A Tall Ship Tale #39: A New Deal

Another chapter of the tale by Paul de Anguera.

As the First Mate was returning from sick bay to resume his duties as host, Captain Quid took him aside. “Be very careful with these people,” he warned. “Their laws are very strict, particularly in regard to debts, and slavery is the standard punishment. Remember the Prime Directive!”

The First Mate and his three Zanzibarian guests settled down around the star board in the H.M.S. Legume’s great stern cabin.. “I’m sorry to inform you that our carpenter, Effayaid di’Amir, cannot join your game — doctor’s orders,” he apologized.

“Then how can we play wist, like your Horatio Hornblower?” Abul complained. “We cannot play with you, although you may be a very fine officer and gentleman, for an infidel.”

“I can show you other games that require only three players,” the First Mate assured him. He considered for a moment. “How about hearts — Boseman rules? It’s an amusing game; highest score loses.” Abul chortled. “A hundred pieces of money per point!” He glanced at each slave; they could hardly object. Under the First Mate’s direction, Abul dealt the cards to himself, Bashi, his slave, and Chistiyya, Bashi’s slave.

“What do I do with this?” he asked, holding the left-over card.

“In the middle,” the First Mate directed. “First trick gets it.”

Chistiyya won the first trick and the mystery card with the King of Clubs. The wizened little vegetarian grinned. “Actually, it’s bad to take tricks in this game — that is, usually,” their mentor pointed out; his face fell. “Except for the first trick,” he amended. Chistiyya grinned again.

“Order Chistiyya to lose,” Abul growled at Bashi.

“Take all the tricks!” Bashi hissed at Chistiyya, whose face fell again. But as the game progressed and hearts came out he dutifully took trick after trick; in fact, he held so many high cards that he could hardly escape them. After he despairingly took the final trick, the First Mate turned over his cards.

“Fascinating,” he commented. “You’ve taken all the hearts; that’s 13 points. And the Queen of Spades — another 10.”

Abul rubbed his hands gleefully. “2,300 pieces of money, Chistiyya!”

“Now, that’s the interesting thing about this variation of hearts,” the First Mate mused. “If you take all the plus-scoring cards, you’ve ‘shot the moon’ so all the other players get your score instead.” Now Abul’s face fell.

“The mystery card,” the First Mate prompted Chistiyya. He turned it over; it was the Jack of Diamonds. “How remarkable! You’ve shot the BLUE moon! 40 points to each of the other players!”

Bashi sighed and counted out POM$4,000 from a leather sack he drew out of his robe. But Abul’s head sank into his arms. “I do not have four thousand pieces of money!”

Chistiyya drew himself up and exclaimed “Then you are my slave!”

Abul sighed heavily. “Bashi, cook us some dinner.” The three had set up a small brazier so their food would not be tainted by infidel utensils.

Bashi turned to Chistiyya. “Cook the dinner!” he passed the order along, as was evidently his habit.

“Cook the dinner!” Chistiyya demanded of Abul. Abul looked shocked. “Bashi, you do it!” he shouted, his voice rising.




Chistiyya stalked angrily toward the brazier. “It is clear that we will either starve or be forced to contaminate ourselves with the infidels’ food! Very well, then; I will cook the dinner. But I will cook it my way this time!” He set a pot on it with a rebellious clang and started slicing vegetables into it.

Captain Quid strolled into the cabin after a bit to see how things were going. He found the three guests eating at the star board, and remarked encouragingly “Looks very healthy!”

But Abul made a choking sound and exclaimed:

“Recursives! Boiled Vegan!”

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