Once, William Turner, Senior, had been known as ‘Daddy.’ Not as Bootstraps Bill, or Turner, or traitor or murderer or pirate, but simply as Daddy. Daddy to a small baby boy with large black eyes and hair to match.
Bootstraps Bill had been known as ‘Bastard,’ too. That was what she had called him as he left her house, turning his back forever on the mother of his child. The house was small and crowded, and stank of the fish that he was forced to gut for an income. The sea called to him each day, louder than the wailing of his son. A pirate cannot usually have a lasting relationship – everyone knows that. Bill had no qualms about leaving, despite the cries that assailed his back. “Bastard! You bastard, leaving us alone like this!”
Bill had been lover to many. His son’s mother was not the first, nor the last. She was the only one who had borne a child, and so she was special to him. With curling brown hair and dull blue eyes, Frannie was more homely than those he usually bedded. Still, she was sweet and had a smile that curled like gentle waves about the ankles. Something about her drew Bill – he was not sorry that she was the mother of his only son.
As he rowed, her accusations rang in his ears. “Bastard! You’re a bastard, Bill Turner!” Frannie was one of the few who knew his real name…it had been a gift that he had given her, though at the time she did not know that his name was more valuable to him than any amount of gold.
He rowed to the steady rhythm of her cries, her voice melodic in his memory. He was soothed by the sound of the salty waves smashing against the sides of the boat. As he strained his muscles he could concentrate solely on how good it felt to stretch, the worn wood of the oars burning against his palms. If only there was more wind out, he wouldn’t have to row so hard. He cursed the weather, but not the sea. Oh no, never the sea.
He had been called beautiful. Only once, but the memory burned hotly in his mind alongside the shrieking cries of Franny, that now could be ignited when Bill heard something as simple as a seagull’s call..
“Bastard! You bastard, how can you just leave?”
“You’re beautiful, Bootstraps…your muscles, your hair…your eyes…”
“He’s your son, Bill! He’s your son, for God’s sakes…”
“Can I touch your hair, Bootstraps? Just let me touch it…so soft, so dark, look at how it shines…it looks like the moon on the sea, and your eyes are just as unforgiving…”
“Bastard! You stupid, horrible bastard!”
“Can I touch you, Bootstraps?”
Bill had stared for a moment, remembering what had been shouted at him, the painful accusations that constantly coursed through his blood and pounded in his ears. But for a moment, when that tanned hand carefully cupped his chin, the screaming had stopped. At that moment, all he could think of was one thing: beautiful.
His Captain had called him beautiful.
Captain Jack Sparrow, whom Bootstraps would later betray, called him beautiful. But as he was forced to walk the plank after the mutiny, Sparrow shot Bill a wounded look and scowled, muttering under his breath, “Traitor.”
The mutinous crew had triumphantly pillaged a town that night. Bill had taken women and gold, stolen and plundered, torn and destroyed. As he tore through a large chest of drawers, an elderly woman watched him from a rocking chair by the balcony, too old and feeble to move without help. She had screamed at him as he took the jewelry. “Murderer! Murderous pirate! Get out, get out!”
Bootstraps was not a murderer. However, he had always been one to live up to the names he was called. Bill took her at her word and killed her.
The crew set sail, the boat creaking with the weight of the stolen goods. They left the town behind them burnt and black, ruined for decades. Another ship approached them the next night, an offer too good to pass by. The Black Pearl attacked swiftly, its masts cutting shadows through the silent night. The ship they attacked was a passenger ship, defenseless as a new-born babe. There were several women and men aboard, and five children. As they fired, Bill thought he recognized one of the children.
It’s me, Bill thought dumbly. There, by the mast. It was a young Bootstraps, looking as Bill had at the age of eight. It was his past self, come back to haunt him.
“Bastard!” Frannie screamed in his head.
No, that’s not me, he realized slowly. He caught a glimpse of gold around the boy’s neck, ignoring a member of his crew that was shaking him like a rag doll. That’s my son.
“I’m your father!” Bootstraps roared at the child, fighting to stay on the rail and away from his crewmate’s hands. “I’m your Daddy, Will! Look at me! I’m your Daddy!”
The boy could not hear over the roaring of the cannons and the screams that filled the smoky air. The boy was ushered below deck by an ashen-faced man, along with the other children.
That night, the passenger ship had been successfully destroyed. Though it was a victory, Barbosa never looked the same way at Bootstraps again. Bill began to feel residual guilt eating away at him, like a black, rotten spot in his heart.
You bastard, Frannie growled. You’ve left us!
Beautiful, Jack Sparrow whispered, my beautiful, beautiful Bill. My traitorous serpent, so lovely to behold, so rotten within.
Murderous pirates! The old woman screeched.
Finest leather I’ve seen, Bootstraps! Bill’s master had smiled at him, his hands stained from tanning. Wonderful job. I’m proud of you.
Turner, The pirates chanted, Bootstraps Bill Turner. You’re a traitor, and you will die because of it. If you don’t think like us, you don’t belong with us.
The cannon was better than the voices. Bill was tired…he was so tired.
The match was lit, burning hotly, bright sparks flying so that flesh was singed. The faces of the pirates, the ones that he had once called friends, looked hollow and skeleton in the darkness.
“I sent it to him,” Bill chuckled, half-mad by now, willing to do anything to keep the match from the wick of the cannon. “I sent my share away.”
“Sent what? To who?” Barbosa demanded. “Wait, don’t light the fuse!”
It was too late. The fuse was met by the match.
“I’m his Daddy,” Boostraps whispered.
The noise was deafening.
There was black for a brief moment, before the fire consumed all. And in that moment, Bootstraps Bill smiled. The only thing he could hear was the blast…
…the voices had left him.
Daddy’s coming home, Will.