Wednesday, August 01, 2007


The Havana Caper - Part 47 "Plan Forty-Six-B (The Dutch Variation)"

“De Technologie van de schroef!” shouted Cap’n Slappy as he closed his telescoping spy glass in such a way as to remove a chunk of meat from his fleshy hand.

“He’s cursing in Dutch again – this can’t be good.” Cementhands McCormack whispered.

“What is it, Cap’n?” Dogwatch asked.

Slappy scrunched up his face in a grimace that clearly showed something was wrong, but he was too busy thinking of the next move to answer the young man’s question. He simply pointed at young Tharp and said, “You!”

Dogwatch smiled to see that Slappy’s wrath was going to fall elsewhere. Unfortunately for him, he smiled too soon as Slappy’s “Famous Finger of Grief” was next pointed in his own direction. “AND YOU!”

Ol’ Chumbucket stared out to sea, taking in the number of sails on the horizon. “It looks like 14 ships in all, he said.

“Seven,” George the Greek corrected him. “Is your head feeling any better?”

“Not really,” Chumbucket replied, blinking his eyes several times in an effort to uncross them. “Sawbones said this will go away in a couple of days.”

“Maybe you should go lie down?” George suggested.

“No need, I’m fine,” Chumbucket assured him, staring at a spot two feet to the left of George.

George the Greek took the spyglass from Slappy and gazed out at the British man o’war that led the small flotilla approaching from the north.

“It’s the H.M.S. Susan’s Doily with a full escort. Seven ships in all. Admiral Tharp has outdone himself in entouragemanship.”

Slappy, who had been heading below decks with the two young men in accompaniment stopped when he heard reference to Sir Percival Winthorpe Mandrake Tharp – admiral of the British navy and unacknowledged brother of Cap’n Slappy. He shot George a look of desperate secrecy, eyes bulging, mouth pinched in a grimace.

“All hands! Implement standard Plan Forty-Six-B – The Dutch Variation!” he shouted.

“Beggin’ the cap’n’s pardon,” Cementhands McCormack chimed in, “but isn’t that the plan where we all pretend to be Dutch fishermen when the admiral pulls his ship along side?”

“Aye, Cementhands. That’s the one!” Slappy replied.

“And isn’t that plan ripped directly from the pages of ‘The Big Book of Brilliant Plans (With Colourful Illustrations for Children)’ the only big book of brilliant plans that doubles as a floatation device?”

“Correct again, Mr. McCormack!” Slappy was growing impatient – he had things to tell the two young men he’d taken in tow and this was getting in the way.

“Sorry to be a bit of a nudge, Cap’n.” McCormack continued undaunted, “but isn’t this the same book-slash-floatation-device that was written and published-slash-manufactured by the very Lord Sir Admiral Percival Winthorpe Mandrake Tharp who is approaching as we speak?”

“I fail to see where all this is going, McCormack!” Slappy’s impatience was now brimming over.

“All I am sayin’, beggin’ the cap’n’s pardon, is that if Lord Sir Admiral Percival Winthorpe Mandrake Tharp, in fact, wrote Plan Forty-Six-B – the Dutch Variation, don’t you think it has a rather limited chance of achieving the sort o’ stealth one might expect from a plan designed to cast misdirections upon a fellow – considering the fellow in question wrote those very misdirections in the first place?”

Suddenly, a voice cut through the air – a familiar, uniquely feminine voice – surprisingly pleasing and not at all unpleasant were it not for the fact that Evil itself dripped from every syllable.

“And while we’re on misdirections, as our friend Cementhands most eloquently puts it, when are you going to drop all the misdirections you and your brother have enacted upon the boys?”

A general murmur of confusion arose from the men on deck as they tried to grasp two disparate concepts;
a) How was it that Lady Fanny now appeared before them without burning a hole in the deck with her ambiance of pure evil? And …
b) What in the name of Sweet Neptune’s Man Nipples did she mean by “You and your brother?” and “the boys?”

The crew of The Festering Boil waited in breathless anticipation for all to be revealed!

Slappy was stunned to see Lady Fanny and her faithful assassin, Tasha, standing on the deck of his ship. Despite the fact that they were bound head to toe in chains and guarded by a crack detachment of British Royal Marines he was nevertheless uneasy with her and her protégé’s presence – and for good reason.

She continued, “Why, my dear Slappy! I’m the one heading off to a state-of-the-art medium security women’s detention center on some God-forsaken tropical island with no one but my lovely assistant for company and YOU’RE the one who looks pale with fear. It isn’t because you now feel the need to tell the boys who their mummy is? And, a bit more complicatedly, who is their POP!”

Lady Fanny exploded that last word with such violent force that it gave visceral meaning to the word “onomonopoea.” And there was that use of the phrase, “the boys” again – as if she was intimately connected in some way to two young men aboard The Festering Boil. And with the sudden shift in mood, it wasn’t hard to tell which two were the subject of such unwanted and un-wished-for familiarity.

“That’s absurd!” Young Tharp shot a sharp look first at Lady Fanny – and then at Slappy himself, whose face betrayed a distinct lack of absurdity.

Dogwatch ’s response was much less anticipated. But, but – my mother ... Plymouth?”

Like a Dark Madonna Lady Fanny stood with arms as open as her chains would allow in a “Come to Mummy-in-chains” stance. Dogwatch took one hesitant step toward the woman but was stopped when Cap’n Slappy grabbed him by the shoulder.

“Lad! She’s spent the last few weeks trying to kill you. You might say she’s been a less-than-stellar vision of motherhood.”

“Oh!” Fanny exclaimed in mock frustration. “What mother hasn’t said at some point, ‘I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it!’?”

“Deception, thy name is FANNY!” Tharp bellowed in a tone that would have made his father proud. “I had a mother and she wasn’t you!”

“You mean that twerp your father married after he knocked me up? She was nothing more than a glorified nanny! Did the admiral never tell you about your real mum?” Fanny paused, but it was clear no answer would be coming. She continued, “Of course he didn’t. No cuckold wants his horns polished in front of his son … or at least the boy he claims as his son.”

At this point, Tharp covered his ears as if avoiding the Siren’s song – but it was too late, the story had begun to be spun.

“Ask your Pirate King here who’s your daddy, boy!” And with a look at Dogwatch, “Or yours, lad!”

All eyes landed on Slappy who was desperately looking through his spyglass for Admiral Tharp aboard The Susan’s Doily. One of the marines holding Fanny broke in.

“The admiral is holding his position until we move Lady Fanny off the ship and into her new accommodations and until you and your crew can make The Festering Boil look more like a Dutch fishing boat.”

“I told you he would remember Plan Forty-Six-B – The Dutch Variation!” Cementhands said feeling fully vindicated.

Slappy looked forsaken, but turned to the two young men. “I told you there was something I wanted to tell you …”

“Oh, for the love of Davy Jones and all the little Joneses!” Lady Fanny broke in. “I’m not saying that Slappy is the boys’ father!”

Slappy sighed in relief.

“I’m not saying he isn’t, either – or even that it ISN’T Admiral Tharp! Or that it ISN’T Ol’ Chumbucket or Doc Burgess or Cementhands McCormack or even that damnably sexy Greek!”

George smiled and gave a little wave.

“You see boys, Mummy had a fixation with seamen and their … well … semen. And you know how men of the sea are – always coming and going when they’re not coming and going … if you get my meaning …”

Dogwatch winced while young Tharp threw up in his mouth a little.

“And before Mummy was the quintessence of evil, she was a bit of a slut. But you’re both mine – I’m just not sure who your daddy or daddies is or are.”

Dogwatch was near tears. “But why did we get split up? This man – who you seem to be saying is my brother – went to a fancy estate. I was raised by my mother in a dockside tavern.”

“Mummy was sent away before you were born, deary!” Lady Fanny smiled. “But Mummy never abandoned you to your fate! No. Mummy dumped you in a trash bin and someone must have found you and put you in an orphanage.”

“Ouch! That’s gotta sting!” McCormack exclaimed in pseudo-sympathy.

“Alright, you poisonous viper, off to Madam Scuttsbooty’s Minimum Security Prison for Ladies of Entitlement and their Curiously Dangerous Sexy Companions.” The Royal Marine said as he escorted the women off The Boil and back to his waiting ship which moved surprisingly fast and was quickly out of sight.

“Wait.” Cap’n Slappy said far too late. “I thought he said ‘medium security’ earlier and now it’s ‘minimum security?’ – that can’t be right!”

“Does it matter?” Ol’ Chumbucket sighed. “Minimum security or maximum security … it’s all the same. Hell, they could close her up in a lead coffin and double-weld it shut, drop it into the deepest bit of the ocean and she would still find a way to come back and vex us.”

“So you’re saying we have something to look forward to!” McCormack chimed providing them all with a much-needed laugh - all except the two boys whose maternity had just been exposed.

“Don’t be so glum lads!” Doc Burgess said with cheer. “Who among us can say our mum wasn’t a bit o’ a bitch?”

Ol’ Chumbucket’s hand went up immediately – but the rest of the crew nodded in muffled agreement with the good doctor.

Also glum in this hour was Lieutenant Anthony “Cheesey” Davis and his band of recently defected marines.

“What’s the matter, Cheesey?” young Tharp asked whimsically, “You haven’t also found out that your own dear mum is a horrible, horrible she-harpy, have you?”

“Oh, heavens sir! Nothing so bad as all that. It’s just that … well …” Cheesey broke off and seemed distracted.

“Come man! What is it? Perhaps I can be of some assistance.” Tharp was genuinely trying to be helpful.

“Well, sir, it’s just that me and the lads are going to hang for sure on account o’ takin’ up with Mad Lady Fanny because our captain– Cap’n Stubbing took her coin and all.”

“Yes.” Tharp nodded in agreement knowing full well that the hempen dance would be the price Cheesey and his men would pay for being misled. He thought for a moment and looked around as the crew of The Festering Boil gathered to see what would come of this situation. As Tharp looked into the faces of Cap’n Slappy, Ol’ Chumbucket, Cementhands McCormack and the rest of the crew – fully realizing that half of them or none of them might be his father – he set his smile on his friend, Cheesey Davis.

“You lads wouldn’t consider going on the account and becoming pirates would you?” he asked quite sincerely.

“No offence intended to your mates, sir, but me and the boys were born marines and we’ll die marines.” Cheesey said stoically.

Young Tharp now had a decision. There was something about the pirate life that appealed to him now. As he looked around he realized it might have something to do with genetics – but whatever it was, he knew the leaving of it would be a loss. But he also couldn’t let a young man die for doing only what he was always taught to do.

His truthfulness had been the last vestige of his British Naval Officer personae – but now, in an ironic twist, he would have to set it aside and be more pirate-like in order to re-enter the world of the Royal Navy.

“Of course,” Tharp began, “If a fellow officer and son of a highly decorated admiral were to vouch for the fact that you and your men have been held hostage just as these … Dutch fishermen have, well …”

“You’d do that for us, sir?” Cheesey was now beginning to hope.

“A thousand times, my friend. A thousand times.”

“That’s all good and what not – but if you lads don’t mind, we’ve got some Dutchin’ up to do!” Slappy broke in – he was eager to make things look good for his brother – Lord Sir Admiral Percival Winthorpe Mandrake Tharp

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