Friday, December 16, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 122 “Gibraltar: Hula Girls Aplenty”

It was late in the afternoon and the crew of The Festering Boil was abuzz with rumor and innuendo. “Cap’n Slappy is taking us somewhere!” One fellow pointed out to another.

“Yes! We are going somewhere, and Cap’n Slappy is showing us the way!” Another agreed.

Cementhands McCormack provided a much needed service by smacking both of them hard on the forehead with his open hand. “Stop making it sound so damn mysterious! We’re always going somewhere and The Cap’n is the one who decides where! This is nothing new. We do this every day, ye nitterin’ ninnies!”

Suddenly, his keen ears caught someone on the other side of the deck speaking with hushed apprehension. “Did you hear that Cap’n Slappy is taking us somewhere?”

“Excuse me.” Cementhands said as he sauntered off to intervene in the distant discussion.

A few moments later, Ol’ Chumbucket fired his pistol into the ships bell – the signal that there was to be a mandatory “all ship” meeting on deck.

Once every man and woman aboard the ship had gathered and was accounted for, Ol’ Chumbucket began with some general announcements about up-coming events and meeting rescheduling. Of particular interest was the fact that the Glee Club would be meeting on Monday nights in the “Experimental Theater” as Cementhand’s on man show, “In Just Us!” was dark that night and the space had become available.

Finally, Slappy began his talk. He started with a knowing, secretive smile and began with a hint of mystery, “Crew, I’m taking you somewhere!” At this point, Cementhands McCormack struck The Cap’n hard on the forehead – knocking him to the deck. He quickly picked himself up and looked sharply at McCormack who simply held up a wagging finger. Finally, Slappy admitted, “Not that this is anything new! As we are always going places and as your Cap’n, I decide where that is.” Slappy glanced at Cementhands who now smiled approvingly and crossed his arms over his massive chest in a relaxed posture.

“But I’m not one of those secretive Captains who will put his crew in a most dangerous predicament and not tell them so. No! If I am going to march you straight into the fiery gates of sulfurous Hell to almost certain, painful disembowelment and death, I’m going to tell you so and explain why this is so important! I want my administration to be transparent and without any hint of a self-aggrandizing agenda – this is why I speak to you, the little people – with the exception of McCormack, who is a very large little person – oh, and Peddicord is also quite tall, although not as blessed with … shall we say, as much ‘heft’ as ‘The Big Man?’ But that’s beside the point. We are on our way ...” (and here, Slappy paused to give his audience a moment of suspense) “… to Gibraltar!”

Now it was Cap’n Slappy who crossed his arms in a most self-satisfied way while the crew nattered about saying things like, “Gibraltar! Oh, my!” and “I hear that the South of Spain is nice this time of year?” and, “I believe there is a rather impressive rock there!” There were also a couple of, “I thought we were going to stay in the Caribbean for a while!” and “Did he say almost certain, painful disembowelment and death?”

Once the confusion had hit a crescendo, Slappy decided it was time to clarify. “We’re not going to Spain. We’re not going to go sit at a bull fight gnoshing on biscuits and sipping tea. We’re going to the Gibraltar of the Caribbean!” (Slappy now struck a pose, something with a determined finger pointing to the sky and a serious look on his face, bordering on maniacal.)

“Is there one?” Red Molly asked innocently enough.

“Well, yes, of course there is …” Slappy began to reply.

“I heard it sank into the sea with Atlantis.” Dogwatch chimed in.

“No, it …” Slappy began again but was immediately cut off.

“I heard that it is the famous lost city of gold and the last Mayan stronghold and that any stranger unfortunate enough to find his or her way there is immediately disemboweled and offered as a sacrifice to their god, Umbanamow-wow!” Lieutenant Keeling offered.

“Well, there is that, but I was hoping to de-emphasize the whole disemboweling piece.” Slappy insisted.

“I thought that El Dorado was the lost Mayan city of gold!” Doc Burgess added for confusion’s sake.

“Incan.” Ol’ Chumbucket corrected. “They’re considered the twin cities of the upper Amazon basin.”

“Like Minneapolis and St. Paul?” Peddicord questioned. There was a brief moment of confusion, but Slappy suggested that Peddicord may know of one or two places the rest of them would not.

Suddenly, Gabe tugged on Cap’n Slappy’s coat and pointed at a distraught Two Patch who sat weeping on the deck. At once, all attention was focused on him.

Slappy put on his brave voice, “What’s the matter, Old Man?! We’ve faced near certain disemboweling at the hands of stone knife wielding native peoples before and we’ve always come through just fine.”

“Oh, it’s not that, Cap’n.” Two Patch said wiping his cloudy eyes with his filthy tattered sleeve. “It’s just that … you see …” and here he began sobbing again as he spat out the words, “I’m a twin!”

Slappy’s initial reaction was one of revulsion and shock. It would take a mind reader to look at The Cap’n’s reaction and say, “He’s sickened by the very thought of there being two of them.” But, ever the diplomat, Slappy quickly covered for himself. “Well, gosh, Two Patch! We had no idea! Perhaps this will be a sub-plot in one of our up-coming adventures? Who knows?”

This only made things worse. “NO!” Two Patch wept bitterly, “It will NEVER be a sub plot! MY TWIN IS DEAD!!!” And again, he collapsed.

Clearly out of his depth, Slappy turned the meeting over to Ol’ Chumbucket who gave him the “Thanks, but just what the Hell do you want ME to do with this?” look. He began bravely. “Now, now, Two Patch! We’re all very sorry about your twin.” But Two Patch had moved on to another grief.

“Without a twin, I’ll NEVER be a SUB PLOT!” he wailed.

Red Molly cut through the crowd and put her arms around Two Patch who seemed to take comfort in her motherly skills. “You might be.” She spoke sweetly, “You could have another twin out there that you don’t know about!”

“Do you think?” Two Patch asked hopefully

“Well sure!” Peddicord offered his positive spin, “Hell, Two Patch! You could be on of quintuplets separated at birth!”

This visual was too much for Slappy and he intervened. “All right! Enough! Suffice it to say that there will most assuredly be a sub plot with Two Patch’s name on it in the future, possibly involving a long lost twin – but for the love of Sweet Neptune’s Man Nipples, do not force the image of FIVE of them on me!”

There was a moment of silence finally broken by Two Patch’s shaky voice.


“Four?” Slappy was sure Two Patch had miscounted or didn’t know the world “quintuplet.” “But there are FIVE babies born in a quintuplet, Two Patch.”

“Aye, Cap’n.” Two Patch spoke bravely, but began to break down when he added, “But one of the quints is dead!”

Slappy knew he had to act quickly. He rushed in and gave Two Patch a big “Man Hug,” and said, “Do you know what we’re going to do tonight?”

Everyone on deck held their collective breath.

“I’ve asked Jim to set up his ‘Big Glowy Picture Thingy’ and we’re going to have a Glow Show about Gibralter!” Slappy’s enthusiasm for these “Glow Shows” was infectious even though a frustrated Jim tried desperately to have people refer to his invention as a “projector” and the pictures as “slides.” “Big Glowy Picture Thingy” was the name that Slappy used and that’s what caught on aboard The Festering Boil. And the crew loved their “Glow Shows!”

“Will there be popcorn?” Two Patch asked with the innocence of a child coming out of a two-hour tantrum.

“All you can eat!” Slappy responded with enthusiasm – still holding him so close, they could have rubbed noses. But they didn’t.

As the sun went down, the deck was filled with chairs and the chairs were filled with excited pirates who’d come to see The Glow Show on “The Gibraltar of the Caribbean.” Unfortunately, they had no slides of “The Gibraltar of the Caribbean,” so they showed George’s slides from his Hawaiian vacation while Slappy narrated by rubbing a feather over his lips as he spoke into a glass jar. He insisted that in the future, all Glow Show narration would sound like this.

Ol’ Chumbucket sat off to the side – clearly entertained, but a little put off by Slappy’s program of disinformation. During a slide that depicted several scantily clad hula girls dancing on a beach, Cementhands asked, “Cap’n! Will there be hula girls in The Gibraltar of the Caribbean?”

“I’m glad you asked that, Cementhands!” Slappy said, stalling for time to think, “In fact, it is the town motto, ‘Gibraltar: Hula Girls Aplenty!’”

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


A Pirate Tale – 121


Cap’n Slappy rubbed at his mustache with vexation, wincing as he scratched another dab of tar out, pulling hairs that made his eyes water. He glanced over and saw that Ol’ Chumbucket was having a similar problem.

Of all the crew aboard the Festering Boil, only George the Greek was immune from the need to peel the malodorous concoction off his lip, and he was absolved by the very simple expedient that he hadn’t put any there in the first place. George had more hair under his lip than most men have on their whole bodies, and while the locks on his head might have been going a bit gray, his mustache was still thick, black and luxuriant. It was also one of his chief sources of pride, so when the moment for him to make his pledge of vengeance, he had waved his hand over the tar, then taken a swipe at his nose. If anyone had noticed, they hadn’t dared say anything to him about it.

The Boil’s crew had searched the vicinity of Devil’s Rock but had not found any more booby traps. Unfortunately, they were also unable to find any clues as to where the Bawdy Boys were or what they were up to. The fairly extensive system of caves showed some sign of its former occupation by the Bawdy Boys, but nothing recent.

“Still, we searched here three years ago, the last time we had to kill those bastards, and there sure wasn’t a booby trap here then,” Cementhands opined, rubbing a knuckle across the tar under his own proboscis. “Whatever it was that sunk the Fox, it must have been planted in the last few months.”

“Right, so we know they’ve been back,” Sawbones Burgess agreed, wiping vigorously at his own nose with a handkerchief.

“No,” Chumbucket said, also still working the tar loose from his facial hair. “Shit! We know SOMEBODY was here, but we don’t know whom. Ow!”

“Quit being so fussy,” Slappy snapped. “Who else would it have been? Damn!”

“I’m just saying we shouldn’t jump – OW! – to any conclusions,” Chumbucket shot back. “A whole shipload of friends – Crap! – just got blown up this morning and – Damn! – we’re not going to help matters by leaping into action without thinking,”

“Crap!” Cementhands snarled in agreement.

Slappy took a step back. Just as he had feared, he was getting seriously pissed off and losing his temper because of the tar stuck in his ‘stache. He took a deep breath and was about to start over when his new cabin boy, Gabriel, came running up.

Unlike the older members of the crew, young Gabriel was seriously delighted to have something as manly as a mustache on his face, even if it was in fact tar. He had spent the afternoon repeatedly returning to the tar bucket to augment his faux facial fuzz. By now he happily wore a quarter-inch thick layer of the pungent material under his nose, and was getting a little high from the fumes.

On the quarterdeck all hands burst into laughter at the sight. One glimpse of Gabriel brimming with manliness and weaving slightly from his intoxicated state was enough to break the spell of peevishness.

“Look lad, perhaps you’d better lay off the tar,” Slappy said kindly. “One more layer and you’ll be closing off your airways.”

“Okay,” the lad said, sounding a little woozy. “But I can’t wait until I can grow my own. Then I’ll have one as thick as George’s.”

George smiled. “I don’t know lad. Ye’ve got to be Greek to have something as fine as this warming yer lip.” He stroked the long black bristles with affection. “Maybe you should talk to Butch about cooking you up some bull’s balls every night. Maybe that would help.”

“Bull’s what?” asked Gabriel, turning slightly green.

“Balls” George repeated.

“Testicles,” Chumbucket added.

“The dangly bits,” Cementhands tossed in helpfully.

“Erp,” said Gabriel, turning a more vivid shade of green and hastening to the rail.

“Well, that takes care of that, anyway,” Sawbones observed. “So what’s our next step?”

“I don’t see we have much choice,” Slappy said. “We’d best go back to the village and see if they know anything more. It’s either that or back to Port Royal. And we need to talk to Peddicord a bit more. How did he come to leave the Tigershark? He hasn’t given us any details on that yet.

“The wind’s against us now, so we’ll take the longboat back around the headland. George, you stand out to sea and bring her back in tomorrow morning.”

The currents were also running against them and the trip back around the island to the fishing village took longer than Slappy had hoped. Even with a dozen pirates pulling at the oars, the sun was settling behind them as the longboat eased past the rickety pier and ground ashore on the beach under the startled eyes of the fishermen who were preparing their gear for the morning.

“Welcome back!” their spokesman said warily. “Have you reconsidered whether you’d like to loot the village? I can have all the goods back here in no time.”

“No, no, nothing like that,” Slappy said as he eyed the tropical sunset. “We just wanted to talk a little, get a little information.”

The man seemed uncertain, but

Yes, they agreed, there was another ship at the island about six months ago. The oldest of the fishermen, Carlos, was certain of it, because that’s when the snook were running. The ship was big, they agreed, and had stayed three days but never came around the island to the village. The fishermen had stayed away, and not just because their fishing grounds were on the other side of the island. After their experiences sharing the island with the Bawdy Boys they were in no hurry to greet their new neighbors.

“The only one who went out to see anything was the padre, and he didn’t report anything strange. Just that there was a ship, but that they’d be leaving.”

“Padre?” Chumbucket asked. “Where is this padre? Can we speak to him?”

“Oh, no, he died three months ago.”

“Died? How did he die?”

“Oh, he was a very old man. There was no mystery there. The mystery was that he lasted as long as he did.”

“Did he tell anyone about the ship? Write any letters or reports?”

“Not that I know of. You might ask the new padre.”

The men explained that the new priest had arrived about six weeks ago, “when Lars caught the tarpon,” and could be found at the cathedral. The men pointed the way, which was a superfluous gesture considering the village had only 20 small houses and one track that could be called a street, running straight from the pier up into the hills. Still, the men were eager to be rid of the pates so they could stop answering questions. And it’s not like the “cathedral” stood out. No, this wasn’t some large adobe church like in those Clint Eastwood movies, nor was it a giant gothic gymnasium. What it was was:

A shack. The pirates could tell which one was the cathedral because it had a cross painted on the side and, when they pointed to it and looked back to the beach, the watching fishermen nodded enthusiastically. Slappy reached out and knocked on the door.

“And who’d be pounding on me door at this hour of the evening?” an angry and familiar voice called. “Don’t you know I’m reciting me fackin’ vespers?”

“What the hell?” Slappy asked. The door opened.

“Well Slappy me lad! It’s to be seeing you again. Are ye here to be confessed and saved?” asked Father Seamus Casey.

“Casey? What are you doing here?”

“I’m the facking pastor of this fine parish, don’t ye know,” the priest said.

“But, wha … how … How did you get here? We left you in South Africa,” Slappy said with shock.

“No we didn’t. Did we?” Chumbucket said, equally perturbed by the priest’s sudden reappearance. “Wasn’t he aboard for the Atlantic crossing? Or was he?”

The two thought about it, and probably would have gone back to check previous installments of this story to refresh their memories, but the ever-loquacious Father Casey spared them the trouble.

“Weil of course I left Mossel Bay with ye, lads. And it was a fine voyage across the great ocean, although I must say I was a little miffed that I wasn’t chosen to handle the marriage ceremony of Leftenant Keeling and his winsome bride, although no hard feelings against ye, Slappy lad. Now come on in, the both o ye, and have a wee drop o’ something to ward off the night chill.” The two pirates went into the ramshackle church, leaving their 10 crewmembers outside in the night air, which the breeze had cooled to about 80 degrees. They accepted the “wee drop” of Irish whisky while the priest filled the silence with the music of his voice as he told of how he arrived on the tiny island outpost.

“I enjoyed those games ye all played in Brazil and converted some of the heathen over to the Lord. After ye all left fackin’ Sao Paolo in such a hurry, I spent a little time with the fackin’ archbishop of Rio, who was kind enough to send my to Costa Rica where I was the guest of the archbishop there and he a fine man he is, despite bein’ Spanish which I won’t hold against him, bein’ as we’re both in the trade don’t ye know.”

That’s the gist of what he said. It actually took much longer.

Apparently Casey had insisted in long, in-depth discussions on the needs of the church in the Caribbean, because after three days his host had suddenly taken sick and couldn’t receive visitors. Casey had cooled his heels on the island for a couple of weeks until word came in that the priest on Devil’s Rock had passed away and the archbishop, “a sainted man, don’t ye know,” assigned Casey to the post.

“Aye, and me not even bein’ Spanish, God be praised, but he didn’t let our differin’ nationalities stand in the way and I quickly accepted the task, because we’re all toilin’ in the Lord’s vineyard, don’t ye see, and if the Lord wants to make some of the people on Earth Spanish until the day of judgment when he consigns them all to the fiery pits of hell, who am I to say no?”

The long and short of it was that Casey was now ensconced in the small village. He did not know the former priest, didn’t know anything about his death or any visitors. There was, however, a trunk of the old priest’s belongings out back that they were welcome to look through.

Casey continued talking as the two pirates quickly went through the box. There wasn’t much – this was a man to whom the vow of poverty apparently applied in spades. A few books, a picture of a kitten with big eyes, a small hand mirror, some breath mints, three pairs of argyle socks.

Chumbucket dropped the trunk with disgust. In doing so, he jarred loose a scrap of paper that ad been wedged into the lid to keep it from rattling. Slappy picked it up and glanced at it. Suddenly he sat up sharply and pointed to the card.

“Look at this,” he said.

“A picture postcard,” Chumbucket said, unimpressed. “Sunset on the beach at Gibraltar. So?”

“Look at the back.”

Chumbucket read aloud, “To Father Sierra, thanks for the herring. From your friends on HMS Tigershark.”

“I guess we know our next stop,” Slappy said. “I hope George is able to bring the ship in at first light.”

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


A Pirate Tale – part 120 “… Thus Hammacher Van Der Veel …”

Note: Many thanks to the Baroness Von Fortuna whose question of Strumpet the Monkey’s species presented a rather interesting dilemma which will be answered in this installment. Keep those comments coming!

The Festering Boil was anchored just a mile off shore from the fishing village on Skull Island. It was joined by the Dutch pirate ship, The Fire Fox. Both crews had gathered on the deck of the boil for a social hour and strategy session.

“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.” Doc Burgess whispered as he stood next to Cap’n Slappy at the back of the crowd of Pirates listening to their guest speaker, Hammacher Van der Veel, the renowned Dutch pirate.

“No, Sawbones, I wasn’t aware of that – that’s why I asked you to sort it out.” Slappy whispered back.

Doc Burgess continued, “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 the Cap'n’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 worse head wear.”

“Perhaps she’s a mandrill?” Slappy whispered hopefully.

“She would be much, much larger with a brilliantly rainbow-like ass.” The doctor corrected.

At that moment, Salty Jim came to the Cap’n with a complaint. “Cap’n, someone has been rooting about in my garden for months and I’ve not been able to find the culprit.”

“Your garden?” Slappy tried to pretend that he knew about the garden but was testing Salty Jim to make sure that HE knew he knew.

Salty Jim chuckled, “You’re just joshin’ me, aren’t ye, Cap’n? You know, my hydroponic garden in the deepest portion of the ship’s stern. You authorized it in triplicate!” Salty Jim waved his copy of The Festering Boil’s Hull Usage Application form 37-G9.25/r.

“Ah, yes!” Slappy said happily, “The pink sheet! How’s your little slice of Eden coming, Jim?”

“Well, thank you sir. I’ve managed to simulate sunlight through a series of cylindrical tubes using Red Molly’s ‘Spinning Class’ on the deck above as a source of energy – the stationary bicycles generate more than …” Jim was cut off by a disinterested Cap’n Slappy.

“That’s more than fascinating Jim, but we’ve got a guest speaker. Shhhh.” Slappy tried not to sound overly dismissive – but he felt as though he was being a bad host.

“That’s just it, beggin’ the Cap’n’s pardon,” Jim soldiered on, “our guest requested corned beef wrapped in grape leaves – which I happen to have plenty of – or did, at least. When I went to check my vineyard was nearly defoliated. Also, my experiments on the reproductive cycles of insects indigenous to Africa have fallen short of expectations and I have developed a hypothesis as to ‘why’ this is so.” Jim glanced accusatorily at Strumpet as she sat on top of Slappy’s head munching on a grape leaf. He continued, “That monkey of yours has skewed my research, Cap’n!”

“Colobus abyssinicus!” Hammacher Van der Veel exclaimed as he cast his attention on the argument.

“Mbega Mweupe if you prefer the Swahili name to the scientific – or simply Colobus.”

“How can you tell?” Doc Burgess asked.

Hammacher Van der Veel paused, “How can you not? – thick black fur, a white mask around the face, a mantle of long white hair and long horse hair tail – it would be like not recognizing your own mother, Doctor!”

The assembled crowd laughed heartily at the idea of Doc Burgesses mother being a monkey.

“But how did you hear us whispering at the back while you were talking?” Slappy asked.

“Finely tuned ears, Cap’n. When Hammacher Van der Veel was a child, he taught himself to know every windmill in Holland by the sound it made as the blades went round and round. Each windmill has a peculiar squeak and by the time he was eight, Hammacher Van der Veel knew them all! This was done in the event that should young Hammacher Van der Veel ever be kidnapped, blindfolded and held for ransom in a windmill, he would know precisely where he was and what he needed to do to escape.”

Slappy knew he would hate himself for asking but he had to. “And were you ever kidnapped?”

“Hammacher Van der Veel was kidnapped, blindfolded and held captive in a windmill twice before the age of eleven – but using his keen sense of hearing, he managed to escape both times. And thus, Hammacher Van der Veel thwarted the efforts of evil men to extort money from his ailing mother!” Van der Veel ended most of his stories with the phrase, “…and thus, Hammacher Van der Veel …” did something particularly amazing, blah, blah, blah … but his declaration never failed to raise a stirring round of applause from the undiscerning.

“Don’t you think he is the most amazing pirate ever?” Saucy Jenny asked Ol’ Chumbucket as the two of them took in his lecture and observations.

“He’s the ginchiest!” Ol’ Chumbucket said with a swing of his arm that emphasized his faux enthusiasm.

“Oh, pooh on you!” Jenny responded with schoolgirl devotion to her newest, bestest idol. “You’re just jealous of the many successes of Hammacher Van der Veel!”

Ol’ Chumbucket was about to strenuously protest that he was not jealous of a man who could not recount his own life story in first person but rather had resorted to a kind of individual mythology told with hyperbolic affect in third person. Jealous of a man who probably had his so-called life written by a staff of writers so deliriously disconnected to reality that they would feel perfectly grounded and at home in the wee hours of the morning in a Shanghai opium den.

He WAS about to strenuously protest, but he did not.

Once again, Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy were of a mind. Although everything they knew about Hammacher Van der Veel was either taken from the series Pirattitude Monthly had done on his life and times entitled, “… and thus Hammacher Van der Veel …” which recounted such incidents as killing a sea serpent with a severely disapproving gaze, navigating uncharted Pacific waters through the thickest fog of recorded history using nothing but his finely attuned sense of smell – apparently a result of his mastery over the senses – and a rather unusual story that ended, “ … and thus Hammacher Van der Veel defeated the Spanish Armada using nothing but his wits and the buoyancy of his childhood toy, an inflatable turtle named Alfred,” or from myriad bawdy shanties sung in pubs throughout the Caribbean.

One particular pub song had a chorus that went:

Hammacher Van der Veel
Makes all the Wenches Squeal!
Then he’ll give them all a roister
And the moist will be much moister
Screaming, “Hammacher Van der Veel!”

Of course the “screaming” was done in fake orgasm yell by both men and women.

Truth be told, Hammacher Van der Veel was a stunning man. Cap’n Slappy had long noted that “all Dutch pirates look the same – tall, blonde, muscular with piercing blue eyes, thick lips and brains that, like so much Dutch footwear, were seemingly made of wood and wood by-products.”

But this Dutch pirate was different. He had graduated from the world famous Wittenberg University by his seventeenth birthday and was a research fellow at Oxford where he excelled in both the arts and sciences. He became bored with academia and took to the sea where he quickly gained a reputation as a bold pirate and a master strategist.

Perhaps his most striking physical feature was the shockingly black mustache he wore that seemed to pop from his fair skin as if God had vandalized His own perfect Aryan creation with silly charcoal facial hair. If this was a curse of God, Hammacher Van der Veel wore it with pride and zest. He claimed that it’s presence on his lip was due to his mother’s mother being one quarter gypsy. “Some fortune tellers need a crystal ball, but Hammacher Van der Veel can see the future in the blackness of his mustachio!”

After a nice lunch of corned beef sans grape leaves, it was decided after some discussion that Cap’n Slappy would take The Festering Boil into the fishing village to gather information there while Hammacher Van der Veel would take The Fire Fox around the hilly out-cropping of rock that gave “Skull Island” it’s ominous name for indeed, the geological formation was very like that of a human skull.

Slappy argued that the Bawdy Boys’ hideout in the rocks could be rigged with dangerous booby traps and that perhaps the more experience crew of The Festering Boil should be the first to check it out while Hammacher Van der Veel could delight and amaze the denizens of the small fishing village. But the Dutchman was insistent, “My dear Cap’n Slappy,” he said with flowing, open gestures of respect, “my crew is well trained in the arts of munitions and explosives. Besides, your rustic charm will go much farther with these ‘rude mechanicals’ than my charismatic bombast.”

Slappy had no argument there and it was agreed.

The fifty or so citizens of the fishing village gathered nervously in the village square with what few belongings they could sacrifice; wooden dishes, down pillows, a silver necklace and a rather surprisingly large collection of paintings of old people praying. The long boat carrying Cap’n Slappy, Ol’ Chumbucket, Lieutenant Keeling, Dogwatch Watts and Cementhands McCormack pulled up onto the sand of the beach while The Festering Boil remained anchored several hundred yards out. The villagers could see The Fire Fox sail around the bend in the island toward the rock formation and they feared The Bawdy Boys had returned.

The spokesman for the villagers spoke to the pirates; “Welcome back friends, since your last stay, we have failed to accumulate enough wealth to buy anything nice for you to plunder, but we do have some dishes, this old watch chain and Ma Granger’s paintings – plus, Helga here has volunteered to be raped.” A large, homely young woman stepped forward and smiled demurely.

Cementhands McCormack also took a step forward as if he too would volunteer, but Ol’ Chumbucket, seemingly without seeing his friend move, extended his hand to catch the big man by the forearm and guide him back into line. A disappointed McCormack stepped back.

Slappy was insulted but sympathetic. What had those bastard Bawdy Boys done to these poor people? “My good man, there’ll be no looting of your goods.” Then, with a glance toward the large young woman, “Nor will there be any misconduct toward your … people.” Finally with a gesture toward the painting, “And we would not dream of coveting your works of fine art. No! We are no Bawdy Boys, but Brethren of the Coast who …”

Suddenly and explosion ripped through the air from the direction of the rock formation.

“Please excuse us.” Slappy said hastily as they hurried back to the long boat and then back to The Festering Boil. George had the ship ready to go when they brought the boat up and he had a team of ship repairmen ready to assist The Fire Fox in the event that the explosion had done her harm.

They made good time around the bend in the island to the opening of the Skull’s Mouth. The very top of the mast of The Fire Fox poked up from the waters in front of the entry to what appeared to be a cave. Her trademark jolly roger, a fox’s head with flames in the background. Flapped defiantly just above the surface of the deep, but it was clear that the ship had sunk and this was just the last gasp of her Dutch greatness.

The carpenters dropped their tools to the deck and the crew of The Festering Boil fell silent. They dropped anchor outside the cave mouth and scanned the wreckage for survivors. They found none. The only signs of humanity were the bobbing corpses of blonde buccaneers bathed in blood and brine.

Oscar, who had taken copious notes during Hammacher Van der Veel’s story telling session, was quite moved. He stepped up to the pot of cooling tar, dipped in his finger and dragged it across his upper lip. He then declared, “Thus Hammacher Van der Veel shall be honored and avenged!” One by one, the crew of The Festering Boil moved past the tar pot and dipped in a finger. Each, in turn, smeared the sticky blackness across his or her upper lip as a show of solidarity and devotion to the fallen hero.

At last, Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy took part in the solemn ceremony. But not without some serious mutual eye-rolling and Slappy’s whispered comment; “If I have trouble getting this tar out of my mustache, I’m going to be seriously pissed.”

But in keeping with the solemnity of the moment, Cap’n Slappy echoed Oscar’s declaration to the crew. “Thus Hammacher Van der Veel shall be honored and avenged!”

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