Friday, February 04, 2005


A Pirate Tale - part 24

The Chumbucket’s Charge and The Festering Boil bounded over the waves toward the four ships. Cap’n Slappy was looking in his spyglass at the scene. There seemed to be a fifth – much smaller than the other four. “Why, that’s a” – but before he could speak, the small ship exploded in a barrage of cannon fire. Slappy looked across at George the Greek in command of Chumbucket’s Charge and held up one finger – George knew this meant, “Fire one cannon – let’s get their attention!” He looked once more through his spyglass and saw clearly for the first time who it was that they were dealing with. “Fanny and Baastian – the Bastard! Well …” he muttered to himself, “Death is the end of the story.”

The sound of the cannon fire, drew the attention of Lady Fanny and Baastian Sloetemaker aboard La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza toward the charging ships. “Shit!” Lady Fanny exclaimed in a very unladylike way, “Who the Hell is that!?” Baastian whipped out his spyglass and looked – “It is your old boyfriend with what appears to be a rotting Portuguese Man O’ War at his side.” “Well,” Lady Fanny looked for just the right word, “Damn!” She paused only momentarily before barking orders. “Belay the execution and put those girls – including Mad Sally, back in the brig!” She quickly gave signals to the three other ships in their armada to attack the two on-coming vessels. They obeyed and set off in hot pursuit to intercept while Baastian’s crew re-set the sails and prepared the ship for battle.

The Dutch pirates began to corral the nuns along with Sally and the girls, but the priest, who had taken a horrific beating, had other plans. He wrapped his wrist shackles around the neck of one of his would-be executioners and pulled him toward the edge of the ship. Three of Baastian’s men drew their pistols and fired. The bullets ripped into the torso of their comrade, and the priest with his holey man-vest fell backwards over the rail and into the briny.

George the Greek called across to his Captain, “That be four to two, Cap’n – and us with a split novice crew – how do ye like them odds!?”

“Seems a bit unsportin’ from where I stand!” Cap’n Slappy called back, “Which one o’ us do you think should stand down?”

“Let me take the point, Cap’n!” George called across – “She wants to fly – and if this is to be her last, I think we should let her!”

Slappy had always had a feel for the dignity of ships. When George said that he felt this would be the last battle for the Portuguese Man O’ War, Slappy felt obliged to let her take the lead. Ships, like men, deserved their honest due of glory – especially after being so ill-used. “I’ll see you on the other side, my friend!” Slappy called as he waved George onward.

The Man O’ War pulled into the lead.

King Kimoni rested his hand on Slappy’s shoulder – Slappy was surprised to see him there, but found peace in the touch of royalty.

“This good fight.” Kimoni spoke his first words of English and smiled at Slappy.

“Aye, your Majesty,” Slappy’s tone was sincere and to the point, “It be a good fight.”

Slappy felt the strong squeeze of the King’s hand on his shoulder, his deep voice, steady as rain, “My people fight good fight with King Slappy. I happy die with King Slappy.”

Slappy turned to face the King. He took his hand and kissed his ring finger. “And I could not hope to die in better company than with your majesty and his people.”

Kimoni did not understand any of those words, but felt the Truth of the moment. He responded simply. “Too many words. Kimoni go fight – cannon – BOOM.” The King smiled broadly and walked away toward the cannon deck and as he passed his gunnery instructor, Cementhands McCormack, he slapped him on the shoulder and said, “Big man say ‘Fire!’”

McCormack bowed to the king – “As your Majesty wishes.” He turned to follow the king below, as he disappeared, he smiled and saluted Cap’n Slappy. Slappy smiled, nodded and returned what passed for a piratical salute.

Slappy fumbled in his pocket for a key. He pulled it out and handed it to Spencer. “Release my Cousin from the post I chained him to and bring him here.”

“Aye-Aye, Cap’n!” Spencer took the key and sped off.

Slappy strode back to the wheel on the quarterdeck which was being held now by Greta Olsen. “Masculicentric?” He asked her. “Aye, sir. I may have been speakin’ out o’ turn …” Slappy smiled, “Not a bit. I like to be kept up on the latest of my foibles.” She kept her eyes ahead. They watched as The Chumbucket’s Charge pulled hard to starboard in order to fire a cannon volley. They saw the flash of fire and the billowing smoke before the sound of the explosion could reach them over the waves. It was a devastating blow that ripped down the mizzenmast of Lady Fanny’s Dagger and sent more than half of her crew into the water.

Slappy clapped Greta on the back! “That’s the way you do it!” She seemed nervous still. He focused on her for a moment, “Greta, you know this ship and you know these winds.” They both looked up at the sails that billowed above their heads. “Trust yourself and the things you know – we’ll only get two shots off – from there on, the battle will be won by those who don't know how to lose.”
“Aye-aye, Cap’n.” Greta spoke nervously.

Slappy now spoke so out of place as to be inappropriate – even while the Man O’ War maneuvered for its second and final volley. “Have you ever been to Australia, Greta?”

“No, Cap’n.” She was glued to every movement in front of them.

“Wonderful country – nice people – even though they are all criminals.” Slappy was relaxed – loud cannon fire ripped the curtain of distance, but he paid no heed. “They have a lovely greeting there – ‘no worries.’ I’ve always loved that saying. ‘No worries, mate.’ As if anyone who had worries was a fool. Do you understand what I am trying to say, Greta?”

“No worries, Cap’n?” she broke a smile – if not relaxed, it certainly changed her posture to more ‘at ease.’

“That’s the spirit. Now, try to have some fun.” Slappy walked up toward the bow of the ship. His cousin met him on deck.

“Hola Primo!” Slappista’s hands were still shackled. Spencer handed Cap’n Slappy the key. “Hello, cousin.” Slappy’s voice was calm. “We’re about to do battle with the woman who shot you – I thought it would be only fair to give you a chance at revenge.” Slappy unlocked the manacles on Slappista’s wrists.

“I don’t care what Tia Maria says – you play fair and are a good sport!” Slappista rubbed his wrists.

“But first you must apologize for blowing our three-legged race at the family reunion in …” Slappy was in deadly earnest.

“Me? It was YOU who should apologize to me! I am the master of the three-legged race and if you hadn’t …”

The two men were interrupted when The Festering Boil pulled hard to port and its guns pointed directly at Death’s Folly. They could hear Cementhands McCormack’s voice below call, “FIRE!” and the explosion underneath them was quickly echoed in the sound of wood crunching aboard the other ship.

“We’ll finish this discussion later, agreed?” Slappy was calm and his demeanor was matched – as if by a mirror image by his cousin, “Agreed.”

Slappy finally closed his spyglass, pinching it on his hand. Without complaint, he tossed it to Spencer who handed him his trusty blunderbuss, fully loaded.

The Festering Boil pulled hard to starboard and unleashed another barrage that completely disabled Death’s Folly and sent many of its crew scrambling overboard for the protection of the water.

“Bring us in!” Slappy ordered as his crew and several of his African gunners, including King Kimoni, gathered on deck, weapons in hand – ready to board and fight.

Two volleys from the Man O’ War had sunk Fanny’s Dagger and George and his crew had now boarded and fully engaged the Killjoy. With their final cannonades, The Killjoy and Death’s Folly had inflicted considerable damage on the Man O’ War, which now lay nearly bare.

However, as they saw Fanny’s Dagger sink beneath the waves and the other two ships fully engaged, Baastian gave the order to sail south. Their two ship advantage had quickly dissipated and the time it took to rig the ship for running didn’t leave them time to formulate a plan of engagement.

George the Greek was slashing a swath through the Dutch and Spanish pirates and he was followed hard upon by Lef TEN ant Keeling and Dogwatch Watts. Their African warriors grabbed weapons from dead bodies and fought with great courage and skill. Slappy and his cousin launched their attack with great violence. Once his blunderbuss had cut a swath of carnage across the deck of the aptly named, Death’s Folly fire and blood engorged the decks of burning ships – the wooden hell-scape of a battlefield.

Once La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza was out of sight, the battle turned fully in favor of Slappy and his fighters. The men observed that Slappy and his cousin not only looked alike; they fought alike with a kind of berserk frenzy that was as frightening as it was deadly. Slappy’s crew as well as King Kimoni’s tribe sustained heavy losses, but the defeat of Lady Fanny’s ‘Fleet’ was devastating. All three of the attacking ships were either sunk or sinking and the Portuguese Man O’ War was in very poor shape indeed.

As the sound of battle ceased, a voice called up from the water, “Is it damnable pirates ye be?” Slappy was in a post frenzy haze – he asked, “Is that a leprechaun?” Cementhands fished the voice’s body out of the ocean and placed it on deck next to the Captain. “What do ye take me fore, ye big stinkin’ oaf? Tis a goddam man o’ God I be! Now, ye’ll be putting me down or it’ll be nothin’ but hell-fire and brimstone for ye in the latter day – to be sure!”

“Who the hell are you?” Slappy didn’t stand on ceremony after a battle in which much killing had been done. “Who the hell am I?” The small Irishman’s voice was choked with indignation, “It’s Seamus-fackin’-Casey I am – the Fackin’ Bishop o’ Gallway! For Fack’s sake!” His hands searched his neck for his collar. “Oh, Shiite! Lost me Faackin’ collar, I did!” He then calmed himself when he saw Kimoni and his people. “I’ve come as a missionary to the Africans.”

“What if they don’t want a missionary?” Cementhands asked innocently enough.
“Well,” Seamus began, “If they don’t want one, I hope they will learn to tolerate me – because I’m clearly not much o’ one, now am I? Now, who do I have to Fackin’ bless in order to get a touch o’ whisky on this tub?” Fortunately, they were standing on the Man O’ War – Cap’n Slappy would never have let that comment stand aboard The Festering Boil.

After much discussion, it was determined that while Casey may not be much of a missionary, he was, in fact, a pretty good seaman and with a great deal of warmth and respectful ceremony, it was determined that he would take the Africans back home aboard the Man O’ War and leave Cap’n Slappy and his crew to pursue Lady Fanny and her crew. King Kimoni gave Slappy a leather wrist-band that apparently was the symbol of his authority – Slappy, in return, gave his cutlass – belt, scabbard and all – to the King. As they parted, Kimoni said, “Is good King Slappy meet King Kimoni – You see. Is good!”

“Aye” Slappy said, “Is good to meet so fine a man as yourself. Is good, Your Majesty.”

With that, he stepped aboard The Festering Boil with his remaining crew and set off south while the Man O’ War headed east – for Africa and home.

Fanny retired to the Captain’s cabin while Baastian lead the retreat. “Do not worry, my darling.” Baastian assured his lover through the cabin door, “This retreat is only tactical – we shall meet your Slappy another time and give him such a ‘slappy’ he shall never forget.!”

“Oh, shut up, Baastian!” Fanny called through the door. She knew now what everyone had always said – Dutchmen are notoriously un-funny.

As they ran south, evening was approaching. Baastian saw a small pinnace heading north – toward the battle.

“Well, my cannon’s are already loaded.” He thought, “I might as well fire them at something.”

On the pinnace, Juan noted the approach of a very familiar ship. “It is La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza!” He quickly loaded the cannons. “She is approaching quickly, Schumbucket! We should fire at her, no?” Chumbucket thought for a moment as he watched the vessel approach. “She’s running – from whom?”

“She is almost within range, Schumbucket! I am ready to fire!” Juan was eager for revenge.

“Wait, my friend!” Chumbucket put his hand on Juan’s arm. “Our cannon’s won’t effect the ship much, but they may hurt one of the girls – we mustn’t fire.”

Juan struck himself in the head with his open hand. “Of course, you are right, amigo! But it is a good god damn, how you say, that we cannot show them our defiance!”

The big ship was very close now. “Well who says we can’t?” Chumbucket smiled and stood up in the small boat. He held his right hand high above his head and extended his middle finger as the larger ship passed. Juan saw this and loved the way it looked. Although he had no idea what it meant, he joined his friend in this act of pure defiance.

A volley of cannon fire scattered around their little boat and one ball broke the hull between them. Water began seeping in. They stood motionless, fingers still extended, until La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza had passed and was far to the south.

Two hours passed as they bailed and tried to keep the little ship afloat. Near the point of exhaustion with no hope in sight, Juan turned to Chumbucket and asked a question that had been eating away at him for the last two hours.

“This …” Juan held up his middle finger, “This means what?”

Chumbucket continued to bail. “It means, ‘Don’t stop bailing, ye dumb Spaniard!’ or something to that effect.”

Juan continued to bail. “You are only saying that to make me bail cheerfully. But this thing means something and I am going to get into my bottom with this!”

Chumbucket couldn’t constrain his laughter. And just as his laughter was about to become frightening to both men, he heard a familiar voice in the darkness.


Chumbucket froze. He nearly wept – but called out, “McCormack, is that you?!”

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