Thursday, October 27, 2005


A Pirate Tale 114 – The Plot Thickens

The morning watch came and went and there was little sign of life on The Festering Boil. Most of the crew had gone ashore the night before leaving only a skeleton crew of a dozen sailors and George the Greek. Many of them, but by no means all, had staggered back in the early morning hours, their hearts and their purses much lighter. None were in much shape to take over any shipboard duties any time soon.

Ol’ Chumbucket had relieved George. He and Cementhands McCormack, Oscar, Saucy Jenny and the newcomer they had rescued the previous night were taking care of what little needed to be done. Mostly this involved making coffee, eating, and occasionally helping a late-returning pirate make it aboard the ship without landing in the harbor. The deck was festooned with sailors sleeping off prodigious amounts of alcohol.

By four bells of the forenoon watch (10 a.m.) Chumbucket was getting restless. He had a few things to take care of in port and didn’t want to wait all day to do them. The ship was supposed to sail in less than 24 hours, but not without information Chumbucket was seeking.

Five bells came. Nothing. The first sign of life came when Sawbones Burgess stumbled onto deck, blinking in the sun and walking as if he had a hernia. Oscar started to address him but the ship’s doctor waved a hand peremptorily, stared at him with a gaze that would have stunned a walrus, then lurched to the railing where he promptly leaned over and began puking.

“Get him some coffee, he’ll probably live,” Chumbucket told Oscar.

Minutes later the sound of singing brought them to the dockside of the ship, where Dogwatch Watts was returning. He was not alone. His four lovely companions from the night before were escorting him, and a lively show it made, as Watts wore nothing but bed sheets and was dancing and singing. He spun and faced the wenches.

“Farewell my loves, I must be shipping out but I will carry the memory of last night’s passion play with me always! I sail with the tide, but my body will forever burn with …”

Sadly, no one learned exactly what his body would burn with because he chose that moment to make an extravagantly sweeping gesture, throwing himself off balance and into the harbor. Cementhands was ready, this not being the first time Dogwatch had executed this maneuver, and he and Chumbucket quickly fished the sodden sailor from the water and deposited him with a squishy thud onto the deck.

“So long ladies! Perhaps I’ll see you tonight!” Cementhands called to the disappointed trollops.

“You’re not going anywhere,” Chumbucket reminded him, “not if you don’t want to be caught by your dice partners from the night before.”

“Quite right,” McCormack agreed. He turned back to the wenches and asked, “Do any of you make house calls?”

Chumbucket left Cementhands to his haggling and went to the stern of the ship. It was now six bells and Ol’ Chumbucket felt had waited long enough. He knocked firmly on the cabin door.

He waited, then knocked much louder. He heard a sound from inside, but nothing remotely like a person waking and getting out of bed to answer the knock. Chumbucket pushed the door open.

There was a large lumpy shape in the captain’s bed.

“Excuse me, sir, but it’s six bells and …”

“Go to hell,” part of the lump said.

“Let me put this another way,” Chumbucket said, “It’s going on noon, and some of us have work to do which we can’t because others of us haven’t come on deck to take charge of things.”

“Trying to make me feel guilty won’t help,” the lump said. “Who are you? My mother?”

“No, I’m Ol’ Chumbucket and I have some things I need to do. Where’s Spencer? I’ll have him bring some coffee.”

“Spencer?” the lump paused. Parts of last night’s activities were coming back. “Spencer isn’t here just now, but your call is important to us. Leave me a message and I’ll be sure he gets it. By the way, I think it’s time to promote the lad. A young man of 16 is probably ready to taker on full-fledged piratey duties instead of …”

“Instead of taking care of a drunken old sot like you,” Chumbucket said, whipping off the blankets. “Oh, excuse me. Let me just put these back in place.”

It turned out the lump was composed of both Cap’n Slappy and his old friend and parliamentarian Madame Svetlana. It further was plain that neither of them was wearing anything except a couple of horsehair wigs, and the wigs were not on their heads. The blanket quickly flew back over them.

“Sorry. Never mind me. I’ll just be on deck fuming about the lost time. And please, whatever you do, don’t explain about the wigs. I’m sure it’s perfectly unseemly, and hellishly expensive.”

“And worth it!” Slappy roared.

“I’ll have someone bring in some coffee. TWO cups,” Chumbucket said, backing out.

“I thought he’d never leave,” Svetlana said.

“Never mind. Now what were you saying about attaching a rider to an amendment that’s on the table?”

It was more than an hour later that Slappy finally emerged. Like Sawbones before him, he winced as the sunlight shot bolts into his head, searing his retinas and burning holes in the back of his skull. He walked forward, tottering like a man with no strength in his legs and a very good reason for not being able to straighten up.

“So what did last night’s adventure set you back?” Chumbucket asked.

“All of it,” Slappy said.

“ALL of it? Your whole two shares of the booty?”

“Ahh, if you want to talk about booty, let me tell you, it was the best gold I’ve ever spent. You wouldn’t believe …”

“Probably not,” Chumbucket cut him off. “But that’s neither here nor there. I take it that Spencer accompanied you to Wonder Wenches and when we eventually see him it will be time for his 'today I am a man' speech. Very well, while I’m in town I’ll see if I can scare up another cabin boy.”

“Who was that who brought me coffee?” Slappy asked. “Tall black young man?”

“Ah, yes, I hadn’t had a chance to tell you about him. His name’s Wellington Peddicord. We met up with him last night under conditions that were rather trying, for him.”

Chumbucket explained about finding him in the midst of a mob intent on stringing him up, about Saucy Jenny’s impetuous plunge into the fight and the eventual rescue of the black man.

“Even Oscar drew blood, so there’s hope for him yet,” Chumbucket said. “Under the circumstances it seemed better to take him with us. He already has more friends on this ship than he does in all of Port Royal.”

“Runaway slave?” Slappy asked.

“Hardly. He was born, so he says, in Bristol, and once you hear him talk you’ll have no trouble believing that. No, he apparently was a little too successful at cards – swears he was completely honest, just a run of good luck and he doesn’t know how that ace got there – and didn’t have Cementhand’s resourcefulness in extricating himself. The color of his skin gave an ugly crowd one more reason to be even uglier, and he had no shipmates to back him. If we hadn’t happened by, he’d be washing ashore on this incoming tide. I told him he could sign on with us if he’d like, and he jumped at the chance. He served six months before the mast in the Navy, that’s how he got here, and sailed on a variety of fishing smacks and packets in the channel since he was a kid.”

“Sounds like a good man.”

“I think he’ll work out. We could always use a good hand. There’s another thing, and it gives me something else to check into while I’m in town. He landed in Port Royal about a year ago when he left his naval ship.”


“Not exactly. It wasn’t exactly a mutiny, either, but there was something of a change of command and a change of mission aboard his ship. He was sailing aboard HMS Tigershark.”

“My nephew’s ship?”

“Aye. And there’s a bit more. His story dovetails with something I read in Oscar’s notes. I’ve got to go into town to check it out. I trust you can look after the ship, even in your weakened condition? After all, you still have your playmate in the cabin, but somebody has to keep an eye out for young Spencer, or perhaps I should just say Spencer now. I just hope he didn’t go and marry the girl.”

“I’ll take care of Spencer,” Slappy said, growing impatient. “Just tell me what this is about.”

“I think it has something to do with some old friends of ours, who by all rights really ought to be dead. I certainly thought so, but it looks as if I was wrong about that.”

“Christ on a crutch! Would you explain yourself or have you been reading too many mysteries again? I hate this dragging the story out until you can close the chapter with some dramatic pronouncement. You always have to have the last word and drop it in at the last second for maximum effect.”

“Fine,” Chumbucket said, a trifle annoyed that the captain had caught on to his dramatic literary device, of which he was rather proud. “I’ll just say it. I think there’s something afoot, and it’s all the work of …”

A shot rang out.

Chumbucket and Slappy looked up, startled.

“Sorry,” Oscar said. “I dropped my pistol.”

“Careful with that, you idiot!” McCormack shouted. “You almost hit Miss Fluffy Paws.” The giant pirate held out his tiny kitten to show everyone she was all right. There was a general sigh of relief.

“Everyone settle down,” Slappy roared, his head aching. “Just finish your story Chumbucket and get on your way.”

“Right. Sorry. I think this is the work of …”

A muffled drum roll started from nearby.

“What the hell is that?” Slappy snapped.

“Sorry sir, just thought I’d get in some practice,” Dogwatch said from the fo’c’sle, where he was bent over his drum kit.

“Jeez, what a ship! Just go ahead Chumbucket.”

“Right. The people behind this are …” Both Chumbucket and Slappy looked around to make sure they weren’t interrupted, then Slappy nodded at Chumbucket.

“The Bawdy Boys.”

“Shit,” said Slappy, satisfied at getting in the last word.

Monday, October 24, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 113 "Sexual Congress"

Warning: This installment contains graphic descriptions of sexual behavior. If you are offended by such descriptions, skip this installment. You probably won’t be missing anything anyway – just stuff that happens at the brothel. You know … nudge, nudge …and such. Of course, your friends at the water cooler will be talking about this one. “Can you believe they wrote that!?” they’ll say with dumbfounded astonishment. Then, temptation will get the better of you and you’ll be back to read – even after I’ve warned ye. Oh, yes. You WILL read!

“Fine! Have it your way! Blow yer doubloons on dicing when you could be doing ‘the bouncy-bouncy’ with any number of wenches of slightly tarnished virtue …” Sawbones hit the second syllable of “vir-tue” as he entered the doorway of The Wonder Wenches Whoopee Parlor and Whistle-Wetter the oldest and most famous brothel in all of Jamaica. The timing was met with the pal of silence.

The word, “virtue” hung in the air like a rotting corpse in a gibbet.

“Why Cap’n Slappy and friends, what excellent timing you have!” Madame Svetlana Petrokiov greeted the pack of pirates as if they were royalty. They had, in fact, just interrupted the madam’s weekly lecture on temperance and virtue delivered with a mix of feigned sympathy and righteous indignation by Lady Agnes Toffybottom and her friend, Prudence Feversham. Upon hearing the doctor speak of “virtue,” Lady Agnes seized her cue, “Gentleman!” she declared, “You shall find no virtue within these walls!”

Without missing a beat, Cap’n Slappy shot back, “I shall take that as a money-back guarantee!” With quick, manly movements, he hoisted Lady Agnes up as if she were a blushing bride and slung her like a sack of potatoes to Black Butch who headed off to “The Basket Room” to have his way with her. Slappy quickly moved on to Prudence Feversham and sweeping her off her feet in a similar manner, flung her into the waiting arms of Two Patch, who, although he had the visual acuity of a near-sighted mole, managed to catch the lady and carry her off to “The Dark Den.” Their initial screams of protestation quickly shifted to groans of pleasure – and ultimately to bossy directions of what they wanted the boys to do next.

Madame Svetlana grabbed Cap’n Slappy’s head with both hands and kissed his cheeks in gratitude and finished with a deep lingering kiss on his lips. She turned to the scantily clad girls behind her, “Just when I thought I would die of Puritan Poisoning, my hero comes to save me!” Madame Svetlana’s deep voice resonated with the accent of her Russian homeland. It was rumored that she had been a countess or even the daughter of the Czar – but these were only rumors and the madam was not loosening her grip on any of her tightly-held secrets.

“I see you brought your doctor and your ‘Dogwatch’ young man – but who is the boy?” Madame Svetlana asked Slappy – who hadn’t noticed that young Spencer had come along under Dogwatch’s wing.
“What the hell are you doin’ here, lad?” Slappy asked Spencer rather crossly. The boy froze up, but Dogwatch spoke for him.

“He’s here for the same reason you and I are, Cap’n.”

“But he’s just a boy!” Cap’n Slappy exclaimed.

“He’s eighteen, Cap’n!” Dogwatch protested with a quick elbow into Spencer’s arm, “Aren’t you eighteen?”

Spencer nodded.

“He’s sixteen if he’s a day!” Slappy argued.

“Aye!” Dogwatch shot back. “The same age I was when you first brought me here!”

Slappy looked first at Doc Burgess, then to Madame Svetlana for help. Finding none, Madame Svetlana smiled and said softly, “Mahren, would you take Mister Spencer to The Fireside Room?”

Mahren made her way through the wall of scantily clad women. She was young. Not as young as Young Spencer, but young – perhaps nineteen. She was dressed in a French maid’s outfit. At first, Slappy thought she was one of the house staff. She looked too … inexperienced … to be working as one of Madame Svetlana’s girls.

Her light brown hair was the same color as Young Spencer’s and it shaped her girlish face nicely. Her eyes were large and sea green. Her lips were full but not cartoonishly so. Her body, while small, was very athletic in composition. Her muscular legs could easily be seen through her fishnet stockings. She made no eye contact until she walked up to Spencer and extended her hand. He hesitated, but a shoulder nudge from Dogwatch broke him out of his trance. He took Mahren’s hand and she led him down the hall until the two of them disappeared into another corridor.

Sawbones found his “regular,” Bessie – a tall Swedish woman. Older than most of the other girls, but he liked that about her. She had studied anthropology at the University of Stockholm and had come to Jamaica to study the indigenous people of the Caribbean. Not being confined by the sexual morals of Western European culture had been a freeing experience for her and she used this new-found freedom to supplement her monthly income. “She does that sexual voodoo stuff that keeps me comin’ back for more!” The good doctor confessed.

Having accomplished his goal of getting Young Spencer through the doorway to manhood, Dogwatch was now ready to reward himself, “I’ll take you, and you and you!” he pointed to the three most beautiful women in the crowd and they giggled and scampered over to his side. The fourth most beautiful stamped her foot and scowled in abject disappointment. “Oh, alright! I’m feeling rather energetic this evening – you may come along, but you’ll have to keep those two busy while I start with this one.” The five of them formed a cloud of hands and arms and bodies intertwined as they wandered down the hall toward a room called, “The Snake Pit.”

Cap’n Slappy turned toward Madame Svetlana and popped his eyebrows up and down. “So, at last, we are alone.” He added a tiger-like growl to his observation which, however, was false. Rather than being alone, they were in a parlor that still held at least forty women – not including The Madame herself.

Madame Svetlana wagged her finger in a forbidding manner back and forth in Slappy’s face while she made the “tch-tch” sound behind her beautifully pursed lips. “Oh, Slappy!” she groaned sympathetically, “You always want whatever it is you can’t have.”

“Those are always the best things.” Slappy shot back, still trying to put on his sexiest moves.

Madame Svetlana sighed and smiled. “Would you like to join me in sexual congress?” Her tone was conspiratorial – as if she had been hiding this surprise from him all evening.

Slappy’s eyes widened. “Do you mean it? Are you ready?” He could barely contain his excitement.

“Oh, yes. Cap’n Slappy. And it will be everything you ever dreamed it would be. All things are prepared – so long as you have our agreed-upon price.”

Slappy didn’t have to think twice or even search for the money. He had kept the correct sum in a purple velvet bag that had hung from his belt since the night he and Madame Svetlana had discussed the possibility of a “sexual congress.” During battles and dark times, his fingers found comfort in fondling the bag as a reminder that there were still joys to be had and things that needed doing.

As he pulled the bag off his belt and handed it to Madame Svetlana, she signaled to the girls who cheered and ran down a secret corridor. “They are going to prepare themselves. They’ve been working very hard at this because they do not wish to disappoint you, Cap’n Slappy.”

“I’m sure they will do just fine.” Slappy said, barely containing his excitement. He had so many questions, but didn’t want to spoil the surprise. Madame Svetlana invited him to sit with her in the parlor. After a couple of moments of awkward silence she asked, “So, how is your brother – the admiral?”

Down the hall, Mahren had drawn a hot bath and had lit candles all over The Fireside Room. A roaring fire from the fireplace further illuminated the area in a warm glow. “This is your first time, isn’t it?” Mahren asked.

“Yes.” Spencer’s mouth was dry, he could hardly get the word out.
Mahren gave him a sip of rum in orange juice. “Let’s get you out of these.” She said as she tugged gently at his clothes. She moved slowly and deliberately – trying not to fright the boy. As she opened his britches, he gasped. She reached down the front of his pants and felt that everything was where it should be and in good working order.

Spencer began to shudder. He held her body close to his and pressed his cheek next to hers. Mahren caressed him and coaxed out his first orgasmic coming of age moment. “Breathe.” She whispered into his ear. “Breathe, Sweetheart.”

“Oh, my god!” Spencer gasped. “Dear god! What was that?” He tried to catch his breath.

“That was nature, Sweetheart.” Mahren whispered as she withdrew her hand and wiped off her arm.

“I’m so sorry!” Spencer said. “What did I do to you?”

“Let’s get you in the bath and I will explain all.” She lead him naked to the tub and helped him in. She soaped up a rag and began washing his body. He visibly relaxed under her cleansing touch.

After several minutes Mahren had thoroughly bathed the young man. “You know,” she observed, “this is a big tub – there’s plenty of room for two of us in there.” Spencer smiled as she slipped gracefully out of her French Maid costume. He had never seen a woman naked before and to his eyes, this was the most beautiful thing he had, or would ever see. Strong yet soft, her curves and her pink skin drew him in. As she stepped into the tub all he could think of was her softness and her smell. Sweet musk.

She positioned herself over him and lowered herself on top of his re-erect manhood. With the help of her guiding hand, he was soon inside her. Excitement coursed through his veins like electricity. “Shhh.” She whispered. His eyes fixed on hers. “I love you, ma’am.” He ejaculated from his mouth. “Shhh.” She repeated, then continued. “We usually don’t kiss on the mouth, so don’t expect it next time you’re with a girl in a brothel, but this time is special. Just relax.” As she spoke, she lowered her lips to meet his. Spencer had as little experience kissing as he had with anything else. She showed him by example how to give and take at kissing and he learned quickly.

Soon, their bodies were once again moving – eyes still fixed on each other. Spencer knew, “I love you,” had been a mistake – but he wanted to say something … to tell her something to let her know how much he felt for her. “I wish we could stay here forever.” Was the best he could come up with. Tears welled up in Mahren’s eyes and one rolled off her cheek and splashed onto Spencer’s. “Me too.” She repeated, “Me too.”

Back in the parlor, one of the girls who was now dressed like an parliamentary attendant invited Madame Svetlana and Cap’n Slappy to “the floor,” where they were just in time for “the debates.” Slappy was shown to his “Speaker’s” chair while Madame Svetlana sat to his immediate right. The room was an amphitheater and the tables around the room were dedicated to the “representatives” who were played by the girls. But rather than states, counties or provinces, they each represented a sexual act which they would demonstrate during each “debate.”

Sexual Congress!” Madame Svetlana declared, “Oh! Cap’n Slappy! You and your love of democracy!” She looked over to see that he had already donned his white wig of state.

“Shhh.” Slappy replied with giddily feigned crossness, “I’m hearing the debate between Doggy-Style and The Sixty-Niner.”

Friday, October 21, 2005


A Pirate Tale 112

Ol’ Chumbucket was leading Oscar, Saucy Jenny and their new companion – the stranger they had rescued from a mob – back to the Festering Boil via back alleys and dark shadows. They had almost reached the docks and the safety of the ship when they heard a commotion from their left.

Chumbucket quickly dragged them into the shadow of a warehouse until they could figure out what was happening and whether it meant more trouble for them.

Down the major street leading to the docks came a running figure – a huge running figure – followed at some distance by a mob of a half dozen or so sailors. The figure in the lead wasn’t moving THAT fast, they probably could have closed the gap, but for the figure’s habit of reaching into various pockets, pulling out another pistol, and firing it randomly over his shoulder.

“McCormack,” Chumbucket said. Hearing the name of one of her shipmates, Jenny moved as if to help him, but Chumbucket thrust her back into the shadows. “He’s been here before, he can handle it. Just watch,” he said.

Cementhands McCormack cleared the street and turned into the harbor area. It looked as if he was home free when a second group of sailors came boiling out of a side street, cutting him off.

“Now do we go help him?” Jenny demanded.

“Sit still, watch and learn,” Chumbucket said. “Besides, whatever this is about, you can rest assured he deserves it.” All the same, Chumbucket checked his sash to make sure his cutlass was ready.

McCormack stopped dead in his tracks, feinted right as if to try to skirt the mob on the street side, rather than the waterside. This caused them to halt, giving him time to turn, aim carefully with his last pistol, and fire a shot that sent those coming up behind him scattering. The lantern lighting the scene shattered, plunging the area into darkness. McCormack lunged at a pile of crab traps piled at the edge of the wharf and pulled them over, blocking their path as he raced down the dock. Unfortunately, it was the wrong dock. The Festering Boil was tied up at the end of the second pier, some quarter mile away.

With a growl of satisfaction the crowd edged down the pier, where McCormack was calmly removing his boots and dumping something into them. They were about 20 feet away when he finished what he was doing, stood and waved pleasantly at the crowd. Suddenly his wave stopped and his face froze in a grimace. A gurgle escaped his lips and he froze, then pointing beyond the crowd he screamed.

It was an old trick, maybe the oldest in the book, and there’s no way it should have worked. But the crowd paused, and many of them looked back. That’s how good an actor McCormack was. They heard a splash, and when they turned back he was gone.

Torches were lit and the braver of the mob actually dropped into the water to search under the pier. Others tried searching the ships tied up on the dock, but were quickly turned away by the ships’ watch parties.

“Okay, we should be able to make the Boil without trouble now,” Chumbucket said. “Remember, we just got here, we didn’t see anything and we don’t know anyone like the man they’re describing.” He repeated that several times to members of the angry group still searching for the missing man.

Chumbucket had just shepherded his charges back aboard The Festering Boil when he heard a scraping sound. He leaned over and sure enough, there was McCormack, clinging to the side of the ship facing the ocean, slowly and carefully reeling in a line that ran into the water. Chumbucket offered a hand but McCormack just waved and kept pulling in the line. Eventually he had his prize – his boots. Grasping them under one arm, he clambered up the side, landing with a squishy thud on the deck.

“So what have you been up to?” Chumbucket asked casually.

“Oh, not much. Had a nice time at Wonder Wenches and thought I’d take a little swim to clear my head and try to get rid of any body lice I might have picked up.”

“And the crowd that chased you down the dock?”

“Oh, you saw that did you? A little misunderstanding about a dice game. Hold this,” he said, thrusting a sodden boot at Chumbucket.

The boot was much heavier than even McCormack’s large footwear ought to be. Chumbucket looked inside and saw that it was half full of gold coins. Presumably the other was as well. Chumbucket pulled out a handful and held them in front of McCormack.

“Well, yeah, of course I didn’t want to try swimming with all that gold in my pockets,” the big man said matter-of-factly. “I had them tied off to a cord so I could drag them along.”

“And this came from?”

“Fine, if you want the whole story while I’m sitting here soaking wet …”

McCormack’s “whole story” began several hours earlier when he arrived at Wonder Wenches in the company of Cap’n Slappy, Sawbones Burgess, Dogwatch, Black Butch and Two Patch. They all headed toward the parlor where the services both of the kitchen and the boudoir were available. McCormack was arrested by a familiar sound, the rattling of dice in a cup. Ordering a large rum, he waved his friends on and went back to watch.

The players barely looked up when he came into the room, taking a seat in the corner as inconspicuously as a person of his massive size and legendary reputation can. Armed with his drink, he sat quietly and watched for almost 40 minutes. When the bar maid came in taking orders, he asked for another rum, then rose and moved to the edge of the crowd.

“Oooh, that was a tough one,” he commiserated as one of the dicers lost a rather large bet on throw that was just one number off. He continued to watch, becoming more vocal, tossing some gold into the pot and offering more and more advice. When a roller won McCormack howled with as much delight as if he’d won. A stranger’s loss brought groans of commiseration. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, he had become not just part of the group, but a major source of the fun everyone seemed to be having, not just the winners. And his action just grew louder and more exuberant the more he drank.

(“And I presume you started acting as referee and judge, along with placing some bets on all the action? Chumbucket said, interrupting the flow of Cementhands’ story. “Well naturally, someone needed to make sure the finer points and lesser rules were observed,” the pirate said modestly. “I happen to have a fine eye for details.” “Details like foot faults?” Chumbucket asked. Cementhands just smiled and said, “Well, as a matter of fact, we’re coming to that.”)

A new roller came to the line and threw an eight – five and a three. Cementhands immediately called out, “Admiral’s Reverse!” No one seemed to pay much attention, but when the roller then tossed a seven, McCormack screamed with glee and immediately passed him an extra five gold coins from the pile on the betting line.

“What are you doing? He lost!” one of the other players said.

“Lost? What are you talking about? He threw a seven on a three and a five!” McCormack said as if that explained everything, or anything. “Admiral’s reverse! Don’t you guys know anything? Three and five are 35, which is the age Tharp was when he became an admiral. Seven fives are 35, which means he wins five times the bet.”

There was much grumbling about this, but McCormack argued long and loud and eventually it was agreed that for the rest of the game they’d follow this “rule.” No one wanted to seem ignorant, which was certainly what McCormack was implying. The game continued, with McCormack periodically explaining some other rule that seemed to have escaped the educational processes of the other players.

After a couple more passes the shooter passed the dice to the next man in line, who, after two passes again threw a three and a five. He looked expectantly at McCormack, who put a large stack of coins on the table. The shooter put down more of his own money down, matching the bet. Several other players also went “all in.” There was more money on the floor than there had been at any time of the evening.

The man threw a seven and grinned, but only for second.

“Foot fault!” McCormack shouted, reaching down for the money.

“What?” the shooter asked.

“Foot fault! You automatically forfeit the bet and half to pass the dice.” McCormack was collecting all the money on the table, irrespective of who had placed it.

“What do you mean foot fault? My feet didn’t do anything?”

“Exactly!” McCormack shouted, starting to put the piles of coins into his many, ample pockets. “You didn’t extend your foot past your knee when you threw the dice!”

“So what? I didn’t do that before and no one called it. I’ve NEVER done that!!”

“Really? I hadn’t notice,” McCormack said, and immediately began sweeping up the rest of the man’s coins. The man took exception and grabbed McCormack’s wrist. Others leaned back, eying the situation warily.

“Look,” McCormack said, grasping the man’s arm with his free hand – which was not only larger than his opponent’s hand but larger than many hams that have won blue ribbons at various church picnics. “You just TOLD us you have been foot-faulting all along. What kind of cheater are you?”

The other men looked at the shooter with undisguised malice. A cheater!

“I don’t know where you’re used to playing dice, but in a place like this we have certain rules …”

“YOU PUT MY MONEY BACK!!” the man shouted at McCormack, who looked offended and turned to the confused onlookers.

“Gentlemen, I don’t wish to continue playing where I’m accused of chicanery just because I made an obvious call. If you want to play with a foot-faulting cheat, that’s your business. But I’m going to bid you all adieu.”

His words confused the issue long enough for him to reach the door before several of the players noticed that they suddenly had no money. It was all in the possession of the big guy who was heading out.

“Hold it you!”

Too late. McCormack had reached the door, stepped through it and slammed it shut. He leaned his bulk against it long enough to wedge a chair from the hallway under it, which gave him just enough time to hit the street before they were after him.

Chumbucket laughed.

“Why do you go to all the trouble? Why don’t you just hit them on the head and rob them as they’re approaching the place?”

“Professional pride,” Cementhands replied. “Look, I’m pirate. I steal stuff from people for a living. That’s my job. This was more …” He searched for the word.

“A hobby?” Chumbucket asked. “A lark? A second career?”

“Something like that,” Cementhands allowed expansively. “It was just fun, getting in there, getting things stirred up, seeing how far I could go. And it’s not like it didn’t cost me anything. These boots are ruined, I lost my coat and a perfectly good pair of loaded dice, and I missed my chance in the Wonder Wenches’ Whoopee Room. I won’t be able to leave the ship tomorrow, because I’m sure those guys’ll still be looking for me.”

“Speaking of Wonder Wenches, where’s the captain?” Chumbucket asked.


“You know, the captain. Cap’n Slappy? Runs the ship?”

“Oh yeah, him. I don’t know, he went inside. I’m sure he’s giving his own idea of a good time.”

Monday, October 17, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 111 “Slightly Moistened Torso”

“Vloek en Ontploffing!” Slappy bellowed as he attempted to dress himself in a style that might befit a pirate captain of his elevated status. But like most men of his considerable girth, he struggled with the finer points of what might for others appear to be mundane tasks; tying on his sash, pulling on his boots, getting his arms into their appropriate sleeves. “God damn clothing technology!” He looked like a billowy ghost flailing its arms in the air whilst in the throes of an epileptic seizure.

Sawbones Burgess and Ol’ Chumbucket stood in the doorway of the captain’s cabin waiting and nicely quaffed for what promised to be an evening of unbridled avarice and wanton womanizing.

“The man can navigate a ship through a coral reef on a cloudy night using only his sense of smell but he is completely at a loss when attempting to pull a shirt on over his freshly washed and slightly moistened torso.” Burgess observed.

Ol’ Chumbucket tried to squeeze the words “slightly moistened torso” immediately out of his consciousness but realized quickly that the only remedy was to replace the image of Cap’n Slappy with one of the many lovely young Wonder Wenches they would soon be admiring.

“Bucket! Be a good fellow and help me with my boots, will you?” Cementhands asked as he approached them from behind carrying his boots in one hand and his favorite sturdy chair in the other.

Cap’n Slappy’s head emerged, turtle-like, from his shirt and he breathed a sigh of relief. “Yes! Yes! I OWN you, Shirt!” Then, catching a glimpse of his audience he added, “And I also own several shirts like you.” He had hoped to pass off his victory taunt as part of regular, casual conversation between a man and his clothing – but the lads weren’t buying it. Fortunately, their focus was largely consumed by their attempt to get Cementhands McCormack into his “I’m going to town and I’m going to do the bouncy-bouncy boots.”

Finally, when they were all dressed and ready, Cap’n Slappy poured four glasses of mango rum from a bottle he’d been saving since their last trip to Port Royal and proposed a toast. “To moderation – a nice concept but completely unworkable!” As they threw back their shots of fruity rum, Two Patch poked his bony face into the room.

“Beggin’ the Cap’n and company’s pardons but we have a point o’ order to address. Seein’ as Mister George has the watch o’ the ship today we need one o’ the officer class to accompany our newest pirates – Saucy Jenny and that fellar who’s always jottin’ down notes in his notebook …”

“Oscar?” Chumbucket asked.

“Aye!” Two Patch asserted, “It’s their first shore leave and the by-laws clearly state that …”

“Shore leaves for first-time crew members must be overseen by a ranking crew member up to and including the captain and that the decision of who that is will be based on a drawing of cards – low card serving as guide.” Ol’ Chumbucket finished – he knew his ships by-laws backward and forward.

“Why can’t they just go with Keeling and Red Molly?” Cap’n Slappy suggested.

“They’re finally taking a honeymoon, sir – I feel certain they would prefer not to have an audience for that.” Two Patch replied adding, “Which leaves you four.”

“Three!” Cementhands declared jingling his “regular crew” share of gold in his large leather pouch.

“I’ve promoted you five hundred times!” Slappy asserted.

“And I’ve always declined because of just this sort of thing!” Cementhands shot back.

“Well is there anyone else I can promote?” Slappy said hoping to raise his odds a bit, “How about Salty Jim or Black Butch?”

“Tried and declined.” Sawbones recalled. “Let’s just do this and get it over with.”

Cementhands quickly pulled a deck of cards out of his bag and spread it out evenly offering one to the good doctor first.

“Before I pull a card, I want to know if this is one of McCormack’s ‘trick’ decks.” The doctor said with the voice of experience.

Cementhands held the deck up in front of Two Patch’s face who, although he appeared to look straight through the cards, declared it a “good deck.”

Burgess pulled a card and looked at it. There was no reaction on his face when he asked, “Are aces high or low?”

“LOW!” McCormack declared hopefully.

“Oh,” Burgess said, still not giving anything away until he turned the card around showing the king of clubs. “Then that’s good for me.”

Cementhands then offered the deck to Slappy who drew his card from the middle of the thickest section. He did not maintain his poker face – “Three of hearts! De Uiteinden van de aap!”

But despite the fact that the captain had selected such a low card, Ol’ Chumbucket was not exuberant. He drew his card, looked at it, and immediately tried to put it back in the deck and draw another. When this failed, he just shook his head – “The deuces!” he said as both an oath and as a declaration of his card’s value. It was, in fact, the two of diamonds.

“Fine.” Ol’ Chumbucket said with some reservation, “I’ll pirate-sit the newbies. But we are staying another day so I can have my own fun, too!”

“Fair enough!” Cap’n Slappy declared, I’ll take them tomorrow.”

Six hours later, Cementhands sat at a table with Saucy Jenny and Oscar in one of Port Royal’s quieter drinking establishments, Hogshead Revisited. The two of them turned out to be good company and Saucy Jenny had a biting and acerbic wit that became more biting and more acerbic as the evening went on and she had more rum.

As the clock in the town square struck midnight, Ol’ Chumbucket couldn’t help but think of his pals down at The Wonder Wenches Whoopee Parlor and Whistle-Wetter having the time of their lives. Then, he recalled Doc Burgess’ description of Cap’n Slappy’s “slightly moistened torso,” and took another shot of rum in the hopes of blinding his imagination.

“Not that this hasn’t been an exciting evening,” Saucy Jenny began, “But when do we get to go about town without a leash?”

Oscar laughed as did Ol’ Chumbucket.

“Tomorrow night, you’ll be the guests of the Captain – he usually finds some trouble to get into.” Chumbucket explained.

“Well boys, I think I’ll head back to the ship and get some rest for tomorrow.” Saucy Jenny wasn’t that tired – but as nothing was happening at Hogshead Revisited, she thought she might as well go chat with George back on The Festering Boil.

Ol’ Chumbucket was not about to shirk his duties, so he picked up the tab and the three of them headed back toward the ship.

They’d gone only a few hundred feet when they heard a commotion in an alley. As they looked, they saw a dozen or so men armed with swords and torches bunched around a tall, young black man who was bound and gagged. They could see that the drunken group had slung a rope with a noose on the end over a broken lamp post.

Before Ol’ Chumbucket could say a word, Jenny was running headlong into the group – daggers in both hands and letting out a war whoop such as Ol’ Chumbucket and Oscar had never heard.

“Shit!” Ol’ Chumbucket swore as he reached for his pistols and set off after her on a dead run followed closely by Oscar who was trying to unsheathe his cutlass as he ran.

The shock of Jenny’s cry momentarily confused the group which had actually hoisted their intended victim into the air and dropped him back to the ground. Perhaps Jenny was hoping that her war whoop would scare the group off – but all it did was allow them to arm themselves and several of the group charged toward the on-coming trio.

A couple of pistol pops from the mob rang out and Ol’ Chumbucket could feel the balls whiz by his ears. “Too freaking close!” He thought to himself and he returned fire which came over both of Jenny’s shoulders taking out the two men who were closest to engaging her. She turned back toward Ol’ Chumbucket but there wasn’t time to explain. He dropped his pistols and pulled out his dagger and cutlass just in time to engage the enemy.

Jenny moved quickly as she spun away from one sword slash and sunk both her daggers, like teeth, into the side of one attacker. If this was her first kill, she didn’t show it. She pulled out her weapons and the spray of blood from her victim’s quickly emptying lungs splashed across her face – still, she came on. Her right foot struck the next attacker hard in his nuts and he doubled over in pain. She quickly slit his throat and did a barrel role over his back to avoid two more cutlass blows which sank into their dying comrade before he could hit the cobblestones.

Having divested himself of his empty pistols, Ol’ Chumbucket was now in his element. Dagger and cutlass had always been his strong suit and he put on a clinic for friend and foe alike. The two attackers who had barely missed Jenny as she gymnastically tumbled over her second victim were quickly dispatched by Ol’ Chumbucket who looked eerily calm in the midst of the fracas.

Jenny’s exuberance for the fight led to trouble. She had engaged two more opponents who also had skills and worked together to back her into a corner. She had decided that she could take on out but that the other would get her – this realization did not come easy – she hated to give up on the fight, but she had little choice. She plunged her daggers into the heart of one man while the other, cutlass already poised for the slaughter began his thrust only to have it interrupted by Oscar, who had finally unsheathed his cutlass, sticking him through the ribs like a bug in a display case.

The remainder of the mob scattered like rats leaving their intended victim, still bound with a noose around his neck. He was barely conscious.

Ol’ Chumbucket quickly untied the man and took the noose off his neck. He then checked his two young comrades to make sure they were alright.

“Not a scratch.” Jenny said, still panting.

“Let’s get him back to the ship.” Ol’ Chumbucket said. “Whoever he is, he has more enemies than friends.”

Thursday, October 13, 2005


A Pirate Tale 110


Jamaica – fabled island paradise. Warm beaches of white sand. Balmy breezes and cloudless skies. Beautiful women serving delicious drinks of rum and tropical fruit. And a government so friendly to pirates that they pretty much let them run the place. Who could ask for anything more?

The island lay on the horizon, backlit by the setting sun, as The Festering Boil approached from the southeast. The crew was eagerly looking forward to docking in Port Royal in the morning and hitting the town for a shore leave with plenty of Spanish gold in their pockets.

All except Oscar, whose red-rimmed eyes and growing fidgetiness were testaments to the lack of sleep he’d been suffering since moving into Slappy’s cabin three days ago. Keeling kept a close watch on him, waiting for the opportune moment to pin him down with some very pointed questions. He judged that the time was near.

On the main deck, Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy had convened the crew to dole out their shares of the prize money taken from the Spanish galleon. Chumbucket walked them through the process.

“We’ve determined the total amount of the treasure taken, which you will see on line 5 of the report I handed you,” he said. “As per our standard operating agreement which you each signed on joining the crew, Cap’n Slappy receives two shares, the other officers, including myself, George, Keeling and Sawbones, each receive one and a half shares. The rest of you, from the oldest hand, Two Patch, to the youngest, Gabriel the Powder Monkey, each receive one share. Also, the ship itself is accorded one share for maintenance and capital depreciation. Line 8 shows the total number of shares, and line 9 shows the amount per share – a very healthy dollar figure, I think you’ll agree.”

He was rewarded with a chorus of "Arrrs!" from t he crew.

Chumbucket peered over the top of the reading glasses he wore on such occasions. It was sometimes difficult working through this with the crew, and he more than once had urged Slappy to just let him hand out the money and deal with any questions that came afterwards. Most of the sailors wouldn’t be able to count that high anyway, and they were usually happy just to get some hard cash and go ashore. But Slappy pointed out that both the ship’s bylaws and the union rules called for a full accounting, and he’d rather err on the side of too much detail than too little. “Don’t want to bring down a complaint from the PLRB (Pirate Labor Relations Board,)” he always said. Chumbucket doubted there was such a thing as the PLRB and assumed this was Slappy’s way of getting even with him for usually beating him in their nightly poker games.

“Now, if you’ll turn the page you will see the standard deductions. Union dues, as required by your contract with the Brotherhood of Oceanic Merchants (BOOM) – see attachment A – is listed on the first line.”

“That’s BOTHERhood,” Cementhands called out from the back of the room.

“Yes, quite right McCormack. My apologies. The Botherhood of Oceanic Merchants. And congratulations, by the way, on being re-elected shop steward. Continuing, there’s a deduction for medical – this is what allows Sawbones to keep the infirmary well stocked,” they all glanced over at Burgess, who was filling tankards with rum from the infirmary’s stock.

“How come this isn’t handled under the ship’s maintenance fund?” Dogwatch asked. “After all, it seems like quite a bit to be spending on leeches and rum, when we buy rum anyway for the grog.”

“Different accounting category, Dogwatch, just like last time. I didn’t make up these rules." Actually he had made up quite few of them. "Which brings us to your allowance for food, which we compute on a per-man basis rather than attempt to keep an account on each item eaten by each individual member of the crew.” Here Chumbucket held up a hand, forestalling questions and objections. “It’s in the ship’s bylaws, which you all signed, so I don’t want to hear any complaints. If you have a problem with it, take it up with Butch” – the ship’s chef held up a cleaver, suggesting that people NOT take it up with him – “or Cementhands, because you all know what you’re really unhappy about is how much he eats relative to everyone else. And I’d just ask if you’d rather go into a battle without him next to you, scaring the bejeezus out of the enemy. No? Good, let’s continue.”

He plowed on, line by line, through everything from their cutlass allowance to deferred compensation and their retirement accounts (a 401Arrr plan recommended by the Brethren of the Coast) to such things as postage and the contributions to the Old Pirates Home and Widows and Orphans Fund. Chumbucket could see that he was losing them. Good, the longer the report went the fewer questions there would be. Not that anyone would be upset by what was coming next.

“So, if you’ll turn to the last page, you’ll see that your payout as of this period is …”

Chumbucket’s actual statement of the amount was lost in the whoop of delight from each pirate present when they read the grand total. It was more money than many of them had seen in their entire lives. Even Oscar, who had been nodding off in the corner, was wide awake and staring through bloodshot eyes in awe at the size of his share.

“So I assume this takes some of the sting off losing that huge treasure in the Indian Ocean last spring,” Slappy said, rising to take the podium from Chumbucket.

“Now, before we hand out the actual gold, I just want to remind you that this is real money, and tomorrow you’ll be going into a harbor town notorious for being able to separate sailors from their swag. I urge you not to bring all your cash with you into town, not to try to drink all of this – we’ll only be in town two days – not to gamble it all away, and especially not to get married to the first woman who’s nice to you.” This was Slappy’s standard shore leave speech. In fact, it came directly from the owner’s manual that had come with the Festering Boil when he became captain all those years ago. The sailors weren’t listening anyway, since Slappy personal example clearly indicated it was strictly a “do as I say, not as I do” proposition.

“Chumbucket will be passing you each a list of investment opportunities cleared both by your union and the Brethren of the Coast as safe, stable places to use a portion of your shares to build your portfolios. Along with the usual Brethren Bonds and the BOOM Mutual Fund, you’ll see ‘must-buy’ recommendations for Amalgamated Shipwrights, Johnson & Johnson’s Bloodletting Emporiums, McBouncy’s Franchised Boutique Bordellos (over 1 million sailors served) and Cutlass Brothers Cannons, catering to the discriminating pirate since 1658. Any questions before we start doling out your shares?”

Keeling was surveying the list. Finally he raised a hand.

“Sir? What are you planning to do with your share?”

A grin split Slappy’s face.

“I’m racing you all to The Wonder Wenches Whoopee Parlor and Whistle-Wetter, and any of you who think you can outdrink me, you’re certainly welcome to try!”

A cheer accompanied the captain’s words, and the sailors turned to the table where Chumbucket sat with their gold in individual hemp sacks. Then the sailors would wash, change to their relatively clean clothes, and in the morning, after the ship had weathered the Palisadoes, the long sand spit that connected Port Royal to the rest of the island, they would hit the town. Hard.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 109 “Lost in Translation”

The Spanish captain and his most loyal crew members were loaded into two longboats that had been salvaged from their own wreckage with enough provisions to facilitate a safe trip to Santa Domingo so long as everybody stuck to a carefully laid out water ration. Cap’n Slappy even slipped a couple of gold coins into the captain’s hand but made it clear that it was for a round of drinks for the lads when they arrived safely. The Spanish captain appreciated the fact that they were not simply executed and flung overboard so he shook Cap’n Slappy’s hand and promised that the next time they met, it would be he that would extend such mercies.

“Yes, yes, I appreciate that Manuel.” Slappy said jovially, “But don’t you count out those sharks out there between here and Santa Domingo – they’re pretty hungry and those long boats offer little by way of protection. Hell, my friend, they’ll probably get you before you have the chance to show me mercy!” Then he laughed. The Spanish captain laughed as well, although he only understood about a third of Slappy’s statement.

The rest of the Spanish survivors remained on The Festering Boil and busily filled out applications for employment.

“Those of you who don’t make the cut …” Chumbucket said as Cementhands McCormack translated, “Usted hombres que olor de las heces de la cabra.” (You men who smell of goat feces)

Chumbucket continued, “… will be delivered safely to Port Royal where you can try your hand at piracy aboard another ship.”

Again, McCormack translated, “será bañado en real portuario por dos mujeres jóvenes hermosas con moralejas flojas!” (will be bathed in Port Royal by two beautiful young women with loose morals!)

At this, the small gathering of Spanish sailors cheered enthusiastically.

Chumbucket was surprised by their enthusiasm and leaned toward Cementhands, “Are you sure you translated that correctly?”

“Aye! Word for word!” Cementhands answered innocently.

Chumbucket addressed the crowd in a serious tone, “Now understand, not all of you will be allowed to stay aboard this ship!” He gestured toward the deck.

Repeating the gesture, Cementhands translated, “¡Ahora me estoy imaginando el tener de sexo con la su derecha de la madre aquí!” (I am now imagining myself having sex with your mother right here!)

The demeanor of the sailors shifted sharply toward upsettedness.
Chumbucket, seeing this shift sought quickly to reassure them, “But don’t worry, we will make sure you all have placement aboard a Brethren Approved, pirate ship!” Then he laughed somewhat awkwardly having made up “Brethren Approved” on the spot.

Cementhands followed this with, “¿Dije a SU madre? ¡Signifiqué, MI madre! ¡Me imagino el tener de sexo con la MI derecha de la madre aquí!” (Did I say YOUR mother? I meant, MY mother! I imagine myself having sex with MY mother right here!) Cementhands offered his own version of an awkward laugh.

The men’s upsettedness turned to disgust as they quickly dispersed.

“Madre” Chumbucket spoke with calm, even tone, “that’s ‘Mother’ isn’t it?”

“Aye!” Cementhands said cheerfully as he waved at the retreating Spaniards.

“MI Madre – that’s something about ‘My Mother,’ isn’t it?” Chumbucket’s voice remained calm.

“Aye!” Cementhands nodded with a very big smile on his face.

Chumbucket looked at him, “You’re the worst translator ever, aren’t you?”

Cementhands smiled even more broadly and nodded, “Aye! That I am!”

Cap’n Slappy was napping in his cabin and snoring like a demon out of the noisiest depths of hell. Dogwatch and Keeling could feel the vibrations of the deck boards under their feet.

“It’s bad enough that McCormack’s cabin is so near the general sleeping quarters, could you imagine what it would be like to have the Cap’n sleeping in there?” Dogwatch asked hypothetically.

“If we were interrogating a prisoner, we would do well to place him on a cot in the Cap’n’s quarters – the sleep deprivation alone would be enough to make him crack and give us the information we’re looking for.” Keeling said thoughtfully.

“Do we have any prisoners from whom we are trying to glean information?” Dogwatch asked.

Keeling thought for a moment, “No,” he thought harder, “No prisoners, per se, but there is someone I have some questions for and we might get more out of him if he were forced to sleep in the Cap’n’s quarters – or NOT sleep as the case may be.”

“Two questions,” Dogwatch was very interested, “Who? And how?”

“I’m reluctant to offer the ‘who’ as I do not wish to cast doubt on someone who may be a completely innocent person. As for the ‘how,’ I’ll have to come up with something that satisfies the curiosity of both my subject and the Cap’n.”

Later that evening, when Oscar arrived at his hammock on the sleeping deck, a note was placed on one of the hooks that normally held his hammock up. “See me! – LEFtenant Keeling”

“Welcome to my quarters, Oscar!” The Cap’n’s welcome was warm and genuine. “LEFtenant Keeling tells me that you’ll be my roommate for the next few days while they look to the infestation of Brazilian Laser Ants in the beams that supported your hammock. Never heard of ‘em – Brazilian Laser Ants … but a Brazilian, that’s gotta be a lot, right?” The Cap’n paused, then he waited, then he raised his eyebrows and made circling gestures with his hands … “a BRA-ZIL-ian is a lot …” this time adding emphasis to “Brazilian.”

“I get it.” Oscar said softly.

“Like it’s a number and not a country’s residents?” Slappy explained a hair too late.

“Yeah, I get it.” Oscar repeated then offered politely, “It’s funny.”

Slappy released a huge, satisfied sigh – “Ah! Roommates! … Do you know how long it’s been since I had a roommate?”

“Since your last marriage?” Oscar guessed.

“Oh, that doesn’t count, now, does it?” Slappy shrugged, “A wife is a sex partner – at first, before she becomes a nattering harpee who devotes her every waking moment to letting you know what a catastrophic failure you are with the constant chirping boring a hole in the back of your skull – ‘wha wha wha … wha wha – nya nya-nya nya … nya!” Slappy moved the fingers and thumb on his right hand like it was de-gloved sock puppet.

“But a roommate is a pal, a chum, a comrade! Say! I have an idea! Would you like to play a game? I picked up a board game while we were in Sao Paulo!”

Slappy reached into his wardrobe and pulled out a colorful box with the word, PESAROSO! on the cover.

“If it’s all the same, Cap’n, I’d like to turn in – it’s been a busy day and tomorrow promises to be just as busy.” Oscar said apologetically.

With only a momentary flash of disappointment on his face, Slappy agreed. “Of course, of course! Lots of work on a pirate ship, eh? What with battling Spaniards and Brazilian Laser Ants and what not!”

Oscar climbed into his hammock and Cap’n Slappy crawled into his bunk. “Don’t mind my tossing and turning, lad.” Slappy said, “It sometimes takes me a while to get to sleep, but once I am, I’m as quiet as a …” He hadn’t reached the end of his sentence before Cap’n Slappy’s timber shivering snoring began rattling the walls.

Oscar laid on his hammock – wide eyed.

Friday, October 07, 2005


A Pirate Tale 108: The Cannons Of Journalism

“Oscar, a word with you?”

Ol’ Chumbucket had waited until evening, when The Festering Boil was under way again, its hold now crammed with the gold intended for Spanish garrisons up and down the Caribbean. Quite a few soldiers were going to be extra grumpy in the coming months. Weighted down with all the gold aboard her, the Boil would have a very bad time of it if she were to try running over the shoals now.

With that in mind, Slappy had Dogwatch Watts lay in the safest course he could find for Port Royal, the only place in the Caribbean he could hope to offload that much gold without arousing the attention of the local authorities. Nominally a British outpost, the colony was literally run by pirates. There were few ports safer for the Boil right now than Port Royal.

So the ship was headed westerly, a strong breeze blowing off the port quarter, and the crew was guardedly relaxed (it being impossible to be completely relaxed with all that gold aboard.) And Ol’ Chumbucket had bided his time until late in the evening, when the shanty singing had died down and most of the pirates had drifted off to sleep, visions of bar wenches dancing in their heads. He had seen to it that Oscar had drawn the middle watch, and waited patiently. Finally, at four bells (2 a.m. for you lubbers out there) he approached the novice seaman/magazine reporter.

“Yessir?” Oscar said, hastily shoving his notebook into an inner pocket of his Gore-Tex rain slicker. (Oscar was nothing if not well accessorized. It had been paid for by his Pirattitude Monthly expense account.)

“Just wanted to chat, Gets kinda lonely in the late watches, don’t you find?”

Oscar looked at him warily, but just nodded assent.

“What did you think of today’s action?”

Oscar shifted his feet momentarily, then answered, “Quite interesting. Not to say it didn’t have it’s more – what’s the word I want?”

“Scary?” Chumbucket supplied.

“Yes, scary moments. When we went over that rock I thought we were goners”

“Oh, it wasn’t as close as it seemed,” Chumbucket said expansively, leaning back against the rail. “I know Slappy can act the fool from time to time, it’s part of his persona. But he knows this ship, knows what she can do, can feel her in the water. I was never too concerned that we’d bottom out. You have to understand that about Slappy if you’re going to write about him. For all his talk about his many ex-wives and all, it’s this ship that’s part of him. Well, this ship and that monkey, but I think that’s just a flirtation. You may quote me.”

Oscar’s hand darted towards the pocket where he kept his notebook, then held back, uncertain if the pirate was joking or not and decided he probably was.

“Still,” Oscar said, “It had its moments, didn’t it?”

“Oh yes. You know, you’re luckier than most reporters.”

“How so?” Oscar asked.

“Well, most reporters don’t actually DO anything, do they? They just watch other people do things, and then write about it. That’s got to be very frustrating after a while, I would imagine.”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

“But it’s true, isn’t it?” Ol’ Chumbucket continued. “But you got the chance to take part in a real pirate raid. That should make good copy for a story. Of course, if you were an actual member of the crew instead of a reporter, it would have been quite rewarding. We haven’t counted out the gold yet, but your share, if you were a pirate, would be a fairly tidy sum, enough anyway to allow you to retire from pirating, or reporting, or whatever it is you do.”

Oscar hadn’t considered that. It was a new angle.

“Of course,” Chumbucket continued, “your principles couldn’t let you do that, I’m sure. And if you were to write up the story for the magazine and it became common knowledge that you had taken part in a pirate raid that had so much success against the Spanish government, some court somewhere might consider it necessary to order you to pay that money to the crown. Or Pirattitude Monthly might expect you to take that in lieu of your usual payment.”

Oscar’s eyes grew round. He hadn’t thought of that either. Even worse, the magazine might expect him to pay back some of the advance and expense money he’d already spent. That would put a crimp in his retirement plans. Chumbucket continued casually.

“Still, it must be worth it. It’ll be a hell of a story and maybe even win you that prize you were on about.”

“The Putzler?” Oscar spat. “It’s purely honorary. The money that comes with the Putzler wouldn’t buy a round of drinks for the magazine’s advertising department. Of course, people who work in advertising tend to drink an awful lot, and they’re nothing compared to the production department, but the point still holds. It’s not much money.”

“Well, there are advantages to being a member of the Fourth Estate, I’m sure,” Chumbucket said, “Off the top of my head I can’t imagine what they might be but I’m sure there are some. Still and all, I think you’d probably be better served by living up to your signature on the crew manifest and forget your name on the magazine asthead.”

“You may have a point,” Oscar agreed slowly.

“So you consider yourself one of us, so to speak,” Chumbucket asked casually.

“As you say. It might be to my advantage,” said the reporter turned pirate, and Chumbucket judged it wasn’t so much a turn as a slight veer.

“You know, as one crewman to another, there’s something I’ve been wondering about.”

“What’s that,” Oscar asked.

“That hat, the one from the Tigershark. Where did you say you got it?”

Oscar tensed slightly, but answered, “From a sailor on the Bloody Scuppers.”

“But which sailor? I only ask because I know several of the fellows under O’Toole’s command and was just curious. And how did you say he came by it?”

“I didn’t. The story came to me in confidence. As a journalist, I never betray a source.”

“Oh, but this wouldn’t be betraying anyone. Nobody here but us pirates, you know? I just love a good sea yarn.”

“The sea yarns I’ve collected were supposed to be for the magazine, I couldn’t just blurt them out to anyone.”

“But you aren’t considering yourself a reporter, or only a reporter, any more are you?”

“Well, that’s hard to say. But either way, I was definitely a reporter when I received that information in confidence and I can’t betray a source.”

“You don’t have to say a thing,” Chumbucket soothed. “Just let me have a look in your notebook.”

That was obviously the wrong thing to say, because Oscar’s eyes grew round and his look of offended dignity was complete.

“I never!” he declared. “In all my days, I have never heard of such a heinous thing. A reporter turning over his notes? The idea is unthinkable. I would go to jail first! There’s such a thing as professional honor.”

There’s also such a thing as a cat o’nine tails, Chumbucket thought, but he didn’t say it. Instead he put on his most contrite look.

“I’m sorry. Forgive me. I didn’t understand how deeply you might hold that trust. If it’s that important to you, I would never dream of putting you in a position where you had to choose between a life of luxury earned as a member of the ship’s crew and your professional honor. It was wrong of me to put you in the position, and your editors at the magazine will certainly hear from me about what a fine set of journalistic ethics” – Chumbucket almost choked on the phrase – “you posses. Here, let us say no more about it.”

“Wait,” Oscar said nervously. “A life of luxury? Just for the sake of discussion, exactly how much money are we talking about?”

Ol’ Chumbucket named a figure that made Oscar’s eyes pop. “And that’s per crew member, and it’s the lowest reasonable estimate I can give without actually counting it up. We’ll have a better idea in a few days. It might be twice that. Not that it really matters, your ethics being so strong and all. I understand. It could be a pound or a million pounds. The amount matters not. Good morning to you.”

“Wait!” Oscar said. “You know, there’s a lot of talk these days about the ‘New Journalism,’ where reporters become personally involved to get a better understanding of their subject. And there’s also the whole “gonzo” journalism thing, where the rules don’t apply at all.”

“But you, sir,” Chumbucket said, “have nothing of the “gonzo” about you, and you’ve convinced me of your journalistic bona fides. So for now, a bien tot!”

“No, now, hold on,” Oscar said to Chumbucket’s departing back. Chumbucket stopped, counted to five, then turned. “Now, you don’t’ want to USE the notes for anything do you?”

“Oh, you have my word as a pirate on that.”

“And I’d get the notebook back,” Oscar said.

“Of course. What in the world would I want with reporter’s notebook?”

“And it would help me understand the world of pirates if I shared in EVERY aspect of your lives. I mean, it would make me a better reporter, wouldn’t it?”

Chumbucket took a step closer. “That seems reasonable to me.”

Oscar hesitated a moment, then reached into his pocket.

“And I’d be a full member of the crew, with rights to a full share, even though I didn’t actually keelhaul anyone or anything like that?”


He handed over the notebook.

“I’ll get this back to you just as soon as I can.”

“No hurry,” Oscar said. “I have to find a new story angle first.”

Chumbucket took the notebook and retired to his small space below deck. Oscar’s handwriting was eccentric and his spelling even worse, but the pirate was able to make out the gist of it. Very interesting, he thought, making his own notes. I’ll have to figure out what to do with this. But it can wait a bit. For now, we’ve got to get to Port Royal.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 107 "A Good Sitting Chair"

They brought The Festering Boil as close to the wrecked Spanish merchantman as they dared and dropped anchor. They could see the Spanish captain and some of his officers trying to get away in a long boat with a large chest, but a well placed cannon shot in front of the bow of the slow moving “get-away” vessel was more than enough to convince them that running was futile.

Cap’n Slappy ordered his own long boats into the water to rescue whatever crew could be saved and see what salvage the wreck had to offer.

“They destroyed my cabin – the least they can do is have the decency to replace my sitting chair.” Slappy declared – not caring that he had, as was sometimes his custom, described an object based solely on its function. This, of course, was seen in his references to “cutting knives,” “sleeping beds” and “drinking glasses.” But objects had to “earn” these adjectives by being particularly good at the function for which they were designed.

Of course, when Ol’ Chumbucket heard Slappy make this grammatical faux pas, he felt compelled to follow up with a friendly mockery which fueled other friendly mockeries among the “established” crew.

“Shall we take along our fighting swords and shooting muskets, Cap’n?” Chumbucket asked with a grin.

“Of course!” Slappy replied, not quite getting the joke. “They tried to run, who knows if they may or may not try to fight?” This seemed like Piracy 101 to Slappy who was shocked that Ol’ Chumbucket would even ask.

“How about me whackin’ bar, Cap’n? Shall I take that, too?” Cementhands joined in the fun.

Slappy was perplexed – he wondered why his men, usually “self-starters,” needed so much direction.

“I’ll be lowering the “Floating on water” longboats at your orders, Cap’n!” Dogwatch added with unmitigated mockery in his voice.

Finally, Cap’n Slappy caught on. His eyebrows shot upward and his face grimaced with combined anger and embarrassment – but quickly eased … he could take as well as give. “That’s very good! You are all very funny pirates. You should have pursued a life of entertainment like the entertaining entertainers you are!”

“Like acting actors?” Doc Burgess couldn’t resist.

“No, like freaky freaks! Now put the floaty boats in the wet water and get your stinky arses out thar and check on those Spanish Spaniards!” Slappy ordered with a smile and a “shooing” gesture with his right hand.

He then turned to check on the damage to his cabin.

Cementhands and Ol’ Chumbucket chatted with one of the newer crew members who was a part of the rowing crew as they approached the listing ship. The young sailor had overheard the joking and felt the need to comment.

“That was quite a risk the Cap’n made, heading into these waters.” the young sailor observed.

“He’s done riskier things!” Cementhands chuckled remembering them.

“How many men have died under his command?” the young sailor asked.

Ol’ Chumbucket’s face grew serious. “Not nearly so many as have died under the command of his enemies. – What’s your point, boy?”

The young sailor sensed that he may have stepped into it and sought to extricate himself. “Nothing, sir. I have no point at all …” and here, he made a critical miscalculation, “ … except … do you think he is an intelligent enough of a fellow to take such risks with other people’s lives? I mean, that may very well have been us over there!” He gestured to the Spanish merchantman as it disintegrated in the rocky shoals.

In a moment, both Ol’ Chumbucket and Cementhands McCormack had their pistols out and pointed in the young man’s face. The sternness of their expressions caused the young sailor to gulp hard.

Ol’ Chumbucket spoke, “You are a very lucky young man.” He began calmly. “In our younger, wilder days, we’d have blasted your head apart and dumped your body overboard for crab food for even presuming to question our Captain and friend.” He paused, “But you are young and we are older and wiser than we were when we were your age – so we control our impulses in the hope that you will someday be as old as we are.”

Chumbucket glanced at the two hand cannons pointed pointedly in the young sailor’s face. “This is a patently unsafe use of equipment, to be sure – and in the hands of less skilled, more impatient pirates, you would have spent the last fifteen seconds unraveling the mysteries of the life hereafter – but you’ve spent that precious fifteen seconds listening to me chide you for being an impudent upstart with no more right to talk than Strumpet the monkey. Let me strongly suggest that from this day forward you refrain your comments to the weather, the saltiness of seawater and a healthy fascination with the comparative breast sizes of wenches and leave tactical decisions in the hands of those who are qualified to command. Do I make myself clear, lad?” Ol’ Chumbucket’s eyes were intently fixed on the young sailor’s.
“Aye, Mister Chumbucket, sir!” The young man stammered out a terrified response.

One hundred yards to their stern, Slappy called after them as he had just brought the Spanish Captain and the contents of his longboat aboard The Festering Boil.

“Yo Ho, Ol’ Chumbucket! Cementhands!” Slappy yelled “Thar be GOLD in the chest! Lots and lots of GOLD!” Then, he danced what they knew well to be his “Happy Man Dance!” which consisted of leaning his large body to the left and the right while he pumped his fists like pistons in the air occasionally squatting some and always wiggling his large behind. This was not an overly dignified dance, but the young, recently-chided sailor didn’t dare smirk.

Chumbucket and Cementhands smiled and nodded at each other. “Do you think he’ll make the Spanish captain do the Happy Man Dance as well – just to taunt him?” Cementhands asked. As they looked back up, they saw a very unhappy Spanish captain twisting and pumping while Slappy tossed gold coins up that seemed to “rain down” on the reluctant dancer. “He’s like a big goofy kid.” Chumbucket chuckled and quickly edified the young sailor again – “And I can say that because of the years we’ve spent together – don’t even imagine for a moment you are allowed to even THINK that!” The young man simply kept his eyes ahead and pulled his oar through the water.

“And I call ‘dibs’ on any good sittin’ chair ye find among the wreckage!” Slappy bellowed gleefully out to his mates.

Oscar sat quietly in the bow of that same long boat taking notes.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


A Pirate Tale – 106

“Well, a surprise attack is out,” George the Greek opined. “They’ve seen us as clearly as we’ve seen them."

Slappy returned his gaze to the ship in question. Sure enough, the interloper was changing course subtly, veering slightly westward onto a course that would intersect eventually with the Festering Boil’s.

“That’s not the action of a harmless merchant captain afraid of running into pirates on the open sea,” Slappy commented.

“Looks like he wants to run us down, but he’s being very casual about it so he doesn’t spook us,” Ol’ Chumbucket said. “He’s not turning directly into us, even though he’s got the wind. Well, we should have no trouble outrunning her, but I hate to see all that money fading over the horizon behind us.”

“Dogwatch,” Slappy called to the navigator, “can you show me on a chart where we are?”

Dogwatch Watts, inspired by his silver medal in navigation at the pirate Olympics, had been keeping careful track of the ship’s speed and position, and had little difficulty in finding their location on the chart. Slappy looked thoughtfully at it for a long moment.

“How long will it take us to get here?” Slappy asked, pointing to a spot to the northwest of their current location.

“If we pour on the canvas, I’d say we could be there in about four hours,” Watts said. “But Cap’n, that’s …”

“We don’t want to pour it on,” Slappy said. “We want to get there just before sunset.”

“But Cap’n, that’s Sorenson Shoals. Shouldn’t we steer clear of that?”

“No, it’s exactly where we want to go,” Slappy said. “The tricky part will be keeping that Spaniard chasing us. George! Throw a sea anchor out on the larboard side, out of their sight. We don’t want them to know we’re slowing down for them. Chumbucket, let’s tack starboard until we’ve cut down the angle of his pursuit, then straighten out on a heading directly for the shoals. And tell the crew to be sloppy handling the sails. We want those guys to think we’re the worst set of sailors they’ve ever seen.”

It took little time for the pirates to catch on to Slappy’s plan, but there were some worried glances at the chart that showed the shoals. About 50 miles east of Trinidad the seabed suddenly rose from a depth of more than 500 feet to almost the surface, forming an unexpected rocky barrier. More than a few ships had come to grief in the area. And the timing was going to be extremely difficult – encouraging the Spaniards to chase without letting them get so close that their overwhelming firepower could come into play.

After the course correction Slappy had asked for was made, the two ships settled in for the chase. The Boil had made its larboard turn particularly clumsily, and the Spanish payroll ship – which had dropped the pretense of the Dutch ensign and was flying the flag of Spain – had gained almost half a mile. She was now about five miles behind the Boil and was cracking on all the canvas she could hold. The Boil had run up mains’l and topsl’s in a show of making a run for it, but the balloon of canvas George had rigged over the larboard side ensured that the pirates didn’t run out of sight, leaving the large, heavy ship to give up the chase.

The chase – which to the pirates was really little more than a parade – wore throughout the afternoon, the Spanish ship slowly gaining on its intended prey. When Slappy ordered his crew to an early dinner at 4 p.m., their pursuer was now about two miles off. As the crew ate – a delightful seafood platter whipped up by ship’s cook Black Butch, Slappy and Chumbucket stood at the stern, watching the oncoming galleon.

“This next couple of hours is where it gets tricky,” Slappy said. “In another hour she’ll be close enough to take some shots with her bow chasers, and there’s always the chance she could get lucky.”

“Well, George is standing by to let go of the anchor,” Chumbucket noted. Indeed, George rarely moved away from where the canvas that slowed the ship was anchored to the larboard rail. A look of tension on his face and a boarding ax in his hand, he kept both eyes closely fixed on the galleon slowly coming up behind them.

“Are we really going to try to run over the shoals?” Chumbucket asked, his own voice betraying a hint of tension.

“Aye, right over the top. But don’t worry, I’m not planning to rip out the Boil’s bottom today. I think she can take a few knocks. But when they open fire back there, we have to look like we’re desperate, toss a few things overboard.”

That moment came slightly earlier than Slappy had assumed. The crew was just coming back on deck after eating, some of them still burping and picking bits of fish from their remaining teeth, when a cry from atop the mainmast was accompanied by the sound of a distant cannon. All the sailors stopped and watched as the shot rose into the air and fell far short of the Festering Boil.

“He’s early. Very optimistic I see,” Slappy said calmly. “He’ll be getting much closer before we get there.”

The sailors continued their routine tasks, but always with one eye on the pursuing Spaniard. Those who didn’t have immediate tasks, such as Oscar, Sawbones Burgess and Leftenant Keeling, kept both eyes on the Spaniard. Oscar’s eyes were noticeably nervous. He had already shown that he wasn’t used to the sea, and admitted he (might) be a reporter. No Putzler Prize – if he really WAS a reporter – was worth getting blown out of the ocean by an errant shot from a lucky Spaniard gunner. The shots were coming about every four minutes now. Not close yet, but getting closer.

“Nervous young man?” Burgess asked.

“N… well, yessir, actually I am,” Oscar said.

Burgess smiled. “Good. You’d be a damn fool if you weren’t. We’re not within his range yet, but he’s gaining on us.”

“How come no one else seems scared?” Oscar asked.

“Didn’t you notice? You’re on a whole ship full of damn fools.”

Somehow, that didn’t help Oscar’s nerves at all.

“How much longer?” Slappy asked Watts, who was paying particularly close attention to his charts now.

“Should be a little less than an hour,” the navigator said.

A few moments later a shot splashed just astern of the Boil. Four minutes later one went whizzing over their heads.

“They’ve got a good gunner there,” Chumbucket said with studied nonchalance.

“Fair, fair,” Slappy said, matching his insouciance.

“Would this be where a merchantman was beginning to get nervous?” Chumbucket asked.

“Yes, I think there are some things we could start doing,” Slappy agreed. “George! I want them to see us starting to panic. Let’s toss some of those barrels of flour and crates of mangoes over the side. Then, about five minutes after that, I want you to make a big show of tossing four of the cannon overboard.”

“Half an hour to the shoals,” Dogwatch called.

From the pursuing ship, it did indeed look as if the Boil, in an effort to gain speed, was lightening the load. First they saw cargo going over the railing. A short while later the captain was gratified to see cannon going over the side. A four-pound cannon weighed about 500 pounds (the name referred to the size of the ball it threw, not the weight of the weapon) but if a ship began throwing them overboard, then its crew must be desperate.

“Just one more thing for them to do, and we’ll know it’s just a matter of time,” he said to his lieutenant. Sure enough, just 10 minutes later a stream of water began issuing from the ship as the crew began pumping out the fresh water. Still the quarry didn’t seem to be gaining appreciable speed. His gunners sighted again, waited for the pitch of the ship to turn back up, and let loose another shot from the nine-pounder in the bow. He was rewarded to see his shot fly true and directly through the window of the aft cabin, probably the captain’s cabin.

“We’re just about there cap’n” Dogwatch called. The bow was crowded with sailors searching for the telltale signs of shoal water.

“Very good,” Slappy said. “George, stand by to cut lose the anchor. If we have just a tiny bit more luck, he’ll be so intent on us he won’t see what’s happened. Now we find out if we lightened ourselves enough. Cementhands! Toss the lead.”

McCormack dropped the lead and it took almost no time to hit bottom.

“We’re at 30 feet sir!” McCormack shouted.

With his eye on the pursuing ship, Slappy slowly counted, his right hand raised. At 15, he dropped his hand sharply and shouted at George, “Now! Cut us loose right now!”

Freed of the brake that had been holding it back, The Festering Boil suddenly shot ahead, spoiling the shot from the chasing Spaniard that otherwise would have hit the mainmast squarely. Aboard the Boil McCormack worked the lead feverishly calling out the rapidly decreasing depth, every eye that could be spared staring ahead for rocks.

Aboard the Spanish ship, it took a moment to register what had happened. Sailing into the setting sun, the officers had not noticed the change in the color of the water. Suddenly their prey had seemed to grow wings and danced ahead, making up a quarter mile in a matter of minutes. It was only while pondering this that the captain realized the trap he’d sailed right into.

On the Boil the noise of the keel scraping over a rocky projection sounded like the stroke of doom, but by tossing the cannon and the water they’d raised the ship’s draft just enough to scrape over. It was a horrible noise. Salty Jim, the ship’s carpenter, gulped and raced below to be ready in case there were any holes to patch.

It was obvious to the pirates when the Spaniard realized the trouble he was in. The sails were hauled in sharply and the helm went hard to port, way coming off the speeding ship, but it was too little too late. The deep-draft galleon had no chance in the shoal water and it plowed into the rocky undersea ledge like an ox cart falling off a cliff. The sound of crushing timbers could be heard across the water, and the ship’s foremast and mainmast toppled forward, bringing a tangle of blocks, canvas and rigging down on the deck.

Slappy ordered his ship to turn sharply starboard, and Chumbucket threw the helm over as the crew expertly trimmed the sails to match the new course. Suddenly the quarry had turned into a beast with very sharp teeth, and the 10 remaining guns on the starboard battery clawed the Spaniard at a distance. Slappy let the Boil continue the broad turn, coming back on the galleon at less than a quarter mile, ready to fire the larboard broadside. He had actually drawn in the breath to shout “Fire” when he saw the white flag waving desperately from the deck of the stricken ship. A sailor crawled out on the stern and struck the Spanish flag.

“Well boys, let’s see if there’s anything we can do for our Spanish brethren, and see what they’re willing to pay us to do it,” Slappy said.

Chumbucket looked out at where the Spanish sailors and soldiers clambered to the stern of their ship, which was now stuck fast on the rocks. He turned back to Slappy.

“Now that, my friend, is what I call a good idearrr.”

Monday, October 03, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 105 "I Wanna Hold Your Hand!"

Cap’n Slappy held out his hand toward Spencer the cabin boy but kept his eyes fixed firmly on the merchantman.

Spencer looked from man to man as if asking what to do – they all turned away or threw their shoulders up. Finally, not knowing, he went over and put his hand in the Cap’n’s outstretched open palm.

Slappy’s eyes squinted and his gaze slipped slightly off the prey. Every man on deck witnessing this event held their collective breath. At the top of the non-breathers, of course, was young Spencer.

Still, without looking at the cabin boy, Slappy spoke with his somewhat alarming “intense calm.”

“Is that your hand, boy?” the Cap’n asked.

“Aye, Cap’n.” Spencer replied sheepishly.

Slappy kept his somewhat confused face toward the ship. “Is there a reason you’re holding my hand, lad?”

Spencer’s eyes darted from man to man, but no help was coming. “Begging the Cap’n’s pardon, you seemed to ask for it.” His eyes shot immediately to his feet but his hand remained in Slappy’s open hand.

Finally, Slappy turned slowly around and looked at the men surrounding them. Every man examined his own footwear.

“I called for my spyglass, lad. Not your hand.” Slappy said patiently.

“Oh!” Spencer quickly pulled his hand back and removed the Cap’n’s spyglass from its sack that he kept tied around his neck. Handing it to the Cap’n, he said, “Your spyglass, Sir. Sorry sir!”

Slappy smiled, “Not at all lad – it was an … honest … mistake.” Next time listen more carefully.

Slappy turned back to look at the boat through his spyglass. There was a slight hesitation to Spencer’s voice, but he spoke clearly. “You never actually … asked … for the spyglass, Cap’n. You just put out your hand.”

Slappy turned around to face his accuser. “What do you mean, I never … asked … of course I did. I clearly remember saying, ‘spyglass, lad!’ before holding out my hand and turning around.”

“No. No, you didn’t.” Ol’ Chumbucket said in Spencer’s defense. “You just held out your hand and expected the boy to read your mind.”

“That’s absurd!” Slappy protested.

“But true!” Cementhands McCormack retorted with added enthusiasm. “You simply extended your hand like thus!” He thrust his hand toward Sawbones Burgess who immediately put his hand in the big man’s hand and added, “So, naturally, the boy thought you wanted to hold his hand!” Cementhands and Sawbones gave each other comically fond looks then immediately broke their hands apart and wiped them on their clothes. (Cementhands wiped his on the Doctor’s coat – to add to the comedy)

Overwhelmed by the damning evidence of his inarticulation, Slappy conceded the point but held one truth to be self-evident. “Alright. But still, he should have known that I’m not a hand-holder.”

And that was all that would be said about the incident – for the time being, at least.

Slappy called down to the deck below to see if the cannon’s were primed and ready.

“Aye, Cap’n!” Gabriel the powder monkey called back.

Slappy turned to Spencer and the rest and said, “Now THAT’S mind-reading! That little rascal’s going places!” He then called the boy up to where they were assembled.

“Well done, boy! You really showed what a self-starter looks like to these neer-do-wells! Now, be a good lad and get Strumpet and take her below until the fighting is done!”

“But Cap’n! I wanna fight, too!” Gabriel protested.

“You are fighting – with me! And I’ll have none of it. Take him below.” Slappy ordered Spencer who extended his hand toward Gabriel, who, in turn, took it and they sauntered off to the relative safety of the lower decks – the monkey also came along taking Spencer’s other hand.

“Damn! There’s a lot of hand-holding goes on around here!” George observed.

Slappy quickly donned his “not another word” face and pointed his finger accusingly at George. Then, he refocused his attention on the ship a short distance away as he adjusted the focus on his spy glass.

Mmmm Hmmm.” Slappy hummed to himself – seemingly satisfied with what he saw. “Oooooh Yeah!” His excitement was clearly growing. “Aye, baby, that’s the way Poppy likes it!” This exclamation confused and disturbed the men on hand.

Then, with sudden sureness, he snapped the spyglass closed – but, as often was the case, he pinched his hand in its telescopic trap of death.

Zoon van de bodem van een aap!” Slappy exclaimed in perfect Dutch – as was his habit when struck by sudden pain – usually involving the collapsing of his spyglass.

His men quickly translated. “I’ve got ‘Son of a’!” said Ol’ Chumbucket!

“I think I heard, ‘Monkey’s bum!’ in there as well.” Jim noted.

“You’ve gotta hand it to him, ‘Son of a Monkey’s Bum!’ is a classic! – especially in the original Dutch!” Cementhands added approvingly.

Still smarting and sucking on the meaty section of his left hand between the thumb and index finger, Slappy managed to pass the spyglass off to George as he muttered, “Good news, lads! She’s a Spanish payroll ship!” through his full mouth.

In the mean time, George had re-opened the spyglass and was looking at the target himself. “But she’s flying Dutch colors, Cap’n.”

“Aye, a clever ruse!” Slappy began, “But if you look closely, ye’ll see that the sailors are of a predominantly darker complexion and check out the one at the wheel with the blue hat.”

George took a closer look. “By God, Cap’n Slappy, you’re right!”

“What, what is it?” the others demanded anxiously.

“It’s some sort of decorative pin on the lapel of his coat.” George said as he tightened the focus of the spyglass.

“And what do you see on the pin?” Slappy asked knowingly.

“I (heart) Madrid.” George answered thoughtfully.

“I (heart) Madrid?” Cementhands asked incredulously.

“Wouldn’t it say, ‘I (Corazón) Madrid?’?” Ol’ Chumbucket observed – smelling a rat.

“No.” George clarified, “It doesn’t say, “heart” as a word – but rather as a symbol.” At this point, he drew an imaginary Valentine’s Day (heart) on his chest with his fingers.

The proceeding chorus of “ohhhhs” made it clear that everyone now understood.

“But if they’re a payroll ship …” Cementhands began

“They’ll be carrying the more-than-usual amount of military personnel to guard it.” Ol’ Chumbucket finished the thought.

“Therefore, we need a plan!” George declared decisively as he snapped the spyglass shut dramatically without doing injury to himself.

Cap’n Slappy glanced around at the assembled group. “Well lads – I’m open to any idearrrs.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Administrivia: Death to comment spammers!

Well, p'raps it be some measure o' success, but we've started gettin' comment spam so I've turned on the comment verification feature that displays a wee image o' some random letters and makes ye type 'em in before yer comment gets posted.

Sorry fer the inconvenience to our regular readers, but Ol' Chumbucket was startin' t'get cranky about the spam pourin' into his mailbox, and nobody loves a cranky pirate.

Webwench to the Pirate Guys

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