Tuesday, May 17, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 85 “Bounding

After a few weeks out to sea, Dogwatch stumbled upon a shipping lane used by Spanish merchants who were plundering the treasures of South America. It seemed only fitting that the plunderers might themselves be plundered by a patch of pirates who really knew how to plunder.

“Let’s show ‘em who they’re dealin’ with, lad!” Cap’n Slappy growled as he handed Spencer the official “Jolly Roger” of The Festering Boil. It was a distinct flag for two reasons; first of all, it was blood red signifying a ship-wide willingness to rain carnage down upon its victims. Secondly, it depicted a black skeleton leaning precariously against a pillar with what appeared to be a cocktail drink in its hand –complete with decorative paper umbrella. Had it been intentional, it might have read, “We’re here for your blood or your liquor and if we are trifled with, we will commence knocking over a pillar – the choice is yours.” As it was, the whole design was a misunderstanding.

Years earlier when Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy were making their plans to begin a life of piracy, they decided they needed a unique flag to signify their fierceness and their determination to become extraordinarily wealthy. They talked about the design with Cementhands McCormack. This was the major mistake.

“We want something that conveys our ferocity and spirit of adventure!” Chumbucket began.

“Something with a skull – or even better yet – a FULL SKELETON!” Slappy added enthusiastically.

“Blackbeard has a full skeleton with a spear impaling a bleeding heart!” McCormack chimed in.

“Yes, well that’s been done then, hasn’t it?” Chumbucket was deep in thought. “My friends, I have it!”

McCormack and Slappy leaned in excitedly as Ol’ Chumbucket described the blood red field and the heroic reference to the Pillars of Hercules as symbol of the many places they would see and a pistol firing to usher in a new age of piracy.

The two applauded Ol’ Chumbucket’s vision and McCormack volunteered to draw it up and get it to a suitable seamstress. Two things stood in the way of The Festering Boil having the best freakin’ Jolly Roger ever;

a) McCormack’s inability to draw a pistol that looked even remotely like a pistol and …
b) Bald Becky, the seamstress’ love of the drink.

And these two conditions produced the now-famous emblem of The Infamous Festering Boil that lovingly took the nickname, “Three Martini Mick.”

Spencer looked quizzically at the captain – it had been some time since they had run “Mick” up the flag pole and he had never seen what a recognizable symbol could do. He was about to learn.

Ship after ship gave way without a fight. Some even closed the distance themselves hoping that the crew of The Festering Boil would go easier on the plunder. This always proved to be a sound policy. The less resistance offered, the logic went, the lower the loss of treasure and supplies.

“Why strip an apple tree bare,” Chumbucket opined to young Spencer, “when you are walking through an orchard?”

Ship after ship paid this “plunder tribute” to The Festering Boil as they sailed westward toward the South American coast. On some ships, the merchant sailors held out the most recent copy of Pirattitude Monthly which featured an etching of Slappy, Chumbucket, George, Sawbones and Cementhands on the cover and a seven page story about their exploits in Diego Garcia called, “The Gigante Killers!” The five graciously autographed the cover for them after lightening their ship’s load.

“Low output and high input – the BEST kind of pirate work and we owe it all to Mick.” McCormack observed with a broad smile.

“McCormack! That flag has nothing to do with it and you know it – it could be ANY flag! It could be a flag that pictures a daisy and a bumble bee on it! But as long as they knew it was flying over The Festering Boil, they’d give way!” Burgess shot back still miffed that Chumbucket and Slappy had not asked HIM to design the flag.

“What? Your flag would only say, ‘we’re pansies and we’re too lazy to sting anyone.’ That would be a stupid flag!” McCormack fired back adding only as an afterthought, “Is that what they teach you in Oklahoma?”

“Tennessee – you artless bastard!” the good doctor’s rage was showing as was that huge vein in his forehead.

By now, Sir Nigel, who had been remarkably quiet for several days stepped into the fray. “Fellows! The full effect of your emblem is to wrest, as it were, riches from the passing stranger without the loss of blood. But what are we? Are we bankers? No. Are we accountants? No. Are we public relations specialists?”

Here there was a pause as more and more of the crew gathered around and while they generally agreed that they were not bankers or accountants – there remained some speculation that they might, in fact, be public relations specialists.

“Well, I say ‘No!’” Sir Nigel was now going to make a speech to appeal to the more bloodthirsty nature of pirates in hopes of position himself to take over the captaincy of The Festering Boil when he was interrupted by Don Taco (whose words were naturally accompanied by Los Mariachi on a guitar he had taken from a passing Spanish sailor.)

“Well, I say ‘Yes!’” A general stunned-sounding, “whoa-what?” went up from the assemblage. Don Taco continued, “Si! We are reaping the benefits of the good reputation established by the founding fathers of this sheep.”

“Ship” Los Mariachi corrected without missing a beat.

“Ship” Taco self-consciously put his accent in check and continued. “When you became pirates you did so to become rich with booty, did you not?” The crowd cheered. “You didn’t embark on this adventure in hopes of dying.”

Depressed Doug whimpered, “I hope to die.”

Don Taco answered him and continued, “And you shall my friend, you shall – but first, the riches in booty!”

Even Depressed Doug joined in the cheer this time. Sir Nigel could see his political gambit would not pay off today.

“We really need to get Sir Nigel his own ship.” Slappy whispered to Ol’ Chumbucket who nodded in quiet agreement.

The ship was moving very swiftly and there were no ships on the western horizon. “She’s really bounding over the main.” Slappy observed as he felt the boards beneath his feet rise slightly and slap back down as The Festering Boil skipped across the breakers.

Gabriel overheard this comment and asked, “What does BOUNDING mean and what exactly is THE MAIN?”

Slappy looked puzzled but that had never stopped him from speaking before, “Well, BOUDNING is like BOUNCING only with a D instead of a C. And as for THE MAIN… well … do you see how the MAINsail wobbles in the wind?” Here it was clear even to wee Gabriel that the captain was bluffing his way through the answer.

Fortunately, Salty Jim was passing by on his way to remodel the crow’s nest, when he overheard Slappy’s weak definitions and couldn’t help but interject. “The word ‘bounding’ comes from the Greek, horizon kyklos, quite literally meaning a ‘the boundaries of a circle.’ So, technically, the movement of the ship could be as smooth as ice and we would STILL be ‘bounding’ so long as we are heading toward the horizon. The word ‘main’ is from the Old English, ‘maegen’ meaning ‘power, strength, force’ it can be used to describe an expanse of either land or sea – in our case, sea.” And with that, he tied a timber to his back and began the climb up to his work atop the mizzenmast.

“So, let that be a lesson to ye, lad!” Slappy said smiling at the young man. “Learn your Greek and Old English root words as well as your Latin and Dutch invectives.” And with that, he strode off to stand at the bow and bounce up and down singing, “Bounding, Bounding Over the Bounding Main …”

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