Saturday, March 05, 2005


A Pirate Tale – part 48 “Distant Thunder”

Cap’n Slappy stood on the bow of The Festering Boil and discussed the course of action with George the Greek, Ol’ Chumbucket, Cementhands McCormack and Juan Garbonzo. Spencer stood nearby with the spyglass, in case his services should be needed. It had been two hours since they had lost sight of the Sir Nigel’s Revenge but they stayed on course heading due east. Suddenly, they heard a soft rumble off in the distance and directly on their path. It sounded like a storm in the rainforest whose defiance was muffled by its own rain-soaked greenery.

“Distant thunder?” Juan suggested. The skies were overcast, but not dark.

“Aye,” Slappy was quick to observe, “Thunder from the Yew’s eight inch guns I’ll be bound.”

“How far do ye reckon?” McCormack asked.

George looked at the sky – “That’s a tough call, these clouds can hold the sound down and skip it over the waves – it could be miles away.”

Slappy gestured for his spyglass and Spencer accommodated him. He looked for a moment, then turned and closed the spyglass hard – once again pinching his hand. “Wie kattenscheisse eet!” Then he handed it back to Spencer with as much dignity as he could muster.

“Let’s load our guns and be ready for action, gentlemen.” Slappy ordered as he walked back toward the helm. His face was grim.

After nearly two hours of sailing, they came upon the wreckage left in the aftermath of the battle. Chunks of wood, barrels and bodies floated in the water. Sharks had started to gather to feast on the remains. A nameplate floated in the water. It bore a familiar name, “The Yew Anchor.”

Juan used a gaffer’s hook to bring it on board. “Damn him in his eyes! Slappista gets himself all killed before I have the honor to kill him!” He started to weep, as if the assumed demise of this villain had been another personal insult.

Slappy patted Juan on the back, “There, there, my little Spanish friend, my cousin is a resourceful fighter – he may have survived and you may yet have a chance to kill him in whatever violent and merciless fashion may suit your fancy. Take heart!”

Juan looked up at Slappy with childlike wonder and he searched Chumbucket’s face for confirmation, “Do you really think so?”

Slappy smiled, “Of course I do.” He said as he wandered back to the port rail to view the carnage again.
“See? There’s still hope for carnage.” Chumbucket added as Juan’s mood brightened a bit.

Slappy called out, “Bring us ten degrees to port!” On his command, Dogwatch steered the ship in the direction ordered. The crew gathered around the Captain at the rail and saw a man floating on what appeared to be a section of mast and some planks from the deck. He was reaching his hand upward in order to be seen. As they closed in, it became clear that his wounds were very, very serious – his head had a bad cut and he was doing his best to maintain consciousness so that he could hold his intestines inside his abdomen. This tactic was having limited success. Cementhands threw a rope out that caught the edge of his platform so they could pull him close in to The Festering Boil.

“Hola! Habla Ingles?” Keeling called.

“Yes!” the man managed to speak, although on each word, he spat more blood.

“On what ship did you serve?” Slappy asked.

Conchita” the man spat. Slappy and the crew cringed as he struggled to keep his guts in.

“Are you in pain?” Red Molly asked – the rest of the crew just looked at her as if in disbelief – so did the Spaniard.

“No. I feel just fine!” he continued, nearly hemorrhaging from the mouth, “It’s all good here, baby – wanna come dancing with me? Of course, I am kidding – it really hurts a lot and I would appreciate it if you would shoot me and put me out of my misery, but first, I have a message for someone named, ‘Slappy’ from your cousin.”

At this news, there was general astonishment aboard The Festering Boil – Juan seemed most relived.

“That would be me, my good man, and if we can provide any medical remedy for you …” he glanced over at Sawbones Burgess who just shook his head, “ … I mean, if we could, rest assured, we would – So, what’s the message?”

The Spaniard looked surprised, “Mi Dios! You are him – He is you! You look the same!”

Slappy rolled his hand as if to say, “get to the point.” But he remained polite. “Yes, we’ve been told that – the message my friend?”

“He say, ‘Tell my cousin Slappy to look for me aboard my new ship!’” He coughed up more blood.

“What ship?” Slappy asked

“It used to be Conchita – and now it has a new name. Juan Puede Besar Mi Asno!
Slappy turned to Juan, “My Spanish is not that good, what does it mean.”

Juan seethed, “It mean, ‘Juan can kiss my ass.’ And I will, just after I kill it!”

Slappy turned back to the Spaniard floating just a few yards away, “Thank you, my friend, and now I will ask Leftenant Keeling to put you out of your misery, if you don’t mind.”

“Not at all, Senor Slappy, I have been waiting for this for some time. The sooner the better!” The Spaniard seemed almost cheerful.

A moment later, Keeling had leveled a musket in the man’s direction, most of the crew stepped away to give the man his privacy. A loud ‘POP’ was heard followed by the pained screams of the wounded man.

“Owwwie! That really hurt! I didn’t think anything could hurt anymore, but shooting me in the knee was really mean!” The Spaniard writhed on his little raft and whatever blood that wasn’t flowing from his mouth was now spurting from his leg.

“Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!” Keeling exclaimed as he checked his musket and started to reload. “That was completely my fault!”

Ol’ Chumbucket was at his wits end and pulled his pistol from his belt and fired a shot directly into the head of the wounded man who slipped into the water and was immediately devoured by sharks.

As he walked past Keeling, the Leftenant tried to explain, “It’s been so long since I fired her, she’s simply out of balance.”

The debris field swept eastward and that’s where Slappy directed the ship.

“It’ll be nightfall soon, Cap’n.” George observed.

“Aye, that it will.” Slappy was lost in thought.

“With cloud cover and a new moon, it’ll be a dark one – we can use that to our advantage.” George continued.

“Aye. That we will.” Slappy replied.


“What a lovely stateroom, Mandrake!” Jezebel remarked as she and Liz entered the Admiral’s quarters for drinks. Since there was no turning her away from the small flotilla of ships that headed southward along the Madagascar coastline, he decided to see if he could make use of her remarkable skills of perception.
Jezebel observed the stains on the Oriental rug and the chair – “I see your brother has been here.” She observed aloud. “What did you say that made him so angry?”

“I told him he was adopted.” Sir Percy remarked.

“That’s a lie – he would have responded to that news with relief.” Jezebel quipped.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Two sailors entered and saluted. “What is the news, gentlemen?” the Admiral demanded.

One of the sailors spoke, “Distant Thunder, Lord Sir Admiral!” Sir Percy quickly excuses himself and went out with the sailors.

“Such a fuss over some far off weather?” Liz remarked to Jezebel.

Jezebel smiled at her companion, “Military people speak in code when civilians like us are present. I believe his officers wanted to inform him that they could hear the sound of cannon fire off in the distance. In a few moments the Admiral will return and we will be politely escorted back to the Sea Witch and told not to follow.”

Liz smiled, “And will we follow anyway?”

The look on Jezebel’s face was an odd combination of bliss and mischief. “Of course not!” She said firmly, “We’ll lead.”


“What a spectacular meal!” Lady Fanny observed. “Don Taco, you have outdone even yourself!” The girls cleared the plates away from the table where Lady Fanny, Don Taco, Mad Sally and Leather Nipples had feasted on his culinary creation – something called, “Camamones ala Don Taco.”

“Yes,” Sally added, “I can’t believe that Pirattitude Monthly named you only ‘Number Two’ among pirate cooks behind, let me see …” she leafed through the pages, but Don Taco cut her off.

“Black Bart the Dutchman of the Festering Boil.” Taco seethed while Los Mariachi strummed with intensity behind him. “I tell you, ladies, it is my destiny to one day meet up with this ‘Festering Boil’ and lance it for good!”

“And that will do it for my appetite.” Lady Fanny remarked as she pushed herself away from the table. “How much time are we to give to these two ships of yours?”

“Twenty minutes, your Ladyship.” Don Taco said as he looked at his watch.

“Then I suggest we take a little air and take a stroll on the deck.” Fanny moved quickly and the company followed her. Throughout the conversation, Los Mariachi provided the appropriate mood music.

“You mentioned over dinner that Slappista was killed by Baastian Slotemaker, during an ill-fated attempt by the Dutch Pirate to take this ship. And that during the struggle, Slappista, also killed Slotemaker.” Taco tried to recount the story accurately.

“Yes.” Lady Fanny forced tears into her eyes.

“And,” Taco went on, “the remaining men aboard abandoned you and the girls in Port Elizabeth – is that correct?”

“Yes.” Lady Fanny was growing concerned with this line of questioning and was about to go into full-on bitchy defense mode when cheers went up from the deck of Don Taco’s flagship, the Broche de Presión as well as his other two ships; the Crujido and the Estallido.

“Don Taco!” the watchman aboard the Broche de Presión called, “¡Las vueltas de Conchita!”

Taco quickly took a spyglass from one of his entourage and headed toward the stern of the ship to look for himself. He smiled as he turned to speak to Lady Fanny.

“Well, we lost one ship, but we have defeated Sir Nigel – that should get the attention of those fools at Pirattitude Monthly! Perhaps now they will print my angry letters to the editor!”

He turned and called to the other ships, “¡Prepárese para fijar la vela!”

“Ladies, if you will excuse me, I will leave you in the very capable hands of my friend, Leather Nipples, and a contingent of crew who can man your cannons for you.” Taco spoke as he moved toward the plank back to the Broche de Presión.

Lady Fanny spoke up. “We can man (she nearly snarled on the word) our own cannons. But we will take you up on your offer of this bronze god.” She eyed the sailor up and down making the big man feel something he was unaccustomed to feeling – fear.

Taco was in no mood to argue – “Suit yourself. We leave when La Conchita arrives.” And with that, he was gone.


Sir Nigel’s pinnace bounced up and down on the waves like a stone thrown by a little boy that skips along the surface of a stream. He, too, had heard the distant thunder, but his gut told him to head east along a parallel course to the sound and ease his way northward. He thought about lighting a cigar, but was mindful of his payload of black powder. He hadn’t eaten all day and had made no provision on this journey to do so – there was a nearly full bottle of wine aboard left by the honeymooners. “Thank God, Leftenant Keeling is a teetotaler.” He thought to himself.

After taking a couple of pulls from the bottle and watching the sky turn red behind him as the sun set, he turned his face toward the darkness and began to sing.

“Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer's gone, and all the flowers are dying
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.”

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