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September 2007

September 2007 -- Pirates



  • Behind the Art:
    Caring for Your Art
  • Myths and Symbols:
    A Controversial Creature (part 2)
  • Healthy Green Artists:
    From the Kitchen to the Studio
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Back Later!
  • EMG News:
    Arrrr! News for September
  • EMG News:
    News for October


  • Work for Hire


  • Fiction: The Broadsheet
  • Poem: Pirate Ambush
  • Fiction: Pi-Rats


  • Movie: Zombi Kampung Pisang

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  • The Broadsheet
    by Chelsea Clarey

    "Sir," Jacob attempted, �posting this would be unlawful.�

    "Use a nice fancy type, too, there's a lad," said the man with the eye patch, ignoring Jacob completely. "Make it catch the eye." The man was large, with a mildly intimidating presence, and besides the eye patch, he was wearing a velvet frock coat that had gone bald in strange terrier-like patches. A rapier hung from his narrow belt in a battered scabbard. A revolver dangled on the other side; its grip was yellow, corroded ivory. He looked like something that strode, thundering and be-wigged, from one of the playbills Jacob set up on the press.

    "Sir," Jacob agreed, bewildered. He opened his mouth to ask if he ought to correct spelling and grammar where necessary, then closed it. "Er. By when do you need the order finished?"

    "Tuesday," said the man in the frock coat, "there's a lad," and strode out the door.

    At four o'clock in the afternoon, Jacob finished a run of five hundred broadsheets to advertise the opening of a weaponry shop two streets over. His hands were beginning to throb. They swelled in the backs and the middle fingers when he worked long hours. It would have been wonderful to hire another workman, he reflected as he inked the impression plate for the last few copies, but it was not altogether feasible now. He was only eighteen, having inherited the business two years ago from his father - where would he ever find a skilled and steady workman who would respect such a young man? Besides, his mother would fuss over the expense. He still had his mother and sister do the accounts and keep the money. It would have been easier and more practical to be his own accountant and banker, of course, since he ran the business, but it made them feel useful and he didn't have the heart to take that away from them.

    With the expertise of long experience, Jacob lifted the plate out of the frame and set it aside, to break up the type later.

    Then he turned to the sheet of much-scraped vellum that had been brought in by the large gentleman in velvet.

    The first line was innocent enough.

    Make Yore Fortune,

    it said. Then, on the second line,

    See the World

    This was still all right, but it was in the third line that the contents went beyond the legal.

    Bee a Pyrate and leave Yore Life Behinde

    Jacob couldn't quite work out why anyone would take an order like this to a jobbing printer. Surely when one's ship was moored in a city's harbor one didn't -- advertise -- that one was a pirate in a run of fifty posters... did one?

    Perhaps it was all a particularly bloody-minded joke.

    He carried the handwritten sheet to the back of the workshop, where the great racks of lead type were ranked against the wall. He picked out a large, ornate face for the first line, an elegant sans-serif for the second, and a strong, bold block print for the third. He glanced back at the mock-up.

    FREE Trade FAIR Shares FREE Men

    went in an attractive italic, then back to the block print, a few sizes smaller, for

    Sail the High Sea
    Treasures for youre Taking
    Hardie Comrades under a Just Captain
    Learne the Trade of the Seaman

    He went back to the large block for

    The Horizon Opens Before You!

    and then employed a discreet serif for the last line:

    Inquire at the harbor

    Jacob adjusted the lines so that they fell in the center of the frame, then selected one of the standard embellishments that he used to fill space and make the cheaply printed broadsheets more attractive. After a moment's thought, he decided that the block with the stylized sun fit the general mood a bit better than the death's-head, and tapped it in at the bottom of the printing frame. He was about to add his own shop's mark to the lower corner - it was good for business if people knew who printed the sheets they saw on walls and in windows - then stopped, asking himself incredulously if he had gone completely mad.

    He could use the money that came in, even from a little run of fifty posters, he reminded himself. And besides, no one ever needed to know that he was advertising illegal opportunities so long as he kept his own mouth shut.

    Marginally more cheerful, he went through the door at the back of the workshop and mounted the stairs into the house proper, where his mother had just set dinner on the table.

    He went to finish the poster after dinner -- it wasn't due till Tuesday, no, but Jacob lived in the perpetual hope of a sudden rush of patronage, so he kept prepared for the eventuality. While the fifty posters hung about to dry (he'd used cheap, thick ink that smeared badly, so he couldn't stack them), he knocked type out of frames, cleaned the pieces, and set them back in their places on the great racks of letters waiting to be assembled into lines and sentences.

    It would not go well for Jacob if the local constabulatory chose tonight to drop by on a friendly visit, he knew. It was making him a little uneasy to have sheets all around flashing "Free Men... Make Yore Fortune... The Horizon Opens" at him.

    He reorganized the type racks, swept the few feet of boards on the floor of his shop, and scrubbed ineffectually at splashes of bronze blue on the skin of his hands. The ink was dry now, or as good as; he stacked the fifty sheets of parchment, locked the front door carefully, and walked briskly through the cobbled streets to the harbor.

    The ship in question was easy enough to identify. It was like the nautical version of a mean one-eared cat amongst a clowder of fat, smarmy windowsill tabbies. He climbed up a turn of the dock to the gangplank.

    He was hailed almost immediately, and the captain himself -- he had to assume it was the captain, what with the velvet coat -- came to the top of the plank with a torch. "Come aboard, lad," he called. "Have you my posters?"

    "Yes, sir," said Jacob, and strode up the gangplank as best he could. He quickly discovered why it takes practice to do so; gangplanks are at best an imperfect manner of boarding a ship, since ships move and docks often do not. Somehow, Jacob managed to avoid dropping his pirate-recruitment posters into the murky, lapping crevasse between the ships.

    "Sir," he said, presenting the stack of sheets as he stumbled onto the deck.

    The man took them, fluttered through them. "Very nice work," he said approvingly, "much better than some others I've seen."

    "Sir," Jacob said again breathlessly.

    "I like the picture here -- yes, lad?"

    "I want to join up," said Jacob.

    The pirate smiled hugely through his eye patch. "And I shall be glad to have you aboard," he said. "You're the first real printer yet, you know."

    "Beg pardon, sir?" said Jacob, lost.

    The captain gave Jacob a ringing clap on the back, and with an expansive gesture, flung the posters far and wide. Most landed in various spots on the deck, but ten or fifteen fluttered overboard. "Pirates don't use posters, lad," he said. "Pirates don't need to use posters. Most of my crew used to be printers' apprentices."

    He pivoted on one stained boot. "Quartermaster!" he thundered. "One for a bunk, and we sail in an hour!"

    Chelsea Clarey is an anthropology student at the University of California in Riverside. She calls herself a good writer and mediocre artist, runs a one-woman proofreading business, and has a decidedly strange sense of humor.

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