Tuesday, February 21, 2006


A Pirate Tale – Part 127 "The Messenger of Maracaibo"

“‘The pleasures o’ the port!’ says he!” Cementhands McCormack chortled over his sausage, egg and cheese breakfast biscuit at a little bistro in the town square. “I’ve not had a decent drop o’ rum since we set foot in this wee watery berg!”

“Oh, the rum’s not that bad – and there are some very attractive wenches hereabouts.” Slappy retorted. “And I’ll be jiggered if this isn’t the best coffee I’ve had in years!” Slappy took another sip of his coffee – black and very hot. “Damn! That’s good coffee! And your breakfast sandwich looks like a very tasty treat indeed!”

“The cholesterol in that sandwich would drop a horse.” Sawbones Burgess observed.

“Don’t speak ill of horsies!” McCormack blurted spitting bits of sausage, egg, cheese and biscuit on his companions. “Besides, at least I know what’s going to kill me. Do you know what’s going to kill you, Doctor?”

“Your breath.” Sawbones was in a rare zone where he was shooting zingers left and right and landing every one.

“Erroneous!” McCormack declared in another shower of food particles. “Erroneous! Our good Doctor is in error … and in peril.”

Chumbucket tried to quiet the discord. “There’s no peril here Cementhands! Just calm down or you will choke on your tasty breakfast treat.”

But Cementhands would not be silenced and before anyone could stop him, he picked up a knife from the table and threw it with remarkable velocity toward the ship’s doctor. Burgess sat frozen as the knife whizzed past his chin in a downward trajectory just over Burgess’ lap – missing his thigh by only an inch or two.

Shouts of “Now see here!” and “What’s all this then!” and “Good God McCormack – did you get a bad slab of sausage there?” were instantly stifled the moment one and all could see exactly what had been the big man’s real target – an Indian cobra caught mid-strike – which now lay at Burgess’ feet with the knife plunged into its open mouth and its head pinned to the dirt. The tail of the large snake flicked violently in its death throes as it thrashed from its pivot head for a few moments and then fell as silent as the men gathered for breakfast.

McCormack was the first to move. He simply returned to the deliciousness of his breakfast sandwich as if nothing had just happened.

Slappy poked the dead snake with his boot before retrieving the knife. He wiped the blade off on his pants leg and tossed the weapon back to McCormack who caught it one-handed without looking while taking a sip of his coffee.

“Thank you, Cementhands.” Burgess said in a state of shock.

“Don’t mention it.” Cementhands replied, wiping his mouth and continuing on with his meal.

Chumbucket looked hard at the snake that Cap’n Slappy now held up to examine. “He came half way around the planet just to die here.”

“How’s that?” Slappy asked – still somewhat entranced by the violence of the morning’s events.

“That snake. It’s not native. It’s Indian.” Chumbucket replied.

“You mean …” and here Two Patch made a gesture of moving his open hand to and from his lips as he made a ‘woooo’ sound – a nasty stereotype of indigenous people’s war whoops. He was quickly whapped on the back of the head by Leftenant Keeling.

“No.” Chumbucket replied calmly now that discipline had been meted out. “Indian as in ‘from India’ Indian.”

“Well then how did it get here?” Wellington Peddicord asked.

“Maybe he swam?” Oscar thought out loud.

“Snakes don’t swim.” Gabriel said hopefully although he wasn’t too sure.

“Some do, lad. Some swim just fine.” Doc Burgess was now coming out of his near-death trance and was ready to give a science lecture.

“Cobras do not swim from India to South America.” Ol’ Chumbucket declared definitively.

“Ol’ Chumbucket is right.” Cap’n Slappy spoke up. “This one sailed.”

There was general confusion around the table – comments like, “I didn’t know snakes could navigate.” And “What? Do they sail about in little snakey boats?” and “Coo! The Cap’n’s gone loonytoons he has!” dominated the cacophony.

“My friends,” Slappy said forcefully to break through the din, “This snake was brought here by ship – to serve its masters as an assassin.”

“But why Sawbones?” Chumbucket questioned. The doctor shrugged defensively as if in protest. Chumbucket explained, “Not that he isn’t important – but why him? Why any of us?”

“I don’t know.” Slappy replied. “Dozens of people passed us by as we enjoyed a delightful breakfast and sterling conversation. Any one of them may have sent this snake on its mission. I don’t think they had a specific target in mind – they just wanted to send some sort of message.”

“Who?” Gabriel asked.

“The Bawdy Boys – or an emissary of theirs to be sure.” Slappy replied. “They wanted to deliver a message of deadly earnest and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if this snake doesn’t have many brothers and sisters at their disposal.”

“Does.” Ol’ Chumbucket corrected.

“What?” Slappy asked.

“Does have many brothers and sisters. Or more correctly just, ‘has many brothers and sisters.” Chumbucket explained.

“What did I say?” Slappy asked.

“Doesn’t.” Chumbucket replied.

“I didn’t.” Slappy argued.

“You did.” Chumbucket stuck to his guns.

“Well, that’s wrong then, isn’t it?” Slappy conceded.

“Yes. Yes, that’s wrong. If you think there are more snakes out there, that’s wrong.” Chumbucket clarified.

“Right!” Slappy declared. “My point is we should be on the look-out for more snakes bearing deadly messages from the Bawdy Boys.”

At this point, Cementhands, who had just finished the last of his coffee, wiped his mouth on his sleeve and got up from the table and began to stride swiftly toward a shed several yards to the southwest.

“Where are you going?” Slappy demanded.

“I’m tired of waiting for more messages; I’m off to get the messenger. I’ll be back in two shakes of a snake’s tail.” His tone told his comrades that this was a mission best taken alone – so they ordered another round of coffee and waited.

The interaction between characters, the conversation, it's all fantastic. I love it. I thought it was clever how McCormack caught the knife one handed while drinking coffee, never even looked up. These are definitely a lot of fun to read.
Glad you like it, PQ.

Ol' Chumbucet
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