Saturday, January 15, 2005


A Pirate Tale - part 6

“Brilliant!” Cap’n Slappy exclaimed. “Ol’ Chumbucket, ye’ve done it again! – Cementhands McCormack is just the man to tell us what the plan is! He’s a qualified and gifted tactician of the first order!” Ol’ Chumbucket tried to interject, “Beggin’ the Cap’n’s pardon …” But Cap’n Slappy soldiered on, “I remember the time …” with this, he began stroking his beard near the chin and glancing upward.

“Cap’n Slappy, may I have a word - ?” Chumbucket tried again to interrupt.

“What am I doing?” Cap’n Slappy spoke to his good friend as if speaking to a child. “But sir!” Ol’ Chumbucket gave one last half-hearted attempt to intervene. He knew where this was going and it wasn’t going to be pretty.

Cap’n Slappy’s kindergarten teacher voice became even more patient and condescending, “What am I doing, everybody?”
“You’re having a flashback.” All responded in unison – including Ol’ Chumbucket.

“That’s right, and when Cap’n Slappy strokes his beard at his chin and looks upward what do we all do?”

The chorus answered, “We all do the same.”

“Exactly! Excellent! Shall we continue?”

Chumbucket sheepishly raised his finger, but Cap’n Slappy raised his eyebrows, and that was the end of the discussion.

“But what if you don’t have a beard?” Spencer asked, innocently enough.

Cap’n Slappy grabbed a bilge rat that was sleeping on top of Cementhands’ head and handed it to the boy. “Here, hold this by your chin and stroke it – and don’t forget to look upward! Now, where was I? Ah, yes – I remember it as if it were only yesterday …”

“Ouch! It bit me!” Spencer was bleeding from the chin and held the rat at arms length.

“Oh, don’t be such a baby!” Lef-ten-ant Keeling admonished.

“Well I don’t see a beard on your chin, Lef-ten-ant! Perhaps you should have to hold ol’ squeaky here up to your chin!” the boy spoke through pain.

“ENOUGH!” Cap’n Slappy bellowed through the fracas. He moved quickly to the table where they had been dining earlier and removed two sprigs of parsley from two plates and handed them to Spencer and Lef-ten-ant Keeling. “Here. Beards. Stroke.” He wheeled around and returned to his story-telling stance next to the sleeping McCormack. He raised his eyebrows again with a questioning dare to the assemblage.

“Is everybody comfortable? Are there any noses I need to blow before we proceed with the flashback? Anything?”

Chumbucket began to raise his hand again, but Slappy nipped it in the bud. “Not you.”

“Alright. If I may proceed … I remember it as if it were only yesterday …” Everyone in the room looked up and stroked either their beards or their parsley – Cap’n Slappy dropped his eyes for a moment to make sure that they were of one accord. Then, he continued.

“We were performing a rescue mission. My good friend and drinking buddy, Sir Nigel Blackheart, had been reported to be captured by the evil Sir Jasper de Gastard and held against his will; tied desperately to a beautiful young woman of questionable reputation. Due to the distractive nature of flying fish and some questionable navigation skills on the part of our navigator – Mr. “Dogwatch” Watts –formerly known as “Wrong Way,” we ended up off the French coast at a fort near Cherbourg. Our ‘Plan’ was to attack forts, one by one at random until we discovered which one held Sir Nigel and the girl and we figured that this one was as good a place to start as any.

As it turned out, this fort was defended by some particularly ruthless Frogs who used an ancient catapult to fling our spies – as human projectiles – toward our line of assault. This incident lead to the brilliant policy change that forbade spies from wearing the whimsical “I (heart) Spying” t-shirts and pins. The siege was going poorly until Cementhands, this brave, heroic man you see – and hear – sleeping before you decided that enough was truly enough and he attacked the fort armed with naught but his intestinal fortitude and his soup spoon. As he charged, cannon balls exploded to his left and right – one man even swears he saw Cementhands swat a cannon ball away – like a fly! He crashed through the gate alone – as we all stood dumbfounded. We were unable to move as the sounds of men in agony wafted over the field toward our lines. Wounded French soldiers drifted out of the fort waving white flags and holding their genitals, crying, ‘Ah, non ! Pas la cuillère de potage !’ and ‘Le géant avec la cuillère nous détruira tous !’ others could only utter a single word, ‘Cuillère !’ Normally, we just kill all the prisoners, but these men truly had had enough. Our victory that day was due to the brilliant plan of Cementhands McCormack – and now, I think we should wake him and ask what our next move should be.”

Cap’n Slappy looked at his officers – all of whom were still stroking their beards and/or parsley and looking upward. “Alright, men, the flashback is over. It’s time to wakey, wakey our sleeping giant.”

“But sir,” Dogwatch intervened, “Cementhands didn’t plan the attack on the French Fort. He got stung by a bee and went straight into Berserker mode.” “It wasn’t a bee, it was a wasp.” Lef-ten-ant Keeling offered his correction. “I heard it was a scorpion.” Spencer noted. “There are no scorpions on the French coastline.”– Sawbones Burgess noted for the record. “Look!” George the Greek interrupted – “the point is that responding violently to a stinging insect OR arachnid (his self-correction cutting Sawbones Burgess off) is not a sound substitute for a plan. We all love Cementhands for being the violent, impulsive yet lovable and surprisingly graceful lug that he is, but who in the name of eternal gaseous combustible hell-fire thought he would be the one to come up with The Plan?!”

All eyes re-fixed on Ol’ Chumbucket. “Oh, is it my turn? May I speak now?”

Cap’n Slappy’s eyebrows were in the fully upright position. “I think you’d better.”

“When I pointed out that we would need the help of our snoozing friend, here,” now Chumbucket spoke – as if to mentally retarded children, “I meant that we would need to wake him in order to gain access to his comfortable seat cushion.” The Cap’n and his officers squatted down as one to see what object Cementhands McCormack had chosen for his comfortable perch. They all recognized it immediately.

It was a book – but not just any book. It was the only book ever written that came bound as a floatation device. They spoke in amazement as one.

“The Big Book of Brilliant Plans (With Colourful Illustrations for Children) by Lord Sir Admiral Percival Winthorpe Mandrake Tharp.”

“It’s got pictures and everything!” Dogwatch observed with near holy reverence.

“Aye lads. It’s a book as well as a life ring. A brilliant bit of marketing for the sea-faring demographic.” Cap’n Slappy spoke in a hushed tone. “Only one problem remains.”

“That’s right,” Ol’ Chumbucket picked up the stream of consciousness and continued with it – “and we can’t even use the book for this one.”

“How do we wake Cementhands McCormack without incurring bodily injury?”

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