Tuesday, July 19, 2005


A Pirate Tale – 96

When Ol’ Chumbucket and Sawbones Burgess approached Cap’n Slappy, they saw his broad face had the contented look – the half smile, glazed eyes and pink complexion – that could only mean one thing: A Day in the sun closely watching the beach volleyball competition.

Closely watching. And it wasn’t just because he enjoyed a good game of volleyball. No, sportsman though he might be, he was intrigued with the effect of the constant jumping on the women competitors, dressed in athletic attire so skimpy that in any other port – any other part of the world during the Golden Age of piracy, the wearers would all have been arrested or assumed to be insane or both.

“How do, Cap’n?” Burgess asked as they approached.

There was no response, as the captain continued to stare off into the distance.

“I say, captain, how are you?” Burgess asked again, somewhat louder.

“Hmmm?” Slappy’s eyes lost their glaze and he focused on his two approaching shipmates. “Doc! Chumbucket! Good to see you lads! Did you catch the volleyball match just concluded? The one featuring the home team from Brazil and the women from the ship Ketch as Ketch Can? They call themselves the Four Wenches o' the Apocalypse, and they make you wonder if that Newton fellow back home knows what he’s talking about when he says that gravity is a constant force, because lord love ye, when they levitated to the net in those skimpy costumes of theirs …” Slappy’s voice trailed off and his eyes resumed their thousand-yard stare.

Burgess had to snap his fingers in front of the captain’s eyes several times to get his attention. He seemed to come back to them with reluctance.

“So if ye weren’t watching the volleyball, what have ye been up to,” he asked. Burgess ran down the first day’s competition, the cannon tossing won by Cementhands McCormack, George’s success in the early rounds of the seamanship trials, and Dogwatch Watt’s wholly unexpected silver medal in the speed climbing. Meanwhile, Two Patch and his fellows from the Festering Boil’s forecastle were in the thick of things – literally – in the synchronized drinking and puking competition.

“Ah, that one’s always nip and tuck,” Slappy said. “There’s no telling who’ll win that one until the last bucket’s filled.”

“Lieutenant (pronounced LEF-tenant) Keeling may have his hands full in the flogging and discipline contest,” Burgess went on. “There’s a fella from that Chinese ship who’s a magician with a cat. You know Keeling’s signature trick, the one where he shreds a playing card held in someone’s teeth, uses the cat to tear it into nine exactly equal pieces?”

“Sure, it’s a terrific effect. Usually, half the competitors drop out when they see that one.”

“Well, Shanghai Jack took the deck of cards and, using only his cat o’nine tails, dealt five pat poker hands and served hors’ d’ouevre.”

Slappy let out a low whistle. “I wish I had seen that.”

“I saw it and I still don’t believe it,” Burgess said. “Even Keeling blanched when the guy was done.”

“I can imagine,” Slappy said as the three of them began walking towards Old Mother McWhirter's, their favorite eating and emetics establishment in Sao Paolo. “So, Chumbucket, what have you been up to today? Enjoying the competition?”

“No, I’ve been working on the problem we discussed last night.”

A cloud passed over Slappy’s face as he considered his imminent departure from the pirating world.

“Unless you’re here to tell me that Lilly has changed her mind and has dropped the whole idea, I’d rather not talk about it,” he muttered.

“No, quite right. I don’t think we want to discuss this in the open. I can tell you that things aren’t quite as dark as they were 24 hours ago. In fact, I’m beginning to feel – if not quite sanguine, at least somewhat more optimistic.”

Slappy stopped and looked at his old friend.

“Look, I thought I made it clear. I’m not endangering the whole brotherhood so that I can continue gallivanting across the seven seas. Just drop it. She and her lawyers have me, and that’ll be the end of it.”

“Absolutely,” Chumbucket agreed, giving the captain a hard look. “Don’t you think another thing about it. Unless we could figure out a way to get rid of her lawyers, get past the relic that Portuguese navy has become, and get you out of town while convincing Lily, at least temporarily, that you are deceased, there’s nothing that can be done. So don’t think about it. Do you hear me? If Lily or any of her legal team asks, you’re convinced that it’s impossible and you’re ready to join her at the end of the games. Which reminds me, I’ve got a contract for you to sign at some point in the next week, so don’t let me forget that.

“But in the meantime, “ Chumbucket said as they pushed through the doors into the dimly lit, malodorous interior of Mother McWhirter’s, “enjoy the games and don’t worry about anything else. For now, let’s get something to eat. I’m famished.”

“Don’t let me drink too much,” Burgess said, to the astonishment of his companions. “Black Butch is entered tomorrow in the Chef’s Biathlon – scallion sautéing and sailor slicing –tomorrow, and I don’t want to miss that.”

“I’ll do what I can to keep you from drinking too much,” Slappy said, “mostly by drinking as much as I can! Old Mother McWhirter!” he called to a sultry barmaid who looked neither old nor particularly matronly. “A bottle of rum and keep it coming!

im gonna be a pirate one day. just like you. i will be the best henchwoman you have ever seen...

just you all wait...
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