Wednesday, July 13, 2005


A Pirate Tale – 95

Ol’ Chumbucket left the ship early the next morning, dressed in his finest outfit – the one without so much blood and fish guts all over it. When pressed by Dogwatch Watts on what he was so fancied up for, the pirate replied that he had some meetings to attend.

“But sir, aren’t you going to watch the first day of competition?” Dogwatch asked. “George will be competing in knot tieing and splicing, I’ll be in speed mizzenmast climbing, and Sir Nigel is in the preliminary rounds of the "fanciest-dressed sailor of them all” competition. There’s also the team seamanship events, and Red Molly has the ship’s glee club ready for the all-pirate Chanty Championships”

“No, Dogwatch, I’m afraid I’ve got business to take care of. But if my meetings go as planned I may be able to catch the singing at the end of the day.”

His first stop was the official headquarters of the organizing committee of the Annual Pirate Olympics and Women's Beach Volleyball Extravaganza. The headquarters, at least this morning, was under the table at the back of the Bloated Hog tavern, where Chumbucket found organizing chairman Mad Spanky McFadden was snoring, his arm wrapped around the bloated hog in question.

It took some effort to shake, kick and cuff McFadden into something approaching useful wakefulness, but eventually the organizer was sitting at the table instead of underneath it, reviewing the plans for the games. As Chumbucket had suspected, the word “plan” was perhaps a bit of an overstatement. There was a general idea of the contests they wanted to hold and only a vague notion of a timetable – McFadden scowled when Chumbucket pointed out that they had the gunnery contest and the ratline aerial routines scheduled for the same venue at the same time, which might be entertaining from the spectators’ perspective but could be construed as a safety hazard from the more persnickety. More to the point for Chumbucket’s nascent plot, there were no plans at all for the closing ceremonies other than McFadden’s repeated desire to tell all the gathered pirates to “sod off.”

“If I may, I’d like to volunteer to organize the ceremonies,” Chumbucket offered.

“Well, I don’t mind having that off my plate, but why? You’ve never wanted to be involved in the games before. You’ve been hostile to every effort to bring you onto the organizing committee.”

“I know, and I feel guilty about it” Chumbucket said, lowering his eyes with becoming modesty. “After our last adventure out in the Indian Ocean, and with the impending problems at the end of the games I’ve been reminded of the importance of the brotherhood of all pirates and the solidarity of sailors.”

“Fine, fine,” McFadden said, waving away Chumbucket’s finer sentiments with a flourish of his greasy paw. “Go ahead, just so long as I get to tell everyone to sod off when it’s over.”

“Sod off, absolutely,” said Chumbucket, pulling a scrap of paper from his pocket and pretending to make a note, confident that McFadden wouldn’t notice he wasn’t holding a pen. “And, very quickly, the closing ceremony starts at 6, right after the marathon keelhauling event, right?”

“Whenever we get the last of the competitors out of the water, right,” McFadden said.

“Any objection if we start them just a tad later, say 7 p.m.? I want the sun to be setting when we get to the grand finale.”

“That’ll be fine. Just remember, ‘sod off!’”

“Very good then,” Chumbucket said. “Sod off! I’ll get right on it, and I think I can promise you a ceremony that people will be talking about the rest of the year.”

His next stop was in the harbor, the ship of Cha O Li and the Chinese team. It was, to Chumbucket’s eye and experience, an unusual craft, not as long as a typical pirate ship but much wider in the beam and with a very different set of sails and rigging than he was accustomed to. The ship was called a junk, Li told him, and had several advantages over the typical western ship - more stable, with separate holds, which made it more watertight and seaworthy.

The two pirates got on well at their first meeting. Li had also been served with papers by Lily’s team of lawyers and, while she hadn’t included the South China Sea in her planned takeover, the attorneys made it clear that that was part of the long-range planning, and Li and his crew weren’t any happier than the Caribbean pirates.

They discussed the situation before Chumbucket switched the topic to the upcoming closing ceremonies. He needed Li’s help. The Chinese pirate seemed surprised at the irrelevant turn the discussion had taken, but as Chumbucket outlined his plans for the event, Li’s eyes glowed with amusement, and the two shook hands over the proposal.

Chumbucket squared his shoulders for what would likely be the most difficult of his appointments, an interview with Lily herself. He arrived at Lily’s ship the appointed time. A smiling but firm receptionist made it clear that Miss Lily would be delayed and he should wait in the foyer. Drinking remarkably good coffee from a remarkably fine China cup, Chumbucket leafed through back copies of Pirattitude Monthly. Almost an hour passed before the receptionist showed him into the tastefully appointed office aboard Lily’s ship.

“Chumbucket, how nice to see you,” she lied, motioning him to a seat. “I can give you five minutes.”

“Delightful to see you as well, Lily,” he said, completing the lie. “I don’t think I’ll need even that much time. I’m here to tell you that Slappy has acceded to your demands …”

“They aren’t demands, of course,” she broke in snappishly. “It’s a simple business proposition.”

“Backed up by the threat of arrest and torture not just for Slappy but everyone in the buccaneering business,” Chumbucket pointed out.

“I’m not forcing him,” Lily repeated. “That the Portuguese government is sending out an armada of frigates and prison ships is a fact. If Slappy signs the contract I proposed, then he becomes my employee and I certainly use my influence with the Portuguese to keep him out of prison.”

“And the rest of us? How do we know you’ll keep your word on that?” Chumbucket asked.

Lily’s eyes narrowed and color came to her pale cheeks. “Don’t impugn my honor,” she hissed. “If I say I’ll do it, I’ll bloody well do it.”

Chumbucket restrained a smile while noting he had drawn first blood. “Of course, it probably occurred to you that if Slappy is your employee, in fact your CEO, then it wouldn’t be in your best interest to have his former … shall we say ‘business associates?’ – from being paraded around Europe being put on trial and tortured and hung. Bad for the old corporate image, no doubt.”

“As you say,” Lily nodded, regaining her composure,

“I’m curious,” Chumbucket continued, “How did you get Portugal involved in this? The last thing I heard, you were in Belize helping the orphans or some such thing.”

“Let’s just say the Portuguese royal family isn’t what it used to be. As for Belize, perhaps it would be safest just to say I’m not what I used to be either. I went to Belize with my head full of stars, thinking I could change the world, one orphaned baby at a time. That was probably the influence of Slappy and his idealistic ways …” Chumbucket’s eyes widened slightly at this. “… Away from Mortimer’s softening influence, I saw the world for what it really is, a place where only power and wealth can change anything. So I set about acquiring it, and now I have enough to make the world a better place.”

“A better place as defined and enforced by you?”

“Why not me? I’m not saying I’m better than anyone else, but I’m not any worse either. If I can get that kind of power, why shouldn’t I get to call the shots and make people behave as I want them to, in their own best interest?”

“Gee, no reason I can think of, other than the whole notion of free will and that.”

“Enough,” Lily said. “You said Slappy has agreed to my business proposal. For the stated salary he will become CEO of Pirates of the World Incorporated, and give up the sea and such old acquaintances as I think are in the best interest of POW Inc. Is that correct?”

“Absolutely,” Chumbucket replied. “He said it was the only thing he could do to save the Brotherhood. He went on for quite a while about it being “a far, far better thing than he had ever done,” and how he regretted he had only one career to give for his brothers” – Well, you know how he can go on.”

“Yes,” Lily said, her eyes glistening. “He has the soul of a poet.”

“Anyway, he asked me to pick up copies of the contract. Assuming all is in order, he’ll sign them, have them notarized and bring them with him when he reports here during the closing ceremonies of the game.”

“Oh, it’s no hurry. He can enjoy the closing ceremonies. I’m planning to be there. I’ll be making a short announcement about the removal of the Portuguese threat, and I’ll be offering recruiting bonuses for any who wish to join my team early. Because our mission statement calls for us to eventually corner the market on piracy, you understand. And I’d like Slappy to be there as an example of what’s possible.”

“I don’t know” Chumbucket interposed. “He said it would be too hard to celebrate with his brother pirates, just as he’s about to leave them. He said he’d rather it end this way. As I said, he plans to report to the ship immediately after the keelhauling. I’d suggest your legal team should be here to greet him, just in case there are any last-minute questions.”

“That seems reasonable. Alright then,” Lily glanced at her watch. “Damn! I’m late for my 2:30. You’ll have to see yourself out.”

Back on land, Chumbucket made a few other arrangements before heading out to the site of the games, where a great cheer had just gone up. He worked his way through the crowd until he found Sawbones Burgess, who was shaking his head in disbelief.

“What happened?”

“You wouldn’t believe it,” Sawbones said. “Just now, Cementhands was neck and neck with Buckle from the Polliwog in the cannon-lifting competition. Buckle had just lifted a demi-culverin. I wouldn’t have thought that possible. He was holding it over his head, smiling and waiting for the judges to declare him the winner, when Cementhands came up behind him and lifted HIM off the ground, plus the demi-culverin. I’ve never seen anything like it. McCormack took the gold and Buckle the silver, and now they’re heading off arm in arm to the nearest bar to see who can hold more of THAT.”

“Anything else noteworthy?”

“Well, Red Molly almost got thrown out of the contest. She was practicing the glee club one more time before the first round when Donovan Downbeat, lead tenor of the Bloody Scuppers’ choir came by and started taunting her. She broke his jaw. They’re looking for a new tenor. Well, the Scuppers cried foul, of course, and tried to get Molly tossed out, but the rules clearly state that a personal foul only counts if it takes place in the arena. Donovan may have LANDED in the arena, but when she hit him they were 20 feet outside, so she’s safe. Plus she got a special medal for distance slugging.”

“There’s Slappy,” Chumbucket noted. “Looks like he’s done judging for the day. Let’s go see him.”

“He seems to be in a good mood,” Sawbones noted.

“He should be, it’s been beach volleyball judging for him all day.”

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