Word of the Day: Cabotage

Word of the Day: Cabotage

In this series, I will take the Word of the Day from Dictionary.com and craft a short piece of creative writing around it.  My goal is to embrace the meaning of the word in some unique way, all the while trying out different styles, rhythms and characterizations.  It is as much an exercise in creativity as it is an exploration of grammar. Enjoy!

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By Alex Seise

“Neither your business nor your kind are welcome here, madame.” The scribe turned on the bronze heel of his heavy right slipper. “Good day to you, and may you find the seas outside our harbor swift and favorable.”

But the trader, gnarled by age and thickened by wisdom, snagged his silk-clad shoulder and spun him around. The scribe let out a surprised “Oof!” and dropped his oversized ostrich feather quill. It slid between the dock’s planks and fell into the dark green water far below.

“Yeh wahn’t be tahlkin’ to Agnorious Dilkins wit’ sucha dis-er-pectful tahngue.” She leaned in and pressed her good eye—the violet one, not the gray, unseeing orb on her left side—against the scribe’s own cheek. It left a wet spot on his jowl, but he didn’t care about that. He thought only of the stench. The woman’s breath reeked of cabbage and sour whiskey, and he thought he might heave. “I’ve cahme tuh sell meh wares, writer mahn. You wahn’t be tellin’ me no atter all I been t’rough.”

“What you’ve been through matters little here on our shores.” The scribe wriggled free from her grasp and scowled, angry at the loss of his favorite quill at the hands of such a troublesome visitor. “Our laws of cabotage forbid any from the Isle of Wykler from mooring, disembarking, peddling or purchasing on our docks. Your very presence here is illegal. If it weren’t also illegal to confine your type, I’d have had the guards haul you off the moment you stepped off your… Ship.” He shifted his disdainful glance from the woman’s cockeyed clipper to either side, making sure they were out of earshot. “I’ve heard wretched stories about your kind, and if you asked me politely, which you have not, I might so much as share one or two tales.”

No sooner had he said the word ‘tales,’ the scribe’s face fell blank and his mouth became stuck in the open position. For once, he was wordless and breathless. The man silently fell to his left and tumbled straight down into the water; his entrails followed with a splashy plop.

Agnorious shrugged as she withdrew the fiber-thin acorbonial filament into her gray shawl. Wielded properly, the tool could cut through a man’s thick, wiry abdomen; from any other angle, it was soft as silk. “Tales, meh friend? I dahn’t needa hear th’m. I’m in ’em.”

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