Recruitment Trouble (Flash Fiction)

Bob smiled as the haggard men assembled around in the foul tavern. They were a gruff bunch, just the lot he was searching for, and he felt sure he’d hit his mark. Around them, in the smoke-filled ground floor of the inn, wenches danced and laughed, some devil-possessed soul set the strings of a fiddle on fire with an outrageous tune, and shadowy figures drank their ales while patiently waiting for a fresh fist-fight.

“Yes, yes, gather ’round, mates,” Bob said. “Don’t be bashful. Cap’n Bob is here to set ya straight.” The handful of drifters encroached on him, and he showed them his gold-toothed grin. “It’s fortune you be seeking, I can see it in yer gaze. It’s gold coin you need, and I can give it to you in exchange.”

“Out with it then,” said a shaggy man in the back. Bob just missed his face, but he planned on stabbing someone for the comment, regardless.

“I’ve got a ship but no crew,” Bob said. “That’s the honest truth. I need a batch of callused hands and strong backs to take my vessel out to sea. Who’s with me?”

“What’s yer plan, you crazy rot?”

Bob’s eyes darted in search of the voice that dared speak in such a tone, but again, the face was missed. He still clung to fortune being on his side, though. He had two daggers that he could use for stabbing, and they were both equally sharp. “We plunder, you dirty mongrels! We take to the sea and take what we want where ever we go. Even you, with boulders for brains, should be able to understand that much.”

A surly man pushed his way through the small crowd and leaned onto the worn oak table. His nails were long and dirty, and his breath was well beyond ripe. “You mean to say your suggestion for a day’s wage is to take things from others?”

Bob was shocked. He blinked at the man, caught so off guard that he was speechless.

“And what then, Cap’n Bob? What will you do once you’ve taken all these things?”

Bob, with a glare of hate in his eye, leaned forward with a snarl. Fortune had turned on him now. Three people needing stabbing, and he was one shank short. He needed to rely on his cunning from here on out. “We’ll do what we please!” he said with a roar. “We’ll cause ruckus and commotion! We’ll burn taverns to the ground! We’ll fill the ship with gold and gems and we’ll live like kings! Nay, not like kings, like gods!” He shoved a dirty fist in the air in triumph.

“What’ll ya do when the ship is loaded and you’ve had your fill?” asked the hidden voice from behind the wall of men. Others mumbled in agreement. “Yes, what then?”

Bob was pinned. The crowd was beginning to turn against him. In a last ditch effort, his mind scrambled for a suitable answer. “Well… uh, we’ll take the treasure and… and—”

“And!?”

Bob gulped. “We’ll find some remote island and bury it.”

“Ha!” scoffed the man leaning on the table. “I knew it,” he said. “He’s a lunatic.” The others around him exchanged looks. “His brain is warped, broken. So, Cap’n Bob, you mean to recruit us to risk our lives fighting for treasure just so we can turn around and bury it in the sand?”

Bob nodded sheepishly. The gruff party laughed and began to disperse. Some made casual question of the likelihood of his even having a ship, others gave him sympathetic pats on the shoulder. “A lunatic!” the man said with a laugh. “Go steal things and bury them in the sand! Bob, the sea-dog!”

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