tales from the Pirate Gospel: chapter 1

Batism of JesusNow listen up! I got good tidin's fer ye. This here's a tale that'll shake up yer timbers and rewrite yer maps. It tells of a man sent to steer the world to rights: the Captain o' the world, aye, and the son o' the Almighty 'imself.

The first wind we got of 'im was through a cove by the name o' John the Baptizer. This fella turned up at the mouth of the river Jordan, on the edge o' the Judean desert. He was baptizin' folks – dunkin' 'em in water and tellin' 'em to turn from their wicked ways. The folks from all around was goin' out to see 'im. They was comin' clean about their scurvy dealin's, and he was washin' 'em in the river.

He was a rare bird, that John – like a prophet out o' the old tomes. He came' wearin' duds made out o' camel hair, and eatin' weevils and honey.

The message on 'is lips was out o' the old tomes too.

“Another man be a'comin',” he said, “This man'll be so great that I ain't worthy to lick 'is boots. He'll do more 'n dunk ye in water. He'll pour out the Spirit o' the Almighty 'imself.”

Now while this was goin' on, the very man that John was talkin' about showed up. His name was Jesus and he'd just rowed himself across from Nazareth to have 'imself dunked along with the rest.

But it turned out he weren't like the rest. Rum things began to happen when Jesus came up from them waves. Fer he looked up and beheld the Spirit o' the Almighty comin' down like a bird through a rip in the canvas of heaven. And as that bird was perchin' on 'is shoulder, there was a mighty voice from the heavens sayin', “Here ye be! Me own beloved son. Mighty pleased, I be with ye, lad.”

So that was how it started with this Jesus fella. But there was plenty more to come.

Straight off, the Spirit sent 'im out into the desert, and so off he went. Marooned he was for forty days. There was no grub, and no drink and no sail on the horizon, just 'imself livin' out amid the dunes and beasts. And in the end the Devil 'imself showed up and plied 'im with honeyed lies to make 'im turn mutinous against the Almighty. Aye, but he stood firm, and the angels came and tended 'im.

Soon after this, John the Baptizer was clapped in irons – I'll tell ye more o' that tale shortly. But it was like a signal fer Jesus. He legged it up to the coast o' Galilee and began tellin' all 'n sundry that there was good tidin's from the Almighty.

“'Tis the last watch,” he told 'em. “Sharpen up! Swab yer decks and set yer wrongs to right! Ready yerselves for fair winds from heaven!”

In the town o' Capernaum, Jesus got 'imself a ship and began gatherin' a crew. As he was traulin' by the quayside, he spied 'imself a pair of Jack's by the name of Simon 'n Andrew. They was sittin' in their longboat, a'danglin their nets in the drink.

“Ahoy, lads!” he called. “Join me crew and ye'll soon be catchin' somethin' worth more than fishes – I'll have ye hookin' the very souls o' men!”

Well that made 'em look lively. They chucked in their fishin' and took after 'im.

Not too much farther and he came across some other young tars: James and John – whelps of an old dog named Zebedee. They was sittin' in a ketch mendin' their tackle. But soon as Jesus fixed 'is eye on them, they grabbed their kit and jumped ship right enough.

On the Sabbath Jesus made way to the chapel, where he held forth like a preacher-man. But arr, he weren't no platitudinous pansy parson. When Jesus strode the pulpit he spoke with the mighty words o' God 'imself, and all the folks that sat there gaped.

As he schooled 'em, there sprang up in their midst an addled cove who was possessed of a devil. “What be yer truck with us?” he slavered. “I know who ye be – ye be the holy one sent from the Almighty.”

“Stow that lip!” growled Jesus with a glintin' eye. “Let go this swab, ye fiend.” And lo 'n behold, the devil that was in that cove up and shipped out before you could draw yer blade.

Well after that, weren't all the folks blinkin' and gaspin'? “What be this?” they was jabberin' “He lays down a line to the devils and they tows it!” And the news about Jesus blew through the seaports like a gale in June.

After chapel they retired to the lodgin's o' Simon 'n Andrew. Now the mistress o' the house was laid low with a fever, and when Jesus heard of it he went and seized her by the hand. That was all it took to make her right. Up she jumped and started cookin' a skilly fer 'em all.

Later on that day, as the sun went down, all manner o' folk gathered about. Some had the pox, some had the plague, others was possessed o' wicked spirits. Jesus fixed the lot of 'em. He drove out the devils and ordered 'em to keep their traps shut for they'd caught wind o' who he was.

Next mornin', just afore first watch, Jesus grabbed 'is kit and went off by 'imself to parley with the Almighty, leavin' Simon and the rest o' the crew in their bunks.

When they woke up to find 'im missin', they was mighty vexed and went out searchin'. They found 'im, sure enough, and said. “Ho there Cap'n, here ye be! Don't ye know that all the folks is lookin' for ye?”

But Jesus didn't care for that talk. Nor did he care fer the kind o' popularity that made 'is lads so pleased.

“Dallyin's over boys. Get yerselves to the ship. The Almighty sent me to spread the word and that's what we'll be doin' henceforth.”

So they looked sharp and made ready – and that was the start o' their first cruise. They went out huggin' the coast and puttin' in at the harbours so Jesus could preach in the chapels and drive out the devils.

One day, as they was standin' off shore 'n preparin' to sail, they was hailed by a swab in a dinghy. Leprous he was, and a piteous sight to behold.

“Capt'n Jesus,” he shouted. “If ye be willin' I know ye can cleanse me o' this cursed plague.”

Leavin' 'is charts, Jesus went to the side and looked down at the swab, who was squattin' on 'is thwart with 'is blighted arms upraised. And he was mighty stirred with pity.

“Aye, lad,” said the Capt'n, “willin' I be. Get yerself alongside.”

As he came in, Jesus went over the side and down the ladder. He leaned out and grasped the swab by the hand.

“Be clean, matey,” he said. And all in a flash the cove's skin was changed like a cloth plunged in water.

“Now I'll be thankin' ye to keep this under yer hat, lad,” said Jesus as he was climbin' back. “Get yerself to a clergyman and make yer testimony. Then leave it at that.”

But he might as well have told 'im to shout it from the bell tower. The scabby cove gabbed about 'is healin' to everyone he could find. And that was the end o' free passage fer Jesus and 'is crew. Thereafter it was like gulls to a scalin'. Though they did their best to drop anchor out o' sight o' the towns, the crowds flocked to 'em all the same.