Thursday, April 14, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 72 – Dead Reckoning (Part Deux)

The air seemed to still itself as the two heavy men alternately clashed violently delivering blows with swords that were blocked or parried. When swords wouldn’t land on their target, they improvised with fists and the occasional forehead. After every vigorous exchange, they panted like two dogs running through the sand on a very hot day. One of the Spanish sailors recently won over by Don Taco’s impassioned plea observed, “They will kill each other with the heart attacks before they ever cut each other!”

Still they fought on.

“You know, my cousin!” Slappista puffed, “One of us is going to die with a side ache!”

Slappy breathed hard trying to suck the oxygen out of every molecule of air. “And the other will have to live with one.” He had enough distance between himself and his cousin now to put his hands on his knees and bend over – trying to ease the searing pain in his chest and hoping his lungs could take more in if he “assumed the position.”

But this didn’t last long as Slappista found the strength and breath to launch another attack.

Slappy pushed his body upright as Slappista’s sword flashed downward – stopped inches above Slappy’s head by his uplifted sword. Slappy spun away to the right and Slappista followed suit. Each man used his free hand to grab the wrist of the other. With their arms locked thus, both men drew back their heads and brought them crashing into each other.

Now, the “normal” head butt requires motion on the part of only one head. Two heads in motion can therefore be thought to be “better than one.” This would be an interesting equation in mathematics – the force of impact by a doubly initiated head butt compounded by the rush of adrenaline and the combined weight of two heavy combatants equals a rather impressive “ca-thunk!”

Their mutual disorientation was a cause of much-needed comic relief as the two men slashed wildly at the air in front of them – dramatically miscalculating their opponent/cousin’s proximity.

Unnoticed during the melee and the closing in of the observers of this family battle royal, was Fanny’s pistol. A small hand reached through the crowd and picked the weapon up off the deck – still loaded.

Slappy and Slappista desperately danced around each other – trying to find both their target and their footing. Slappy could see the crowd and make out the shapes of some of the more familiar figures in it, but they all seemed to wobble and undulate as they came and went from focus. His head was bleeding badly from the recent exchange of blunt force trauma and it appeared that several times he was about to lose his footing.

Blood and sweat obscured his vision and he blinked hard several times to gain clarity, but none was forthcoming. Still, he was cognizant enough to know that if he didn’t find a way of improving his orientation, it would be he that died with a side ache.

Slappista was not fairing much better. He, too, was bleeding and sweating profusely. He, too, could barely make out figures in the crowd – few of them neutral and none friendly. He could see Lady Fanny standing upright and still with Sally’s knife held close to her throat. This didn’t prevent her from offering him one last gesture of her feelings toward him – her middle finger.

Finally, the two cleared away enough blood and sweat from their eyes to spot each other and they began a final charge. What Slappista failed to see, was the pool of blood on the deck that had spilled from Juan’s head after Lady Fanny had shot him. He had taken only four steps at a dead run when his right foot touched down in the pool – now slick with coagulation – and his leg shot out from underneath him, sending the fat man sprawling to the deck. His sword flew out of his grasp and was stopped on the circle of spectators by Ol’ Chumbucket’s left boot.

Slappista sighed deeply as he pushed himself up to his knees. Slappy had, by now, stopped running and approached his cousin slowly. He held the point of his sword at Slappista’s chest.

Beyond the rail, Slappy could see that The Sea Witch was now within a few yards of the two ships and The HMS Susan’s Doily was not far behind.

“Juan made a blood oath to stop you, Cousin – and by his blood you are now stopped.” Slappy declared between heavy breaths.

“Correction, Cousin.” Slappista sneered. “He made a blood oath to kill me, and as with so many other things in his insignificant life, he has failed. I will accept your offer to surrender and throw myself on the mercy of the British Judicial System. I have a cousin who is an admiral, a knight AND a lord. And as you well know, there’s no justice like well-connected justice.”

Slappy scowled, but he was without options now. Slappista was unarmed and surrendering. Whatever “the code” might be for pirates or princes – Slappy was guided by his own code. “You can’t slaughter an unarmed man – no matter how evil.” He put his cutlass away and extended a hand to help Slappista to his feet.

Slappista smiled and glanced at Juan’s lifeless corpse. “Your blood oath is only as good as you are – and you, my friend, aren’t much good to anyone anymore.”

Chumbucket reached for his pistol, but Cementhands put his hand on top of his friend’s, shook his head and whispered, “Let him talk – it’s only words now. A reckoning will come in time.”

As Slappista turned his face toward Slappy and accepted his hand up, a shot rang out from the crowd to his left. Slappy spun quickly, still holding his cousin’s hand, but Slappista remained motionless.

Slappy was stunned to see Strumpet the monkey, jumping up and down around the pistol which was once again abandoned on the deck, shaking her hands wildly and screeching. She jumped up onto Sawbones Burgess who waved his hands in an attempt to shoo her away. “Get off of me, you flea-bearin’, poo-slingin’ primate!”

She jumped to the more monkey-friendly shoulder of Leftenant Keeling whose brain injury made him unsure if this was a monkey or a visitation from an angel.

Slappy shrugged it off as an accidental discharge of a weapon until he turned toward his still kneeling cousin whose grip had remained unchanged in the preceding five seconds.
Slappista’s face seemed to be frozen. His head hadn’t moved, but his eyes had followed the bouncing monkey and he felt the river of blood flowing down his face from a hole near in his temple. Gone was the smile, replaced how by a grimace of pain and confusion. He focused his sight on Slappy and managed only one word, “Monkey,” before collapsing on top of the body of Juan Garbanzo.

Slappy stood stunned. He looked over at the monkey who seemed to be leading Leftenant Keeling in prayer. He watched as Ol’ Chumbucket and Cementhands McCormack pulled Slappista’s body off of Juan sending it sprawling onto the deck and turned their fallen comrade onto his back – so his face could be seen.

The self-satisfied smile that had adorned Slappista’s face only a moment before was now visible on Juan’s face.

“As good as your word, my friend.” Chumbucket said softly, “You were always as good as your word.”

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