Thursday, October 13, 2005


A Pirate Tale 110


Jamaica – fabled island paradise. Warm beaches of white sand. Balmy breezes and cloudless skies. Beautiful women serving delicious drinks of rum and tropical fruit. And a government so friendly to pirates that they pretty much let them run the place. Who could ask for anything more?

The island lay on the horizon, backlit by the setting sun, as The Festering Boil approached from the southeast. The crew was eagerly looking forward to docking in Port Royal in the morning and hitting the town for a shore leave with plenty of Spanish gold in their pockets.

All except Oscar, whose red-rimmed eyes and growing fidgetiness were testaments to the lack of sleep he’d been suffering since moving into Slappy’s cabin three days ago. Keeling kept a close watch on him, waiting for the opportune moment to pin him down with some very pointed questions. He judged that the time was near.

On the main deck, Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy had convened the crew to dole out their shares of the prize money taken from the Spanish galleon. Chumbucket walked them through the process.

“We’ve determined the total amount of the treasure taken, which you will see on line 5 of the report I handed you,” he said. “As per our standard operating agreement which you each signed on joining the crew, Cap’n Slappy receives two shares, the other officers, including myself, George, Keeling and Sawbones, each receive one and a half shares. The rest of you, from the oldest hand, Two Patch, to the youngest, Gabriel the Powder Monkey, each receive one share. Also, the ship itself is accorded one share for maintenance and capital depreciation. Line 8 shows the total number of shares, and line 9 shows the amount per share – a very healthy dollar figure, I think you’ll agree.”

He was rewarded with a chorus of "Arrrs!" from t he crew.

Chumbucket peered over the top of the reading glasses he wore on such occasions. It was sometimes difficult working through this with the crew, and he more than once had urged Slappy to just let him hand out the money and deal with any questions that came afterwards. Most of the sailors wouldn’t be able to count that high anyway, and they were usually happy just to get some hard cash and go ashore. But Slappy pointed out that both the ship’s bylaws and the union rules called for a full accounting, and he’d rather err on the side of too much detail than too little. “Don’t want to bring down a complaint from the PLRB (Pirate Labor Relations Board,)” he always said. Chumbucket doubted there was such a thing as the PLRB and assumed this was Slappy’s way of getting even with him for usually beating him in their nightly poker games.

“Now, if you’ll turn the page you will see the standard deductions. Union dues, as required by your contract with the Brotherhood of Oceanic Merchants (BOOM) – see attachment A – is listed on the first line.”

“That’s BOTHERhood,” Cementhands called out from the back of the room.

“Yes, quite right McCormack. My apologies. The Botherhood of Oceanic Merchants. And congratulations, by the way, on being re-elected shop steward. Continuing, there’s a deduction for medical – this is what allows Sawbones to keep the infirmary well stocked,” they all glanced over at Burgess, who was filling tankards with rum from the infirmary’s stock.

“How come this isn’t handled under the ship’s maintenance fund?” Dogwatch asked. “After all, it seems like quite a bit to be spending on leeches and rum, when we buy rum anyway for the grog.”

“Different accounting category, Dogwatch, just like last time. I didn’t make up these rules." Actually he had made up quite few of them. "Which brings us to your allowance for food, which we compute on a per-man basis rather than attempt to keep an account on each item eaten by each individual member of the crew.” Here Chumbucket held up a hand, forestalling questions and objections. “It’s in the ship’s bylaws, which you all signed, so I don’t want to hear any complaints. If you have a problem with it, take it up with Butch” – the ship’s chef held up a cleaver, suggesting that people NOT take it up with him – “or Cementhands, because you all know what you’re really unhappy about is how much he eats relative to everyone else. And I’d just ask if you’d rather go into a battle without him next to you, scaring the bejeezus out of the enemy. No? Good, let’s continue.”

He plowed on, line by line, through everything from their cutlass allowance to deferred compensation and their retirement accounts (a 401Arrr plan recommended by the Brethren of the Coast) to such things as postage and the contributions to the Old Pirates Home and Widows and Orphans Fund. Chumbucket could see that he was losing them. Good, the longer the report went the fewer questions there would be. Not that anyone would be upset by what was coming next.

“So, if you’ll turn to the last page, you’ll see that your payout as of this period is …”

Chumbucket’s actual statement of the amount was lost in the whoop of delight from each pirate present when they read the grand total. It was more money than many of them had seen in their entire lives. Even Oscar, who had been nodding off in the corner, was wide awake and staring through bloodshot eyes in awe at the size of his share.

“So I assume this takes some of the sting off losing that huge treasure in the Indian Ocean last spring,” Slappy said, rising to take the podium from Chumbucket.

“Now, before we hand out the actual gold, I just want to remind you that this is real money, and tomorrow you’ll be going into a harbor town notorious for being able to separate sailors from their swag. I urge you not to bring all your cash with you into town, not to try to drink all of this – we’ll only be in town two days – not to gamble it all away, and especially not to get married to the first woman who’s nice to you.” This was Slappy’s standard shore leave speech. In fact, it came directly from the owner’s manual that had come with the Festering Boil when he became captain all those years ago. The sailors weren’t listening anyway, since Slappy personal example clearly indicated it was strictly a “do as I say, not as I do” proposition.

“Chumbucket will be passing you each a list of investment opportunities cleared both by your union and the Brethren of the Coast as safe, stable places to use a portion of your shares to build your portfolios. Along with the usual Brethren Bonds and the BOOM Mutual Fund, you’ll see ‘must-buy’ recommendations for Amalgamated Shipwrights, Johnson & Johnson’s Bloodletting Emporiums, McBouncy’s Franchised Boutique Bordellos (over 1 million sailors served) and Cutlass Brothers Cannons, catering to the discriminating pirate since 1658. Any questions before we start doling out your shares?”

Keeling was surveying the list. Finally he raised a hand.

“Sir? What are you planning to do with your share?”

A grin split Slappy’s face.

“I’m racing you all to The Wonder Wenches Whoopee Parlor and Whistle-Wetter, and any of you who think you can outdrink me, you’re certainly welcome to try!”

A cheer accompanied the captain’s words, and the sailors turned to the table where Chumbucket sat with their gold in individual hemp sacks. Then the sailors would wash, change to their relatively clean clothes, and in the morning, after the ship had weathered the Palisadoes, the long sand spit that connected Port Royal to the rest of the island, they would hit the town. Hard.

Arrr! I be excited to go ashore. Ye be asured me booty will be spent well!
I think this stuff of Pirate Day is a great idea! I will try to do something like this with my friends! Keep sailing (:
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