Friday, January 28, 2005


A Pirate Tale - part 18 "Battle Preparations"

As the morning broke, Juan and Ol’ Chumbucket found themselves assuming the roles that seemed to be dictated by their current residence – the officers’ quarters. Jezebel’s crew, it turned out, was a rag-tag collection of young philosophers and adventurers, who wanted to see more of the world and by doing so, breathe in a deeper meaning of “Life” with a capital “L” enclosed in quotation marks.

“Where are your cannons for the shootings at the ships and forts?” Juan asked Jezebel.

“Oh,” she said as she put a finger to her chin and glanced upward. “I know we had some around here at one point, but they just got in the way – so we donated them.”

“You donated them?” Chumbucket wondered aloud, “To whom would one donate cannons?” Being around so many intellectuals had elevated his speech – occasionally he would cast an “arrr!” into a conversation for effect, but even that seemed superfluous.

“To whom else?” Jezebel’s tone was characteristically matter-of-fact and two tones away from off-beat. “To The St. Juniper Orphanage and School for the Arts run by the Little Sisters of Blissful Hygiene at Tugula B’twan on the Ivory Coast.”

Chumbucket and Juan nodded as if they understood. “Of course.” They said in one voice. But Chumbucket quickly broke out of this trance. “But what use would cannons be to Catholic nuns and orphans?” he asked.

“Have you ever tried to mount a production of ‘Hamlet’ without a cannonade finale?”

Both men stared blankly. Jezebel continued, “It’s like engaging in a simile without a comparative differential.”

The men blinked twice – in unison.

Jezebel sighed, “Pointless.”

Chumbucket and Juan nodded as if they understood and added, “ahhh.” Juan, however, was quick to throw off the trance of enlightenment. “But how do you defend yourself from those who would do you harm, Senorita?”

Jezebel feigned fear and quickly produced a fan with which she cooled her face. She spoke in an impeccable, but put on, Southern Gentlewoman accent, “Oh, dear, but whoever would mean to do us harm?”

Her mocking innocence was amusing, but the boys weren’t letting on. “Well, what about pirates?” Chumbucket offered. “Aye-Aye!” Juan asserted.

“No, that’s just ‘Aye’ – as in ‘I agree with you wholeheartedly’ not‘Aye-Aye!’ as in ‘yes, sir, I’ll get on that right away – just after I’ve had my coffee break.’ Do you see the difference?” Chumbucket’s lesson in piratical English was delivered patiently.

“Aye!?” Juan said – and immediately looked at Chumbucket to see if he was correct.

“Very good.” Chumbucket patted his comrade on the back and turned to Jezebel, who watched the exchange with pure delight. “Aye, Miss Jezebel, what would you do if you came across some bloodthirsty pirates?”

“Like you?” The look on her face was one of bliss.

Juan growled and gestured a swing of his fist. “Aye, like us!”

“Very good, Juan!” Chumbucket wanted to be supportive of his friend’s attempts at the Anglofication of his pirate personae. Juan smiled broadly and relaxed his body posture immediately, “Really? You didn’t think the growling was too much?” “Not a bit! It was a lovely growl – bloodthirsty, even!” Chumbucket strongly believed in a ratio of four positive comments for every negative – a standard aboard The Festering Boil. If Cap’n Slappy caught wind of someone being overly negative, he had Cementhands McCormack – the ship’s chief taunter - call that person, “Negative Nelly” for a week – that put them back on the happy track.

Jezebel smiled, “Well, if I should ever come across a pair of bloodthirsty pirates such as yourself, I suppose I would resign myself to your villainous machinations.” She took a pause, “Or, I could dissuade you from your evil intentions by exploring new levels of philosophical thought and inter-social possibility with you in such a way as to form a strong human bond and an alliance of mutual care and respect.”

The two men blinked – twice - in unison.

“Or, I could just cast a charm spell on you.” She was hypnotically charming at this point and the men could only smile. Finally, Ol’ Chumbucket broke free of his smile. “But could we at least teach your crew to fight – in case we are attacked by pirates who are less socially” … he looked for the word, “ … ‘progressive’ than we are?”

“Alright.” Jezebel smiled, “But only if you can find someone who wants to learn how to fight.”


Sally moved carefully past Captain Fanny’s cabin. She was to teach her Natural Sciences section on the eating habits of salamanders to her advanced placement girls in five minutes and was hardly prepared. She watched the girls closely as she had been directed by Lady Fanny – but not for the purpose intended. “It must be discovered,” she thought to herself, “if any of them still have a mind of their own – and any sort of moral compass.”

With great ferocity the door of Lady Fanny’s cabin flew open and she dashed to the open deck of the ship screaming, “All hands to battle stations!”

Sally had come to enjoy the battle drill – it put her at the greatest distance from her former mentor, Lady Fanny, than at any other time in the day. She headed for the galley where she set up her makeshift hospital to tend to make-believe injuries.

The dark fog that had held them in an eerie grip since the evening of the carnage had only lifted slightly leaving cave-like openings of vision. The crew on deck could see that a ship was very close off the port bow. Had this new ship been hunting La Herida que Filtra de laCabeza, their journey would have been at an end.

Lady Fanny waved excitedly at the ship. It was called, strangely enough, Lady Fanny’s Dagger. The captain of The Dagger, was none other than Bastiaan “The Bastard” Slotemaker – the most notorious and callous Dutch pirate ever. Whereas most Dutch people are meticulously polite, Slotemaker almost went out of his way to say thoughtless things or fail to introduce mutual friends at parties because he couldn’t remember their names. That’s the kind of bastard he was.

When they were close enough, she directed one of the sailors to cast a mast line across to Bastiaan, who, with full swashbuckler aplomb, swung from the deck of his ship to within six inches of where Lady Fanny was standing. He took her roughly in his arms and kissed her hard on the mouth. She swooned – momentarily, but fearing that her bliss would be seen as weakness, she quickly regrouped. “Bastiaan, my darling! Everything is going as we planned. How are things on your end?” She reached around and groped his piratical arse.

“All things are in a full state of preparedness.” As he spoke, he gestured to all sides of the ship where they were surrounded by four fully armed frigates. In addition to Lady Fanny’s Dagger she could see; Death’s Folly, The Kill Joy and a particularly menacing ship called, Duckier Than Thou.

Duckier Than Thou?” Lady Fanny’s question was rhetorical, but Slotemaker responded. “We haven’t re-Christened it, yet.”

“It can wait.” Lady Fanny was a woman on a mission. “We have mischief to do.”

“And an armada with which to do it!” Slotemaker was missing her hint.

“Yes, my love.” She kissed him full on the mouth – she was determined to get him back on track. “But first things first.” She took him by the hand, led him to her cabin and closed the door as his pirates took possession of the ship – and the remnants of its original crew.


“That’s a Portuguese Man O’ War, Cap’n!” Lieutenant (pronounced lef-TEN-ant) Keeling was insistent.

“A jellyfish?” Cementhands McCormack had just joined the men who were looking through a spyglass that young Spencer was holding for the Captain. Slappy backed away from the spyglass and gestured for Cementhands to take a look. “That would be a particularly nasty jellyfish, my friend.” The ship they were looking at was about twice the size of The Festering Boil – with twice the guns. After looking through the glass for a moment, McCormack stood back up and his eyes became as large as saucers – “Ooo – that’s a STINGY kind.” Nobody was sure that he wasn’t still talking about the jellyfish.

Sawbones Burgess chimed in, “You know, the jellyfish by that name is the deadliest jellyfish in existence and its venom is …”

“Belay that science lesson, Doc!” Slappy took the spyglass from Spencer, and looked again. Then, he checked the lens end of the spyglass for a cut out of a Portuguese Man O’ War with a raised eyebrow in his cabin boy’s direction. Seeing none there, he looked again. Sure enough, through a break in the fog he could see movement on the deck of the ship – African men and women in chains being exercised on deck for a few minutes before being stuffed back in the ship’s hold.

“It’s a slaver.” Slappy collapsed the spyglass dramatically – it, once again, pinched his hand. “Het stinken de Geur van de Kaas! – That hurts!”

Slappy shook it off as quickly as he could. “Men!” He glanced around and remembered the female members of his crew, “And Women!” And with a glance at both Spencer the Cabin Boy and Gabriel the Powder Monkey he added, “and boy – and you, too, midget.”

Gabriel seethed.

“How do we feel about slavers?” he asked the crew.

As one, they responded, “We HATE slavers!”

“And what do we do to slavers?” he sounded like an evangelist at a tent meeting and his congregation responded in kind.

“We relieve them of their cargo!”

He looked around and suddenly was struck by something. The Festering Boil was never much of a ship, really – so he kept four longboats on deck. Slappy’s crew never numbered more than sixty – so if the ship went down, the four boats would be more than enough to spare all of their miserable lives.

“But what if the boats launched an assault?”

They talked and prepared until nightfall. This was a “do or die” mission – but one that would serve as a test when they finally caught up to Slappista.

“The Slaver has made no evasive action,” Slappy told his crew in a hushed tone as they approached her in the fog, “we move in fog and darkness – silently. They will outnumber us by as much as four to one, but we will have surprise on our side and as even a child can tell you, – a child can tell you … uh …” Slappy seemed a little lost.

Gabriel spoke up, “Surprise is the great equalizer.”

“Exactly!” Slappy pointed at Gabriel with great approval. “Well, if a child can’t tell you, certainly a midget can. Mount up, everyone – and remember the plan.”

“I’m not - !”

“Shhhh.” Slappy cut Gabriel’s argument off, but turned to him and Spencer while the crew loaded themselves into the long boats. “Now, Powder Monkey, as the only adult left aboard The Festering Boil, I am leaving you in charge as temporary captain.” Gabriel smiled broadly.

Now it was Spencer who was disgruntled, “He’s only eight …” Slappy finished for him, “ … inches tall, I know – but he’s the adult and what he says, goes.” He turned to the grinning Gabriel and whispered, “His bed-time is nine-thirty but if he’s behaving himself, he can stay up until midnight.” He shook Gabriel and Spencer’s hands and turned toward the boats. “Oh, and we left Two-Patch here somewhere – but he’s useless in this kind of fight – because, … well … you know.” Slappy covered both his eyes with his hands – as if the boys wouldn’t get it, but added in an odd way that sounded factual, “I think he’s up in the crow’s nest.”

Silently, the four longboats bore down on the Man O’ War. For all of his foibles as a navigator, Dogwatch was the master of the grappling hook and he landed it at the back of the ship with no more sound than a seagull perching on the mizzenmast.

Within moments, the bulk of the crew were aboard their target and the Portuguese night watch on the deck had been dispatched.

Slappy’s blunderbuss was locked, cocked and loaded as were his brace of pistols. His sword would only be used if all else had failed.

One of the Portuguese officers had taken one of the women from the hold and was going to have his way with her on deck, but as they opened the hatch, she screamed at the sight of these strange men and women standing where there was supposed to be no one. She broke free from the officer and ran directly toward Cap’n Slappy who caught her in his left arm as he leveled his blunderbuss toward the officer with his right hand.

The officer fumbled for the penny whistle around his neck, but George the Greek quickly plunged a dagger into the back of his skull. His body slumped to the deck below.

“So much for surprise.” Lieutenant Keeling observed as he readied himself, sword in hand, next to Cap’n Slappy.

The sounds of men mustering and rushing toward the upper deck could be heard and Slappy passed off the young woman to a female shipmate saying, “Find someplace safe for her – it’s about to get messy.”

The door burst open as five Portuguese sailors with swords charged the pirates. Slappy’s blunderbuss roared to life and the five were quickly mowed down.

“Save some for the rest of us!” McCormack bellowed as the fight began in earnest.

“With pleasure, my friend.” Slappy replied grimly.

Killing was never Slappy’s favorite part of pirate life – sometimes, however, it was a necessary evil. The battle was fully engaged and the outcome was, as it always is, in doubt.


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