Monday, May 01, 2006


Part 8 – “Pirates of Little Faith”

“A pirate of little faith says what?” Cementhands, or “St. Swithin” mumbled in the captain’s direction.

“What?” Slappy replied then winced immediately knowing he’d been “got.”

“He got you, Cap’n!” Wellington Peddicord laughed.

“Yes, Wellington! I know! That’s why I winced– didn’t you see me wince?” Slappy declared – then shaking off the silliness – “This is madness, McCormack – sorry … ‘St. Swithin!’ The Festering Boil is not sea worthy and we’ve got to have her rigged and ready in three days or we will miss our opportunity to …” Slappy glanced over at the Padre who waited for an explanation “… strike a blow for justice and ‘economic equality’!”

Slappy was hoping that the Jesuit Monk would appreciate them striking blows for “justice” (whatever that may be) and he was also hoping that his crew would know what he meant by “economic equality.”

As Slappy protested, McCormack, Peddicord and Father Bracca simply smiled as the children played joyously on the beach. A bit of the child that was always clearly visible in the salty old pirate captain was tugged – he wanted to run and play, too.

“The children need an avenger.” St. Swithin said simply. “Do you know anyone with the skill and courage to strike back at the Spanish opportunists who orphaned these wee ones for twenty pieces of silver?”

“St. Swithin means gold.” Peddicord added, sweetening the pot.

“Here’s your chance to strike a blow for justice – true justice, my son. And perhaps some of that economic equality you seek.” Father Bracca followed up in the spirit of Truth and emotional manipulation.

Cap’n Slappy looked at Ol’ Chumbucket as he often did when facing a hard decision. Chumbucket just sort of smiled and nodded as he looked out at the children – as he often did, he knew the captain’s mind before the captain did.

Slappy then turned to George who was already doing a head count to figure out how large their strike force would be.

“Alright!” Slappy declared, “But Chumbucket – your scouting mission is still on – let’s not lose any more time than is absolutely necessary. And Jim – choose …” Slappy looked at Cementhands, who held up two fingers, “… TWO (Slappy couldn’t believe he was saying this) men to help you get the ship ready.” Slappy then turned back toward the saint and his entourage and bowed like a proper Englishman, “Gentlemen, we are at your – and The Almighty’s disposal.”

“Perhaps you would like to join us at the mission this evening?” Father Bracca offered.

“Thank you, no, Padre. We’ll be up there ready to go in the morning – but for now, we should get as much done as we can.” Slappy replied.

The long boat took Father Bracca and Cementhands McCormack back to the beach where they were greeted as returning heroes by the children. Wellington Peddicord stayed aboard The Festering Boil to aid in her repairs.

“What are we getting into, Welly?” Oscar – a rather bookish pirate who kept a constant journal – asked.

“A shot at redemption, man. A sweet shot at redemption.” Peddicord replied smiling as he went to work with a wood plane on some rough timbers.

As the first light of morning stretched out across the water causing it to glisten, most of the crew was still asleep, rocking like babies in a huge floating cradle. Ol’ Chumbucket and his scouting party moved the last supplies from the Boil down to Lord Shiva’s Eye.

“Are you sure about this, Mortimer?” Ol’ Chumbucket asked as the two spoke privately on the deck of the Boil.

Slappy smiled. “Oddly enough, I am sure about this. I don’t know if it’s just my belief that McCormack is in there somewhere and knows what he’s doing or whether some other forces are at work here – but I haven’t felt this right about anything in a long time. And this may be the thing that brings Cementhands back.” He looked at the newly rising sun took a deep breath of sea air into his lungs and sighed. “We never know what mysteries a day holds – it all just sort of spills out as it will.”

“That’s what mops are for.” Chumbucket smiled in reply. The two men shook hands and Chumbucket climbed down to the ship below. He called up, “We’ll see you in a few days!”

Leftenant Keeling came to the rails edge and turned to Slappy. “Permission to stay and fight with the captain!”

“Permission denied, Leftenant! Mr. Chumbucket has need of your services aboard the Shiva.” Cap’n Slappy was stern but friendly – he shook hands with each of the scouting team as they descended – thanking Spencer for the use of his ship. As Mandrake Tharp approached, Cap’n Slappy offered his hand.

At first, Tharp regarded the offer with a look of unqualified disdain, but finally shook hands with his uncle making sure to grip his hand as firmly as possible.

“Nice grip, Junior.” Slappy admitted.

The young officer quickly released his hand and turned to descend to the Shiva. “And don’t call me ‘Junior’ you ol’ rum pot!”

Slappy laughed, “That sounded almost familial!” he called after the young man.

“Well it wasn’t!” Tharp kept the bitter tone sharpened, “I was simply being descriptive.”

Slappy nodded and sighed as he whispered to himself. “God, I hate that little prick.”

As Lord Shiva’s Eye pulled away, Doc Burgess joined Cap’n Slappy at the rail.

“You’re up early, Sawbones!” Slappy observed.

“Well, I figured if you were hell-bent on getting half the crew mangled, I might as well get used to some sleepless nights.” There was almost a growl in the good doctor’s voice.

Slappy gave him a sideways glance, “You know, Sawbones, it’s your enthusiasm that I admire the most.”

“Don’t sass, I’m scolding you.” Burgess shot back.

“Scold later.” Slappy ordered. “For now, help me get these slackers up and onto the long boats – we have a date with a saint at the mission.”

After several sorties of long boat loads of pirates had been ferried onto the beach, they finally had their full force sans the scouting party and the repair team. They brought every musket on board as well as a few of the small cannons along with all of their ammunition.

“Every crew member present or accounted for!” George told Slappy as they stood in what passed for “formation” on the sand.

“Alright my hearty pirates – let’s march!” Slappy called as he turned and lead them up the hill to the mission.

As they approached the huge doors on the mission wall, they were amazed to see them swing open almost automatically. They soon saw that the children had been busy preparing for their arrival.

A large table sat in the open air of the courtyard. It was bestrewn with food; bread, eggs, potatoes, ham, chicken and a vast array of fruits.

Red Molly turned to Oscar and whispered, “Last Breakfast?”

“Hail Caesar! We who are about to die, salute you!” Oscar replied.

The food was delicious and there seemed to be no end to it – this was a real treat to sailors who were used to their sustenance being meted out in rations. As they reached the point of fullness, St. Swithin made an announcement.

“Please store all fire arms and ammunition in this building off to my right. It will stay safe there until you return to your ship. This expedition will require only swords and clubs.”

There was a general grumble, but Slappy held up his hands. “St. Swithin has our best interests at heart – we will follow his directions to the letter.” He then looked directly at McCormack and mouthed the words, “Don’t get us killed.”

After breakfast, the pirates dutifully placed all of their firearms and ammunition in the building that was locked immediately afterward.

They gathered around St. Swithin and waited for his next direction. Father Bracca appeared in his monk’s robes with a rope tied about the waist. Secured firmly by the rope, two machetes hung about the Padre’s mid-drift.

“Father,” George asked, “are you going to the fight with us?”

“Yes, my son.” Bracca replied, “I have sworn to bring God to the people – but that doesn’t keep me from bringing the people to God – in this case by sending them directly.”

“Today we march! Tomorrow we fight!” St. Swithin called to the assembled crowd before leading them into the jungle.

Slappy walked along side the big man. “Now I know you’re not Cementhands McCormack.” He said with just a note of despair.

“How do you know that, my child?” St. Swithin replied.

“You’re not carrying a large weapon of some sort.” Slappy said matter-of-factly.

“God will provide, my son. God will provide.” St. Swithin smiled as he walked on.

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