Wednesday, June 29, 2005


A Pirate Tale – 92 – Something's afoot!

“Something’s wrong,” Ol’ Chumbucket said to the gathering on the quarterdeck of the Festering Boil.

“You mean something is more wrong than the captain being kidnapped by his ex-wife who wants him to cheat to make her win the games and another of his ex-wives is in town threatening to blow on him and his brother if he doesn’t make sure SHE wins the games?” Sir Nigel asked. “Something ELSE is wrong?”

“That, my old umbrella stand, is precisely what I mean,” Chumbucket said with a sour look. “You have summed up the situation perfectly.”

Ol’ Chumbucket had gone into Sao Paolo to seek out Shifty Meg’s Pentari encampment to try to get the lay of the land in case a rescue were planned, and to suggest to Meg that holding Slappy hostage would never work. Slappy would have to check in with the organizing committee of the Annual Pirate Olympics and Women's Beach Volleyball Extravaganza or he’d never get to sit as head judge and her plans would be for nothing. But when he’d arrived at the campsite, there was no one there. The site looked recently abandoned, a “magical bubble pool” still bubbling away. Chumbucket had checked the temperature of the pool and deduced that it had been abandoned no more than an hour or two. And based on the greasy sheen on the water, it was very clear that Slappy had been in it.

Chumbucket had also noticed that more than one armed group had been there. But who or what they were or why everyone had left was unclear. There were also signs that a very heavy object had been dragged away, but he’d lost the trail quickly. He was a pirate, after all, not a bloody Boy Scout. The only clue he’d been able to find was a small square of heavy paper, highly embossed, with the names, “Hungadinger, Hungadinger, Schmidt and Hungadinger.” He showed it the Boil’s crew.

“What is this? Some kind of incantation?” George the Greek asked. “I don’t know,” Chumbucket replied as the card was passed around the circle of officers.

“It looks rather like a gentleman’s calling cards, but those are not the names of gentlemen,” Leftenant Keeling offered.

“There’s more,” Chumbucket said. “As I was making my way through the town, which of course is packed with old acquaintances and enemies here for the games, I’m sure I saw Carnal Carol, accompanied by a phalanx of extremely powerful warriors. And I’m not sure, but I also might have seen Brenda. It’s been a few years, but I’m pretty sure that was her surrounded by those strangely dressed women.”

The crew took a few moments trying to figure out exactly which ex-wife was which before deciding that the exact order was less important than the sheer numbers.

“That’s four of the five,” Dogwatch Watts said.

“Five? It’s six,” Keeling offered.

“No, Cap’n Slappy said he has five ex-wives,” George recalled.

“Perhaps, but during our prenuptial counseling he told Molly and I he had six, five divorces and one he lost in a poker game, ‘fair and square,’ “ Keeling recalled.

“Oh, yes, Dirty Martha,” Chumbucket said. “She’s now the richest woman in Portugal, I hear, cornered the market in home decorating. Does wonders with hot glue and such like. Since he didn’t technically divorce her, and I’m not sure he was exactly married to her, I don’t know if she counts. I doubt we’ll see her here, anyway. And probably just as well, considering that we’ve got enough of his ex-wives here now to keep the divorce courts busy for a good long while trying to figure out just how much he owes to each.”

“See, this is why I never married,” Cementhands McCormack said to no one in particular. “I was never very good at breaking up with women. And I wasn’t any better at meeting them. It always seemed rude to just walk up to a stranger and ask them to slake my carnal desires.”

The others looked at McCormack, surprised. It seemed unlikely to those who knew him as a ravening, bloodthirsty fighting machine of a pirate that he might suffer from softer sensibilities, but it struck them that in truth he hadn’t often been encumbered with female companionship. In the past they had put this down to a certain suspected “difference” of preference, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but maybe they had been mistaken.

“And then the part in the middle, where you actually have the relationship, I’m even worse at that,” Cementhands said. “They expect you to talk to them and such. It’s that whole word, relationship. Apparently women expect you to relate to them in some way, and I’m just not good at that.”

He looked, up, surprised to see he’d been talking out loud, and glared at the people staring at him slack-jawed.

“So what are we doing about the captain,” he said with a look that clearly suggested anyone wanting to explore his inner feelings with him would soon be exploring new medical emergencies he’d inflict on them.

“What do we NEED to do about the captain, besides get him a drink?” a familiar voice called out.

“Cap’n Slappy?” Dogwatch said, peering over the side.

Indeed, approaching the ship in a small dinghy was Cap’n Slappy. He pulled his boat up to the side of the Festering Boil and clambered up the side, moving with surprising dexterity for a man of his size. As he swung over the railing, well wishers, each asking questions, surrounded him.

“Stand down, all of ye scurvy lubbers,” he growled with affection. “What does a man have to do to get a mug of rum on this tub! And a saddle of mutton, grilled if possible but I’m hungry enough to eat it raw, would be helpful.”

Fortunately there was cold mutton ready for the captain, so the crew was spared the sight of their captain tearing into a raw sheep. It had been waiting for the crew’s dinner. Now the entire saddle of meat was barely enough to slake the captain’s hunger.

While he ate, he regaled the crew with stories of his adventures between enormous mouthfuls of meat.

“So anyway, after I’d been separated from Meg I went down to the organizing committee and I’m all set up as head judge,” Slappy said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his “head judge” badge.”

Chumbucket, George, Cementhands and Sawbones Burgess watched him closely.

“I don’t like the glassy look in his eyes,” Sawbones said quietly to the other three.

“He ALWAYS has a glassy look in his eyes, or almost always,” Cementhands objected.

“This is different. Look at his hands, they’re not shaking.”

As Slappy finished his meal, Chumbucket and George dismissed the other crew members back to their tasks and steered the captain down to his cabin, where Cementhands and Burgess were waiting.

“So what’s going on captain?” George asked.

“It’ll be a great two weeks of competition, beginning with the glorious opening ceremony tomorrow!” he said.

Burgess slapped the captain, hard. He and McCormack had drawn lots to see who got to do it, and Cementhands had been sorely disappointed, so he was pleased when Slappy reached for his pistol, and he got to firmly restrain the captain’s arms.

“Snap out of it captain,” Burgess said. “What’s going on.”

Slappy’s eyes grew hard.

“All right sir, you forced me into this,” Burgess said. “Cementhands, do your stuff.” Chumbucket and George jammed their fingers into their ears.

“Toor-aloora-loora!” Cementhands began crooning. “Toor-aloora-lie! Toor-aloora-loora!, Hush, now, don’t you cry.”

Slappy’s eyes rolled back in his head and a convulsion shook his body. Cementhands kept singing.

“Toor-aloora-loora!” Cementhands began crooning. “Toor-aloora-lie! Toor-aloora-loora!” his voice rose, reaching a crescendo. Burgess fell to the floor as McCormack warbled the final lines, “That’s an Irish lullaby!”

Slappy’s head slumped forward, then slowly rose. His eyes were still glazed, but it was the normal glaze.

“There’s dangerous doings afoot,” he said softly. Then, gathering strength, he broke free from Cementhands loosening grip and turned to his compatriots.

“Thank you all, especially you, Cementhands! We’ve not a moment to lose!”

“What’s happening, Slappy?” Chumbucket asked.

“There’s to be a hostile takeover.”

“A what? A takeover? Of our ship.”

Slappy shook his head.

“Well then, who is being taken over?”

“All of us,” Slappy said solemnly. “There’s going to be a takeover of the entire Brotherhood of the Coast. It’s already in the works. In fact, it might be too late to stop it.”

Monday, June 27, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 91 “An Execution of Ex-Wives”

Sao Paulo was abuzz with the news – Slappy was back in town. The Pirate Olympic Committee organizers were desperate to find him so that he could be safely sequestered away from the competitors and their judge-bribing ways. But while they had heard he was in town, none of them had actually SEEN the captain. Sure, The Festering Boil was in harbor and Sir Nigel’s appearance had caused quite a stir, but where could a fat, flatulent, profane windbag of a pirate be? It wasn’t like he could “blend into the crowd.”

At one point, one of the committee member’s assistants accosted a man they thought to be the famous pirate, but it turned out to be none other than, “Cap’n Wideload” a comical fellow who made a living appearing at children’s parties as a “family friendly” version of the real thing. A portly, likable clown of a man he was, too – but certainly no man’s (or woman’s) ideal pirate. Such was his disposition that he was in the habit of losing control of his bladder at the first show of violence. In fact, Cap’n Wideload wore a protective undergarment to parties in the all-too-likely event that a balloon might burst unexpectedly.

You might imagine, then, that he fairly dampened himself when “Blood-Eye” MacGirk “Three Fingers But Can Still Play the Fiddle Good As You Please” Hoskins grabbed him roughly as was their customary greeting and, mistaking him for Cap’n Slappy, trundled him off to a sequestered location without explanation or argument. Things might have been easily ironed out had Cap’n Wideload (whose real name was Marvin P. Snicklepoeseur) not insisted on making a brave attempt at “staying in character.” He bellowed and blustered and stomped about the dark room both in an effort to fool his captors into thinking he was a man of some importance at the same time trying to dry off his britches.

Finally, after two days, a close friend of Cap’n Slappy’s, Lord Alfred “Balls” Bullock on paying a long overdue visit to claim a long overdue repayment of a debt, recognized the flabby counterfeit and sent him packing with a savage beating due a hapless interloper. It might have gone worse for poor Cap’n Wideload had his weeping not reminded “Balls” of his own dearly departed mother’s tearful admonitions not to keep company with “ne’erdowells and blaggards!” In fact, Lord Alfred kissed the imposter gently on the cheek before sending him away with more gold coins than he had made during the previous seventeen children’s parties.

Red Rita, in the meantime, had tracked down Shifty Meg and her band of Pentari warriors. Slappy had just finished his grueling morning regimen – coffee and cakes followed by a soak in the portable “magical bubble pool,” a steam bath and full body massage delivered by three beautiful young Pentari maidens who really knew a thing or two about deep muscle relaxation. At first, Cap’n Slappy was afraid the rescue party from the Boil had reached him, but upon first seeing Rita, groaned aloud that she had made the whole scene seem “awkward.”

“Good God, woman!” Slappy declared, “I had hoped you were dead!”
“Hoped?” Rita spat back.

“Hoped?” Slappy feigned confusion, “Who said ‘Hoped?’ I said that I had ‘Heard’ you were dead – and threw a freakin’ party!”

“Still a bastard, I see, Mortimer.” Rita let the name just fall out of her evil mouth and smiled as Slappy cringed.

Shifty Meg turned to Slappy in abject surprise, “Mortimer!?! I thought your first name was Tyrone!”

“And I had always been led to believe it was ‘Dash!’” “Carnal” Carol stood before the assemblage which now had grown – in addition to Meg and her Pentari tribesmen, Rita had assembled an army of ruthless pirates just itching for a fight. At first, it was thought that Carol had come alone, but out of the brush stepped nearly one hundred well-armed Amazonian warriors – women who, like Carol herself, stood well over six feet tall and appeared to be chiseled out of dark marble.

Slappy was truly astonished. “Carol, my darling, my fifth and final wife – great love of my soul! I thought you had disappeared forever – having fallen victim to the cannibal lesbians of Sparkle Island!”

“No, Pookie,” another voice came from a separate wall of the jungle around them and Beautiful Brenda, Slappy’s fourth (or third) wife stepped into a clearing with her own army of flannel-clad ‘big beautiful women.’

Slappy winced – “I had such high hopes for the lesbian cannibals of Sparkle Island.” His voice was as close to a murmur as it ever came.

“Stop your stereotypical condescending crap, Slappy!” Brenda pontificated, “This is just one band of many representative of the population of Sparkle Island – We have plenty of HOT lesbians, not that it would do you any good, because the only way you could ever get close to them would be through your twisted imagination!” At this, Slappy closed his eyes, smiled and trans-like muttered, “Sparkle Island,” – for years, ‘Sparkle Island’ had been his ‘happy place’ and he wasn’t about to let Brenda ruin it – but she soldiered on bravely in the attempt. “This is The Bull Dyke Defense Force! They are highly skilled fighters and a match for any other army led by one of your ex-wives – I’m Sure!”

Slappy looked around in awe. There they were; Brenda, Carol, Meg and Rita – wives numbered two through five. All of them far too beautiful for a man of his looks, but still, there had been something there at some time. It was now coming back to him - Oh, yes, they all DID have one thing in common – they all had a substantial chunk of his fortune both present AND future. He wondered what a pack of ex-wives might be called. “Let’s see.” Slappy mused aloud, “It’s a gaggle of geese, a flock of seagulls and a murder of crows – Oh! I know! It must be an ‘Execution of Ex-Wives!’” Of course, the only one missing was the one who had never made herself rich on his seeming inability to use good sense when it came to beautiful women – and she was the most beautiful of them all. They were practically children when they met – when he was still in the naval academy and she was working with the children of the poor and downtrodden of Belize. Slappy began to smile whenever he thought of her. She left him a note one morning explaining that she felt compelled to build a school for wayward boys deep in the jungle away from the vice and crime of the world and back where the goodness of nature might teach them their true place in the universe.

Her leaving was the one and only time Slappy ever wept over the loss of a woman. Of course, he wept constantly over the loss of his stuff – but never over the women – there seemed to be an endless supply of them and nothing in this particular moment stood in contrast to his way of thinking.

Slappy turned three hundred and sixty degrees to take in the vast array of armed adversaries each bound to him by some degree or other through the rite of marriage. He decided it was time to speak, “You are all as lovely as I have remembered you my darlings. Such a bouquet is missing only one dainty flower …”

“Your Lily.” A clear, warm deep voice from his past turned him around again and there she was – wife number one – Lily.

“Lily!” Slappy was dumbfounded. Whatever charm he was attempting to conjure now flew up through the leaves of the trees above his head.

She was not accompanied by an army as his other ex-wives were, but rather by four handsome young men dressed impeccably in business attire. With a nod of her head, each man delivered a packet of papers to the four other ex-wives who, in turn, glanced at the contents and looked up in horror and admiration toward this woman who took her rightful place at the head of the family.

Without discussion she explained what their next move was, “Kiss him goodnight, girls. This gravy train and his largesse stops here – if you have any more financial matters of importance you may file the appropriate papers at my office during regular business hours – you’ll find the address on the cards my men have given you. Are there any questions?”

Even the birds and crickets were silent.

“Then kiss him goodnight and apologize for any inconvenience.”

One by one, each of Slappy’s ex-wives kissed him goodnight. Shifty Meg apologized for kidnapping him but Slappy had never had a more pleasant captivity and he said so.

Once they were gone, Slappy turned to Lily with open arms and moved to embrace her, but she held up her hand and fended off the hug.

“We’re four wives and a thousand strumpets past that, my Love.” Her voice was still warm, but her use of the word, ‘Love’ was more a faded expression than a term of affection.
“Then why did you come to my aid – and HOW did you come to my aid? What do you want?” Slappy had decided that he would NEVER sully the Pirate Olympiad and Women’s Beach Volleyball Games with false judgment – not under threat of death – or humiliation. What on earth would Lily want with the games anyway? He wondered to himself.

“Don’t worry.” Lily said calmly. “Have your little games and judge your little volleyball. What I want has nothing to do with any of that.”

“Then what is it you want, Lily?” Slappy’s voice was an echo of the voice he had as a younger man – when ‘Love’ was still possible and ‘Hope’ wasn’t just the name of a cape.

“That can wait.” Lily replied gently. “And when the time comes, you will hear from one of my boys.”

Slappy felt a slight sting on the back of his neck as if he had been bitten by a mosquito. He went to slap it but touched the hand holding the needle as it extracted itself from his neck. The young man’s handsome face was emotionless, but as Slappy began to fall, the young men cradled him to the ground and covered him with a blanket before they, and their mistress, slipped quietly away as Slappy drifted off to sleep.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


A Pirate Tale – 90

Sails dotted the waters around the Festering Boil all the way to the horizon, as pirate ships from all over the globe converged on Sao Paolo for the Annual Pirate Olympics and Women's Beach Volleyball Extravaganza. Meanwhile the Boils continued to work on their plans to free the captain from his predicament – if in fact it was a predicament he was in.

“So, he’s been kidnapped, after a fashion, and he’s being threatened with blow guns and spears and being forced to make sure his ex-wife wins the games,” Don Taco said. “But he had already agreed to do so, albeit under the threat of those blow guns, and he IS a pirate after all, so I’m not sure we need to worry about any threat to the purity of his soul.”

“And if he’s being tortured, sign me up for some of that,” said Sir Nigel, who had been watching the goings on in Shifty Meg’s boat with interest, not to mention some jealousy.

“That’s not the point,” George the Greek said sternly. “He was taken off our ship against his stated intention. We just can’t have that. It’s bad for business.”

“Damn straight,” Ol’ Chumbucket echoed. “How would it look if we let our captain be taken away without putting up a fight? We’d be the laughing stock of the Caribbean! Every sloop, xebec and pink in the ocean would be howling with mirth when we came upon ‘em.”

“Oh, quite right. It would never do,” Nigel conceded. “I was just saying the situation isn’t quite so dire or pressing as to require immediate action on our part. In fact, considering the ‘attention’ Slappy is getting from the women, he might object if we rescued him too early. Let’s get into Sao Paolo and get the lay of the land. As to reputation, right now I’d say he’s going to come out of this with quite a good reputation in some respects.”

There were knowing smiles from all the crew members who possessed spyglasses and had observed some of the action that had been going on aboard the large canoes of Shifty Meg and her Pentari pals.

Meg’s fleet of small boats was working north close to the coastline, while the Festering Boil had had to put out farther to sea to avoid reefs, shoals and other obstructions. It put the ship on a more direct course for the harbor, since the canoes would have to work around the headland that guarded the bay. So the Festering Boil dropped anchor off Sao Paolo long before Meg’s flotilla arrived.

While concerned for their captain, much of the crew was also excited about the prospect of competing in the games. Despite Slappy’s fascination with the sport, the Boils didn’t make much as a volleyball team and didn’t think they stood much of a chance. But several crewmembers were looking forward to the pirate competitions. Leftenant Keeling, for one, was the defending medalist in the interdisciplinary disciplining contests, and bookmakers ashore had instantly rated him as the odds on favorite as soon as they’d seen the Festering Boil drop anchor. Black Butch had never been bested at either culinary arts or cleaver combat, and Two Patch had hopes of placing in the ratline climbing contests, while Don Taco was eager to test his Spanish School fencing in the rough and tumble of the game’s swordsmanship contests. Sawbones Burgess, the ship’s surgeon, was thinking of entering both the amputation and the leech linking events, while Dogwatch Watts – thanks to the late Prof. Droppingham’s expert tutelage –considered himself a strong dark horse in the navigation competitions.

The ship was a buzz of activity as Salty Jim prepared his poison inoculation, the crew members limbered up for the games, and Ol’ Chumbucket oversaw the loading of a cross section of plundered goods into the ship’s longboat. The array of wine, silks, spices and finished goods taken from Spanish merchants en route across the Atlantic, while not as sexy as gold and jewels, would provide each member of the ship’s crew with a healthy financial stake.

“Do you want to come ashore with me to help sell the booty,” Ol’ Chumbucket asked Sir Nigel, who stood at the rail, moodily starting at the city.

“No, I think I’ll stay aboard ship for now,” he said. “Not really feeling up to shore leave today.”

“Look, if you’re worried about reporters asking how you lost three ships in three months …”

“Worried? Nonsense!” Nigel said quickly. “No one would dare ask such a question of me, not if he expected to live.”

“Quite true, I’m sure,” Chumbucket said. “But look, stuff happens, and you don’t want to give the impression you’re hiding away from the press ... ” Chumbucket held up a hand to still the objection Sir Nigel seemed about to raise and went on. “I’m not saying that’s what you’re doing. I’m just saying I could use a hand selling this merchandise we obtained, and you of course, as a temporary member of the Boil’s crew, are due a share. My estimate is that your share ought to set you up pretty nicely with a new starter ship, especially since the harbor is so crowded and an awful lot of these pirates will either be drunk or will lose enough money wagering that they’ll take any offer you are to make. Hell, if you want to go in with Don Taco, you might well be able to afford any ship in the harbor. Then let the press crow. You can answer them with a broadside of nine-pounders.”

Sir Nigel smiled at the prospect.

“As to going in with our Spanish friend, I think I’d prefer to go solo,” Nigel said. “A divided command is always trying on the best of friendships. And really, though he’s really an extraordinary cook and an excellent swordsman, his propensity for nonstop chattering and constant self-aggrandizing gets to be a little hard to bear.”

Chumbucket turned away, pretending to attend to the loading of the boat, so that Nigel wouldn’t see the grin that had flashed across his face. If there were any pirate on the seven seas more given to blowing his own trumpet than Sir Nigel, Ol’ Chumbucket had never met him, heard of him or dreamt him up in a rum-induced stupor. Finally, he felt well enough in control to turn back to the pirate.

“Well, Nigel, I was hoping that while I took care of the commerce, you’d be willing to go ‘get the lay of the land,’ as you said earlier. Salty Jim is working on his concoction but says it won’t be ready for a few days. So we’ll have time before we swing into action to get the lay of the land and come up with the best plan. And the crew of course will want the time to enter the games, so I think whatever we’re going to do, it’ll have to wait for the medals ceremonies at the end.”

“Ah, good choice there,” Nigel agreed. “There’s always a lot of confusion and drinking. That’s the time to strike all right. Okay then, I’ll go have a look around. Who knows, maybe Shifty Meg actually will be the best and a clear winner of the Pirate Paragon medal and all of this will be unnecessary. But we’ll have to assume otherwise. So I’ll do it.”

They parted company at the quayside, as Chumbucket went to haggle with the merchants while Sir Nigel went into the city to scout out possibilities for rescuing the captain, “If he really wants to be rescued,” he mumbled to himself.

It was hours before Chumbucket had haggled for the best price – which was an awfully good price even though he had been forced to deal with the kind of merchants who didn’t demand to see bills of sale and other such pesky details. There was a shortage of all these goods in Sao Paolo, a shortage the Boil had directly caused by stealing so much of it before it could arrive in the new world, and the merchants were just happy to get their hands on goods they could sell for a big profit. Pleased with himself, Chumbucket returned to the ship where he supervised the unloading of the holds. It wasn’t until later, when he was arranging with George to disburse the crew’s shares, that he realized Nigel hadn’t returned yet.

“Where could he be?” Cementhands McCormack said. “If he was just scouting, he should be back by now. It’s not like we don’t all know the streets of Sao Paolo.” Cementhands had been more than typically grumpy, since he’d been denied both the chance to “scout” Sao Paolo himself, or to help Salty Jim collect the female urine needed for the antidote.

Before anyone could answer, the pirates saw a dinghy approaching the ship. It was rowing as fast as its two drunken oarsman could propel it across the water, and their inebriation was such that it was purely a matter of chance that it arrived at the side of the Festering Boil at all instead of rowing on out into the ocean. Seated in the bow, yelling at the two-man crew of the watering taxi to “bloody watch where yer going!’ was Sir Nigel.

He scrambled up the side of the ship and strode up to the quarterdeck, where Chumbucket, George, Sawbones Burgess and Don Taco were waiting for him.

“Well, me hearties, things are certainly getting interesting, and no mistake,” he said by way of preamble. “Meg and her crew got into town late this afternoon and are holding Slappy for now in a tent on their camp site near the place where the games will be contested. I might add that he’s being guarded by women, but at some point they’re going to have to let him out so that he can judge. But the games officials have seen the Boil, so they know he’s in town, but assume he’s with us. They’re very eager to have him be head judge again. But that’s not the most interesting thing.”

Nigel loved telling a story, especially one in which he figured prominently, so he gave a dramatic pause. When no one on the audience, he knew him well, said, “Oh, no! Really? What IS the most interesting thing?” he went on as if someone had.

“The REALLY interesting thing is who I ran into on my way back to the boat. Or, who ran into me, you might say.”

“WHO?” no one said breathlessly, so Nigel continued as if they had.

“I was trying to find a boat to get back here, and someone heard me mention the name of the ship. The next thing I knew, I was set upon by six swarthy fellows who insisted, after a serious struggle, that I come with them.” The audience noticed that Nigel’s usually impeccable suit did not look the least bit “pecced,” but said nothing.

“Well, who did they bring me to but –Red Rita!”

This, finally, got the reaction Nigel had been hoping for.

“Rita!” Burgess said. “I thought she was dead!”

“Well, not nearly as dead as we’d been informed, I guess,” said Ol’ Chumbucket, who was grudgingly impressed.

“But she went down with the Crusty Capricorn four years ago, and there were no survivors!” George objected.

“Well, at least one survivor,” Nigel said.

“And that shipwreck wasn’t the only thing she survived,” Burgess said. “She also survived her marriage to Cap’n Slappy. His second ex-wife, I believe.”

“And you’ll never guess what she’s doing here or what she wants,” Nigel said.

All of the listeners knew very well they’d believe it, since they saw it coming as clearly as the readers do.

“She’s here to compete in the games. She wants to use Slappy’s influence as head judge to make sure she wins the Pirate Paragon medal,” Nigel said.


“Or she’ll deliver to the admiralty enough information about Slappy and his brother Admiral Tharp to put both of them in gaol for a very long time - if they’re lucky.”

Monday, June 20, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 89 "Brainstorming"

Northward up the coast they sailed. It had been a day and a half since the encounter with Shifty Meg and Slappy had been taken aboard her rather slow “ship” which was more like an oversized canoe. But what Meg’s force lacked in speed and size they made up for in sheer numbers. Her large canoe was accompanied by several dozens of others like it in a primitive flotilla of dart-blowing pirate Olympic hopefuls. Well, not so much “hopefuls” as “expectants.” All the Ol’ Chumbucket, George, Cementhands and company could do was sail along side and think.

Occasionally, Slappy would glance up at them and force a smile or wave feebly, but Meg tolerated no loss of focus and redirected him to the finer points of her plan. It couldn’t “look” like Slappy was favoring them or his status as supreme judge would be jeopardized – and if he failed to sell his decisions, he would be rewarded with a neck full of darts and their accompanying myriad of symptoms up to and including a painful death. Meg was NOT fooling around here.

“Well, men!” George began, “I am open to any suggestions.”

“We could blast them out of the water and be done with this charade!” Doc Burgess said decisively.

“And blast the Captain in the process?” Chumbucket snapped back.

“Look, I’m just trying to get the brainstorming session going – it’s an idea. I didn’t say it was without drawbacks. What’s your bright idea?”

“We could sail ahead to Sao Paulo and explain to the Women’s Beach Volleyball and Pirate Olympic governing body that the Captain is in this dire situation and they could settle it by disqualifying him as a judge and leveling the playing field.” LefTENant Keeling suggested.

“If we do that,” Chumbucket argued, “they’ll know that it was us what interfered and they’ll take it out on Slappy by using him as a pin cushion and feeding him to the sand crabs. What else?”

“The Pentari use a poison extracted from Rogallian Red Dart Tree Frogs mixed with a distilment created by boiling the bark of the Wabba-Wabba Willow tree.” Salty Jim mused. “With some simple ingredients available aboard the ship, I can concoct an antidote.”

“Excellent!” George exclaimed adding, “What do you need?”

“Rum.” Jim replied

“We’ve got that!” George slapped him on the back – nearly knocking him over.
“And gunpowder.” Jim continued.

“Not a problem – we’ve got extra barrels.” George motioned for a couple of hands to take a couple of them to Jim’s quarters.

“And urine from the female members of the crew.” Jim declared decisively adding, “They’ll have to donate in my presence so I can keep it sterile.”

“Why is it,” Cementhands observed, “that whenever you are making one of your secret concoctions you need urine from the ladies?”

“Theirs is rich in nitrogen and iron.” Jim replied matter-of-factly and seemed as though he would be continuing, but Ol’ Chumbucket intervened quickly.

“Thank you, Jim. I’m sure the wenches won’t mind donating once again if we offer extra rations of rum – but one thing troubles me.”

“What’s that?” Jim inquired.

“Well, I see how inoculating the crew would be handy if we are going to be in an all out fight with the Pentari, but I don’t see how this helps the Captain?” Chumbucket’s question had the men looking at each other for an answer.

Cementhands opened his mouth to speak when the splat of a saliva-soaked piece of cannon wadding slapped and stuck to his left cheek. All heads turned in the direction of the soggy projectile and fixed on young Gabriel who had fired at Spencer but the older boy had skillfully ducked the wet wad.

Gabriel’s face shifted from malicious glee to abject fear as he realized he had just interrupted a very important meeting my globbing his spit on a very big man.

Cementhands gave the boys “the death stare” as he wiped the goober off his face. But he relented when tears began welling up in the little boy’s eyes and smiled broadly and did that “bug-eyed” that always made the kids laugh.

“Where did you get that blow-gun, lad?” Chumbucket eagerly asked Gabriel.

“I traded some of my extra Sir Nigel trading cards for it with one of those Jungle men.” Gabriel.

“They prefer to be called, ‘Pentari,’ over ‘Jungle men,’ lad.” Jim corrected.

“And I prefer to be called, ‘Voltar: Lord of Devastation and Despair!’ But who’s giving me the love?” Gabriel opined before running away from Spencer who had just hocked up an excellent loogie and was about to spit it in his direction.

George turned quickly to Salty Jim. “How quickly does this anti-venom work and how quickly can you have everyone inoculated?”

“It begins working as soon as it enters the bloodstream and how quickly I can have everyone inoculated depends on how full we can make the ladies’ bladders?” Jim replied.

“I still think your obsession with women peeing is weird.” Cementhands shook his head in disbelief.

“It’s not an obsession, it’s a scientific practicality.” Salty Jim replied sharply. “The collection of urine is a strictly clinical process.”

“Then why do you have such a large collection of women’s knickers?” the big man shot back.

“That’s a hobby.” Jim stopped just short of huffing. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, the sooner I begin the sooner I can provide you all with protection. Even you.” This parting shot was directed at Cementhands who replied only by snorting.

“Sawbones, will you help Jim and keep him focused on the work and not the ladies undergarments?” George asked.

“Aye-aye.” Burgess replied and followed after Salty Jim.

Ol’ Chumbucket gazed through the spyglass at the large canoe, but could see no sign of Slappy. He could, however, hear his unmistakable moaning. “My God! What are they doing to the man?” he wondered aloud. But apart from the upper shoulders and head of some very attractive Pentari young women, moving in what appeared to be a “floor scrubbing” motion he could see nothing.


“Oh! Oh! Sweet Sassy Molassy!” Slappy moaned as he lay face down on the deck of the large canoe – out of the view of his comrades aboard The Festering Boil. “Oh, yeah! That’s the spot!” he gasped as the two nearly naked young women who straddled his large frame worked their hands into the knotted muscles of his back, buttocks and legs.
“Ah! Sweet Tap-dancing Baby Jesus!” he howled.

Shifty Meg sat in the small shelter that passed for a cabin aboard the large canoe and chuckled at his groans. “That was part of our problem – I could never tell whether you liked something or hated it.”

Between gasps, Slappy shot back, “Well, it was never any of your goddamn business anyway.”

Meg looked at one of the girls and made a talon-like motion with her hand. The young woman reached up between his legs and gripped Slappy’s testicles giving them a sharp twist. Once again, his groaning growl was ambiguously left to one’s own interpretation.

“You’re the only man I know whose brain’s pleasure and pain centers are undifferentiated.” Meg observed. "Promise me I can have your head when you die."

“Sure thing, Darlin'. I have no idea what any of that means,” Slappy replied, “but if you could get that girl to twist my balls again, I’d be eternally grateful.”

“Perhaps that can be arranged,” Meg said calmly, “after the games are over. In the meantime,” her voice dropped as she began to loosen her bodice, “we’ve got some catching up to do before we get to Sao Paulo in the morning.”

Monday, June 06, 2005


A Pirate Tale 88 - 'I'm Ba-a-ack!'

Cap’n Slappy groaned. His head felt like a Spanish frigate had been using it for target practice with its heavy guns, and his bowels felt as if they were full of grape shot.

“That’s it. That’s the last time I let Sawbones Burgess and McCormack both be my personal bartenders at the same time,” he thought to himself.

The pirate captain shifted, trying to find a position where the pounding in his head would at least match the pounding of his pulse, but found himself held by a pair of strong arms.

He tried to open his eyes. He tried harder. A slit of bright sunshine filtered through his lids, nearly killing the few operable brain cells he had working. He shut them again. He heard a voice – soft and feminine – say something that sounded like, “Shhh! He’s waking.”

Well that was promising. He tried again. Backlit by the sun that seemed a hundred times brighter than usual and focused directly at the back of his brain, he made out the shape of a head framed by a halo of blonde hair. Squinting against the light, he studied the image as the details slowly swam into shape. At last he could see it, the most beautiful face he had ever seen, with long blonde hair dropping to caress the woman’s shapely shoulders. She smiled at him.

“Oh shit!” he said. “Where the hell did YOU come from?”

The arms dropped him and his head fell to the deck with a “Thunk!” A stab of pain and light shot through his skull.

Slappy lay on the deck, desperately trying to recall pertinent facts, things like where he was and how he’d gotten there. Or his name, or how to walk. “Think!” he commanded himself. “Where am I and how the hell did SHE get here?”

He remembered the wedding. Yes, that was right. Someone on the ship had gotten married. It wasn’t him was it? No, it was Keeling – Keeling and Molly! Okay. So far so good. And then they’d had a party to celebrate the occasion. A wedding was a rare enough event on a pirate ship that they’d celebrated in rare style, even for the Festering Boil. Burgess had kept delivering him a variety of drinks with fruit juice and little paper umbrellas, while McCormack had been intent on serving him a steady stream of gin with various fruits and vegetables in it. Slappy had, of course, drunk it all. He didn’t put his foot down until Cementhands had switched to something he claimed was Chartreuse. The vile yellowish substance in the glass had a particularly frightening scent, and when Slappy accidentally spilled some it had removed the paint from the bulkhead. He remembered some dancing and a lot of raucous storytelling. And something … what was it?

Oh, that’s right. A boat. They had been running north along the Brazilian coast and the lookouts – at least those who weren’t completely shitfaced – had been focused out to sea, which makes sense if you’re on the lookout for naval vessels or fat merchantmen. So they hadn’t noticed the small canoes coming in from the shoreline. Then there was – Slappy searched his brain – that’s right, a swarm of powerfully built men, dark brown and nearly naked, wearing nothing more than bright red loin cloths knotted tightly across their middle. They were armed with long wooden spears. And that was absolutely all Slappy could remember. But how could SHE be there now?

There was nothing else he could do. He opened his eyes again. One look confirmed it. It was she. Her. No, he was pretty sure “It was she” was correct grammatically, but in his current state he didn’t care which. And she was surrounded by more of those natives. She saw him look at her.

“I’m ba-a-ack,” she said. “So, what, you’re not happy to see me sweetheart?”

“Jesus, Meg! How did you get here? Why are you here?”

Because that’s who it was. Shifty Meg, his third – or fourth, it was hard to recall – wife. He had last seen her two days after they’d escaped together from the cellar of a mad French chef, and as they’d been locked in there for 22 days and had managed to get on each others very last nerves, the decision to divorce had been mutual and immediate. Which went nowhere in explaining what she was doing back in his life now, years later, in Brazil.

Slappy rolled over and raised himself to his hands and knees. He heard a snort of amusement.

“Well, that posture certainly becomes you,” she said. “Maybe if you’d bowed to me more often it wouldn’t have been necessary to divorce you.” Meg tossed her blonde tresses to the side with an imperious wave of her head.

“What in the world are you doing here Meg?” Slappy asked, clambering unsteadily to his feet. “I’m not behind in my alimony, am I?” He looked at the native warriors who crowded around her, and it suddenly occurred to him to ask, “Er, you and these guys aren’t taking over the ship or anything, are you? Where’s my crew?”

“Right here, Cap’n,” he heard George the Greek call out. “Everything’s fine.”

“That’s easy for you to say, George, your third (or fourth) ex-wife isn’t standing here taunting you.”

He looked over to where George manned the helm. He was a little pale, probably due to his own bout of self-poisoning by alcohol, but other than that seemed fine. Slappy looked out over the ship, wincing in the light, and saw others in the crew also going gamely, if feebly, about their tasks. The score of natives accompanying Meg seemed curious, but not hostile.

“Where’s Ol’ Chumbucket?” Slappy asked.

“Not so loud,” his pirate partner complained. “I’ve been up for an hour and drank a gallon of coffee, but it’s no good. I think I’m going to live.”

With that settled, Slappy turned gingerly back to Shifty Meg.

“Okay, my dear. To what do I owe the pleasure of this romantic reunion?” he asked.

“Don’t flatter yourself, old man,” she retorted. “You happened to sail past my camp, and with the noise you were making it would have been impossible to miss you. I recognized the ship and realized you were just the ace in the hole I need.”

“And how can I be of assistance?”

“Well, I’m glad you asked. Me and the boys have been working up a team, and we’ll be entering next week. But if you’re there, this could be a cinch.”

“What are you talking about?” Slappy asked, his head spinning.

Meg’s eyes widened as she realized Slappy really didn’t know. “I thought that’s why you’re here,” she said. “I thought you were just playing dumb. I’d forgotten you really are.”

Slappy remembered now why this had been his favorite divorce. Meg was beautiful and a ferocious pirate wench, but she just couldn’t stop heckling him. Not that he probably didn’t deserve it, and often gave as good as he got. But it got a little old, and she was really good at it.

“Just stop the pleasantries, tell me what’s going on and what you want from me so I can say no and be on about my business,” he snapped.

“Oh, don’t be that way,” she cooed, then got down to business. “I need your help.”

“With what? A friend to rescue? A ship to plunder? A port to sack?”

“No. A tournament to rig,” Meg said.

“It’s like this. Next week is the opening of the Annual Pirate Olympics and Women's Beach Volleyball Extravaganza in Sao Paulo, just up the coast. I’ve been living with the Pentari,” she indicated the tribesmen,” training them in beach volleyball. Frankly, I like our chances to take the volleyball part of the title. But I want the whole thing. I want the Pirate Paragon medal and the overall crown.”

“Well good luck,” Slappy said, “but I think …”

“And if you’re in town, you have a standing offer to be head judge, right?”

“Yes, but …”

“And if you’re the head judge, I have it in the bag, don’t I?”

Slappy saw what she was driving at. He was, in fact, excited to hear that the games were about to start. He’d completely forgotten in all the excitement. He noticed several other crew members take notice of the news with eagerness.

“Well, it’s great that the games are gonna be held, but why do you think I’ll be helping you?”

“Let’s say you’ll do it for old time’s sake,” Meg said, batting her blue eyes becomingly.

“Let’s not,” Slappy said, crossing his own eyes in reply.

“Okay, then let me give you 20 reasons. Boys!” At her raised voice the 20 native warriors raised blow guns to their lips. From the shore another hundred or more natives stepped onto the bank, and another dozen canoes skimmed from the beach toward the Festering Boil.

“If you think you have a headache now, wait until the stuff on their darts gets into your blood stream,” she said with a smile.

Slappy sized up the situation. He thought his crew, fully alert and at the top of their game, could easily handle the natives now clustering all over the ship. It wouldn’t be pretty, but they could do it. But hung over and caught by surprise, he didn’t like the odds. And there was always time later. And Meg wasn’t really that bad a sort, was she? Or was he just rationalizing?

Oh well. He shrugged his shoulders and held out his hand.

“Let me be the first to congratulate you on your success in the upcoming games.”

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