Thursday, March 31, 2005


A Pirate Tale – part 64 - "Running"

“Why are we chasing him, Capitan?” Miguel Ballesteros asked Slappista as the capitan stood tall on the bow of La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza and watched The Festering Boil as she headed toward Diego Garcia. “We could be heading north west toward the Persian Gulf and a life of untold riches! Why waste time with one overrated fool of a pirate and his band of merry idiots?”

Slappista spun around and grabbed his first mate by the throat, “You have no idea who we are dealing with, do you? That ‘Fool’ is my cousin and those ‘idiots’ have won more battles than this entire crew has teeth!”

Slappista looked around at the orthodontia-related features of the men in his crew and amended his analogy. “More battles than the teeth of all the men on all three of these ships combined! This is not a ship to be trifled with and I will be damned if I let him go while I hold the advantage.”

Whether it was his grip on the man’s throat, the intensity of his anger or the garlic on his breath from the morning’s breakfast, Ballesteros could no longer stand in Slappyista’s presence and suddenly dropped to the deck. He rubbed his neck and asked, “Then why didn’t you just kill him when you had him on board? How hard would that have been?”

“Because it wouldn’t be sporting – and Slappista likes to think of himself as a ‘sport,’ isn’t that right, dear?” Lady Fanny approached, still toweling off her hair.

“Ah! My little kumquat of desire! My little figurine of fortune! How are you?” Slappista greeted her warmly with a big hug and a kiss on the forehead.

“Waterlogged, you bastard!” She replied sharply. “Why the hell did you lash me to the bowsprit? We were ‘Even Steven!’ Remember?”

“Yes, my sugar-plum dumpling of justice – but we both know that was an ‘untruth,’ don’t we? And my figureheading of you does not yet make the Steven Even – you did, after all, fire two shots into my chest and left me for shark food – but it is all a part of my reconciliation plan.” Slappista smiled and turned back to view The Festering Boil putting a few more yards of distance between herself and her pack of pursuers.

“You call this a reconciliation? You nearly drowned me!” Lady Fanny barely kept her rage in check.

“The best kind.” Slappista fired back with a kiss blown in her direction. “The kind that will always leave you owing me the right to be cruel – my little punching bag of pusillanimity.”

“Do not” Lady Fanny ground out her words carefully – crushing her consonants with force, “mistake poor timing and a seeming dearth of accessible weapons with cowardice, my dear husband!”

“Just like a child.” Slappista observed, “I’ve put away all the sharp objects.” Then, turning to two of his men he ordered, “Take her away and secure her to the center post in my cabin.”

The two took her by her arms and began to lead her away – “And if her knots slip, gentlemen, I assure you the ones that form your nooses will not.” Slappista’s face was deadly serious as he watched them pull her backwards away from the bow.

He turned back to keep watch on his fleeing cousin.


The galley was abuzz with debate on The Festering Boil and Slappy sat quietly and listened to the others’ points of view.

“Why are we running?” Dogwatch demanded. “We’ve beaten more than three ships in a fight more than a dozen times – what makes this so special?”

“Slappista for one!” George shot back. “And a floating fortress for another!”

“George has a point, boys!” McCormack chimed in – “There’s no profit in sailing into death without a good game plan.”

“But when have we ever run before in the absence of a plan?” Ol’ Chumbucket, who had clearly not been visited by Jezebel, offered. “Cap’n Slappy,” he spoke cautiously, “this isn’t like you at all!”

Slappy sighed and looked straight ahead at Mad Sally, who stared right back.

“Gentlemen!” Sir Nigel broke in, “I don’t see what the fuss is about – we will have our battle by and by, I assure you. But for now, our discretion is most assuredly the better part of our valor.”

This brought about a general ruckus of which Slappy only was able to hear McCormack object loudly to the use of the word, “Gentlemen” and Dogwatch demand, “Who made YOU Cap’n, Sir Nigel?” Juan added something about them making decisions all “Nilly Willy!”

As the bickering and debating raged on, Slappy’s gaze toward Sally eased and she looked at him with growing warmth. She knew that running away was the hardest thing Slappy had ever done. She knew as well, that it was the only intelligent thing to do. She also knew that at some level, it had struck him to the core as a mortal wound – one from which he feared he would never recover.

As the argument around him reached a crescendo, Slappy stood slowly to his feet. The voices silenced. He looked around the room at his long-time friends and comrades – holding each in his eyes for an intimate moment. With each man, Slappy had shared moments where the veil between life and death draped thinly and delicately between reality and destiny.

Courage was never in doubt. Confidence was.

“I will be above deck with the boys should you have need of me, my friends.” He smiled as he spoke, but didn’t wait for an answer and moved briskly out of the room.

On deck, he found Gabriel and Spencer sitting on a cannon on the port side watching the ships behind them fade away.

“Ahoy, me lads!” Slappy spoke cheerfully although not as forcefully as usual.

“Lad!” Gabriel declared brightly. “You called me a ‘Lad’ Cap’n Slappy! That means you know I am a boy and not a midget!” He crossed his arms and gave a definitive nod of victory. Of course, as he did so, Strumpet dropped down on top of his head from the rope above.

“Of course, you’re a boy!” Slappy smiled – but with the slightest argument in his voice added, “Who ever said you weren’t?”

Spencer laughed.

Gabriel was fit to spit. “YOU DID! You’ve been saying that I am a midget for as long as I can remember!”

Slappy leaned back to get a better look at the boy. Incredulity lined his face as he replied, “That’s preposterous, son. Why in the name of Poseidon’s hairy nipples would I say such a foolish thing?”

“I don’t know!” The powder monkey with the monkey on top replied trying to brush the monkey hands out of his face, “But you always do! You are always saying that I am a midget – but I am not! I am a boy!”

Slappy smiled. “Of course you are.”

“I AM!” Gabriel screamed in vehement agreement.

“I know.” Slappy replied calmly.

Gabriel seethed and held his seething until it built up into a sudden burst. “Jeez!!!” At which point he got up and stomped away – the monkey on his head shook his fist at Slappy as they bounded out of sight.

“You really like to rile him up, don’t you, Cap’n?” Spencer observed quietly.

“Aye,” Slappy responded, “that I do. It must run in the fam – …”

Suddenly, he stopped himself and got lost in thought.

Spencer broke in with a question. “Cap’n is Gabriel your s – …”

“Shhhh.” Slappy put a finger to his lips and kept his gaze fixed to the horizon.

Above the creak of masts, the flap of sails and the crash of water against the hull, the two of them could hear the sound of a small, distant voice engaged in hushed cussing matched in tone and surpassed in volume by the screeching of an angry monkey.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


A pirate Tale - 63

“Reporting for duty, sir,” Leftenant Keeling said, throwing a sharper salute than was typical on a pirate ship.

“Keeling!” Slappy said, delighted. “Are you feeling up to snuff? Fully recovered from your injury?”

“Yes sir, tip top. A little thing like a guitar to the skull can’t keep me down for long.”

“Good. We’re going to need all hands soon, and I could sure use you in the fight.”

“You can count on me, sir. But I have one question.”

“What is that, Leftenant?”

“Isn’t it a little warm for Paris at this time of year?”

“I’m sorry, what?”

Keeling looked about him, but clearly wasn’t seeing the deck of the Festering Boil.

“I was strolling by the Louvre this morning and it just seemed unusually hot,” he said.

Slappy waved Cementhands McCormack over, then turned back to Keeling.

“Yes, quite hot for this time of year. Perhaps your head isn’t quite as healed as we hoped. Cementhands, keep an eye on him, will you? I think we’ll still need him for what’s coming, just make sure he doesn’t hurt himself in the meantime.”

Slappy looked back out to sea to assess the situation. The two approaching ships – La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza and Olor Tremendo de Conchita – were now just a mile off and closing in the fitful wind. About a half mile beyond them lay Sabado Gigante, the monstrous carrack that carried the fabled treasure once bound for Spain, and the kidnapped girls. If the Boil somehow survived the two oncoming ships, and Jezebel had indicated that it had failed to do so some 200 times already, Slappy’s crew would somehow have to find a way to deal with the much larger treasure ship.

“Think Slappy, think,” the captain said to himself. “What did Jezebel mean?”

“How do you like the odds, cap’n” Ol’ Chumbucket asked quietly.

“I’ve seen better. But remember that dice game in Liverpool?”

Chumbucket smiled. The captain could only mean the time when he had been down to his last farthing and managed to throw 17 consecutive winning rolls. That had been impossible too.

“Yes, I remember. I also remember there was one hell of a fight when that Portuguese captain figured out how you did it.”

“Looks like there’s going to be another hell of a fight in a few minutes.”

“Maybe not, if this wind doesn’t pick up,” Chumbucket observed.

Indeed, the wind, which for days had relentlessly pushed the ships together to this climax, seemed to have run its course. A light sailer, the Festering Boil now struggled to make headway, and the two approaching ships had lost all forward momentum as the last of the breeze died away, leaving the canvas hanging limply in the rigging.

“Shall we break out the sweeps, sir?” McCormack asked.

“Get them ready, but don’t do anything yet,” Slappy ordered. “Let’s see what our friends are going to try first.”

The three ships, not more than 1,500 yards apart, bobbed in the swell. Sailors on all three hurried up the ratlines to see if there was any way to spread the canvas to catch some wind, but there was no wind to catch.

“We could almost hit them with a long culverin shot,” Chumbucket mused.

“Yes, if we had a culverin, and if firing it wouldn’t be enough to tear the ship apart,” Slappy said crossly. “The only good thing is that they don’t have anything that’ll throw a ball this far either.”

“A word with you Slappy?” The voice belonged to Sir Nigel. Slappy and Chumbucket looked up to see the pirate, his head still bandaged and his arm in a sling, climbing to join them on the poopdeck. Behind him came Mad Sally.

“Nigel, old friend! Are you well enough to be up?” Slappy asked. “Sally, should you have let him out of bed?”

“There was no question of stopping him,” she said. “He insisted he had to talk to you.”

“Besides, old boy, if things come down to a fight, those chaps can kill me just as well here on deck as down below,” Nigel said. “But I had to see you for a moment, and this wind gives us time to do a little thinking.”

“Thinking? What’s there to think about,” Slappy said. “There’s the enemy. If this wind would just come back we could be on them and settle this.”

“Well, if we’re all at the bottom of the ocean, I guess that would settle things,” Sally said. “We’re outmanned about 5 to 1, and outgunned at least 6 or 7 to 1. Why don’t you at least listen to what Nigel has to say?

Slappy gave Sally a long look, but said nothing. Instead, he turned back to Nigel and shrugged, encouraging him to continue.

“As long as Mother Nature here seems to be conspiring to keep us just out of range of each other, perhaps this would be a good time to have a chat with your cousin,” Nigel said.

“A chat?” Chumbucket said, incredulously. “About what? Slappista holds all the cards.”.

“Perhaps he does, and perhaps he doesn’t. He certainly thinks he does, and that might just prove his undoing,” Nigel said with a smile.

Slappy scowled. Riddles made his head hurt.

“Just say what you mean and let’s get on with it.”

Nigel did. At first Slappy looked bewildered. As comprehension grew, his jaw set and he shook his head, adamantly opposed to what his friend Nigel was proposing.

“This is exactly what Jezebel was talking about!” Sally said. “She called it pride. I call it macho bullshit!”

Slappy would never thrive in a military setting. Military rules would have never allowed such insubordination. Instead he gave her another long look, then turned on his heel and seemed to think for a moment. Then he turned back.

“If this were a British naval vessel I’d have to have you flogged,” he said. “Fortunately, it’s not. So instead, I can say, you’re right. I don’t know how Jezebel did it, but it’s worth considering. You really think this will work?”

Nigel shrugged. “It’s impossible to say. It seems like it should. If this works, you get the gold, you get the girls, all without firing a shot, and you even get a chance to settle the score with Slappista and Fanny later, if you still want to.”

“Oh, that’s a given, my friend. That’s a given. But for now, what is it exactly I should say to my cousin?”

Minutes later a single cannon fired from the Festering Boil, drawing attention to the signal flags that were being raised. Moments later an answering signal flew from the rigging of La Filtra Herada de la Cabeza.

“George, be so good as to put the longboat over the side, and maybe you’d like to accompany me,” Slappy said. “I have to go hold an impromptu family reunion.”

The torpor that had stalled the ships and delayed the coming battle was widespread enough that HMS Susan’s Doily also found itself becalmed. Unused to delay, Tharp paced the bridge anxiously.

“Damn this doldrum,” he said. “If Jezebel was right we’re still half a day’s sail from where the Boil is to meet the Sabado Gigante.”

The orderly timidly asked the admiral, “I’ve heard things about that ship sir. They say she sank a dozen frigates in one battle.”

“They say all kinds of things,” Tharp said to the boy, not unkindly. “Some of them are true and some not. The only way to find out which class this falls into is to meet her in battle. I’ll take my chances. Besides, we won’t be completely alone. My bro ... I mean, that Slappy chap, may be a pirate and a ruffian, but he’s a fairly resourceful fellow in a fight. Believe me, I know.” Tharp smiled as he remembered back to boyhood scrapes where his younger brother had gotten the better of him.

“Sail sir, two points off the starboard bow,” called the lookout.

“Sail? Who is it?”

“Hard to say, sir. We can barely see her on the horizon, hull down. But she seems to be running in the same general direction as us.”

Aboard that distant ship – a small but expensive and extremely well armed yacht – a dowdy woman stood with a small dog clenched under her arm. She wore a grim expression as she lashed out at her captain.

“I don’t care about the wind. I don’t care how big this ocean is! You find Admiral Tharp for me right now! NO ONE stands up the royal princess of Sweden and leaves her stranded on Madagascar for two weeks!”

As Slappy’s longboat approached Slappista’s ship, he noticed an unusual addition to the bow of La Herada Filtra de la Cabeza. Alighting on the deck, he commented on it to his cousin.

“We meet again, Slappista. Nice figurehead.”

Slappista glanced forward to where Lady Fanny was bound to the bowsprit. She had mostly screamed herself out in the first hour, but could still be heard fitfully yelling, “Liar! Liar! You stinking liar! You said even Steven!”

“Shut up, you snake!” Slappista called to her. “I’ve told you before, you can call me liar as many times as you like, as long as I get to watch you die.”

“You know of course that won’t stop me from firing at you. In fact, she makes a lovely target,” Slappy said.

“Oh, I just wanted her to have a bird’s eye view. But enough chitchat. Why are you here?”

“I just wondered if you’d like to make a bargain.”

A wide grin broke over Slappista’s face. “No, no, no. Bargains are for those on the long side of the odds. But I’m curious. What is this bargain you seek.”

“Very simply, you turn over the girls and we leave without harming you,” Slappy said.

“My dear cousin, you seem to misunderstand. Why should I make a deal? I have everything, the girls, the treasure, and three ships capable of sending you to the bottom of the ocean. As soon as the wind picks back up we will blow you out of the water.”

“It certainly seems that way. But I frankly like my position. It’s a bit stronger than you think.”

“Now you’re bluffing, cousin,” Slappista said with a smile. He glanced up at the rigging where the a breath of air seemed to stir the canvas. “Whatever else you have to say, say it quickly. I think Naturaleza De la Madre is about to take a hand again. Are you, perhaps, prepared to beg for your life?”

Slappy’s eyes narrowed and his face reddened, but for once he maintained his calm, remembering Mad Sally’s stinging rejoinder. “No deal, then?”

“No, Slappy. No deal. I’m sorry to have to kill you soon, for you are a worthy adversary. I’ll try to make it quick, though.”

“You’ll have to make it happen first,” Slappy said.

“You have more wind than this sky today. You have nothing. I have everything.”

Slappy looked amused. “Oh do you? Very well. If you find your position isn’t quite what you think it is, you will find me back at Diego Garcia. I have something important to do there.”

“Running?” Slappista said, mockingly.

“Call it what you will. I’ll be waiting at Diego Garcia. You might want to double check your hole card.”

Slappy returned to his longboat and the sailors began rowing him back to the Boil. He noticed some new signal flags flying from La Herada. As he climbed the ladder back to his own ship he saw return signals from the carrack, followed by a flurry of activity as the wind freshened. It blew west, towards Diego Garcia.

“Shake out the canvas,” Slappy ordered. “We’re faster than any of them, but we absolutely HAVE to get there first.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


A Pirate Tale – part 62 - "This Time"

Ol’ Chumbucket stared through the spyglass and gave Cap’n Slappy and the crew a moment by moment account of the activities aboard the ships in the distance. “They are loading the young ladies onto the big ship – I believe it is called, Sabado Gigante!”

At the very mention of the name of the giant carrack, Juan crossed himself, “Dio Mio!” he gasped.

“Why the prayer meetin’, Juan?” Cementhands McCormack asked.

“The Sabado Gigante is the legendary treasure ship of Spain – more guns than the fortress at Madrid and twice as strong.” Juan continued breathlessly, “She was once attacked by a dozen English frigates and sent them all to the bottom in less than a half an hour.”

“Hell, Juan!” Cap’n Slappy chided, “On Chilidog night, Ol’ Cementhands here can send at least two dozen English frigates to Davy Jones’ Locker without a cannon being fired.”

Juan stared at the captain blankly.

Slappy tried to explain, “…because he has potent flatulence…?”

Juan looked around to the faces of the other men, the others nervously looked at their feet.

“That’s a fart joke, Juan.” Slappy began patiently, “We joke about McCormack’s flatulence because he is so splendidly potent. Get it?”

Juan struggled to understand, “He has farts that can actually rip through the timbers of a ship? How does he manage to not rip apart The Festering Boil, with his farts?”

Sawbones Burgess tried to explain, “It’s a metaphoric hyperbole, Juan. What the Cap’n means is that we are a well armed crew and together we have defeated many seemingly superior naval forces.”

“With Senor McCormack’s flatulence?” Juan asked innocently.

“Si! Senor McCormack’s flatulence is legendary, my countryman! Have you never heard?” Don Taco now emerged from below deck followed by his faithful companion and musical director, Los Mariachi, who now played what appeared to be a washtub bass.

“Don Taco! What are you doing up?” Slappy demanded.

Suddenly, the world around became perfectly still and all of the objects seem to blur slightly as Slappy blinked his eyes hard to regain his focus.

Nothing improved.

The sails were frozen mid-billow and the breakers that surrounded the ship seemed perfectly solid like marble. There was an absolute silence of wind and creak and splash. This was broken only by the sound of Jezebel’s voice.

“Hello Mortimer.” Her resonant voice washed over him and he knew who it was in an instant.

“Jezebel. Where are you?” Slappy was unable to move from the waist down, and only with great effort elsewhere, but his eyes searched for her image.

“This takes a moment, Mort, do try to be patient for a change.” Jezebel’s tone was familiar – family like. “There, that’s better.” She was now fully in view and standing between Slappy and Don Taco.

“Jez, how the hell did you get here?” Slappy’s confusion was palpable as he struggled to master his movement.

“Mortimer, dear, stop struggling. What I have to say will only take a moment, so listen carefully; I’m really standing in a cave on Diego Garcia but I’ve figured out how to travel through time – not much time, mind you, but I’m still only a beginner. I’ve been at this for a year and can only go up to four hundred years into the future. There’s something important I …”

Slappy cut in, “What do you mean? You haven’t been on Diego Garcia for a year!”

“Well, time is tricky that way, Mortimer. And when I return I always come back three minutes before the time that I originally left. But the amount of time traveling I have done is equal to a year of regular clock time.” She was explaining this as if she had done that hundreds of times in the past – which she had – sort of.

“Regular clock time?” Slappy asked.

“Time as you live it, Slappy, uninterrupted as it were by a time traveler such as myself. When our conversation ends, you will feel dizzy – as will everyone else I am talking to even at this same moment, but in a different version of time.” Jezebel was speeding through her explanation now in order to get to her specific instructions so she just stepped over Slappy’s other attempts to gain understanding.

“Listen, you are all in danger and I have warned you and watched you die over and over but you must heed me and break out of this cycle.” Jezebel’s voice was urgent.

“What cycle?” Slappy asked, but Jezebel just shook off the question and continued.

“I’ve got Don Taco and Cementhands McCormack ready to save Ol’ Chumbucket, but your distraction at his peril in the battle costs you dearly. You must keep your eyes on the fight in front of you and trust the others to take care of themselves and each other.”

“Alright.” Slappy agreed cautiously.

“Don’t ‘Alright’ me, young man!” Jezebel scolded. “Just keep your eyes on the fight in front of you! – Oh! And don’t go after the Sabado Gigante by yourselves. She is too much for …” Here, Jezebel caught herself and changed tactics immediately as though she knew the outcome of making the battle with the giant carrack sound too much like a challenge – which she did. “Look, my friend, there is a special kind of courage in knowing when to pick your battle wisely and when to wait until the odds are more in your favor. This is the kind of courage you must have or you will die – again and again.”

“How many times have you tried to warn me, Jez?” Slappy asked.

“Counting this one?” She responded, “Two hundred and eleven – but I have had a difficult time getting past that thing in you that doesn’t want to let an enemy get away. I think you call it, ‘pride’ – I seem to recall it going before something.”

“Destruction.” Slappy said thoughtfully. “Pride goeth before destruction.”

“And a haughty spirit before a fall.” Jezebel finished the quotation adding, “Don’t fall again, Mortimer. Now, it’s time for me to go.”

“I didn’t mention it before, Jezebel, but you look great!” Slappy said, smiling.

“Pilates and weight training – full aerobics and I joined a water polo team at the ‘Y’.” Jezebel explained and added, “It’s a ‘future thing’ – perhaps I’ll show you sometime … If you don’t get yourself killed again. Look, I gotta run – buh-bye!”

And with that, Jezebel’s image faded and melted into the background as Slappy’s surroundings regained their clarity as well as motion and sound.

A half second later, he lurched forward – as did half the crew – dizzy from the visitation.

Slappy looked squarely into Don Taco’s face – he, too, looked stunned.

“The lady, Jezebel, she says to say – ‘up yours!’” Taco said smiling.

Slappy glanced toward Ol’ Chumbucket who was watching two ships, La Conchita and La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza set sail toward their position. Then he looked back toward Don Taco who was now joined by Cementhands McCormack.

“Don’t you worry about a thing, Cap’n.” McCormack said smiling as he put his arm around Don Taco’s shoulder and gave him a gigantic bear squeeze. “We know what to do.”

Los Mariachi played a tune that centuries later would be known to television viewers as “The Twilight Zone” theme on the washtub bass – a little something he learned from a mysterious woman whose name, he said, was “Zhezibee.”

“Powder Monkey! Let’s lock and load those cannons – first two rounds regular balls – third round chain shot. I want to soften them up, take their towels and snap their naked asses with them!” Slappy was back in command – but mindful of this mysterious visitation from the future.

“Oh, Jezebel, I hope you’re right - this time.” He murmured as he took the wheel and steered his ship toward the coming fight.

Monday, March 28, 2005


A pirate Tale - 61

“Thank you for waiting! Our operators are standing by!” Admiral Tharp chattered.

“What is he talking about?” one of the marines asked in a frightened voice.

“I’m not sure,” said Jezebel.

“YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO US!” Tharp shrieked. Then the admiral’s eyes rolled back in his head and he crumpled back to the floor. The four Royal Marines, Jezebel and Liz rushed to the admiral, who was still breathing but showed no sign of waking.

“I think we should get him out of here right now,” one of the marines said and his companions moved to the admiral’s side as if to pick him back up.

“Wait just a moment longer,” Jezebel said. “Whatever’s been done to him has already been done so I don’t think staying here a little longer will hurt anything. Make him comfortable and we’ll do a little more investigating.”

Jezebel resumed her place before the two pillars and seemed to consider for a moment. But before she could say anything, one of the marines rushed over to her.

“Maybe this can tell us where the other ships in our fleet are – you know, the ships that got caught in the storm after we left Madagascar,” he said.

Jezebel hesitated, knowing they wouldn’t like the answers.

“That’s why we came here, to see if we can find the ships,” but the marine insisted.

Jezebel turned back to the pillars.

“If you’re sure. Let’s see. I wonder where HMS Dauntlessly Brave is,” Jezebel said. The space between the two pillars seemed to hum, and suddenly an image swam into view.

Swam into view was an apt metaphor, as it turned out, because after some peering the onlookers realized they were getting a fish-eye view of an underwater scene. Their piscatorial guide swam through an underwater forest of kelp, with rocky crags rising on either side.

Suddenly, a hulk appeared on the edge of the scene. It was hard to estimate distances under water but it seemed to be a hundred feet or so off. As the fish got closer, the people in the cave realized with horror what they were seeing, an upturned hull on the bottom of the ocean.

“Stop!” shouted the marine, shaken. The scene went blank.

“I don’t know what kind of black magic this is, but I don’t like it,” he said angrily to Jezebel.

“You must have known that was at least a possibility,” she said gently. “Do you want to look for the others?”

“I want to see my ma,” said a second marine, suddenly. “If that can show us anything ...”

“Anywhere there are animals, apparently,” Jezebel reminded him.

“Not a problem. My dear old mum was always kind to animals and they loved her and were always hangin’ around her. She kept budgies in cages all around the house. I haven’t seen her sweet face in almost four years, since I enlisted. I wonder what me dear old mum is doing right now.”

Another clang. Lights swirled, then coalesced and began forming into a picture. The first part they were able to see was a face, certainly an older face, and one that in other circumstances might be considered sweet, although now it was bent in some intense look they couldn’t fathom.

The reason became clear as the picture finally resolved itself. Seen through the bars of a bird cage, the viewers were greeted by the sight of the older woman, although hardly old, in bed, ridden by an energetic man some 10 years younger than her. They could hear nothing, but her lips seemed to be mouthing the words, “Oh Alfie, oh Alfie oh god oh god oh ...”

“MUM!” shrieked the marine, and the picture shut off.

“Yer dad seems a quite virile man, and so youthful,” one of the marines commented with a smirk.

“You don’t say one blessed word about what we just saw or so help me I’ll cut those ears off and feed ‘em to you!” the marine said. “There’s somethin’ evil about this place. That couldn’t a’ been me mother. She’s a saint.”

“She’s a goer, is what she is,” one of his fellows whispered to another.

“I heard that Tom Black!” the marine shouted and leaped upon his mate. The other two marines had to pull them apart. The fracas was suddenly broken up by a gasp from Liz, who was pointing.

“Where’s the admiral gone?” she asked.

Shocked heads looked to the place where they had laid the admiral, then swiveled around the room. They suddenly saw him standing near the entrance to the cave. He was standing, facing them, his arms pulled in to his sides, his hands held loosely in front of his belt. His lip was turned up in an unusual manner as he gazed at them through heavily lidded eyes.

“All right, shweetheart,” he said. “I won’t play the sap for you. When a man’s partner is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t matter what you thought of him, you’re supposed to do something.”

“Bogie?” Jezebel said. “But how ...”

“Play it, Sam. If she can stand it, I can stand it ...”

Jezebel walked up to the admiral and took him firmly by the elbow. “Mandrake, I think you should sleep again.”

He looked at her in confusion for a moment, then said softly, “We’ll always have Paris,” and sank to the ground.

“Now that is odd. There’s no way at all he could have known that. Apparently, this cave, somehow or other, shows us more than what’s happening, but perhaps can show us what’s going to happen.”

She turned decisively. “You four get the admiral out of here. His weakened and dehydrated condition must make him more susceptible to whatever power this place possesses. Take him back to the ship at once. Liz, I want you to accompany them, then go aboard the Sea Witch and make ready to sail. I’ll be down shortly. I want to investigate just a little further. I won’t be more than an hour.”

The others complied and began carrying the admiral down the hillside. But it was much less than an hour – not longer than 15 minutes – before Jezebel caught up to them, moving faster than anyone, including Liz, had ever seen her move.

“Double time, gentlemen, there’s not a moment to lose,” she said.

“What ...”

“No time to talk right now,” Jezebel said. “I’ll fill you in later.”

They hurried down the path and in a short time were able to see the bay where the two ships lay at anchor. It wouldn’t take more than another two hours to reach them, although with the heat growing the marines would probably have to rest. Jezebel noticed that the farther away from the cave they got, the more relaxed Tharp’s state seemed to be, and soon she heard him talking fitfully, issuing nautical orders. After a half an hour of forced march Jezebel called a halt for a short rest, and the marines gratefully set down their burden.

“Where are we?” Tharp called out weakly.

“First, who are you,” Jezebel asked.

“What an utterly absurd question, especially coming from you,” he said. “I’m Admiral Percival Winthorpe Mandrake Tharp. The last thing I remember is passing out in this damned jungle. Where are we?”

“Almost back to the ships. We should reach them before nightfall. Then we’re going to have to put out to sea, and quickly,” she said.

“Why are you in such a hurry?” Tharp asked. “I want tot get to the top of this hill and find my ships.”

The marines eyed each other uneasily.

“Time to discuss that later, Mandrake. We will return, I’m certain. There’s much to be explored here. But for now we have to hurry.”

“But why?”

“Yes,” Liz interjected. “Certainly there’s time while we’re resting to explain.”

Jezebel glanced at Tharp, then took a deep breath. Quickly, she outlined what had occurred since he fell to the ground with heat stroke, and explained about the cave. He, of course, didn’t believe a word of it, but with his marines corroborating her tale, he had to concede that SOMETHING unusual had happened.

“This sounds like something I need to see for myself,” he said.

“Not right now. We have to hurry.”

“But why?”

“Your experience as a 20th Century movie star made me think maybe the cavern could show us the future, so I tested it. I asked the cavern what would happen with our friends on the Festering Boil and La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza. It showed me much, some strange things I don’t understand, including horrid sails on Cabeza. And it showed me that the sudden appearance of another couple of ships would be a good thing.”

Tharp got to his feet. “Then perhaps I’d better get back to my ship.”

“That’s not all, is it?” Liz said,

“No. I wish it were. There was a terrific battle on the deck of the Festering Boil. And I saw Ol’ Chumbucket. He had just dispatched a Spanish sailor with his cutlass, and turned at a cry from the bridge where Slappy was fighting with three other Spaniards. And suddenly he fell with a pistol ball between his eyes.”

“Chumbucket was wounded?” Liz asked.

“No. Dead. Definitely dead.”

(Authors' note: Thanks for your patience. We both feel rested and ready to take the story where ever it goes. And the volleyball was incredible. Congratulations to Guam, winner of the beach volleyball competition, to runner up Estonia, and all the beauti .... I mean, athletic girls who competed. Special congrats to Leftenant Keeling, who won gold not only in free-form flogging (his fifth medal in five years) but the coveted all-around medal for outstanding discipline. Way to go, Keeling!)


Baby "Pirate"

What happens when Korn meets Porn?

Read all about it at Wordlab today:

including lyrics to our own wee children's pirate shanty.

Friday, March 25, 2005


Volleyball report - Major upset

A major upset occurred in the Sao Paolo Beach Volleyball Tournament seminfinals when Estonia took a hotly contested contest from heavily favored Cuba. With the match tied at two games each and the Cubans serving match point, Estonian setter Bebe Luffrau accused her Cuban counterpart of tossing sand in the Estonian's bikini. We judges checked very closely - VERY closely – but were unable to settle the point. A melee broke out and police had to be called. The Cuban star Mariele chose that moment to announce she was seeking asylum, and the Estonians won by forfeit. Sunday's finals will pit the upstart Estonians against the winner of the Benin-Guam match.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Head on a Swivel

What a day! From my vantage point in the VIP both, I could watch both the Brazil vs. Argentina match AND the finals of the men's "Free Form Flogging" competition - the decathalon of Pirate Flogging Events.

Leftenant Keeling, not surprisingly, won the gold over "Maniac" Martin McMurderer - or, as he is known on the circuit, "Tripple M." He's brutal, but he isn't nearly as icily Sadistic as our own Leftenant Keeling when he is in "the zone."

However, I couldn't take my eyes off the women's game as Brazil just SPANKED Argentina. Seriously, you should have seen it! They literally spanked them. God! I hope somebody recorded that.

Well, it's off to do a test of my new ointment - Cap'n Slappy's Sting-B-Gone Spank Salve

Having the time of my life!

Cap'n Slappy

Monday, March 21, 2005


Beach Volleyball Results

Belize lost three straight sets to Sweden 15-12, 15-10, 15-13. Spent the evening celebrating with the winners and consoling the losers, but you know, kids, in the wonderful world of women's beach bikini volleyball, there ARE NO LOSERS - just buxom young women who get to enjoy a night of debauchery with Cap'n Slappy.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


NOTE: Pirate Tale takes a one-week hiatus

Cap'n Slappy and Ol' Chumbucket have been invited to spend Spring Break at the Annual Pirate Flogging Olympics and Sao Paulo Beach Volleyball Invitational Tournament for Outrageously Buxom Wenches of Questionable Morals, where once again we will be celebrity judges. For this reason, though we know how bitterly disappointed our loyal reader will be, we will be unable to post to the blog. The tournament officials have asked that we devote our entire attention, 24 hours a day, to the bikini-clad competitors to make absolutely certain there are no foot fouls.

The Pirate Tale Story will resume Monday, March 28, assuming none of the games go into overtime. (C'mon, gang. We've gone without a break for more than 2 months and almost 92,000 words!)

Can Slappista and Fanny make their stalemate work? Will Jezebel figure out what the power of the cave is? Will Juan get a chance to settle Slappista's hash once and for all? Will Slappy be able to get over the loss of his honey supply? And what's this "Lance" bullshit with Admiral Tharp? Stand by, because we might have the answers to those questions, or else we'll make up a bunch of other stuff and drag the story off into an entirely new direction. You never know with us. Coming next week.

Now we need our whistles and sunblock, because the first round of action is about to begin. Sweden versus Belize.

Saturday, March 19, 2005


A Pirate Tale – part 60 "Even Steven"

Slappista saw a tear welling up in Fanny’s right eye. He thought it made her blue eyes seem larger and somehow more vulnerable but her dainty beauty was the farthest thing from his mind. With malicious glee he offered a sing-song refrain, “Oh, Fan-ny! You got some ‘splain-in’ to do!”

He laughed and spun her around – flinging her to the bed where she crashed; face first, into her large down pillows. Slappista leapt quickly on top of her and carefully cut the leather lacings that held fast the bodice of her negligee – starting from her belly and moving upward with each emphasized word. At each snap of the blade, Fanny gasped in a combination of excitement and genuine fear.

“Your treachery knows no BOUNDS! The ice water that courses through your veins renders you incapable of LOVE! You should have killed me when you had the CHANCE! Now you will pay for your TREACHERY!”

Slappista could feel her body squirm under his, but he knew she was going nowhere.

“Stop. Please, Darling, stop. Let me explain! I was a fool! Please!” She pleaded, but his momentum was set and it seemed he was not to be deterred. “Seemed” being the operative word here because that very moment a simple and familiar sound would change everything.


Slappista froze at the sound of a pistol hammer’s double click behind his left ear. His knife was poised to cut the last tie on Fanny’s bodice but the girlish voice behind him made clear that such a move would not be prudent.

“If you move, you die, Mister Slappista.” Genevieve calmly directed.

Lady Fanny’s face relaxed. If a spider could smile, its countenance would look very much the same as hers did now. “Kids.” She quipped. “They’re always interrupting.”

For a moment, Slappista weighed his options. All he would have to do is push his knife between her ribs and cut her heart – but he feared it might be too small a target if it even existed at all. This would of course be accompanied by a huge hole in his head which would make wearing a hat a thing of the past and cause a dreadful whistling sound whenever the wind blew.

He did the only thing he could think of that was survivable. Slappista released his grip on the knife and slowly lifted his hands into the air. “I have thirty loyal sea dogs above on deck, if you kill me – AGAIN – they will simply overpower you and your girls and do whatever seamen do with young women when they don’t have a strong hand to make them mind their manners.”
Fanny picked the knife off her belly and began to sit up. Her right hand, which had been under the pillow, now held a small derringer pistol which she pointed at Slappista’s heart.

“We seem to have a stand-off here, then, don’t we?” Fanny observed as she waved Genevieve out of the room.

“It would appear so.” Slappista said as he began to relax.

“Well, darling, I tried to kill you – you tried to kill me – we both failed. What say we call it ‘Even Steven’ and pretend none of this ever happened?”

Slappista didn’t feel anything was “Even Steven” – she’d actually shot him and dropped him off in the ocean. He had slightly damaged some of her sleepwear. To his way of thinking, this was definitely not “Even Steven.” But he knew what it was like to be shot and preferred not to deal with that just at the moment.

“Alright.” He said perfunctorily.

“Say it!” Fanny demanded.

“Say what?” Slappista asked angrily.

“Say ‘Even Steven!’ – it’s not Even Steven until you say, ‘Even Steven!’” She snapped.

Slappista just looked at her incredulously.

She took a more conciliatory tone and spoke almost as if she was explaining the rules to a child. “Look. If you don’t say ‘Even Steven’ then I’ll know you’re holding back just waiting to kill me later. This way, if you do kill me later, I’ll be able to taunt you as I die with ‘Liar Liar Pants on Fire!’ for being a big fat liar face. So either you say, ‘Even Steven’ right now and we’ll move on – fair and square – or I will shoot you in the heart and explain to those big burly men out there that you were teaching little ol’ me about firearm safety when the gun accidentally went ‘Boom!’”

“They’ll never believe you.” Slappista dismissed her demand with a wave of his hand.

“They will long enough for me to bed a couple of them and build a coalition of the horny.” Fanny’s voice was now deep and sexy.

Slappista looked at her thoughtfully for a moment. “What is this strange power you have over men?”

Fanny smiled, “Oh, it’s so simple, Darling. The rudder of a man’s world is his cock. Control the cock, and control the destiny – they are always so eager to turn it over to me.” She moved in close and whispered, letting her lips brush against his as she spoke. “And what’s more, you’re willing as well – even after all the naughty things I’ve done. And I’ve been a very, very naughty girl.” She flicked her tongue on his nearly opened mouth. “So, now we’re ‘Even Steven,’ right?”

In his trance-like state, the best he could do was offer an echolalia-sounding “Even Steven.”


“Be careful.” Jezebel cautioned Liz as she led the group boldly into the cave “There is a power in there that is of a different type than we have seen before.”

Liz was too excited to take heed. “Can you feel it, Jez? It’s big!” And with that, she raced head long into the glowing cave.

Jezebel tried to stop her, but she was not fast enough. “Ah, well, here we go.” Her face mirrored her blissful resignation. “Come along, gentlemen – we’ve nothing to lose but our lives.”

The four marines cast worried looks at each other, but refused to balk in the face of death when two women ran headlong into it. After a moment’s hesitation, they too bolted into the cave.

When they made the first turn toward the glowing light, they stood frozen with amazement. The company found themselves in a large chamber. It resembled more a capital rotunda than a cave. In the center of what was a beautiful marble floor of many colors was a glowing orb that measured over six feet in diameter. It was recessed into the floor and provided not only light, but heat. High above it, another orb of the same size and luminescence was embedded in the domed ceiling. This sat like a bright moon surrounded by thousands of sparkling stars – like diamonds carefully arranged in constellations that flickered drops of light whose glow filled the black dome.

Around the base of the ceiling, were a series of mosaics that seemed to be telling a story about the characters represented in those strange little statues they had seen along the path. All of this seemed to be held in place by several dozen marble pillars beyond (or between – nobody was willing to venture close enough to tell) which there seemed to be thousands or perhaps millions of crystals suspended in the air, as it were, by nothing but the force of their own will. The power in the room was palpable even to the admiral’s stretcher-bearers and nearly overwhelmed Jezebel and Liz.

In fact, Liz was nearly drunk with euphoria as she danced and spun with child-like glee around the orb. She began casting off articles of clothing as she danced and the group stood mesmerized. Just before Liz could pull off her shirt, Jezebel called out to her.

“Thank you, my darling. That will be enough dancing for the moment.” Jezebel called. Liz composed herself and gathered up her discarded garments. The men frowned.

To break the awkward silence, one of the marines spoke up. “I wonder how things are on The Doily.”

Suddenly, a section of crystals between two pillars began shuddering and clanging together like thousands of muted bells. Light seemed to be gathering there and moving purposefully. In a moment, the light was taking form and then men could see the HMS Susan’s Doily from the air above it. Their view swooped toward the deck and then upward from stem to stern. The image was quickly replaced by another – from the water level looking upward at the ship.

“We’re seeing it through the eyes of animals.” Jezebel observed and quickly corrected herself. “Well, not through their eyes exactly, but the way we would see it if we had their perspective.”

The picture again shifted to a view from the air, this time, the wings of a seagull were visible on the periphery. The men looked confused.

“You’re getting a ‘birds eye’ view.” Liz clarified. “But now how a bird sees – but how we humans see.”

Three of the marines nodded – pretending to understand. The fourth just stared at the images in wonder.

Jezebel thought for a moment then asked aloud, “What’s happening to our friends aboard The Festering Boil?”

Another section between two other pillars clanged to life. At first, the picture was frantic and Jezebel heard Slappy’s voice, but saw only a busy darkness. She thought she heard him say, “Launch!” but thought perhaps it was, “Lunch!” which made much more sense. But a moment later, the picture shown brightly as what looked like a crate broke open and the view looked like a rapid pursuit of an unfamiliar Spanish pirate who fled in fear. There was also the sound of buzzing that was overwhelming until the view rested on the pirate’s skin. Then, blackness.

“Bees?” Both Liz and Jezebel questioned at the same time.

The picture picked back up from the rigging of The Festering Boil.

They could see Slappy firing his blunderbuss into the four charging Spaniards and Sawbones Burgess’ heroic battle. They saw Salty Jim quickly crunching numbers in his head as he picked up a hefty piece of lumber and calculated its trajectory and speed at impact. All of this, they saw from a vantage point above the fray.

“But that’s not a bird, Jez.” Liz noticed, “It seems to be leaping from one sail to the next and swinging from rope.”

Just then, the two women saw the monkey’s hand fling a fistful of poo at a Spanish sailor below.

“Ahhh.” Liz purred, “It’s a monkey!”

The marines had, by now, grown bored with their picture of the placid Doily and had set the admiral near the orb to come watch the fight on the Boil. They admired the skill of the fighters involved and the oldest one recognized Professor Droppingham.

“That old bastard failed me at Navigation two years in a row!” he noted. Moments later when he saw the man die, he recanted. “He was the greatest teacher at the Naval College.”

Jezebel watched with a worried look on her face while the battle was in doubt. She seemed to be looking for someone in particular – but the monkey’s view bounced around from thing to thing. She finally turned away whispering to herself, “He’s fine. I’m sure he’s fine.”

Just then, Lord Sir Admiral Percival Winthorpe Mandrake Tharp regained consciousness. But when he spoke, it was as if his voice and personality had undergone a dramatic change.

In a raspy, whispery voice with an “s” so soft it hardly achieved the level of a lisp, he sat up with considerable energy and declared, “This room is - oh, what’s the right word for it? – I know! FABULOUS!”

The amazement on Liz and Jezebel’s faces was matched and surpassed by the four marines.

Lord Sir Admiral Tharp continued, “Oh, Ducky – who does your window treatments? They are so – ‘world of tomorrow!’” He then stopped himself, “Ooops! Silly me – I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Lance – who the hell are all of you?”

Friday, March 18, 2005


A pirate Tale - 59

The sun was slipping to the horizon as Slappista, in the guise of Cap’n Slappy, strode to the helm of La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza and took the wheel.

“It’s good to be back,” he said.

“Back?” Fanny asked, puzzled. “When were you ever on Slappista’s ship?”

“I mean back at sea. It’s good to be back in command of a fine sailing ship. And this is a fine ship. You can feel its strength through the decking, you can feel its speed and nimbleness in the wheel, you can hear her singing in the rigging. This ship wants to fly across the water, wants to chase that sunset until it’s full day again. This isn’t a construction of wood on water. This ship has a soul,” he said.

“That’s very like what your cousin, my late husband Slappista said. I sometimes thought he loved this ship more he did me.”

Fanny’s remark brought Slappista back from his reverie. “I’m sure that wasn’t true, my dear,” he said in respect to his dead self.” But that’s something we had in common, the love of a fine ship and the sea ... Something ELSE we had in common, I should say. Your love has always been important to me as well.”

“Oh Slappy, I hope you weren’t too hurt that I married your cousin. He simply swept me off me feet while you were away at sea.”

“Think nothing of it,” the fake Slappy reassured her. “The men of our family have always had that effect on women, and when you throw in the whole ‘Latin lover’ thing he had going for him, I can hardly blame you.”

“Don’t underestimate your own charms,” Fanny said with a lusty light in her eyes, as she drew closer to the man at the helm. “You are special, my one and only Lubba Lubba Lubba Muffin. He was nothing compared to you, my sea stallion. I loved Slappista dearly, but it was for his personality and charm. You have spoiled me for any other man. In all the ways that really matter between a man and a woman, you are the master and he was an incompetent oaf.”

Fanny’s breath was hot on the back of Slappista’s neck as he stared grimly ahead, thinking to himself, “I’m going to enjoy this next part.”

“Oh Slappy,” she said, wriggling tight against him, ”you are my guiding Northern Star, the sole comfort to a lost soul adrift in a lonely sea, trying to find the way home.”

“Fanny, my love, do you suppose we could retire to your cabin? I have something I want to show you.”

“Oh, Slappy! If you have something to show me, I want to see it,” she said with a sly smile, her hand groping below his waist.

“Now, don’t be too greedy,” Slappista said. “You go ahead, and get ready, my little brigantine of lust. I will be ready for you soon.”

“Don’t be long, my love,” Fanny breathed in his ear, chasing the words with a snaky lick. Then she turned abruptly and hurried off to her cabin.

Dogwatch Watts was at the helm of the Festering Boil, feeling her own vibrations through the wheel. It was four bells of the midwatch – 2 a.m. – but all wasn’t well with him.

No one had been close to Prof. Droppingham, the man’s prickly demeanor and unending stream of invective had seen to that. But Dogwatch had been closer to him than anyone, simply from working with him so much. And he had learned so much from the man. Never again would he sail east across the Atlantic to try to reach Brazil, for one thing. Now he missed the comfort of Droppingham’s constant criticism.

George the Greek was strolling the deck, smoking and waved to Dogwatch in greeting.

“Well hello George, you pusillanimous parrot dropping,” Dogwatch said.

George stopped short. “What?”

Is your mouth on fire or ... or ... or are you a git?” Dogwatch ventured.

“Dogwatch, you haven’t been drinking on watch have you?” George asked, stepping warily closer.

“Of course not, you bunghole sniffing simp.”

George stared sternly at Dogwatch for a moment, then his face softened.

“I miss him a little too, Dogwatch, which surprises me because there were days I’d have happily tossed him overboard. But ya know, that doesn’t really come naturally to you.”

“It just seemed wrong, you know? He had no business in the middle of the fight, he was much too old.”

George smiled. “Are you kidding? Yesterday was the single greatest day of The Drip’s life. After 40 years stuck ashore teaching navigation and seamanship to a bunch of snot-nosed kids, he finally got to take the helm of a ship in the heat of a desperate battle, and take on his enemies with cold steel. Is that wrong? I don’t think so. I can’t think of a better way for him to go, and I’m sure he’d agree.”

Dogwatch thought for a minute, then a smile lit his face. “I can think of one. It involves a night with those twin bar maids at the Flying Fish in Barbados.”

George smiled. “The Flying Fish? Aye. I think I know the pair you mean. If they didn’t kill ya with the exertions, their brother certainly would.”

Some miles distant, Slappista signaled to the girl on duty to take over the helm. As she took the wheel from him, Genevieve Rubette ran her hand over his. A look passed between them.

“Are you going to see my auntie,” the 17-year-old sailor asked.

“Oh yes. We have a few things to discuss and I’ve something to show her.”

“I hope you’ll be able to visit me later, my dear uncle.”

“Oh, I think you can count on that,” Slappista said, and he turned.

He knocked lightly on the cabin door, and heard Fanny bid him enter. She was, as he expected, posed perfectly to illuminate every curve by the flickering lamplight, and dressed in her leather and red lace negligee, the one that revealed nothing but enflamed the imagination. Despite himself, Slappista felt the surge in his loins, but he knew tonight’s activities would be far different than Fanny expected.

“Oh Slappy, you look so uncomfortable in all that clothing. Come, let me help you undress.” Fanny undulated across the room to him, her hands untying the laces at his shirt collar. Slappista allowed her to remove his outer vestments till he stood before her only in his shirt and pants. Her hands were on his chest. He took her wrists and guided them down – not below his waist but to a spot just below his sternum. She looked puzzled, then as her fingers traced the shape underneath, a look of concern came over her.

“Oh Slappy, what is this? Have you been hurt?”

“Yes, I fear so, and it was almost fatal.” He moved her hand to another spots, slightly higher and to the left. “This was the more dangerous of the two,” he said. “Anything near the heart is dangerous.”

He moved her hands to the collar of his shirt and she took the hint, ripping through the fabric to reveal his chest. Her fingers traced the scars.

“You were shot?” she said. He nodded, as his fingers circled her wrists. “By those Barbary pirates?”

He shook his head. “No, the corsairs are vicious, deadly predators, but they are, after all, only men. It takes a serpent to do the kind of damage I've suffered.”

“A serp ... Slappy, I don’t understand.” Fanny looked into the face of the man who held her, looked down to the wounds then back to the face. Her eyes grew wide with the first fear, the first true emotion of any kind, he’d ever seen there.

She whispered, “Slappista?” He smiled.

“Honey, I’m ho-ome,” he said.

Fanny tried to break free, but he held her wrists, bending her arms back till they were pinioned over her head while spinning her around, thrusting her against the door and pinning her there with his bulk. With one hand securing her wrists, his other flew between her legs till he found what he was seeking. He drew the small dagger from its sheath strapped to her inner thigh and held it glittering in the lamplight, drawing it closer and closer to her now terrified eyes.

“Did you miss me baby?” he asked her.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


Pirate Tale – part 58 "Love and Death"

Cap’n Slappy was counting heads on The Festering Boil to keep track of who had boarded the Broche de Presión and who had remained. As he looked around him, he saw George and Dogwatch standing near their still-smoking cannons along with Gabriel who had already begun cleaning up and had a mop in hand.

Spencer stood at Slappy’s side as did Sawbones – they were surveying the battle and preparing themselves to deal with the wounded. Slappy’s trusty blunderbuss rested in its familiar place – on his right shoulder held comfortably in his right hand at the trigger point of the stock. Salty Jim, better known to his carpentry crew as “Jim the Bilge Rat,” was busily dismantling his trebuchet and marking the parts for future use. Professor Droppingham remained at the wheel chatting with Juan Garbonzo. The ship remained locked in battle with the Broche de Presión.

A couple of men had just hauled Cementhands McCormack out of the water and he was busily arming himself with a cannon’s ramrod when all hell broke loose. The twenty-five or so remaining Spanish pirates in an act of desperation swung across in an attempt to seize control of The Festering Boil. This was to be expected, but still it took Cap’n Slappy by surprise.

“Damn those Spaniards!” Slappy exclaimed, “They just don’t know when to die!” He turned to Sawbones, “Quickly, Doc! Take the boys below and batten down the hatches!” Even as he spoke, four Spaniards charged from the bow.

“See!” Gabriel cheered gleefully, “He admitted that he knows I am a boy!” Spencer turned him and they followed the doctor toward the stairs but three more saber-wielding Spaniards impeded their egress.

“Hunker down, lads!” Burgess ordered the boys to take cover and gestured to a gap between two nearby cannons. Then, swiftly pulling out his saber and dagger, gave challenge to the intruders, “Today my Hippocratic Oath begins, ‘First, do SOME harm!’”

The good doctor’s eyes grew wild as he brandished his blades – this made the three men pause, but only for a moment.

At the same time, Cap’n Slappy lifted his blunderbuss toward one of the four men charging him, smiled and calmly pulled the trigger. One of the sailors was violently tossed up and back over the edge of the rail as if he were playing Peter Pan in an “all bungee cord” production that went horribly awry.

Slappy had little time to admire the trajectory of his victim as the three others closed quickly. Their swords flashed in the sun as Slappy stepped deftly to the side, ducked the first blow and swung the muzzle of his heavy blunderbuss into the man’s midsection. The Spaniard doubled over, but Slappy was still in danger from his two comrades. He took the man roughly by his hair and in one strong motion, straightened up – using the man as a human shield. With their battle blood up, his comrades couldn’t help but cut him to pieces and were immediately horrified by their accidental murder. Slappy used this opportunity to drop his “shield” and in one swift movement, draw his brace of pistols and blast holes in both assailants’ heads.

Meanwhile, Doc Burgess fought bravely against the three Spaniards. He knew he was defending not only himself, but the two boys as well – he couldn’t afford to make a mistake. He heard Slappy’s blunderbuss go off, but didn’t see any decrease in fighters to his front. He felt very alone. Spencer, in the mean time, had pushed Gabriel to the deck between the cannons and covered his body with his own. Unfortunately, this had been noticed by two more Spaniards who saw an easy kill close at hand.

While the good doctor was focusing on the fight of his life and Slappy was locked in mortal combat several feet away, the two Spaniards stepped up on the cannons and made their way toward the boys. The barrels of the cannons were still warm from their recent firing so their bare feet didn’t linger as they pounced closer to their young prey.

Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a stout piece of lumber two yards long sailed over the row of cannons and struck the first Spaniard so hard in the face; his skull gave way and sucked his facial features into the recessed crater that now rested as a bloody monument to what a moment before was a head. He fell backward into his mate who also fell backward into the wheelhouse of Cementhands McCormack’s swing of the ramrod. Their lifeless bodies dropped over the edge and into the sea.

“Nice toss o’ the lumber, ye old Bilge Rat!” McCormack called toward Salty Jim who grabbed his hammer and quickly moved toward the boys. En route, he ran calculations in his head as to his chances of surviving this battle and counted the mounting number of Spanish dead as a beneficial variable in his equation.

Sawbones Burgess was growing tired when he heard Slappy’s pistols going off. In that exact moment, two skinny arms wrapped around the neck of one of his attackers and two scrawny legs quickly embraced the man’s midsection. And in that moment, the good doctor heard a familiar voice intoning a familiar message.

“Och! Ye haven’t killed them yet? What are ye goin’ t' do? Have a wee tea party and frolic all day with these Flamenco Dancers?” Droppingham’s taunting set Sawbones to a rage. He hadn’t noticed the knife in the old professor’s hand which now opened the Spaniard’s throat sending blood spurting in all directions as the man spun desperately and struggled to shake the wiry Scotsman off his back.

Again, the two remaining Spaniards stood amazed watching their colleague bleed out and Burgess took advantage of the moment with a violent thrust of the dagger in his right hand into the heart of the pirate on his left. He simultaneously shifted his grip on his saber, tossing the blade around twirling the handle in his hand, stabbed backward as he spun his body three hundred and sixty degrees. The sword struck home in the chest of the third Spaniard.

Droppingham sprang to his feet, blood dripping from the hand that still held the knife and offered a huge grin in Sawbones’ direction. “That’s more like it, lad – a bit stylized for me own taste, but truly – a good effort!” With that said, he saw a group of Spaniards fighting Dogwatch for control of the quarterdeck and bolted with remarkable haste in that direction.

Slappy was now freed up and stopped to congratulate Burgess and help him get the boys to safety – but they were no longer between the cannons and had, in fact, armed themselves and were now fully engaged in the growing fray on the quarterdeck.

George, Dogwatch, Juan and the boys were boxed in at the stern and fighting wildly with a dozen Spaniards. Professor Droppingham was now reaching the ruckus and began taunting the attacking pirates in Spanish. “Usted tiene toda la energía de una comadreja flatulent.”

“That’s a good one!” Juan yelled in support of the professors bilingual taunting skills.

But armed with nothing but a small knife, he was no match when five of the Spaniards, unhappy with the severe taunting they had just received, fell upon the old professor in a violent attack.

Slappy and Cementhands smashed into the melee with savage ferocity and in moments, the only Spaniard alive on The Festering Boil was Juan.

Professor Droppingham lay among the dead gasping out his last. Doc Burgess moved in to provide what aid he could – but when Cap’n Slappy asked, “Will he be alright?” Sawbones just shook his head sadly.

“Och!” The professor spat. “Did I not teach ye what a mortal wound looks like, ye fat-headed git?” And with that, he lifted his shirt to show eight or nine deep gashes on his torso. “Now listen closely ye marionette-lovin’ scrotum strokers. Me own darlin’ evil daughter has this trick she does when she’s cornered – ye’ll want to be watchin’ for it.” He coughed up some blood and continued weakly. “She … she …” he coughed and gasped again, then, with one final effort he managed to say, “Och! What the hell, ye’ll figure it out, ye wee girly peebrains!”

And with that, Professor Droppingham died.

A moment later, Strumpet the Monkey alighted on Cap’n Slappy’s shoulder. She had taken to the rigging in order to stay out of the fight.

A plank dropped onto the rail and the defenders of the Boil on the quarter deck wheeled around ready for another assault. What they saw, was Ol’ Chumbucket leading three sets of stretcher bearers across from the now burning Broche de Presión with Mad Sally tending her patient – Sir Nigel.

“Report!” Slappy managed between deep breaths.

“All accounted for, Cap’n.” Chumbucket began, “We’ve recovered Mad Sally and Sir Nigel with one wounded and two of their number captured – one being their wounded Captain – the notorious Don Taco.”

“Did you hear that, Los Mariachi,” Don Taco gasped while Los Mariachi strummed in vain on what remained of his shattered guitar, “Senor Chumbucket says I am ‘notorious!’”

“Who among us was injured?” Slappy asked with great urgency. Even as he asked the question, he saw the third stretcher with Red Molly clinging to Leftenant Keeling’s side.

Slappy rushed to check on him. “Tis but a scratch, Captain.” Keeling assured Slappy. “Rather embarrassing – I shall put myself on report immediately and train someone to lash me severely for my martial shortcomings.”

Slappy looked at Chumbucket who simply shook his head and waved it off as the delirium common in the severely wounded.

“Belay that action, Leftenant.” Slappy ordered, “I hereby sentence you to bed rest and the care of Nurse Molly.” Then he turned to Doc Burgess, “Look to the wounded – all three.” Burgess moved quickly past the captain who stopped him again. And talking to the doctor but looking at the boys offered a sincere, “Thank you.”

Burgess smiled and replied quietly, “I have a son, myself, Mortimer – and I speak for all when I say – they’re our boys.” He started to move toward the ships hold and turned back with a grin – “…and I still got it, don’t I, Cap’n?”

“That ye do, me friend, that ye do.” Slappy replied before he turned to Chumbucket. “We lost The Drip.”

Ol’ Chumbucket seemed genuinely sad for a moment, but recovered and responded, “Och! Are ye gonna go cryin’ to yer fat-tittied mama or are ye gonna give the man a proper burial at sea?”

Cementhands added, “Aye – did ye pooter in yer short britches leavin’ yerself thus unable to make even the most rudimentary o’ decisions about the honorable disposal o’ a recently deceased military man o’ letters?”

Slappy got up and moved to Droppingham’s body and scooped it up into his arms. He turned toward some of his returning crew and said, “Return these Spanish bodies to the Broche de Presión and bring us back their long boat before it burns.”

A half hour later, The Festering Boil was heading north leaving not one, but two burning boats in her wake. On the small boat, the pale body of Professor Droppingham was propped up and wrapped in a blanket. Behind him a wood placard read, “Och! I told ye I was a tad chilly – I didn’t say ‘Light the freakin’ boat on fire!’ Idiots!”

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


A pirate Tale - 57

Don Taco watched the approach of the Festering Boil, now about half a mile off, and tossed his cigar over the rail. Calling to his helmsman, he ordered him to tack to starboard.

“Maybe we can slip around her,” he said to Leather Nipples while Los Mariachi played anxiously in the background. “If he tries to close, we’re as well armed as he, and if he boards, I’ll take my chances. Our men aren’t lace-cuffed court soldiers, they’re veterans of a dozen campaigns. And we probably outnumber those pirates significantly.” Los Mariachi added a triumphant flourish.

Taco leaned forward and looked again. “But what’s that they’re doing on the foredeck?”

Moments earlier, Cap’n Slappy had suddenly slapped his forehead. “Of course,” he said, recalling a conversation from that morning.” “Get me Salty Jim!”

Salty Jim, the ship’s carpenter, had been below preparing to repair any damage as quickly as it was inflicted. Now he came up to Slappy on the quarterdeck and listened to the captain’s request.

“Sure, I can build that. How soon?”

Slappy told him. Jim gulped, almost swallowing his trim mustache in the process.

“Well, I’ll get to work.”

It was often remarked that Salty Jim didn’t look like a pirate. He looked for all the world like a befuddled parson from a village church, and the expression on his face gave people meeting him for the first time the impression he was trying to remember where he’d left something important, like his keys or his wife. But everyone conceded that in most matters Salty Jim knew more than any man on the ship – maybe on the ocean.

The carpenter got to work on the foredeck, measuring, weighing, sawing, hammering. He kept scribbling figures, mumbling to himself about “angles of acceleration” and “axis of the revolution.”

The combat opened with a tense tacking duel in which Taco on Broche de Presión tried repeatedly to slip around the Festering Boil to gain the wind, and Droppingham expertly covering each move to retain the advantage. The Boil could keep its foe from gaining the weather gauge, but Broche could turn and run whenever the Boil tried to close the distance.

Taco tried feinting starboard then running for port, but Droppingham easily saw through the maneuver and covered again. “Ya damn sissy!” he snarled, “That’s a 200-ton boat, not a bleedin’ ballet dancer! Ye’ll have to do better than that!”

The afternoon was wearing on before Salty Jim pronounced himself satisfied and returned to the quarterdeck.

“I can’t guarantee it, we can’t test it, of course, but it should work,” he reported. “Ge2t us to 300 yards, and point her straight at the target,” Jim said. “The counterweight has to go over the bow. We’ll be using Cementhands, of course.”

“Mr. Droppingham,” Slappy called out. “Enough of this pussyfooting! Take me to that ship.”

Droppingham turned the wheel, and the Boil surged directly towards the Spanish ship. Taco was surprised by the shift in tactics. Knowing that his opponent probably wouldn’t open fire until he was within 200 yards, he hesitated just a moment to determine Slappy’s intentions. It was a moment that cost him.

As the Boil raced towards Broche, Jim stood at the bow with Cementhands, the giant sailor who was strapped into a curious rigging attached to the contraption. Both were muttering. Jim was calculating furiously, estimating distances, while Cementhands uttered every prayer he could remember from his misspent youth. Finally, Jim shouted, “Now!”

McCormack looked at him. “Now? Jump?” he asked.

“Jump right this damn second!” the carpenter shouted, and with a push helped McCormack over the bow. The sailor’s weight pulled on the line, which drew in the pulley, and the makeshift trebuchet lofted its load into the sky.

Chumbucket watched incredulously as what appeared to be a large crate arced into the sky and descended towards the enemy ship. “What the hell is that?” he asked Cap’n Slappy.

From below decks in the bow, they heard Two Patch’s voice rise in an anguished howl.

“My bees! Somebody stole my bees!”

“I’m gonna miss the honey,” Slappy laughed.

Taco saw something flying through the sky at him and knew he didn’t want to be under it when it landed. He ordered the helm hard a port, but it was too late. The crate smashed to the deck, releasing a cloud of very annoyed bees that went after the first thing they saw, which was the crew. Immediately, the sailors dropped matches, weapons, the helm and everything else as they slapped at the swarming, angry insects.

“Straight at ‘em, then hard a starboard,” Slappy ordered.

At 200 yards the Boil turned on the Spanish ship and loosed it’s first broadside. Below decks on Broche, Nigel and Sally heard the sound. Nigel immediately leaped to his feet and turned the room’s table on its side. Falling to the floor behind it, he said, “Come lay down with me for a while, Sally my love.”

“Nigel! This is no time for that. What the hell ...”

“Actually Sally, that’s exactly what this is time for,” he shouted, and dragged her down with the table on top of them as the first volley of cannon balls crashed into the hull of the ship.

The return fire was desultory, as half the Broche’s crew was either still fighting bees or searching the deck for dropped weapons. Within two minutes Slappy’s crew had wormed and reloaded the guns as the ship crossed the stern of the foe and raked it with another broadside. Musket fire from the rigging added to the damage below. Besides obscuring the two ships in a dense cloud, the smoke from the guns had the added effect of driving off the bees and the Broche began returning fire, but as is often the case, the edge belonged to the aggressor, and Slappy drove home his advantage.

“Mr. Droppingham, bring her around so the other guns get a turn. Then bring me up close. Boarders, get ready!”

There was a surge of men into the rigging as the starboard guns took their first shot. In the small brig on Broche, a ball hit the porthole squarely, smashing it and passing over Sally and Nigel, knocking the door off its hinges and throwing the two prisoners across the room.

Sally scurried to her feet. “Nigel! We can get out of here.”

Nigel didn’t respond. Sally knelt over him and realized there was blood trickling from his forehead. “Damn,” she said. Then, after putting a blanket under his head to cushion him and positioning the table over him again, she made her way into the passage.

“Boarders away!” Slappy shouted from the quarterdeck, and the first wave of pirates flew out of the rigging and across the 20 feet that separated their ships.

There was always a moment, suspended from the rope amid the swirling smoke, swinging from the rigging of his own ship to the deck of the enemy, when Chumbucket wondered for a split second if that might be what death is like, lost in the gray smoke of hell. Then the thought was gone. There was work to do.

Being in the first wave was dangerous, of course, but it was also simpler. When you landed, everybody you saw was a target. As he came out of the smoke, he saw a Spanish soldier preparing to swing at him. Chumbucket raised his legs till his feet were on target and bowled the man over, knocking him over the railing. Chumbucket hit the deck rolling, then drew his own cutlass and turned to face the man who was approaching him.

Keeling had landed farther to the stern, and quickly dispatched the two men who blocked his way to the helm. At the top of a short ladder he ducked to avoid a blow from Don Taco’s rapier, then vaulted to the poopdeck while Taco freed his weapons from the railing. The two turned and squared off while Los Mariachi strummed chords evoking the bullring.

Blades flashed as Keeling lunged, but Taco answered him steel for steel, parrying the attack. Keeling’s overhead cut was blocked, and he barely had time to parry the riposte that almost snuck inside his guard. “This guy’s good,” Keeling thought. Coincidentally, that was the same thought in Taco’s head as he circled, looking for an opening. Los Mariachi perched in the corner, playing the music’s tempo increasing as the blades whirled almost faster than the eye could follow. Taco lunged, but Keeling caught his blade on the guard and turned it, then swung for Taco’s leg, but the grandee was more nimble than he looked and he leaped out of the way.

In landing, however, he came down on a spar that had fallen during the cannonade and his leg crumpled under him. He slashed as he went down, slicing into Keeling’s forearm, but fell to the deck. The music stopped. Keeling raised his blade, aiming for the heart, but suddenly the blade fell from his hand and he also crumpled to the deck. Behind him stood Los Mariachi, the smashed remains of his guitar in his hand.

Red Molly had kept one eye on the fight on the poopdeck while she worked the cannon, and saw Keeling fall. Without thinking she dropped her tools and leaped for a line, swinging across the closing gap between the two ships. She fell to the deck, and in scrambling up found a cutlass dropped by the Spaniard who would no longer need the weapon. She raced to Keeling’s side just as Taco sat up and reached for his own blade. A stiff right cross from Molly, her fist encased in the steel guard of the cutlass, landed squarely on Taco’s temple, knocking him cold. Molly hovered over the fallen swordsmen, standing guard over her lover and her prisoner. Los Mariachi went to strum the appropriate music for the moment, but realized his guitar was now kindling. Sadly, he lowered its remains and began to hum the Death march – “Dum-dum-Da-dum, BA da dum dum dum dum dum.”

The swelling crowd of pirates was gaining the upper hand on the dispirited Spaniards. Chumbucket looked for another foe, and out of the swirling smoke saw a huge form.

“Cementhands! Glad you could make it,” he shouted.

But the shape that came at him from the acrid cloud turned out not to be his friend and shipmate. It was Leather Nipples, armed with a broadsword, his face a mask of death.

His blows rained down on Chumbucket, and it was all the pirate could do to parry them as he backed up. He had never fought a man so strong and so fast, and it was all he could do to dodge the Spaniard’s attacks. Finally, he felt the rail at his back and realized with a sense of desperation that it was now or never.

His lunge caught the Spaniard off guard and he retreated with a nick to his sword arm. Emboldened, Chumbucket increased his attack, but the Spaniard just smiled, parried the blow and struck a riposte that ripped Chumbucket’s blade from his hand and sent it skittering over the railing and into the sea. A remorseless look in his eye, Leather Nipples drew back for the final blow.

Then a puzzled look shot across his face and he stopped in midswing. His broadsword fell to the deck with a thunk, and he turned, showing Chumbucket the stiletto protruding from between his shoulder blades. Behind the Spaniard, Chumbucket saw Sally, her hand bright with blood. She looked her victim in the eye and said, “I’m sorry, Ernesto, but I told you. Please don’t take it personally.”

The man known as Leather Nipples fell to the deck.

Sally looked up. “Hello Chumbucket. Hope it’s going well. I’ve got to get below decks. There’s someone who needs tending to.” She disappeared.

Ol’ Chumbucket just stood there, gaping, as the last of the fight swirled around him.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


A Pirate Tale – part 56 The Mouth of Doom

Below deck on the Broche de Presión, Sir Nigel heard the false Slappy’s spiritual epiphany. “Slappy?” he muttered, waking the sleeping Sally at his side. She sat up and yawned. “What the hell is going on?” she asked.

“I think I hear Cap’n Slappy!” Sir Nigel chirped excitedly. Slappista continued his blasphemous interjections. “Oh, thank ye – sweet baby Jesus, that I lived to see my sweet ship one last time!”

Sir Nigel shouted toward the upper deck, “Mortimer Slappy, you ol’ sea dog – is that you?” Sally listened expectantly.

Slappista silenced himself at the sound of Sir Nigel’s call. Don Taco, happy now that he had not killed his new brother’s dear friend declared, “Capitan Slappy – do you hear that voice from your past?” Los Mariachi played his version of playful mystery music while Don Taco assumed the voice of a Spanish game show host, “That’s right! He’s an English aristocrat-turned-pirate and would-be boat bomber who has a reputation for womanizing and a penchant for footwear. His turn-ons include; expensive wine, cheap whores and the habitual deflowering of sundry Governors’ daughters. His turn-offs are people who claim to have read books they haven’t and, oddly enough, long walks on the beach. That‘s right! It’s that fog-lurker himself, Sir Nigel de Pomfrit Coeur de Noir better known to one and all as ‘Sir Nigel Blackheart!’”

Don Taco was about to turn with a flourish and order his jailors to send Sir Nigel to the top deck when Slappista moved quickly and decisively – taking Lady Fanny by the hand and leading her to the plank that connected the Broche de Presión to the Conchita which sat sandwiched like bologna and cheese, or perhaps ham and cheese or even a nice peanut butter and jelly so long as it wasn’t grape jelly – truly, what would be the point of that? At any rate, it sat like some appropriate sandwich filler between Taco’s ship and Slappista’s former ship, La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza.

As they crossed the plank, Slappista barely turned his shoulders when Don Taco called out, “Mortimer, wait!”

This false Slappy rang true to the tone of the original when her snarled, “Nobody calls me ‘Mortimer!’” And continued with more orders. “I will sail north with Lady Fanny to intercept the giant carrack, Sabado Gigante! You sail south and rid us of this troublesome ghost ship!”

Taco had so many points to argue, but he chose the most obvious. “But you were so happy to see her a moment before – and now you want me to destroy her?”

Slappista conjured up his best thespian skills and extemporized the following while Los Mariachi provided appropriately swelling heroic musical acompaniment; “My friend, when she was mine, I loved her. I loved my life aboard her – adventuring with such brave men as Ol’ Chumbucket, Cementhands McCormack and Sawbones Burgess. I tell you, it was a time of giants! A time when one cast one’s lot, paid one’s due and broke one’s heart on a harsh mistress called, ‘The Sea.’ But that life is lost to me. That ship – if it be a ship – but a shadow of a greatness that was the Golden Age of Piracy. Here I stand, bereft of all but honor and seeking one last shot at fortune. I can feel it close by to the north even as this ghost approaches from the south. Give me leave my friend, my Brother – to set my sails toward one last grand adventure. What say you? Will you battle this ghost for me while I send myself crashing like a wave against the rocks to bring us all a chance at riches beyond our wildest dreams?”

Don Taco, deeply moved by this speech, agreed. “Si, my friend – I will battle this ghost for you and send her to a watery grave! Save a little work for me with the Sabado Gigante, she holds riches and glory enough for all!”

With that, the ships unlashed and unplanked. Don Taco, fighting a harsh headwind coming up from the south, watched as The Festering Boil or whatever passed for her moved swiftly to meet him.

Slappista turned over the helm of La Conchita to a sailor named, Victor and with a small band of trusted men, took command of La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza. The two ships caught the same tailwind used by The Festering Boil to sail north for what promised to be a friendly rendezvous with the Sabado Gigante.


The four marines showed no signs of fatigue as they lifted Lord Sir Admiral Percival Winthorpe Mandrake Tharp higher and higher up the mountain path. Lanky Liz led the way with Jezebel a few steps behind. The Admiral groaned occasionally and released “great gassy geisers” as one of the soldiers called them, but Jezebel smiled. “If he’s farting, he’s breathing.” She thought happily to herself.

Liz seemed to take to the jungle naturally and took jags off the trail that were unseen by the rest of the party – even Jezebel. Small rock statues – no larger than garden gnomes – depicting oddly dressed, tiny warriors with strange weapons seemed to point the way.

“It’s a wonder you can even see those through the vines and the underbrush.” The ebullient marine who had commented on the Admiral’s farting called ahead to Liz – who ignored him. Jezebel was not so unkind. “She doesn’t see them, dear boy, she hears them. Don’t you?”

The four marines just looked at each other. From here on, they walked in silence, listening.

Before long, they were near the top of the mountain and at the opening of a cave. The party stopped dead in its tracks. The light of a fire illuminated the large opening in the rock and its orange glow danced on stony walls.
Jezebel was about to speak, but Liz placed a finger on her lips and slowly shook her head, “no.”


The Marine Captain finally reached the deck of the HMS Susan’s Doily and immediately took command from so junior an officer as Lieutenant Clifford Burgess. Captain Waldrop T. Rothburn was a man of military order and discipline. He thanked young Burgess for his quick thinking and went about the business of removing any advantage they may have had.

“Captain,” young Burgess began, “there was at least one other ship in the company of the pirate who ran away from us. I think we should pursue and destroy the vermin while they remain in the area.”

“I’m not leaving the Admiral and my four men to go chasing after pirates – if it’s a fight they want, let them bring it to us.” The captain argued.

“But Captain, sir,” Burgess pressed, “our strength is in our seamanship and cannons – not trapped here in the shadow of this island.”

“Mister Burgess. You press your advantage, sir. As ranking officer, this ship is under my command and we will do as I wish. Do I make myself clear?” Rothburn demanded.

“Yes sir.” Clifford responded.

His response was not loud enough for the captain’s pleasure, so he repeated his question in a bellow. “Do I make myself clear, Mister Burgess?”

“Crystal Clear, Captain, Sir!” Young Clifford saluted to add emphasis to his listening skills.


“Well, me hearties,” Slappy grinned as he stood between Ol’ Chumbucket and Cementhands McCormack toward the bow of The Festering Boil looking northward at the approaching Broche de Presión, “it looks as though our Spanish friends have come to play.”

Spencer stood in front of the trio looking at the on-coming ship through the captain’s spy glass. “Her captain seems to be looking at you three.” Cementhands, Chumbucket and Slappy offered a friendly wave to their opponent complete with smiles that could only be read to mean – “We’ll be killing you soon, but don’t take it the wrong way.”


Don Taco gently closed his spy glass while Los Mariachi played “impending battle” music. His face was ashen and he held up a hand to silence his personal soundtrack. Leather Nipples approached with a shackled Sally under his massive arm.

“You know, these chains really put a damper on our romance.” She said wryly.

Leather Nipples ignored her when he saw Don Taco looking so gravely ill. “What is it, Capitan?”

Don Taco’s mind was racing – was it too late to turn around and chase down the imposter? Slappista! It could be none other than Slappista! But Lady Fanny said he was dead. But of course she would say that. She was in on it, too. It was all so clear to him now.

“I may have been many things in my life,” Don Taco thought to himself as he lit another cigar, “but I have never been a traitor – not to my friends.”

The more he thought, the narrower the gap became between himself and this ship of legend – with REAL giants of piracy who dealt straight as surely as they dealt death. He breathed in his tobacco smoke and appreciated what a joy it was to taste it. For a moment, he thought about turning the boat around and chasing down Slappista and Fanny, but he realized that by the time he tacked against the wind, The Festering Boil would be on top of them. Finally, Leather Nipples broke his trance.

“Capitan! What is the matter?” the big man called, hoping to break through the fog of thought.

“Oh.” Don Taco said as he pinched a piece of cigar paper from his tongue. “We are in a disadvantageous position against The Festering Boil and it would appear they mean to destroy us.” He waved his hand toward Los Mariachi who began playing a sad song.

Sally smiled as she looked toward the familiar shape of the on-coming ship. “Oh, you are sooooo fucked.”

Leather Nipples couldn’t believe his ears. He turned his beloved Sally around and began pushing her below as he called to the captain, “This is no time to lose heart! If we die, we die – but let us die like men!” He took Sally below and locked her away with Sir Nigel.


“What’s he doing now?” Slappy asked young Spencer who kept a watch on Don Taco through the spy glass.

“Puking and smoking, Cap’n!” Spencer reported. “Puking and smoking.”

Monday, March 14, 2005


A pirate Tale - 55, Contact

The conference took place on the quarterdeck of Broche de Presión, where Don Taco leaned casually against the rail, puffing his ubiquitous cigar and Lady Fanny sat uneasily in a chair that had been brought for her. The man calling himself Cap’n Slappy stood at the center of attention, with the eyes not only of the ringleaders on him but the whole crew. The other ships, La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza and his own Olor Tremendo de Conchita, stood off out of hearing range, but on those, too, sailors crowded the rail, watching.

“I am sorry, but I’m having trouble following,” Taco said with an apologetic shrug. “Tell me again how you have come to us, and how you happen to have command of one of my ships.”

“It is a difficult story,” conceded Slappista, playing Slappy to the hilt, “and I’d have trouble following it myself if I hadn’t lived through it. Let me start again.”

Fanny knew Slappy and his crew too well to believe his presence on the Conchita could have anything to do with a mutiny by the Festering Boil’s crew or desertion by Slappy, so Slappista recounted the tale he’d concocted to lull his questioners’ suspicion and lure them to his ambush.

“The Boil was captured off Morocco by Barbary pirates, a swarm of them, the little buggers. I was taken captive and sold in the slave markets. Because of my naval skills and – well, I’m a big man – they thought I’d do well rowing a galley. I was sold to an Alexandrian who ran tourist ships out of the Red Sea – lot of money to be made in the holy pilgrimage trade. I was working a ship bound from Mecca to Bombay when we ran aground. I think the captain may have been violating his religion’s strictures against alcohol. Fortunately I and a couple of other galley slaves were able to make it to a nearby island. Pretty much everyone else seems to have drowned.”

“How terrible,” Fanny started to interject, but Taco silenced her with a look. “Pray continue,” was all the Spanish grandee said.

“Well, we were stuck on that miserable little reef for a week, and were running short of food and water,” Slappista said, drawing a smile from Don Taco who added, “And yet it doesn’t seem to have hurt your famous physique.”

“No,” Slappista agreed, “I’ve been working on that since. But let me continue. We were picked up by a Portuguese ship, although its crew was mostly French and Dutch, making a run to Cathay. We were with them when we were set upon by Conchita.”

“Not by two ships?” Taco asked.

“No, just Conchita. His opening broadside disabled our rudder and took out our mast. With our ship sinking under us we had little choice but to board our opponent. We tried to explain, and I was willing to join, but they would give no quarter. In the battle that followed, we were victorious.”

“And the capitan, my nephew Guillermo?” Taco asked.

“A sad story. He died bravely, defending his ship to the death.” Here, Slappista was extemporizing, as he hadn’t counted on the family connection and knew Taco’s pride would require a valiant account. “I had been fighting at the bow, and wasn’t able to intercede. He was the last of his men alive on the quarterdeck, and he held off a half dozen of the boarders, dealing death even though he had been struck by a dozen blows. When he fell to his knees, mortally injured, I tried to rush to him to spare his life. One of his attackers, however, struck before I could get there, striking him with a cowardly blow from behind. You will understand my fury, and I picked up the craven man and hurled him overboard myself.”

Here Taco’s eyes lowered, and he nodded in understanding.

Slappista continued. “I rushed to your nephew’s side as he breathed his last. His last words were pride in the family name. ‘Vivo y muero a miembro orgulloso de la familia de Diamonte,’ is what he said.”

Taco shook his head sadly, then straightened and walked over to Slappista.

“There has been much death and destruction on this chase, and more to come, I fear,” Taco said. “I have lost many dear friends, including my nephew and your cousin, Slappista, who was like a brother to me. Now, you have been brought to me out of nowhere, and I take you as family, Capitan Slappy. You are my brother.”

He embraced Slappista, and the two men smiled, but for very different reasons. Fanny emitted a sob.

Aboard the Festering Boil, the real Cap’n Slappy had ordered his crew to take the ship west, out of sight of the unknown sails. His hope was to skirt them and regain the wind, coming around from the south to either attack or run as the circumstances warranted. Meanwhile, he called his comrades together to make plans.

“I want the guns ready for action. Powder Monkey, let’s double the number of cartridges available to each gun. And no shortage of slow match.”

“Aye, sir!” Gabriel said.

“Dogwatch will command the starboard battery. I want Cementhands to be with Keeling’s boarding party, so George, would you be so good as to take command of the port guns?”

George acquiesed, but asked the questions the others were considering. “Who’ll be at the helm? You, or maybe Chumbucket?”

Ol’ Chumbucket shook his head. “If it’s all the same to you, captain, I’d prefer to be with the boarding party.”

“Of course,” Slappy said. “I understand completely. No, I have someone else in mind.”

He turned to the frail old man at the fringe of the group. “Professor Droppingham, would you do me the pleasure of taking the helm in the upcoming engagement?”

The Drip looked startled, then almost overcome with emotion for the first time in the months since he’d come on board. Mastering himself, he straightened up, squared his shoulders and gave Slappy a smart salute.

“It would be an honor, sir.”

Back on the Broches, the conference continued.

“But what happended to your Festering Boil?” Fanny asked.

“I’m afraid those damn Barbary ships must have lanced her,” Slappista said with as much sadness and anger as he could feign. “I never saw any of my old shipmates in the brig or the slave market, and I fear they must have come to a bad end.” Here the mock Slappy appeared to choke up, and Fanny reached over to lay a consoling hand on his shoulder.

“And during the action with Conchita, you saw no sign of a second ship, my brig Esteban Usted Hombre Repugnante?” Taco asked.

“No, I fear not,” Slappista replied. “They must have become separated. Perhaps she ran before the storm and we’ll see her again soon. But that brings me to the most important point. After we had mastered the storm, we came north. Yesterday we spotted a sail and made for it. It was a giant carrack sailing Spain’s colors and a royal pennant. It was storm-damaged and listing badly. We tried to approach but they were still strong enough to drive us off. But I have to think a ship like that in these waters can only mean one thing – a treasure.”

Fanny and Taco eyed each other at this news, but didn’t respond. Good, Slappista thought, they think they can get me to lead them to it, but they don’t want me to know what the prize is. Very well, he said to himself, we can both keep our little secrets.

“We should move out at once. There was a British man o’ war back at Diego Garcia, and if she decides to take more interest in us, she might cause trouble. Perhaps we should go investigate this ship,” Taco said nonchalantly. “You marked its position and course, I assume.”

“Of course I did,” Slappista said. “It was moving slowly, and I suspect we could find it before sunset if we’re ready to stop talking and start moving.”

Just then a lookout from the rigging called that a sail had been spotted to the south. Taco immediately brought out his glass and gave it a long look. That couldn’t be Sabado Gigante, Slappista thought to himself. Francois knew he was supposed to lie in wait.

“We’d best get to our ships,” Taco said. “I assume, since you marked the carrack, that you will lead us, brother Slappy?”

“It would be an honor. Together I believe we will have no trouble mastering her.”

“Very good. There’s just one question I have for you.” Taco paused, his right hand fingering the pistol in his belt. “Do you believe in ghosts?”

“Ghosts? No, that’s a superstition for old men and children.”

“Nor do I,” continued Taco. “But there must be some explanation why the ship approaching from the south looks for all the world like the Festering Boil.”

Taco’s eyes narrowed to slits and Fanny recoiled. But Slappista’s eyes grew wider and rounder as he sank to his knees, his hands raised to the cloudless blue sky.

“Praise God!” he shouted. “It’s a miracle!”

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