Saturday, April 09, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 70 “Mayhem and Death”

With fierce whoops and savage cries, twenty-two pirates from the Festering Boil swung from the rigging and onto the deck of La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza. The gun officer on La Herida, known to the men as El Hombre Grande although his mother had named him Simon, had seen them coming, and instead of trying to meet them in the air had drawn his men back, then rushed the boarders in the second after their feet touched the deck.

The effect was rather like a well-thrown bowling ball perfectly hitting the pocket between the one and three pins, sending them scattering. The boarders from the Boil found themselves in a morass of well-armed disarray. Pistols firing, blades flashing, blunt objects … “blunting.” The scene presented the very definition of a melee.

As Ol’ Chumbucket’s feet touched down, for instance, his first sight was of the blade of a thick cutlass as it swooped toward the tender skin of his neck. Though the momentum of his landing propelled him forward, the appearance of fast-moving steel compelled his upper body backward. He looked as though he were going through the world’s fastest Conga Line. “Just how low CAN I go?” He wondered as his aging knees sent pained smoke-signals to his brain – “What the Hell are you doing?” they seemed to be asking.

A veteran of many such battles, Chumbucket realized he was going to be on his back in the middle of a crowd of bloodthirsty, weapon-wielding, combatants. This, he knew, was a disadvantageous posture to assume, but gravity and arthritis were about to have their way despite tactical shortcomings.

As he fell backward, he realized that the only thing worse than lying on his back during the fight would be to be laid out on his back during the fight without a weapon in his hand. Fortunately, he had two fully loaded pistols in his sash which he pulled during his fall and cocked on the moment of impact. Two of La Herida’s sailors moved in to finish him off, but found their bellies filled with the burning sensation of a hot mini-ball that passed through their stomach linings and shattered their spines.

Ol’ Chumbucket rolled out of the way as the two men fell hard onto the spot where he had been laying. He scrambled to his feet and dropped the pistols then he pulled his cutlass and a dagger and entered the fray.

A few yards away, Cementhands McCormack, the king of improvisational weaponry, had taken a peg leg from a dead pirate and was using it as a club. He had seen Chumbucket go down, and was fighting his way toward him – crushing skulls as he came. Once he saw that his old friend and comrade was up and fighting, he noticed another big man – El Hombre Grande – coming toward him wielding something that looked like a piano leg with huge spikes erupting from its surface.

McCormack looked at the peg leg in his hand and thought it seemed puny by comparison. Simon charged him with a fierce war cry. Cementhands scowled at the peg leg, but that didn’t make it any bigger, so he tossed it aside – seemingly paying little heed to the large animal coming his way. He squatted down and appeared to be searching the body of a fallen Spaniard for a weapon when Simon began his two-handed attempt at a cu de gras.

The spiked club came down, but it did not sink into Simon’s intended target. With the swift motion of a weightlifter, Cementhands “cleaned and jerked” the seemingly dead Spaniard above his head as a shield. In fact, the Spaniard was only “playing dead” to stay out of the battle and pledge allegiance to whoever won. Just how alive he was became clear as the blow from Simon’s club sank the spikes deep into his back and out through the front of his torso. His accompanying scream gave both of the big men quite a shock, but McCormack brushed off the surprise of a live human shield and tossed the now dying death-faker over the side of the ship – spiked club in the back and all.

With both men now unarmed, Simon was about to find out why they called this man, “Cementhands.” Simon punched wildly and missed, McCormack – now in his element – landed a right hook to Simon’s jaw.

“El Hombre Grande” had never been hit so hard by anything in his life and he sprawled backward and to the deck. He seemed to see stars and bluebirds chasing each other around the circumference of his head. McCormack smiled and took a boxer’s stance as he waited for his opponent to get to his feet. Which he did.

The two men exchanged punches as the smoke of battle swirled around them. Had life and death not been in the balance, their comrades would have enjoyed watching the two giants put on a clinic of raw determination and pugilistic skill – but there was a battle to be fought. McCormack clearly had the upper hand and was hoping to knock his opponent out so as to keep him from further harm in the fight when a stray musket ball sunk into Simon’s skull just below his left eye.

The man was dead before his body slumped onto McCormack’s shoulder. With respect, Cementhands lifted his lifeless opponent up over his shoulder and carried him to the edge of the ship and tossed his body overboard. There was no time for sentimentality however, as he remembered that one of his tasks for the day was to keep Ol’ Chumbucket alive. He turned and re-entered the fight.

Meanwhile, Slappista hacked and slashed his way through several of The Festering Boil’s skilled, but unheralded fighters. The battle had only been engaged for a few minutes when a bright flash froze everyone aboard both ships. “The Sabado Gigante!” Slappista gasped. Although the girls and the treasure were long gone, any hope of finding and transporting them went up in that flash of fire. The sound of the boom came next and it literally shivered the timbers of both La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza and The Festering Boil. As they stood still for a moment longer, bits of burning wood and ash began to fall upon the decks of both ships – a black snowfall of destruction.

Slappista heard a familiar voice behind him – he knew immediately to whom it belonged. “Hola Capitan!” Juan said darkly as he twirled the handle of his cutlass in his right hand flashing the blade in the sun. “Juan, my friend!” Slappista began ebulliently, “Welcome home! Have you come to re-join me?”

Juan shot back an icy stare.

“Juan – Juanito! – The Juan-in-ator!” Slappista’s attempt at name humor also had no impact, but he soldiered on. “Look! You’re a pirate – you should know this. Allegiances shift quickly – it’s not who your ‘friends’ are, but ‘who’s on top?’ that matters!” He glanced around the deck at the battle. “Look! There’s Don Taco fighting with his former first mate! It’s not personal. His first mate thinks I will win, Taco thinks Slappy will. So, they try to kill each other now – but if they both survive, don’t you think they will sign on with the winner?” Again, Slappista attempted humor – “Of course, if you ever had to sit through one of Don Taco’s Officer’s Meetings, you might want to kill him, too – and that WOULD be personal!” He laughed awkwardly.

Still, Juan just stared. Finally he said, “Enough talk. It’s time to die.”

“So it is.” Slappista replied grimly with a hint of sorrow that he couldn’t sway his old friend.

The two battled fiercely. The crash of their blades played like vicious wind-chimes in a hurricane piercing the ears of those around. At one point, Juan fell backward over a body, and Slappista turned his sword to stab downward onto the deck in an attempt to pin Juan there like a butterfly in a display case, but Juan rolled to the side as Slappista stuck his sword deeply into the deck. Juan quickly kicked Slappista away from his sword.

Unarmed, Slappista was now cornered and at the mercy of Juan who had by now gotten back on his feet and pulled his enemy’s sword from the deck. Slappista knew the situation was bad and began to use the only weapon he had left – his mouth. “Juan. It is not like you to kill an unarmed man. That’s more like me. But not you – never you.” Juan stepped closer to Slappista who continued even more urgently.

“Seriously, Juan! I know you hate me, but if you kill me like this, you will become just like me! Is that what you want? To be just like me? I mean, I’m flattered and all, but to kill me and become me – doesn’t that defeat the whole reason for killing me. I mean, if you become me than don’t I really survive – as you?”

Juan tossed Slappista’s sword to him and spoke only two words. “Stop babbling.” Suddenly, a shot rang out and the right side of Juan’s head exploded. Lady Fanny stood a few feet away, lowering her smoking pistol as Juan’s body dropped to the deck.

“God Damn! You boys talk too much!” She said as she began reloading her pistol.

Slappista got to his feet, took his sword, looked once more at his fallen former first mate and hurried off to the battle.

Slappy, who was still aboard The Festering Boil – bracing for a counter-attack that had not come, had watched the fight between Juan and Slappista through his spyglass. Without speaking, he handed it to Spencer who closed it silently.

“It’s time.” Slappy said.

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