Wednesday, January 12, 2005


A pirate tale - 3

Cementhands turned to round up the crew, his bellow of "All hands on deck" covering the splash as the two puking pirates fell simultaneously into the water - thereby increasing slightly the remaining pirates' share of the booty while at the same time neatly proving Gallileo's theory that objects (including pirates) of different weights fall at the same rate of speed.

As the crew assembled, their expectant faces turned up towards their leader who, unfortunately, was standing with his back to the rising sun so that the crew had to blink and squint. That made the captain nervous.

"Why are they so shifty eyed?" he muttered to Ol' Chumbucket. "They always look like they're up to something they don't want me to find out about."

"It's your fierce piratical visage I'm sure, nothing to be alarmed about," Chumbucket replied. "So exactly how much are you planning to tell them about this mission? The WHOLE story?"

"Of course. The crew has a right to know what we're getting into."

"Very democratic, I'm sure," Chumbucket said, "But I'd be careful about mentioning the young you-know-whats. The lads have been at sea for three months, and it might create an ... unhealthy stir, if you know what I mean."

"Don't worry," Cap'n Slappy assured his friend. "An unhealthy stir is just what we want from the lads today. Lieutenant (pronounced LEF-ten-ant) Keeling, call the men to order."

"Aye aye sir. Avast, all hands. The captain wants a word with ye. But first, a quick review of the minutes of our last shipwide meeting."

"I think we can dispense with the reading of the minutes," Slappy said, hoping to head off his punctilious junior officer before he got lost in Roberts Rules again.

"But sir, the bylaws of the ship, not to mention the union manual, clearly calls for ... "

"Not now, Keeling! We've got business ..."

"Business more important than following the strict" (he lingered over the word strict, his fingers caressing his favorite cat o' nine tails, which swung from his belt) "Er, strict procedures laid down for the safe operation of the ship? What could be more important than maintaining the discipline" (if he had lingered over the word strict, he positively fondled discipline) "of the ship? As shop steward, I really must pro..."

"No, Keeling!" Slappy shouted.

"Ah, Captain," Chumbucket smoothly interposed. "I move we declare this gathering a committee of the whole, thereby dispensing with the need to read minutes or follow established procedure."

Keeling's eyes registered disappointment, but he knew when he'd been outmaneuvered. The captain faced the crowded deck of pirates.

"All right lads. Ye've all seen those sails on the horizon. We've been chasing those blasted Spaniards since they flew out of Tortuga under our very noses, and by nightfall we should know whether that's them. I've no doubt it is, but we probably should make sure before we sink 'em. In any case, it's time ye knew what this is all about.

"The captain of that ship is none other than Don Juan Diego de la Mercada y Slappista con Carne. Yes," he said as a murmur ran through the sailors. "Yes, I said Slappista. It's me own cousin, a distant relation on my father's mother's side, fourth cousin twice removed, and my sworn enemy. We've been at each other's throats since the family reunion when I was six and he tripped me during the three-legged race. Made no sense, since he was my partner in the race and it cost us the trophy, but that's a different problem for a different time. In the last two years he's sunk more of our pirate brethren than the rest of the Spanish and English navy combined ..."

"I'm sorry sir, but the Spanish and English navy have never combined," pointed out Keeling, thoughtfully.

"Blast it Lieutenant!" shouted Slappy, so cross that he forgot to pronounce it "LEF-ten-ant" and used the more prosaic "LOO-ten-ant," causing Keeling to whimper. "I'm speaking metaphorically."

Sorry, sir. Carry on."

"Thank you." The captain paused, his eyes misting. "Think of the many friends he's sent to Davey Jones and the evil way he's tormented them and the crimp he's put in our own marauding, lads! And the worst was last month. Remember when we sailed into Tortuga? The death and destruction he'd left in his wake? The ruined town, the stench of smoke and death, the fact that he'd taken all the rum and ale!" The crew's angry mutter showed they did indeed remember.

"What you might not know is the most despicable thing he did. I have made it a point to maintain a small boarding school in Tortuga, a charity I privately fund out of the goodness of me heart. Lady Fanny's Home for Wayward Young Lasses of Good Breeding Who Have Fallen on Hard Times and Soda Emporium. Just my own way of giving back something of the debt I owe to the many fine women who have befriended me over the years." At the words "Young Lasses" a few of the crew looked up, a gleam in their eyes, but the captain was still backlit by the bright sunshine, so they turned their faces down again. "None of that shifty eyed plotting of yers, damn your deadlights!" the captain roared. "These are fine young ladies who shouldn't consort with the likes of us. At least, not for free. And that's my point. Spanish Slappy, as the family calls him, has burned the school to the ground and taken everyone of the lasses prisoner, even the headmistresses, Lady Fanny, and her gym teacher, Mad Sally. And those young ladies, I believe, are on that ship on the horizon. And we're going to get them back!"

"To your posts, men! We must save the young lasses from the depredations of that sadistic Spaniard!!!"

The crew roared assent, drowning out Keeling's protest that the word sadistic had not yet been coined as the Marquis de Sade hadn't been born yet.

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