Thursday, August 25, 2005


A Pirate Tale – part 99 “Leave it to Bucket”

Cap’n Slappy’s eyes became slits – the pupils of those eyes fixed solidly on Ol’ Chumbucket’s face. “Whatchyoutalkin’bout, Bucket?” His eyebrows were raised in anticipation of something dreadful – but the dreadfulness passed.

“Easy thar, Cap’n.” Chumbucket admonished as Slappy, lost focus on the pissing job at hand and began to “drift” toward his pal’s pant leg – with a firm, but gentle touch, he squared Slappy’s shoulders back toward the tree.

“I’ve died at least three …” Slappy got lost in thought for a moment and seemed to be counting in his head, “ … no, FOUR times this year and I DO NOT INTEND TO GO SOFTLY INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT!”

“Shhhhh!” Chumbucket looked around – fortunately they were alone. “Have I EVER got you killed?”

Slappy began to answer, but Chumbucket quickly clarified the question. “I mean, for REAL and always. Have I EVERY got you killed?”

Now that he had finished pissing, Slappy gave his tackle a shake and flopped it back into his britches. Contrite and calmer, he answered the question sheepishly, “No.”

“Then why do you think I would get you killed this time?” Chumbucket raised his eyebrows in an, “Aren’t-you-ashamed-of-even-questioning-my-ways?” attitude that made Cap’n Slappy stare at his toes as he kicked them in the dirt.

“I’m sorry old man.” Slappy began, “I’m just a bit on edge with havin’ been killed and/or left for dead so many times these last few years.”

“Don’t you worry your little salt-encrusted heart about it – leave all to Ol’ Chumbucket.” Then, as he disappeared into the darkness of a nearby ally, he repeated, “Leave all to Ol’ Chumbucket” over and over – as if to hypnotize his old pal. As always, it worked.

“Leave all to Ol’ Chumbucket …” The mantra had stuck deep into the recesses of Cap’n Slappy’s addled brain as he repeated it over and over until the large and familiar hand of Cementhands McCormack gripped him firmly by the shoulder and lead him to the venue where the finals of the Ship’s Discipline Competition were about to begin.

“You’re not going to believe this!” McCormack said excitedly. “But during the standard one-strand (that’s a standard single whip without “embedded accoutrements”) competition, Shanghai Jack had whipped up, a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich but had been docked points for finishing with a horizontal cut rather than the preferred diagonal. The Chinese were furious and wanted the French judge disqualified and mutilated and his body parts sold to a medical conglomerate in the Midwest, but Pat Patterson, the chairman of the Discipline Council told them they were being ‘Fucking Mow-Rons’ and overruled their request. See? The French judge is still kissing his hand!”

“True enough.” Slappy was stunned to see Patterson’s hand being so thoroughly kissed by a Frenchman who was just glad to have all of his internal organs in place.

“Now comes the good part.” George broke into the conversation. “Lef-TEN-ant Keeling is going to attempt the first chicken salad sandwich constructed with only a standard one-strand. He is allowed assistance but only from someone under the age of majority.”

As they looked up on the stand, they saw Gabriel and Spencer standing with ingredients in each hand. With a confident flick of his hand, Keeling signaled for a nearby Polish folk band lead by none other than Los Mariachi dressed up in what he thought was traditional Polish garb – lederhosen – to strike up a nice, peppy Mazurka and the boys juggled the ingredients in front of themselves. Gabriel juggled a chicken breast, an onion and a stalk of celery while Spencer managed the trickier bowl of mayonnaise, salt and pepper shakers and two slices of pumpernickel.

With clocklike perfection the boys juggled the ingredients high above their heads while Keeling cracked his whip over the heads of the excited onlookers. The band worked itself into a frenzy each time the whip snapped sharply around an ingredient and tossed it even higher into the air – this took only a few moments and while the speed was remarkable, each item could clearly be seen to launch itself skyward at the point of Keeling’s masterful whipping.

Once the boys’ hands were empty, Spencer quickly grabbed an empty plate and placed it on a loose plank in front of Keeling’s right foot. The music built to a wild and whirling crescendo as Keeling created a kind of lunch counter tornado above his head with his whip. Then, holding his arms wide, as if conducting the orchestra, brought it all to a final point when he slammed his foot on the boards, the plate flipped up and he caught it with his left hand as the most beautiful chicken salad sandwich landed whole right in the center of the plate.

For a moment, the entire planet was still.

Then, with a sudden burst of fury, accompanied by Los Mariachi in an intense extended guitar strum, Keeling flipped the sandwich, plate and all, high into the air above his head and with his eyes fixed tightly on Red Molly, launched one decisive snap of the whip, “no look” above his head and held out his left hand to catch the falling mid-day meal.

The plate fell perfectly into his hand, then, one at a time, the four portions of a perfectly diagonally sliced cross-cut chicken salad sandwich landed perfectly in place. Finally, he took his eyes off Red Molly and looked at the judge’s table where the four judges sat amazed with mouths agape.

Keeling coiled up his whip, placed it underneath the plate and with a flick of his wrist spun it off toward their table and managed to shoot one quarter of his delicious sandwich treat into each of their open mouths.

Once again, the world was a silent orb floating in a sea of tranquility.

Then, as the English judge bit down into his sandwich, he made – and there is no better way to put it than this – a “yummy” sound.

The crowd exploded in a sea of frantic cheering. Men shouted, “Huzzah! For Keeling!” Women wept – hell, some of the men wept too. It was a beautiful moment.

Shanghai Jack knew he was beaten and with the becoming grace of a true pirate, he walked over to his rival, extended a hand of friendship which was graciously received and said, “Next year we do ice sculpture.”

The two men smiled at each other and nodded.

Spencer, who had watched the exchange asked Lef-TEN-ant Keeling, “What’s an ‘Ice Sculpture,’ Sir?”

Keeling, still nodding and smiling as he watched his adversary walk away whispered, “I have no freaking idea.”

Thursday, August 11, 2005


A Pirate Tale – 98


Red Molly was mad enough to spit nails. In fact, she did spit a couple of nails as she railed against what she saw as the injustice of the judging, being as she was engaged in helping Salty Jim, the ship’s carpenter of the Festering Boil, build a stand for the closing ceremonies to be held the next day.

“Bronze??!?” she fumed. “BRONZE!!! How could they give us the bronze when we clearly were the best singers there? Hell, we were the only singers with music!!”

She spat another nail, this one with enough force to bury it almost an inch deep into the wooden scaffolding they were building. Fortunately it was in about the right spot, so Jim tapped it twice and drove it into place.

Earlier that day Red Molly had led the Festering Boil’s singers in the finals of the pirate glee club competition, one of the highlights of the Pirate Olympics and Women's Beach Volleyball Extravaganza being held in Sao Paolo. They had been the final group to perform, and Red Molly had been drilling them ruthlessly ever since the ship had left the Indian Ocean. They performed Henry Purcell’s opera, “Dido & Aeneas,” the full hour and 30-minute production. She wanted them to be flawless, and they were, not a note missed.

Sadly, a hall full of pirates is perhaps not the best audience for such entertainment, and the few who were left were almost all asleep by the time the singing concluded. Even the judges had been seen and heard sawing logs. Molly was so angry she took the score, ripped a chunk out of the middle sent it flying toward the judges’ stand, which may explain why today only half of the opera is known to exist.

“We were PERFECT,” she hissed to no one in particular. “We deserved the gold. And who did they give it to?” she asked rhetorically.

“To someone who kept ‘em awake,” Salty Jim muttered to himself. In fact, first prize had gone to the crew of the Polliwog, which had sung a rollicking musical tribute to every seaman’s favorite disease, scurvy, which clocked in at a tidy 2 minutes 20 seconds. Silver had gone to the crew of the Moby Duck, which had regaled the crowd with “Bell Bottom Trousers,” a bawdy tune about the maid at The Prince George Hotel. The Boil had managed to grab the bronze only because the other finalist was the crew of the Bloody Scuppers, and the cabin boy brought in at the last minute to replace the man whose jaw Molly had broken had experienced a pubescent voice change at precisely the wrong instant.

“We deserved the gold,” Molly continued, “Those PHILISTINES!!!”

“Look, let’s all agree that the Boil’s glee club was perfect, that you deserved the gold, and get on with work. Those Chinese sailors will be here inside of an hour with the fireworks we’re supposed to install, and this rig isn’t half ready,” Jim admonished her.

Molly agreed, but her mood wasn’t improved as she realized Jim was subconsciously singing to himself, “Bell bottom trousers, coats of Navy blue. Let ‘im climb the riggin’ like his daddy used to do …”

“How come it’s facing this direction?” Molly asked snappishly. “If the fireworks are for the closing ceremony, shouldn’t this actually face the stadium?”

“I imagine it’s a safety thing,” Jim said. “After all, the ‘stadium’ as you call it is mostly made of dry timbers and creosote. One wrong spark and it’d go up in flames.”

“But they’ll be aimed right at …” Molly started.

“I know,” Jim said. “But Ol’ Chumbucket was absolutely insistent, and he’s in charge of the closing ceremony, so we’ll do it his way.”

Molly shrugged acceptance and went back to work, but a moment later dropped the board she was holding, snatched up a hammer and began chasing Jim, who without realizing it had started singing, “When there’s scurvy, on your pi-rate ship, eat a lime – EAT A LIME – eat a lime …”

Nearby, at the Bloated Hog, a different discussion was taking place, albeit one that was not a whit happier.

“So it didn’t matter whether you were delivered up to Lily or not,” George the Greek grumbled into his rum. “The Portuguese are planning to round us all up anyway.”

“That’s about the size of it,” Cap’n Slappy said. “And now, thanks to my quick thinking, I don’t even have the luxury of riding off into the sunset with Lily. That’ll be Wideload’s privilege, may it do him any good.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Ol’ Chumbucket said with a wave of his hand. “The plan always called for us passing him off as you. I thought we’d have to trick Lily into it and had a scheme all ready, but if you were able to talk her into taking him, so much the better. I guess there’s something to be said for the direct approach. It’s the Portuguese I’m more concerned with. I never really believed Lily when she said the fix was in, but it would have been a lot easier if they weren’t in the picture.”

“Well, let ‘em come,” George roared defiantly. “There are enough of us here to give ‘em one hell of a fight. Besides, they’re just the Portuguese. It’s not like it’s the Spanish Navy or the English.”

“Maybe,” Chumbucket said hesitantly. “But there are problems. You’ve seen those two frigates at the harbor mouth. They’ll pick off any ships that try to come out one by one. We wouldn’t get the chance to face the Portuguese fleet in strength. And the rest of the ships are standing off, but not far. They still outnumber us, and they’re regular naval units, used to working together. We’re more …”

“Freelancers?” Slappy offered.

“Exactly,” Chumbucket agreed. “I’ve talked to a dozen captains here in the last week, and they all want to stand and fight, but they also have a dozen different ways to do it. I’m afraid when the Portuguese arrive they’d scatter like a school of cod when a shark arrives, unless we can do something to scatter the Portuguese first.”

“And where or what is the shark?” George asked.

Before he got his answer, there was a commotion at the doorway, with loud cheering and singing. The pirates from the Festering Boil looked up from their dark table and, squinting into the sunlight that flooded through the door saw a crowd of sailors flooding into the room, with one of their number carried aloft.

“Well avast!” Chumbucket said, looking up. “Is that Sir Nigel?”

Indeed it was. The other pirates had him on their shoulders and carried him around the room twice, cheering so loudly that Slappy couldn’t make himself heard to shout, “What happened?” Finally, they deposited him on a table where he stood and accepted their “three cheers” with a smile and a wave of his perfectly manicured hand. It wasn’t until he had drunk a toast to their health that he noticed Slappy, Chumbucket and George and came over to greet them.

“Ahoy, ye swabs,” he said. “Notice anything different?”

The three good-naturedly gave him the once over, pointedly ignoring the gold medal that hung around his neck.

“No, can’t say I do,” George said. “You smell a little better than usual, could that be it?” Chumbucket asked, grinning slyly.

“No, ye poltroons! I won! I’m “fanciest-dressed sailor of them all!” Three games in a row, I’d add. And I just got word that Tiger Pirate Beat is going to name me “best smile” winner again.”

His audience of three gave him round of applause, unenthusiastic but perfectly sincere, as he drew up a seat and leaned in confidentially.

“And there’s some better news,” he added. “I’ve got a ship.”

This drew a more interested response.

“Aye, she’s a beauty,” Sir Nigel continued. “With my share of the prize money from our romp across the Atlantic, I was able to make a deal with Lord Bullocks for his brig, the Italian Ice. She a sweet ship, practically sails herself, and mounts 20 four pounders and a pair of nine-pound bow chasers. Got to come up with a new name, of course. I had been thinking of Triple Gold, for my three gold medals, you understand, but that doesn’t sound sinister enough. Any ideas?”

“Why are you asking us?” Slappy said. “We sail on a ship called the Festering Boil, for god’s sake. But we’ll think on it, my friend. In the meantime, let’s get another round at the table!” Slappy shouted for the bar wench. Ol’ Chumbucket turned to George and said quietly, “Well, that’s one down, one to go,” referring to the talkative Don Taco, who had been part of the Boil’s complement for some time now.

The rum came, the rum was drunk, more rum came, more toasts were made. Much of the discussion focused on the last day of competition, with the Boil represented in a smattering of events. Black Butch had the finals of the pirate bake-off, but it was a foregone conclusion that he’d win. Two Patch, Dogwatch Watts and George were likely to medal in the morning’s final of the ratline aerial routines, and Don Taco, to everyone’s surprise, had made the finals of the swordsmanship competition.

But what had all Sao Paolo talking, besides the approach of the Portuguese Navy, of course, was the cat o’nine tails competition, which would decide the gold in the interdisciplinary disciplining category. The Boil’s Lieutenant (pronounced lef-TEN-ant) Keeling (pronounced KEE-ling,) five-time gold medalist in the category, may have met his match. Shanghai Jack of the Chinese ship was actually ahead of Keeling on points, which had never happened before. Keeling seemed rattled and distracted. He could still pull it out, but it would take a perfect performance and a mistake by his opponent.

After much discussion, Chumbucket excused himself to find the privy, which in the Bloated Hog’s case was a tree out back. The influx of sailors for the games had not been kind to the oak, which looked like someone had set fire to its trunk. Having relieved himself. Chumbucket was adjusting his garments when Slappy lurched out, whistling “Drunken Sailor” as he took more bark from the suffering tree.

Slappy turned to Chumbucket and chortled. “I drink, therefore I piss,” he said.

As he retied his drawstring, Chumbucket looked at him strangely.

“You know,” Chumbucket said, "having Lily take Wideload instead of you solves one problem. But she’s the one who’s caused all the other trouble, and I for one hate to see her get anything out of it. She can’t keep her end of the bargain, so I don’t think we should keep ours.”

Slappy, weaving slightly, shook his head.

“Forget about it Chumbucket,” he said. “We’ve got enough trouble. If Lily wants to take Wideload and pass him off as me, I say let her.”

“And reward her for the mess she’s made of things? I don’t think so,” Chumbucket said vehemently. “Tomorrow night will be busy enough anyway. Why not add one more task that will help with the Portuguese and pay Lily back as well.”

“What are you talking about?” Slappy asked.

Chumbucket smiled. “Why, the death of Cap’n Slappy, obviously. Both of them.”

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 97 “Broad Jumping”

The games continued as they had. Slappy emerged from Mother McWhirter’s only to perform his function as head judge and luminary. But his light was not as bright as it had been in the past – the thought of foregoing “the life,” for the world of boardrooms and doldrums weighed heavily upon him. Still, while he made every effort to rob his friends of hope, he was secretly working the legal ties that bound him in hopes of finding a tiny loophole through which he might escape. This mental effort required occasional contortions of the face that worried Sawbones Burgess and Cementhands McCormack who thought the captain may be having a seizure of some sort. Fortunately, Ol’ Chumbucket set them straight, “No, Slappy’s not gone ‘Spastic’ on us – that’s his deep-thinkin’ face. He’s conjurin’ up some solution to his predicament, sure – but that’s no excuse for us to quit thinkin’.”

And with that, the three men’s faces scrunched up in a twisted mass of triple thought.

Meanwhile, excitement was stirring around the Broad Jump pit where perennial champion, Pat Patterson of the “Moby Duck” was once again putting on a clinic for the younger jumpers. With his trusty sword, “Baby” in hand, the big man had just cleared five wenches (or “broads”) who were arranged in the “Leap Frog/Doggy Style” formation. Most of the younger, foolish pirates failed at this because it had been so long since they had been with a woman, their focus was on “the obstacles” and not on the clearing just beyond. Patterson would point that out to the young men punctuating it with his trademark, “Ye fucking MORONS!” (pronounced, MOW-rons) but to no avail. When he made his final, gold medal winning, leap (seven wenches and a goat named, “Beatrix Boner”) he tossed some burlap sacks to the other contestants and told them to, “Invite them wenches back to my place for a ‘Secret Party,’ but make sure they wear them bags.”

One of the defeated pirates asked, “Why, Pat? Is it ‘cuz they be so ugly?”

Disgusted, Pat just shook his head, “I’m surrounded by fucking MORONS! (again, pronounced, MOW-rons)! You’re the ugly sons o’ bitches! You have to bag ‘em because it’s a SECRET PARTY!” He turned to collect his gold medal and turned back to the competitors with this afterthought, “Of course, if they ARE ugly, ye might want to double bag ‘em.”

With that, he swung around, “Baby” in hand, and strode off. “Nobody strides like Ol’ Patterson,” Slappy observed. The young, defeated competitors did their best to convince the wenches to put the bag over their heads in order to go to the “Secret Party,” but none of them were willing, not even the goat who ferociously head-butted the only pirate who made the attempt. After much begging and pleading, the pirates finally gave up, put the bags over their own heads and wandered off in the direction Patterson had gone a few moments before.

After a short time passed, you could hear Patterson’s voice echo across the town from the location of his “Secret Party.” He was heard to declare, simply, that the others were, “Fucking MORONS!” (pronounced, “MOW-rons)

Slappy, Chumbucket, Cementhands and Doc Burgess wandered down to where the “Secret Party” was being held and drank deeply of Patterson’s wonderful concoction he called, “The Spodey.” Cementhands noted, “It tastes like fruit punch but it makes the world go all wobbly.” After a couple of hours, Slappy staggered into the hot Sao Paulo street. The blistering temperature was forcing everyone into the protection of local public houses – no one was more willing than Cap’n Slappy. “I’ll beat the heat with ale and meat!” he thought to himself.

As he staggered through the doorway of “The Mad Turk,” he found, much to his surprise, Lily seated at a table surrounded by her pencil pushing minions. Emboldened by The Spodey, Slappy shoved two of the lubbers off of their bench and took up his place at the table. “So, Lily!” he drunkenly declared, “When do I start runnin’ this monkey show?”

Lily’s eyebrows rose briefly as she glanced at Slappy, but she quickly returned to the business of her business – as if she didn’t give him a second thought.

Not deterred by her ignorance of his majestic presence, Slappy took another tactic. Well, truth be told, it was the same tactic, only louder. “I said,” he declared loud enough for the entire establishment to hear, “When do you want me to start callin’ the shots, Missy?”

Perhaps it was the unfortunate use of the word, “Missy” or it may have been the pungent aroma of “Spodey-on-the-breath” that shattered the business-like quality of the meeting, but with a single glance at her subordinates, Lily managed to clear the table of all but herself and the drunken pirate. She moved quietly to a chair next to Slappy where she adopted a much quieter tone than he had displayed.

“Mortimer,” she began softly, “You will not be ‘calling the shots’ or ‘runnin’ this monkey show.’ In fact, your job description will not include any of the following; talking, thinking, doing or even wiping your ass without my express written consent.”

“You’re going to have people wipe my ass?” Slappy seemed delighted at the prospect but unfortunately, he seemed so at the highest possible decibel level, “That’s going to be GREAT!”

Undaunted, Lily continued – “I just need my investors in Europe to see that this corporation is fronted by the infamous Captain Slappy. Once I have their buy-in, your role will be that of “human waste of resources.”

“Thus the wipers!” Slappy declared as if he ‘got it.’

Lily just shook her head. “You used to be ‘something,’ Mortimer – you used to have a commanding presence. I remember being so in awe of you. Now, look at you. You’re a buffoon.”

“A baboon?!” Slappy objected strongly to the comparison.

“A BUFF-OON!” Lily reiterated carefully.

“Sure, I’ve put on some weight,” Slappy argued, “but don’t you think “BALL-OON” is a bit harsh?”

“There’s no talking to you when you are like this.” Lily declared as she gathered her papers to leave.

“Lily my dove,” Slappy’s tone was softer now – more familiar, “what if I can get you that figure head you so want – one who is more malleable and less apt to act ‘Buffoonishly?’”

“Sorry darling,” Lily was resolute, “The Europeans are expecting ‘Cap’n Slappy’ and if you think …”

“You mean the same ‘Cap’n Slappy’ none of them have ever met except for in the odd woodcut or a fascinating expose’ in Pirattitude Monthly that exposes his quiet side, right?” Slappy seemed sharper now – as if he had caught the scent of his prey.

“What the Hell are you talking about, Mortimer?” Lily was just about to lose her cool when the door burst open and a familiar voice cut the air.

“I’m Cap’n Slappy, dammit! Now, whar’s me rum?” Cap’n Wideload’s timing couldn’t have been more any more dramatic had he made an effort to do so.

As if the words had changed in an echo chamber, the same voice shot back, “I’ll buy ye a round boy! Come join us!” Slappy grinned maniacally.

Cap’n Wideload moistened his britches at the sight of “the real thing.”

Lily smiled, “Easier to control.” She whispered in Slappy’s ear.

“Just make sure ye have some rubber gloves on hand.” Slappy advised.

“Alright, Mortimer,” Lily began, “I’ll take him, but …” here she looked down as if she was somehow ashamed of this confession. “The Portuguese are still going to come take the brotherhood.”

Slappy flashed an angry look in her direction. She continued, “I didn’t have as much control over them as I had thought.”

“That’s all right, Luv,” Slappy replied as Cap’n Wideload and his friends sat sheepishly at the table. “There’s one or two things this ol’ Balloon can still do.”

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