Thursday, January 13, 2005


A Pirate Tale - Part 4

“Where’s that Powder Monkey!?” Cap’n Slappy’s voice shattered the din of men preparing for battle. “I’m down here.” Young Gabriel DePaul, a wee orphaned lad of some eight years, said patiently. He was used to being overlooked. “Well, blow me down! Thar ye be, ye wee midget!” “I’m not a midget, I’m just a kid.” Gabriel replied with a sigh. They had this same conversation every time they talked. “Then how’d ye get so short?” Cap’n Slappy inquired. “I didn’t GET short – I’m short because I’m eight freakin’ years old, dammit!” “Don’t cuss, midgets shouldn’t cuss, it’s unseemly.” Gabriel lost his patience at this point of the conversation every time. “I’m not a midget! I’m a kid! A child! A REAL LIVE BOY!” Cap’n Slappy brightened, “Like Pinocchio?” Gabriel sighed deeply. We were almost to the end of this ridiculous ritual. “Yes, like Pinocchio.” “But he was a puppet, not a midget. Are you a puppet, Powder Monkey?” “No.” “So what does that leave us?” Gabriel looked down at his feet; he knew this wouldn’t end until he was as big and tall as Cementhands McCormack. “A midget.” Cap’n Slappy patted him on the head, “Exactly. Well done, lad. Now, powder monkey, let’s inspect these cannons.

As Cap’n Slappy and Gabriel went about the business of inspecting the cannons, Dogwatch had some questions for Ol’ Chumbucket on the quarterdeck. “You know,” Dogwatch began, “The famous Chinese general, Feng Shui wrote in his book, ‘The Arts and Crafts of War,’ that a soldier should, ‘know thou your enemy as thou knowest thyself.’ And Cap’n Slappy would do well to study this Spanish fellow.” “Don Juan Diego de la Mercada y Slappista con Carne is his cousin.” Ol’ Chumbucket replied curtly. “Yes,” Dogwatch agreed, “but have they ever met?” Ol’ Chumbucket looked at him with that, “where were you three minutes ago when we talked about this,” look and asked, “Where were you three minutes ago when we talked about this? They were in a three-legged-race together as children – have you ever been in a three-legged race?” Dogwatch looked down at his leg and his wooden peg – Ol’ Chumbucket looked as well, and softened his tone. “Yes, well, that is … of course, you …my point is, when you are, you really, um … get to – well …know somebody.” Then he sighed deeply. Dogwatch pressed onward. “But do we know what Don Juan Diego de la Mercada y Slappista con Carne is like now? Apart from being a dreadful three-legged race partner, what do we know of him?” Chumbucket looked down on the deck where Cap’n Slappy and Powder Monkey Gabriel were ‘racing’ cannons – like horses pushed by four sailors each– down the port side of the ship. “Think Slappy, only Spanish.” Dogwatch shook his head – “There will be no survivors.” Both men nodded as they watched the race.

Meanwhile, in the Doctor’s quarters below, Sawbones Burgess was removing a sliver from Cementhands McCormack’s right foot. “It is my medical opinion that you wouldn’t get so many slivers if you would wear shoes.” McCormack laughed, “Your medical opinion, eh? And this would be from the school of medical science that you went to in Oklahoma? Or would your desire to confine my feet to footwear rather than letting them go free, the way Nature intended, have more to do with the fact that you are also the ship’s cobbler?” “One hand washes the other.” Burgess replied wryly. McCormack shot back, “Not at the Oklahoma School of Medicine and Fashion.” Just then, Lieutenant Keeling (pronounced LEF-ten-ant) burst in, “Gentlemen, come quickly! Something’s happening!
When the three of them arrived on deck, they saw a group gathered around Cap’n Slappy as he looked through the spyglass that was being held by Spencer the cabin boy. He turned and called up to the crow’s nest, “Good job, Two Patch!” The pirate in the crow’s nest, wearing eye patches over both eyes saluted, in the wrong direction. The Cap’n addressed the crew. “Well, lads, our confrontation will be sooner than we had planned, Don Juan Diego de la Mercada y Slappista con Carne has turned his ship toward us and I can only assume he doesn’t want to catch up on family news since I haven’t received a Christmas card from him in three years – and before that, it was always that long, form-letter note that told boring stories of what the kids are doing and their new cat, ‘Senor Fluffy.’ You know the kind of note I’m talking about don’t ye? - Annoying!” The men grumbled their agreement and disgruntlement about the Christmas holiday and its commercialization – one final voice in the cacophony was heard to exclaim, “I’m Jewish!” “Good for you!” said the Cap’n, supportively.

Music swelled with Cap’n Slappy’s following words; “For ye see, me lads, it matters not if ye be from France or England or Timbuktu!” DuVanna Mutahtu chimed in, “I’m from Timbuktu – AND Jewish!” “EXCELLENT!” Cap’n Slappy emphasized his enthusiasm by giving the air in front of him a sharp uppercut punch. “You see, lads! The main thing is that we are all bound together in a common cause! No matter what part of the planet you are from, I think we can all agree that getting filthy rich is our aim!” The crowd let out a shout of hurrah! One guy yelled, “Huzzah!” but he got dirty looks from the others. Cementhands said, “That’s so – Ren-Faire!” There was a singled muffled, “sorry,” from the group, Slappy continued, “And whoopin’ the Spanish is our game!” Another hurrah went up from the assemblage, followed by, “No, wait, I’m Spanish,” and “So am I,” from Ramon Martinez and Pedro Guttierez. “And I’m half Spanish!” added Karl-Heinz Dominguez. Cap’n Slappy paused for a moment. “Right!” The men watched him think for a long moment. Then it came to him. “Of course, we love our Spanish brethren. And we love our Chinese and Irish brethren!” Wu Chang and Seamus O’Malley yelled, “Woo Hoo!” “But our argument is not with ‘The Spaniards!’ it’s with the RICH Spaniards – like my cousin, who exploits the workers and – wait a minute, is anyone here rich?” Cap’n Slappy waited, Viscount Lowell P. Abecrombe and Lord Patsy Fitch sheepishly raised their hands, “Yes,” Slappy continued, “but you’ve both been disinherited, haven’t you!?” They nodded that they had, then, held each others’ hands for comfort. “Right, I’m getting an idea of how that happened now. Anyway, barring any objections, and if it’s alright with all of you, I’d like to suggest that we kill all of these people who are attacking us and take their money.” Someone in the crowd yelled, “And jewels!” “Yes, AND JEWELS! Can I get an Aye-Aye!?” The men yelled, “Aye-Aye!”

“Then man your battle stations.” “Not all of us are men!” A feminine voice lifted over the crowd. It belonged to Anne Beaumont, but her coming out moment inspired about a half dozen other women to reveal that they were not alone. An exasperated Cap’n Slappy exclaimed, “Oh, now, come on!” “Seriously, Cap’n,” Greta Olsen interrupted gently. “You do need some sensitivity training. Your language is pockmarked with masculicentric heterosexist terminology that bespeaks a lack of evolution on your part.” Slappy took in a deep breath. “Look, if I promise to work on it very hard starting tomorrow, can we please all work together and kill my cousin today?” He waited as the crew talked amongst themselves – first harrumphing then, nodding, finally in full accord, “AYE-AYE, Cap’n!”

“Forty seconds to firing range!” Two Patch called from the crows nest.

“PERSON your battle stations!” Cap’n Slappy called out – then muttered to himself. “This is going to take some getting used to.”

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