Tuesday, February 22, 2005

 

A Pirate Tale - part 38 "Silver"

A Pirate Tale – part 38

After three days on the ocean, Cap’n Slappy was pleased with the amount of water they had covered and he made so bold to say so. “I’m pleased with the amount of water we’ve covered!” he said, boldly. For the past twenty minutes, the monkey on his shoulder had been rubbing her crotch on a bit of jewelry that was dangling from Cap’n Slappy’s long hair.

“I’ve seen dead whales tangled up in tuna nets make better time.” Professor Droppingham observed. “Two furlongs to starboard and we’d be in a current that would increase our speed by at least seven knots.”

Slappy was relentlessly cheerful and changed course to accommodate The Drip’s suggestion. “Capital thinking, Professor! I couldn’t have said it better myself! And I didn’t!”

“You handle a ship like drunken schoolboy trying to undo the milk maid’s bodice with ten hot German sausages for fingers!” Droppingham pressed on.

Without a hint of annoyance, Slappy shot back, “Yes! Yes, I do!”

Exasperated by his inability to rattle Slappy, Droppingham gave up and went below to the galley to bother the cook.

“Only thing to do with a naysayer, isn’t it?” Sir Nigel Observed.

“Come again?” Slappy seemed confused.

“Well, you were just being completely agreeable with that completely disagreeable chap there – killing him with kindness, eh what?” Sir Nigel had joined in the spirit of cheerfulness.

“Not at all, me good ol’ pal! He was quite right on all accounts and I make it a point to always take heed of those who tell me the truth – even when it isn’t pretty.” Slappy kept his hand on the wheel as they entered the current. “See? We’ve picked up a few knots, haven’t we?”

The two men stood and looked out over the deck where the hands were busily at work. Ol’ Chumbucket approached and nodded to Slappy who returned the nod, happily. “Yo Ho! Ol’ Chumbucket! Last night’s dinner was a complete success – ye’ve simply out-done yerself again!”

“Cap’n,” Ol’ Chumbucket began, “Ye know right well that I am not the …”

“The type to take compliments, I know – ever the picture of modesty, ye be! But I’ll say it nonetheless – outstanding effort on the sautéed halibut almandine and the crème brulee was first rate! Don’t ye think, Sir Nigel!”

“Top drawer, all the way!” Sir Nigel smiled knowingly at Ol’ Chumbucket.

Ol’ Chumbucket continued on – “Sir, the reason I came up here was to tell you that young Spencer has spotted sails on the horizon to the south and wants you to come take a look.”

“Excellent!” Slappy exclaimed “We’ll make an able seaman of that boy yet!” Slappy gestured toward Ol’ Chumbucket. “Would you be so kind as to take the helm for me here and keep our guest company while I look to whatever it is that young Spencer has for me?”

“Certainly Cap’n” Ol’ Chumbucket said as he took the wheel.

“Oh!” Cap’n Slappy stopped as if he had just remembered something, “And whatever it is between the two of you, I suggest you resolve it before I have you sit in the corner with your arms around each other for an entire evening. – and don’t, even for a minute, think I won’t.” Slappy smiled warmly at both of them. “Excellent! Thank you, gentlemen!”

The monkey was still humping away on his shoulder as he walked toward the bow. On the way, he came across Gabriel the powder monkey. “Good morning, Cap’n Slappy!” Gabriel saluted – one of the few members of the crew who ever bothered with such a formality.

“Good morning to you, my diminutive friend! I trust you are as happy to be back at sea as I am!” Cap’n Slappy vigorously shook the boy’s hand.

“Aye, Cap’n! That I am!” Gabriel’s natural child-like curiosity compelled him to stare at the primate atop Cap’n Slappy’s shoulder. Slappy answered the question even though it hadn’t been asked – “It’s a monkey. Sawbones told me it was a ‘cappuccino’ or a ‘chimichanga’ monkey or some such nonsense. But it’s definitely not a chimp – although I prefer to call it a chimp.” Gabriel finally asked his real question. “What’s your monkey’s name?”

Cap’n Slappy looked at the miserable creature and finally realized what she was up to. He named her the first thing that popped into his mind – “Her name is ‘Strumpet.’” Then he formalized the introduction, “Strumpet the Naughty Monkey, it is my great pleasure to introduce Gabriel the Powder Monkey to you.”

Always well-mannered, Gabriel extended his hand to shake hands with the simian; Cap’n Slappy squatted down to accommodate the meeting. Not so secretively, he ‘whispered’ to the monkey – “Gabriel is a midget, try not to make a big deal of it, though.”

Gabriel cut in – “I’m not …” But that was as far as he got before Slappy cut him off with, “… the kind of person to let something like being a tiny, tiny Lilliputian get in the way of doing his duty! – That’s right! Good man!”

After the handshake, Slappy stood up to continue his trek to the bow, but before he went, he looked at Gabriel with fatherly affection – “You should probably wash that hand.”

As he approached his destination, he looked back to see Ol’ Chumbucket and Sir Nigel having what appeared to be a pleasant enough conversation.

He found young Spencer leaning on the rail with his spyglass fully extended. “What do ye have for me, Lad?” Slappy asked.

“One, maybe two Dutch Merchant Ships, Cap’n! Take a look!”

Spencer handed over the small telescope and Slappy, with one eyebrow lifted in caution, checked the lens for paper cut-outs of Dutch Merchantmen. Finding none, Cap’n Slappy nodded toward Spencer who smiled innocently back and looked through the telescope.

Years of piracy gave Cap’n Slappy a sense of what the cargo of a given ship might be based largely on its location and the way it moved through the water.

“Two ships – both heavy with silver! Outstanding!” Cap’n Slappy was beside himself with excitement.

“Dogwatch! Plot a course to intercept …” Cap’n Slappy was cut off by his young cabin boy – “Dogwatch is on board the Nigel’s Revenge, Cap’n.”

“Ah! Yes! So he is. Of course, I knew that. I was merely testing your knowledge of current crew assignments – well done, lad! Well then, you, m’lad – plot a course to intercept those two ships!”

“Aye-aye! Cap’n!” Spencer was excited. This would be his first course plotting. Fortunately, he had been learning his navigational skills from Cementhands McCormack and not Dogwatch Watts.

As Cap’n Slappy moved from the bow down the length of the ship, he bellowed, “Prepare for action!”

When he reached the wheel, Chumbucket asked, “What is it, Cap’n?”

Slappy looked at his friend thoughtfully – “How many years have we sailed together, Ol’ Chumbucket?”

“Well on five and twenty, Slappy – ye know that!” Chumbucket replied.

“And what does one give another for a twenty-fifth anniversary prezzie, Ol’ Chumbucket?” Cap’n Slappy inquired.

The three men stood thoughtfully for a moment, gazing at the southern horizon – then, in a dreamlike state with one voice said the word.

“Silver.”

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