Thursday, January 10, 2008


Chapter Two

The season wouldn’t be complete in Cap’n Slappy’s mind without The Cementhands McCormack Singers’ fine rendition of “The Twelve Pirate Days of Christmas.” It was performed with gusto – in both voice and sign language with several members of the chorale attempting what can only be described as “interpretive dance,” and culminated in a spectacular albeit wildly inappropriate fireworks display. By the time they got to the final verse it had seemed to take a full week to perform and the choir was flagging noticeably, but they gritted their teeth and belted out the final lines –

“On the twelfth pirate day of Christmas my captain gave to me …
Twelve savage beatings
Eleven saucy wenches
Ten brand new cannons
Nine disembowelings
Eight more saucy wenches
Seven Swaths of Swag
Six Spanish Sweaters
Five Gold Earrings!
Four friendly goats
Three French slaves
Two Turtle Shells
And a Parrot Who Will Perch Upon ME!

And after the traditional carol singing came the traditional debauchery to the point of death – and there was much rejoicing.
But Christmas on The Festering Boil was not without its more solemn observations of the Holiday. As the moon took its place in the night sky and the stars twinkled in the firmament, Ol’ Chumbucket held both hands up to silence the revelers – who then ceased their merriment and paid him heed. Every man and woman aboard knew it was now time for the recitation of, “Twas The Piratey Night Before Christmas.” Lanterns were held to illuminate Ol’ Chumbucket as he primed his throat with a swig from his rum flask and took in a deep cleansing breath before reciting– from memory;
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the ship
There was nothing to munch on – not even a chip.
The flagons were empty.
The rum was all gone.
All pirates were sober and would be till dawn.

(The crew moaned on cue – in keeping with tradition.)

With the crew in their hammocks I’d long hit the sack
For the watchmen were watchful, there’d be no attack.
When down on the wharf there arose such a ruckus
That I fell from my bunk on my back and my tuchus.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But Cementhands McCormack and four kegs of beer!

(The crew cheered on cue – in keeping with tradition.)

His nosey was rosey from having been drunk
But a selfish man, never – of us he had thunk.
He’d gambled with locals who weren’t that clever
“Such patsies!” he said, “I could pick them forever.”
Doubloons were still spilling from his big britches pockets.
“They gambled their watches, their bracelets and lockets!”
But then he had thoughts of his mates on the boat.
“What good are my winnings? To whom can I gloat?”
And then he remembered there was naught to drink
And this made him thoughtful – the big man would think.
“Well, it’s Christmas” he thought, “And there’s nothing to do –
Should I blow it on harlots? Nah – BOOZE FOR THE CREW!”

(In keeping with tradition, the crew recites the phrase, “BOOZE FOR THE CREW” with Ol’ Chumbucket followed by traditional raucous cheering)

So the big man bought kegs, he bought bottles, a flagon.
And he piled them up high in a little red wagon
That he dragged cross the cobblestone streets of the town
Some bottles fell off and the flagon fell down
But he grabbed the last bottle, in his pants he did tuck it.
“This one’s for the captain – and his pal, Chumbucket!”
What joy there arose when he finally arrived
For the lack of the drink made the crew feel deprived
Now they toasted and boasted, they guzzled and swilled
Had the wagon been bigger, they would have been killed
By alcohol poisoning – no doubt about it
But it wouldn’t be piratey Christmas without it.
And the big man, he bellowed before he got plastered,

(Here, the crew joined in the final line, followed by raucous cheering – in keeping with the holiday tradition.)


Cap’n Slappy approached Ol’ Chumbucket at the conclusion of the recitation – applauding as he came and wiping what appeared to be a tear from his rosy cheek. “That was lovely – as always!” he said as he shook hands with his friend. “How do you memorize all those words?”
Ol’ Chumbucket was about to describe in great detail his “process,” but Cap’n Slappy was moving on – “Sweet Baby Neptune in a bed of oysters! That was grand! The only thing that could make it grander would be a surprise gift of a lovely gold ring for the captain.”

(Here, Slappy paused – hoping this subtle hint might be just the cue the crew needed to spring what he had hoped would be the long-awaited and often hinted at gift he dreamt of. When nothing happened, he sighed heavily. It was now time for his annual Christmas address.)
“Yes, well, perhaps next year. At any rate, let me just say, it’s been quite a year what with attaining great riches during the Havana Caper only to lose those same riches at caper’s end! Still, we pirate on – in hopes that one day, there will come a bright and glorious morning on which we will find ourselves awash in treasure without the subsequent loss of said treasure due to unfortunate circumstances. It would appear, even to the most casual of observers that our Deus Ex Machina seems to be a relentless harpy – keeping us from the happy endings of a wealth nature that would allow fellows such as ourselves to pay for another sort of happy ending at Madam Bordeaux’s International House of Spankings.”

(A general harrumph of agreement burbled through the assemblage – and several, “Oh, I love the IHOS!” could be heard amongst the murmur.)

Cap’n Slappy continued, “And whereas we require a modicum of discipline in our carnal peccadilloes, so shall we ever seek to raise the level of discipline in our practice of the piratical arts.”
At this line, Leftenant Keeling shouted an approving “Huzzah!”
“Not a discipline of the flesh!” (Keeling moaned in disappointment.) “But a discipline of the mind! A discipline of the spirit!” (general sounds of bewilderment rumbled throughout the gathered pirates) “And, alright, a discipline of the flesh!”
Keeling cheered again.
“May our disciplined efforts in the coming year produce the sort of wealth acquisition that has, thus far, eluded us and may we all, on this day next year, remember who it was that inspired us to break out of our slump and award him accordingly with a lovely gold ring!”
The sound of crickets could be heard over the confused silence of the pirates. Cap’n Slappy sighed again.
“Oh, bugger-all. Let’s just have a good year, shall we, and try not to get ourselves killed. Merry Christmas!”
A cheer went up from the crew who knew that for all of Cap’n Slappy’s talk of discipline, his message would soon be forgotten and life on The Festering Boil would go on as it always had – barely contained chaos on the high seas.
Suddenly, George the Greek rushed over with an urgent message for the captain. “The natives … (he panted) … they’re restless!”
Sure enough, the glow of torches, the unmistakable shimmering of well-polished pronged farm implements reflecting the torchlight and the guttural murmur of discontented Port Royalists could be glimpsed coming toward the general direction of the wharf.
“Who’s been a naughty pirate?” Cap’n Slappy asked the crew in general – not expecting the deluge of confessions that sprang, like curse words from a child afflicted with Tourette’s syndrome, from various crew members gathered for the celebration.
“I cheated the inn-keeper at cards!”
“I cheated the cooper at dice!”
“I deflowered the blacksmith’s daughter!”
“Me too!”
“Aye! I did that – twice!”
Cap’n Slappy shook his head, recognizing that last voice – “McCormack!”
They continued,
“I convinced a drunk to marry a pig!”
“I deflowered that pig!”
“I punched the mayor in the face!”
Ol’ Chumbucket was aghast – “Why did you do that?”
“He used the word ‘mute’ when he meant ‘moot’!”
“And he described something that is simply uncommon as being, ‘very unique!’ ”
“Well, he was asking for it then, wasn’t he?” Ol’ Chumbucket asserted. “On behalf of the English language, I thank you for your vigorous defense.”

“Look,” Cap’n Slappy cut off this shipboard confessional, “Let’s just say, you’ve all be very naughty and the rest of Christmas has been cancelled. We’ll set sail immediately.”
“You can’t cancel Christmas, Cap’n.” Salty Jim pointed out matter-of-factly.
“I’m the captain, aren’t I – I can cancel anything I bloody well, want.” Slappy shot back.
“No. You don’t understand my meaning. Christmas is over. It’s now Boxing Day. You can cancel Boxing Day if you like.”
Salty Jim felt that this was a fair compromise.
“But when will we pack away the Christmas decoration if not on Boxing Day?” Dogwatch asked innocently.
“Twelfth Night?” Spencer suggested.
“You can’t leave the Christmas decorations up until Twelfth Night!” Sawbones Burgess declared.
By now, the mob from Port Royal was within a couple of blocks of the pier and looking ever-so-surly.
“For the love of Sweet Poseidon’s salty bollocks!” Ol’ Chumbucket cried out in exasperation, “This – this sprig of mistletoe tacked to the mizzen is the totality of our festive décor!” He then snatched it off the mast and stuffed it in his pocket. “There! Boxing Day’s over! Can we shove off now?”
As he said the words, “shove off,” the crewmen who had gone down to the dock, freed the ship which immediately pulled away from her berth. Those crewmen then scampered up the ropes and back onto the deck as the townspeople reached the dockside. The mayor – black-eyed and bandaged – held a long piece of paper aloft and called out, “Cap’n Slappy! We have a list of grievances here, signed by some of our most upstanding citizens against various elements of your crew! We wish to discuss them point-by-point in search of retributary remunerations!”
“RETRIBUTARY?” Slappy called out – “Are you sure that’s a word?”
“No, sir!” The mayor called out, “I’m not! But if you’re leaving, the whole point of the document is probably mute!”
Several crewmen surged toward the deck in hopes of issuing a hail of verbal taunts – but they were quickly restrained. Ol’ Chumbucket called after the mayor – “Then let us never speak of this again!”

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