|The Black Spot|
It was a long day. It is still not over. It is 11:43 pm and I have a whole to-do list of items remaining. I will, however, just finish this bit of writing and go to bed. Depending on what I am writing and my mood, I will either sit in my office and write or, when the topic is lighter, sit in front of the TV and multi-task. I had no idea what to write about so I sat in front of the TV and surfed that channels as any good man would do when his mind is a blank.
When I got to Turner Classic Movies, they were just beginning the 1934 Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery classic: Treasure Island. It is early on in the movie, my favorite part where the captain, Billy Bones, is given the black spot by Pew who says "there that's done, that's done." I have always been fascinated by the black spot and how it brought Billy Bones "the captain" to his demise without Pew, Black Dog, and the other bad sorts even laying a finger on him. I have seen this movie like hundreds of times and it was not until tonight, just now, that I realized that Lionel Barrymore played Billy Bones. It was a shame that he only was in the first few minutes of the movie. This explains why I have been so fascinated with that character and, because of his reaction to it, the black spot.
|Barrrymore as Billy Bones|
When I was at Ford Motor, I met my good friend RK Jones. We became great friends and talked about all kinds of things. Somehow, this movie came up, most likely because one of us mentioned seeing it over the weekend and the other said “so did I.” Naturally, we discussed it. I am pretty sure I asked “what is with the black spot?” Naturally, we discussed that but we really didn’t know what was really with the black spot. Basically being adult boys at heart, RK and I used to pass the black spot to each other now and again. He did the best coming up to me and putting a crumpled piece of paper in my hand and saying “there that’s done” in a voice better than old Pew himself.
The internet informs me that the black spot is a literary device invented by Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevensonian pirates used this to inform one of their own that they were judged guilty for some such transaction. The accompanying penalty was usually death. The black spot was just a black spot, an ink splot, on small piece of white paper. It was thrust into the hand of the poor soul who had been judged and sentenced. I was a little disappointed to find out that real pirates did not use this method of... communication.
It is after midnight and I am still at this. Long John Silver has entered the picture and has gotten all his henchmen signed on as the crew of the Hispaniola. They are ready to set sail for the adventures of their lives.
When I was younger, I thought Robert Louis Stevenson was probably the greatest writer ever. Between this tale and Kidnapped, I was amazed and intrigued by the entertaining and engaging intricacies of the plot. The wonders of the internet led me to www.robert-louis-stevenson.org where I learned that Stevenson was a Scotsman born in Edinburgh in 1850 and died in Samoa in 1894 at the young age of 44. I had somehow assumed that he lived a century or two earlier. He wrote thirty-nine books mostly novels along with poems, travelogues, and plays. I had assumed that I only knew Treasure Island and Kidnapped but he also wrote Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
In the writing of this little bit, the ship has reached the island where Flint's treasure is buried. The pirates have shown their hand and taken the ship. I will watch the rest in my dreams. Good night.