In the land of Ballard in a Shilshole slip lived Captain Jim and the Water Witch, his ancient ship. At only five feet tall and three feet wide, Jim was mean in spirit and tough of hide.
If a Mariner said the Water Witch should be sunk deep below, Jim gave him the old Heave Ho.
Without batting an eye or making a stink, Jim would throw the offender into the drink. The fool’s eyes would pop and his head would explode because the water at Shilshole is a thousand knives cold. Fool should have known better, water like that requires a heavy sweater.
Jim kept himself occupied with the Water Witch’s repairs, every season he stripped the paint bare, rotten planks replaced and holes to cement. It was said the old wood boat was kept afloat by Jim’s loud laments.
There was one person that silenced Jim’s blue streak, Evangeline, the Mad Woman of Market Street, in her old linen gown and tattered shawl, she howled at the sun and with the moon she would brawl. Once a week without fail, she would walk to Shilshole parking lot and wail, “Silkies, Sirens, and Spirits, have taken my husband from me, taken him to the bottom of the sea.”
The sailors said, “Silkies are seals. Do you hear any barking, any squeals? Sirens are in Starbucks printed on the cups. For Sprite we go to 7-11. Your husband is likely up in heaven.”
Evangeline would walk in 3 circles widdershins, spit at their feet and cry “A token for you sins”.
Captain Jim would stay in the Water Witch until Evangeline did go, only the tip of his wool hat seen in the cabin window.
One day, Captain Jim received an electric bill that brought him to his knees. His head was not right as he went to give his spleen a squeeze. He did not see Evangeline at all, dancing between the cars, careening and spinning silently like Tommy’s pinball.
Nose to nose, face to face, Captain Jim met Evangeline with nowhere to race. “You cannot flee! You know the Silkies, Sirens and Sprites, find my husband for me.”
“Damnit, why couldn’t it be today that I’d drown?” Captain Jim said. “Can’t you find another clown?
Evangeline continued to stare until Jim threw up his hands in despair. “Fine then, Meet me on the morrow, before the hour of two. I need bags of chips, 2 dozen will do, a gross of Tater tots should suffice. Bring me Rainier beer in a tub of ice. One final item can’t be missed, I want fries from Ivars. Do you have the list?”
Evangeline nodded and blew Jim a kiss.
Captain Jim prepped his boat for a trip to the beyond and beneath, giving the rusted spots some grease. He checked his sails for holes and his engine for sputter. He fretted over the condition of the rudder.
In the morning Evangeline appeared with the requested. Jim growled, his patience not to be tested “The Beer and fries are for me, no one else, mine completely.”
Evangeline nodded, nothing to say. The two set off on their way.
Evangeline asked him,“Oh brave Jim, handsome Jim, my darling dear, how is it that you can sail to my husband from here?”
“First off, you wretched wench, I’m not your honey, handsome or boo. That’s Captain Jim to you. Second, I am doomed to sail Strangest of Seas. A curse from a sorceress who said I loved my boat more than she. I must stay in sight of the docks and not sail past the Ballard Locks”
Evangeline spun round and round, her long tangled hair sweeping the ground. “I think it’s grand, why you risk life and limb to help me find my man.”
Jim scoffed, “Do I look like I help folks for fun? The sorceress’ curses did not stop at one. She cursed me up a mess. I am bidden help a damsel in distress.”
Passing the locks the change took place. They were no longer in the same time and space. There was a pink-blue sea and a sky sparkling gold, terrible twisted trees, a sight to behold. Ahead of them a barren brown island topped by a flame, on each side, four brown pillars exactly the same.
“Oh Captain Jim what is it about that island, ahead, that fills me with such terrible dread?”
Then from the water it rose. At the sight of it Evangeline froze.
The island was not an island at all. The pillars were fingers and the island was the top of the skull. It was a flaming sea monkey that rose to 50 feet tall.
The monkey began to move in a seductive sway that threatened to throw the Water Witch into the waves.
Jim yelled, “You prancing fool! Will you stop!” The Monkey did a shimmy that made the water chop.
Jim had to use the one spell he did know, he lifted his arms and yelled “Heave Ho!”
The Monkey flew up and made a dot in the sky. It came down with a moist plop and an angry cry.
“Bring me the taters” Jim said. “I need fries” and Evangeline responded to his cries. He ate a portion and cold beer he downed, said to Evangeline, “Spread the potato chips all around.”
As soon as the last chip hit the wood, creatures caught up to scent of the goods. The ship was flanked beautiful mermen and maids so pale, with long silken locks and rainbow shimmer scales.
The illusion did not last long. When one jumped aboard the glamor was gone. Not perfection from face to fin, the mer were, in fact, as ugly as sin, flat green face and needle teeth, they had sunken black eyes and red rims beneath.
Evangeline held back her response and bent to the creature that gurgled and frothed. “Uh sir, Do you think you can assist?” The mer looked vacant and noshed on the chips.
“You daft dame, stop talking to that half-wit,” Jim said, as a seagull came to light on the Water Witch. It stood tall on the edge of the rail. Captain Jim presented the bird tater-tots in a pail.
“Oh sweet tuber, as I live and breathe!” said the gull. “Long have we tried to plant your seed. All that grows beneath these waters is rot and weed.” The Gull pushed the Merman back into the wake, then gobbled up the tots and chips, every last flake.
“What can I do for you, Good Captain and Lady Fair?” the gull asked. “You did not come for the fine golden air.”
Captain Jim looked quite grave, “We need to go down where the Mer are made. Where man is transformed and on display,”
“Ah I see. Head due North, then East at the basket of Potpourri, That’s where you will find the tunnel inside the sea,” with that the gull took his leave.
At Potpourri they headed east, ever wary of the monkey beast. As the vortex nearer drew, they saw a guard standing atop the water in shining black shoes.
“Who approaches the mouth of the sea? this I will know.”
“Tis I Captain Jim of the Water Witch. I have need of passage below.”
The guard stood firm. He did not fidget or squirm. “I won’t move out of your way, not tonight, tomorrow or yesterday. I stand as a shield. Mark my word, this vortex is sealed.”
Captain Jim fetched from below a bag oozing with roe, the sack looked as if to melt, it also held rotten smelt, sardines past their prime and salmon covered in slime. In his beefy arms he dangled the load while Evangeline held her nose.
The guard began to lose his composure. His clothes fell off in sudden exposure. His skin came off in a series of rips. There he was, a seal standing on his tail tips.
Captain Jim wafted the seafood scent in the Silkie’s direction. “Since you have worked hard for the tunnels protection, this gift is for the Silkie and their kin. Now will you will kindly move aside and let me in.”
“As long as it is for a good cause and the cause is mine, I suppose I could let you pass one time,” the Silkie replied and after the foul fish he did dive.
The Water Witch sailed straight into the funnel that opened into a slanted tunnel. They passed along the way a skeletal ferrymen and at the bottom arrived at Neptune’s Casino and Manquarium.
The building sparkled, and undersea jewel. They put anchor down in the parking pool. The human pair raised a stir once inside. As did the smell of their potato-ey bribes. They walked among flashing lights and games of chance and an octopus doing an eight veiled dance.
In viewing tanks lining the wall, here was a sight that made Jim’s flesh crawl. These creatures, born as men, kept too long in Neptune’s den. Now fish-faced ugly and mean, they hissed to the sound of slot machines.
Behind a lucky 7 slot bank, Evangeline found her husband in a tank. Sprites called for cocktails and gave them the eye. Spirit security preformed a fly-by.
Jim tried to think of how to rescue the wretched spouse, when Neptune greeted them, “Welcome to my house. Evangeline you’ve come for your mate? Well I won’t make you wait. Honestly he’s a bit of a disappointment, his scales are crusty and we must apply ointment.”
The monster recognized Evangeline outside his tank and back in the corner her husband shrank.
“Hah, looks like he’s not up for rescue or perhaps it’s just the thought of going home with you?” laughed Neptune. “Oh Evangeline you have such a way with love. Don’t worry, I’ll give him a shove. Now remember, keep him in brackish water in the tub and three times a day with sulfur give him a rub. Is that understood?”
Evangeline said, “No thanks, I’m good. He looks a bit beserk, but let me give you something for all your hard work.” She gave out chips to the gambling clams and sea slug staff, between the octopi and squid she split the tots in half. Reaching deep in the basket that had been packed with bribes, Evangeline gave Neptune the last of the fries.
This act brought Jim close to tears, “Why? Why did we come here? what next, you give away my beer?”
Neptune was stoked. “Beer? Tell me it’s cold! I want Rainier with a top of gold. Bring it to me or suffer my wrath, tenfold!”
“Sink me in the dirty brine, take my fries and waste my time, but damn you, the beer is mine!” Jim yelled shaking his fist. He ran as security yelled “cease and desist!” The spirits and sprites followed in his wake but no one could outrun Jim when beer was at stake.
Captain Jim made it to the Witch before the tunnel collapsed behind. Evangeline barely managed to grab onto a line. The rope she twisted and knotted in half until she reached the Water Witch’s aft.
Against all odds and gravity they surfaced only to face an angry monkey. It reached down with a furry fist and squeaked a mocking “Heave Ho!” and threw the boat right back to Shilshole.
Jim was heard cursing blue, “Evangeline, damn you. I should have kept to what business is mine. That was a complete waste of time.”
Evangeline looked at him and her countenance changed. Her hair turned red and her face was vulpine and strange. “Now Captain Jim, not so fast. Every trial I gave you, you passed. I need a man who can travel the strangest of seas. You sail well and I am pleased.”
Captain Jim opened his mouth to say Heave Ho but all that came out was, “I love you so?”
He grabbed Evangeline to throw her over the transom. He would not have another witch for a king’s ransom. His grasp around her waist turned into a loving embrace.
Captain Jim did protest. “I have already suffered one sorceress. I want no more of your kind, vile Trickstress.” But the words came out so soft and tender, Jim knew it was the sound of surrender.
Evangeline kissed him, “Captain Jim, you can’t fight fate. You and the Water Witch have taken a first mate.”
As for a happy ending chances are remote. The only witch Jim ever loved was his boat.