Tuesday, February 01, 2005


A Pirate Tale - part 20 "Amigos"

Cap’n Slappy was breathing hard. “Portuguese Slaver Captains don’t split as easily as they used to – when I was young – (he took a deep drink from the wineskin that Doc Burgess handed him and sputtered as pulled it away from his lips) – This isn’t wine! It’s water!” He spat it out with force.

Sawbones scolded, “Yes, it’s water, dammit! You don’t drink enough water and that’s why you’re fat and out of shape! – There, I said it.” He winced as he waited for Slappy to cut him in half.

Slappy laughed, “You’re right, Doc. I need to take better care of myself.” He looked around the deck at his crew and the freed prisoners. “We must all take better care of ourselves from now on, my friends.” The crew of the Festering Boil laughed. The African’s also laughed, but it was more about being free and not wanting to make their rescuers feel silly for laughing alone.

A large, handsome man holding a Portuguese cutlass dripping with blood stepped forward and spoke directly to Cap’n Slappy. His language was a mystery to the Captain, but as he gestured toward Spencer, it was clear that he was praising the young man’s courage and quick thinking.

“He says he is the chief or king – it’s all the same word in this dialect – of these people and he wants you to know that your ‘son’ fought well – and that he will someday make a great king – or chief.” Dogwatch interpreted as the king spoke.

Slappy was stunned by Dogwatch’s ability to translate – although he knew Dogwatch had traveled extensively throughout the world and had written a substantial tome on the subject of cultural eccentricities. Dogwatch offered this explanation. “I was cared for by missionaries in my early teens when I had a bout with malaria. I can converse in many tribal languages.”

“We don’t pay you enough, do we?” Slappy observed. He gestured for Spencer to come to him and as he spoke, he smiled broadly for his new and well-armed African friends to see, “I thought I told you to stay aboard The Boil with the midget and Two-Patch?” His voice was cheery and he patted Spencer on the head, “Son, we’re going to have a long talk about this with your Mother, Lef-TEN-ant Keeling, when we get home. Now, just smile and nod.” Spencer did so. The Africans rushed to him and touched his head in a token of gratitude– most of them pulling out hairs – this nearly left the boy bald.

Slappy rescinded his threat of punishment. “Let that suffice as your lesson, Baldy.” Cap’n Slappy observed, “No good deed goes un-punished.”

With Dogwatch acting as interpreter, Cap’n Slappy assigned George the Greek and Lef-TEN-ant Keeling as well as Dogwatch and ten other experienced crewmen to man the Man O’ War which they re-christened, Chumbucket’s Charge. Most of the Africans would stay aboard her, but Slappy invited the King, whose name was, Kimoni and his entourage of fifteen to join him aboard The Festering Boil. The hope was to reach the Canary Islands in two days time and find some way of conveying them all safely to their homeland.

The two ships sailed side by side, no more than fifty yards apart. Lef-TEN-ant Keeling taught the African crew how to fire the cannon’s on the starboard side – away from The Festering Boil. Everyone hoped it would be a skill they wouldn’t have to use, but Keeling thought preparedness was the order of the day. Cementhands McCormack served likewise with King Kimoni and his men – all of whom proved to be natural gunners. As evening approached, singing wafted over the waves from the Chumbucket’s Charge to the Festering Boil. The call and response singing was accompanied by dance and story telling. King Kimoni recruited both Spencer and Gabriel in the dancing. The boys didn’t know it, but it was a great honor to dance with the warriors.

“Midgets are natural born dancers, ye know.” Slappy observed.


Meanwhile, the loss of the Duckier Than Thou, meant that living conditions aboard the other three ships were going to be a bit cozier.

“I have to kill something or I shall go mad, my darling!” Fanny complained bitterly to Baastian.

“Look! A small ship!” Baastian looked through his spyglass, he could see a priest and some nuns on board along with some rather emaciated-looking sailors. “Oh, never mind, it’s just missionaries.”

Lady Fanny ripped the spyglass from her lover and eagerly gazed in the same direction. “Missionaries.” She groaned in a wickedly low voice, “I hate missionaries.”


As night fell on the Sea Witch, Ol’ Chumbucket and Juan Garbonzo were not able to sleep. At least Juan wasn’t, “Are jou awake, Schumbucket?”

“I am now. What is it?” Chumbucket replied.

Juan mused, “Is crazy, no? How you and me – we’re friends now. But before we met, we were enemies.”

Chumbucket tried to engage the conversation, but sleep was overtaking him. “Yes, well, we didn’t know each other when we were enemies, and now that we know each other we’re friends, Juan.” He yawned deeply and rolled over.

“Si.” Juan understood the dynamics, but there was a point of confusion. “But I have always thought that the extranjeros – how you say? … ‘Strangers’ should be thought as amigos until they’re not – not the other which way, all nilly wooly and what not.” He thought for a moment and added. “An amigo before an enemigo – how you say, ‘enemy?’ Aye, an enemy should be a friend that you know all too well.”

Chumbucket couldn’t help himself, he chuckled at the thought. “What is so funny, Schumbucket?” Juan seemed hurt by the laughter.

“You think too much, my friend.” Chumbucket said. “Just relax and get some sleep. I don’t think we’ll be getting much of that in the next few days.”

Chumbucket rolled over and was soon snoring. Juan lay awake. He kept thinking of those hombres who spat their disgust and of a Capitan he once called, “Amigo.”

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