Sunday, November 20, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 116 “Moon Running”

It was six bells of the middle watch and the moon hung motionless in the sky like the dried bones of hanged pirate on a windless day. Cap’n Slappy paced the deck.

“I knew I shouldn’t have sent to boy to the Wonder Wenches to fetch George and the others!”

“He’s not a boy anymore, Cap’n.” Chumbucket chided. “And he volunteered to go.”

Slappy nodded but refused to acknowledge further.

In short order, the leathery pounding sound of running men on cobblestone drifted toward the rail of The Festering Boil and Cap’n Slappy took a quick head count.

“Dammit!” he growled “He’s not with them!”

George sprinted up the gang plank and headed straight for the Cap’n. “The lad, Cap’n. The lad’s gone!”

Slappy stared deeply into George’s face and waited for an explanation.

“Madame Svetlana gave me this for you.” George handed Slappy a note and they moved to a lantern to read.

My Darling Captain Slappy,

Sometimes LOVE happens – even to the best raised children. Your Spencer has fallen in love with my Mahren and the two of them have fled to a secret part of the island where they hope to start a new life together. They have a chance at happiness and I firmly believe we should let them find their own way. Do not worry about the boy. I will help them when I can.

Yours Ever,


Slappy took in a deep breath, folded up the note and put it in his breast pocket.

“Cap’n, I’m sorry. I tried to …” George began but Slappy just put his hand in the Greek’s arm and shook his head.

“Not your fault, George.” Slappy said sadly. “I pushed him into ‘manhood’ too quickly. My fault entirely.”

Just then, Dogwatch returned from his errand breathing heavily. “We’re to meet The Bloody Scuppers in the harbor at eight bells!”

“Did you talk to Felix?” Ol’ Chumbucket asked.

“He’s the Cap’n, right?” Dogwatch panted. “Aye, he said, ‘Get back to your ship and tell Slappy to have the Festering Boil meet me in the harbor at eight bells!’”

Cap’n Slappy and Ol’ Chumbucket looked quizzically at each other. “Take a deep breath, Dogwatch.” Cap’n Slappy said calmly. “Think carefully, I need to know Felix’s exact words.”

Dogwatch took a deep breath and thought carefully. “Get back to your ship and tell Slappy to have the Festering Boil meet me in the harbor at eight bells.’ Those were his exact words, Cap’n!”

George said what Slappy and Chumbucket were thinking. “That wasn’t Felix! Dogwatch, what did he look like?”

“It’s hard to tell, Greek. He was standing at the rail as I stood on the dock and he had his back to the moon so he was all shape and darkness – no features.”

“How tall did he appear to be?” Chumbucket asked.

“Tall. More than six feet.” Dogwatch recalled.

“Leech!” Slappy spat. “Damn! I hate that … Leech!”

Chumbucket gave Slappy that, “Shall we?” look.

“Let’s do it!” Slappy ordered.

“All hands on deck!” Chumbucket called and in no time, the ship was abuzz with activity.

“Let’s have chain shot in the long nines – grape shot in the rest! We’re taking down their sails first, lads – then we’ll smash the hull!” George ordered as they loaded the cannons.

Dogwatch asked Cap’n Slappy and Ol’ Chumbucket, “How do you know it isn’t Felix I spoke to?”

“He’s five foot two and has no teeth in the top of his mouth – he avoids any words with S’s, - calls “ships” “da boat” and refers to the Cap’n here as, ‘Big Boy’.” Chumbucket explained.

Doc Burgess sidled up next to Cap’n Slappy. “I heard about the lad …”

“We’ve naught to do with that at the moment Sawbones.” Slappy replied simply.

“But he’s …” Burgess continued.

“Haven’t you got a patient to look to?” Slappy snapped.

“Wellington Peddicord is on the mend and readying himself for battle. I’m just saying …”

“Thank you, Doctor. That will be all.” Slappy said dismissively but not unkindly.

As Burgess walked away Cap’n Slappy called after him, “Perhaps we should all ready ourselves for battle. This could be a messy morning.”

In a matter of minutes, The Festering Boil was pulling away from the dock. Men crouched behind crates and cannons so as not to be visible in the moonlight.

“McIlwain called me a buffoon, did he?” Slappy asked Chumbucket.

After a momentary hesitation, Chumbucket replied, “Aye, Cap’n, that he did.”

Slappy paused then spoke matter-of-factly, “Dibs on killing him this time.”

McIlwain was not the best fighter they’d ever come up against. In fact, there were few who knew him who thought he was much of anything. Even among the Bawdy Boys he was little more than braggart and fool – more tolerated that thought of and certainly not anyone’s object of admiration with the possible exceptions of himself and his mother. (And even she reserved the right to change her mind.) But somehow, he had survived alternate battles with Cap’n Slappy, Cementhands McCormack, George the Greek, Blackbeard and Ol’ Chumbucket.

“I do believe it is your turn, Cap’n.” Chumbucket responded. There would be no pride taken in actually dispatching him – just relief. The same relief one would take in squashing a mosquito who has taken more than its fair share of blood from your neck.

“Good.” Slappy said. “We’ll see who is whose buffoon.”

The Blood Scuppers lay dead ahead silhouetted by the setting moon, much like her supposed Captain had when he attempted to deceive Dogwatch.

Cap’n Slappy felt a tugging at his coat. It was young Gabriel.

“Where’s Spencer, Cap’n?” the boy asked innocently.

“He’s all right, lad. He’s doing something in town. What do you need?” Slappy responded patiently.

“Well, he usually tells me what kind of ship it is when I can’t tell.” The boy pointed toward the horizon opposite The Bloody Scuppers where the sky was dark but visible only by the absence of stars, a ship lay in the distance.

George looked through his spyglass. “Aye, Cap’n. The boy’s right! It’s a Man-O’-War!”
“A trap!” Ol’ Chumbucket said with astonishment. “Who’d have thought the Bawdy Boys would be that clever!”

“George, when will we be in range to take out the sails on the Scupper?” Slappy asked urgently.

“We’ll need six hundred yards and it’s a long shot at that.” George answered.

“Make it so.” Slappy ordered and began loading his long musket.

“McIlwain?” Ol’ Chumbucket asked, smiling.

“Leech – if I can spot him.” Slappy replied in deadly earnest then, with a wink. “Failing that – McIlwain.”

Behind them, a deep voice with a rich Bristol accent asked, “How good a shot are you with that, Cap’n?”

“Ah! Mister Peddicord!” Cap’n Slappy replied, “Feeling better, are we?”

“Aye, Cap’n. Thanks to Mister Chumbucket here and the good doctor.” Wellington replied.

“Well, Mister Peddicord, to answer your question, I probably won’t win any shooting tournaments, but it’s a shot in the dark anyway, so I figure, ‘Why not?’” Slappy replied as he pounded the ball into place with his ramrod.

“With respects, Cap’n. I was the Channel Fleet Marine Marksman of the Year three years running. If that information can be of service, I stand ready to serve.” Wellington stood at attention in strict naval fashion.

Slappy looked at Ol’ Chumbucket and they exchanged smiles. Then, he tossed the musket to the young man and said, “I’ll find you a target. Stand by me and we’ll give you some practice.”

Dogwatch stood at the wheel while George marked down the inches until they were in range. He stood at midship and both the helm and the gunners waited for him to pull his raised fist down – that was the signal. It came with suddenness. Dogwatch pulled The Festering Boil hard to starboard and the cannons roared to life. The flames could be seen back in Port Royal as the sails were ripped to shreds and the masts of The Bloody Scuppers were cracked and broken.

The air was ripped by the sound of return fire both from The Scuppers and from the nearly invisible Man-O’-War that lurked in the darkness.

“Reload cannons! Heavy ball!” George ordered. The crew readied all the guns on both sides. Their survival depended on their speed and accuracy.

“Alright, Mister Dogwatch! Take us out of harbor!” Slappy ordered.

Of course, the problem was that between The Festering Boil and the mouth of the harbor lay two ships, heavily armed and closing the gap and the path to freedom lay between them. The faster ship, The Bloody Scuppers, however was now in no condition to give chase, so once they ran this gauntlet, they would be free for the time being. But they soon discovered that the guns aboard the Man-O’-War were very powerful.

Cannonballs make a distinct sound when they fly overhead and an even more distinct one when they hit the water. The Man-O’-War’s first barrage sailed just above the top of the mizzenmast of The Festering Boil and landed well beyond her port side with a sizzling splash.

“Full sails and full ahead Number One, if you please!” Cap’n Slappy called to George who echoed the call and within moments, the ships sails were in full billow and Dogwatch was pointing her, as best he could, toward the mouth of the harbor.

Now that the jig was up, The Bloody Scuppers under command of the mysterious non-lisping captain fired a volley of its own toward The Festering Boil, but it fell far short of its target as they were waiting for the Boil to get close in before opening fire and had set their charges accordingly.

Chumbucket’s spyglass scanned the deck of The Bloody Scuppers and settled on the grisly visage of poor Felix’s body hanging from a broken yardarm.

“Those bastards hanged Felix aboard his own ship!” Chumbucket declared between gritted teeth.

“Any sign of our fake captain?” Cap’n Slappy asked.

“No,” Chumbucket replied, but I see McIlwain dancing and taunting us from the quarterdeck.

“Do you mark him, Mister Peddicord?” Slappy asked.

“Aye, Cap’n!” Wellington answered.

“When the Greek calls for the guns, let him have it, Mister Peddicord.” Slappy ordered.

“Aye-Aye, Cap’n!” Wellington Peddicord took a deep breath and seemed to take himself into a very relaxed state that both Cap’n Slappy and Ol’ Chumbucket had never observed even in their most confident fighter, Cementhands McCormack, during battle.

Lieutenant Keeling, now on deck at Cap’n Slappy’s side observed that The Festering Boil would be ready with her guns while both ships were within one hundred yards but that the other ships wouldn’t be able to return fire for at least ninety seconds after that.

“Then we’d best not sit here admiring our marksmanship, don’t you think, Mister Peddicord?” Slappy asked.

“Cap’n knows best.” Was all that emanated from the deep resonant breast of the now focused marksman.

As they closed in on the tightest point of the passage, George lifted his fist and readied the signal. Wellington Peddicord watched both the signal and the target, which had now taken up a position standing on the rail, dropped its britches and was baring his arse toward the fleeing pirates. He spread his ass cheeks offering a none-too-rare glimpse of his anal orifice.

“FIRE!” George called as he brought his fist down once again. Both sides of The Festering Boil exploded in dotted flames and smoke as their projectiles hit home both on The Scuppers and the Man-O’-War.

The most remarkable shot, however, did not come from any cannon, but rather from the barrel of the musket Peddicord fired toward the unsuspecting McIlwain. Ol’ Chumbucket watched as the mini-ball struck dead center in his ass and killed him dead during mid-taunt.

“Bulls-eye!” Peddicord merely breathed the word as he began to quickly reload the musket. “Mr. Chumbucket, if you would be so kind as to select another target, I believe I have one more in me before we are out of range.”

Ol’ Chumbucket was still stunned by the telescopic image of McIlwain’s exploding ass, but he searched the deck for a second identifiable target. William Dedman and Charlton Livingood could be seen coming to the aid of their fallen comrade. His nearly white hair made Dedman the next logical target – the fact that he had been the one to take a pot shot at Chumbucket earlier made him an even more appealing one.

Forty-five seconds had passed and Wellington Peddicord had reloaded and was now looking for the target Ol’ Chumbucket had described. Dedman wasn’t difficult to spot and in two seconds, he was, as his name prophetically predicted, a “Dead Man.”

Chumbucket watched in amazement as the musket ball shattered Dedman’s nose and sink deeply into his head. “Jesus.” He whispered as he finally noticed Wellington Peddicord reloading for yet another attempt.

By now, The Festering Boil was picking up speed as she shot the gap between the two Bawdy Boys vessels en rout to the harbor mouth and the open sea.

“Gentlemen,” Slappy began, “We’re about thirty seconds from being in the middle of a cannonball storm. Good shooting Mister Peddicord, but you might want to take cover. You’ve got two more than I thought possible and …”

“One more, Cap’n, if you please. I hate to leave without a third.” Wellington Peddicord seemed quite adamant, so Slappy nodded at Chumbucket who looked for that third target. Sure enough, he landed on Charlton Livingood who was now incensed by the deaths of two of his best friends and was screaming at The Boil.

“Bald guy – same spot – small tattoo of skull on left cheek.” Chumbucket relayed to his shooter.

As Wellington Peddicord finished loading and positioned himself for the shot, The Festering Boil was now in the violent crossfire of both ships. While a few cannonballs strafed the deck of The Boil, most were overshot into each other’s hulls so the Man-O’-War did much more damage to The Bloody Scuppers and vice versa than either did to the speedy Boil.

None of this seemed to shake Wellington Peddicord’s concentration but the distance between the Boil and the now sinking Scuppers seemed impossibly far for any musket shot.

Using his long, thin ring finger as a site, he lifted the barrel of the musket high above the target and squeezed the trigger.

Through his spyglass, Ol’ Chumbucket watched Livingood’s rage turn blank as the skull tattoo on his cheek gave way to the musket ball. He stood motionless at the edge of the sinking ship as she listed. Without argument, his now dead body, dropped over the edge like a sack of discarded potatoes into the water below.

Now out of distance of any harm and with the only ship capable of giving chase going under, cheers went up from the deck of The Festering Boil. Wellington Peddicord stood up and tried to hand the musket back to Cap’n Slappy.

“No, Mister Peddicord. That tool is best left in your hands to use at your discretion. Welcome aboard, Mister Peddicord!” Slappy said as he shook hands with his newest crewman.

“Thank you, Cap’n – and Mister Chumbucket. Permission to drink rum now, sir!” Wellington said with a smile.

“Permission granted and in honor of your three shots, triple shares for all!” Slappy declared. “Next stop – Tortuga! We have some mysteries to solve!”

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