Episode 16: Pressganged

[SCENE I. The Jaded Old Crone. A group of sailors from an Alaskan fishing boat are drinking at a table and discussing problems with recruiting–the CAPTAIN saying something like “We’ll never find a replacement before the season’s up.” SOPHIE is at the bar, watching them with interest. At this point she decides to pay them a visit.]

SOPHIE: Do I hear you’re looking for another crewman?

CAPTAIN: Aye, but this ain’t for tourists.

SOPHIE: Oh, I’m not interested. But I happen to know where the daughter of a legendary Greek kraken hunter lives, right here in Portland.

CAPTAIN: Oh aye?

SOPHIE: Aye. I mean yes. (She hands over a picture of MELISSA.) Melissa Xenakis, daughter of Dimitri. She’s survived the kraken herself. The ocean’s in her blood.

CAPTAIN: Dimitri Xenakis! I never knew he had a daughter! And she’d be willing to join my crew?

SOPHIE: No, but she can always be pressganged. There’s an obscure law on the books in Washington which effectively legalizes pressgangs in a certain, arcane set of circumstances. (She hands the CAPTAIN an old and dirty-looking gold coin.) She frequents the Crone. Just keep an eye out for her.

CAPTAIN: Aye, that we will. (He pockets the coin.) We appreciate your assistance, miss.

SOPHIE: What can I say? There are certain parties out there who don’t want that bloodline to stay landlocked. You’re doing sailors everywhere a favor.

CAPTAIN: Heh heh. Happy to do my part, miss.

(SOPHIE returns to her seat with a very smug expression indeed.)

 

[SCENE II. Downtown Portland. KELLY and her friend JOHN are sitting on the steps of a plaza. JOHN is a teenage boy of hopelessly average appearance–average height, average hair color, unremarkable brown hair and eyes. He tries to make up for it by wearing his hair in an emo combover and wearing very “indie” clothing.]

KELLY: So, the weirdest thing happened to me this weekend.

JOHN: Me, too! Oh, but you first.

KELLY: It’s like, I remember going downtown and buying new watercolors, and even starting on a painting. Then suddenly I’m back upstairs with a headache and none of that ever happened.

JOHN: The same thing happened to me. Well, not with watercolors. I was buying groceries, I think.

KELLY: Then I was too nauseous to do anything the rest of the day.

JOHN: Me, too!

(MELISSA appears in the distance, holding a bag that suggests she’s been shopping. She hesitates for a moment before heading this way.)

KELLY: Oh my god, Melissa Xenakis is coming right this way.

JOHN: Is your brother still seeing her? Or not actually seeing her but pretending he is, or whatever?

KELLY: Pretty sure she hates him now. (Gets up.) I’m going to talk to her. (She approaches MELISSA.) Hey, Melissa!

MELISSA: (Looks her over, confused. Then recognition dawns.) Kelly, right? Nick’s little sister? Sorry, in my head you’re always, you know, twelve. (A thought occurs; she looks annoyed.) Nick didn’t send you, did he? The least he could do is have the balls to–

KELLY: No, no, he didn’t. Actually he’d probably rather I weren’t talking to you. (She looks at JOHN for moral support.) See, I bet him fifty dollars you’d go on a date with me, and I thought–

MELISSA: Fifty dollars?

KELLY: Um, yes.

MELISSA: Do I get to keep half of it?

KELLY: Um, yes, that was the plan.

MELISSA: That’s fucking brilliant! How on earth did you get him to agree to that?

KELLY: He, uh, thought he had a pretty good shot at it, I guess.

MELISSA: This isn’t an actual date though, right? You’re, like, twelve. That’d be weird.

KELLY: (Disappointed and trying not to show it.) Oh, no, I was only trying to get some easy money out of Nicholas. And piss him off. Sibling rivalry and all that.

MELISSA: Good, good. So long as we’re clear. I like the way you think. Jaded Old Crone tonight, then? Say, eight o’clock?

KELLY: Sure, yeah.

MELISSA: Great. See you then, kid. (She departs. KELLY’s expression sort of drains into a despondent look here as she turns back to JOHN.)

JOHN: So did she say yes?

KELLY: Yes.

JOHN: You’re finally going on a date with her after being obsessed with her for like six years?

KELLY: She thinks I’m just trying to rip off my brother.

JOHN: Well, that’s progress!

KELLY: Eight o’clock tonight. I guess I should go stare despondently at the ceiling for a few hours before getting ready.

JOHN: Progress towards despondency is still progress!

 

[SCENE III. SARAH and MELISSA’s house. SARAH is putting dishes away. MELISSA is reading something on the computer.]

MELISSA: Do you really have a dress picked out for the apocalypse?

SARAH: You mean you don’t?

MELISSA: I don’t think so.

SARAH: Oh. Well, I’ve got a dress and a more practical outfit, in case it’s the sort of apocalypse we can survive. Why?

MELISSA: Oh, just thinking out loud. Nick’s little sister somehow got him to bet her fifty dollars she couldn’t get me to go on a date with her.

SARAH: (A little surprised.) What, and you said yes?

MELISSA: Well, yes, she said I could keep half the money and Nick loses fifty dollars. I’m meeting her at eight.

SARAH: Melissa, she’s had a crush on you for as long as I’ve known you.

MELISSA: Really? Little Kelly Hayes? She’s like twelve!

SARAH: The perfect age to think everyone who’s older than you is just the coolest thing ever. Also, she was twelve six years ago. I think maybe she has gotten older since then.

MELISSA: Well, that’s awkward. Still, I already said yes. (Beat.) Doesn’t that family have anything better to do than harbor secret crushes on me?

SARAH: Maybe they’re genetically predisposed to fall in love with statuesque Greek women.

MELISSA: Hey, it’s not my fault I’m this awesome.

SARAH: I guess not. (Finishes putting dishes away, glances at a clock.) Oh shit, I’ve got to return some movies. See you tonight?

MELISSA: Yeah. See you!

 

[SCENE IV. The Jaded Old Crone. MELISSA arrives about fifteen minutes early, and sits down at the bar. Before she can order the drink, the CAPTAIN approaches.]

CAPTAIN: Buy you a drink, pretty lady?

MELISSA: Well, since you’re offering.

(He orders her a shot of rum, and slips a gold coin into the bottom of the glass. She takes it and downs it. When she gets to the bottom, she looks at the coin. Understanding dawns.)

MELISSA: Oh, fuck.

(The BOSUN, from behind, clubs MELISSA in the back of the head. She falls unconscious. The CAPTAIN and BOSUN carry her out back. Her bag is left at the bar. At this moment, KELLY arrives, having opted against dressing up apart from some lipstick. She gets a table for two and waits, and waits. We see the clock advance from 7:45 to 8:15 to somewhere just before 9. KELLY is about to leave when SARAH enters. She hurries over to KELLY’s table.)

SARAH: Aren’t you supposed to be with a certain Greek lady?

KELLY: She never showed up.

SARAH: What? Melissa’s always early! I’ve never known her to miss anything she said she’d be at. (She thinks about it.) Disappear for weeks without telling anyone, sure. Show up completely out of her mind on mushrooms, maybe. But she always shows up.

KELLY: I just figured–

SARAH: I’ll try her cell phone. (She makes the call; the handbag at the bar begins ringing. KELLY retrieves it and shows it to SARAH.) Oh. That’s probably not good. (She and KELLY approach the bartender.) Excuse me, was there a woman in here earlier? Tall, long curly dark hair?

BARTENDER: Yeah. Some sailor fellow bought her a drink. He put a coin in it. Next I looked she was gone.

SARAH: He put a coin in it?

KELLY: Oh no.

SARAH: What’s that mean?

KELLY: I think Melissa’s been pressganged. We have to hurry.

 

[SCENE V. The Port of Portland. SARAH and KELLY get out of the car and run to the docks, but they are too late: a fishing boat is already leaving under cover of darkness.]

SARAH: That’s got to be them, I know it.

KELLY: We should check the harbor registry to see whose boat that is. (SARAH looks at her.) What? I did my research.

SARAH: Why don’t you . . . do that, and I’ll call Melissa’s dad. (KELLY runs off. SARAH makes a phone call.) Hey, Mr. Xenakis, it’s Sarah. Um. I think Melissa’s been pressganged. (Pause.) Yeah, we’re at the docks. (Pause.) Okay, we’ll see you then. (She hangs up and bites her lip. At about this point, KELLY returns.)

KELLY: The boat’s called the Ill Wind. She’s an Alaskan fishing boat, and her captain is the cruelest man on the Pacific. I downloaded her itinerary.

SARAH: Mr. X is letting us use Regret.

KELLY: Are we really going after the cruelest captain in the Pacific with just two people and a yacht?

SARAH: Yes! It will be an adventure!

KELLY: I mean, we don’t have any–

SARAH: Oh, but Melissa isn’t here to enjoy it. She’s probably even now suffering at the hands of cruel men in awful hats.

KELLY: Do we have a plan?

SARAH: Nope!

KELLY: Oh. I guess that’s okay, too.

 

[SCENE VI. On board the Regret. KELLY is at the helm, with SARAH navigating. It’s dark out.]

KELLY: It’s a shame Mr. X couldn’t come.

SARAH: (Darkly.) Melissa is not on speaking terms with him right now, on account of how he encouraged your brother to murder innocent krakens.

KELLY: Oh, right. (Beat.) Sorry about that. I feel like maybe–

SARAH: I don’t want to talk about it.

KELLY: Sorry.

(They continue in silence for a while longer.)

KELLY: Really, though, what are we going to do when we catch up to them?

SARAH: (Cheerfully.) No idea! I’m sure I’ll think of something.

KELLY: I . . . I really can’t tell if you’re joking. Please tell me you’re joking.

SARAH: Okay! I’m definitely joking!

KELLY: Oh. (Beat.) You’re lying, aren’t you.

SARAH: Maybe! I hadn’t really thought about it.

KELLY: Oh.

 

[SCENE VII. The ocean. The sun rises and sets before the Regret makes port in a small Alaskan fishing village, right next to a fishing boat with the words ‘ILL WIND’ on the hull. KELLY is asleep in the back–it is worth mentioning that this yacht could probably comfortably house a number of people for a few weeks. SARAH runs back and wakes her up.]

SARAH: We’re here! They’re here!

KELLY: Five more minutes?

SARAH: Young lady, you will get up right now. There are adventures to be had!

(KELLY reluctantly gets up. They disembark and ask around, and are inevitably directed to a seedy dockside bar. They regroup just outside.)

SARAH: All right. This might get ugly. If it does, just do what I do.

KELLY: What’s that?

SARAH: Think happy thoughts! It gets even easier after a bit of blood loss. (Beat.) All right, follow me.

(They burst into the bar, clearly ready for a fight. What they see, however, is MELISSA lounging decadently at a corner booth and being served by SAILORS. She has adopted a blue bandanna and some large gold hoop earrings, etc etc, that give her a very piratical appearance. As SARAH and KELLY burst in, the SAILORS adopt a protective stance around her.)

MELISSA: Let them approach, lads! They are known to me.

BOSUN: Aye, milady.

(SARAH and KELLY approach, still under the watchful eye of the sailors. Each is given a mug of grog as they sit down next to MELISSA.)

MELISSA: Lads! This is Sarah Ames, the best and smallest friend your queen has ever had! And, uh, Kelly Hayes. Hi, Kelly.

SARAH: ‘Your queen?’

MELISSA: Long story. We mutinied and seized the boat for ourselves. Exiled the captain to a dry village only accessible by plane or by boat. Now I’m the pirate queen of the Alaskan fishing lanes. (Aside to SARAH.) Really though we mostly just poach fish.

SARAH: Well, we’re here to, uh, rescue you from–

MELISSA: Don’t you understand? I’m a mutineer! They’ll hang me if I return to Portland! The sea doesn’t judge you, Sarah. The sea doesn’t judge you and decide that the one thing you need is some rope around your neck.

KELLY: Okay, first, they don’t hang people anymore in Washington, I’m pretty sure–

MELISSA: Don’t they?

KELLY: Second, while pressganging is technically legal in Washington, the boat has to be registered to the Royal Navy.

(MELISSA gives her a look, then looks at SARAH.)

SARAH: Hey, don’t look at me. She’s been saying shit like that since we left.

MELISSA: So I won’t be hanged as soon as I set foot on Washington soil?

SARAH: Probably not!

MELISSA: (Considers this.) Oh, very well. I tire of fish and grog, anyway. (Raises her voice.) Men! Your queen is required back in Portland. I leave the Ill Wind in your capable hands, until my return!

BOSUN: She shall remain the terror of Alaskan waters, milady.

(MELISSA rises. The SAILORS all rise as well. SARAH and KELLY are the last to their feet. MELISSA raises her glass.)

MELISSA: To the Ill Wind! May it never matter to you whether the fish you catch are in season!

(The SAILORS respond with various cries of, for example, ‘Hear! Hear!’, ‘To the Ill Wind!’, or ‘To us!’. Everyone drinks. In the din of the crowd, MELISSA grabs SARAH and KELLY and slips out. They return to the Regret and set sail.)

SARAH: I’m glad you’re okay.

MELISSA: Me, too! Thanks for coming to rescue me. Even if I didn’t need rescuing and had, in fact, just been elected queen of the pirates.

SARAH: You’d have gotten sad that I wasn’t there eventually.

MELISSA: True. And you, Kelly Hayes! Above and beyond. Well done.

KELLY: Oh, hey, no worries.

MELISSA: You’re all right, kid. I owe you one.

(They sail off into the night. Fin.)

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