Saturday, May 06, 2006


The Havana Caper – Part 10 “Jungle Battle”

Slappy looked down and noticed that his fine pirate clothes had been replaced by a baggy one-piece denim covering under which he seemed to be wearing a plaid flannel shirt.

“Dad burn it!” He mumbled and when he caught himself saying, “Dad burn it!” He cut loose with an even fouler oath.

“Great Grandmammy McSlappy’s Bloated Testicles! It’s happening again!”

Suddenly, he couldn’t breathe and the world shifted with a remarkable suddenness.

His eyes were open now and he realized that the sun was just beginning to break above the jungle – Cementhands McCormack’s huge calloused hand covered his mouth and nose.

“Wakey wakey” the now recognizable form of St. Swithin in the body of McCormack whispered. Sawbones Burgess was by his side.

Slappy realized that he had been dreaming out loud. He nodded to let McCormack know that he was under control and that he would like his breathing orifices returned to his control.

Burgess shook his head, “The tomato dream again?”

“Aye. Damn tomatoes!” Slappy grumbled

“What did they say this time?” the doctor pressed.

“Just more gossip – it’s always gossip with tomatoes!” Slappy shrugged.

“I still think it’s about sex.” Burgess asserted.

“I hate to be a dream buster,” St. Swithin began, “but we’ve got many Spaniards to kill today and only a few minutes to get into position.”

Cap’n Slappy rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and pulled himself to his feet.

It was a scant mile and a half walk to an area where the jungle dropped downward into a small bowl-like valley that had once been the site of the children’s village. The charred remains of huts dotted the floor of the mud-red valley. The hills surrounding the village were thick with trees and jungle foliage.

“They will be here soon.” St. Swithin began after he gathered the pirate leaders beneath a cluster of trees overlooking what was soon to be the scene of the battle.

“I have developed a battle plan that I think will serve us well – if I may?” St. Swithin looked at Cap’n Slappy – as if asking for permission to take the lead on this expedition.

“By all means.” Slappy replied. “Who,” he thought to himself, “am I to question the military strategies of a ninth century saint?”

“George, take your command over there and Wellington, you stay here with your group – Cap’n Slappy and Father Bracca will be in the center with the largest force and you will all attack the Spanish in the center on my signal.” St. Swithin’s plan was beautiful in its simplicity – but Cap’n Slappy had one strategic question.

“Where will you be that we can all see you at the same time?”

St. Swithin pointed to the heart of the village – the exact center of where he said the Spanish would be in just a few minutes.

“I will be there. The signal will be my first blow to a Spanish head.”

Cap’n Slappy was almost apoplectic. “Splendid! Good plan! How about we come up with something that doesn’t get you immediately killed?”

St. Swithin placed one of McCormack’s large leather hands on top of Slappy’s head – he immediately became light-headed. “They won’t kill me. They won’t be able to.”

Fighting off the dizziness, Slappy replied, “So, you’ll be armed with a fork or perhaps a particularly serrated grapefruit spoon?”

The big man smiled beatifically. “I go unarmed.” Then, before Slappy could argue he held up his right hand and glanced upward through the leaves of the trees above them. Shafts of morning sunlight formed a mosaic of light as it passed through the leaves and rested on his face. He continued, “And yet, I am protected.”

The moment was shattered by the crack of musket fire in the distance.

“They’re coming. Quickly, gentlemen – to your positions and may the Almighty guide your hand. As it pleases Him, dispose the day.” St. Swithin waved his hand over them in blessing.

Cap’n Slappy was having second thoughts about this whole adventure. “Loyalty to friends – even insane or possessed ones – will be the death of me.” he mused to himself.

“My son, you seem troubled.” Father Bracca placed his hand on Slappy’s shoulder as St. Swithin walked into the valley to confront the Spaniards.

“I can’t imagine why, Padre. One of my oldest, dearest friends believes he’s a saint and is walking off to near-certain martyrdom. I’ve brought the bulk of my crew into the jungle to die fighting Spaniards without so much as a doubloon to show for it and I just suddenly realized that I may have let my subscription to Pirattitude Monthly lapse and they’re doing a feature on Sir Nigel Blackheart this month!”

“This thing you do, today, my son, this will absolve you and your crew of all their sins. And, if it makes you feel any better, I suspect that I’ll be getting my issue of Pirattitude Monthly today – I’ll let you read it when we return to the mission.” Father Bracca pulled out his machetes and hunkered down behind a bush as the first Spanish soldiers became visible in the valley below.

“Are you fighting with us, today, Padre?” Slappy asked.

“I’m a Jesuit, my son. We kick ass.” The monk replied.

George and his crew had just taken up their position when St. Swithin stepped into the clearing in the village and raised his hands. The Spanish soldiers, as was their custom with unarmed delusional missionary-looking giants, raised their muskets and prepared to fire.

“Goddammit!” Slappy cursed, “Why did McCormack make us leave our muskets?”

“Patience, my son.” Bracca replied.

Slappy could see the smoke of the muskets being fired before he heard the crack of powder being ignited. He winced as he looked at McCormack expecting to see several musket balls ripping through his body – no such sight awaited him. The dirt all around the big man kicked up as the balls fell harmlessly off to the side, in front and behind him.

The Spanish captain began abusing his musketeers and ordered them to reload. McCormack lowered his arms and as he did, the sky’s immediately darkened as clouds filled the air and rain began to pour – rendering their firearms useless.

The order was given to “fix bayonets.” A charge quickly followed as a dozen or so soldiers charged the unarmed saint. When they were within fifty yards of St. Swithin, a lightning bolt shot down from behind the big man’s right shoulder and struck the spongy ground at the point of attack sending bodies flying in all directions. Only two soldiers were able to continue the charge. They reached McCormack at exactly the same time – their bayonets aimed directly for his belly. With cat-like swiftness and bear-like strength, McCormack caught both gun barrels, one in each hand, and nearly impaled the two charging soldiers on their own weapons. The two Spaniards fell to the side as McCormack drew back and slapped the two muskets together – they disintegrated in a cloud of splinters and metal parts leaving only the two long iron cylinders in his meaty hands.

“He’s got himself McCormack’s weapon of choice!” George observed as he signaled his fighters to be ready to charge.

It was true. Gone was St. Swithin’s gentle, thoughtful face – the big man with the iron bars was all-McCormack and his comrades could see a countenance of ferocity and glee – battles always made him happy.

The two dazed Spaniards regained their footing and reached for their swords. McCormack awaited their final charge. He spun his body to meet the first with a devastating backhand that shattered his head like a water-balloon. He continued his spin and brought the other bar down in an overhand blow that caved the Spaniard’s head in from the hairline to the chin.

“Now THAT’S a signal!” Wellington Peddicord called out as he led the charge of his fighters down the hill toward the Spanish ranks.

Unknown to the pirates, St. Swithin had also arranged for hundreds of indigenous archers to take up positions in the trees. As the three groups of pirates began barreling down the hill, a tremendous WHOOOSH filled the air as arrows began adding to the precipitation of the rainy day battle. Several dozen Spaniards fell in an instant. Several more turned to make a desperate run back to the mouth of the valley – but they were cut off by warriors of the very tribe they were coming to destroy. No mercy was accorded their retreat.

The Spanish captain pointed his men toward Cementhands McCormack as if to choose him as the cause of all their troubles and the army surged forward toward their intended revenge against this giant. Another volley of arrows further thinned their ranks and their captain ordered them to a double quick step. McCormack grinned as he watched the Spaniards approach. His comrades were not yet close enough to defend him, yet, he showed no sign of concern. In fact, he twirled his bloody gun barrels in his fingers like a dandy would twirl his walking stick as he waited for the onslaught.

Another volley of arrows took down a few more dozen Spaniards and Cementhands McCormack could see the fear in their eyes as they saw the pirates’ warlike faces just a few paces away bearing down hard. Cementhands McCormack gripped his bars and began moving quickly toward the enemy. If his water soaked robes slowed him down, he showed no sign of it as he launched himself into the heart of the Spanish forces – his bars spinning like a meat grinder.

Moments after McCormack’s penetration, the pirates converged on the army and a full-blown melee had begun. George quickly sized up the Spanish captain and challenged him with sword and dagger – the two spun away from the throng and fought some yards away from the fracas. George the Greek could see his opponent’s disgust at having to fight pirates on land when this was supposed to be a simple massacre of tribal people. The captain had a very aggressive style of fighting, a very artistic style that kept George in retreat for most of their confrontation. What the captain didn’t realize, until George plunged his dagger into his neck, was that he was accommodating the aggression and the art until the moment for decisive action was secure. George was never one for fighting fancy – just fighting well.

Cap’n Slappy, in contrast to his first mate, George, was a chatty fighter. He was prone to taunting – for which he had some degree of talent, but he would also give his opponent “pointers,” during the heat of battle. “Keep yer long sword hand forward and up, lad! Hide that wee dagger back there like a snake – don’t let me see it too soon, son! Ye’ll spoil the surprise!” And after he killed his student, he moved on to the next. “Ye call that a lunge? Me Great Grandmammy, Gabby McSlappy could out-lunge the likes o’ ye with her arthritic right arm tied behind her hunched back!”

At one point, Slappy was so enjoying his taunting that he failed to see the young Spaniard with the long sword sneak up behind him and take a swing at his neck. He surely would have lost his gigantic head had it not been for the quick thinking of Saucy Jenny who blocked the blow with her cutlass, kicked the Spaniard directly in his huevos rancheros and plunged her sword into his back as he doubled over in pain.

“Well done, lass! Ye kept me noggin in place and for that – an extra ration o’ rum for ye when we get back to the ship!” Slappy declared as he gave her a supportive slap on her behind. Of course, Slappy realized immediately that he’d done something wrong – but he was just reacting to her as if she was a man – which she most definitely was not. There was an awkward moment where neither knew what to say. Finally, Slappy broke the tension. “Yes! Definitely outstanding fighting! Well done, Jenny.” Another pause. “Sorry about the …” and he motioned the butt-slap but away from her so as not to repeat the same mistake.

Jenny had never seen Cap’n Slappy being awkward. He typically avoided the women in his crew and had no idea how to treat them – other than treating them like a man – which certainly was not always appropriate. But even as they stood there and awkwardly exercised the moment, Spaniards would come out of nowhere only to be dispatched by either Cap’n Slappy or Jenny. It hardly broke their moment.

Finally Jenny said, “Thanks for the extra ration, Cap’n. I’m just going to go fight over there for now. Bye.”

Still feeling awkward and foolish Cap’n Slappy replied, “Yes! Splendid! Oh, and thanks again for saving my head! … Fight on, pirate!”

He turned back toward the battle as another soldier attacked him – he plunged a short curved dagger he’d picked up in Hindustan that he called his “disemboweling cutlass,” into the belly of the soldier and performed the task he had ascribed in naming the weapon. But the whole time he was mentally kicking himself. “Fight on, pirate? – Stupid, Stupid, Stupid!”

Father Bracca also had his share of kills. He had made a name for himself among the Spanish military and was therefore somewhat a target. He never strayed too far away from Cementhands McCormack who literally pounded away at the center of the Spanish force. Father Bracca’s machetes were drenched with blood and his wool robe was soaked as well.

It was Wellington Peddicord who first realized they’d run out of Spanish soldiers to kill. “Is that it? Are we done?”

They were. The bodies of hundreds of Spanish soldiers lay around them in the muddy field.

By now, Slappy had shaken off the earlier awkward moment and was ready to assess the damage. “Group leaders – casualty report.” He had already accounted for every member of his attack squad – none were lost and only a few had minor injuries.

“We’re all here! All well!” Wellington Peddicord reported. “Same here!” George echoed. “Not a single serious casualty!”

Slappy couldn’t believe it. Not one man – or woman, lost in the action! It was a … miracle. He looked at Cementhands McCormack who now had no aura of sainthood about him.

“What?” The big man questioned. “And what the hell am I doing wearing a toga in a jungle battle? Was this some kind of drug-induced new interpretation of Julius Freakin’ Caesar? And if so, why am I not directing it?”

Doc Burgess leaned into Slappy’s side and softly said, “He’s Ba-aa-ack.”

Father Bracca was speaking with one of the tribal warriors who, it turned out, was the head of his tribe. “He wants you all to come join him for a feast and celebration this evening.”

Slappy started to say that they were in a hurry to return to their ship, but the look on Father Bracca’s face told him that this would be an insult to their hosts, so he conceded on the condition that they return first thing in the morning.

“Yes. Of course! First thing. I think you will be surprised at how well your ship repairs have been coming along!”

your grandmammy had testicles? ARRRR, that be strange.
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