Terri's Cellar Door

Stuff that happens to me, Terri.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Babo's Tale

I thought this was so good, that I couldn't just keep it to myself. Therefore, I'm posting it for all of you to bask in my awesomeness. I wrote it for an American Lit Class, and it helps if you've read the story Benito Cereno, by Herman Melville. You can do equally well just reading the SparkNotes and finding out what happened. Basically it's about a ship that has a bunch of slaves on it (slavery bad!), and a captain from another ship gets on the slave ship, and things just don't seem right. SPOILER ALERT: The slaves revolted. Anyway, so this was only supposed to be about 1100 words, and I, you know, passed that, but I felt it was important. I hope that my teacher doesn't knock me down a grade or two for that. If I'd had it my way it would have been much longer, but I saw that it was about 2200 words, and I panicked and wrote the ending. Anyway, without further ado, Babo's Tale:

The man in the corner stood by Aranda’s elbow, ready to pour the slovenly merchant another glass of wine. He had to have his timing just right, or else the rocking of the boat would cause the wine to spill out. Aranda, his ‘master’, was not a vindictive man, but the cask that he held was worth a small fortune, and any drops of it that he allowed to leak out would be sorely missed. The man absolutely hated ships. He had hated them since he had seen them from the shores of his own country. His initial curiosity was soon worn out after many days below decks. As he stood in the port of Mendoza, with the shadows of the giants beasts and the man Aranda had the cheek to call himself his master; even then he had held a silent hatred for the vessels, and yet he couldn’t seem to get away from them. But he was not completely focused on the task at hand. His moves darted around the small cabin and he listened closely to the conversation that his ‘master’ and the captain of this vessel, Don Benito, were having. One of the upper strata of society seemed to just forget if a servant was in the room, thus the man watching from the corner had an unbridled view of what Aranda and Captain Benito were planning. The boat gave another lurch, as did the man’s stomach, but he cleared his vision and focused on what Benito was saying.

“If we continue on this track, we should be back in Mendoza by the end of a fortnight.” Said Don Benito, apparently very pleased with himself.

Aranda nodded quickly, “Very good. We shall have these slaves to market, and make a fine profit in no time. I assured you that this would be a most profitable enterprise, and I wasn’t mistaken, was I?”

“No, my old friend, we have suffered no ill tidings on this journey, may it stay that way.”

The man in the corner started, then stifled a laugh. He had no trouble understand their quick Spanish. He had long since mastered the language, though Aranda was sure that he only held the capacity to understand simple phrases like ‘more wine’. Before he had been taken away from his homeland, he had mastered several languages before being captured, and was well known in his village for being able to communicate with outsiders. These poor fools had no inkling of what was to come. He wasn’t completely without conscious, however. These men, though they had kidnapped him from his home, had never been outright evil to him, that wouldn’t stop him from doing what he needed to do, no matter what the cost. The plans that had been made flowed through his mind, and he wondered if they would be successful. There was no time to think on that. On the deck above him, things were already being set in motion, and he couldn’t stop them if he wanted to. Even though he did not. Aranda called to him from the table,

“More wine, please Babo.” He held up his cup, to indicate, as though his servant was deaf or dumb. The man hurried over to the table and refilled the wine glass, careful not to spill a single drop. Don Benito bid Aranda goodnight, and shut the door behind him.

“I think that it is time that I take my rest as well, good Babo.” He said, pointing to the bed, again for his simple minded servant’s sake, “Help me, boy.” Aranda made a move to get up, and the man moved to aide him from his chair. They moved together to the bunk where Aranda collapsed onto the cot, having imbibed far too much of the potent alcohol. The servant didn’t bother to undress him, or even make him more comfortable in his position, but simple turned and walked out of the room, locking the door from the outside. He waited several seconds and turned his head towards the ceiling. He could already hear the shouts coming from the deck.

‘So, it has started.’ He thought, turning to walk up the stairs.

As he reached the ladder, he saw a sailor hurrying towards him, while simultaneously trying to load his pistol. The man sprinted past the hatchway, and grabbing a plank of wood, hit the sailor squarely between his eyes. The look of terror on his face lasted only for a moment, and then his eyes rolled backward, and he crumpled to the deck. Looking around, the former obedient servant saw that the revolt had been quick, and quite successful. There were many bodies littering the decks, but only a few were of a darker hue. The man saw his most trusted mutineer, Atufal giving orders on the decks. He walked over to hear the report.

“There should be no trouble. We lost very few of ours, though we had to kill more of them than we thought we’d have to. I am not sure if we can pilot the ship with this few.”

Atufal looked worried, and someone had to take charge if they were to allay his fears.

“There is no need to worry.” Said the man. “I can teach those how to do some of the most basic jobs of the ship, and you and I can pilot it as well, with the sailors we have left.”

Atufal still had a look of uncertainty on his face, so the man continued, “Gather all of our people together, and lock Don Benito in his cabin, after I have finished here, I will wish to speak with him.”

Atufal nodded and began ordering the remaining sailors tied up. The man walked out to the bow of the ship, feeling as free as he had in a long time. No matter what happened, he would never forget this moment, standing on the ship, that mode of transport that he hated so much, feeling as wonderful as he had in a long time. Atufal tapped his shoulder, and he turned to see his formerly enslaved compatriots crowding the deck. There were men and woman, young and old, and on all there faces was a mixture of pure joy and fear, feelings that their leader could easily relate to. He began by raising his arms for silence. They could not all understand the words he was saying, so he looked to several who would serve as interpreters, and would pause often to go over the words he was saying in another dialect that he was familiar with.

“We have only gone forward with the first step towards our freedom. I know that some of you have never taken a life before. It does not sit too well with me, either, however, I would urge you to look at my life of servitude, if you have any doubts. These people,” he said, pointing to the sailors, quivering on the decks, “do not think of us as human, they will buy and sell us as Aranda had planned, and we would never have seen our families and our countries again. Is that something that you want?”

The entire group shook their heads.

“Good.” He was about to continue, but he saw one of the younger men walking with Don Benito towards him.

Benito was frazzled, and wearing his night coat, was most likely interrupted in the middle of his nightly toilet. This is just as it had been planned, and the man was delighted that his planning had been timed so well. The leader stepped off the bow, and walked towards the former Captain Benito. He bowed slightly and addressed the man,

“Don Benito, how good of your to join us. I am sure you have a list of demands, as do I. Well, we shall hear yours first.”

Benito, who at first had been wondering how he would communicate with the slave, was taken aback. His Spanish was on par with that of a native. Benito had been under the impression that the man knew only a few words in this language, and thought of the many times that he had spoken freely in front of him, not bothering to mask his words. Don Benito had never more confused in his life, but he had to think of his crew first. He wrenched his shackled arm away from his captor, and began to speak,

“I don’t know what Aranda thinks he will gain by taking my ship. But whatever his mind is set on, he is wrong. I will offer him…”

Benito was interrupted by laughter. The leader of the mutiny was almost doubled over in his mirth. He quickly straightened, and with a smirk on his lips, he advanced towards Captain Benito. Reaching out, he grabbed the collar of the stoic man’s nightshirt.

“You think that Aranda is behind this?! You simple, simple man.”

Benito opened his mouth to protest, but was interrupted again.

“Aranda couldn’t have planned something like this. If out plan for revenge was to get fat and drunk, well, then there would have been no better man.”

The confused look had yet to leave Benito’s face, so his captor leaned forward until he was almost nose to nose with his prisoner,

“Myself, and my partner, Atufal planned this, from start to finish, and when we are done here, you can do as you please. We have no plan to harm anymore of your sailors, but plans can change, as you are well aware, Don Benito.”

As realization dawned on Benito's face, the man leaned back to watch his handiwork. He spoke the truth, he had no intention of harming any more of the sailors, however, to reach their homeland again, they would be willing to do whatever was necessary. They were not monsters, but they would not be swayed from their goal. Captain Benito stammered, but managed to get his thoughts in order,

“If this is the case, then let my men go. There is no need for you to keep them. You must stop your killing!”

The man he addressed sighed, and with a flick of his wrist, Atufal grabbed one of the sailors who was tied up on the deck, and tossed him overboard. The rest of the bound soldiers gasped, and Benito began to swear.

“I make no guarantees with kidnappers, and thieves!”, said his captor, “But what I want is simple, and as I said, once it is fulfilled, you may do as you want. My question to you is: Are there any Negro countries in this sea, where we might be taken?”

Benito racked his brain, but had to answer in the negative.

“Fine. Then you will take us to Senegal straight away. Do this and you will be set free.”

Don Benito began his stammering again, “ B-b-but this is impossible. That is a great distance, it will be immensely difficult to round Cape Horn, the vessel is in a terrible condition and we are in want of provisions, sails, and water!”

The man advanced again on the Captain.

“These are all reason why not, but the reason why is much more insistent, and that reason is freedom. Captain Benito. Our freedom and yours. If we do not reach Senegal, neither of us will see our freedom.”

Benito swallowed as he tried not to think of the implications. The man he knew as Babo ordered him to his cabin.

Near the side of the ship, Atufal looked overboard. The sailor that he had so carelessly tossed over the railing was hanging near the side of the ship, his feet just dangling in the water. He was wet, and afraid, but unhurt. Atufal reached down and hand over hand, began to bring him back onboard.

The man remembered watching Don Benito jumping overboard, and into the boat of Captain Delano, and the sinking feeling in his stomach. In that very real, very stark moment, he saw his plans, all his hopes and dreams, fall, fall, fall, and sink into the very darkest part of the ocean. He had done so much to accomplish his goal, things that he would never have thought himself capable of. Checking up on Aranda after the revolt, he found that the man had either succumbed to the wine that he had tainted, or his own fear during the night. Seeking to use this to his advantage, he had defiled the man’s corpse, and then hung it up on the front of the ship as a warning. He had hoped that no more deaths might be the result. However, the arrival of Captain Delano had presented another whole set of problems. He thought it only necessary to keep Delano busy for a couple of hours at most, so that they might receive some supplies, however Benito had somehow managed to keep him around much longer, and now their freedom would be snatched away. The dim-witted Spanish captain had not seen through the ruse that had been so carefully placed over his eyes, no matter how many odd things he witnessed, or how much Benito had tried giving it away. It had taken all of his power to keep the secret safe, and as Delano’s boat had been lowered into the water, the mutineer felt that he was safe, and that their plan would truly work. He had let the hope snake it’s way into his heart, and now it sunk it’s fangs in.

He had to do something, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a dagger, and grabbing a rope, followed Benito down to the small boat. There was nothing to be done now, he had to give everything he had. At least if he was killed, struggling against Benito, Atufal and the rest could get away, and perhaps make it back to their lives. He had only wanted to see his homeland once more, and yet even that dream had fallen out from under him. He wasn’t able to kill Benito, and in the battle that ensued his good friend, and brother Atufal was killed. It was at that moment that the former slave, servant, and mutineer decided to speak not a word. If he could not be free then his thoughts and words would be given no freedom either. And after a wordless trial, it was time for him to meet his end. With as much dignity as he could muster, the man, the former slave, known as Babo was lead to the gallows, and with him, died his hopes of freedom, and the return to his distant shore.


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