I won’t be back in time for Jack’s birthday. I’m really sorry about it, but there was nothing I could do; you see, I got caught up at the docks. It’s a dangerous journey back from the cape to the mainland, and many a captain’s found himself between a rock and a hard place, and also underwater.
I was quite keen to return in one piece. I think my uni-piece-ularity is quite an attractive quality, and so I wanted to find the best crew that I could; a captain who was strong, a captain who was clever, a captain with fire in his hair and wind in his veins... but apparently ships don’t usually have three captains. In any case, my money could only pay for one man. So I walked along the dock in hope of finding a passage home, the captains doing their best to attract my attention. They leant provocatively against the figureheads of their ships, batting their false-lashes, one be-fish-netted leg forward on a coil of rope. The captains had rather misunderstood the fashion, and wore actual fishnets on their legs, the occasional half-dead albacore and six-foot marlin protruding from below the knee.
As I walked, I spotted a farmer standing over a fox, a chicken, and a bag of grain. “Are you okay?” I called. He looked relieved to see me.
“I have a problem,” he said “You see, I’ve got to take this fox, chicken, and bag of grain to market, and I can only fit one of them in my boat at a time. If I leave the fox and the chicken, or the chicken and the grain, alone, nature will take its course.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Why are you taking a fox to market?”
“I erm, well I. I hadn’t really thought about it. I wrote myself a note and left it on the fridge, so I just assumed it was something I had to do.”
“And another thing...”
“Do you go to market often?”
“Every other Sunday.”
“Do you think you ought to get a bigger boat?”
“Size isn’t everything.”
“Even so, you should be able to carry more than one thing. Who says that the other two items will still be here once you finish taking the first across. I mean, the fox would just wander off, wouldn’t it?”
“I could tie it down...”
“If you can tie it down, why is it a problem to leave it with the chicken?”
“Well, I –“
“- Besides, if you leave a bag of grain on its own, someone’ll take it. Do you normally abandon it at the side of the docks?”
“Now that you mention it, it usually fits in the boat.” His eyes widened as the realisation hit him. “This isn’t my boat!” Now that I looked more closely, the object gently bobbing in the water in front of us was not a boat, but an upside-down umbrella. The farmer reached out and took the handle, then bent down and scooped the chicken and the bag of grain under either arm. As he walked away, he shouted back to me “You can keep the fox”. So although I’ll be late to Jack’s party, I’ve got the present sorted.