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The Voyage of The Fra Jolly-Song.

From the day Georgy showed up in the neighborhood
with his little model pirate ship
he was the most envied boy there.

It was a stunner, too, that tiny carvel
--made entirely of glass.

And, tiny as it was, the faithful little replica
still boasted three full masts
with gossamer sails and hair-thin riggings of
glass as fine and delicate as if its sparkling ropes
had been plucked out of spider webs.

If one looked close enough
one could just make out the name of the ship:
'The Fra Jolly-Song'
(maybe, for the name had been painstakingly engraved
below its toy deck in letters of light
so sly and shimmering that it was as if they had been
meant to be read by ants).

There were two tiny glass beads set on deck
looking so much like a pair of sailors swabbing its crystal timbers
that some of us who saw them swore
we could tell one of them was swiveling over a peg leg!

Naturally, command of such a fine treasure ship
meant that Georgy was easily the most popular kid in the block
--by a mile. And in spite of himself, too,
for he hadn't been that well liked till then.

I certainly would have given half my world
just to get my greedy hands on it.

* * *

But, according to his toady second-in-command,
Mister Joey: "Georgy doesn't let anyone
even so much as touch it!
Not for the hair of a second--Too risky!"
he tells all who come too near its broadsides.

No matter: So precious did The Fra Jolly-Song look to all of us
I don't believe any of us would have risked taking it anyway
--lest it shatter in our human hands!

"Before Georgy even lets anyone look upon
The Fra Jolly-Song real close (excepting me),"
Mister Joey always explained patiently to
those waiting in line to look at it:
"You must first promise him solemnly
that you will hold your breath!"
So not even as gentle a gale as someone (other than
Georgy's Number Two, really) breathing over it
will damage the marvelous miniature--

Lucky he, Mister Joey!

* * *

Well, Georgy always went out of his way to
give us every impression that his precious little pirate ship
was the most valuable thing he owned.

So what a stunner it was when one day he just up and
told me I could have it--outright! (If I wanted it.)

And here I had always believed
Georgy thought I was such a big gob!

So, "You want it?" he asked me--Just like that!

"Do I want it!" I laughed at him,
convinced he was only trying to put me off my guard
(in order to board me).

But he wasn't kidding at all!

No: The fabulous little marvel of glass was mine for the taking!
From now on I could be the Captain of The Fra Jolly-Song.

I took command straightaway, of course
--right out of his hands, all too willing
to risk it bursting at my touch:

"You mean it?" And, "You don't want anything for it?"
I was still asking him (good bargainer I am),
my eyes wide with awe
while I checked out every last little marvelous detail
upon that lilliputian deck
... assuring him I'd be willing to pay anything for it.

Only no: "It's all yours," he said: "No charge!"

I could definitely consider it a gift: "Wow!"
(I was too overwhelmed even to thank him.)

At that moment my mind was definitely racing
with thoughts of all the other kids who would have given their all
just to hold it in their hands one time
--And here it was now all mine:

"Wow!" I actually owned it!

For his part, Georgy wished me, "Good luck!"

And then he went over the side:

Oh, the pains Georgy had taken caring for it!

And yet here he was abandoning ship
without even giving a second thought
to drowning! And why?!

* * *

Well, either Georgy had gone stark raving mad,
or he thought a lot more of me than
I had ever suspected--

Whatever it was, I wasn't about to
try to argue him out of his generosity:
That was still a stunner of a miniature!
And I was one of those who could actually make out the peg leg
on one of the tiny glass bead sailors swabbing its deck...

Unlike Georgy, however, I was going to make it a point
to show it off to everyone:

From here on out
The Fra Jolly-Song was going to take me on a voyage
of glory and fame
... as the most popular kid who had ever lived in that neighborhood!

(Obviously I wanted friends a lot more than Georgy ever did.)

* * *

"Oh!" That's when I tripped
... as I was racing to show it off to everyone!

The good ship Fra Jolly-Song herself
would have probably been wrecked for sure
had I not shielded it from the perilous rocks
(called The Sidewalk) at the last moment
by placing my body between the ship and its doom!

But, boy, did it ever earn me
a boat full of bruises and bumps:

Although ... it saved the ship!

I got up, moaning, and feeling about as abused
as a ripe tomato tossed to the streets over a tall roof.

Yet a hero in spite of my misery,
for I had succeeded in rescuing The Fra Jolly-Song
from its certain destruction and death!

* * *

Wouldn't you know it, though,
not even being a hero could help me escape
my big ole dumb sea dog, Charlie,
who suddenly surfaced and jumped me!

Down to the cruel rocks I sank again!

Hard, too. Right back on top of every last injury
and wound I'd earned before
--Only now they cost me about twice again as much as
all my previous pains lumped into just one great lump.

This time I also had to fend off Charlie
for a long time, wrestling him to The Sidewalk
as if he'd been a whale-size shark lunging at every poor sailor
aboard the twisting and turning Fra Jolly-Song:

The lusty fellow had somehow become convinced
that the delicate miniature I was just managing to
keep out of his snapping teeth
(with every last ounce of my strength)
was a tasty treat I was bringing him!

It was as hard-fought a battle
as ever a crew of any real salt water pirate ship
could have fought out over the high seas
hundreds and hundreds of years ago:

The monster shark did his worst to take a nip
at the Fra Jolly-Song
with his rowdy teeth... but I finally sent him packing
without his having bit it to bits.

"Thank goodness that's over!" I was thinking, in victory,
just happy to be able to catch my breath!

Only to find that all the commotion had attracted
yet another shark --in skirts--
That toughest sea wolf that ever hunted prey
in the deep blue ocean: Lisa Liss!

* * *

But that's all right, mates:
Lisa Liss was exactly the sort of a no-nonsense skipper
I thought it would be worthwhile to impress
with my new-won treasure.

And so, fully bedecked in my brand-new captain's proudest,
I displayed before her the fabulous Fra Jolly-Song
in all the sunny splendor of its so sparkling glory!

And, "Hey!" Lisa Liss fired at me (the shock of which
almost drove me mad with agony): "You stole that!"

"What!?!" Truly... I have NO IDEA IN THE WORLD
how she could have possibly gotten such a crazy thought
in her head
(although I very quickly assured Lisa Liss
that she had gone completely nuts).

However, before I could provide her with all the proper papers
(that I was Captain indeed) and proofs enough
(that she was indeed bonkers),
Lisa Liss was already threatening to tell Georgy on me:

"Georgy himself gave it to me!"
I pleaded: "Really he did!"

Well, I did everything I could to avoid an ugly battle
with her then and there--So near enemy waters were we
that total strangers were already training their spy glasses our way
as they passed by... much, much too closely.

But it was no use
--No matter how I insisted that Georgy had named me Captain
of The Fra Jolly-Song, properly and legally,
Lisa Liss wouldn't hear of it:

"No way!" She was absolutely sure of this:
"Georgy wouldn't even sell it to you
--let alone give it!" She said: "You stole it all right!"

Then she took off, bristling with a hundred blazing cannons
and threatening to tell the whole earth (including my parents)
what a big thief I was... blowing steam as she went
and swearing all the way that she was even going to get
all the European armies and navies after me!

What a side to her, let me tell you!

Oh well, at least I was rid of that lead swinger
for good and all: "What a nut!" I sighed,
and set sail immediately for calmer waters
--Quickly, to get away from there as soon as 't were possible!

* * *

After my getaway
... It sure was a comfort to come across that good ole
Mediterranean pirate Paul Strazzabosco anchored there,
ever as cool and calm a fellow captain
as a fellow would ever want to run into:

"Ah, Paul Strazzabosco!" The rock-steady, silent
(and reasonably sane) witness
to my whole nutty exchange with Lisa Liss:

"I believe you," he comforted me.

Nice guy that Strazzabosco (for a pirate): He, at least,
believed me because... "Can I see it?"

"The Fra Jolly-Song?"

Why, "Well," (he did catch me by surprise). But,
"Why... of course, me lad!"

I approved ... finally.

Indeed I was only too glad to show off my ship
to him: "Absolutely!" After all,
wasn't this exactly what it was all about?

I held it up for him, delighting in the bedazzled look of awe
upon that greedy little pirate face of his
(glossed over with a half a shine of envy):

I was really living then!

When, unexpectedly, Paul Strazzabosco asked me
if he could be Captain of The Fra Jolly-Song
for a moment or two.

And to actually hold it in his own actual... hands!

"Well--" That was (altogether) something else again:

After all, if he dropt it to the ocean's bottom
... that would be the end of my jolly trip
aboard the fabled little pirate ship right there!

"Oh!" Never again to be able to show off
The Fra Jolly-Song
to anybody--Not ever, ever, ever!

Was such a total loss really worth the risk?

How would I explain to Georgy that I hadn't had it an hour
before I let some crummy Mediterranean pirate plunge it
deep into Davy Jones's locker with a single blow?!

And, looking at Paul Strazzabosco now,
boy, did he look clumsy!

How many times had I seen him tripping over his own legs?

His bloodied T-shirt didn't help, either
--for it told a most dirty tale about him
(that he probably ate with his feet).

No sir, Paul Strazzabosco didn't seem to have
the skill needed to even get something into his mouth
without first spilling some of it all over himself!

"Don't worry," I suggested to him, kindly,
with my best buddy-buddy manner:

"I will hold it!"

Trying to find a gentle way to get out of
outright refusing to let him touch it,
no matter how much it made me feel as if we
(me and Lisa Liss) were the two biggest heels
wandering over the high seas!

Apparently that old Mediterranean pirate Strazzabosco
also felt the same way about it, for, unexpectedly
the big ole blowhard sailed away in a huff
(a single one of them), hurt and angry that I wouldn't trust him
--especially after he had thrown his full weight behind me
moments before, during my heavy skirmish
with that other ocean-going heel Lisa Liss!

But I was also angry at Paul Strazzabosco myself now:

After all, when Georgy piped him aboard The Fra Jolly-Song
(only yesterday) Georgy had out and out ordered him
not to touch anything, or to even so much as breathe over it
--I was there, I saw it all take place!

That hothead Mediterranean pirate Strazzabosco
had taken it all in stride!
So how come he was now firing all his guns at me?!

Definitely: Paul Strazzabosco was not the sort to be trusted
with such a prized treasure as The Fra Jolly-Song.

Maybe he even intended to drop it 'by accident.'
Then, "Sorry!" And what could I have done about it!?!

After all, thought I, "Envy
can make people do some crazy things!"

And, just what sort of a friend was
Strazzabosco the pirate... really?

* * *

As he was parting the waves away from me,
and I was gladly congratulating myself
on being so rotten to Paul Strazzabosco,
that other even more awful pirate Lisa Liss
suddenly showed up again--

She had at last caught up with me!

And this time she came at me with a whole fleet:
Her little brother was tagging along behind her
(probably the only person she had been able to persuade
that I was the worst thief
who had ever skimmed the seas):

"Give it up," the itty bitty Capt'n Kid let me have it,
just like that, too (no hellos or anything):
As if he himself had been the rightful Captain
of The Fra Jolly-Song--and not me!

"Punch him right in the nose!"
Lisa Liss was instantly egging the tiny terror on:
"He's a no good punk! He deserves to get it!
Give it to him--full blast!"

Gee, what'd I ever do to her?!

"I'll return it to Georgy," said the very diminutive
but big mouthed Capt'n Kid:
"If you're not lying and he really means for you to have it
--What've you got to lose?"

The Fra Jolly-Song for one thing, I was thinking.

Why were these two landlubbers so eager to
get their underhanded hands on it, anyway?

"Aren't you going a bit overboard on this?"
I asked Lisa Liss's brother, lit'l Capt'n Kid.

But this was the same tiny tripper
who was always getting into royal battles
with every dinky dinghy, dory, and skiff
that ever blew by before him, and especially
if they were bigger than he

--Most definitely a fool if ever one was:

"Who are you?" I told him, angry,
and now only too glad to give him a fight
(if he really wanted one).

But first I had to find a safe harbor
in which to put The Fra Jolly-Song
for the duration of this terrible storm that was brewing
--What with Hurricane Lisa just off my port:

No doubt she would have made a grab for it and run off
with the precious prize indeed--if she could have
but laid hands on The Fra Jolly-Song while I was fighting
with that lit'l ole Capt'n Kid, her brother:

I could almost read it in her emerald clouded eyes!

And, frankly, there just wasn't any such safe harbor
anywhere around there at the time...

O, what a mad trap to fall into!

Without warning, Capt'n Kid started throwing wild punches at me!

And, instead of defending my honor as bravely as I might have,
I was forced to back away from the tiny one-man navy
... at the same time I was doing all I could do
to hold him off with one hand only
(since my other hand was tied down behind me
keeping the precious little pirate ship from falling into the hands
of these two marauding buccaneers).

* * *

Oh, the things Lisa Liss called me: "Chicken!"
And much worse: "Fight like a man,
you yellowbelly wimp!"

Hers was so rough a language
that it might have even made a real pirate blush:

"Strike the colors, me buckos all!
Rush the flanks!" She cried:
"Forward! Forward! We've got'im on the run now!
Over the side, laddies! Board him! Board him!
Nail him to the mast!
Let never a man go alive, I'm telling'ya!"

But I was wise to her:

I knew all she was really after
was to get me to put down The Fra Jolly-Song
where she could make a grab for its command
(while I was beating up on that wee, wee pirate
Capt'n Kid), and--No way!

* * *

The little guy beat me up pretty good, though.

But not even the two pesky privateers put together were enough
to make me give up The Fra Jolly-Song!

They were the ones who gave up
... when my shirt got ripped (obviously
not wanting as much of their fair share of the blame
as of the plunder), and so they ran off
with all their plans full of holes!

"Victory is mine!" I cried to my comrades.
No reply? Worse: Crime definitely does not pay
--How was I going to explain to Mother
that I had lost my shirt
just for the pleasure of commanding The Fra Jolly-Song?!

* * *

Boy, what a rotten trip it had been--really!

The going was so rough
that the day could have almost qualified as
the very worse day of my life!

Not even the fact that the fabulous little pirate ship
The Fra Jolly-Song
had come through it still in one piece could make up for it:

Most of the rotten stuff that had befallen me
could be blamed squarely upon
that very same little glass model--

It wouldn't have surprised me at all if the ship was jinxed!

Now it suddenly began to make sense
why Georgy had been so 'willing' to make me a gift of it.

And, now I thought about it,
Georgy never had like me all that much
--Why, he might've even been playing me for a sucker!
Aye, a waterlogged fool
--That must've been it all along!

Just thinking about it made me so mad
that I could have smashed my own ship right there
against the perilous rocks (called The Sidewalk):
Just shatter the tiny glass ship to bits
and then laugh like a sailor gone mad
over the busted shards
its crash would have showered about me!

Only, looking at it again closely, carefully,
it was such a wonderful little marvel to behold
... so beautifully crafted
that it was already practically bursting over with
all its busy delicate details.

For a moment the name miraculously written
on that unimaginably small bow (as if by The Light itself)
might have been 'The Fra Jolly-Song' (or
even 'The Fragile Lesson').

Either way, it didn't matter:

I never could have given it over to the deep!

* * *

What next?

Was I to be the sailor doomed to wander
aboard The Fra Jolly-Song
for all time to come!?

It was definitely making me feel as down
as if I'd been hanged by a noose of pigeons
from a rope of false hopes all

--When, suddenly:

Somebody asked behind me: "Can I see it?"

It was Dennis Hall... standing there
like some old salt, admiring The Fra Jolly-Song
as if it had been the grandest treasure
any living creature had ever set eyes on
--The big gob!

Dennis Hall looked like he would have given anything
to get his greedy little hands on it!

And he was just the kid who deserved to get it,
too: "You want it?" I asked him--Just like that!

"Do I want it!" he laughed at me,
sure I was only trying to put him off his guard
(in order to board him).

But I wasn't kidding at all:

The fabulous little marvel of glass was his for the taking!

From now on he could be the Captain
of The Fra Jolly-Song.

He took command straightaway, of course
--right out of my hands, all too willing
to risk it bursting at his touch:

"You mean it?" And, "You don't want anything for it?"
he was still asking me (good bargainer he was),
his eyes wide with awe
while he checked out every last little marvelous detail
upon that lilliputian deck, assuring me
he'd be willing to pay anything for it.

Only, no: "It's all yours," I said: "No charge!"

He could definitely consider it a gift: "Wow!"
(He was too overwhelmed even to thank me.)

At that moment his mind was probably racing
with thoughts of all the other kids who would have
given their all just to hold it in their hands one time
--And here it was now all his:

"Wow!" He actually owned it!

For my part, I wished him: "Good luck!"

And then I went over the side:

Oh, the pains I had taken caring for it!

And yet here I was abandoning ship,
without even giving a second thought
to drowning! And why?!

Well, I had not gone stark raving mad
--It was the very pains I had taken!

In fact, it has always been and always will it be
the pains taken--All along, from the very beginning:

All the pains I had taken had taught me to swim, you see.
Exactly as they had taught Georgy, and exactly
as they had taught every last other rover before me
who had ever taken the voyage of
The Fra Jolly-Song!