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The Story of a Flaming Falsehood

"Falsify my ship's log, Doctor? You permit yourself strange liberties with that suggestion."

"And yet it must be done, Jack."

"Must? Must?"

"Listen, Jack. I find I have put it badly. But I speak under orders."

"Wait." Jack's horse, sensing his fury, had begun to fidget under the hot sun. "Damn you, sir," he said to the horse. "Come to obedience."

A boy by the side of the dusty road called out to him: "Better get a good grip on them reins, sailor. Crow-hopping ain't innit."

"Stop playing there on the ground, Jack, and get back on your horse. Your back is certainly not broken. I've been falsifying your logs for over a year, starting early in 1813, that annis mirabilis. What I write in them will be vital to your good name hundreds of years from now."

"Nonsense, Doctor. Has the sun got your blood a-boiling?"

"Well, Jack, since you doubt me so, I must tell you that according to our logbook -- our official logbook, Jack -- Surprise, bless her, is just off the coast of Sumatra, sailing by and large with a sweet wind from directly astern three points off the starport bow, and not here in this hellhot swampy place at all."

"Go back to the ship, Doctor. You're not well." Aubrey lifted his voice. "MacDuff, MacBeth, MacHeath, McDonalds, take the doctor back to the ship. He is stricken by the heat and the humidity of this awful place."

"Aye aye, sorr."

"Jack, Jack, let me tell you..."

"There's not a moment to lose, Doctor. You can tell me all about it tonight after I carry out my orders."

Later that afternoon, the afternoon of August 24th in the year 1814, Maturin wrote the counterfeit log of Surprise, stating that she was sailing in tranquility through the pirate-infested Sulu Sea. He regretted the need to falsify the position of the ship by nearly half a world; he regretted even more deeply the need to falsify the dates: "We must still remain, it appears, in the nearly everlasting year 1813, for all love," he muttered to himself. "But our hoped-for gentleman of the future may never notice how I have mulcted days from 1814 so that we may seem to have had time for our falsified circumnavigation."

Finishing the false log entry, he placed it in one of the secret compartments of the bookstand-washbasin-music rack that Diana had given him. Later, reaching London, he would hand the entire counterfeit log to Sir Joseph Blaine to be hidden in the attic of Malahide Castle (behind the croquet mallets) where it was to be presumed that some future scholarly writer would find it.

Boswell's Journals, as all the world knew, were hidden in that very place; those magnificently lecherous Journals would no doubt attract gentlemen (or ladies) of the far-off twentieth century; those gentlemen (or ladies) would come upon the doctored logs of Jack's voyages; they would happily mutter of serendipity, they would publish them, perhaps as fiction; Jack's reputation would be saved: nobody would ever knew what he and the crew of Surprise were actually doing at that very moment.

Burning the White House.

© 2000 Charles Muñoz