The Relevance of Pirates – Blaggard’s Moon (Day 3)

Delaney spoke directly to the boy. “Dallis, son, this here’s Conch Imbry, and he’s a great pirate captain. Says he’ll save ye from the Cabeebs if ye’ll turn pirate right now. Otherwise — see that man with the gun there? Well, he’s gonna shoot ye dead. So now, son, ye got to decide whether to live a pirate or die right now, being a …”  the right word did not come to him, “… whatever you are now,” he concluded.

Dallis stopped, his hands still tied behind him, looking directly into his older brother’s grim eyes. “What should I do, Kreg? … What if Ma finds out?”

“She’d be real sore if we came home pirates.”

After a thoughtful pause, Delaney ventured to speak again. “On the opposite hand, I reckon she might also be a tad put out if you was to come home dead.”

Delaney never set out to become a pirate. As a boy he fled his life on the streets and boarded a ship because there were no priests at sea to frighten him with tales of hell. The pirate gig, well, that wasn’t really his choice. It was join up or die, and him without even a home to go home dead to.

And yet, as Blaggard’s Moon tells its story, as Delaney sits on his post and remembers, he grows to bitterly regret making that choice, no matter how little it seemed like a choice at the time. As memories flood back of men and women who made right choices and then suffered for them, he sees his own escape from death for exactly what it was.

“Any end’s a good end,” Delaney said out loud to the air, wiping away a tear. Now he looked for his fish, suddenly wanting their company more than anything. But he could only see one or two, pale below the dark surface of the pond. He spoke to them anyway. “That’s how it is when ye’ve made the right choices. Any end’s good when ye’ve done right.” He shook his head at their inattentiveness. “You little boys don’t know about that. But it’s true.”

So says Delaney toward the end of the story. But the bulk of the book adds some uncertainty to his words. In the world of Nearing Vast, many people choose to do right and subsequently suffer dire ends: they are shot, sold, tortured, drowned, fed to monsters. Why, Delaney asks himself over and again, do good people get so consistently “whammed” while bad people go on their merry Conch Imbry-like ways, drinking and getting rich and generally ruling the world?

It’s the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people and where on earth God is in the midst of all that — especially when those bad things happen not in spite of good choices, but because of them. Where, ultimately, is the sense in martyrdom? What possible reason can there be for the upside-down justice of life?

On Monday I wrote that I had been thinking about tragedy. I was thinking about it because lately I’ve been dealing with it. Over a week ago a little girl who I love suffered second and third-degree burns on 15% of her body, and the situation isn’t any easier right now. Another little girl who I love visited the doctor yesterday while her family braced themselves to hear a cancer diagnosis. It didn’t come — she has something else. But for many people it does come. For many good people. People who’ve made the right choices and tried to follow and honour God.

And then wham.

I found Blaggard’s Moon to be an uncomfortable book. Extremely well-written and crafted. Deep and entertaining at the same time. But painful, too. I kept asking that same question. Why do the good people get whammed? Is any end a good end if you do what’s right? Why?

It was uncomfortable, too, because Delaney isn’t the only one who turns pirate in some way or other. Damrick Fellows, the book’s “hero,” knows by the end that he’s in desperate need of salvation from the pirate within. Even Jenta, the closest thing Blaggard’s Moon has to a paragon of virtue, makes piraty decisions at times.

This is the relevance of pirates for me now. How many times have I faced the temptation to turn pirate in  my own soul? In Blaggard’s Moon, everyone does. Chawna Schroeder complained in her second tour post that she “missed having a heroic hero.” So did I. I write heroic heroes and love to read about them — but I’m not one of them. I’m much more like the characters in Polivka’s pirate novel. Facing hard choices. Sometimes making wrong ones. Wondering if and why and how it matters.

In the end, I think Blaggard’s Moon gets the answer right. As Delaney discovers, it does matter whether we turn pirate to save our own skins or choose to do what’s right instead. It matters because eventually, the moon will rise. Death will come crawling out of the water. And as all the circumstances of our lives fade away, we’ll be left facing God with who we’ve become. With who our choices — and His grace — have made us.

We might know, then, the answers to all the questions we asked in times of temptation and trial and tragedy. Or we might not. It doesn’t matter. Eternity matters — to me, to you, to the pirates and the paragons inside each one of us.







8 responses to “The Relevance of Pirates – Blaggard’s Moon (Day 3)”

  1. Rachel Avatar

    Becky – Thanks for all your kind words this tour, and for that perspective on the One True Hero in Damrick and Jenta.

    Dana – Thanks!

    Bryan – Wow, thank you. And thank you for giving us all so much to talk about!

    Chawna, I’m glad you wrote. I really appreciated your perspectives on this book, especially as they were decidedly different from most of the bloggers. Your above insight on perspective is fascinating, and I can totally relate to it. I too crave stories that tell me I can make it through life without becoming a pirate. I want to finish my days like Joseph of Genesis, and not like King Saul. I suspect you and I have similar backgrounds ;). Thanks!

  2. Chawna Avatar

    Thanks for this post, Rachel. You have helped clarify some issues that have been frustrating me about why I seem to be so far from everyone else in opinion.

    While I still stand by my heroic heroes, I have come to wonder if the difference is that of perspective. For while I am not perfect and am very aware of that fact, I have very few regrets. But I also know what a fine edge I walk, and I fear that the day will come that I will make that pirate decision. So I crave and connect with stories that say, “Yes, it is possible to live as God wants without a major fall, to make the right decisions under fire.” Blaggard’s Moon, on the other hand, is more focused on redeeming the life of a person, Christian or non-Christian, after the fall–a story like the Apostle Peter’s.

    Hmm…sounds like I have a whole post here.

    Anyway, thank you for your insightful words. It has given me the understanding I needed during this tour.

  3. George Bryan Polivka Avatar

    Hi Rachel,

    Thanks so much for the thoughtful posts. You write a book that tries to bring all the beauty and pain and heroism and sacrifice of a desperately important world that so often seems desperately meaningless, and you hope someone sees past the pirates. When someone does, you are thankful to your soul and it all seems worth it. God bless Rachel Starr Thompson.


  4. […] original list ??? Steve Rice Crista Richey ??? Chawna Schroeder ? James Somers ??? Rachel Starr Thomson ? Steve Trower Speculative Faith Jason Waguespack ??? Fred Warren […]

  5. […] LuElla Miller Nissa John W. Otte Steve Rice Crista Richey Chawna Schroeder James Somers Rachel Starr Thomson Steve Trower Speculative Faith Jason Waguespack Fred Warren Phyllis Wheeler Jill Williamson […]

  6. Rebecca LuElla Miller Avatar

    Rachel, all three of these posts are exceptional. I had to quote you in my review because you got it so right.

    The thing is, we all do want a heroic hero to show up, but as you say, Polivka has it right as far as he goes. There is no heroic hero. Except Jenta and Damerick act as types of the One True Perfect Hero. They do rescue the one they love. They do bring a measure of redemption. I loved them because they made me think of the Greatest Sacrifice. So in the end, I thought Polivka gave me that taste of eternity that we are all longing for.


  7. Phyllis Wheeler Avatar

    Well said, well said! I nominate you to write my blog too.

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