Tuesday, January 25, 2005


A Pirate Tale - part 14

With Ol’ Chumbucket and Juan Garbonzo safely away, Sally knew that there would be sharp questioning for the men left behind so she needed a scapegoat – somebody who could be blamed for the escape without bringing unduly harsh retribution to the spiting hombres. As luck would have it, the keeper of the night’s watch was a particularly loathsome devil by the name of Cedric Del La Cruz. As was his custom, he accosted the young ladies with cat calls and drunken whistling. Young Bridget barely escaped his manhandling as she left the hold to serve as decoy to the jailbreak.

“You could call me an International Ladies’ Man!” he muttered in his broken English that reeked of tequila, “For I have the Russian Hands and Roman Fingers!” He then groped her body.

Bridget had had enough, “And you have a Jewish head.” This confused the drunken sot – and he told her so. “A Jewish, head? How do you mean, Jewish head?” Before he could even finish his question, she had delivered a devastating head butt that she had learned as a child from a dear friend of her mother’s – Cap’n Slappy.
“Don’t Jewish you hadn’t messed with the wrong girl?”

His unconscious body slumped down the stairs into the brig. Bridget followed with Sally close behind.

With her blood going, Bridget added insult to injury by spitting on Del La Cruz’s face – this was met with approving applause by the hombres who followed her spit of disgust with a chorus of their own expectorated projectiles.

“He is a very bad man!” one of the men said. “He cheats at cards.” Another man joined in. “Also, he is very flatulent and never asks for pardon – don’t you think that’s rude?”

“Yes, very.” Sally agreed. Now men, when they ask you about the other men escaping, just tell them that this poor bastard here got drunk and let them out to cheat them at cards. They jumped him and got away while you all slept – are we clear on this?”A chorus of “Si Senora,” came from the dark cage.

While this was going on, Ol’ Chumbucket and Juan Garbonzo were rowing away from the ship as quickly as they could. They wanted to put as much distance between themselves and The Seeping Headwound as was possible before daylight.

“So,” Garbonzo began awkwardly, “What was your job on The Festival Bowl?”

Ol’ Chumbucket corrected his new mate, “It’s actually, The Festering Boil – and what do you mean by ‘job’?”

“Oh, you know. I was the First Mate aboard La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza – just a heartbeat away from being El Capitan – and now you and I are, how you say, in this up to our nipples in the same shoe. And I am wondering aloud to myself and everyone else who will listen, who is the Capitan of our Shoe?”

“I think you are looking for the word, ‘Ship,’ my friend.” Chumbucket assured him.

“Si, ship.” Juan returned quickly to his question. “So, which of us should be Capitan.”

Chumbucket smiled and nodded; his ambitions didn’t include being the captain of a doomed two-man boat. “I think you should be Capitan, and I shall be your first mate and ‘ideas guy.’ Come to think of it, I guess that is my job aboard the Festival Bowl – I mean, Festering Boil – I’m an ideas guy – I have ideas.”

Juan Garbonzo’s eyes welled up with tears. “You honor me. And as Capitan of this ship – what shall we call it?”
Chumbucket just shot out the first thing that jumped into his mind because he was feeling it on his bottom. “The Surprisingly Painful Sliver.”

“Sliver? What is this Sliver of which you speak? My English does not know this ‘Sliver’.” If Garbonzo was going to take command, he wanted the ship to have just the right name.

Chumbucket stood up, dropped his trousers and after a few moments of confusion as to what he was showing his new comrade, managed to make the sliver clear in the moonlight and with rattlesnake-like speed he extracted it from his new first mate’s arse.

“Ah! Astilla!” Garbonzo seemed delighted at the name – but Chumbucket was inspired anew.

“The Arsetilla!” Chumbucket chuckled to himself.

“You are right, Senor Chumbucket!” Capitan Garbonzo said with great self confidence and swagger, “You are the guy with the ideas. And as Capitan of the Arsetilla, I will endeavor to not bring you down.”

As they rowed off under the moonlight, Garbonzo asked, “How long before we die of exposure?”

“Two three weeks tops.” Chumbucket answered matter-of-factly, “But I wouldn’t worry, we’ll go stark raving mad long before that.”

That same night aboard The Festival Bowl – I mean, Festering Boil – Slappy couldn’t sleep – and when Cap’n Slappy couldn’t sleep, neither could the youngest members of his crew.

“Lad – and midget,” Gabriel winced at Cap’n Slappy’s continuing misconception about his stature, but he quickly dismissed it. Slappy continued, “When I was a lad of only twenty-three – about your age, I think, Powder Monkey.”

Gabriel couldn’t stop himself. “That would be right if you subtracted fifteen years.”

“You’re forty-eight?!” Slappy was truly surprised by this, “I didn’t think midgets lived that long outside the circus –“ Slappy thought he might be going down that road where somebody might get offended, so he quickly turned it into a positive. “I must say, you look absolutely and eternally youthful! – Even ‘child-like’ if I may be so bold to say so.”Spencer made himself comfortable for the conversation that was about to take place.

“Cap’n Slappy, sir,” Gabriel began with a sigh, “I look ‘child-like’ as you say because I AM a child. I am a child of eight years and not a midget. I have never been a midget and God willing, I will never be a midget.”

Cap’n Slappy stiffened his smile and gave the boy a hearty slap to the shoulder. “Well, with that kind of thinking, Mister, you’ll never be much of anything.” Like all his chidings, he kept his tone whimsical and the message to the point. “Even a middle-aged midget such as yourself who must be near-death because he is outside his natural habitat – the circus – and smokes far too many cigars – “ Spencer snatched the cigar out of Gabriel’s hand and smoked it himself. “ – can be anything he wants to be if he puts his mind to it.”

Gabriel stared blankly at the Captain, “Can I be a whale?” he asked without a giggle – although Spencer provided a laugh-track.

“Now that’s just silly – and I had a very nice story for you about a pair of long lost brothers. But if you insist on being childish – “

“But that’s what I am trying to tell you! I am a – “ Gabriel was cut off by Cementhands McCormack who was back in his “man” clothes – although accessorizing nicely with the pink feather boa.

“Beggin’ the Cap’n ‘s pardon – but did ye not say we were bound for Rio?” Cementhands inquired eagerly.

“Aye, Mister McCormack that I did.” Cap’n Slappy nodded toward Spencer as if to say, “That’s how a Captain answers a question, lad.”

“And this Rio of which I speak, Cap’n – is it the same as the Rio that is in Brazil?”
Cementhands continued. A look of concern grew across Slappy’s face.

“Aye, Mister McCormack – THAT Rio, sure.”

“The one with the girls what play beach volleyball by day and give sailors the ‘bouncy-bouncy’ by night?” McCormack pressed

Slappy covered Gabriel’s ears and whispered, “Not in front of the M-I-D-G-E-T.”

“Just to be sure, Cap’n, and by no means meanin’ no disrespect, but if we was to set for Brazil, wouldn’t we want to be movin’ south?”

Slappy gazed upward at the stars – he knew something was wrong. As he watched, a creeping fog began to obscure his view.

“Aye, Cementhands,” Cap’n Slappy began to see the picture more clearly. “South would be the optimal way to go. Although I wouldn’t want to stifle our navigator’s sense of creativity now, would I?””Not a bit, Cap’n.” The big man was clearly onto something. “Not even if that particular brand of creativity took us to Rio by way of the Canary current.”

Slappy took in a deep breath and on the exhale simply said, “Wrong Way Watts.”

“Ah! Beggin’ the Cap’n’s pardon once again, sir,” Cementhands corrected, “We calls him ‘Dogwatch’ now.”

“Well, my friend, the dog that was watchin’ appears to be blind. And instead of the tropical shores of South America, it appears we are destined for a quick stopover on the steamy shores of Africa. Both fine places in their own right, to be sure, but only one of them plays host to Slappista’s Home Port. Can you guess which one of those it would be?”

Cementhands gave what appeared to be far too much thought to the question but finally answered, “Brazil?”

“Right.” Suddenly, Cap’n Slappy remembered a trick that his brother used to play on him when they were children. It involved fake treasure maps left where young Mortimer would find them – these maps invariably lead directly to spiked bear pits, quicksand or off the edge of cliffs. He even began to think that Percival had allowed him to take the scotch as well – but he quickly put that out of his mind as being too horrible a thought.

“Right!” His voice was more determined than ever.

“Then Africa it is – just after a quick stop at The Canary Islands.” He clapped his hands once hard and turned to go to his cabin. As he walked away, he added,
“Give Dogwatch an extra ration of rum on me – Good night, gentlemen and midget.” And as he strolled away, he sang some song which included the words; “don’t ever change.”

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