Wednesday, March 22, 2006


A Pirate Tale – part 139 “The Gauntlet of Taunting!”

As the landing party was lead through a thick tunnel in the jungle foliage Cap’n Slappy turned to Ol’ Chumbucket and said, “I swear by Great Neptune’s Bollocks if there’s a time machine in here I’m going to take hostages.” He was quickly “shhhshed” by his friend.

“Welcome to our humble home.” The leader of the natives announced as they emerged from the tunnel into a city made of precious metals and stones – primarily gold! As they marched into the center of town toward The Golden Palace next to The Golden Temple just beyond The Golden Park with the suspicious-looking Golden Reflecting Pool, they couldn’t help but take notice of the architecture.

“Italianate, I think – judging from the shape of the flying buttresses.” Cap’n Slappy, who knew nothing of architecture but knew how to fake knowing things unless he was in the presence of someone who actually did, said with a knowing wave of his hand.

“Actually,” the leader of the natives spoke up, “our architectural influences would best be described as ‘Spania-Gothic with just a hint of Egyptian mysticism.’”

“Is he making this up?” Slappy whispered to Ol’ Chumbucket who rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders.

“El Dorado.” Butch whispered in amazement as he took in the beauty of the town.

The party was brought to an abrupt halt by their escorts.

“Alright.” The leader spoke again, this time rather sternly. “Let’s get this clear. This is NOT ‘El Dorado’ this is ‘La Parada Tonta!’ There is more than one ‘Lost City of Gold’ in South America, you know!”

Wellington Peddicord replied, “No. We didn’t know. We are new to South American tourism. Just how many ‘Lost Cities of Gold’ are there?”

The leader’s tone now softened and he realized that his guests were not trying to be offensive, they were just ignorant. He smiled, “You are in ‘Lost City of Gold Country’ my friends! Stop by our Visitor’s Center and they’ll give you a map so you can visit all of them. You’ll find it in a golden kiosk on the northwest corner of The Golden Park. Be sure to stop by the Wachyeeten Deli and take a box lunch!”

Cementhands whispered to Ol’ Chumbucket. “Well, now we know where they get all this gold – tourism. If you ask me – the whole ‘Lost City of Gold Industry’ has gone too commercial.”

Within minutes, the party was lead into the great hall of the palace. Seated majestically on his throne was King Wahchuwannadu – an imposing figure, nearly as large as Cementhands McCormack with a rich ceremonial headdress made of peacock feathers, leopard claws and, what else, gold. At his right sat Queen Ahmaduitforye – a powerful priestess and mystic. Standing off to one side was the first man to speak.

“I am Lord Kepenionye, Minister of the Department of Homeland Security. We have followed your movements since you left Maracaibo. The men you seek have come and gone – taking with them a great mystery.”

The landing party groaned in dismay – all except Cap’n Slappy who was still amazed that this town even had a Department of Homeland Security – and said so.

Lord Kepenionye fixed his gaze on the strangers. “Who, in their right mind, would have a city made entirely of gold and NOT have a Department of Homeland Security?”

Cap’n Slappy conceded the point. “So, tell us what this mystery is that they took with them.”

“I cannot.” Kepenionye replied. “If I did, it would no longer be a ‘mystery’ now, would it?”

Slappy didn’t like his snooty tone, but under the circumstances, diplomacy was the better part of valor.

“I will tell thee.” Queen Ahmaduitforye said, although she appeared to be exhausted. “Once a year, as Priestess of the Goddess whose name cannot be pronounced but who has exquisitely protruding nipples and pouty, full lips, I am able to grant unto a pilgrim a power of his or her choosing. This can make them a very powerful person – and in the case of the priest, it has.”

The hearts of the landing crew sank.

“But before I do so, I look into the heart of the recipient and qualify the gift with certain protections. And when I looked into the priest’s heart, I was very careful to do just that.”

“What sort of ‘protections’ does your Majesty mean?” Ol’ Chumbucket asked, respectfully.

“Since I gave him the gift of teleportation as he requested, I have limited his distance to ten miles and he may only teleport himself and whatever he is wearing or lifting. Also, if he is within twelve miles of any member of our tribe, or a member of one of the affiliated tribes of the Lost Cities of Gold region, we will be able to detect his presence in time to thwart his evil deeds.” She began to swoon in her chair, but was steadied by the hand of her husband, the King, who sat by her side. She righted her body and spoke again. “His was the blackest heart into which I have ever looked. I wish I could help you, but I will lack the strength to do so for another year.”

With that said, the King signaled for two ladies in waiting to come escort the Queen to her chambers so that she could rest.

“All this and now we know that that villain can just pop up behind us and kill us without our even knowing he’s there! And there’s not a damn thing we can do about it!” Lieutenant Tharp blurted out.

“You dare not swear in the presence of the King!” Kepenionye scolded.

Chumbucket shot an angry glance at the young Lieutenant. “Apologize.”

Tharp ignored the order.

Chumbucket repeated it – urgently. “Apologize!”

Tharp stiffened his posture. “I recognize no king but England’s.”

Cap’n Slappy stepped forward and bowed deeply before King Wahchuwannadu, “Begging your Majesty’s pardon, may I have a word with this simple youth?”

“We think you should.” Was his imperial answer.

Slappy grabbed young Lieutenant Tharp by his lapel and jerked him away from the others. If the young man had even had it in his mind to offer resistance, something in his survival instinct kept him from doing so.

“Now listen here, boy.” Slappy seethed, “Your father – my brother – asked me to redeliver you to his bosom safely and with all of your parts in tact. Were it not for the fact that you are my nephew – …”

The young man began to argue, but Slappy stomped on his objection and continued on.

“…I would offer you up as a human sacrifice and dance a little happy human sacrifice dance whilst doing so. But you are my nephew and as such, I love you but if you do not apologize graciously to this king who is being more than fair with you, I will most assuredly put my foot up your arse and break it off in your bung hole. Now, I can get by just fine with half a foot – how do you think your life will be with my size eleven-wide piggies lodged inextricably in your shit-chute?”

Young Tharp was stunned – no man had ever spoken to him that way before – none, that is, except his grandfather who, even as he stared at this pirate, seemed to have been reborn as a buccaneer. Word for word, this was the exact same threat that his grandfather had made when he caught the boy mistreating the family dog.

Still in a state of shock, he moved forward and bowed before the king. “I beg your Majesty’s pardon both for my ignorance and for my arrogance.”

King Wahchuwannadu smiled and waved his hand over the whole scene as if to erase it from memory. “You are forgiven as though you have never offended.”

Cementhands McCormack was touched by the King’s sentiment. “Oh, that’s very nice.”

Chumbucket took a step forward and cleared his throat. “Pardon me, your Majesty. I realize that we are still a year away from the possibility of being granted a special power by Her Majesty, Queen … uh … well … the Queen. But it would honor us greatly and keep our enemy from sneaking up and doing us harm if we might be made citizens of your community and thus sense this false priest’s evil presence from … how far was it?”

“Twelve miles.” Lord Kepenionye replied.

“Twelve miles.” Chumbucket echoed.

The King summoned Lord Kepenionye and the leader of the group that had discovered the landing party to his throne where they discussed the request. Lord Kepenionye frowned as he gave the reply.

“My Chief of Field Operations here, Kevin, assures us that you are a good sort. But admission into the tribe comes at a very high price. If you are willing to pay it, we will make those of you who survive, full members entitled to wear the Golden Amulet of Cheesidorpryze: God of Bling.”

Slappy was still stunned by the Chief of Field Operations rather normal name. “His name is Kevin?”

“Yeah. Hey guys.” Kevin said with a shy wave of his hand.

Slappy continued, “Not Imagonnahumpya? Or Whassatfunkysmell?”

Lord Kepenionye seemed confused but unshaken. “No. Kevin’s name is ‘Kevin.’ It’s a perfectly normal Incan name.”

Slappy shook it off and returned to the business at hand. “What perils must we face in order to become members of your tribe and wear the Bling?”

As Lord Kepenionye named the peril, the flames in the torches behind him seemed to gasp with fear, “You all must run …The Gauntlet of Taunting!”

Immediately horns were blown and the landing party was gently ushered into the town square, where the townspeople stood on either side of a track that stretched nearly sixty meters. There were murmurings and whisperings until King Wahchuwannadu raised his hands and silenced the crowd.

He then called upon the people. “These men have asked to join our tribe and now willingly submit themselves to endure The Gauntlet of Taunting!” Another murmur went up from the crowd, but the King thrust his arms into the air, once again silencing them. “Save it for the taunting part!” then he continued, “They will run the sixty meters and endure your most magnificent insults and slurs without comment. And when they are finished, they will join you in taunting their fellows. Let us begin with the dark man!”

“Always picking on the Negro.” Wellington Peddicord muttered to himself as he poised himself at the starting line.

Kevin was the official starter. “Ready. Steady. Go!”

Peddicord’s feet propelled him down the track at such blazing speed, the crowd stood dumbfounded until he had nearly crossed the finish line. Finally someone yelled, “He is a very swift black man!” At the end, he turned around and repeated the swift performance back to the start of the line.

“Oh, yeah!” Peddicord cried triumphantly as he pounded his chest. “Bring on the next contestant and let the taunting begin!”

Next up was Black Butch who Peddicord taunted for being able to burn hard boiled eggs. The locals, trying to pick up the cue, said things like. “He is a man who enjoys eggs! How many eggs did you enjoy today, Man?”

Cementhands McCormack went next and simply jogged along as people commented that he was indeed a large man with a large head. “How large is your head?” One villager yelled. Another, cleverer villager made a joke about an eclipse. “Your head could block out the sun!” Cap’n Slappy silently fumed, “His head is smaller than mine – surely they will come up with better taunts for my gigantic cranium!”

Lieutenant Tharp was mercilessly chided by his mates as having a potty mouth which the villagers misunderstood completely. “There is something wrong with your mouth!” They yelled. “Perhaps you think your mouth is ill-shapen!”

“I hope I can endure this.” Ol’ Chumbucket said jokingly to Slappy just before he ran the gauntlet himself. As he stood at the starting line awaiting Kevin’s signal, he smiled at one of the pretty maidens in the line. “Oh! You are one who likes to lay with the ladies, aren’t you?” “You are a very sex man!” Someone else chided. “You want to have sex with me!” Another attractive woman mocked. Ol’ Chumbucket just about slowed down to enjoy this sort of taunting. After enduring many taunts of a severe nature during staff meetings, these good-natured people who thought they were being rude was a welcome change of pace.

Finally, Cap’n Slappy stood at the starting line with Strumpet the Monkey on his shoulder. “It’s just observations – nothing hurtful.” He told himself as he prepared to run the Gauntlet of Taunting.

“Ready. Steady. Go!” Kevin waved him on.

Cap’n Slappy was not a graceful runner and hefting his own considerable weight plus that of a moderately large monkey did not enhance either his style or his speed. “That pirate has a monkey coming out of his shoulder!” One old woman yelled. “That monkey has a fat pirate coming out of his ass!” A young man noted. “Fat!” Slappy thought as he struggled along. “Both the man and the monkey have unusually large bottoms!” A young woman taunted. “Oh, now, that wasn’t necessary. What about my very large head?” Slappy thought to himself, but refocused his attention on the finish line – half way there!

“Say, Cap’n Big-Ass! Does your monkey have a saddle?” An elderly man in a funny hat called out. “Keep going” Slappy thought. Almost there!

From the finish line he could hear a chant lead by Cementhands and Ol’ Chumbucket. “Dumb-Fuck! Dumb-Fuck! Dumb-Fuck!”

“Next Staff Meeting.” Slappy thought to himself. “Oh, there will be brave tauntings at the next staff meeting!” Finally, he crossed the line and the village let up a big cheer.

King Wahchuwannadu once again raised his hands and silenced the crowd. “That was the fiercest taunting I’ve ever heard. It is a wonder any of you survived!” Then, he lined them all up – including Strumpet the Monkey and presented them each with their very own Golden Amulet of Cheesidorpryze: God of Bling and declared that they were citizens of La Parada Tonta and entitled to all of the rights, privileges and powers bestowed including one weekend a year in their village time-share in Belize.”

“And now, to make amends for such a ruthless taunting, we must prepare you a magnificent feast and let you rest in the most comfortable beds in the city – you have much to do tomorrow, we know, but for tonight – eat, drink and sleep!”

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