Monday, April 14, 2008
The Catala - Chapter 4: The Attack
How contradictory we humans are, thought Don Pedro, yet how predictable. The Naya will not sacrifice a cockatoo to their god for fear of angering him, but they are not afraid of selling the bird. Without a doubt, the sorcerer Kung Ku with the cunning eyes had found a convenient escape clause.
"Fucking savages,” spat Gevers; still angry at having agreed to Tamango’s demands because of pressure from that woggy, garlic eating Portuguese rich filth, Don Pedro de Silva.
If my excellent memory serves me properly, Gevers is a lawyer by profession. The word Ignoramus fits him well. mused Don Pedro, interpreting his words and actions. "Savages indeed. Who’s to say? I might venture to opine that men like my crew, the Dutch, and the English East India Company as well as me are the true savages. Human beings like the Naya, with their concern for their tribe are destined to disappear. Cruel men like us will see to that. Still, I can’t stifle a sense of tragedy at our inhumanity in the name of Lucre.
On the vessel "Zee" the sailors, without exception, wanted to take a look at the cockatoo.
"Don't crowd around, be careful. This is a wild bird, not a house canary," warned Gevers.
A series of jangling shrieks, wails, and bellows emanated from the bamboo cage. “
I can’t take much more of this. Why are there so many strange looking two legged beings? Why do they stink like that? Their smell is going to make me sick.
In a few hours, if the trade winds were kind to them, they would be in Palembang, a festive port on the mainland of Sumatra. It is not as uncharted as Nias, but the women are pretty and available. What more could your men want? Liquor perhaps? There was always rum available at the traders' saloon, thought Don Pedro.
"Ship ahoy!!!" yelled the man on the lookout watchtower. The skull and crossbones flag is being hoisted. Pirates! Prepare to defend the ship."
The Dutch official Gevers, who not so long ago had been mulish on the beaches of Nias Island, suddenly became decisive and efficient.
“Open the storeroom where the ammunition is locked" Gevers barked out orders to Captain Van de Veldt of the" Zee."
The Captain commanded the ship "Zee", but the Dutch East India Company, owned all the ships, which meant that Major Gevers, as an official of the Company, superseded the Captain. The sailors labored under a form of indentured slavery. Most were Chinese with a sprinkling of Malay. Their villages, to pay off their families’ debts had sold them to the Dutch East India Company.
Sometimes, floods, earthquakes, pestilence, drought and typhoons exacted a terrible human toll. The able bodied men had to go to work for a pittance to support the village and ensure its survival. The system was rigged in favor of the Victors. Rare was the man who ever saw his homeland again. They served at sea until they died.
The Dutch usually took the Malays captive during raids and skirmishes. Like the Chinese, they sent most of the earnings of their toil under the mast to their families or villages back in Indonesia.
"Pirates! The Zee is under attack," yelled Major Gevers. He had never had to face this situation before.
"How many of you have experience in fighting pirates? Raise your hands!" Zero.
Don Pedro did not move. He remained stiff and wordless. Gevers saw him as he quickly made his rounds of the ”Zee".
"Are you armed?" he asked Don Pedro.
"Have you seen me with firearms?" he countered.
Gevers rolled up his eyes. Oh! One of those rich, snooty merchants who think money is all he needs to get by. "Here, take these pistols. Do you know how to use them at least?"
"I'm afraid not," coolly replied Don Pedro. "Could you show me?"
"The pirates are approaching starboard side," shouted the First Mate.
"I haven’t the time to teach you how to handle pistols. You may be rich, but you’ve been an inattentive dunderhead. You’ll have to fend for yourself,” declared Gevers, quickly thrusting two pistols into his hands.
He took them calmly. "Now what?"
"Uncock the clip and be ready to shoot if by chance the pirates try to board," ordered Gevers.
A cannon shot hit the "Zee" squarely broadside. Thick smoke. Burning Flesh. Mangled legs and limbs Fingers blown away by sharp slivers of wood. Moans and groans.