Friday, June 02, 2006


The Havana Caper – Part 20 “The I LOVE YOU GUYS Stage”

The sharpened scissors caught the light from the lantern and bounced it into Leftenant Keeling’s eyes. “Is this absolutely necessary?” The young pirate wearily swayed back and forth on the operating table.

“By Gawd, young man!” Doc Burgess shot back testily. “Do I tell you how to go about givin’ a shirker a good flogging?” He snapped the scissors shut several times making a crisp metallic click each time.

Keeling couldn’t take his eyes off the flashing cutting instrument and replied with uncharacteristic sheepishness. “No.”

“Well then brace yerself, lad! Ye need to trust me! I am a friggin’ doctor, y’ know!” Burgess punctuated this statement with an eerie moment of gleeful giggling.

“And he’s not a half bad barber!” Cementhands McCormack, who had been seated in the barber chair receiving his customary pre-raid haircut, declared in support of the good doctor’s many skills. He glanced into a hand held mirror and remarked to Burgess, “Ye missed a spot by me left ear, Doc.”

“Oh, so I did!” Burgess was always cheerful when performing his duties as ship’s barber. He was known to jokingly remark, “Barberin’ is just like doctorin’ – just with twice the cuttin’ and only forty-seven percent o’ the bleedin’!” He gave his patient, Keeling, an impatient glance. “Lad! Ye’ve got to take all yer medicine before I finish McCormack’s haircut because he’s got a battle to fight and I need his help to reset yer damn shoulder!”

Keeling looked at the amber liquid as he sloshed it around in the bottle. “But thish bottle of rum ish half full!”

McCormack smiled, “That’s the spirit lad! I look at that bottle, and all I see is that it’s half empty! You’ve got a tremendous ‘Can Do’ attitude! And if I’m not mistaken, it’s paying off – your S’s are startin’ to leak! Ye’ll be ready for a good shoulder poppin’ soon!”

“Shave today?” Burgess asked McCormack as he dropped his scissors and comb into a jar of blue liquid which sat next to another jar containing blood sucking leeches and picked up a razor which he began dragging across a heavy leather strap.

“I think not.” The big man answered, “The stubble makes me look fierce yet approachable.”

“Eshes don’t leak!” Keeling argued McCormack’s point about the letter S and drunkenness. “Thatsh jusht shtupid, Schementhandsh!” Then, suddenly hearing himself, a stunned look gripped his face, “Ish that my voicsh?”

“By Davy Jones’ ball sack!” McCormack looked amazed, “We’ve completely destroyed his ability to speak with what? Three drinks?”

“He’s only had two by my count.” Burgess said in a tone that clearly was a challenge to the young pirate.

“It’sh jusht becaushe!” Keeling heard the sound of his own voice and began to think hard and pronounce his words carefully. “I am not a drinking fellow. I do not normally conshu- consh – I do not normally drink alcoholic beveragesh – beverage – I do not drink liquor!”

McCormack and Burgess looked on admiringly as Leftenant Keeling tried to steer his way through the English language without the use of the letter S. Of course, it was the verbal equivalent of watching a pinball game.

“Watch thish!” Keeling shook off that mistake and tried again, this time more simply. “Watch!” He put the bottle to his mouth and tilted it up and began swallowing. After four or five swallows, both Burgess and McCormack sprang to the table to pull the bottle away. As it was removed from his mouth, Keeling gasped as a man plucked from certain drowning in the sea. A fine mist of rum shot from his gob and coated the big man and the doctor in its spray.

Keeling’s eyes were bulging but the intoxicating effects of the rum were quickly taking over.

“We’ll reset his shoulder when he reaches the ‘I love you guys’ stage!” Doc Burgess winked knowingly at McCormack.

“But first,” the big man replied, “let the weeping begin.”

And it did.

“You know.” Keeling began as his eyes welled with tears. “I know you guysh – you men don’t think much of me ash – by way of being a pirate!”

Burgess and McCormack just looked at each other as Keeling continued.

“Don’t try to deny it! You look at me and what do you shee?” Ignoring his own flattened S, Keeling soldiered on answering his own question. “A fucking Dandy! That’sh right! I shaid FUCK! Capital F – Capital U – Capital Shee – Capital …” (here, Keeling seemed to lose his way and broke down in tears) “What wash I shaying?”

“K” both men intervened sympathetically on behalf of the partially spelled word, but Leftenant Keeling had moved on.

“You probably think me very dandy-like becaushe I cry great big man tearsh, but you might jusht be shurprished to learn that real men cry!”

“A defiant crier!” McCormack chortled, “This is splendid.”

“Shhh!” Burgess admonished his big friend for interrupting what promised to be an entertaining chain of thought. “Please Leftenant, continue.”

“The Good Book even shaysh that the Baby Jeshush cried – and not when he wash a baby, but big man, Jeshush! And if you are impugning the manlinesh of the Baby Jeshush, well, shir, I am afraid I will have to ashk you to shtep outshide!” Keeling wobbled as he sat upright on the examining table. At one point, they thought he would topple onto the deck, but like an inebriated marionette he always righted his balance almost to the point of engaging in an act of defiance to the laws of physics.

“He’s past the tears, do you think we’re at the stage where he expresses unfocused outrage at perceived slights?” McCormack asked hopefully.

Taking a practiced and professional wait-and-see approach, Doc Burgess measured his words carefully. “It all depends on what he says next.”

“YOU DON’T KNOW!” Keeling pointed an accusatory finger at the good doctor who nodded his affirmation to McCormack with an exaggerated wink. “OH! YOU THINK YOU’RE SHOOOOOO SHMART! I’ll bet you prancsh around here all day doing your I’m Shmarter Than Anyone Dancsh! Don’t you!” With that, Keeling hopped off the table and showed them what he thought the I’m Smarter Than Anyone Dance might look like if it were performed by Pinocchio on a serious bender. He even added a little ditty as he moved about the infirmary.

“I’m shmarter than anyone caushe I’m a freakin’ Doc-tor!
I know about medicine and what you ushe a cock-for!
I buy my apparel at the leather apron and shmock-shtore!
I’ll teach you to barber yesh I’ll be your freakin’ proc-tor!”

McCormack was feverishly writing down the words as they escaped Keeling’s lips but he was interrupted by Burgess.

“Would you please put down that pencil and help me get the patient back on the table before he dislocates something else?”

“But this is golden! I don’t want to miss a word – he’s going to love hearing about this later!” The big man argued as he scribbled down the last few words of Keeling’s song. Once that was safely tucked away, he walked up to the slumping patient and gently put his big hands around the Leftenant’s mid-section – careful to avoid the oddly dangling disjointed arm. As soon as his big hands touched the dancer-singer, Keeling wheeled around on McCormack.


McCormack nodded with bulging eyes and a big smile – hoping it was something devastatingly quotable.

“I jusht want you to know that … well … Dawb Gobbit! I LOVE YOU, BIG MAN! I LOVE YOU AND I DON’ CARE WHO KNOWSH IT!” Then, smiling at the Doctor he reiterated, “I LOVE YOU GUYSH!”

McCormack positioned his big hands; one gripping Keeling’s dangling bicep and the other bracing the shoulder for the sudden violence that was about to follow. He looked at Doc Burgess like a runner at the start of a race – waiting for the signal to go. With a nod of Burgess’ head, the loud but familiar crunch of bones, tendons and tissue ripped through the infirmary followed by the requisite scream – more surprise than pain – from the patient. The crunch stayed in the room, but the scream shot out of every opening onto the decks above.

At that very moment, Cap’n Slappy was bidding a farewell to his friend and colleague, Ol’ Chumbucket. His eyebrows raised in mild disbelief.

“That’s the fastest they’ve ever reached the ‘I Love You Guys’ phase!”

Ol’ Chumbucket nodded in agreement but added, “Of course, Keeling couldn’t have offered much tolerance. It would most likely take you a week to get that drunk.”

They laughed and shook hands. Two Patch called from the rigging that the Spanish ships were now in sight. As Ol’ Chumbucket turned to take up his position, he was joined by young Tharp.

Cap’n Slappy, who had already taken a couple of steps toward the helm turned back and called out to both men. “Ahoy!” They responded in kind. He quickly followed that up with, “I love you guys!” Laughed and turned back to his business.

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