Thursday, March 31, 2005


A Pirate Tale – part 64 - "Running"

“Why are we chasing him, Capitan?” Miguel Ballesteros asked Slappista as the capitan stood tall on the bow of La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza and watched The Festering Boil as she headed toward Diego Garcia. “We could be heading north west toward the Persian Gulf and a life of untold riches! Why waste time with one overrated fool of a pirate and his band of merry idiots?”

Slappista spun around and grabbed his first mate by the throat, “You have no idea who we are dealing with, do you? That ‘Fool’ is my cousin and those ‘idiots’ have won more battles than this entire crew has teeth!”

Slappista looked around at the orthodontia-related features of the men in his crew and amended his analogy. “More battles than the teeth of all the men on all three of these ships combined! This is not a ship to be trifled with and I will be damned if I let him go while I hold the advantage.”

Whether it was his grip on the man’s throat, the intensity of his anger or the garlic on his breath from the morning’s breakfast, Ballesteros could no longer stand in Slappyista’s presence and suddenly dropped to the deck. He rubbed his neck and asked, “Then why didn’t you just kill him when you had him on board? How hard would that have been?”

“Because it wouldn’t be sporting – and Slappista likes to think of himself as a ‘sport,’ isn’t that right, dear?” Lady Fanny approached, still toweling off her hair.

“Ah! My little kumquat of desire! My little figurine of fortune! How are you?” Slappista greeted her warmly with a big hug and a kiss on the forehead.

“Waterlogged, you bastard!” She replied sharply. “Why the hell did you lash me to the bowsprit? We were ‘Even Steven!’ Remember?”

“Yes, my sugar-plum dumpling of justice – but we both know that was an ‘untruth,’ don’t we? And my figureheading of you does not yet make the Steven Even – you did, after all, fire two shots into my chest and left me for shark food – but it is all a part of my reconciliation plan.” Slappista smiled and turned back to view The Festering Boil putting a few more yards of distance between herself and her pack of pursuers.

“You call this a reconciliation? You nearly drowned me!” Lady Fanny barely kept her rage in check.

“The best kind.” Slappista fired back with a kiss blown in her direction. “The kind that will always leave you owing me the right to be cruel – my little punching bag of pusillanimity.”

“Do not” Lady Fanny ground out her words carefully – crushing her consonants with force, “mistake poor timing and a seeming dearth of accessible weapons with cowardice, my dear husband!”

“Just like a child.” Slappista observed, “I’ve put away all the sharp objects.” Then, turning to two of his men he ordered, “Take her away and secure her to the center post in my cabin.”

The two took her by her arms and began to lead her away – “And if her knots slip, gentlemen, I assure you the ones that form your nooses will not.” Slappista’s face was deadly serious as he watched them pull her backwards away from the bow.

He turned back to keep watch on his fleeing cousin.


The galley was abuzz with debate on The Festering Boil and Slappy sat quietly and listened to the others’ points of view.

“Why are we running?” Dogwatch demanded. “We’ve beaten more than three ships in a fight more than a dozen times – what makes this so special?”

“Slappista for one!” George shot back. “And a floating fortress for another!”

“George has a point, boys!” McCormack chimed in – “There’s no profit in sailing into death without a good game plan.”

“But when have we ever run before in the absence of a plan?” Ol’ Chumbucket, who had clearly not been visited by Jezebel, offered. “Cap’n Slappy,” he spoke cautiously, “this isn’t like you at all!”

Slappy sighed and looked straight ahead at Mad Sally, who stared right back.

“Gentlemen!” Sir Nigel broke in, “I don’t see what the fuss is about – we will have our battle by and by, I assure you. But for now, our discretion is most assuredly the better part of our valor.”

This brought about a general ruckus of which Slappy only was able to hear McCormack object loudly to the use of the word, “Gentlemen” and Dogwatch demand, “Who made YOU Cap’n, Sir Nigel?” Juan added something about them making decisions all “Nilly Willy!”

As the bickering and debating raged on, Slappy’s gaze toward Sally eased and she looked at him with growing warmth. She knew that running away was the hardest thing Slappy had ever done. She knew as well, that it was the only intelligent thing to do. She also knew that at some level, it had struck him to the core as a mortal wound – one from which he feared he would never recover.

As the argument around him reached a crescendo, Slappy stood slowly to his feet. The voices silenced. He looked around the room at his long-time friends and comrades – holding each in his eyes for an intimate moment. With each man, Slappy had shared moments where the veil between life and death draped thinly and delicately between reality and destiny.

Courage was never in doubt. Confidence was.

“I will be above deck with the boys should you have need of me, my friends.” He smiled as he spoke, but didn’t wait for an answer and moved briskly out of the room.

On deck, he found Gabriel and Spencer sitting on a cannon on the port side watching the ships behind them fade away.

“Ahoy, me lads!” Slappy spoke cheerfully although not as forcefully as usual.

“Lad!” Gabriel declared brightly. “You called me a ‘Lad’ Cap’n Slappy! That means you know I am a boy and not a midget!” He crossed his arms and gave a definitive nod of victory. Of course, as he did so, Strumpet dropped down on top of his head from the rope above.

“Of course, you’re a boy!” Slappy smiled – but with the slightest argument in his voice added, “Who ever said you weren’t?”

Spencer laughed.

Gabriel was fit to spit. “YOU DID! You’ve been saying that I am a midget for as long as I can remember!”

Slappy leaned back to get a better look at the boy. Incredulity lined his face as he replied, “That’s preposterous, son. Why in the name of Poseidon’s hairy nipples would I say such a foolish thing?”

“I don’t know!” The powder monkey with the monkey on top replied trying to brush the monkey hands out of his face, “But you always do! You are always saying that I am a midget – but I am not! I am a boy!”

Slappy smiled. “Of course you are.”

“I AM!” Gabriel screamed in vehement agreement.

“I know.” Slappy replied calmly.

Gabriel seethed and held his seething until it built up into a sudden burst. “Jeez!!!” At which point he got up and stomped away – the monkey on his head shook his fist at Slappy as they bounded out of sight.

“You really like to rile him up, don’t you, Cap’n?” Spencer observed quietly.

“Aye,” Slappy responded, “that I do. It must run in the fam – …”

Suddenly, he stopped himself and got lost in thought.

Spencer broke in with a question. “Cap’n is Gabriel your s – …”

“Shhhh.” Slappy put a finger to his lips and kept his gaze fixed to the horizon.

Above the creak of masts, the flap of sails and the crash of water against the hull, the two of them could hear the sound of a small, distant voice engaged in hushed cussing matched in tone and surpassed in volume by the screeching of an angry monkey.

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