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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