The Tale of Captain Fish Hook
My name is James (or once it was) the waves they like to tell me • I had a fishing ship, The Picaroon, that would sail the open the sea • We brought in fish by the tons, people would line the docks to get a look – It wasn't long before they began to call me “Captain Fish Hook” • I had a crew of eleven men, all weathered by the sun and salt • The fish were plentiful, the seas were calm, our demise was not their fault.
It happened one morning, on a cool summers dawn • I awoke to find the nets were empty and all the fish were gone • I looked around in bewilderment, how could this be? • This was not where we had anchored, how did we drift into this alcove along the sea? • My crew was bewildered, our anchor was heavy and true • But here we sat, The Picaroon, in a lagoon so small and blue.
The fog began to clear, we could make out the rocky coast • and all at once we saw them, pale skinned and silver as if ghosts • A few sat upon the black rocks, some were wading in the water • Immediately I knew their names, they were Poseidon’s daughters • They stared at us, with crystal eyes, chilling us to our bones • the only sound, the ocean, running over the stones.
We all stood, motionless, our legs feeling weak • not knowing what to do, we didn't dare to speak • Their fins were like giant fish, their hair like limp seaweed strands • They looked like no woman that had ever walked the lands • I opened up my mouth to speak, but not a word came out • Then, suddenly in unison, the mermaids began to shout.
“We are the Eleven Daughters, the keepers of the sea • we have a job to ask of you, and you will be set free • We control the tides, the ships, the fish • so if you want to survive, you must do as we wish • Our kingdom is suffering, we need things from the land • We need spices, rubies and gold, these are our demands • Do what you must, steal, cheat and rob • You have eleven years to complete the job.
Eleven years for eleven chests of gold • bury them along the coast, make sure to do as you're told • Become pirates, enjoy the game • for when its over, you will have much to gain • We have helped you before, surely you know that is true • you couldn't have thought all of those fish were caught by you? • You brought in fish by the tons without a second look • We are the reason you are called Captain Fish Hook.”
I looked to my men, not knowing what to do • but when I glanced back, the mermaids were gone, into the blue • Suddenly the lagoon, it too disappeared • and I knew from that moment we had eleven years • Eleven years to sail the seas, to steal, rob and instill dread • eleven years to collect the chests and do as the mermaids said.
For each of those years, we drifted long distances, sailing from the truth • we didn't know ourselves any more, we were a long way from our youth • We stole from queens and kings, from families, from fishermen like we had once been • We turned our heads from the light, we gave ourselves to greed, we turned our hearts to sin • Day by day I felt us changing, no longer men true and good • We now were pirates, greedy and gruesome, there was no going back, even if we could.
One day my men turned to me, as I often worried that they might • I knew what their request would be, and I could not put up a fight • “This treasure is ours, we have fought for it, we have been wounded and we have bled • The mermaids don't deserve any of it, they will be getting sea glass instead • You can try to over throw us, you can do your best • but if you try, we promise you, you will end up in their treasure chest.”
I knew this day would come, it was a trick I could foresee • With all of our greed, who could blame them, to turn against me • I watched them fill eleven chests with shards of sparkling glass • then bury them along the coast, praying it would pass • And then we rowed our loot to shore, in the darkness of the night • to bury it on Washburn Island, far away from sight.
We dragged our shovels back to the sea just before the dawn • but all at once we realized our ship, The Picaroon, it was gone • The waters edge had dissapeared, only miles and miles of sand • The horizon stretched before us, but all we could see was land • A sparkle in the distance, perhaps water or a boat • but once I reached it, I found a small glass bottle and inside was a note:
“You tried to trick us with your sea glass, thinking that you were smart • but now you are forever shipwrecked with greed in your heart • Your ship is gone, The Picaroon, you will never again sail these waters • because you broke your promise to us, Poseidons daughters • You can not leave, you must always stay, to protect your precious gold • Ghosts of fishermen that once were, now pirates dead and cold.”
That was our fate, we had been told • but then my men rushed back to the gold • What was left in the chest we had buried with pleasure • were the shards of colored glass, and a note reading “Mermaid Treasure” • My men, they were furious, we had lost at their games • We had nothing, no ship, not even our names.
Washburn Island is our captor, and we are its ghosts • forever trapped to roaming the sandy coast • Sometimes we hear the gentle crash of a wave on the shore • and we dream of being fishermen on the sea once more • The years have passed, and our story has become a legend, a tale of the sea • People come to Washburn Island to search for mermaid treasure, for gold, and for me • They wander the shores carrying their maps, hoping to get a look • and I hear the haunted whispers of “Captain Fish Hook”.
• French Saffron Mussels •
adapted from The Food Network
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 shallots, finely chopped
• 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 2 pounds mussels, cleaned
• 1 cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
• large pinch of saffron threads
• 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
• sea salt
• crusty bread, to serve
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
Add the shallots and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the mussels, wine, cream, butter, saffron, and parsley and season well with salt.
Give it a good stir, cover the pot, and cook until mussels open and are cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Divide the mussels and the juices between 2 bowls and serve with the crusty bread.
listening to: Gold Dust Woman by Fleetwood Mac