Wednesday, April 05, 2006


A Pirate Tale – Part 145 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

As The Festering Boil slipped out of the harbor and headed toward the gulf Cap’n Slappy called an all-crew meeting to discuss their current course and what they hoped to accomplish.

“Take a look at your copy of the previous meeting's minutes.” Cap’n Slappy bellowed so that every crew person could hear him. “See if you have any corrections, additions, deletions, malefactions.” He chuckled at his own joke.

Two-Patch raised his hand.

“The Chair recognizes Mr. Two-Patch.” Cap’n Slappy declared boldly.

“It says in the minutes that my mother had a miscarriage. I don’t think that’s right.”

Cap’n Slappy scanned down the minutes to see what the old pirate was talking about. “I believe the word you’re confusing is ‘Miscreant.’” The Cap’n explained. “It says your twin brother is a ‘miscreant’ and warns others not to loan him money while we are in Port Royal – where your brother lives … if that’s what you can call what he does.”

Two-Patch laughed to himself. “Oh, that Lionel! Then mother hasn’t had a miscarriage?”

Cap’n Slappy stared at the very, very old pirate in disbelief. Surely his mother had been decades dead. “No. I’m relatively certain your mother hasn’t had a miscarriage in … how old are you and Lionel?”

“Eighty-three years young!” Two-Patch declared, pumping a withered fist into the air.

There was a full three seconds while everyone stared at the old fellow – mouths agape.

“Then it’s been at least eighty three years, hasn’t it? And bringing the two of you into the world was just a miscarriage against the Laws of Nature! Moving on.” Slappy hated to get bogged down on the minutes from the last meeting, but once one person started to gripe, others quickly joined in.

“That’s not how you spell, ‘expectorant!’”

“I believe the vote was tabled due to lack of interest!”

“I don’t see Doc Burgess’ request for foot powder here anywhere!”

“Did anyone take note about my proposal that we all wear chartreuse uniforms?”

“I made a splendid joke about a mermaid and an octopus – but I don’t see it in the minutes!”

Cap’n Slappy waved his arms in the air trying to regain control of the meeting. When that failed, he had young Gabriel bring him his blunderbuss which he fired into the air. Order was restored.

“Reload that.” He said to the lad as he handed him back the big gun. “Now, if the griping is at an end, I’d like to see if there are any additions to the agenda.”

“Where’s Cementhands McCormack?” one of the pirates called out.

“He’s still resting after his narcotic-driven adventure through the ‘Inescapable Maze of Despair, Atrophy, Insanity and Death.’ Does nobody read their staff bulletins?” Slappy snapped somewhat testily.

“If the maze was inescapable – how did you escape?” another pirate asked.

“Through cunning and instinct – plus McCormack’s use of a controlled substance which seemed to give him other-worldly awareness.” Slappy sighed, trying to regain patience and control.

“Well then it wasn’t ‘inescapable’ – was it?” another voice chimed in.

Still another suggested, “They ought to call it – ‘The Maze of Despair, Atrophy, Insanity and Death that is Very Difficult to Escape From – But You Can If the Right Set of Circumstances Are In Place.’”

Slappy stared into the sea of pirate faces and tried to calm himself by whisking himself mentally off to his “Happy Place.” And at this moment – The Inescapable Maze of Despair, Atrophy, Insanity and Death WAS his happy place. He quickly shook it off and tried to positively note the suggestion.

“Splendid! I’ll pass that along to our human-sacrificing captors next December when I send them a Christmas card. Anything else?”

“Why do we have a British officer on board? – That doesn’t seem very piratical.” Wilford Glump, a steady pirate who didn’t often bring attention to himself asked. As he did, he gestured toward young Mandrake as he stood off to the side of the meeting.

“This is Admiral Tharp’s son and we are returning him to his father in England.” Slappy asserted in a matter-of-fact tone that suggested that he had explained all there was to know about the situation. However, the chorus of follow-up questions quickly began.

“Why are we doing that?”

“Why don’t we just kill him?”

“Will there be a hefty ransom involved?”

“Why does he look so much like Dogwatch?”

Before Cap’n Slappy could say anything, young Mandrake spoke up. “Because your captain is my uncle!”

A hush fell over the crowd as they started putting the pieces together. “Does that mean you are Admiral Tharp’s brother?”

Slappy’s eyes bulged as he looked to Ol’ Chumbucket for an idea. He got a shrug of the shoulders instead.

Finally, Slappy just began blurting things out.

“Brothers! Sisters! Nephews! – this young man belongs to a religious order that – …”

“I belong to no religious order!” Mandrake asserted.

Slappy continued over the top of him. “ … that is so secret – they all have to deny it even exists! But in their order, we are all related! Cousins! Aunts! Grandparents! Step Children! And when you think about it – we are, all of us, one big family!” Slappy gestured to Wellington Peddicord, “It matters not the color of our skin! For we are all brothers and sisters – second cousins twice removed! Grand Aunts!”

Slappy moved quickly to Mandrake’s side and through his arm around the young man’s shoulder. “And beyond the ransom or the fact that his father can do us favors or the logic of just having one more friend in the British navy – this young man has taught us the nature of our relationships with one another. Therefore, brothers, sisters, half-siblings, let us go forth in the bonds of family love and take good care of one another! This meeting is adjourned!”

There was a smattering of applause and one pirate yelled, “Thank you brother Slappy!”

Dogwatch finally made an appearance – he had been below deck helping Doc Burgess give Cementhands a sponge bath which involved not only sponges and soap – but an complicated structure of pulleys and poles designed by Salty Jim the ship’s carpenter.

“Sorry I’m late, Cap’n!” Dogwatch said as he joined Slappy and Mandrake. “Did I miss anything?”

Mandrake was struck hard by the likeness between the two of them – but Dogwatch hardly seemed to take notice.

“Your orders, Cap’n?” he asked.

“Take us north and put Two-Patch on lookout – let’s see if we can’t spot a treasure train straggler.” Slappy said.

“Aye-aye, Cap’n!” Dogwatch said with a grin and sped off quickly to take the helm.

Mandrake was still dumbfounded.

“That was your first real good look at him, wasn’t it?” Slappy asked – almost gently.

”Aye.” Was all that the young man could muster for a moment, but then he observed. “He didn’t seem to notice the resemblance.”

“Probably because he hasn’t seen a mirror in years.” Slappy mused. “We pirates have priorities beyond vanity.”

“Like villainy.” Mandrake sneered.

Cap’n Slappy smiled at him and shook his head. “Judge not, my boy!” Then, he slapped him on the back and started to walk away, but stopped. “Oh, and stop telling the lads you’re my nephew – it doesn’t reflect well on either of us. You have the run of the ship – make yourself useful – and failing that, make yourself at home.”

Slappy walked away singing a hymn. “Blest Be the Ties That Bind – Our Hearts in Christian Love – The Fellowship of Kindred Hearts Is Like to That Above!”


After the meeting, Ol’ Chumbucket and George took a few moments to enjoy a couple of cigars they’d picked up in Maracaibo.

“Can you smell that, Bucket?” George asked.

“You mean McCormack’s sponge bath?” Ol’ Chumbucket chuckled.

“No. Not that – Can you smell the plunder?” George took a deep drag on his cigar and let the smoke whirl around his mouth before puffing out perfect smoke rings.

Chumbucket breathed in the air – trying to catch a whiff of what George was talking about. He felt a slight stinging sensation in his nostrils – the smell of gold.

“Aye! She’s out there – a wee lost little lamb and she’s got precious cargo.” Chumbucket smiled.

“Aye!” George agreed. “She’s there – just to the north. I can smell her.”

“SHIP AHOY!” Two Patch called across the decks.

George took another deep drag of his cigar and smiled.

“Now THAT’S music to my ears!” Ol’ Chumbucket smiled – then drew in another drag on his cigar.

There was no rush – they were back in familiar territory. Once again – there was pirate work to do.

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