our respective careers. In any case, one afternoon Brown caught a brilliant silver fish, unlike anything I’d ever seen, with long wavy fins and an almost-human mouth. I half-expected it to speak to us, like in a fairy story. Throwing it back seemed the only decent thing to do. But Brown begged me to hold his fishing rod, with the fish still hooked, keeping the creature underwater so it wouldn’t die. He ran away down the jetty and quickly returned with a bucket. He filled the bucket with water and took the fish home as a pet. Over the next week, he constructed a large outdoor pool. The fish lived there for years. Brown fed it lettuce and other scraps. It grew to be over six feet long—too big for its enclosure, so that it couldn’t turn around, but merely wallowed, half-submerged, down into the mud. I wanted to carry it back to the ocean, but Brown refused. He claimed the fish was happy where it was, with no predators to threaten it, and nothing to do but eat all day. A fish utopia, I suppose.

Did it die eventually?

Of course. Everything dies. That’s the day Brown left England forever. Only his severed head returned.

How does it feel to be interviewed by someone with the same name as your friend?

Nicholas Brown? Is that your name? It means nothing to me. A mere coincidence, that’s all. There are probably hundreds of people around the world with that name. Do you feel it has any special meaning?

I couldn’t say.

Well, it doesn’t, I can assure you.

Can you describe the afterlife for us?

I cannot. That’s something you’ll have to wait and see. Besides, it’s different for everyone.

What about the reports that you’re going to come back to life, run for president, and cure this wayward nation of the ills that have plagued it for so long?

Ah, Christ, it’s a fiction. Everything’s a fiction.

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