Michael's WIP

Fanny the Pirate

Chapter 1 - The Redhead in the Hay

Editor’s Note: The following is “volume one of two” of the journal of Jack Fielding, a decidedly minor nineteenth century American poet. This previously unpublished narrative was discovered in 2008 buried under some newspapers in an old chest in a Boston attic. Given its age, the manuscript is in remarkable condition. Chapter titles have been added. Volume two has never been found. It is your editor’s humble opinion that Fielding’s journal, sensational as it may be, can never atone for the poetic sins of his verse.


Fielding’s Journal
October 6, 1847

“Teach me everything,” Prudence pleads, her fair arms reaching up to me, her green eyes flashing, her teeth bright and straight, her red hair spread on the hay that she intends as our classroom.  I stand above her, savoring the moment, taking in her half clothed young body, lying there in all its eighteen-year-old glory, lit by a shaft of sunlight that has found its way through the morning clouds and into the dark barn.

“Everything?” I ask.  I did not set out this morning to become a teacher.  My mind was only on poetry when I wandered to a more rural part of Boston, searching for an idyllic bucolic setting, perhaps to observe large farm animals grazing in the morning sun and write an ode to nature’s bovine creatures.  Instead of a cow, however, I had met Prudence, a young farmhouse resident intent on filling in the gaps in her education, and instead of helping me raise the muse of poetry, she had raised her skirts to show me two exemplary limbs, strong from her farm labors.  She offered a tour of the barn, I accepted, and now here we were.

“Yes, Jack, everything,” she says, her hands motioning me to join her at once in the hay.  “Instruct me in the ways of the flesh.”  What has this young lady been reading?  I watch her bosom rising and falling, rising and falling, like twin ships at the mercy of the sea.  Perhaps I will write of that tonight.  So many words rhyme with “sea.”

Before joining Prudence in the hay, I pause to take in this unexpected scene.  I breathe in her sweet perfume, trying to ignore the other less romantic smells of the barn.  I watch her trembling red lips meet and then part and then meet again, as if they are rehearsing for a rendezvous with my lips.  I lose myself for a moment in the deep ocean of her green eyes.  I forget all about poetry.  Couplets fly out the window, along with my mind.

Prudence tires of waiting.  She suddenly reaches up and undoes my britches.  As they fall to my ankles I hear the young lady gasp.  I see her mouth the words “oh my.”  Although I suspect she has not experienced many men, or even one, in her short life, still I am flattered.  Surely she has seen the odd bull in the meadow.  And yet . . . “Now,” Prudence says, “before my father discovers us.”

“Your father?”  Just then I hear the sound of the barn door opening below the hay loft.  I pull up my britches and dive into the hay.

“Prudence, are you in here?” comes a gruff voice.  

Prudence gives me a quick but delicious kiss, then points to the large opening in the wall just fifteen feet away.  I scramble to this emergency exit, blow the young lady a kiss, then hear the voice again, louder now.

“Prudence, what’s that noise?”

 I jump to the ground without breaking any large bones, then the father appears next to the barn door, my side of the door, no more than thirty feet away.  I see now that he has a long musket at his side.

“Halt!” he cries out.  I see no future in halting.  I make a mad dash away from the barn, hearing the father’s footsteps and then the sound of the musket firing.  I begin to zig and zag down the road, and during one of the zigs I see Prudence leaning against the opening to the hay loft in obvious disappointment.  She gives me a little wave and I imagine her full lips pouting.  I stop to wave back, but the father is aiming the musket again.  He’s not waving.  I fly down the road, not stopping for three miles, until I finally slip into a familiar tavern and collapse at a dark table in the back.  

The man at the bar asks me if I’m running from the law, and I tell him no, it’s worse than that, it’s a father with a large gun.  The man nods.  “Ah, laddie,” he says, “this brings back memories of my own glorious youth.”  He gives me a chunk of newspaper and tells me to use it on the street, to hide my face, just in case the father is able to track me.

 I have a quick pint to settle my nerves, then slip out the rear door and make my way back to my room.  I lie down on the small bed by the window, watching the October sky darken.  The rain begins, and I imagine the father turning back, if he has not already.  I pray that he does not punish Prudence severely.  I’ve always subscribed to the belief that women who seek an education, especially in “the ways of the flesh,” deserve some measure of encouragement.  

I realize that I am still holding the Boston Daily Advertiser that the man gave me in the tavern.  Just as I am about to toss it on the floor I see a list of notices for jobs.  Since I am between situations, as they say, and my monetary supplies are shrinking rapidly, I begin to read through the notices.  The usual dull jobs.  None for poets.  And then I see it.  I read it quickly, grabbing at the key phrases: Poet Wanted … opportunity of a lifetime … voyage of discovery … sailing October 7 … apply in person to F. MacGregor, captain of The Inquisitor.   October 7?  That’s tomorrow!  I reread the notice aloud, slowly, my heart leaping at the words “grand voyage of discovery, an expedition of science and the arts, of music and letters.”

It says nothing about pay, other than a vague “all treasure to be shared by those on board.”  I read aloud the phrase “Poet Wanted,” over and over.  Who has ever wanted my poetry?  Who wants me now, other than Prudence and her homicidal father?  I make note of the ship and its location.  The harbor is not far from my quarters.  I must be there today, within the hour.  I pray that no poet has taken the position already.  I dash to the door, then stop.  Steady, Jack.  What are you forgetting?  I stride to the small table, snatch up several manuscripts of my poetry.  No time to sort through it.  I slide the papers into the leather case, then rush to the door.  

Out on the street, in the rain, I make a silent plea to the muses.  Speed me on my way, oh Thalia, muse of comedy and bucolic poetry.  Then I remember how agonizingly fickle Thalia is, coming and going as she damn well pleases, so I add another appeal.  Guide my steps, oh Calliope, chief of muses and muse of epic poetry.  But surely Calliope is too busy for one struggling poet racing through the streets of Boston.  And when did I ever write an epic poem?  More muses.  I must remember more muses.  Then it hits me.  Erato!  Of course!  Be with me today, oh Erato, muse of erotic poetry, and I promise that I will honor you with your favorite kind of verse.

As I make my way to the harbor, and the “grand voyage of discovery” that must be mine, I begin to compose a lyrical poem in my head to show Erato that I mean to keep my promise.  The title is easy: “The Redhead in the Hay.”  Finding words to rhyme with Prudence, now that’s the hard part.

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Gail Baugniet
7 months ago

"Poet wanted . . . opportunity of a lifetime . . . voyage of discovery . . . " The author definitely knows how to take the reader on an exciting and humorous journey. Looking forward to the published edition.

Dawn Knox
a year ago

An epic story!

Brett Botbyl
a year ago

What a wonderful romp. I can't wait to read the rest!