THE CAPTAIN & THE CABIN BOY – Drama, Deception, & Passion at Sea

CHARACTERS

Captain Clyde

Billy

SETTING

Swashbuckling days. The captain’s cabin on a sailing ship.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

(The Captain has awakened where he slept slumped onto a table. Billy has entered with a tray.)

 CAPTAIN

(opening one eye)

 Why, hello, Billy! Is it morning? Is it morning, Billy? Already?

BILLY

Aye, Captain. I brought you your coffee and your gruel.

CAPTAIN

Thank you, lad. I will relish them.—It’s morning, is it?

BILLY

(opening the porthole curtain)

Bright and beautiful, Captain.

(Captain groans.)

Would you like me to fetch you some hair of the dog?

CAPTAIN

What? . . . What?

BILLY

Some hair of the dog that bit you. Some rum?

CAPTAIN

No more rum. No, no, Billy. No rum. I’ll try the coffee.

(Shivering)

No—no rum . . .

BILLY

(very attentive to the Captain’s condition)

Let me help you sit up, Captain.

(Helps him.)

CAPTAIN

Yes, Billy. Thank you. Your touch is gentle, Billy.

(Catching hold of Billy’s hand)

And your hand is soft. Good lad.

BILLY

(saluting)

Ready to serve you, Captain. At your pleasure.

CAPTAIN

(looking closely at Billy)

Well, Billy. Ah, this coffee is good. Have you swabbed the galley this morning?

BILLY

Aye, Captain. All swabbed. Clean as your mother’s reputation!

CAPTAIN

Tell me, lad: have ye been happy as cabin boy aboard the Pileated Woodpecker?

BILLY

Aye, Captain. Very happy indeed.

(Captain, trying to sit up straight, groans in pain.)

Would you like me to rub your cervical muscles, Captain? That means, the back of your neck.

CAPTAIN

Would you now, Billy? That’s a good lad.

(Billy massages.)

Yes . . . right there . . . right there . . . ahh, good . . . good, Billy . . . . So you’ve been happy?

BILLY

Aye, Captain, happy aboard and happy to serve you.

CAPTAIN

I hope the men have left you in peace. They sometimes can be a bother to a lad with a shapely rump.

BILLY

Oh, no. Their approaches have been seemly indeed.

CAPTAIN

If they wax unseemly, we’ll have them flogged to Christian decency. A comely lad must be careful, my boy. A long voyage can put strange fancies in a hearty fellow’s mind. They’ve left you alone, Billy? No tender caresses while standing watch? No comradely gropings in an inappropriate locality?

BILLY

Oh, no, Captain. Their attentions have been as chaste as monks in Rome.

(He massages a sensitive part of the Captain’s shoulder.)

CAPTAIN

Ahhh . . . that feels good. I like you, lad. The tilt of your chin, the light in your eye. I feel drawn to you strangely. Strangely, indeed . . . Do you apprehend my meaning, Billy?

BILLY

Oh, yes, Captain! And I too–I have been drawn to you! Please, sir, may I confess?

(Removes hat, letting long hair fall.)

I am a woman–forced to flee from Shropshire in this lowly disguise, to escape the evil clutches of my dissolute guardian. And I love you, Captain!  I love you with all my heart and being!

(Long pause.)

CAPTAIN

You’re a woman, Billy? . . . A woman? Are you sure?

BILLY

Aye, Captain. In every desperate fiber of my soul! My name is Elspeth.

CAPTAIN

Elspeth . . . ?

(Looking her over–disappointed)

Oh. Well, sure you are . . . of course. Well, this gruel is cold, Billy. Take it away. See if anything needs–swabbing.

BILLY

(terribly sad)

Aye, Captain . . .

(Salutes mournfully. After a pause)

May I speak, sir?

CAPTAIN

Yes, Billy?

BILLY

I sense you are disappointed in me.

CAPTAIN

Ah, Billy, it’s a long voyage till we reach a safe harbor. Perhaps I’ve been maddened by the isolation—the long, unbroken horizons—the disquisitions of the albatrosses. Here, Billy, some more of your cervical massage, lass . . . .

BILLY

One cervical massage coming up, sir!

(Rubbing Captain’s neck)

I’m an expert at the cervical—and the clavicle. Would you like to sample some clavicle?

CAPTAIN

No, stick to the cervical.—I think, Billy, it’s best if you resume your disguise for the remainder of the voyage. Maintain your deception, or the crew may take strange notions. Let’s see you with your hat in place . . . . Tuck in your hair . . . .

(Billy does so.)

Aye, that becomes you. Cute . . . . We’ll hear no more of Elspeth, hmm?

BILLY

(smiling with anticipation)

Aye, Captain.

CAPTAIN

We can converse of an evening about nautical adventures . . . and other stimulating topics.

BILLY

Aye, sir.

(Rubs hands together and massages with extra finesse)

How’s that, sir?

CAPTAIN

Good. Ahhh. Very good. A bit lower now. Good, Billy. Lower still. Ahh . . . Good. Keep at it . . . .

BILLY

Aye, Captain . . . Anything you wish.

[Dimout.]

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