Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Chapter Five - Omelets on the Beach

As The Festering Boil closed in on the dread pirate Fifi Le Fleur’s La Petite Mort, a cluster of Boilers gathered behind Cap’n Slappy and Ol’ Chumbucket as they kept a careful watch on their intended prey. The two were peppered with questions from this impromptu peanut gallery that came fast and furious – like a desperate press conference with a world leader who had just done something of which he should be utterly ashamed;

“Is it true he’s killed more than three hundred men himself?”

“Did he really murder the Austrian ski champion?”

“I heard he drinks the blood of virgins from a silver chalice – can we offer him Gabriel?”

“No, Spencer!” Cap’n Slappy snorted in great miffedness, “And stop trying to foist young Gabriel’s blood on evil geniuses!”

“Is he REALLY an evil genius?”

“Where does he get his clothes? – He looks fabulous! – At least in the last woodcut I saw of him in Pirattitude Monthly!”

“Do you think the devaluation of the doubloon is responsible for the lagging ship-building market which resulted in rudder manufacturing jobs being shipped overseas or was there simply a bubble in the maritime industry as a whole that is now being self-corrected?”

Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy turned slowly to give this last questioner the full force of their “Double Stink-Eye.” But it was, in fact, their old pal, Cementhands McCormack wearing a strange hat he called a, “fedora,” with a paper card emblazoned with the word, “PRESS” in large bold letters held snugly in the head-band.

“Shouldn’t you and your crew be readying the cannons?” Ol’ Chumbucket chided.

“We readied them while you and the captain were playing pinch-fingers with the captain’s spy glass!” McCormack shot back – adding, “Or is this just a part of this administration’s disregard for a free and unfettered press as guaranteed in the first amendment of our constitution?”

Cap’n Slappy opened his mouth with what he intended to be a flurry of creative profanity when Ol’ Chumbucket quickly tugged on his coat and whispered something in his ear.

“You’ve got to be freakin’ kiddin’ me!”

Ol’ Chumbucket shook his head and continued his secretive admonition.

“We have a Ship’s Constitution?”

Ol’ Chumbucket nodded and whispered a bit more.

“How many amendments?”

More whispering. Slappy looked at Chumbucket and asked, “Is there some reason we don’t call it ‘Ship’s Articles’ like every other pirate ship on the planet?”

Ol’ Chumbucket gave a meaningful glance in the direction of the punctilious Leftenant Keeling. Slappy’s eyes registered understanding, then the captain composed himself, straightened out his great coat and cleared his throat.

“Very well, then! I have a brief statement after which I will entertain questions regarding that statement and our impending encounter with a ship purportedly belonging to a pirate of some repute – Fifi La Fleur.”

He paused briefly and noticed that most of pirates – even those who he knew perfectly well couldn’t write their own names let alone take notes of a conversation – gathered around him stood poised with pencils and note pads hanging with vigilant anticipation on his next words.

“A few minutes from now, we will be challenging a ship called, La Petite Mort. She was last known to be the sea-bound home of that notorious French pirate, Fifi La Fleur who, amongst his pantheon of nefarious deeds murdered the crown prince of Denmark in a duel, murdered the rightful king of Scotland in his sleep and proceeded to slaughter several Scots noble-people and their families; he talked a noble Moorish general into killing his wife in a fit of tragically misplaced jealousy, all the while fomenting an on-going feud between Italian families resulting in the tragic deaths of some potential splendid young lovers.”

Several of the pirates dabbed at their teary eyes with their note pads.

“Yet despite his manifest naughtiness, this Gory Gallic, has escaped the grasp of retribution either personal or governmental – always pinning his misdeeds on an unsuspecting patsy. He is, by every definition, an evil genius! Therefore it is with great caution we approach this vessel knowing full well what dangers may await us there. For all appearances, this is nothing but a ship of fools floundering helplessly at sea – but if Fifi La Fleur is behind this – and all our intelligence sources suggest that he is – rest assured, friends, we may be in for the fight of our very lives!”

“I’ll now take questions from the floor. I see we have Helen Thomas with us today in her traditional spot – front and center. Helen, how are you, dear?”

“Very will, Mr. Cap’n. Thank you.” The diminutive elderly pirate woman smiled only briefly and then was all business.

“Cap’n Slappy. If this character, La Fleur is as treacherous and deadly as you say, why are we seeking out such a perilous appointment with, as it were, Fate?”

“We are in a curious business, Helen. We didn’t become pirates to go gently into that good night – and as seasoned as this crew is, I suspect La Fleur has even more to fear from us than we have from him. Still – caution is the order of the day. It’s only prudent. There may be untold riches aboard La Petite Mort as her captain, by all accounts, has amassed substantial treasures. But we won’t know unless we investigate – and to hell with the dangers!”

With Ms. Thomas’ question out of the way, the rest of the pack vied for the captain’s attention with a jumbled chorus of, “Cap’n Slappy! Cap’n Slappy!”

After scanning the crowd, Cap’n Slappy fixed his vision on Keeling. “Yes, leftenant?”

“The name ‘Fifi’ fails to inspire fear, and ‘La Fleur’ translates simply, ‘The Flower.’ How well do you know the man personally and can you give us any insight with regard to the causes of his personal distemper and capacity for cruelty?”

“I first met La Fleur at a Pirate Networking Retreat twenty years ago. We were both new to the pirate game and looking to make social connections – you know, ‘make friends, influence prospective governors’ that sort o’ thing – ANYWHO … after a particularly grueling communication and negotiation seminar that morning, Fifi invited me to join him for lunch on the beach. Well, I was there to network – so I gratefully accepted the invitation. When I arrived, I found that he had set a beautiful table for us near the surf as the tide was coming in.”

The erstwhile-mentioned gathering exploded in an unsightly display of caterwauling and lewd “Woo-Hoos!” until Ol’ Chumbucket stepped forward and gave them his fiercest stink-eye. There were to be no homophobic displays of mass hysteria at this press conference. Slappy paused for a moment until the throng regained its composure, then continued;

“This was, I might add, a very masculine picnic setting in which a fine, albeit grossly lumpy, Persian carpet stretched out between the table and the shore thus creating an intoxicating scene of decadent wealth and refined taste. In short, the rug really brought the beach, the table and chairs and the sea together.”

A single interrupting “Whoop!” was met with Ol’ Chumbucket’s icy gaze and quickly stifled.

“At the stroke of noon, fancy French footmen appeared with silver platters covered with silver lids and placed them before us – opening them with suitable flare. We were served omelette du fromage in a light creamy basil sauce.” Slappy paused at the memory of a scrumptious feast. “Delicious!”

“Did it come avec des champignons?” a pirate reporter inquired.

“No!” Slappy replied curtly, “This was a picnic on the beach – not L’Escargot Heureux – France’s finest chain of family-style restaurants!”

A pause for potential debate – there was none. A voice in the crowd sang the familiar theme heard sung by advertising troubadours – Manger bon dans le voisinage!

“ANYWHO! After the main course was served, the rug was rolled up revealing those lumps to be the heads of our morning workshop presenters – Justin Treadwell and Matthew Fluggenheimer. Fifi La Fleur had buried them up to their necks in the sand and was feasting as the tide rolled in – using their slow, torturous murder as meal-time entertainment. Gags were removed from their mouths and they immediately pleaded their case. – ‘This is OUTRAGEOUS, you MONSTER!’ bellowed Treadwell. But his partner was quick to employ some of the effective communication techniques that were so unwieldy during the morning’s workshop. ‘Name-calling is counter-productive, Justin. This man is clearly differently-moral in a way that may be unfamiliar and upsetting to us, but as we well know, effective communication begins with an ‘I-Statement’ and a non-threatening declaration of your feelings.’ To which Mr. Treadwell replied in as calm a voice as he could muster, ‘I feel angry and hurt that your behavior has precipitated this unfortunate blub-blubby-blub-blub-blub.’”

“He said, ‘blub-blubby-blub-blub-blub’?” McCormack inquired, glancing at his careful notes and trying to get the quote just right.

“Not exactly.” Slappy replied. “It just sounded like ‘blub-blubby-blub-blub-blub’ to me because the water level had reached his mouth – but then, what he was saying before that sounded like, ‘blah-bladdy-blah-blah-blah’ anyway, so I didn’t really notice the difference.”

“Cap’n Slappy! Cap’n Slappy!” the chorus clamored for more information.

“Mr. Watts.” Slappy nodded toward Dogwatch Watts, his navigator, and for a brief moment wondered who was steering the ship.

“Cap’n Slappy – it seems wildly out of character for you to participate in the water torture and death of innocents! Can you explain your involvement?”

“Well, in the first place, I had nothing to do with their predicament. And I did protest his behavior with a firm ‘Now see here, Fifi …’ but I was new to the pirate game and thought this was some sort of tradition.”

“I have a follow up question!” Dogwatch interjected and was given the nod by Cap’n Slappy. “My follow up is this … ‘Really? Back in those days you could eat eggs and watch men drown?’”

“You must understand three things. First, those were delicious omelets. Second, Justin and Matthew were insufferable presenters who offered little more than hackneyed, stilted platitudes instead of genuine communicative insights. And finally, I was encircled by Fifi’s crewmen who held pistols to my head to ensure that I wouldn’t protest too much. Have you ever tried to eat omelette du fromage and watch men drown whilst having four blood-thirsty pirates hold pistols to your head AND try to make conversation with a certifiable psychopath at the same time, Mr. Watts?”

Dogwatch Watts looked at his feet for a moment. “No, Cap’n.”

“Well it’s off-putting, let me tell you! One last question.”

“Cap’n Slappy! Cap’n Slappy!”

Slappy looked down at his young cabin boy, Gabriel and smiled. “Yes, Gabe. Do you have a question?”

“I have a two-part question. The first part is; ‘What is a psychopath?’ And the second involves your hypothesis about ‘Why you think Fifi Le Fleur is one?’”

“Well, I’m no expert so here’s a helpful pamphlet that will explain the emotional disconnect and subsequent viewing of others as objects for manipulation and entertainment owing in part to a narcissistic personality disorder and a sense of cruel entitlement to use others as emotional surrogates to fill the cavernous empathic void that is the hallmark of your classic psychopath. Le Fleur’s psychopathology may stem from the fact that his father named him after their standard Poodle. In fact, during his sensitive formative years, the family referred to him as ‘Fifi, Junior.’ This withholding and misplacement of natural familial affection may, in fact, be the source of Fifi’s distemper. But, again, I’m no expert.”

George pushed his way through the crowd of pirate reporters.

“Well, I did say, ‘One last question …’ but it appears our first mate has a pressing issue he would like to address. George?”

The Greek wiped the sweat from his brow before speaking.

“We’ve lashed La Petite Mort to our starboard side and secured her crew for questioning. They offered no resistance and may be in need of medical attention.” He took a deep drink of rum from his flask. “Le Fleur is not among those on board her. Would the cap’n like to question the prisoners?”

Cap’n Slappy saw that, indeed, while he had been holding his press conference, the industrious first mate had captured the French pirate ship – a gift that lacked only a bright red ribbon. The captain was stunned.

“Yes, of course! Well done George! Ol’ Chumbucket and I shall be over presently.”

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