Friday, February 22, 2008



“De boze ballen van Neptunus!”

As soon as Ol’ Chumbucket heard this exclamation, he knew two things. First, he knew that Cap’n Slappy had just closed his telescoping spy glass with enthusiasm, pinching the meaty portion of his left hand in the collapsing mechanism thus causing him to bellow something from his random collection of Dutch oaths. Secondly, he knew there must be something good on the horizon to make the captain forget his legendary difficulty with his telescoping spy glass – and all things of a mechanical nature for that matter.

As he approached the captain, Ol’ Chumbucket witnessed the traditional passing of the spyglass to the ship’s cabin boy, Gabriel.

“Tell Salty Jim it’s broken again …” the boy had turned to go when Slappy called after him, “And tell him not to use so much weasel grease this time! I nearly dropped it in the drink!”

Whereas most cabin boys would pay some sort of respectful acknowledgement to their captain on a proper ship, Gabriel simply waved the spyglass in the air, nodded and smiled a rather obviously patronizing smile that even Cap’n Slappy could decipher.

Before Ol’ Chumbucket could speak, Slappy had a mini-rant coming.

“Did you see that?!? I raised the wee sprog – practically nursed him at me teat!”

Ol’ Chumbucket cringed at the mental imagery – but knew things would go faster if he didn’t try to intervene.

“And what do I get for all me troubles? Nothin’ but sass and smart ass! I do and do and do for these pirates and what thanks do I get?”

Ol’ Chumbucket had hoped not to have to join in the rant – but Slappy’s pause demanded filling – and the path of least resistance was the only path not overgrown with brambles.

“No thanks?” Ol’ Chumbucket said in as sympathetic a tone as he could muster.

“Exactly! None-what-freakin’-so-ever! And all I ever do is bring them more opportunities to pillage, plunder and loot – you know, REAL PIRATE STUFF! Take that ship on the horizon I was just eye-ballin’ … Well, you can’t see it now ‘cuz I just gave away me broken spyglass … but …”

By now, Ol’ Chumbucket had his own glass out and was gazing intently at the horizon. As Cap’n Slappy called for Dogwatch at the helm to change course, he spotted a tiny sail far out, its hull below the horizon. For all of Slappy’s buffoonery, there were things he was good at – finding ships was one. Of course, there was never any guarantee that those ships would hold any treasure – but, as Slappy was keen on saying, “Ye don’t know if ye’ve got a pearl till ye scoop the oyster!” Slappy stopped talking so Ol’ Chumbucket could focus on his search. Then, when he settled on the spot – Slappy continued;

“See her? I reckon she’s a sloop – probably pirate – but who knows? We got nothin’ else to do but chase. Say, that’s a nice spyglass ye got there. Who makes it? Does it ever pinch yer hand? Mine’s a chunk o’ manatee poo! Practically useless! Good lens, though.”

By now, Ol’ Chumbucket was done looking and made a point of closing his spyglass with enough care to demonstrate how not to pinch one’s hand in the collapsing tubes. This was probably eighty percent instruction and twenty percent mockery – but he knew that the captain learned best when some modicum of shame was involved. Slappy knew he was getting a lesson and by now realized that he probably deserved one – so he took it in stride and complimented his instructor.

“Nicely done.” But he couldn’t resist a needling of his own. “You probably got one of those new-fangled non-pinch glasses the kids are so keen on these days.”

“Nope.” Ol’ Chumbucket wasn’t going to let him off so easily. “I believe the model name of my glass is The Pinchtastic 5000 – a glass so devilishly designed to pinch that it takes almost a superhuman effort to avoid permanent nerve damage at every closing.”

Slappy was perplexed, “Why in the name o’ me Aunt Hildegard’s apple brown betty would a fella purchase such an item?”

Without missing a beat Ol’ Chumbucket replied, “So as to keep a pinch-prone pirate captain from borrowin’ it!”

Slappy stopped to take a mental inventory of the many, many things he had borrowed from Ol’ Chumbucket over the years but stopped when he ran out of mental paper and imaginary ink.

A voice from high up in the rigging called to the deck below; “Sail ho!”

Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy looked upward to see Two-Patch looking in the wrong direction and pointing. Ol’ Chumbucket whipped out his Pinchtastic 5000 and scanned in the general direction of their nearly-blind lookout’s point direction but saw nothing.

“How does he do that?” Cap’n Slappy thought admiringly. “The man couldn’t see the beans on his plate if you set them on fire but he can always tell when someone is out there!”

“Yes.” Ol’ Chumbucket agreed reluctantly. “But he has no idea where they are.”

Slappy slapped his friend’s shoulder appreciatively, “That’s why we have you, ol’ chum! Ye’re our details man!”

Cementhands McCormack rushed up from the lower decks – breathless with excitement and the obvious trauma of running.

“You HAVE to see this!” he managed between gasps.

“Get a hold o’ yerself, man! What is it?” Slappy demanded.

“Can’t - - explain - - must - - come see!”

But they didn’t have to “come see,” because a very angry Sawbones Burgess was hot on the big man’s heels. However, it took a moment for Cap’n Slappy and Ol’ Chumbucket to recognize the ship’s doctor as the source of the big pirate’s glee because it took them more than a moment to recognize the doctor – as he was dressed, hat-to-boots as a well-to-do lady.

The good doctor stamped a dainty boot against the deck and slapped a floral print parasol menacingly into his gloved hand. “Now see here, McCormack!” While the doctor’s voice was entirely normal, his appearance gave it a rather matronly tone. He continued, “If you are going to run out on every audition, how do you intend to have your production of Twelfth Night go off by Twelfth Night?”

The big man motioned as if he was about to answer but dissolved in a torrent of laughter. Slappy and Chumbucket could only stand by, mouths agape, and try to make sense of the scene. Whatever had possessed Sawbones Burgess to audition in drag had such a hold on him that even now he stayed in perfect character.

“I can see that none of you would know a real lady – even if she walked right up and kicked you all in the nuts!”

With that, the doctor turned on his high heels and strode majestically toward the steps leading down to the lower deck. As he passed in front of the helm, he saw Dogwatch gaze at him with a combination of amazement and fear – and popped open his parasol to shield himself from the ogling. After one last, “Harrumph!” he was gone.

Apart from the recovery side of McCormack’s laughing fit, there was not a sound on deck besides the flapping of the sails in the wind and the slosh of water against the ship’s hull. Finally, Cap’n Slappy spoke, “What by the name Davy Jones’s left gonad was that??!?”

“That,” Chumbucket replied with admiration, “was what they call, ‘commitment to a bit’ in theater terms!”

“Really?” Slappy's tone was incredulous.

“Oh, yes!” McCormack answered emphatically. “I’m casting him for sure! Even Shakespeare couldn’t write something as funny as Burgess in a dress! Because Sweet Baby Jaysus! That was funny!” He chuckled to himself as he followed the doctor below stopping only to admonish poor Dogwatch. “And you! Stop eye-humpin’ me bleedin’ leadin’ lady!”

Dogwatch just looked awkwardly away – but noticed something on the horizon. He called below to the captain.

“We’re gainin’ on her, Cap’n, whoever she is!”

“That seems fast!” Cap’n Slappy replied as he turned to look out – reaching for his spy glass which was below decks being “fixed.”

“Care to borrow mine?” Ol’ Chumbucket offered with a hint of dare in his voice.

At first, Slappy reached for it, but quickly backed off when he remembered the name – Pinchtastic 5000. Then, trying to save face through bravado he said, “You go ahead and check her out – I don’t need to see her to know what’s going on aboard her.”

Chumbucket focused his glass on the ship as Slappy, using only his knowledge of these sorts of situations, described in startling detail exactly what was happening.

“She has a skeletal crew – four, perhaps five men – none o’ them could be described as ‘able’ by any nautical standards. Her sails are ill-positioned and poorly rigged – a lot of shoddy knot-tying. She has two guns on deck – neither of them is in a gun port because they don’t know which side we’ll come at them from. Not that it matters, because I doubt any of these fellows ever hit anything with a cannon. Right now they’re debating whether or not to run up a white flag and throw themselves on our mercy or toss themselves overboard and trust the mercy o’ the fishies.”

“Yes,” Ol’ Chumbucket confirmed, “But what color stockings is the tall one wearing?”

“Trick question!” Slappy shot back immediately, “He’s barefooted!”

Ol’ Chumbucket took another glance in his spyglass and confirmed that the tallest of the men was, indeed, barefoot.

“Lucky guess.”

“Well, let’s not terrorize the poor bastards more than is necessary.” Slappy then called to Spencer who was standing nearby. “Show ‘em our colors – let’s give them every chance to see tomorrow.”

Within a minute of The Festering Boil making herself known, the troubled little sloop shot up a white flag and her own jolly roger flown upside down to emphasize her obvious distress. This second bit of news had an ominous feel, however.

“Who is she?” Slappy asked.

Ol’ Chumbucket lowered his glass slowly. “La Petite Mort.”

“Not Fifi Le Fleur’s La Petite Mort!”

“Are there any other La Petite Mort ships out there that I don’t know about?” Ol’ Chumbucket inquired.

Cap’n Slappy thought for a moment. “Um … nope. I don’t think so.”

“Then, yes! Fifi Le Fleur’s La Petite Mort.”

Slappy now didn’t hesitate. “Leftenant Keeling! Beat to quarters!”

The drum roll and cries of “Battle stations!!” brought pirates running to their posts.

The deck of The Festering Boil was abuzz with activity. Young Gabriel who had returned some time ago with Cap’n Slappy’s “repaired” spyglass asked innocently, “Who is Fifi Le Fleur?”

Slappy’s eyes widened as he explained, “In my time I have come across many ruthless French bastards – but of all of the ruthless French bastards I’ve known, Le Fleur is the most ruthless, the most bastard-like …”

Ol’ Chumbucket chimed in, “ … and the most French!”

“Aye!” bellowed Slappy, “And the most French of them all!”

Slappy now moved to take command as they drew nearer their prey. “Look lively me hearties! These poor bastards are only five minutes away from hell – it’s just for us to determine if they’re comin’ or goin’!”

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?