Wednesday, May 17, 2006


The Havana Caper – Part 14 “The Pirate’s Oath!”

“She’s always been swift!” Cap’n Slappy observed with Salty Jim and George the Greek as he stood on the deck of The Festering Boil as she made her way to the island where they would rendezvous with Ol’ Chumbucket and the crew of the Lord Shiva’s Eye, “But by Davy Jones’ gigantic Johnson, she’s as fast as a clipper!”

It was true. The Festering Boil was now even faster than before.

“You and your carpentry team are to be commended!” Slappy continued clapping Jim on the back for good measure, “By Poseidon’s tap dancing testicles, I order double rations o’ grog for the lot o’ ye!”

Jim was still at a loss as to how the improvements were accomplished, but he was not inclined to turn down a double ration of grog.

With sudden hurly burly and hullabaloo, Cementhands McCormack and Lionel Two-Patch Goatbloater ascended to the main deck from the galley below with papers clinched in their fists. Long gone now was the toga McCormack had worn while he was going through his St. Swithin phase and he was dressed, more or less, in his typically flamboyant pirate togs.

“Gather round ye water snipes and sea enemas!” Two-Patch called to the crowd. He was called Two Patch because, though he only wore one eye patch, the eye it covered switched from day to day – both eyes being equally poor. Cementhands nudged him and spoke low into his ear. After a moment of listening to the big man’s whispering, Two Patch turned back to the crowd and tried to correct himself.

“Ye sea amenities!”

Another nudge from Cementhands followed and he leaned into the whisper for correction.

“Never mind you stupid, stupid git!”

This time the echo rang true and accurate. Two Patch’s ears were of little more service to him than his eyes were.

“As co-chair of the professional development committee, we’ve become keenly aware of the many new faces we have aboard The Festering Boil!” Cementhands began. Of course, they were particularly new to him as he had seemingly been occupied by a 9th century British saint. “And we deemed it necessary to remedy your lack of training with a brief in-service on piratical thought – at the completion of which, we will administer The Pirate’s Oath.”

“I took The Pirate’s Oath on me last ship!” one of the newer pirates, named Bob, protested.

“Well, ye didn’t take this one!” Cementhands declared.

“How many, ‘The Pirate’s Oaths’ are there?” Bob persisted.

Cementhands was beginning to get testy. “There’s only one with which you need concern yourself, Bob! That’s this one!”

“Well, you should call it, ‘A Pirate Oath.’ Because it’s isn’t the only one out there, you know! The article, ‘The’ implies uniqueness. Whereas use of the article, ‘A’ lets the listener know that while this is one of a set, there are others.” Bob crossed his arms, satisfied that he had established a valid point.

Cementhands McCormack rubbed his chin as he moved closer to Bob. He appeared to be weighing his response. Cap’n Slappy and George turned away to shield their eyes from what was about to happen.

“You know, Bob, the use of articles is a constant source of fascination to …” Suddenly, McCormack’s gigantic noggin sprang forward and forehead to forehead met Bob’s unsuspecting brow with a tremendous crack. It was clear that McCormack was holding back because the blow simply staggered the sailor rather than render him a quivering mass of man-goo thrashing about on the deck.

“Godammit, McCormack!” Sawbones Burgess swore as he rushed to aid the stunned pirate Bob. “When will you learn that nowhere in the rules of debate does a head butt substitute for rebut!” The doctor assisted poor Bob below.

“We’ll administer The Pirate Oath to the two of you later, then!” McCormack called after – almost apologetically.

Turning back to the assembled crew, McCormack shook off the unpleasantness and began his presentation.

“Every pirate must know the difference between his,” then, with a glance at one of the female pirates, McCormack lifted an eyebrow in flirtation, “or her, tools and instruments. The basic difference being that a tool is something you hit things with and an instrument performs tasks that cannot otherwise be accomplished through the effective use of violence. A sextant, for instance, is an instrument. It measures distances between celestial objects thereby assisting the navigator in ascertaining his,” with another flirtatious glance toward one of the women, “or her, position on a navigational chart – which is also an instrument. A spyglass is also an instrument. And as with so many instruments, you could us it as a tool, but that would render its instrumental usefulness substantially impaired.”

“My iron bar, however, is a tool. I cannot navigate with it. I cannot make out objects at a great distance with it. I cannot make a stack of flapjacks with it.” Here, he paused for polite laughter. “What I can do with it, is hit things very hard. When things need hitting, my iron bar is just the tool I need.”

Cap’n Slappy pulled his pocket watch from the depths of its hiding place and glanced at the time, wondering how long it would be until either McCormack’s lecture would come to an end or he would feel the merciful taste of Death’s sweet release.

“The captain’s pocket watch is a fine example of an instrument!” McCormack said while he glowered at Slappy for checking the time. “I’m told it keeps excellent time. If it did not, it would be neither an instrument nor a tool, but rather an ornament.”

McCormack then took the time to spell the word ornament for those over-achieving pirates who were taking careful notes.

He continued. “The captain’s pocket watch is also engraved with the phrase, ‘Until That Day We Sing GREENSLEEVES Again Let The Hours Drift Away.’ It was, I believe, a gift from His Majesty’s Naval Academy glee club – The Troubadiers. But remember, while engraving may enhance the ornamental and personal value of an item, it does not distinguish the instrument from the tool. Cap’n Slappy’s cutlass, a tool if ever there was one, is likewise engraved and reads thusly, “We Parried, We Thrusted While Slappy Just Cussed-ed.” This was a gift for his work with a children’s buccaneer fantasy camp for wee ones with directional deficits.”

A hand was raised by an anonymous pirate in the crowd. “When are we going to learn about how much share of the booty we can expect and how to increase our share of the booty and what to do with booty when we get it?”

McCormack gave the pirate the stink eye for a long moment before speaking. “It’s in the agenda. Didn’t you bring your training agenda?”

The pirate looked at his feet in shame.

McCormack called out to the assembled group. “Who can tell Mr. With-it here when we will be getting to issues involving booty, treasure, loot and swag?”

Five hands went up – each clutching their copies of the training agenda. (Incidentally, they were also the pirates who had been taking notes.)

“Red Molly, would you enlighten those slovenly pirates who failed to keep themselves abreast of training dates when we will be touching on the afore-mentioned subject of bountiful gain?”

“That would be the afternoon of day five of the month-long symposium.” Molly replied cross-referencing the information from the agenda to her personal day planner.

The crowd moaned audibly while Cap’n Slappy and George mouthed the words, “month-long symposium” to each other in disbelief.

Ever the showman, McCormack was quick to pick up on the general resistance and hastily announced, “Yes! A month-long symposium – but it’s spread out over the coming decade!”

Sighs of relief could be heard while at the same time, personal planners were being feverishly erased.

“And now the recitation of The Pirate’s Oath!” McCormack gave this line the sound of finishing to which almost everyone was looking forward. “Repeat after me!”

“I, state your name, do hereby pledge to be a ruthless bastard and a naughty little piss-pot. While my chief loyalty shall be to myself, I will extend said loyalty to me mates what I trust and feel have something to offer me. If mates prove unworthy of my affections, I swear by Great Neptune’s erect man-nipples, I will smite them mightily with any number of tools at my disposal.”

Here, Cementhands gave the assembled crowd that, “See? I was just talking about tools and there it is, right in The Pirate’s Oath!” look that he was so keen on giving whenever his point was proved.

“But I will save my chief smiting for thems what stand between me and the riches I so richly deserve be they French, Spanish, Dutch or of any other nationality that has the misfortune of shipping goods and services in my path. – But mostly the French. And the Spaniards. And not because I am a racialist, because I’m not – but because foreign people just make me sick with their various traditions and the fact that they have more stuff than I do.”

“Furthermore, I will not succumb to the treacherous temptations of villainous vices unless they are very fun indeed and nobody gets hurt – with the notable exception of the French … and perhaps the Spaniards.”

“And if, in future, my national loyalties change, I promise to re-take this oath removing new friends and substituting them with whichever national enemies suit my fancy.”

“But mainly, I’m in it for the gold, the rum and the easily disposable sex partners. Now and forever more. Amen.”

Thus finished, McCormack waited for the assemblage to repeat after him. A few tried and got as far as, “I, state your name, (which they said precisely with a dead-pan solemnity rather than filling in their own personal names) am a piss-pot …”

Frustrated, McCormack called them to order.

“I can see we will need to take this a little bit at a time. So repeat the following phrases after me; I, state your name.”

“I, state your name,” the crew intoned as one.

McCormack thought briefly of having them start over and actually state their own individual names where he said, “state your name,” but quickly decided against it as impossibly complicated and pressed forward.

A few moments later, every man-jack (and woman-jack) aboard The Festering Boil was a duly sworn in pirate. What would come of it all? Only time would tell. And Cap’n Slappy had just the instrument to keep track of that.

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