Monday, May 09, 2005


A Pirate Tale 82

The dock at Mossel Bay was a riot of activity as sailors from The Festering Boil, Juan’s Blood Oath and HMS Susan’s Doily surged down the gangways for shore leave. The pirates eyed the Royal Navy sailors with some suspicion, but having shared so much over the last month, they broke through their natural enmity and soon it was a single mass of sailors roistering into the small town, intent on enjoying the pleasures of the busy trading port.

Sir Nigel wended his way through the crowd of happy, laughing, swaggering sailors, intent on his own mission. As soon as his ship had warped into the dock he had left his invitation to Sally to join him at 10 that evening at Hinrich’s House of Hasenpfeffer. Besides having the best menu in the small seaside town, Hinrich had “blind” gypsy violinists and private rooms, and Nigel was on his way to reserve one of each. He hummed a tune as he swerved past a pair of British sailors and a Spanish pirate negotiating with a local wine merchant, and dove through a mixed mob of sailors crowding around a dark-haired beauty who danced to a song played on Dogwatch Watts’ pennywhistle.

Slappy watched McCormack complete his shore-going preparations – eight or nine specially prepared pair of dice went in various pockets, along with several decks of cunningly marked cards, two dirks, his special blackjack made of Spanish leather, a very large hip flask on his very large hip, and an enormous wheel of malodorous cheese tucked securely under his jacket. Then he started looking for a place to store his “lucky soda crackers,” but found he’d used up all his storage space. He turned to Slappy and held the box out with a flourish.

“Cap’n, “I’d like to make you a gift of these saltines.”

“Why thank you, sailor,” Slappy said with gravity. He watched the sailor hurry down the gangway to catch his shipmates already fanning out into the town.

“Well, we know what McCormack will be up to for the next 36 hours,” the captain observed to George the Greek. “How about you?”

“I’ve got plans,” George said. “An old friend is master gunner on the Doily and I’m going to look him up. We’ll either get drunk together or one of us will kill the other. Maybe both. Too soon to tell. You going into town?”

“Yes, as soon as I take care of a couple of details. Chumbucket’s gone ahead to scout things out. I just have to set the watch.”

“Who’s staying aboard?”

“Keeling and Red Molly volunteered to keep an eye on things,” Slappy said.

“It’s not ‘things’ they’ll be keeping on eye on, it’ll be each other,” George said with a wolfish grin.

“Oh, let the young people enjoy themselves,” Slappy said. “You know, we really need to get those two properly married. They’ve had the bachelor party and the honeymoon, but we never had the wedding ceremony.”

“It’s often better that way,” George said before he saluted and headed ashore. As Slappy watched him go, he noticed one of the girls from Juan’s Blood Oath approaching. It was the little one, Slappy noticed.

“Message for you, Cap’n,” she said.

“Thanks, sweetheart. What’s your name again?”


“How old are you, Elizabeth?” he asked.

“Twelve sir.”

“Well, 12-year-old Elizabeth,” Slappy said. “Do you need to wait for a reply?”

“No sir. I have others to deliver.”

“Just so. Thank you.” He gave her a shilling for her effort, and watched her scamper away. Then he glanced at the paper she had handed him. Breaking the wax seal, he unfolded the note. It read, “Join me at 10 p.m. sharp at Hinrich’s House of Hasenpfeffer.” It was signed by Mad Sally.

“Curious,” Slappy thought. And the girl had more to deliver? Perhaps Chumbucket could shed some light. Slappy headed into town where he was to meet his old friend at The Grog and Gristle for a quick whistle wetter.

When he got there he found Ol’ Chumbucket deep in conversation with an elderly man who looked somehow familiar. In this particular case, being deep in conversation seemed to mean Chumbucket listened to the torrent of words spilling from his companion and nodded periodically.

At Slappy’s approach the white-haired elf of a man leaped to his feet, delight on his face.

“Captain! A pleasure to meet you again. I’m Seamus-fackin’-Casey I am – formerly the Fackin’ Bishop o’ Galway! For Fack’s sake!”

“Ah, bishop! Wonderful!” Slappy said, recognizing the clergyman they had rescued back in chapter 24 and sent off to return the freed slaves home. He realized now why Chumbucket was having trouble getting a word in edgewise. “What in the world …”

“… brings me to this facking godforsaken hole of pestilence at the far facking corner of the world?” Casey supplied. “Well, after I delivered King Kimoni and his people back to their homeland I had a go at convertin’ the whole fackin’ tribe. But it was no good. They have their own fackin’ religion and they seem to like it fine. The church, don’t ya know, with its emphasis on celibacy and no fackin’ pre-marital fackin’, was a hard sell to them. Didn’t make much sense to ‘em. Frankly, there’s something’ in what they said.”

The cascade rolled on as the bishop described his long, eventful walk from the Ivory Coast to this southern African outpost. The two shipmates found they could converse between themselves under the current of Casey’s words; their talk didn’t slow him a bit.

“I received a similar invitation,” Chumbucket replied to Slappy’s question. “I don’t have a clue what it’s about.”

“Well, no doubt when the time comes all will be clear.”

“I’d planned to spend time with her in port, but I’d rather hoped for less company.”

“Not to worry, my friend,” Slappy said. “I know how and when to make myself scarce. You’ll have your privacy.”

They spent the afternoon drinking and enjoying the music of Casey’s non-stop tale of his ramblings. As evening came on they decided it was time to find Hinrich’s. That turned out to be more difficult than they’d imagined. Scanning the signs before the various dockside watering holes failed to turn up an establishment of that name. Finally they asked several local ladies on the street, and after several offers to engage in some intriguing recreational activities, offers not diminished by the presence of the still-talking bishop, they finally learned the establishment they sought was five miles north of town.

“Why such an isolated place?” Slappy asked as they plodded along. “We’ll barely make it in time.”

Indeed, the distant village clock was striking 10 as the winded sailors entered the restaurant. The owner, Hinrich Mueller, apparently was expecting them, because as soon as they announced themselves they were ushered through the dining room to a door in the back. They entered.

They were surprised to see Don Taco (accompanied, of course, by Los Mariachi, picking out a tune that sounded for all the world like the Jeopardy theme,) Sawbones Burgess, and Admiral Tharp, all seated around a glum-looking Sir Nigel. The others each looked up and when they saw the two new arrivals, and held up their own identical invitations.

“You too?” Nigel said. “I suppose you’re all wondering why I asked you here. A joke, I did not ask you here. I don’t want you here and I don’t know why Sally did. We’ll have to wait for her answer as she’s not here yet.”

The men ordered drinks and low, nervous talk prevailed, accompanied by the ticking of a clock.

At precisely 10:05, the door opened again, but it wasn’t Sally who entered. It was Genevieve Rubette, Fanny’s erstwhile niece, accompanied by three other girls, including Elizabeth. Sullenly, Genevieve produced a large envelope addressed to Chumbucket.

He opened the letter and read aloud.

“By the time you receive this, we will be gone with the tide.

“When the ninja ship attacked, what was the first thing Cap’n Slappy said? You probably don’t remember, because it seemed perfectly natural to you. He shouted at Sir Nigel, ‘You have the women – make a run for it and we’ll hold them off.’ That was the last straw. No, wait. Nigel deciding that “protecting us” was his first priority was the last straw. Slappy’s was the penultimate

“In case you he-men failed to notice, we sailed this ship from Tortuga around the cape to Diego Garcia, took our lumps and our prizes, fought battles, and never complained about it being unladylike. But as soon as Fanny was out of the way, you men gave away our ship – the ship that had been our home – and told us you’ll take care of us by sending the girls home to mommy and daddy.

“Well, you didn’t ask what WE wanted. The girls and I have had several long talks and voted unanimously on our course of action. (The four young ladies who delivered this note were either too young or chose not to go. Except for Genevieve. We just don’t want the little bitch along. Can’t trust her. Admiral Tharp can play nursemaid and see them home. We are taking the ship (and renaming it: Not because we didn’t love Juan – a brave and valiant man – but didn’t any of you notice that people will start calling the ship Juan’s B.O.? Hardly an appropriate epitaph.). We are off to seek our fortunes as pirates.

“Tell Slappy and Nigel – who probably will have to sail with you for a while – that you are welcome to chase after us if you’d like, as long as you realize that you won’t ‘take’ us. You can join us, if you can find us. It’s a big ocean. Our paths will cross again, I’m sure, when we’re all back in the Caribbean. And you’ll hear of us before then, if the information I have is right. But I think I’ll let that hang there mysteriously for now.

“Chumbucket my chum, I do love you and want to be with you. But at what price? If I had followed the plan, deposited the girls at their homes and returned like the dutiful little woman (after spending months putting up with Nigel’s attentions,) what would have been my place on the Festering Boil? Chumbucket’s lady friend? His main squeeze? I don’t think so. When next we meet some months from now we will meet as equals. That’ll be much better for both of us.

“Until then, know that I love you and remain,

“Yours – not obediently yours, but yours all the more because of that,

“Mad Sally – Captain of The Poison Pearl”

There was a shocked silence, broken after a lengthy pause by the sound of laughter. It was Slappy. Admiral Tharp jumped to his feet as if to try to head back to his ship, but Slappy put his hand to the admiral’s shoulder and forced him back into his seat.

“Well,” Slappy said, “now we know the reason for the isolated rendezvous. With our sailors all over port, it’ll take a full day to get our crews back together and set sail. And why? I'd suggest we let them go. Sally’s right you know. We didn’t ask.”

Sober nods all around. Sawbones raised his glass.

“Gentlemen, I give you Captain Sally and the Poison Pearl.” All of them drank the toast.

Slappy moved over to Chumbucket, who was silently re-reading the letter.

“Are you alright?”

“No, but I will be.”

“She did say we’d see them again, eventually, in the Caribbean,” Slappy said.

The two looked at each other, then a grin broke over Chumbucket’s face.

“I’m more worried for Nigel,” he said.


“When Pirattitude Monthly hears of this, Nigel will be in the records again. This is the third ship he’s lost in as many months. Fourth if you count the pinnace.”

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