Tuesday, November 13, 2007


The Havana Caper - Part 49 "Still Waters"

“So, let me get this straight ...” Doc Burgess was trying to brush the fog of confusion from his mind and our story line. “ … young Tharp was your nephew and the cousin to our own Dogwatch Watts, right?”

“Wrong.” George the Greek chimed in. “Young Tharp and Dogwatch are brothers. And since young Tharp is now aboard his father’s ship, no doubt putting in a good word for Cheesey and the other marines and a bad word in for the Cap’n here, we can only assume that the next time he sees us, he’ll be in a less than cordial mood.”

“No doubt.” Ol’ Chumbucket agreed. “But back to the issue at hand. They boys have different mothers. Correct?”

“I don’t see what difference any of this makes.” Slappy tried to change the subject. “We’ve just set England and Spain back at war and that can only be good for business.”

“So pretty boy here, is Fanny’s issue of tissue?” McCormack gestured at Dogwatch with his thumb. He was much more interested in the family drama than any geopolitical machinations.

“What!?!” Dogwatch was visible disconcerted.

“No.” Lieutenant Keeling had been drawing a genogram – a sort of family tree in bracket form. “As you can clearly see, our Dogwatch was the love-child of the admiral and a woman named Victoria.”

“That sounds like a queen’s name!” Spencer chimed in as if he’d been invited.

“Maybe in the crazy science fiction future!” Red Molly added a woman’s voice to the proceedings. “But for now, Elizabeth is queen … or is it James?”

There was, at once, great hullabaloo about who was monarch of what and whether or not there was even such a thing as Queen James. The gathering began taking on carnival proportions and Slappy felt the need to bring it all to a head.

“LOOK!” he bellowed. “Young Tharp is the Tharp heir and our Dogwatch is the admiral’s surprise bastard child from a tragically mismatched but loving relationship he had in his youth and about whom he had no prior knowledge.”

“So, that makes you his uncle.” Wellington Peddicord interjected matter-of-factly.

Slappy sighed heavily and shot an exhausted glance at Peddicord because he had not only cut to the chase but verbalized the part that would now have to be addressed.

“Shall I call you, ‘Uncle Mortimer,’ Cap’n?” Dogwatch asked innocently enough.

(For a moment, Slappy’s boiling blood was so completely pressurized that it nearly shot through his pores – like a nightmarish colander of gore – and he nearly fired back, “CALL ME MORTIMER AND DIE!” But he remembered what he’d learned in his anger management class. He took a deep breath and had nearly calmed himself when he was suddenly goaded by his pal, Ol’ Chumbucket.)

“Oh, yes! Let’s all call you, ‘Uncle Mortimer’ from now on!”

“I want to call you, ‘Daddy!’” Jenny joined in the ripping good fun.

“Et tu, Jenny?” Slappy looked so stricken she nearly felt badly – but he soon started laughing and all was forgiven. “The answer is, “NO, DAMMIT” to all of you.” Then, with a flirtatious wink toward Jenny – “Except you.” Then, to break the sexual tension he turned to Dogwatch – “And you, nephew, may call me ‘Uncle Slappy’ never, ‘Uncle – the M word’ Calling me ‘Uncle – the M word is like saying, ‘Please kill me without mercy right now!’” Then Slappy thought about it for a moment and added, “But not when we’re on the ship! On board this ship I am and always will be ‘Cap’n Slappy’ until I get voted out in our fair and democratic process!”

A shout of “Huzzah-hippity-do-dah!” rang upwards from the deck of The Festering Boil.

The crowd began to disperse leaving only Cap’n Slappy, Ol’ Chumbucket and Cementhands McCormack strolling toward the bow of the ship which sat in the same fetid waters around which she had been surrounded for the last several days.

“What day is this?” Slappy asked.

Ol’ Chumbucket knew that he wasn’t asking which day of the week it was or the calendar date – the only question on anyone’s mind was, “When will we get moving again?”

“Day six.”

“Dammit!” Slappy said, scrunching up his face as he breathed in the stinking air he’d been breathing for nearly a week.

At sea, the ocean is your toilet and theirs hadn’t been flushed in some time. The usual course is simply to sail away from your personal sewage leaving it to break up in the current or be swallowed by some sort of shit-swallowing whale or something – but here they sat – wallowing in their own filth and none-too-happy about it.

As if on cue, young Gabriel came over and climbed up onto the rail just a few feet away and, facing the sea, opened his breeches and began to pass water. He stood, arms akimbo, as a full stream of urine jettisoned itself into the stagnant morass below.

Slappy rolled his eyes but let the call of nature pass as he changed the subject to the weather situation – or more correctly, the current lack of a weather situation. He had no sooner made mention of an interesting cloud formation than his young cabin boy pivoted in place turning his back to the briny deep, dropped his trousers and, taking a hold of a nearby rope ladder, assumed a squatting position with his hind quarters poised for action as far over the edge of the ship as he could get.

“Really?!” Slappy’s question was also a statement and the boy, mid bowel movement, looked from side to side to see what or who the captain was dithering about or to. Seeing nobody in his area, he responded as best he could.

“Why don’t you make a wood cut? It’ll last longer!” The boy was pleased with the sauciness of his reply but perplexed as to why the pinching of this particular loaf was of such interest to the captain and his brain trust. But his curiosity about their concern was quickly lost in the sense of self satisfaction with the zinger he’d just invented and began imagining other circumstances in which he could repeat it. This flight of fancy was broken when Cap’n Slappy simply wouldn’t let it go.

“Great Neptune’s dangling salty testicles! Must you do that here?” Again, Slappy made the mistake of using a question with a child when a directive was called for.

“Where do you suggest I do this?” Gabriel was rightfully confused. This was a popular spot for the evacuation of the bowels – Hell! He’d seen Slappy dump a load from this very spot hundreds of times. Besides, he was mid-movement and not about to shut down operations and move them now.

“Why don’t you poop off the poop deck?” Ol’ Chumbucket offered helpfully – gesturing to the back of the ship.

“There’s ladies on the poop deck!” the boy argued.

“Pirate ladies!” McCormack argued. “They’ve seen men poop off the side of the ship before!”

“Not me!” Gabriel declared with a grunt as he passed a rather large chunk. Slappy, Chumbucket and Cementhands winced at first, then nodded approvingly. The boy continued, “I’m a shy pooper!”

Satisfied that he had taken care of business, Gabriel pulled a crumpled piece of paper from a pocket in his shirt and proceeded to wipe his ass with it. Slappy recognized the paper immediately.

“Is that from my memoir?” Slappy’s brows raised and his eyes were wide with anticipation of the answer.

“What if I said, ‘yes.’?” The boy asked.

“Then I would ask, ‘Which chapter?’!”

“What if I said, ‘Chapter Six!’?”

Slappy thought for a moment – then he nodded approvingly. “Then I would say, “Okay. That’s fine.’”

“Chapter Six.”

“Okay, that‘s fine.”

The boy finished his paper work and returned below deck.

The three stared up at the flaccid sails. Slappy sighed heavily and for a moment, wished he could sigh hard enough to bend those sails and move the ship.

He looked at McCormack. “Can’t you do something about this?”

“What can I do?” McCormack replied uncomfortably. He was afraid Slappy had work for him and he was not in the mood for labor.

“Can’t you work some of that St. Swithin mo-jo or ju-ju or whatever it is you do that makes weather stuff happen?”

“You mean perform a miracle.” Ol’ Chumbucket corrected the captain’s magical word vocabulary. “That IS something saints do.”

“See?” Slappy pointed at Ol’ Chumbucket as if to say, “I told you so!” but he had no sooner began to taunt when Ol’ Chumbucket quickly pointed out that Cementhands was not a saint himself – but rather, was simply the conduit for a saint whilst said saint had possession of his body. He went on to point out that Skeptical Pirate Magazine had a recent article which explained how superstitious pirates often attributed natural phenomena to a wide variety of extra-natural manifestations up to and including “beatific possession.”

Slappy blinked his eyes several times trying to take in the meaning of Ol’ Chumbucket’s observation.

“So, you’re telling me he can’t control the winds and get us the hell out of here?”

“Yup.” Chumbucket replied crisply.

Slappy turned to McCormack, “So just what the hell good are you?!?”

Before Cementhands could defend his existence, Dogwatch came running up. “Uncle Slappy! Uncle Slappy!”

The captain shot him a death glance whose meaning was immediately understood.

“I mean, Cap’n Slappy! Cap’n Slappy!”

“What is it, nephew?” Slappy smiled.

“I’ve been studying the charts and it appears to me that there’s a major current three hundred yards off the starboard bow!” Dogwatch pointed to the spot in the chart – and Slappy double checked their position.

“The lad is right! Give yourself an extra piece of Granny McCafferty’s rhubarb pie at our next family reunion!”

While Dogwatch had never been to a family reunion, much less tasted Granny McCafferty’s rhubarb pie, he figured this all had to be good. Cap’n Slappy was once again infused with energy.

“Well, ye may be useless in the weather conjuring saint department, but you can still lead a long boat crew, can’t ye?”

“That just seems like a lot of work to me.” McCormack argued. “Why don’t we just catch the next wind and sail over to the current?

“By Poseidon’s Barnacled Bottom!” Slappy roared, “Aren’t you sick of this stinking swamp yet? How can you even – …”

Just then, a stiff breeze lifted Slappy’s hat from his head and tossed it overboard.

“Dammit!” he called out as he chased after it and watched it land in the thick ooze that encompassed the ship – then, like the man who was slow to realize he’d just set his beard on fire – Slappy spun around and saw the wind billowing the sails.

“It’s a miracle! Saint Cementhands be praised!”

Ol’ Chumbucket shook his head and gave McCormack a look of stubborn incredulity.

“I think Saint Cementhands deserves an extra ration of grog every day for a month. Don’t you?” McCormack said as if he was renegotiating a contract with Slappy.

“Whatever you want – just keep it coming!” Slappy rushed to the figurehead of the ship and leaned out over the front. The wind blew his hair and beard from behind – they were really moving now.

“Set a course for that current, Mr. Dogwatch, if you please!” Slappy called out to his nephew.

“Aye-aye, Cap’n!” Dogwatch headed back toward the wheel on the double.

“Where to now, captain?” Ol’ Chumbucket asked – still smirking at Cementhands who wore an unmistakably cheeky grin.

“Wherever the winds and the current take us – that’s where our next adventure will be.”

“You know,” Ol’ Chumbucket couldn’t hold back any more. “Cementhands just watched the clouds above moving toward the ship and knew the winds wouldn’t be far behind – there’s no great mystery here.”

McCormack offered only a look of feigned offence.

“I know.” Slappy smiled at his friends. “But I have always been fond of a good mystery – and perhaps a miracle or two.”

The three pirates stood looking forward as The Festering Boil picked up speed and eased herself into the current as the sun kissed the ocean on the western horizon.

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