Saturday, April 23, 2005


A Pirate Tale Continued – Part 76 “The Show Must Go On”

Provisions were loaded aboard The Festering Boil just as the sun was setting toward the coast of Africa. It had been agreed that the four ships should stay together for mutual protection until they reached the Cape of Good Hope. It had also been agreed upon that they would sail at first light and give Lady Fanny a chance to come to her senses and come out of hiding as well as allow them more visibility in tracking the weather for the start of their journey.

When Ol’ Chumbucket was informed that they would be staying one more night, he was pleased not only to be able to spend a few more blissful hours with his love, Mad Sally, but also to debut his production of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

At first, Slappy was less than enthusiastic. “We’re not going to spend four hours watching McCormack flounce around in a dress, are we?” he questioned his friend – knowing that Cementhands had a penchant for playing tragic female figures. His performance as Lady MacBeth was something of a legend among the theater-going pirate populace. His insistence of prefacing each sentence with a prolonged, “Ooooooo” had managed to stretch the play’s length to epic proportions.

“No!” Chumbucket was insistent. “No.” His tone was dramatically less insistent. “Not a ‘dress’ per se …” He now sounded a bit non-committal. “More of a tutu, really.”

“A tutu?” Slappy questioned.

“A rather large tutu.” Chumbucket replied.

“A muumuu of a tutu?” The visual of the Big Man in an alarming large ballet costume was searing itself onto Slappy’s imagination – Chumbucket thought for a moment he could actually hear it sizzle.

“Look.” Chumbucket explained calmly – as was his custom when Slappy became unreasonably alarmed by events that warranted neither alarm nor even a mild concern. “He was the only REAL choice for Titania – the fairy queen. He had his own costume!”

Slappy opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. He stood for a moment with his gob agape and a look in his eyes that showed more alarm than they would had a cannon ball just blasted a hole in the deck between his feet.
“Don’t worry. I’ve reined in the ‘OOOooooos’ and Jezebel does a wonderful job as Oberon – the fairy king!” Chumbucket slapped Slappy on the shoulder, turned quickly and began to walk away.

Slappy managed to call out after him – “Why not have Jezebel play Titania?”

“Too small for the costume!” Came back the reply although Chumbucket never broke his stride, “It’s a bold new production – I’m gender-bending the Hell out of it!” And he was gone to set up the stage.

“God save us all from bold new Shakespearean productions.” Sir Nigel said smilingly as he approached the still dumbfounded Slappy from behind.

“Amen.” Slappy added thoughtfully.

The evening turned to night and every soul aboard the four ships had gathered on the deck of The Festering Boil for the evening’s production.

Enthusiastic applause greeted Ol’ Chumbucket’s arrival as he and Mad Sally took their seats in the front row next to Lord Sir Admiral Percival Winthorpe Mandrake Tharp and his companion for the evening’s performance, Liz.

“I say, O.C.” The Admiral always used initials when putting himself on familiar terms with celebrities of the performing arts, “I hear frightfully good things about your offering tonight – it’s the ‘Mustn’t Miss’ show of the season!”

“You’re too kind, Lord Sir Admiral,” Chumbucket replied noting Tharpy’s elevated sense of his own ‘Englishness,’ and matching it – affectation for affectation. He continued, “But truth be told, we are the only show of the season unless Lady Fanny on yon island is mounting a one-woman production of “The Tempest” featuring the creature ‘Caliban’ portrayed by a stack of coconuts and a slightly rusted shovel. Besides you ordered your men to come see this production.

“Which is why I call it the ‘Mustn’t Miss’ show – as in, ‘If you lads miss this one, I will make you pay, by thunder!’ If you catch my drift.”

Chumbucket lifted his rum tot and replied, “You are, as ever, a patron of the arts.”

Toward the back of the crowd, Slappy and Sawbones Burgess sat in a section they called, “The Critics Corner.” Burgess actually wrote a column for Pirattitude Monthly called, “Pirate’s Playbill,” in which he would render his verdict on ship-board theatrical events. In fact, when Cap’n Slappy directed Julius Caesar – insisting on playing the title role himself, it was Doctor Burgess who wrote;

“Mr. Slappy has a body more fit for such characters as Falstaff or … well … just Falstaff. My medical background prevented my disbelief from being appropriately suspended. When Brutus and company went about their stabbing business, I was taken out of the moment by the thought that none of those blades were nearly long enough to poke their way through his many layers of flab to do any real damage to any internal organ. … The bounds of Mr. Slappy’s self-indulgence we limitless as evidenced by his ghostly appearance (in the form of a canvass bag with eye holes gouged out of it) in the battle scenes late in the show – urging Marc Antony to ‘Fight on! Marc Antony! Kick Brutus in the Gonads!’ and other such words that I am quite confident never fell from the quill of the Bard of Avon.”

When Slappy directed, Chumbucket would sit with Sawbones – and vice versa. All three had sat together when Cementhands McCormack made his directorial debut in a play he had written under a “pen name.” He called it, “Of Mice and Me.” It was a tender autobiographical account of his years spent on an orphan farm and a very special friendship he had with a mouse. Heartwarming it was – until the end, when the mouse turned out to be a French aristocrat in hiding and was taken away and brutally beheaded. Burgess, Chumbucket and Slappy just sat there – mouths agape – unable to believe what they had just seen. Burgess submitted a one-word review that never ran in Pirattitude Monthly. It simply read, “Jesus!”

As the play began, Los Mariachi strummed a bit on the guitar. Dogwatch Watts and Ginger La Stella took up their positions as Theseus and Hyppolyta. Dogwatch began to speak, “Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour Draws on apace; four happy days bring in
Another moon …”

“This is going to be good!” Slappy giggled a whisper toward Doc Burgess.

“Shhh!” Sawbones replied sharply and readied his note pad for work.

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