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.”


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