Wednesday, February 08, 2006


A Pirate Tale – 126

The remains of their dinner lay cooling on the table, congealing in grease and beginning to draw flies in impressive and disgusting numbers, as the pirates and their host pored over a chart of the region and traded notes.

Don Taco quickly confirmed that a large British warship had passed through almost two weeks earlier.

“Whatever they were doing, they have probably already done, because it would not take long to sail the length of the lake. I haven’t seen them return, and my gunners are now ready for them when they do. I also have not seen any other traffic coming north from Gibraltar, not even the fishermen, and that puzzles me.”

“We still don’t know what they were planning down there, although it seems safe to assume that they were rendezvousing with O’Shay,” Chumbucket said. “This map isn’t very detailed. What’s down there in Gibraltar?”

“Not much, from what my reports tell me,” Taco shrugged. “I haven’t been there myself yet, of course. I’ve only been here three weeks. Florencio?”

The dapper adjutant to the governor snapped to attention, delighted to display his usefulness.

“Not much there, I’m afraid. It’s mostly a collecting point, a gateway to the interior where trade and tribute are gathered for shipment back to Spain. The town has more warehouses than people, and no opera houses, of course. The population – mostly laborers – fluctuates wildly depending on how close we are to the arrival of the treasure fleet.”

“Is the fleet in?” Slappy asked, drawing a chuckle from Don Taco.

“No, no, my friend, no treasure-filled galleons for you today.”

“It’s not that,” Slappy said. “Well, not completely that. I’m just trying to figure out what’s down there that’s so all-fired important to the Bawdy Boys.”

“Well, I guess I won’t be giving away too much information to tell you that the fleet sailed some six weeks ago,” Taco said carefully, balancing his responsibilities as royal governor with his inclinations as a recent pirate. “And there shouldn’t be much left in the warehouses. So if they were hoping for a major haul, they’ve been very much disappointed.”

“This doesn’t make sense then,” Chumbucket complained. “They have two ships that between them have enough firepower to handle anything the Spanish has in the Caribbean. Why do they need it if there’s nothing down there?”

“Is there nothing down there, or is there something that seems like nothing because we do not know what it is and therefore think it‘s nothing when it’s really something, or maybe even some THINGS,” Taco asked, raising one eyebrow to indicate how deeply he had thought and how subtle a point it was. “After all, there are many kids of somethings, and some of these may even be nothings but that doesn’t they’re not something.”

The pirates, Florencio and even Los Mariachi stopped and stared at the governor for almost a full minute as he beamed at them with pride. Finally, Sawbones Burgess broke the silence.

“What the fuck?”

“I was just saying,” said the governor, “that somethings … “

“Stop!” said Slappy. “We heard it and I’m sure it’s fascinating but it’s also totally beside the point.”

“No, actually it kind of makes sense,” Leftenant Keeling said. “See, we know they went down there but we don’t know why, so while it LOOKS like nothing to us, they’re there so it evidently must be something.”

“Si, my handsome young friend,” Taco beamed with a pride that couldn’t have been more complete had it been his own son supplying the answer (which was actually possible since Taco was some 18 years older than Keeling, and he got around a lot, but let’s not even entertain the thought for now.)

“But what the hell is the point?” George the Greek grumbled.

“The point is that we know they went down there for something but we don’t know what, so it’s not nothing or even no thing. It might even be several things,” Taco explained.

Slappy saw that Burgess was about to re-enter the fray, and slammed his large fist on the table to forestall further conversation.

“Look, how’s this for a point? We’ll go down there and see what the hell they’re up to.”

“Excellent my friend,” said Taco. “We join forces once again!”

“What? You’re coming with us,” Chumbucket asked with dismay. They had only gotten rid of Taco and his nonstop conversation a couple of months ago and he had been enjoying the peace and quiet, even punctuated as it was by cannon fire from time to time.

“Better than that!” Taco said. “As royal governor and viceroy I have a fleet at my command.”

“A fleet? Excellent,” said Slappy, who enjoyed the idea of overwhelming superiority as much as the next man. “How soon can they be ready to sail?”

“Eighteen months,” said Taco.

“A year and a half?”

“Si. That is for the flagship. We laid the keel the day after I arrived and she should be ready to sail within 18 months. Maybe a little sooner if we pay for a lot of overtime, but I’m the governor now and really can’t bust the budget like in my pirate days.” Taco looked a little sheepish.

“How many actual ships afloat do you have that could leave right away?”

Taco’s eyes narrowed as he did the mental calculations, reviewing the status of each ship under his command, then turned back to Slappy.


“So we’re still talking about us going down there by ourselves to check things out.”

Chumbucket raised a finger of caution. “Which I’d suggest we do rather quietly, because between the two ships we KNOW they have, they outgun us almost five to one. I’m not saying we shouldn’t go, obviously we should. But we shouldn’t just storm in and start shooting.”

Sappy was about to reassure Chumbucket that he wouldn’t throw his weight around needlessly, not without doing some reconnoitering first, but he was broken off by a small cough. Florencio cleared his throat.

“Your most excellent highness, might I mention that there is one ship in harbor that you could take, a trim seaworthy craft that mounts 18 cannon and six swivel guns. It’s no match for the ships of your foes, but it would certainly help. And I’m sure the owner would be happy to let you borrow it in return for valuable favors.”

Taco grinned and winked conspiratorially at Slappy. “That’s the best part of this job. I get to give out valuable favors. Well, the second best art, after my beloved.”

Turning to his adjutant, he asked, “And who is the owner of this fine ship?”

Florencio looked at his shoes with a becoming touch of embarrassment as he said, “I do.”


“Yes your excellency. My personal yacht. I would be happy to put it to your service.”

“Excellent my fine fellow! Then you will sail with us to investigate these miscreants and help me rescue by beautiful Isabella, the love of my hart, the apple of my – how you say? – eye?”

“Oh no sir, I have not the desire to sail into danger. But I’d happily supply my ship for you to do so.”

“Florencio! You are too good to me!” Taco said, striding over to the diminutive aide and planting a kiss on both his cheeks as Los Mariachi strummed a heroic tune. “What can I do to reward you for this sacrifice?”

“Oh, it is only a little thing, your excellency. Just name me temporary governor in your absence, and if you’d be so good as to sign this order appointing me viceroy for life in the case of your tragic and untimely demise.”

“Oh, Florencio, what a good man you are! Thinking only of the needs of my people who will be desolated should they lose their leader! And happily I will do those things. But fear not, for I do not doubt for a moment that, with my able comrades from the Festering Boil, we will quickly destroy these vermin.”

“Excuse me,” Chumbucket corrected. “I think you mean quickly see what these vermin are up to and, if the situation allows, take steps to destroy those vermin, if it is within our powers to do safely.”

“Yes, precisely what I meant although my way was certainly more flamboyant.”

“Precisely my point,” Chumbucket said. “Style is nice. Living is better.”

Don Taco drew his sword and raised it into the air, bidding them to do the same.”

“Gentlemen! Tomorrow we sail off to meet our destiny!’

“Actually, sir, in two days,” Florencio suggested. “The ship needs to be spruced up, the crew recalled from shore leave, supplies laid in, and there’s a matter of this paperwork for you to take care of.”

“Yes” Taco said, undeterred. “Gentlemen! In two days we sail to meet our destiny. In the meantime, I offer you the pleasures of the port!”

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