Devil's ForkBy: Jesse Jacobson
Brotherhood Protectors World
I woke up in a semi-panic, thinking I’d overslept. Luckily, I hadn’t. My ribs were stiff and sore, but they weren’t as bad as the previous morning—a good sign. I’d hurt myself three days earlier saving a jackass who failed to follow my instructions while rafting down a class three white water rapid. He was trying to show off in front of his family and friends by standing toward the front of the raft while I was navigating on choppy waters. The raft bumped a huge rock and over he went, hind end over teakettle as my mum used to say. Idiot. It’s a wonder he didn’t get himself—or someone else, like me—killed.
It was all I could do to keep myself from letting him drown, but my training and programming kicked in and I saved the guy, badly bruising my ribs in the process. The ungrateful bastard then tried to blame me for his stupidity, but luckily, there was a company employee photographing the incident hoping to sell the photos to the passengers later. The evidence was incontrovertible. Bossman cleared me and banned Mr. Jackass from future white-water rafting expeditions.
Because my injuries forced a hospital visit, the Bossman withheld me from rafting for three days. Today would be my first day back at work, just in time to take my position as an expedition guide for the six-day, five-night rafting and camping trip, the highest-paying gig available.
My name is Roger Jolly, but in the Navy, everyone called me Jolly Roger, so named from the skull and crossbones flag which had a long, colorful history at sea.
The most famous flags flown by pirates were all called the “Jolly Roger,” and were adorned with a variety of artwork or often no artwork at all. Records of pirate ships flying Jolly Roger flags go back almost as far as recorded history. The earliest reference is probably of the skull and crossbones flag used not by who you might think of as traditional pirates, but by the Knights Templar, well known for their own pirate-like acts on the sea.
Legend tells the origin of the skull and crossbones. The most colorful story involves a beautiful woman once loved by a Templar but who tragically died in her youth. The day after her burial, the despondent lover crept to the grave, dug up her body and violated it. A voice from heaven—or from hell, depending on which account you read—told him to return in nine months and he would find a son in the tomb. He obeyed the command and opened the grave only to find a skeleton head resting on leg bones. The same voice spoke again commanding him to guard the skull and crossbones with his life, for it would protect him in all future battles. It became the Templar’s symbol for strength, and legend tells stories of how they defeated their enemies by merely showing them the magic head.
The origin of the “Jolly Roger” name is as muddled as the legend itself, but there are several theories. One is the name was an adaptation from the English word “roger”, which basically just means “wandering vagabond.” Another theory is that, centuries ago, a slang name for the Devil was “Old Roger” and a human skull was as good a depiction of the Devil as any.
Yet another theory is that the name came from a misunderstanding or mispronunciation of the name “Ali Raja,” which is what they called Asian pirate captains.
I have no idea which of these legends are true, and I guess it doesn’t really matter. Jolly Roger was a name I embraced to the point of having a large skull and crossbones tattoo on my chest. Today, most people just call me Jolly, though I miss the nickname at times.
I’ve worked for the Mountaineer Expedition Company for the last three years, ever since my discharge from the Navy, where I served for eight years as a Navy SEAL on the underwater demolition team. My expedition supervisor and long-time best buddy is Tommy Jasper but almost no one outside of myself and his mother knows him by that name. His Navy handle was “ToeJam.” I know, it’s not nearly as sexy as Blade, Viper, Maverick or even Jolly Roger. When we first arrived our BUD/S Drill Sergeant saw Tommy’s initials on his duffle bag, written in magic marker. He asked Tommy what the initials stood for.
All he had to do was say his name, Tommy Jasper, but my friend, as you will come to know, is a man of few words, a quiet guy. He froze. When he didn’t answer right away, the Sergeant made up his own name, and it turned out he was a big fan of the movie, Full Metal Jacket. Sarge dubbed him “ToeJam” after a character in the movie and the name stuck. Some people shortened it to just “Toe,” but if you asked anyone who Tommy Jasper was, they’d have no idea who you were talking about.