Tuesday, January 18, 2005

 

A Pirate Tale - part 8

“LEF-ten-ant KEELING!” Cap’n Slappy bellowed as he stood trembling with rage. The handsome young Lieutenant ran on the double – stopped short and saluted smartly. The martial quality of Lef-ten-ant Keeling’s demeanor took Slappy aback for a moment.

“Nicely done, Lef-ten-ant.” Cap’n Slappy noted. “Thank you – SIR!” came Keeling’s crisp reply.

“Lef-ten-ant, how many men do we have on your flogging list for later today?” the Captain inquired. “Only one, sir, a Mister Lionel “Two-Patch” Goatbloater, sir.” Keeling responded. “Two-Patch?!” Slappy was startled – “What has he done?” “Ogling the lady, sir.” Cap’n Slappy could not hide his confusion, “Two-Patch? Ogling? Lady? – What the devil are you on about, Lef-ten-ant?” Keeling cast his gaze toward the bow of the ship where Cementhands – still resplendent in his finery – was waving delicately with his fingers and pursing his lips in flirtatious gestures toward the men working in that area – when one of them approached him, he would strike him playfully with his parasol. Adding in a high-pitched but strangely sultry voice, “Oh, you! You wouldn’t know how to treat a lady!”

Cap’n Slappy stood stunned, momentarily – dumbfounded, as was his usual state. “A man would have to be blind to …” he had barely spoken the words when all became clear and he and Lieutenant Keeling spoke in unison, “…ergo Two-Patch.”

Slappy broke his hypnotic trance by looking away from the most frightening visage of womanhood-gone-awry that he had ever seen and returned to his conversation with Lieutenant Keeling. “LEF-ten-ant, commute Two-Patch’s sentence to ‘clearing the taffeta from the rudder’ duty and put him in the water immediately.” “Aye-Aye, Sir!” Keeling turned and began to move away, but Slappy stopped him. “LEF-ten-ant!” Keeling turned back toward the Captain and saluted. Once again, Slappy was startled by the formality. “Wow! That is impressive. Now, what was it I was going to say? Ah, yes – ‘Lionel Goatbloater’?”
“Yes sir! That’s his name, sir.” Cap’n Slappy scratched his head – a wave of sympathy poured over him. “Whew!” he exhaled in pain, “That’s a bad name.”
Lieutenant Keeling nodded in agreement, the Captain continued, “If he survives freeing the rudder, offer him an extra ration of grog.

“Aye-Aye, Sir!” Keeling saluted and wheeled around – in a moment, he was tying line to Two-Patch who kept insisting that he would rather be flogged.

Sawbones Burgess had been smoking his pipe just a few feet away. As Lieutenant Keeling walked away, he approached Cap’n Slappy. “Well, that was an impressive display of infortuitous serendipity – what’s Plan B?” Slappy overlooked the sassiness of the good doctor’s remark and called for his cabin boy, “Master Le’ Hammer! – Young Spencer! Come hither, lad!”

“I’m right behind you,” said the boy.

Cap’n Slappy wheeled about with a start – “Yow! Stop doing that!” “Stop doing what?” Spencer inquired calmly. “You know damn well, what! Stop sneaking up on me ye, wee sneak-thief!”

“I wasn’t sneaking,” the boy spoke in his own defense, “I’ve been sitting here since the operation began.”
“Don’t be impudent, boy!” The Captain snapped, “Go and fetch me The Big Book of Brilliant Plans (With Colourful Illustrations for Children) by Lord Sir Admiral Percival Winthorpe Mandrake Tharp.”

Spencer gave a look that showed his lack of confidence in the revered tome, “You mean the same book that gave us the plan that has tangled up The Festering Boil in fancy French fabrics?”

Cap’n Slappy drew in a deep breath and tried to keep his patience, “Keep your ironic alliteration to yourself and just fetch me the book.”

Spencer rolled his eyes and set out for the book.

Sawbones had now been joined by George the Greek and they looked at Cementhands McCormack who had, only moments before, grabbed Dogwatch by the waste and started a conga-line with several of the crew. Their rhythmic refrain of, “We are lousy pirates! We can’t do a plan right!” playfully wafted over the air.

Sawbones commented to the Captain, “We appear to have a crisis of confidence, sir.” Slappy turned thoughtful and observed, “Yes, Doc, we do. Also, they have no sense of timing – I mean, look at them! McCormack is the only one who has any sense of meter and movement whatsoever.”

George the Greek spoke up, “Cap’n, perhaps getting them refocused on the work at hand would increase morale. Also, we need to get McCormack out of his character, before he becomes permanently flamboyant.”

“Yes, but how?” Slappy pondered, “I’ve never seen him so joyful – so free.”

“We have to end the scene.” George the Greek spoke with the clarity that had earned him the title of First Mate. Sawbones and Cap’n Slappy gave him confused, “dumb dog” looks. “You see, most people don’t know this, but before he became a pirate, Cementhands McCormack was a thespian of the first order – from Drury Lane to Broadway, his ability to lose himself in the character and breathe life into the dying art of ‘Theatre’ gave him superstar/matinee idol status everywhere he went. Women swooned, men trembled and small children urinated on themselves when he would pass. He was a god! Tragically, like so many great artists, he had a fatal flaw. Well, in his case, several fatal flaws – being a giant of a man, he could accommodate more flaws than your average sized person – so he collected them.

“Unfortunately, he fell in love with the wife of the son of the most powerful theatre critic in the world, Sir Roger “Give-me-realism-or-give-me-death!” Ebert. One thing lead to another and before anyone could stop it, Sir Roger’s son died of mysterious causes during a pancake-eating contest. McCormack was blamed and the Consortium of Angry Theater Snobs (C.A.T.S) blacklisted him from every stage in the English, French, Italian and Russian speaking world. For a while, he knocked around Japan, doing guerrilla ‘Noh’ Theater, but eventually this proved unsatisfying. He soon became a sumo wrestler and this led, logically enough, to piracy.”

Cap’n Slappy and Sawbones Burgess stood stunned. “I had no idea.” The Captain muttered. Sawbones corrected, “You had ‘Noh’ idea.” “That’s what I am saying,” Slappy shot back, “I didn’t know.” Sawbones saw another opportunity, “You mean you didn’t ‘Noh.’” Cap’n Slappy could hear in the Doctor’s emphasis on “Noh” that he was being had. “Stop punning with obscure references to Japanese theatrical forms! We need to get Cementhands back into pirate mode and we need to chase down my insidious cousin and rescue not only Lady Fanny and the girls but our good friend …” When Cap’n Slappy became anxious, his memory of names was the first thing to go. “… you know who I mean.” “Two-Patch?” Doc Burgess offered – just to confuse things. “No, he’s being ‘tea-bagged’ on the poop.” Sawbones and George the Greek spun toward the stern of the ship where Lieutenant Keeling was taking a bolt of wet taffeta from a soaking Two Patch. They could hear Keeling say, “We’re not done until the rudder is clear of all bridesmaids’ dress-making material.” Then, he lowered him back into the water.

“You are sick, sick bastards.” Slappy observed. “Chumbucket! That’s his name! We must rescue our good friend and cook, Ol’ Chumbucket!”

“First things first.” George said as he marched up to the festive conga line dancers. Dogwatch Watt’s gleeful expression changed as he saw the stony-faced First Mate approach. With almost “party hypnotist-like” intensity, George placed himself bravely in the massive cross-dresser’s path and raised the back of his open hand high above his head. He spoke the word, “And” as his hand was at its zenith, paused, and with a sweeping motion, brought his hand down to his chest and closed it in transit to form a fist. As he did this, he bowed his head and finished with the word, “Scene.”

Miraculously, McCormack transformed from “slutty party girl” to “big man in a dress.” As he looked around, the deck was silent except for the wind in the sails and the splashing and sputtering of Two-Patch off the stern. Suddenly, someone yelled, “Bravo!” and the deck erupted in cheers. George the Greek stepped back and applauded like a proud father while Cementhands mouthed the words, “Thank You,” to him and others. Long-stemmed roses flew in from all sides and several of the crew gathered them up and presented them to the big man who cradled them in his right arm like a baby.

Cap’n Slappy approached him, applauding, “Well done, my friend!” “Did you really like my performance?” Slappy was caught off-guard by the neediness of the question, but recovered quickly. “It was … unforgettable.” “Gosh, thanks.” Cementhands was becoming himself again.

“Well, Cementhands, we’ve got work to do – we seem to have lost track of my evil cousin who has made off with not only the women but our ship’s cook as well.” A look of determination swept across McCormack’s face, “Not Ol’ Chumbucket!” “Aye, one and the same, and without him, we have to eat Doc Burgess’ cooking. Unless you feel up to rescuing him?”
“Just let me change out of this costume.” McCormack spoke with determination – this was a good sign. “Aye, my friend, you just go ahead and slip into something a little more menacing.” Slappy chuckled as McCormack headed off to his makeshift dressing room in the galley but stopped and turned back to the Captain, “Can I keep the feather boa?” Slappy thought for a moment, then nodded, “Sure, big guy – it’ll be all the rage this Fall.”

Lieutenant Keeling was hauling Two-Patch up with the last of the taffeta and Dogwatch was looking at the maps in order to chart a course to intercept the Spaniard. His efforts redoubled when George the Greek turned the map right-side-up.

Gabriel the Powder Monkey came running up the deck to the Captain with the spyglass whose unfortunate discarding had caused so much commotion. The Captain greeted him, “Well, if it isn’t my little midget friend!” Gabriel sighed. Doc Burgess interrupted, “He’s not a midget.” Before he could go any further, Cap’n Slappy corrected himself. “That’s right, they prefer ‘Little People,’ don’t you? You ‘Little Person’ you!” Gabriel rolled his eyes, “Midget’s fine. But Captain, I think you should see this!”

He opened the spyglass and pointed it to the north-east horizon

“Well blow me down! A ship!” Slappy turned the spyglass around and, checking the lens for any phony cut-outs of fake ships, pointed it back toward the horizon. – “and she’s gaining on us.”

Meanwhile, aboard La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza, Ol’ Chumbucket woke up as the Spanish first mate, Don Juan Garbonzo slapped him into consciousness. With swift ferocity, he leaped upon his assaulter, pulled out his boot dagger and held it tight against the Spaniard’s throat. Chumbucket spoke with a thick French accent, “Who is this pig who dares to strike Le Marquise Phillipe’ D’Saucipants?!”

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