Monday, April 25, 2005


A Pirate Tale 77 - Pull Away Home

“… Give me your hands if we be friends,
And Robin will restore amends.”

Gabriel uttered Puck’s last line with a wink to the audience and bowed low as the curtain fell on the Festering Boil’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The audience applauded and the actors bowed.

In the front row, sitting next to the director, Admiral Tharp sat glassy eyed.

“Well, what did you think?” Ol’ Chumbucket asked eagerly.

Pinned, Tharp searched carefully for words.

“Amazing! I’ve never seen anything like it!” Tharp said. “Really, such bold, bold choices!”

“Why thank you,” Ol’ Chumbucket said, lowering his eyelids with humility. “That’s very kind coming from you. But it was the cast, really, that made this what it was.”

“Oh the cast, eh?” Tharp said, eyeing them carefully. “So, tell me, I don’t recall there being quite so much blood in the play. I mean, look, there’s one fellow still lying there with stage blood all over him.”

“Oh, no, I see the problem,” Chumbucket explained. “He’s really dead. We were actually attacked by a skiff of thugs from the mainland during the show, and repelled them swiftly, without breaking character. Between you and me I think the boarders must have been drunk, or else extremely unforgiving critics. So that might have confused you a bit.”

“Yes, well that does explain it,” Tharp said. “But was it normal for Bottom to yell out ‘Shit, my buns!” every 12 minutes or so and disappear from the stage? Should the doctor have look at his posterior?”

“On, no. That was Butch, the ship’s cook. He was getting ready for tomorrow’s breakfast.”

Just then Don Taco strolled by and saluted Chumbucket.

“Quite a show! I particularly liked your Egeus,” he said, referring to the cranky father in the play who wants to have his daughter executed. “Very clever casting.”

“Well, you know, Prof. Droppingham, whom you never had the pleasure of meeting, was originally cast in the part, but he had to give over as he had a conflict, having been killed by one of your crew when we took your ship. So I thought this worked very well, although the other actors took a bit of convincing.”

The part of the father had, in the end, been played by Strumpet the monkey. Strumpet had conveyed the character’s extreme unpleasantness by screeching and throwing her feces at the other actors.

“Very visceral, very original,” Taco said, smiling, as he walked out. Tharp made a note to remember “visceral” and “original” for the next time he made the mistake of sitting next to the director.

“There is one thing,” Tharp said, turning back to Chumbucket. “I was wondering if you could introduce me to someone.”

“Certainly admiral, it would be my pleasure.”

“That woman playing Titania. She was the most beguiling and fetching creature ever to catch my eye. And what a performance! That ‘OOOooo’ before each of her lines really brought out the subtext, didn’t it? I’ve never seen so much grace, such femininity. I really must meet her to … well, express my admiration and perhaps invite her for a late supper in my cabin.”

Chumbucket glanced over to where the cast was chatting with the last stragglers from the audience. Cementhands McCormack was still in the Fairy Queen’s costume. Stifling a chuckle, he quickly assented and led the admiral over to the “Titania’s” side, where the officer gushed out his praise.

In the back, Slappy turned to Burgess.

“Well, that was something,” he said. “I’m not sure what, but it was something.”

Burgess didn’t reply.

“So what are you going to write for Pirattitude Monthly?”

Burgess let out a snore that sounded more like a clap of thunder. As was his habit, he’d been thoroughly drunk by the start of the second act, singing bawdy ballads in the back row and challenging several of the actors to fights during the performance before settling in for his traditional “final curtain snooze.”

Slappy glanced at Sawbones’ notes, which were strewn about the floor. Under the heading “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” underlined twice, he saw the words, “William Shakespeare was from England,” followed by some doodles of waves. Then the words, “protean qualities” followed by “Buns for breakfast? Yum!” On another page he saw scrawled, “What kind of a name is Puck? And who names their kid Bottom?” On yet another he saw Burgess had once again been outlining his theory that the plays of William Shakespeare had actually been written by another man who was also named William Shakespeare but slightly taller.

Slappy sighed. As usual, he’d have to pen the review for the ship’s doctor. Picking up Sawbones’ quill, he started writing. “It was an absolutely dreamy production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ that took the stage of the Festering Boil …”

Despite the fact that the cast party had gone on late into the night, the Festering Boil began bustling with activity at first light. The sailors had been too long at sea, too long in the Indian Ocean, too long away from any port, let alone their homeport in the Caribbean, to want to linger. The Boil and Juan’s Blood Oath were ready to sail, with Jezebel and the Sea Witch in company, at least for a while.

Tharp and HMS Susan’s Doily were going to stay one more day to scour the island one more time in hopes of finding Lady Fanny, who had clearly lost her mind and was digging desperately for the lost treasure. The signs of her spadework were everywhere, but so far Tharp’s marines had failed to locate the demented dominatrix. Even traps cunningly baited with jewelry had been singularly ineffective. The admiral wanted to make one more try at corralling the bloodthirsty Fanny before making sail and catching up with the three ships.

All four would sail together as far as Mossell Bay on the southern tip of the cape. Then Sir Nigel would take a northerly route to fulfill his promise to return the kidnapped girls to their home in England, while the Boil headed across the Atlantic for the Caribbean where the pickings for pirates were much richer, and to keep Slappy’s word to his brother and search for the missing heir. Jezebel would go wherever Jezebel wanted to – there was no telling with her.

Tharp also was headed north, but would pause only briefly in England before sailing to Stockholm, where the admiral was to assist the Swedish in a search for missing crown jewels.

It was that part of the mission that intrigued the pirates aboard the two ships. Having been sworn to secrecy by Tharp, Slappy immediately shared all he knew about it with the other pirates.

“It sounds like someone got away with a good haul,” Dogwatch noted. “Lucky bastard.”

“Aye, but there’s not much we can do about it,” Leftenant Keeling observed. “Even if we were heading that way, we don’t know the Baltic, and we have no contacts. It’s probably a land-based job anyway.”

“Don’t be too sure, old man,” Sir Nigel said. “Even if it was some city-dwelling landlubbers, they’d have to get the jewels out of the country and unless they have one of those dog sleds, that probably means a ship. And there aren’t too many places you could sell jewels like that.”

All the pirates were quiet for a moment while they thought of the circuitous ways that the crown jewels of Sweden might comes across their paths. Finally Slappy broke the silence.

“It’s probably time you got aboard your own ship,” he said to Sir Nigel and Don Taco. “We’ll weigh anchor as soon as our last crew member comes aboard, and if I’m not mistaken that should be him now.”

All eyes turned to where a longboat was being rowed over from the Doily. Seated in the middle, trailing one massive finger in the water, was Cementhands McCormack, still wearing his costume from the play the night before. The giant sailor clambered nimbly up the rope tossed to him and saluted Slappy.

“Reporting for duty, sir,” McCormack said.

“Very good,” said Slappy. “So how was dinner?”

“Absolutely delicious. Never had scrod before. Quite tasty.”

“Speaking of scrod, did my brother …”

“Behave himself? He was a perfect gentleman,” McCormack replied. “You can say what you want about those Royal Navy officers, but they do know how to treat a lady.”

Forward, Chumbucket was having one last go at trying to change Sally’s mind.

“But why can’t you stay here? It makes no sense,” he said.

“Look, don’t tell me when I do or don’t make sense,” Mad Sally said. “I won’t be that long, but I have an obligation to those girls. I have to get them to their homes. Besides, the Blood Oath is still pretty undermanned, so the girls and I will have plenty of work to do.”

“But I’ll miss you dreadfully.”

“And I’ll miss you. But let’s not get all sappy here. You have a job to do on this ship. My job for now is with those girls. What would I do here?”

Chumbucket had a couple of ideas, and he told her. She rolled her eyes, punched him affectionately but firmly on the upper arm, and asked, “Is that all you ever think of?”

“I just don’t like the thought of you sailing away with Sir Nigel.”

“Oh, he’s harmless,” said Sally, using the one word above all that Nigel would hate to have applied to him. “I can handle Sir Nigel.”

“I still don’t like it,” Chumbucket sulked.

“Well, you’ll have to file it with the other things you don’t like but can’t do anything about,” Sally remonstrated. “Now just shut up, you’re wasting time talking when you should be kissing me. And then I’ve gotta go. But it’s not forever.”

Chumbucket did as he was told. Then they went aft, where Sir Nigel and Taco were waiting to disembark for Juan’s Blood Oath, anchored nearby. Nigel dropped onto the deck of the dinghy first, then assisted Sally, who climbed down after him. As he reached up to assist her, Nigel threw Chumbucket a grin that almost prompted him to reach for his pistol. Then Taco joined them and they were off.

“Alright you scurvy dogs!” Slappy shouted. “Man the capstan and weigh anchor. Shake out the canvas!”

The crew jumped to their tasks. In just a few moments the Festering Boil was turning to the west with a freshening breeze filling it’s sails. Slappy looked pleased.

“Alright lads, let’s pull away home!”

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