Thursday, March 17, 2005


Pirate Tale – part 58 "Love and Death"

Cap’n Slappy was counting heads on The Festering Boil to keep track of who had boarded the Broche de Presión and who had remained. As he looked around him, he saw George and Dogwatch standing near their still-smoking cannons along with Gabriel who had already begun cleaning up and had a mop in hand.

Spencer stood at Slappy’s side as did Sawbones – they were surveying the battle and preparing themselves to deal with the wounded. Slappy’s trusty blunderbuss rested in its familiar place – on his right shoulder held comfortably in his right hand at the trigger point of the stock. Salty Jim, better known to his carpentry crew as “Jim the Bilge Rat,” was busily dismantling his trebuchet and marking the parts for future use. Professor Droppingham remained at the wheel chatting with Juan Garbonzo. The ship remained locked in battle with the Broche de Presión.

A couple of men had just hauled Cementhands McCormack out of the water and he was busily arming himself with a cannon’s ramrod when all hell broke loose. The twenty-five or so remaining Spanish pirates in an act of desperation swung across in an attempt to seize control of The Festering Boil. This was to be expected, but still it took Cap’n Slappy by surprise.

“Damn those Spaniards!” Slappy exclaimed, “They just don’t know when to die!” He turned to Sawbones, “Quickly, Doc! Take the boys below and batten down the hatches!” Even as he spoke, four Spaniards charged from the bow.

“See!” Gabriel cheered gleefully, “He admitted that he knows I am a boy!” Spencer turned him and they followed the doctor toward the stairs but three more saber-wielding Spaniards impeded their egress.

“Hunker down, lads!” Burgess ordered the boys to take cover and gestured to a gap between two nearby cannons. Then, swiftly pulling out his saber and dagger, gave challenge to the intruders, “Today my Hippocratic Oath begins, ‘First, do SOME harm!’”

The good doctor’s eyes grew wild as he brandished his blades – this made the three men pause, but only for a moment.

At the same time, Cap’n Slappy lifted his blunderbuss toward one of the four men charging him, smiled and calmly pulled the trigger. One of the sailors was violently tossed up and back over the edge of the rail as if he were playing Peter Pan in an “all bungee cord” production that went horribly awry.

Slappy had little time to admire the trajectory of his victim as the three others closed quickly. Their swords flashed in the sun as Slappy stepped deftly to the side, ducked the first blow and swung the muzzle of his heavy blunderbuss into the man’s midsection. The Spaniard doubled over, but Slappy was still in danger from his two comrades. He took the man roughly by his hair and in one strong motion, straightened up – using the man as a human shield. With their battle blood up, his comrades couldn’t help but cut him to pieces and were immediately horrified by their accidental murder. Slappy used this opportunity to drop his “shield” and in one swift movement, draw his brace of pistols and blast holes in both assailants’ heads.

Meanwhile, Doc Burgess fought bravely against the three Spaniards. He knew he was defending not only himself, but the two boys as well – he couldn’t afford to make a mistake. He heard Slappy’s blunderbuss go off, but didn’t see any decrease in fighters to his front. He felt very alone. Spencer, in the mean time, had pushed Gabriel to the deck between the cannons and covered his body with his own. Unfortunately, this had been noticed by two more Spaniards who saw an easy kill close at hand.

While the good doctor was focusing on the fight of his life and Slappy was locked in mortal combat several feet away, the two Spaniards stepped up on the cannons and made their way toward the boys. The barrels of the cannons were still warm from their recent firing so their bare feet didn’t linger as they pounced closer to their young prey.

Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a stout piece of lumber two yards long sailed over the row of cannons and struck the first Spaniard so hard in the face; his skull gave way and sucked his facial features into the recessed crater that now rested as a bloody monument to what a moment before was a head. He fell backward into his mate who also fell backward into the wheelhouse of Cementhands McCormack’s swing of the ramrod. Their lifeless bodies dropped over the edge and into the sea.

“Nice toss o’ the lumber, ye old Bilge Rat!” McCormack called toward Salty Jim who grabbed his hammer and quickly moved toward the boys. En route, he ran calculations in his head as to his chances of surviving this battle and counted the mounting number of Spanish dead as a beneficial variable in his equation.

Sawbones Burgess was growing tired when he heard Slappy’s pistols going off. In that exact moment, two skinny arms wrapped around the neck of one of his attackers and two scrawny legs quickly embraced the man’s midsection. And in that moment, the good doctor heard a familiar voice intoning a familiar message.

“Och! Ye haven’t killed them yet? What are ye goin’ t' do? Have a wee tea party and frolic all day with these Flamenco Dancers?” Droppingham’s taunting set Sawbones to a rage. He hadn’t noticed the knife in the old professor’s hand which now opened the Spaniard’s throat sending blood spurting in all directions as the man spun desperately and struggled to shake the wiry Scotsman off his back.

Again, the two remaining Spaniards stood amazed watching their colleague bleed out and Burgess took advantage of the moment with a violent thrust of the dagger in his right hand into the heart of the pirate on his left. He simultaneously shifted his grip on his saber, tossing the blade around twirling the handle in his hand, stabbed backward as he spun his body three hundred and sixty degrees. The sword struck home in the chest of the third Spaniard.

Droppingham sprang to his feet, blood dripping from the hand that still held the knife and offered a huge grin in Sawbones’ direction. “That’s more like it, lad – a bit stylized for me own taste, but truly – a good effort!” With that said, he saw a group of Spaniards fighting Dogwatch for control of the quarterdeck and bolted with remarkable haste in that direction.

Slappy was now freed up and stopped to congratulate Burgess and help him get the boys to safety – but they were no longer between the cannons and had, in fact, armed themselves and were now fully engaged in the growing fray on the quarterdeck.

George, Dogwatch, Juan and the boys were boxed in at the stern and fighting wildly with a dozen Spaniards. Professor Droppingham was now reaching the ruckus and began taunting the attacking pirates in Spanish. “Usted tiene toda la energía de una comadreja flatulent.”

“That’s a good one!” Juan yelled in support of the professors bilingual taunting skills.

But armed with nothing but a small knife, he was no match when five of the Spaniards, unhappy with the severe taunting they had just received, fell upon the old professor in a violent attack.

Slappy and Cementhands smashed into the melee with savage ferocity and in moments, the only Spaniard alive on The Festering Boil was Juan.

Professor Droppingham lay among the dead gasping out his last. Doc Burgess moved in to provide what aid he could – but when Cap’n Slappy asked, “Will he be alright?” Sawbones just shook his head sadly.

“Och!” The professor spat. “Did I not teach ye what a mortal wound looks like, ye fat-headed git?” And with that, he lifted his shirt to show eight or nine deep gashes on his torso. “Now listen closely ye marionette-lovin’ scrotum strokers. Me own darlin’ evil daughter has this trick she does when she’s cornered – ye’ll want to be watchin’ for it.” He coughed up some blood and continued weakly. “She … she …” he coughed and gasped again, then, with one final effort he managed to say, “Och! What the hell, ye’ll figure it out, ye wee girly peebrains!”

And with that, Professor Droppingham died.

A moment later, Strumpet the Monkey alighted on Cap’n Slappy’s shoulder. She had taken to the rigging in order to stay out of the fight.

A plank dropped onto the rail and the defenders of the Boil on the quarter deck wheeled around ready for another assault. What they saw, was Ol’ Chumbucket leading three sets of stretcher bearers across from the now burning Broche de Presión with Mad Sally tending her patient – Sir Nigel.

“Report!” Slappy managed between deep breaths.

“All accounted for, Cap’n.” Chumbucket began, “We’ve recovered Mad Sally and Sir Nigel with one wounded and two of their number captured – one being their wounded Captain – the notorious Don Taco.”

“Did you hear that, Los Mariachi,” Don Taco gasped while Los Mariachi strummed in vain on what remained of his shattered guitar, “Senor Chumbucket says I am ‘notorious!’”

“Who among us was injured?” Slappy asked with great urgency. Even as he asked the question, he saw the third stretcher with Red Molly clinging to Leftenant Keeling’s side.

Slappy rushed to check on him. “Tis but a scratch, Captain.” Keeling assured Slappy. “Rather embarrassing – I shall put myself on report immediately and train someone to lash me severely for my martial shortcomings.”

Slappy looked at Chumbucket who simply shook his head and waved it off as the delirium common in the severely wounded.

“Belay that action, Leftenant.” Slappy ordered, “I hereby sentence you to bed rest and the care of Nurse Molly.” Then he turned to Doc Burgess, “Look to the wounded – all three.” Burgess moved quickly past the captain who stopped him again. And talking to the doctor but looking at the boys offered a sincere, “Thank you.”

Burgess smiled and replied quietly, “I have a son, myself, Mortimer – and I speak for all when I say – they’re our boys.” He started to move toward the ships hold and turned back with a grin – “…and I still got it, don’t I, Cap’n?”

“That ye do, me friend, that ye do.” Slappy replied before he turned to Chumbucket. “We lost The Drip.”

Ol’ Chumbucket seemed genuinely sad for a moment, but recovered and responded, “Och! Are ye gonna go cryin’ to yer fat-tittied mama or are ye gonna give the man a proper burial at sea?”

Cementhands added, “Aye – did ye pooter in yer short britches leavin’ yerself thus unable to make even the most rudimentary o’ decisions about the honorable disposal o’ a recently deceased military man o’ letters?”

Slappy got up and moved to Droppingham’s body and scooped it up into his arms. He turned toward some of his returning crew and said, “Return these Spanish bodies to the Broche de Presión and bring us back their long boat before it burns.”

A half hour later, The Festering Boil was heading north leaving not one, but two burning boats in her wake. On the small boat, the pale body of Professor Droppingham was propped up and wrapped in a blanket. Behind him a wood placard read, “Och! I told ye I was a tad chilly – I didn’t say ‘Light the freakin’ boat on fire!’ Idiots!”

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