Five years seems like five decades when your life has no purpose. Okay, “purpose” is a cliché idea, but to Deckswabber, it sure felt like he had none of it. When the name you call yourself by is the same name of the job you’ve had your whole life, you start to think “destiny” might not be so silly either. Then you get sacked from that job, and any time you hear “purpose” or “destiny” you want to kick something.
Five years. Five years! A pebble rolled across the boardwalk as Deckswabber kicked it out of his way. He swatted at a Moquot on his neck, rubbing at his dark blue fur. It was sweltering hot that day, as it had been during the whole Month of Hiding. It used to be that he never got too hot because he was always out at sea, but now that he was unemployed, he found himself drawn to the coastline of Krawk Island just to get a breeze.
Deckswabber had told himself that after he was fired from his beloved job, he would move inland and have nothing more to do with the sea. Which he did. Sort of.
Deckswabber shuffled into a small, dark tavern and sat down at the farthest stool. “Hey Deckswabber, same as usual?” called a Pirate Aisha over her shoulder as she cleaned a glass. He nodded curtly and she hustled over to him with a glass of Cherryberry Krawkade in one hand, and a small flask concealed in her apron.
She set down the glass of Krawkade and glanced around her before opening a small door beneath the counter and pushing the flask through it towards Deckswabber’s lap. He quickly grabbed it and stuffed it in his vest pocket, then drew out a tightly-wrapped sack of Neopoints from another pocket and passed it back through the little door to the Aisha. She gave him a knowing smile before sliding down the counter to a customer a few stools away.
Deckswabber spared no time in uncorking the flask and pouring its contents into his Krawkade, then swiftly gulping it down. He called out a gruff thanks to the Aisha and hurried into the tavern’s bathroom. The lock clicked softly as he turned its knob, his hands already beginning to tingle. He sat down on the cold tile floor and waited.
First it was his ears. They shrank to little stubs, the dark blue fur turning to gray. Next he felt his tail flatten out and turn the same shade of gray. His nose shrank. His torso condensed into a sphere. His front teeth grew twice as long. Deckswabber sweated and twitched as the transformation took place, barely noticing when the tiny flask that read “Pirate Meerca Morphing Potion” clattered onto the bathroom floor.
When he had finally stopped twitching, Deckswabber hauled himself off the floor and stared into the mirror. Instead of a Blumaroo with dark blue fur, he saw a Pirate Meerca balancing itself on its tail. Having had seen this same sight all summer, Deckswabber shrugged and walked out of the bathroom and back onto the boardwalk.
After many hours of wondering the wharf, Deckswabber was lulled into deep thought. He had made a promise to himself to stay away from the life he once knew. This technically didn’t break the promise, right? He wasn’t himself. Instead of Deckswabber, he was a nameless Pirate Meerca scurrying along the wharf minding his own business. No one would ever know it was the old washed-up Blumaroo lurking about. The promise surely was still in tact...
Deckswabber was jostled from his ponderings by a loud yell.
“Hey! This here’s my dock!” growled a sharp female voice. Deckswabber jerked his head up and abruptly stopped at the sight he beheld.
An angry Pink Blumaroo was leaning on a mop, glaring daggers at him. A gold hoop hung from one of her long ears and a scar cut a straight line diagonally over one eye. She wore a simple pink dress and a scowl on her face. Deckswabber thought he had never seen anything more beautiful.
“I-...Your dock, you say?” he fumbled, trying to think of something friendly to say. But the question only seemed to enrage the other Blumaroo, and she swiped at him with her mop.
“Yes, my dock. I clean it every day top to bottom, so I reckon its mine,” she said tersely, then added under her breath, “Though the same will never apply to that filthy ship...” Hearing the mumbled words, Deckswabber’s ears perked up.
“Ship? Do you swab the decks of a ship?” he asked eagerly, fighting to remain composed. Could it be that she was just like he had been?
At this, the Pink Blumaroo’s expression softened. “Yes, that ship over there,” she said, pointing behind her down the long dock towards a modest wooden ship. “It’s my job. It’s been my job since I can remember. I reckon that’s why I was named Swabbie.”
Deckswabber bit the inside of his cheek, trying to hold in his excitement. It was just as he’d hoped! She was just like him! A beautiful, strong Blumaroo who loved mops just as much as he did. He thought he might swoon on the spot.
“Say, what’s your name anyway, ye trespasser?” Swabbie asked.
“My name is... uh... Hagan,” he said awkwardly, picking the first name that came to mind. Hagan? That was the king of Brightvale! What on Neopia was he thinking?!
Swabbie paused. “Hagan; like the king?”
“Hagan; like the king,” said Deckswabber weakly. What a pathetic lie.
“I reckon you’re from Brightvale, are ye?” she stated simply. Deckswabber stared at her, stunned that she believed him, and nodded.
“Well, Hagan, are ye lookin’ for a job?” inquired Swabbie, squinting at him.
“Well, I... I suppose so.”
“Ye suppose, or ye know?”
Swabbie smirked. “Then I think we may have a job for you. My captain’s in need of a Meerca for his crew. He’s meaner than me, if ye can believe that.”
Deckswabber let out a small laugh at the joke and then smiled. Swabbie blinked, but slowly returned the smile. The two stood there smiling at each other until Swabbie blinked rapidly and muttered, “I should take you to my captain,” before quickly turning away and walking off down the dock. Deckswabber hustled to keep up until they reached the ship climbed aboard.
“Swabbie, I hope you’re only up here because you finished washing off my deck,” growled a crackling voice. Deckswabber’s head jerked up as he suddenly came face-to-face – or rather, face to chest – with a towering Camouflage Krawk. The Krawk glared down at him suspiciously. “And who might this be?”
“This is Hagan, Captain Chauci,” drawled Swabbie, obviously unaffected by the Krawk’s immensity. “Says he’s lookin’ for a job. And I know we been needin’ a Meerca on our crew.”
Deckswabber shrank under the inspecting glare of Captain Chauci. He suddenly did not want to work on the boat any more.
“N-No, that’s okay, I was just–”
“Perfect!” boomed the captain. “You can start working this very day!”
As if on cue, Deckswabber began to feel his skin tingling. Was the potion wearing off already? The timing couldn’t be any worse! He knew he had to get out of there before the morphing potion wore off and he became himself again.
“Actually, I really don’t think this is the place for me,” squeaked Deckswabber, beginning to back away. Swabbie glared at him.
“What’s wrong with it?” she implored, obviously offended. Deckswabber panicked, trying to take back his words.
“It’s not that the ship is bad! It’s just the crew...er, no, not you! I mean the captain...” Captain Chauci’s nostrils flared. Deckswabber’s tale was beginning to become bushy again. “No, I didn’t mean that either, it’s–”
“Ye think I’m a bad captain, eh? Do you even know me at all, lad?” growled the Krawk. Deckswabber panicked even more.
“No, that’s not what I meant to say!” he cried, feeling the hair on his ears growing. He grabbed them in an attempt to hide them.
“Then out with it! Do ye want a job on this ship, or do ye not?” said Swabbie, crossing her arms across her chest and squinting at him. Deckswabber tried to answer, but felt both his arms tingling and looked down to see that the hair on them had turned back to his usual deep blue. He rubbed at them like a mad-man, as if that would somehow make the hair go back to its potion-grey. Unfortunately, Swabbie noticed.
“What is happening to your arms?” she cried, pointing at the now-transformed fur. The captain turned to look just as Deckswabber’s nose stretched out into its original form. His eyes widened and he grabbed the Blumaroo’s arm in a steel grip.
“What sort of trickery is this?” bellowed the captain, shaking the Neopet stuck somewhere between Blumaroo and Meerca. “Are ye a spy? What enemy ship do ye call home? Answer me!”
“I’m not a spy!” cried Deckswabber, attempting to wriggle his arm free. “It’s me! Deckswabber! I’m Deckswabber!”
The Krawk stopped shaking him abruptly and dropped his arm. Deckswabber fell to the ground from the sudden lack of support. As he thudded onto the ground, the rest of his natural appearance rippled through his features, and he was once again a hapless Blumaroo. He couldn’t bring himself to look at either Captain Chauci nor Swabbie – especially not Swabbie.
“Deckswabber?” murmured Captain Chauci incredulously. Confused, the Blumaroo looked up at the captain.
“Yes, sir,” he sighed. “It’s me. I never really left the sea. I’ve been coming here for the entire summer, disguising myself as a Pirate Meerca.”
“They said you had disappeared. Your old captain has long since done so,” mused the Krawk. Deckswabber blinked at him and then looked to Swabbie. She was staring at him with mouth agape.
“I... I guess I’ve been too ashamed to come back to the wharf,” he said, looking back at Captain Chauci. “After that young brat, Scrap, took my one and only job, I didn’t know what to do. It felt like I could never hold a mop again.”
The captain put his hand to his jaw as if puzzling over something. Deckswabber looked back to Swabbie, who had closed her mouth and was now smiling quietly at him. Without a word, she took the mop she held in her hand and held it in front of him. He didn’t know what to do. Captain Chauci noticed, and his eyes lit up.
“I daresay we could use another good Blumaroo to mop up the deck alongside Swabbie,” he said, giving a curt nod of his head. He made a gesture as if he were holding a piece of paper in his hands, and pretended to read from it, continuing, “Your résumé is excellent. I’d say I have no choice but to hire you,” and walked off without another word.
Deckswabber was absolutely speechless. He wasn’t even sure if he was awake, or back in his little hut sleeping peacefully. Did he really have his old life back? Would his namesake be fulfilled once more?
He was broken from his thoughts by a mop waving in his face. Swabbie was still holding out her mop.
“You’re gonna need this,” she grumbled, trying not to look at him. It was hard not to stare. Even though many thought him to be washed up, Deckswabber was famous. She could not deny that she was starstruck.
The other Blumaroo paused, and then slowly took the mop from her. It felt perfect in his hands – the smooth wood, the weight from the dirty water. He felt like he had never left his job. Tearing his eyes from the mop, he trained his eyes back on Swabbie and offered her a small smile.
“Thank you,” he said with genuine gratitude. “I know you didn’t know it, but you got an old-timer his job back. You’ve helped me more than you know.”
Swabbie rolled her eyes and turned on her heel, starting to walk away. Before she got too far, however, she stopped and turned back to look at him. A small smile of her own was breaking through her indifference.
“Just because you’ve done this before doesn’t mean you’re going to be that great,” she said airily, trying to hide the laughter in her voice, then sauntered away.
“I will be great; it’s my destiny,” whispered the Blumaroo, pausing the chuckle at himself. “...or something like that.”