Sunday, April 05, 2009


Chapter Twelve - Beach Blanket Broohah-PWAH!

“I could use a little help.”

Spencer gasped for breath as he strained against the oars pulling the longboat through the surf toward the beach. “I mean, seriously. I’m pulling for six and some of us aren’t as svelte as we used to be.”

Facing the stern, he could see the look on Cap’n Slappy’s face which was, appropriately to the location, also stern. And he could feel the stare of Cementhands McCormack’s icy gaze like a frozen rope of loathing belayed firmly to the back of his head.

“You’re doing fine.” Wellington Peddicord said in his most encouraging tone of voice. “Besides, this is a great work-out for your deltoids and lats.”

“Besides that …” McCormack added. “You’re young and need to suffer a little in order to grow some character.”

Spencer’s mimic-face belied his contempt for the advice of his elders. This almost brought a smile to Cap’n Slappy – but he maintained what he considered a visage appropriately serious for the situation.

Sawbones took his cue from the captain.

“How about a little less talking and a little more getting your game faces on?”

Dogwatch proceeded to contort his face into wildly disproportionate and misguided versions of what he considered a “game face” to be.

Wellington Peddicord was simultaneously fascinated and concerned about Dogwatch’s facial tics and brought them to Sawbones’ attention. “Doctor, is there anything you can do to help this poor man?”

“My healing skills are limited to the application of weasel grease and amputations.”

Peddicord looked over Dogwatch and his amazing techniforming dream face and asked, “What would you cut off to make this stop?”

With one voice, the rest of the mini-crew of The Festering Boil’s dinghy replied, “His head!”

This put an end to the facial exercises and the conversation until the bottom of the small boat touched sand on the beach.

“Sawbones, you stay here at the boat with Spencer. If this is a trap, I want you and the boy to set out for the ship – that’s the signal for Ol’ Chumbucket and George to blast the shit out o’ the Froggie boat! I’m taking ‘the face’ and the wrecking crew with me.”

“I’m ‘the face,’ aren’t I?” asked Dogwatch, hopefully.

Cementhands patted him a little too hard on the head. “Well it was either that or ‘Admiral Twitchy.’”

With that, the four of them strolled down the beach to where a small stream no more than the width of yard tricked down from the jungle to meet the sea.

Fifi LeFleur and his First Mate, Viscount Jean Pierre de la Muqueux along with two other French pirates stood on the other side of the little spit of water. It was clear that the four of them had dressed for the occasion – shitty chic. Del la Muqueux dressed as he had during his visit to The Festering Boil as did LeFleur’s other officers – once handsome clothes badly mangled by foul weather, sea battles and bad manners.

As for LeFleur himself, he had somehow acquired a French admiral’s uniform that fit him to near perfection. Had Slappy’s heart not been filled with loathing for his former shipmate, he might have been impressed with his bearing. As it was, the two groups stood astride the stream and just stared at each other for at least two intensely silent minutes. Each man sizing up his opposite in the event that violence may be the outcome of the meeting.

Finally, Cap’n Slappy broke the stalemate.

“Hello, Poodle.”

De la Muqueux went for his sword – as he did, Cementhands palmed the handle of his enormous pistol. But as quickly as they moved, their hands were stayed by the quick intervention of their respective leaders. LeFleur rested his hand on the butt-end of the sword handle before his first mate could draw it from his sash and Slappy simply held his hand up and all froze – for the moment.

It was now Fifi’s turn.

“Come now, Sloppy – (it was unclear if he mispronounced the captain’s name on purpose, or if he was just really, really French) – we are, how you say, ‘Grown-Ups?’No?”

“No.” Slappy replied, “But go on.”

“You still make the jokes, do you not?” With that, LeFleur laughed … if you can call it a laugh. He sort of said words that sound like laughter – if you were describing laughter to a linguist from a land without jesters or comedians or even a clumsy juggler. “A-hah. Ah-Hah. A-ha-ha-ha.”

“Oh, Sloppy, I have been telling my men about how you always make the funnies – by calling me ‘The Poodle’ and making the poo-poo noises from your derrière and how the English think that is so very … how you say, ‘Ooo-mer-ous?’ No?”

“No.” Slappy sighed. “It is not, ‘ooo-mer-ous,’ – it’s fackin’ HI-Larious! But you do not appreciate the olfactorious observational arts. So, what in the name of Poseidon’s slippery scrotum do you want, Fifi?”

“MOI!?!?!?!?” The added and fluctuating punctuations gave an operatic quality to Fifi’s sustained personal pronoun of protestation.

“Oui!!!! Vous!!!!” Cap’n Slappy’s mock echo lacked the sing-song quality, but was pitch perfect.

“What are you talking about, Meester Sloppy?!?” Fifi intoned defensively. “It was YOU …!”

Fifi was interrupted by his first mate, De la Muqueux who whispered something in the irritable pirate’s ear.

“Ce qui?” The look on Fifi’s face was fatigued with annoyance.

More whispering.

Cap’n Slappy glanced one by one at his companions while they waited for the hushed conversation on the other side of the water run-off to come to some conclusion. Each of them rolled their eyes in response. No eye-rolling bigger and more comical than that of the big man, Cementhands McCormack.

“Fifi,” Slappy finally interrupted at the point of his own exasperation, “What in the name of Neptune’s salty man-nipples of mystery are we doing here?”

Fifi sighed hard. It was the kind of sigh that expels air that has been sitting in a person’s lungs since his seventh birthday.

“Sloppy. I do, how you say, ‘ape-olo-zhize’ for my well-intentioned albeit ‘Maggie Meddler’ of a first mate who led you to believe that we should speak …”

“Damn yer Froggie eyes, Fifi!” Slappy snarled, seizing the advantage. “Thar’s been somethin’ I’ve been meanin’ to say to ye and I’ll be hornswoggled by a randy manatee if I don’t say it now!”

Fifi looked stricken for a moment, then rallied with ferocity equal to the portly pirate captain. “Is that so, Monsieur Smartipantalon!? Well, let me assure you that I, too have some things to say to you and believe me when I tell you that they are very cross and angry words that will no doubt make you cry!”

De la Muqueux recognized his moment and interjected a rather sheepish, “I told you that the two of you should talk this out!”

“SHUT UP!” Slappy and Fifi bellowed in momentary accord.

“Well?!” Slappy’s blood settled only to a seething simmer as he waited to hear what his old shipmate and favorite subject for violent fantasy had to say.

“You go first.” Fifi snarled, “I incest!”

There was a general look of revulsion and confusion on the faces of the Boilers on the scene as the asked themselves if they had just heard the French captain correctly.

“You what?” Cementhands McCormack inquired while the others grimaced and shook their heads in disbelief.

“I was talking to your captain, huge man-boy!” Fifi scoffed. “I incest for him to go first.”

“Who you callin’ ‘Man-Boy’!?!” Wellington Peddicord was no longer amused.

“Look! You chorus boys to Sloppy should know your place! Were it not for this raging river between us, I should have my men come over and give you all the good thrashing!” Fifi’s threat was bold and it looked like he meant it as well.

“You mean this ‘river’? Here?!?” Peddicord was itching for a fight.

“Oui!” Fifi nodded, “And you should thank whatever devil you pray to that it is there protecting you from my wrath!”

Without a word, Slappy and his men took the seven or eight steps necessary to walk over the trickle of water that ran into the sea and stood toe-to-toe with the French pirates.

“You mean that ‘river’ back there?” McCormack pointed with his thumb over his right shoulder – behind them.

Fifi’s eyes flashed with rage.

“You have invaded French soil and have added to your previous outrages with this insolence! – PWAH!” (The “PWAH!” of course, being the famous French spit-punctuation directed near but not on the foot of the perceived transgressor. By tradition, this was followed immediately by the group spit of Fifi’s subordinates.)

“PWAH!” spat Fifi’s subordinates.

“Outrages!?! HAH!” Slappy snorted in equal parts defiance and derision standing arms akimbo, fists on hips. “It is your long string of outrages that have brought us to this place and hurled us precipitously toward this grudge war! – PWAH!” (Slappy returned spit for spit followed sharply – albeit moistly – by his men.)

“PWAH!” spat Slappy’s men.

“Grudge war!?! HAH! – If there is a grudge war between us, it is YOU who started it with your treachery! – PWAH!”

“PWAH!” spat Fifi’s men.

“Treachery!?! HAH!” Slappy shot back “You who wrote the book on treachery and are the poster boy for betrayal! – PWAH!”

“PWAH!” spat the Boilers.

“POSTER BOY!?! HAH!” Fifi’s body now shook with apoplectic furor. “That is very funny coming from you when you are a famous media whore with your commercial endorsement of a chain of moderately-priced brothels and your frequent editorializing in Pirattitude Monthly! – PWAH!”

“PWAH!” spat Fifi’s men.

“Editorializing?!? HAH!” Slappy inched closer to Fifi so that their beards almost touched. “I write observational puff pieces for a rag that can’t get its facts straight as evidenced by the fact that they claim Captain Hamnquist is to be hanged in Curacao when you and I both know that YOU murdered him many years ago! – PWAH!”

“PWAH!” spat the Boilers

The spitting suddenly came to a halt and Fifi stood for a moment – dumbfounded.

“Wait. Wait. Wait.” He said hurriedly collecting his thoughts as if the very reason for his existence had sharply turned completely around.

“YOU think that I … KILLED Capitan Hamnquist?” Fifi seemed genuinely hurt by the presumption of guilt. “PWAH.” He spat – but it was the spittle of one whose heart was broken – very weak … more like focused drool.

“Pwah.” Trickled Fifi’s men in weakened solidarity with their leader.

Slappy seemed momentarily confused. His rage at Fifi had been fueled by years of assumptions based on circumstantial evidence. Perhaps Hamnquist had ordered the long boats lowered in a moment of panic and had asked Fifi to cut him loose from the wheel. Perhaps the two had been separated from each other by a large wave. And perhaps, Fifi had assumed all these years that Slappy had murdered their sailing master.

“So, you didn’t?”

“No! Did you?”

“No!” Slappy thought for a moment more before adding. “That means that Ol’ Hamnquist either has the treasure or at least them map!”

“But he won’t have either long if he hangs.” Fifi added.

There is always a moment before a great race that the two top contenders look at each other and know that the prize can only go to the swiftest. With the animosity now abated, there was no need for violence. Both pirate captains realized now that the competition would be one of speed – and cunning. And both felt that he had the upper hand.

“Last one to Curacao is a rotten oeuf!” Fifi called out as he and his men swiftly turned and scampered toward their long boat.

“Oeuf?” Dogwatch gasped as Slappy and his Boilers raced in the other direction toward their own dinghy.

“EGG!” Peddicord and McCormack replied as their boots splashed back through the tiny river that ran down to the sea. When they reached the boat their momentum barely slowed as they pushed her into the surf. Like a well-oiled machine each of them leaped into the skiff by turns and all six men grabbed oars and rowed like champions.

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