Wednesday, November 23, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 118 “The Sick Monkey, The Suspect Sweater and The Sex Talk”

Cap’n Slappy stood at the bow of The Festering Boil contemplating his next move and exactly what he might do in Tortuga amongst the Tortuganaughts when he felt two pairs of familiar hands land firmly on his right shoulder.

“Thar ye be, Strumpet, ye cheeky monkey! Ye’ve been makin’ yerself practically invisible of late. What sort of rapscallionistic mischief have ye been about?”

“Chatting with the monkey again, Cap’n?” Cementhands asked as he approached from behind.

“Aye!” Slappy declared with confidence, “It’s the only chance I have of any intelligent conversation on this tub.”

“Ye’ll get no argument from me, Cap’n. That’s one smart monkey, I can tell ye! Why, he escaped the confines of the whole African continent replete with native fruits and food stuffs only to suffer the privations of scurvy, dysentery and other malefactions aboard this floating museum of medical oddities and deprivation.” Cementhands crossed his huge arms over his chest sincerely satisfied with the loquacity of his observation.

Slappy just blinked and looked at him for a moment. Finally he spoke. “You’ve been studying the ‘Powerful Pirate Prattle’ section in your copies of Pirattitude Monthly, haven’t ye?”

Cementhands simply smiled. Slappy continued.

“So, you’re saying … if I understand you correctly … which no doubt I do not …that ‘Monkey on a ship is …’ what, exactly?”

“Bad for Bonzo, Cap’n.” Cementhands said without hesitation. “Healthwise.”

Slappy shrugged, “Her name is ‘Strumpet,’ and she’s as fit as a Chinese acrobat!” Then he turned to the primate on his shoulder, “Aren’t ye, ol’ girl?”

Strumpet looked deeply into Slappy’s face, then coughed.

“Nothing that a nice knit sweater won’t fix. I’ll get Two-Patch on it right away. Do you remember that Sweater he knit for Ol’ Chumbucket last Christmas?” Slappy asked.

“Is the Cap’n referrin’ to the tiny one with the arms coming out of the ‘tummy’ area?” Cementhands inquired.

“Sure, it had its flaws, but nothing that couldn’t have been stretched out if Ol’ Chumbucket had just worn the damn thing.” Slappy insisted. “As I recall, the sleeves were the right length – and that’s very hard to get right!”

“Aye!” Cementhands agreed, “They were the correct length for Mister Chumbucket’s arms all right!”

“See?” Slappy said with a victorious tone.

“That’s right – All three sleeves were entirely the correct length!” Cementhands admitted.

Slappy thought for a moment. “I thought that third one was a … never mind.”

“What, Cap’n?” Cementhands insisted.

“Well,” Slappy began sheepishly, “I thought it was a … how do I put this? I thought perhaps it was meant to be a ‘Tackle Tube.’”

“A what?” Cementhands seemed genuinely confused.

“You know!” Slappy insisted. “A codpiece cover!”

Cementhands shook that off, as if he had no idea to what the Cap’n might be referring.

Slappy finally lost his patience! “A Penis Pocket! A Crocheted Cock Cozy! A Wang Warmer! A Junk Jumper!”

Cementhands smiled warmly. “No Cap’n. That was just an extra sleeve.”

“Oh.” Slappy stood thoughtfully silent for a moment. Strumpet coughed lightly.

Cementhands broke the silence. “It did hang mighty low, though.”

“That’s what I thought?” Slappy said quietly.

“And it does speak well for Ol’ Chumbucket that you thought …” Cementhands continued.

“Well, he’s a man who sits in high regard.” Slappy agreed wholeheartedly.

There was yet another moment of silence that was finally broken by McCormack. “Does he sit so high to keep it from scraping the floor?”

“Alright!” Slappy declared bursting into laughter. “That’s quite enough out of you!” He turned to go and nearly ran over young Gabriel who had been waiting to find out where his closest friend Spencer had gone.

“Gabriel, my boy!” Slappy said with genuine surprise, “How long have you been standing there?”

“Just after ‘Crocheted Cock Cozy’ and just before ‘Wang Warmer’ but I have an important question Cap’n. Where is Spencer?” The young boy’s big eyes were filling with tears just at the question.

Slappy squatted down while Strumpet repositioned herself on top of his head.

“He’s fine, lad. Really. He just …” Slappy noticed Cementhands trying to slip away. “Not so fast, Mister McCormack! I may need one of those large words you’ve been hoarding.” McCormack sheepishly returned.

“You see, lad,” Slappy cleared his throat nervously, “Sometimes boys grow up and become men and even though you didn’t notice it happening … uh … there it is!” Slappy clapped his hands as if to knock off the dirt of this task – thinking it done.

“So, do you understand?” Slappy asked, expecting to be done with this unpleasant chore.

“Not really.” Gabriel answered honestly.

“It’s like this, lad.” Cementhands broke in, thinking he could tell it better. “As the wind blows the sails of this ship, men, too, are blown by an unseen force that propels them onward. Well, young Spencer who, as the Cap’n points out is now a man, was blown by a wind of destiny that landed him in Eve’s garden of earthly delights!”

Gabriel squinted and tried to shake the imagery out of his mind.

“That’s not the way to tell the boy!” Doc Burgess chimed in. “Lad, it’s like this. Bees go from flower to flower and as they do, they bring the pollen from one to another and by so doing supply each flower with a mixture of pollena – …”

“You’re confusing the boy!” Chumbucket broke into the conversation which was now drawing quite the crowd. “It’s very simply, Gabriel. Forget bees and winds and whatever the Cap’n was saying. It’s about what happens between birds – they form a bond and in so doing, naturally, the nesting instinct takes over and – …”

“For the love of God, let a woman do this!” Red Molly stepped in. “Gabriel, do you remember Lieutenant Keeling before he met me? He was emotionally stifled and unable to free his chi, remember?”

“There was nothing wrong with my chi!” Keeling protested.

“Lad!” Dogwatch wedged his way into the fray, “Do you know what I mean when I say, ‘shagged a harlot?’ or ‘lost his perspective?’”

At this, the lesson turned into a “no-holds-barred” debate on the relativity of the role of sex in establishing and maintaining cultural status quo and the validity of mandated expectations based solely on gender.

Finally, George’s gravelly voice broke through the din of the assemblage.

“IF YOU PLEASE!!!” The crowd fell silent. “If I may have a moment alone with the boy, perhaps I can put his mind at ease.”

This, of course, being the goal of every man and woman aboard The Festering Boil at that moment, everyone was happy to give George the Greek that opportunity. Once the crowd had cleared and he was left alone with Gabriel, he knelt down to be at eye level with the boy.

“What is it you want to know, lad?” George asked.

“Where’s Spencer? Why didn’t he come back?” Gabriel sniffled some at the question, but it was nice to have George there. He never scolded the boys for having feelings.

“Spencer is living in Port Royal now with a girl he met.” George searched the boy’s face to see his reaction and seeing only that he hadn’t finished the “why” part of the question, he continued. “He’s fallen in love and he thinks he and the girl will be happy together.”

“But why couldn’t he just bring her back here and be with her here like Lieutenant Keeling and Red Molly?” Gabriel asked.

“I don’t know the answer to that, son.” George admitted, “But he’s a man now and makes decisions for himself – we just hope he’ll be happy with his new girl.”

Not quite satisfied, Gabriel asked, “What is ‘falling in love?’”

George thought for a moment then asked, “What do you like to do more than anything else in the world?”

Gabriel smiled, “I like firing the cannons!”

A curious smile crept across George’s face. “Good! Now let’s say there was a place in Port Royal where you could fire your cannon all day long and people not only let you do it, they WANTED you to do it! Would you want to do that?”

Gabriel thought for a moment. “I would. But I would at least say ‘Goodbye.’”

George hit his own forehead with his hand. “Oh! He did, son. He did! He told me to tell you! I just now am getting around to passing it along to you. I’m sorry for the delay.”

“What did he say?” Gabriel asked.

“He asked me to give you this.” George straightened up and kissed the boy at the top of his forehead along his hairline. “And told me to tell you to take care of Cap’n Slappy for him. ‘He’ll need someone to know where he dropped his boots the night before.’ He said. ‘Tell Gabriel the Cap’n keeps a tin of chocolate biscuits at the bottom of the second drawer under his bunk – for his cabin boy – but he wants the boy to think he’s found them on his own and is being a bit of a sneak.”

Gabriel was stunned. “You mean I’m … I’m …”

“Cap’n Slappy’s new cabin boy. Aye! And a good one ye’ll be, too.”

Gabriel looked around at his precious cannons.

“Oh!” George continued, “And don’t think you’re getting out of your cannonade lessons! I’ll expect you at the same time every day for practice – we’re going to work twice as hard as ever!”

Gabriel was beaming.

“Now, run along and get your stuff out of Doc Burgess’ sick room – you’re moving to a closet off the Cap’n’s cabin.”

Gabriel began to run off, then stopped, turned around and came back and threw his arms around George’s waste in a bear hug. The Greek rested his hand on the boy’s head and said firmly, “Now run along boy – thar’s pirate work to do!”

First, I would like to say that the title o' this chapter made me heart flutter with anticipation. I have always felt that Strumpet lacked character development, so I eagerly welcomed probin' further into the identity o' the ship's mascot. It were heartwarmin' to see the tender relationship between Cap'n Slappy n' his beloved monkey being given due attention.

After readin' the story, I realized I were still lackin' vital information. I am still curious as to Strumpet's precise species. As you are probably aware, there are at least 78 species of Old World Monkeys divided into two subfamilies--the Cercopithecinae--baboons, mandrills, guenons, and macaques, and the Colobinae--colobus, langurs, and probiscus monkeys.

Since the dietary needs o' the herbivorous Colobinae, could not be met during long sea voyages, I feel it be safe to assume that Strumpet belongs to the genus Cercopithecinae. I cannot, however, picture in me mind's one good eye, a baboon squattin' atop Cap'n Slappy's head, irregardless o' the fact that this species is sexually dimorphic n' the females be only half the size o' the males. Male or female, a baboon can be as large as a rottweiler, and invariably owns a set o' potentially lethal, dagger-like fangs. In short, baboons make lousy pets and even lousier chapeau. Could ye resolve this taxonomic inquiry in a subsequent chapter o' "The Ship's Log O' The Festerin' Boil" for all the many adorin' fans o' your saucy monkey pal?
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