FRYING PANS AND FIRES
The old maxim “out of the frying pan and into the fire” springs to mind when we consider the unhappy situation that my ancestors Owongus and Mirumtia found themselves in almost two thousand years ago.
To start with, they'd almost been caught in one of the most violent volcanic eruptions in human history, the one that had buried two Roman towns under metres of ash and lava, then they'd escaped (being slaves, they had to escape or die with their masters) in a boat only to find they were immediately becalmed and getting thirsty with no fresh water anywhere near. The column of filth from the volcano had turned day into night, and that didn't help much either. Then becalmed at sea and without a paddle between them they had almost succumbed to death when they were taken prisoner by three truly uncouth pirates and Mirumtia's undoubted virginity was being argued over by a trio of men who barely deserved to live.
The pirates had intended to take the small sailing boat the two of them had been stranded in, but as that was clearly impossible, there being only the three of them and the sea unusually calm they scuttled it.
The pirate boat was rowed back and moved slowly towards its base in southern Spain (or what would be called that one day), and in order to keep their prisoners alive the pirates actually provided them with some water.
“Better 'ave some o' this,” muttered Scarface, proffering a leather bottle in their direction.
Both Owongus and Mirumtia were too weakened to take it, but Poo-face made a small trickle of the life-giving moisture pass between their lips. Owongus groaned, but swallowed, and Mirumtia did the same.
“Don' be so soddin' greedy!” raged Scarface when he saw how Owongus spluttered on the precious liquid and spat some of it out.
“I can't...” groaned Owongus. He was going to say he couldn't help it, but speech was so difficult and their position so futile he gave up mid-sentence.
The pirates rowed on for hours, bickering and arguing and being generally unpleasant whilst Owongus and Mirumtia slowly, very slowly, began to feel better.
Now, their problem had been one of lack of water rather than food, and the small amount that passed their lips and found its way down their throats began the process of reviving them.
The trouble about being revived is that you begin to feel a great deal worse before you begin to feel better, and both Owongus and Mirumtia felt that. And they were beginning to mentally bemoan their lot when it started to rain.
Even though they had, by then, moved a considerable distance from Vesuvius they were still a very long way from the pirate's base. And those pirates, unwilling to exert themselves in the face of what was showing signs of being a really decent downpour opted to pull into the shore until the rain stopped.
“I ain't getting any wetter!” stormed Poo-face.
“You'll do as I says!” growled Scarface, their leader,
“I want to shag 'er,” thundered Heartless, pointing at Mirumtia, who looked half dead and anything but desirable.
“You do that an' you'll kill 'er,” protested Poo-face.
“Don' care,” smirked Heartless. “'S long as I gets my way wiv 'er I don' care.”
“She's hard cash!” growled Scarface, who seemed capable of doing a great deal of growling. “You'll do as I say, or I'll gut ya!” he added, with his ferocious eyebrows wagging violently. Then he twitched his scar menacingly. “An' I means it!” he almost whispered.
It was quite clear that any reference to gutting him called a halt to Heartless's more passionate side, but a glint in his eyes suggested it was only temporary.
The boat was pulled up onto a sandy beach in the pouring rain, and the three pirates, having decided that their prisoners were incapable of any kind of positive movement and unlikely to do much better than merely survive left them lying in the boat whilst they themselves made for shelter in the form of a few trees growing close to the sands.
The rain lashed down onto the two enfeebled slaves, and rather than it making their plight worse it seemed to revive them. The small amount of water the pirates had offered them was as nothing to what they were able to suck and slurp from the puddles that formed on the hull of the boat, and sip by sip they found themselves feeling better and better...
And at this point, dear reader, I want you to suspend any disbelief that you may find is befuddling your mind. I want you to understand that the impossible is always just around the corner.
And just around a corner, on the other side of the patch of woodland from where the pirates were sheltering, there strolled a magnificent tiger, miles from its home and consequently as hungry as any tiger can be and gazing with salivating lips at three chunks of uncouth meat that were still arguing about when Mirumtia would be well enough for Heartless to have his very evil way with.
© Peter Rogerson 04.08.12