Wednesday, January 26, 2005


A Pirate Tale - 15

• Aboard the Arsetilla, somewhere in the Atlantic, Juan Garbonzo commanding:

“Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!”

¡Movimiento! ¡Movimiento! ¡Movimiento!

Two sets of oars sliced through the water as the two sailors from rival ships continued west in the hope of reaching land before running out of food and/or water. Ol’ Chumbucket and Juan Garbonzo, in the longboat stolen from La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza, were in a race against time, and the only prize for winning was staying alive.

“Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!”

¡Movimiento! ¡Movimiento! ¡Movimiento!

• Aboard the Festering Boil, Cap’n Slappy commanding

Sun broke over the horizon as The Festering Boil plowed on its way to Africa – or Brazil, there continued to be some dispute over that question.

“So you see, Dogwatch, that’s the sun rising there, in the direction the ship is pointing,” Cap’n Slappy said to his navigator.

“Aye, that it is Cap’n,” Dogwatch Watts replied. “By my calculations we should be sighting land by evening, and we might be ready to cross the bar into Rio’s harbor by morning.”

“But Rio is in the west, isn’t it?” the ship’s doctor, Sawbones Burgess, chimed in.

“Of course it is. Just look at the chart”

“And the sun rises in the east, and we’re heading towards the rising sun right now, or am I mistaken?” George the Greek concluded.

“Ah, I see the difficulty,” Dogwatch said. “Of course the sun rises in the east – NORTH of the equator. But we’re in the southern hemisphere, and everything is backwards here. You three have been forgetting that. Did you know the Big Dipper isn’t even shaped like a dipper down here? And you can’t even see the North Star or Orion or anything. It’s crazy, I tell you. You have to be quite the world traveler to keep track of such things.”

The captain, doctor and first mate just stared at each other. There really seemed nothing more to say, until Sawbones asked, “Cap’n, exactly how did you come to name Mr. Watts here the navigator?”

“You remember what happened when we made him head gunner,” Slappy said.

“Of course I do,” the doctor said with a shudder. “I’ve never been so busy in my life.”

“Enough then, he’s the navigator,” the captain said. “If he wants to think we’re headed for Brazil, that’s fine, let him think that. As long as we head off Slappista in Africa before he can do anything to harm Chumbucket, Lady Fanny, Mad Sally or those girls. Keeling! I want every man to practice hand-to-hand combat three hours a day beginning immediately.”

“Aye aye, Cap’n,” the ship’s disciplinarian said with his customary enthusiasm. “All hands on deck. And bring your cutlasses!”

“I hope everything is all right with the captives,” George the Greek said, crossing himself with a religious zeal uncommon for pirates.

“It’d better be, or my Spanish cousin will have another sin to answer for, and he’d better pray god has mercy on him, because I sure as hell won’t!”

• Aboard the Arsetilla

“Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!”

¡Movimiento! ¡Movimiento! ¡Movimiento!

• Aboard La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza, somewhere west of the Arsetilla, Lady Fanny in actual command

“Pardon me, Lady Fanny,” Mad Sally asked the mistress, “Would it be alright if we cut down the remains of Senor de la Cruz? He’s been hanging there for almost two weeks, and while the smell has begun to abate, I think the educational value of his demise is fading as well. And he looks like holy hell.”

“Leave him up just a bit longer, Sally dear,” Lady Fanny hissed. “We’ll be in Tenerife tomorrow and I want to make a good impression when we sail into harbor. Besides, after the disappointment he caused me, it makes me happy to see him up there.”

“It makes me sick.”

Mad Sally looked at where the mortal remains of Cedric del la Cruz hung from the yardarm. Fanny had been so angry about the escape of Ol’ Chumbucket and Juan Garbonzo that she hadn’t even waited for the jailer to regain consciousness. Upon hearing the story agreed to the previous night by Sally and the jailed Spanish sailors, she’d enacted her revenge. When Cedric regained consciousness – briefly – he was already hanging in the gibbet cage, which Fanny had had dipped periodically in ocean for effect. It had taken only two days for him to die, but Fanny let him remain in the rigging as an object lesson to other crewmembers, upon whom the moral of the story wasn’t lost, even though for the first few days they’d had trouble keeping dinner down. The titular captain of the ship, Juan Diego de la Mercada y Slappista con Carne, had remonstrated with his lady love, but as he had already tacitly given over all the authority to her in exchange for “services rendered,” there wasn’t much even he could do. That lesson also was not lost on the crew.

Sally had her hands full, riding herd on 50 healthy young ladies of gentle breeding and refined disposition, who were having the time of their lives learning the trade of being pirates. So she left the question of de la Cruz hanging, as it were, and headed below to supervise a seminar on pirate history for the girls.

“Lord,” she said to herself, “They talk about the free and easy life of a pirate, but I’m busier here than I ever was working that bar in Kingston.”

Lady Fanny watched through narrowed eyes as Sally descend below decks, then signaled to one of the schoolgirl pirates standing nearby.

“Go down and keep on eye on her, would you?” she said. “That’s a dear.”

• Aboard the Arsetilla

“Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!”

¡Movimiento! ¡Movimiento! ¡Movimiento!

“No my friend,” Ol’ Chumbucket panted. “I mean I think I’m having a stroke, stroke! Stroke!”

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