Thursday, October 06, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 107 "A Good Sitting Chair"

They brought The Festering Boil as close to the wrecked Spanish merchantman as they dared and dropped anchor. They could see the Spanish captain and some of his officers trying to get away in a long boat with a large chest, but a well placed cannon shot in front of the bow of the slow moving “get-away” vessel was more than enough to convince them that running was futile.

Cap’n Slappy ordered his own long boats into the water to rescue whatever crew could be saved and see what salvage the wreck had to offer.

“They destroyed my cabin – the least they can do is have the decency to replace my sitting chair.” Slappy declared – not caring that he had, as was sometimes his custom, described an object based solely on its function. This, of course, was seen in his references to “cutting knives,” “sleeping beds” and “drinking glasses.” But objects had to “earn” these adjectives by being particularly good at the function for which they were designed.

Of course, when Ol’ Chumbucket heard Slappy make this grammatical faux pas, he felt compelled to follow up with a friendly mockery which fueled other friendly mockeries among the “established” crew.

“Shall we take along our fighting swords and shooting muskets, Cap’n?” Chumbucket asked with a grin.

“Of course!” Slappy replied, not quite getting the joke. “They tried to run, who knows if they may or may not try to fight?” This seemed like Piracy 101 to Slappy who was shocked that Ol’ Chumbucket would even ask.

“How about me whackin’ bar, Cap’n? Shall I take that, too?” Cementhands joined in the fun.

Slappy was perplexed – he wondered why his men, usually “self-starters,” needed so much direction.

“I’ll be lowering the “Floating on water” longboats at your orders, Cap’n!” Dogwatch added with unmitigated mockery in his voice.

Finally, Cap’n Slappy caught on. His eyebrows shot upward and his face grimaced with combined anger and embarrassment – but quickly eased … he could take as well as give. “That’s very good! You are all very funny pirates. You should have pursued a life of entertainment like the entertaining entertainers you are!”

“Like acting actors?” Doc Burgess couldn’t resist.

“No, like freaky freaks! Now put the floaty boats in the wet water and get your stinky arses out thar and check on those Spanish Spaniards!” Slappy ordered with a smile and a “shooing” gesture with his right hand.

He then turned to check on the damage to his cabin.

Cementhands and Ol’ Chumbucket chatted with one of the newer crew members who was a part of the rowing crew as they approached the listing ship. The young sailor had overheard the joking and felt the need to comment.

“That was quite a risk the Cap’n made, heading into these waters.” the young sailor observed.

“He’s done riskier things!” Cementhands chuckled remembering them.

“How many men have died under his command?” the young sailor asked.

Ol’ Chumbucket’s face grew serious. “Not nearly so many as have died under the command of his enemies. – What’s your point, boy?”

The young sailor sensed that he may have stepped into it and sought to extricate himself. “Nothing, sir. I have no point at all …” and here, he made a critical miscalculation, “ … except … do you think he is an intelligent enough of a fellow to take such risks with other people’s lives? I mean, that may very well have been us over there!” He gestured to the Spanish merchantman as it disintegrated in the rocky shoals.

In a moment, both Ol’ Chumbucket and Cementhands McCormack had their pistols out and pointed in the young man’s face. The sternness of their expressions caused the young sailor to gulp hard.

Ol’ Chumbucket spoke, “You are a very lucky young man.” He began calmly. “In our younger, wilder days, we’d have blasted your head apart and dumped your body overboard for crab food for even presuming to question our Captain and friend.” He paused, “But you are young and we are older and wiser than we were when we were your age – so we control our impulses in the hope that you will someday be as old as we are.”

Chumbucket glanced at the two hand cannons pointed pointedly in the young sailor’s face. “This is a patently unsafe use of equipment, to be sure – and in the hands of less skilled, more impatient pirates, you would have spent the last fifteen seconds unraveling the mysteries of the life hereafter – but you’ve spent that precious fifteen seconds listening to me chide you for being an impudent upstart with no more right to talk than Strumpet the monkey. Let me strongly suggest that from this day forward you refrain your comments to the weather, the saltiness of seawater and a healthy fascination with the comparative breast sizes of wenches and leave tactical decisions in the hands of those who are qualified to command. Do I make myself clear, lad?” Ol’ Chumbucket’s eyes were intently fixed on the young sailor’s.
“Aye, Mister Chumbucket, sir!” The young man stammered out a terrified response.

One hundred yards to their stern, Slappy called after them as he had just brought the Spanish Captain and the contents of his longboat aboard The Festering Boil.

“Yo Ho, Ol’ Chumbucket! Cementhands!” Slappy yelled “Thar be GOLD in the chest! Lots and lots of GOLD!” Then, he danced what they knew well to be his “Happy Man Dance!” which consisted of leaning his large body to the left and the right while he pumped his fists like pistons in the air occasionally squatting some and always wiggling his large behind. This was not an overly dignified dance, but the young, recently-chided sailor didn’t dare smirk.

Chumbucket and Cementhands smiled and nodded at each other. “Do you think he’ll make the Spanish captain do the Happy Man Dance as well – just to taunt him?” Cementhands asked. As they looked back up, they saw a very unhappy Spanish captain twisting and pumping while Slappy tossed gold coins up that seemed to “rain down” on the reluctant dancer. “He’s like a big goofy kid.” Chumbucket chuckled and quickly edified the young sailor again – “And I can say that because of the years we’ve spent together – don’t even imagine for a moment you are allowed to even THINK that!” The young man simply kept his eyes ahead and pulled his oar through the water.

“And I call ‘dibs’ on any good sittin’ chair ye find among the wreckage!” Slappy bellowed gleefully out to his mates.

Oscar sat quietly in the bow of that same long boat taking notes.

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