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.”

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