Thursday, September 29, 2005


A Pirate Tale – 104


Keeling was not the only man aboard who was keeping an eye on Oscar, who was “not a reporter.” Ol’ Chumbucket was also curious.

“It should be easy enough to tell if he sailed on the Bloody Scuppers from Carolina to Brazil, as he said,” Chumbucket said to Keeling as the two stood on the quarterdeck, watching Oscar and the rest of the crew work. “I imagine the next issue of Pirattitude Monthly could be expected to carry a story about Captain O’Toole and his gang. If it doesn’t, that doesn’t prove he’s not a reporter, but it doesn’t help. In the meantime, I'm wondering if we can get more information from him about that hat.”

“Well, whether he is or isn’t a reporter, he certainly was telling the truth about his skills,” Keeling said. “He’s obviously not much of a seaman, but he’s some kind of wizard at throwing things together.”

So far Oscar had helped Salty Jim replace two of the ship’s futtocks that had shown signs of rot, re-sewn the gold trim on Keeling’s dress uniform, replaced a torn diaphragm on the ship’s pump, and promised Sawbones Burgess he’d help the doc sort and inventory his collection of drugs and leeches. But first he had just finished helping Cementhands McCormack build a scratching post for Miss Fluffy Paws, the kitten the pirate had brought aboard from Sao Paolo. Chumbucket and Keeling were watching the big man playing with the kitten now, dangling a piece of yarn and chortling with glee as the kitten pounced at it. At that moment Cap’n Slappy walked by with Strumpet the Monkey, as usual, perched on his shoulder.

“Oh, watch this, cap’n,” McCormack called. “Miss Fluffy Paws is a killer, aren’t you little sweetie. A killer. Watch her attack this piece of string. Pretend it’s the Spanish navy now, Fluffball.”

But the kitten had just noticed Strumpet, and the monkey had noticed her. It was not love at first sight. The cat hissed and raised its hackles. The monkey uttered a shriek and took refuge on higher ground, which unfortunately was the captain’s head. With a feline the size of a fist hissing at his ankles and trying to scramble up his leg, and a capuchin monkey on his head, screeching and jumping up and down, Slappy waved his arms to keep his balance, tottering on one leg.

“Be careful of the kitty!” McCormack bellowed.

“To hell with your kitty, get it off me and get it out of sight!” Slappy gasped, groping for something to brace himself on while the monkey leaned forward to scold the cat, covering the captain’s eyes.

Slappy whirled, trying to free himself from the cat that was now at his waist, but missed his footing. He teetered at the edge of the open hold. McCormack’s ham-sized hand shot out and grabbed Slappy’s pants, but all he managed to do was pull them down to the captain’s knees as Strumpet leaped to the safety of the rigging while the cat abandoned ship and dove for the safety of McCormack, who let go of the captain to catch the cat. Slappy, with his pants around his knees and finally able to see, windmilled his arms in the air, then shot over the brink and down into the hold.

Everyone stopped, frozen, as they stared at where the captain had been. Nobody moved. Finally, they heard his voice drifting up.

“Don’t mind me! I’m just laying here on the spare canvas. You all go about your work and I’ll just enjoy myself down here.”

“Captain?” McCormack asked timidly. “Can I help?”

“Oh, don’t mind about me. I’m quite comfortable. You might ask Sawbones Burgess if he remembers how to set multiple fractures, but other than that …”

A dozen sailors were already descending into the hold, rigging a sling and heaving the captain out. Moments later Slappy stood on the deck as Burgess gave him a quick inspection.

“Nothing broken, apparently, but that’s gonna hurt tomorrow,” the doctor finally pronounced.

“Tomorrow? It hurts like hell now!” Slappy said. “Are you sure I didn’t break anything? An arm, both my legs? My back?”

“No fractures,” Burgess said firmly. “You’ve twisted some things in ways they weren’t meant to be twisted, but you’ll survive. I’m prescribing a liquid analgesic to be taken internally, as needed for pain.”

“What?” Slappy asked.

“Rum,” the doctor said. “In fact, if you’d like to repair to your cabin now, I’ll join you for one, purely as a preventative measure in case I fall down the hold myself.”

The two began heading back to Slappy’s cabin, but were arrested by a call from the topmast.

“Sail,” cried Two Patch. “Sail off the starboard beam! Smells like a merchant ship!”

“Belay that rum for now, doc,” Slappy said. “Nothing relives sore muscles like a fat merchantman.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 103 – Two Bells into the Middle Watch

It was two bells of the middle watch (one o’clock in the morning as the land lubber sleeps) when a weary Leftenant Keeling noticed a shadowy figure skulking across the empty deck. He could almost hear an orchestra’s violin section plucking out the staccato footsteps of the mysterious person as they seemed to prance from barrel to mast – seeking cover beyond that of the darkness.

Keeling nudged the sleeping Spencer by his side – the cabin boy was trying to earn his keep as a full member of the crew by accompanying the Leftenant on the watch.

“What?” the boy said, sitting up and rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. “Are we under attack?”

“Shhhh.” Keeling whispered, “No, somebody is skulking – and for no good reason as far as I can tell.”

“Why are they skulking?” Spencer asked – his head still groggy from his awakening, but he caught the stupidity of his own question and answered it along with Keeling as he repeated, “… for no good reason as far as I can tell.”

“Should we investigate?” Spencer asked – this time more intelligently.

“That’s what the watch does.” Keeling said as he rose to his feet – the young man followed suit and the two of them made their way carefully to intercept the figure as it moved toward the starboard rail. The two moved stealthily themselves as they kept pace with the shadow.

Spencer tugged at Keeling’s coat sleeves, “Why are we sneaking?” he whispered. “Shouldn’t we just take out your pistol and say something like, ‘Stand and Deliver!’”

“That’s Highwayman talk, lad!” Keeling whispered sharply back. “Do I look like a highwayman to you?”

In fact, in his black great coat, black leather riding boots, tan britches, blousy white shirt and tri-corn hat, that was precisely what Leftenant Keeling looked like – but Spencer gave the correct answer, “No, Leftenant – you look like the ship’s Leftenant.”

Despite his choice of nautical careers, Leftenant Keeling never seemed to wear the title of “pirate” very comfortably. Clearly, he was a misplaced naval lieutenant aboard a pirate ship – no doubt the result of a clerical error at the Acme Seafarer’s Job Placement Agency.

“That’s right lad!” Keeling whispered affirming both his rank and appearance then, stopping short – “There he goes again!”

With mysterious violin plucking accompaniment the mysterious figure bounded for the rails edge and launched a shiny projectile into the air out toward the sea.

Keeling and Spencer sprang into action – they were too late to prevent the tossing of the object, but by God, they would get to the bottom of this!

As he ran toward the shadowy figure, Keeling reached for his pistol and drew it on the run. Arriving at the scene, he tossed his flapping greatcoat aside, leveled the pistol at the mysterious person and spoke with his strongest command voice,


Both Spencer and the mysterious figure – who happened to be the new shipmate, Oscar, stood with mouths agape and questioned Leftenant Keeling’s use of the phrase.

”What?” They said in unison.

“I mean, ‘Hold it right there!’” Keeling was always quick in self-correction.

“I’M NOT A REPORTER!” Oscar blurted nervously staring down the barrel of Keeling’s pistol.

“Stand and deliver?” Spencer couldn’t take his disbelieving eyes off of Keeling.

“Shut up.” Keeling said matter-of-factly to his young companion.

“I’M NOT A REPORTER!” Oscar repeated desperate to have to gun moved away from his face.

“Who are you not a reporter for?” Keeling asked pointedly, gesturing with the gun for additional pointedness.

Pirattitude Monthly Magazine!” the words had barely escaped Oscar’s lips when he followed them up with, “DAMN IT!” He then covered his mouth in order to keep himself from blurting anything else out.

Keeling kept sharply on the line of questioning. “So, that was a bottle you tossed overboard with a message – who is it going to and what does it say?”

Keeling pushed Oscar’s hand away from his mouth with the barrel of his pistol adding, “It will get harder to talk with this (displaying his pistol in order to make his point) in your mouth – I suggest you employ your communication skills immediately.” Feeling very good about his interrogation skills so far, Keeling looked over at Spencer with a smile on his face. The boy simply shook his head and in a questioning tone said, “Stand and deliver?”

Keeling rolled his eyes and re-focused his attention on the ongoing investigation.

“It was a message …” Oscar seemed hesitant and stammered as he appeared to be making things up as he went along. “The message is for my mother … yes! It says, ‘Dear Mum! Have fallen in with the nicest chaps – I think they are cartographers – either that or missionaries of some sort – perhaps an up-beat singing group that has a positive message to share with young people. At any rate, doing well and I miss you and Auntie Bess. Love, Oscar. P.S. By the by, I seem to be blurting out, ‘I’m not a reporter’ when I am startled. Not sure why, as I truly am NOT a reporter for Pirattitude Monthly magazine. Perhaps I should go back into therapy. Yours, once again, Oscar.’”

Leftenant Keeling sighed heavily and turned to Spencer. “Go wake Ol’ Chumbucket and have him wake Cap’n Slappy. Tell them we may have a spy, or a reporter or perhaps just a mama’s boy.”

Spencer didn’t question why he should wake Ol’ Chumbucket and have HIM wake the Cap’n – there were only two men aboard the ship who knew how to wake Slappy from a sound sleep without incurring injury and only one of them, Ol’ Chumbucket could be awakened without incurring injury – the other was Cementhands McCormack and one might as well attempt to wake a sleeping crocodile by giving it an enema as try to wake McCormack when he is soundly sleeping.

A few moments later, Ol’ Chumbucket, George and Cap’n Slappy were all gathered on deck with Leftenant Keeling, Spencer and the prisoner, Oscar.

Cap’n Slappy spoke first. “So, Oscar. Your name is ‘Oscar’ is it not?”

“Aye Cap’n.” Said Oscar – trying to sound calm.

“So Oscar,” Cap’n Slappy continued. “Leftenant Keeling here tells me you’re a spy.”

Keeling cut in – “I never said he was a …”

“Shush!” Cap’n Slappy ordered and turned back to Oscar. “Are you a spy?”

Oscar laughed nervously, “Heaven’s no! No!” He looked crestfallen and confessed. “I’m an investigative reporter! I freelance mostly, but I’m working on a piece for Pirattitude Monthly – ‘Ready to Burst!: Life Aboard The Festering Boil.’ It was going to earn me a “Putzler” award but I can kiss that ‘goodbye’ now, can’t I?”

“A Pulitzer?” Ol’ Chumbucket asked, correcting the young reporter’s mispronunciation.

Oscar looked at him – puzzled. “No. A PUTZLER.” He pronounced it carefully. It’s the annual award given to writers who cover pirate-related topics. What’s a … how did you say it, ‘PULITZER?’”

Everyone looked quizzically at Ol’ Chumbucket who just shook his head and said, “Never mind.”

“And you were really hoping for that Putzler, weren’t ye, lad?” Cap’n Slappy said sympathetically.

“Aye, Cap’n. That I was.” Oscar replied sadly.

“Well, it’s just us what knows ye’re a reporter – how about we all agree to pretend we don’t know in exchange for free tickets to the Putzler Award ceremony when ye win?” Slappy suggested.

“Wouldn’t you rather pretend not to know in exchange for a flattering story, Cap’n?” Spencer suggested.

George put his hand on the boy’s shoulder – “Lad, real pirates don’t care what anyone writes about them – just so long as they spell their names right …” and with that, he glared at Oscar. “Ye WILL spell our names right, won’t ye?”

Oscar knuckled his forehead in salutation as he had done the day before, but quickly remembered that that was the wrong move aboard this ship and George’s slap his knuckled fist to his forehead emphasized the point. “Yes sir! Names all spelled correctly – YES SIR!”

“We’re agreed then!” Slappy said as he, Ol’ Chumbucket and George turned to head back to bed – they were stopped by Leftenant Keeling.

“What if …” he began as they all rolled their eyes and turned back around, but Keeling continued steadfastly, “Just … what if this is a cover story and he is actually a spy?”

Slappy’s face turned grim and he turned back to Oscar. “Are ye a spy?” he asked pointedly.

“No. Cap’n! I’m not a spy!” Oscar replied with more than a little trepidation in his voice.

Slappy looked at Leftenant Keeling as if that was more than enough evidence for anyone. “See? He’s not a spy.” They turned to leave again.

“How do you know he’s not lying?” Keeling insisted.

Again, with his sternest face Cap’n Slappy turned back to Oscar. “Are you lying?” He asked in his gruffest voice.

“No, Cap’n Slappy, I am not lying.”

Cap’n Slappy lifted his hands in a gesture that said, “What other proof do you need?” to Leftenant Keeling who felt duty bound to question once more.

“What if he is lying about lying?”

Slappy face showed his weariness, but he appreciated how thorough his chief of ship’s discipline was being. He put his hand on Keeling’s shoulder and said, “Look, we could be at this all night what with all the permutations of ‘Are you lying about not lying about not lying, et cetera, et cetera – but he told me just as recently as yesterday …” Then turning to Oscar asked, “It WAS yesterday wasn’t it?”

“Aye, Cap’n Slappy, it was yesterday.” Oscar replied.

“He told me as recently as yesterday that he would never lie to me – and I figure you’ve got to take a man’s word until he gives you good reason not to.”

Keeling nodded in agreement and Cap’n Slappy, Ol’ Chumbucket and George the Greek turned back toward their cabins. After a moment Keeling called after them.

“Permission to keep an eye on the ‘reporter,’ Cap’n?”

Ol’ Chumbucket turned around smiling – “Keep a weathered eye on him, Mister Keeling – keep a weathered eye.”

And with that, the executive council returned to their cabins. Spencer returned to his nap, Oscar returned to his skulking about and Leftenant Keeling kept a weathered eye open for the rest of this otherwise uneventful middle watch.

Monday, September 26, 2005


A Pirate Tale – 102


Life aboard the Festering Boil quickly resumed its usual shipboard rhythm, almost as if the intervening weeks ashore had never even happened. The changing of the watches, the bells, the routine duties were picked up as if they had never been put down. It was a comfort to the sailors who, pirates though they were, had had as much excitement and unrest as they might have wanted at Sao Paolo and escaping the Portuguese Navy.

The brotherhood’s “message” to the Portuguese had been delivered and had had the desired effect. The pirates from the Boil and Sir Nigel’s The Scourge of the Seven Seas with Don Taco’s tiny ship, The Adorable Princess – its name now translated to Spanish and gilded across the stern transom, La Princesa Linda – had approached the vast fleet from windward. Had the Portuguese chosen to give chase, the swift pirate ships could quickly have turned and flown before the wind before their larger, more cumbersome could give chase. They hove to just out of range of the naval vessels and prepared their message. Just as the Portuguese had pulled within long cannon range the pirates launched their “message” and turned, the wind quickly filling their sails and carrying them out of range.

But they waited as long as they dared to make sure the message was delivered.

A small cutter had been cast off by the pirates and waited for the Portuguese to come up. A launch from the flagship carefully approached the unmanned cutter. The sailors from the launch waited almost an hour before approaching, but when the cutter didn’t explode, they boarded her, took her in tow and brought her back to the flagship. Watching through spyglasses, the pirates chuckled as they watched the sailors clumsily carry the ship’s cargo up the side of the flagship.

“That couldn’t have been better,” Slappy chortled. “I was afraid they’d have taken it to one of the other ships, and the joke would have been lost on the admiral.”

It clearly hadn’t been, because the flagship almost immediately raised signals to the rest of the fleet and turned to fire an enormous broadside, at least 36 guns. The other ships of the line also began turning and firing at the pirates, who were so distant that they didn’t even bother ducking.

“George! Let’s use this wind and get out of here,” Slappy said. The crew, standing ready, didn’t need to be told twice. Every sail on the Boil immediately filled and the ship took the lead as the pirates raced to safety.

“What was the message?” Dogwatch asked.

“A couple of things,” Slappy explained. “First there was the note from the brotherhood apologizing for the destruction of the frigates – NOT! – and expressing our regrets that we couldn’t stay but saying we hoped to see them again in Lisbon, when we take shore leave to sleep with their sisters and mothers again.”

“But that wasn’t the best part,” Ol’ Chumbucket said. “Cementhands had an idea that we couldn’t pass up. We left them a goat.”

“A goat?” Dogwatch asked.

“Aye, a ship’s goat,” Slappy said. “But this one was wearing the uniform of a Portuguese admiral. And Sawbones Burgess supplied it with a little something extra.”

Burgess glanced at his watch with a smile. “Yes, any minute now the bolus I gave the goat will take effect and he’s going to be a little sick. It’ll open up the sluices at both ends, and the crew will have a little cleaning to do.”

Slappy and Chumbucket started laughing and couldn’t stop. Dogwatch smiled, but still looked perplexed.

“But where did we get a Portuguese admiral’s uniform,” he finally asked.

“That was Sir Nigel’s,” Slappy said between gasps. “He really, actually got himself made an admiral a couple of years back, as part of his little ruse in the Canaries.”

By now the three ships were moving far ahead of the Portuguese and it was clear that no one was going to catch them. The flotilla was already hull down on the horizon, and the distance was growing. According to plan, the three ships were to separate while still within sight of the Portuguese to further confuse the enemy’s next action. Don Taco stood at the helm of La Princesa Linda and saluted to Slappy, then turned to the west to make for the coast of Brazil and perhaps on towards Panama. Sir Nigel brought his ship within hailing distance and called over the water, “Farewell, Slappy my friend! I’m sure our paths will cross again!”

Slappy shouted back, his voice cutting like a foghorn across the open water. “And when they do, I expect you to pay up that 12 quid you lost last night in poker!”

“Oh Slappy, how innocent you are!” Sir Nigel shouted back with a grin that could be seen clearly from the Boil, fifty feet away. “And so long Chumbucket! I’ll give Sally your regards when I see her!”

Chumbucket’s answer was non-verbal, a gesture of sign language that caused Nigel to roar with laughter. “Until we meet again, my friends,” he shouted, then the Scourge veered starboard, towards a heavy fog bank that seemed to be forming to the east.

The Boils watched as the Scourge pulled away and vanished into the mist. “How does he do that?” Chumbucket asked to no one in particular. “There’s always a fog bank when he needs it.”

Slappy smiled. “It’s his particular gift, I guess. But enough of Sir Nigel. We’ll see him again, I’m sure. Our gift is the Boils’ speed. So let’s use it. Dogwatch? Chart us a course for the Windward Islands. It’s time we were back in the Caribbean!”

That had been three days ago, and the ship was putting plenty of miles behind it as it sailed north from Brazil. The time was spent in part in putting the crew back in order.

While the number of sailors aboard – minus Taco and Los Mariachi – was right, some of the faces had changed. In the confusion that attended two-dozen pirate ships making sail and escaping Sao Paolo in such a short time, not everyone got back to the right ship. A few of the Boils were now apparently on other ships, and a few of the sailors aboard now were new. George the Greek and Slappy had spent a lot of their time since putting out to sea in learning exactly who was on the ship and how their talents might best be utilized.

They had just assigned one of the newcomers, Saucy Jenny Morgan, to the team of topmast jacks who worked the upper parts of the rigging, and to Cementhand’s gun crew during fighting, when Chumbucket approached.

“I thought you were asleep on the fo’c’sle,” Slappy said.

“I was, and enjoying myself, too,” he said. “But I heard one of the new fellows talking,” here Chumbucket indicated the open-faced young man accompanying him, “And thought you ought to hear about it.”

“Step forward lad,” Slappy said. The man did, knuckling his brow as he did.

“Now, we’ll have none of that British Navy obedience aboard this ship,” Slappy said. “Just tell me your name.”

“Oscar, sir.” He replied.

“Oscar what?”

“Just Oscar. Don’t have no other name but Oscar.”

“How long have you been at sea, Oscar?”

“It’s been, what, three days now, hasn’t it?” the young man asked, looking puzzled. Couldn’t this guy tell how long they’d been at sea?

“No, I mean you. When did you first sail, and how long have you been a sailor?”

A light broke over Oscar’s face. “Oh, you mean altogether? Well, it’s been three days now, and almost 30 to get to Sao Paolo, so I’d say I’ve been a sailor now for more than a whole month.”

George and Slappy looked at each other.

“Well, what can you do aboard a ship,” George asked him.

“Pretty much anything. I worked on a farm in Carolina before getting on that boat, and I’m a pretty fair hand at making or mending just about anything you need made or mended, from a ruffled short to a blacksmith’s forge.”

“Sounds like you’ll be a right useful fellow to have on board, if what you say is true,” George said. Oscar looked offended.

“Why would I lie about a thing like that?” he asked. “Another thing is I allus tell the truth and I’m not gonna stop now.”

“Well, you may find there are times when the truth doesn’t exactly serve, but you’re right, aboard ship with yer mates and especially to yer captain, honesty is the not only the best policy, it’s the best way to keep from getting keelhauled,” Slappy said.


“So, Chumbucket, why did you think it so important that we hear this fine jack-of-all-trades?” George asked.

“It’s not what he had to say, it’s what he was wearing. This.” Chumbucket took out a straw hat he’d been holding behind his back and tossed it to the table. It was nothing unusual, a typical sailor’s wide-brimmed straw hat. What caught Slappy’s eye was the faded blue band around the crown, on which could still be read the words, “HMS Tigershark.”

For those readers who have just joined us or who have lost the thread because we’ve been posting so irregularly lately, the Tigershark was the royal navy ship that carried Mandrake Bulwer Pondicherry Tharp, Slappy’s nephew and the son of Admiral Tharp. Of course, Tharp also has an illegitimate son he does not keep in touch with. If he did, he’d know that that offspring is now a crewmember of the Festering Boil, although neither is aware of the connection. Meanwhile the legitimate Tharp, the heir to the family fortune and title – much to Slappy’s annoyance – had sailed with the HMS Tigershark under the command of Captain Toasty, and the ship was lost somewhere in the Caribbean. Tharp had made his brother promise that he’d look for the lad, a promise Slappy agreed to in order to get supplies from the navy but which he had no intention of honoring. Anyway, that’s the background. We’ve probably forgotten to mention something, but that should do for now. Everyone up to speed? Good.

“The Tigershark?” Slappy said, scratching his head. “Why is that name familiar?”

“Oh for God’s sake,” George said. “You too? Read the last paragraph.”

Slappy did, then slapped his forehead. “Of course, the nephew. Well, that’s interesting. How did you come by this Oscar?”

“I got it from one of the sailors on the ship that took me down to Brazil,” he said.

“What ship was that? And did the sailor say where he’d gotten it?”

“I sailed on the Bloody Scupper, which I thought was a passenger ship that would take me to the West Indies to seek my fame and fortune but which turned out to be a pirate ship. Then, after the games, which were right interesting, I got confused when everybody was running for the docks I got lost from the Scuppers crew and ended up here, and I’m right glad cuz I don’t think a pirate’s life is for me.”

George, Chumbucket and Slappy all exchanged looks, then, after unsuccessfully pressing Oscar for further details about the hat, they dismissed him.

“Well, for what it’s worth, it indicates that the report that the admiral’s son really was in the Caribbean,” George said.

“We knew that, or at least we were pretty sure of it,” Slappy said with a frown of annoyance. “That damn kid. Always too snotty by half. A right spoiled little brat.”

“And now we have to go looking for him?” Chumbucket asked.

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. If he’s alive, he’s somewhere in the Caribbean. That’s where we’re headed. We’ll keep our eyes open. If he’s dead, then I think I move up in line for the family title. Either way, it’s not too likely we’ll stumble across him.”

The ship sailed swiftly on.

Monday, September 19, 2005



The lads are off adventurin' (and doin' radio interviews), so allow me to pop in and wish our blog readers - both of you - a rip-roarin' Talk Like A Pirate Day 2005!

Webwench to the Pirate Guys

Sunday, September 11, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 101 "Adorable"

The deck of The Festering Boil was abuzz with activity so it was completely understandable that George’s first and second head counts came up short – by two. Slappy, Chumbucket, Doc Burgess and Cementhands also took counts and tried to ascertain by comparing notes who might be missing. The answer came from over the side of the ship where a familiar voice “yoo hood” up at The Boil accompanied, as ever, by the dulcet strains of a classical Spanish guitar.

“Yoo Hooo, Sloppy! It is I, Don Taco, and my faithful man, Los Mariachi! Yoo Hoo!” Taco called upward from the two-man sloop armed with a grand total of one four-pound cannon.

Slappy leaned over the rail along with his men and called back, “How many times do I have to tell ye? It’s ‘Yo Ho’ ye silly Spanish fish-slapper! What the Hell are ye doin’ on that scow?”

“This?” Don Taco gestured grandly with his hands as if by doing so he could make the ship magically larger and more foreboding. “This is my new command! Do not be so jealous! While I did appreciate your giving me a lift, I really must command my own ship! I, like you, was born to be a Capitan and now, once again, I am! The Capitan of the …” Taco’s face contorted into a mask of frustrated memory and he rushed to the back of the boat to read the name of his new-found home. He sighed deeply as he leaned over the edge and took the five steps necessary to return to mid-ship with shoulders hunched and face downward but he quickly regained comportment and declared with great pride that he was the Capitan of “The Adorable Princess.”

The announcement was met with initial silence on the deck of The Festering Boil, but three seconds of shock was Don Taco’s only reprieve from the inevitable, “OOooooooo!” delivered in mock awe by the entire crew in girlish falsetto.

Enraged, Don Taco began angrily readying his cannon to fire, perhaps hoping to break a few barnacles off the hull of The Festering Boil – if he was hoping anything realistic. Slappy tried to make peace with his Spanish comrade, “Now, now Capitan Taco! There’s no need for martial displays of cannonry here. The lads were just havin’ ye on – like they would any chum who decided to branch out and give it a go on his own. Look in yer heart. Ye know we’ve nothin’ but the utmost respect for ye!”

As Slappy spoke, Taco’s vigorous ramming destroyed his only cannon which now sat in pieces on the deck of The Adorable Princess. Calmer now, he responded to the call for peace. “Your Capitan speaks wisely and you are lucky you are under his command for I would normally not cease my fighting until every Jack man of you was dead or in need of long-term medical attention!”

Just then, a magnificent galleon with a crack crew pulled alongside with Sir Nigel Blackheart leaning out over the side of the ship with the wind tousling his thick hair and open shirt. He had somehow commandeered the vessel complete with crew and re-christened it, “The Scourge of the Seven Seas.” But he slowed down to say “hello” before heading out to sea.

“Yo Ho, Slappy!” Sir Nigel’s baritone voice carried nicely even in the wind.

Slappy looked down at Don Taco and gestured toward Sir Nigel. “See? That’s how ye do it!” Then he returned the greeting. “Yo Ho, Sir Nigel! Got yerself a wee tub thar, I see.”

“She’ll do in a pinch – for now!” Sir Nigel called back. “I’m just heading out to send our friends in the Portuguese navy a message from the brotherhood. Care to come along?”

Slappy looked at Ol’ Chumbucket. Chumbucket lifted a familiar eyebrow – as did George, Cementhands, Dogwatch, Left TEN ant Keeling and Red Molly. Doc Burgess, who lacked eyebrow lifting skills, pushed his up with his index finger.

“AYE!” Slappy called back, “Count us in!” and with that, the crew of The Festering Boil went right to work in the rigging and at the cannons.

“Si!” Don Taco called up almost inaudibly between the two much larger ships. “Count The Precious Princess in as well!”

Los Mariachi stopped playing for a moment and in a rare moment of speaking said one word, “Adorable.”

Everyone on board all three ships stopped and looked at Los Mariachi.

“Come again?” Sir Nigel asked inquisitively.

Los Mariachi was not used to so much attention repeated the word sheepishly. “Adorable.”

Don Taco was aghast. “Los Mariachi – I know we have been under some strain of late and that I have a kind of animal magnetism that attracts both the womens and the mens as well as some animals. But as your Capitan I must tell you that …”

“The ship.” Los Mariachi said simply.

There was a pause. “What about the ship?” Don Taco asked.

“She is not ‘Precious’ – she is ‘Adorable.’” Los Mariachi clarified.

“Yes she is!” Sir Nigel said as The Scourge of the Seven Seas began to pull away. “And so are the two of you!”

“Oh! That’s it for you, English!” Don Taco fumed as he tried to put his tiny cannon back together.

Seeing this, Ol’ Chumbucket suggested to Cap’n Slappy, who, by now was busy cleaning his blunderbuss, that The Festering Boil make a gift of two four-pound cannons to The Adorable Princess.

“Alright, make it so.” Slappy replied. “But nothing bigger. As it is, they’re as likely as not to put out an eye or two.”

As he spoke, Two-Patch passed by.

Slappy quickly added, “No offence, Two-Patch.”

The old blind sailor, who seemed to be in a hurry replied, “None taken, Cap’n!” and promptly walked right into the mizzenmast.

Slappy and Ol’ Chumbucket choked back their laughter but Cementhands McCormack burst. “Jaysus! Two-Patch! It’s not like we move that stuff around on ye!”

“Sorry Mister McCormack, sir, but I’ve been a fair bit distracted of late on account o’ the fact that I’ve fallen in love with a BEAUTIFUL girl!”

“How do ye know she’s BEAUTIFUL?” Slappy enquired.

“How do ye know she’s a girl?” Chumbucket followed. Slappy and McCormack both noted that that was a good point.

“Oh, you fine gentlemen may scoff,” Two-Patch began, “But I’ve seen her in the only place I see anybody – in my dreams.”

“So, she’s your dream girl?” Cementhands asked.

“Aye! And I am deeply in love. I hope that someday we’ll meet and I will sweep her off her feet and take her away to a magical island where monkeys dance and birds sing and dolphins are accountants – they’re very smart, dolphins.”

The three stood in stunned silence. “If we hadn’t just been on an extended shore leave, I’d suggest it was time for an extended shore leave.” Chumbucket whispered numbly.

“Very well.” Slappy stood and clapped a firm hand to Two-Patch’s shoulder. “What’s your assignment today, Two-Patch?”

“Crow’s Nest, Cap’n! I’m on lookout."

Slappy looked at Chumbucket and Cementhands – who both shrugged.
The silence cued Two-Patch to explain. “I can smell ‘em comin’, Cap’n. I can! And because I can tell ye what they had for dinner, ye’ll always know what nationality we’re dealin’ with.”

“Ah! Well!” Slappy began shakily, but improved, “Keep up the good work then, me lad! And try not to be distracted too much by yer dream girl. Ye know, the best thing about havin’ a dream girl, don’t ye?”

Two-Patch thought for a moment, “No, sir.”

“She comes to ye every night and ye don’t have to deal with her yammerin’ away at breakfast.”

Two-Patch smiled a big toothless smile. “Yes sir. Thank ye, sir.” And began climbing the rigging up to the crows nest.

“How many times have ye been married, Cap’n?” Chumbucket asked knowingly.

“Oh, five or six – maybe seven.” Slappy replied.

“Beggin’ the Cap’ns pardon, but that’s not much o’ a ‘success rate’ now, is it?” Cementhands observed.

“Sure it is!” Slappy declared, “They ALL think I’m adorable!”

“Like Taco’s ship?” Chumbucket asked.

Slappy held his blunderbuss up to the light to check for any other smudges – “Aye, but I’m better armed. Now, let’s go give our Portuguese friends an adorably warm greeting, shall we?”

Monday, September 05, 2005


A Pirate Tale – 100: The Time Has Come

“And the winner of the Pirate Paragon Medallion is …”

The voice of Foghorn Benson cut through the air around the fetid stadium, bringing something almost resembling a hush to the motley throng of buccaneers, freebooters, corsairs and misfits gathered there. The approach of the Portuguese Navy to arrest all the members of the brotherhood had cast a pall over the gathering, and there was a palpable sense of gloom hovering over what was usually a wildly festive, alcohol-fueled bacchanal. A pair of frigates had been keeping watch over the harbor mouth, penning up the pirates for the full week. The narrow channel didn’t allow more than one ship at a time to put out, and the two frigates were easily a match for any single pirate ship in port. One more sunrise, and the party would be over, the pirates all captives of the Portuguese.

But this was the Pirate Paragon Medallion, and if it was to be the last one ever awarded, that just made it all the more valuable. Besides, there was nothing else to do in Sao Paolo that night but wait for the morning and the arrival of their captors. The audience settled in expectantly. The last of the games’ competitions had been played out, the last of the medals awarded. Now there was just the big prize, and a closing ceremony that Ol’ Chumbucket had promised would be “unforgettable.”

Chumbucket went over the details again, trying to figure out what he’d forgotten, what he’d missed. There was always something. The plan had been set in motion some hours earlier when he had met with Lily at the temporary headquarters of her corporation, POW! Inc., (Pirates of the World Inc.) He had delivered the contract signed by the Slappy impersonator Cap’n Wideload, and arranged for Wideload to sail out to the Portuguese frigates at the end of the games.

“Why not my ship?” Lily asked. “I’d really prefer it.”

“Frankly, me dear, I don’t give a damn what you prefer,” Chumbucket smiled raffishly. “You’ve already demonstrated that you can’t control the Portuguese fleet. We would prefer to have Wideload safely in their care with, say, a pair of your attorneys, perhaps Mr. Hungadinger and Mr. Hungadinger? They can meet Wideload on the dock at 8:30.”

“Very well,” Lily agreed, trying to appear gracious. “Anything else? What about you? Don’t you want safe passage as well?” she asked with a mocking smile.

“Oh, I know your opinion of me, and believe me when I say your regard is returned most heartily. But I have some obligations with the games this evening. I’ll take my chances on the morrow,” he said.

“It’s your funeral,” Lily said.

As Chumbucket left, he gazed out long and hard to sea. The frigates were still in place. The rest of the fleet, which could sometimes be seen on the horizon, were gone for now. That meant they had continued their regular sweep to the south and would be back late in the middle watch, sometime around 2 a.m. – probably, he reminded himself, assuming they maintained their routine. That was the nice thing about regular navies. They liked routine.

The last competitions were played out, the last medals awarded. It was just about time.

“And the winner of the Pirate Paragon Medallion is … George the Greek of the Festering Boil!!!”

The audience rose to their feet, cheering and looking for George.

“Damn, hadn’t thought of that,” Chumbucket said to himself. Because George wasn’t there. He, Dogwatch, Keeling, Cementhands and Red Molly were already at the waterfront. George was aboard the Festering Boil, making it ready to set sail.

The crowd continued applauding – George was a great favorite among the pirates, a seaman’s seaman – but the cheering grew thin, and a murmur grew among the ranks as he failed to appear to accept the covted medal.

“Go get it for him,” Chumbucket hissed at Spencer.

“Me?” the powder monkey said, his eyes growing big.

“Just go out there and say something. And keep talking. Talk as long as you can!”

The murmur grew as, instead of the swarthy figure of the Greek pirate, a small figure went up to the podium. Chumbucket glanced up at Lily’s box. She was staring down, her lips pursed. She turned to one of her advisors, who shook his head, then rose and left the box.

Spencer started talking, but even with the megaphone his voice piped out so thin that he could barely be heard at all. His voice was barely audible, his words, though apparently enthusiastic, unintelligible. But his face was expressive and his hands flew through the air to illustrate whatever point he was trying to make. Foghorn tried to take the megaphone back, but Spencer kicked him in the shins, snatched the cone back and kept talking.

Molly and Dogwatch were with Cap’n Slappy, standing under a lamp at the dock, watching the approach of Hungadinger and Hungadinger,

“I don’t have to pee my pants do I,” Slappy whispered to is comrades.

“Ya do if you want them to believe you’re Wideload,” Molly hissed back. “And you’ll be clean soon enough.”

“Damn Chumbucket and his plans,” Slappy muttered.

The lawyers entered the pool of lamplight, hands outstretched in greeting. Slappy let go with his bladder. The lawyers recoiled.

“Yes, well, Mr. Wideload,” the senior Hungadinger said.

“CAPTAIN Wideload!” Slappy bellowed.

“Shall we repair aboard the the Bellona?” the lawyer said, indicating the frigate out beyond the breakwater. “Perhaps there you can repair your, er, well, they might have…”

“Let’s go,” Dogwatch said, climbing aboard the tender.

“I thought we’d take our ship,” the lawyer said.

“This is packed with all Wideload’s worldly goods, including his spare trousers,” Dogwatch said. “Unless you WANT him to not have spare pants?”

“No, no, this will do fine.” And the two lawyers, Molly and the ersatz Cap’n Wideload clambered aboard the small vessel, which seemed to be packed to the gunnels with barrels and trunks. The two lawyers glanced at all the gear but said nothing, thinking to themselves, “Theater people.” The small ship set out.

At the same moment, Keeling, Cementhands and the real Wideload approached the hotel where Lily’s people were staying and demanded to see the lawyers. They were shown into a room where the remaining two lawyers sat.

“What seems to be the problem?” Schmidt asked. He noticed the growing stain on the pants of the big man and said, “Wideload? You were supposed to meet Mrs. Hungadinger and Hungadinger on the docks 10 minutes ago.”

“Change of plans, Keeling said. “A Portuguese patrol arrested the real Cap’n Slappy and we thought it best to get off the streets. We need you to get Wideload here to the frigate immediately.”

“But our lawyers …”

“Are down at the jail right now trying to sort things out. We’ve got a ship and no time. Let’s go.”

Keeling fingered the handle of his cat o’nine tales. The two lawyers gulped, looked at each other, then grabbed their coats and headed for the door. Moments later they, too, were on a small vessel packed with “all Wideload’s earthly goods” and heading out of the harbor.

In both cases, the lawyers aboard didn’t notice the low, dark shapes pulling away from the bank and shadowing their small ships.

In the arena, Spencer continued his tale. His enthusiasm was so great and his words so inaudible that many of the pirates were enjoying it immensely, hooting and clapping at his animated face and his fantastic gesticulations. Every time Foghorn went to recapture the megaphone Spencer dealt him another kick to the shins, and the swabbie from the Moby Duck had decided it was probably better to just let him talk.

At opposite sides of the harbor entrance the two small ships had approached the Portuguese frigates and tied up along side, stout lines passing from the men o’war to the little boats. At the insistence of the Festering Boil crew members the lawyers had gone aboard first to make the arrangements. Dogwatch aboard his small craft and Keeling aboard his began to light ship’s lanterns and, at the sound of eight bells, dropped their small torchs into the tub of slow match, which began hissing away.

Spencer finally finished his story, which had taken a good 20 minutes, took George’s medallion and headed back to the stand where Chumbucket waited. “What was that all about,” the pirate asked him?” “I was just telling about George and some of the things he’s done aboard the Boil,” Spencer said.

“Good enough,” Chumbucket said, glancing at his pocket watch. “It’s show time.” He went to where Foghorn was waiting with the megaphone. As he approached, he could see a handful of pirates, about a dozen from each ship, begin filtering out of the stadium at the pre-arranged signal. He took the megaphone and turned to the now hushed crowd.

“My brother pirates,” he said. “It’s been a fine week of competition and I’m sure we’ve all had a good time. But the hour of reckoning is upon us, and I think, without further ado, we need to be back out to sea where we can ply our trade.”

Aboard the Bellona,” the senior Hungadinger leaned over the railing, “All is set,” he assured the pirates. “Wideload can come aboard and his safe conduct is guaranteed. You two, however, are asked to come aboard and be the first to submit to Portuguese justice.” A body of marines leaned over the railing, muskets cocked and aimed at Dogwatch and Red Molly. Slappy climbed up the side of the man o’war and stepped up, balancing on the railing.

But at the top the ersatz Wideload gave a lurch, as if thrown off by the roll of the ship, which was in fact negligible. He teetered on the railing, flailing his arms as if fighting for his balance, then fell overboard with a loud splash. Dogwatch Watts turned to the officer of the deck and blurted out, in well-practiced Portuguese, “O almirante não pode nadar!”

Dogwatch kicked off his shoes and stood poised at the railing. “Eu encontrá-lo-ei. Mantenha meu navio amarrado acima de firmemente aqui.”

And with that admonition to keep the tender tied tight to the hull of the frigate, he and Molly leaped into the water.

A similar charade had been enacted at the second frigate, only this time it was Wideload who plummeted from the railing and Cementhands and Keeling who plunged over the side to rescue him. They too managed to swim off, leaving their smack tied up to the Portuguese ship.

“We’ve been penned up here too long,” Chumbucket’s voice echoed through the arena. “There’s plenty of fat merchantmen out there who need pillaging. We all have about four hours to clear the harbor and get under way before the bulk of the Portuguese ships arrive.”

The pirates could see one ship already raising anchor and preparing to leave, the Festering Boil. They rose as one to rush to the harbor.

“Wait! Wait!” Chumbucket shouted, over the growing clamor. “I have two more things to say before we take our leave. First, this escape was made possible by the sacrifice of Cap’n Slappy! He is out there now, dealing with those bastards, on deck of one of the frigates as I speak.” At this, there was a moment of hushed silence. “That’s how he wanted it,” Chumbucket said. “He wouldn’t give up his freedom, but he couldn’t let you get caught in a trap.”

Watts was beginning to tire as he swam toward the shore, but the sight of the low, dark canoes nearby gave him fresh strength. He pulled up alongside of the nearest, and a strong arm pulled him from the sea.

“Strike out for land, boys,” Cementhands hissed urgently to Shifty Meg’s crew of Pentari natives. “We’ve got about 10 minutes to get out of the water.” Dogwatch glanced over at the other canoes. In one, he thought he could make out in the dim light the shape of Meg “welcoming” Cap’n Slappy back. Or it might have been Wideload.

In the arena, there was confusion among the bulk of the pirates, who hadn’t been filled in on the plan.

“But what about the frigates at the harbor entrance,” a plaintive voice called out.

“Yes, before taking to your ships, you might want to sit back and enjoy this,” Chumbucket said. He nodded to Cha O Li and Shanghai Jack, who put the slow match to their fuses.

Rockets streamed out from the specially built stand, flying in all directions, bursting in multi-colored star patterns in the sky above the stadium. Then the fuses on a dozen extraordinarily large rockets lit, and they flew straight out towards the harbor. It didn’t seem possible that they could fly so far, but Li had promised they would. Several fell short, but at least half sailed out in the general direction of the Portuguese frigates. As the soared over the breakwater, the fuses aboard Slappy’s tender reached the end of its sputtering trail, in the barrels lashed to the deck.

The ship, and the frigate which had so obligingly tied up to it, went up with a roar. Pieces of timber, cordage, sail and lawyer fluttered down in an area covering more than two square miles.

From the stadium, the onlookers said the only thing they could.


A second fuse reached its goal as the rockets splashed into the waters; a second massive explosion shook the harbor. A second frigate disappeared in a hellish blast.


The pirates rose as one man and rushed down to their ships and freedom.

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