Sunday, April 12, 2009


The Curacao Caper Chapter 14 - A Smoldering Soufflé of Just Desserts and Pencil-Thin Mustaches


Black Butch, the Dutchman and ship’s chef of The Festering Boil brought his enormous meat cleaver down with a satisfyingly squishy THUNK as he dismembered the eighth and final leg on what was, only a few minutes before, a perfectly harmless dead octopus. Still at the peak of distemper, he buried the uppermost business end of the cleaver’s blade deep into the chopping block and with the dexterity of a rage-filled ninja, stealthily produced a very sharp knife and began sectioning the legs into medallions of rubbery octopus-cutlets.

Ol’ Chumbucket, having heard the early portion of Butch’s rant entered the galley with care;
“I heard the rumpus and thought that Slappy must have been taking cooking lessons again.”
Butch stopped for a moment and looked up – his eyes still burning red with rage. Ol’ Chumbucket soldiered on bravely; “… come to find out it only SOUNDED like the cap’n – what with the creative torrent of randomly selected profanity.”

Butch softened his gaze and Ol’ Chumbucket could see profound disappointment where there had most recently been what appeared to be demonic possession.

“Beggin’ Mister Chumbucket’s pardon – but when you see a sign that says, Quiet! Soufflé in oven! Seriously! No Monkey Business and THIS MEANS YOU! Don’t you think that any numbskull would know that it is incumbent upon him or her to maintain a calm demeanor in the general vicinity of the afore-mentioned sign?”

Ol’ Chumbucket thought for a moment. His inner smart-ass wanted to respond with any of the following;

“Is this a trick question?”
“Define ‘Numbskull’ and cite seventeen examples.”
“Just what kind of ‘Business’ were you assuming a ‘Monkey’ would do?”

But when he saw Butch’s still-flaring nostrils, he decided that a more straightforward response would be in order.

“I would think, Butch, that anyone reading the sign would know that quiet was called-for.” Then added, “But you know, old friend, that more than half the crew can’t read.” He hoped this possibility might assuage the culinary artist’s wrath.

“Mister McCormack can read just fine.” Butch muttered as he returned to his rhythmic cutting.

“Yes.” Chumbucket agreed with a sigh. “Yes he can.”

Here he was torn by the curiosity of the story behind the emotional storm and an almost equally strong desire to slink away. Curiosity, as it so often does, won the day.

“So …” Chumbucket began gingerly. “What did that big galoot do?”

Without looking up, Butch seethed out two words. “He danced.”

Ol’ Chumbucket’s well-intentioned attempt at humor containment immediately backfired. The laugh that exploded from his tightly clinched lips sounded more like a face-fart than a spontaneous expression of genuine amusement.

“You think this is funny?!?” Butch pointed with his knife – anyone else might have felt threatened, but Ol’ Chumbucket knew he meant no harm.

“Yes!” Chumbucket answered confidently. “And so will you in a day or two. But tell me, what sort of ‘dancing’ was the big man doing?”


Chumbucket face-farted again.

“And when I told him that his merriment would destroy the Soufflé de banana de chocolat flambeau that I was baking for the captain’s wedding party, he refused to abate – rather, he kicked it up a notch and started Morris dancing his way around the galley – banging pots with wooden spoons and using my dead octopuses as festive May Day streamers!”
Ol’ Chumbucket took a seat, gasping as he laughed while picturing the general mayhem of the scene.

“You think this is funny!?!” Butch turned and snatched a white ceramic dish from the oven and tossed it on the table in front of Ol’ Chumbucket. “Look at this! This is not a soufflé! This is a chocolate, banana, rum-soaked abomination!!!”

Chumbucket swooped a pinky finger through the goo and delivered the contents into his mouth. He smiled and moaned slightly. “Damn, but that’s a tasty abomination!”

Butch snatched it back as if it was a mistreated child. “It’s supposed to be flambeaued! How am I supposed to flambeau this? You tell me! How!?!”

“Is this a trick question?” Ol’ Chumbucket felt the satisfaction of finally getting a wise-ass crack off. He then produced a match from a container he kept in his boot and with a sweeping, fluid movement lit it and tossed it into the pan. As if in slow motion, Butch rushed to try to block the flame before it reached its target, with a prolonged, “NOOOO!!!” But he was too late.

There was, for the flash of a moment, a fireball that nearly filled the room. It had the same effect passing one’s finger through a candle flame might produce on any exposed skin; a painless blackening of the skin leaving the imprint of the flame's caress.

With the experience of one who has been in this situation before, Butch touched his eyebrows to make sure they were still in place – they were.

“Damn,” Ol’ Chumbucket remarked calmly. “Was gunpowder one of your ingredients?”

“There might have been some in the rum.” Butch replied, just glad to have retained all of his facial hair. “It was from the captain’s own stock – it being for his wedding and all.”

“Cap’n Slappy’s not getting married.” Ol’ Chumbucket said reassuringly adding, “ … for the eighth time.”

“I thought this would be ten?” Butch questioned.

“Who can keep count?” Chumbucket joked. “We barely have readers aboard this ship – do you think we have anyone who can calculate the number of bad decisions the captain has made when it comes to matters of his own heart?”

“Aye.” Butch agreed, letting go of the anger over his confectionary crisis. “But ye have to love the hopeless romantic in him.”

“I’ll leave the ‘loving’ to the seemingly endless parade of wenches who pass through the cap’n’s boudoir on their way to the altar … as for the hopeless romantic …? I see little difference between a hopeless romantic and a befuddled drunk except that when the befuddled drunk wakes up in the morning his headache will be the only life challenge with which he must contend.”

Butch blinked a couple of times trying to catch up with Ol’ Chumbucket’s train of thought then simply said, “So, no wedding?”

“No wedding.” Chumbucket turned to leave but paused for a moment. “But seriously, Butch – my compliments on the soufflé.”

Butch broke a piece off the now smoldering pile of charred goo on the table and tasted it. “Yeah. It needs a new name – but the secret is the flambeau.”

“Everything tastes better when it’s been put to the torch.” Chumbucket remarked as he went to see what other crises were in need of aversion.


“I heard a rumpus in the galley a short time back – do you know what was going on?” Slappy asked Cementhands McCormack.

“I have no idea.” McCormack answered straight-faced and breathless from his exuberant capering a few moments prior.


“Capitaine! Le bateau part!” Luc Duvall, a willowy wisp of a pirate in a blue and white horizontally striped shirt with a black beret perched at a jaunty angle atop his over-sized head called back across the deck. He punctuated his wide-eyed pronouncement by popping his mouth with a swift slap of his open palm.

“Luc, mon ami.” Fifi replied as he moved toward his comrade near the bow of Le Petit Mort Deaux “How many times must I remind you? If we are going to strike fear into the English, we must learn to do so in their mother tongue!”

“Oui, Luc! We must give them their mother’s tongue!” Jean Pierre de la Muqueux, Fifi’s ever-present shadow added with misplaced emphasis on the word, “mother’s.”

Fifi winced, but let it pass knowing from his own experience how difficult second language acquisition can be.

“My friends, it does not matter that Le Festering Boil, she is a faster ship. No. It matters not one little tit who arrives in Curacao first – only who comes with a better plan. Sloppy is a good reactor, but at the planning? He is not so good. If it proves true that he did not kill Capitaine Hamnquist all those years ago and the old fellow is still alive and knows where the treasure is, we will win … because we are the smartipantses, no?”

“Oui, mon Capitaine!” Duvall and De la Muqueux snapped to attention and saluted smartly.

Le Fleur took the spyglass from Duvall and searched the horizon for The Festering Boil’s sails catching a brief glimpse just before they vanished in the distance.

After a long silence, Luc Duvall asked, “Did nobody notice my mustache? I’ve trimmed it.”

“Oui, Luc. It looks good.” De la Muqueux replied with an honest nod of the head.

“She is pencil-thin, no?” Luc continued to search for a compliment from the captain.

“Oui, Luc.” De la Muqueux said, adding, “The pencil-thinness of your mustache de-emphasizes the vast expanse of your head size while creating the appearance that your lips are not so freakishly invisible as they are.”

Luc smiled and nodded, but kept glancing toward Fifi whose focus on the horizon continued long after watching the Boil sail out of sight.

“Mon Capitaine? Do you like my mustache? She is pencil-thin, no?!”

“Oui, Luc.” Fifi closed up the spyglass without incident and handed it back to Duvall. “I noticed your mustache and it is very pencil-thin. But I will not compliment you on it – if I did I would have to compliment De la Muqueux here on losing four pounds last month.”

“Merci beaucoup, mon Capitaine.” de la Muqueux.

“That was not a compliment – I was simply illustrating my point! I notice everything and I compliment nothing. If you like it, grand! But I cannot go from, ‘Your hair smells so nice.’ To ‘Let’s disembowel the prisoners.’ This is too much of a leap.”

Fifi could see that both his crewmen were terribly disappointed, so he softened.
“But your mustache really brings your face together in a nice way and dropping those four pounds makes you look ten years younger.”

Luc and Jean Pierre beamed.

“Now, get back to work,” Fifi snapped, “before I cut out your livers and feed them to the sharks!”


“Sink me, Jiffy!” Governor Roelof Van Wubbeldinker blurted as he scanned the horizon with his spyglass while standing atop the newly-built scaffold overlooking the harbor in Willemstad.

“Where are they?”

“Begging your lordship’s pardon,” Bernard Jeffries replied with the patient stamina of a parent whose child has asked, “Are we there yet?” for the fourth time in the last three minutes. “As was pointed out to your lordship only this morning, the Swedish vessel carrying your betrothed is not due in for another five to six days.”

“And how many days ago was this morning, Jiffy?”

Jeffries was surprised that Van Wubbledinker’s questions still had the power to catch him off guard.

“If my calculations are correct, your lordship, that would be zero days ago.”

“Blast! Are you telling me, old bean, that time is going backwards again?!?”

Once again, Jeffries regretted the time two years earlier when he convinced the governor that his holiday in Havana had gone longer than expected because time had temporarily been reversed.

“No, your lordship. It just seems to be moving ahead more slowly than usual. I am confident that when the Countess and her entourage arrive, the speed with which time passes will once again be set aright and move in a much more predictable manner.”

“But when will they get here, Jiffy?”

Jeffries sighed heavily. “Five to six days, milord.”

Van Wubbledinker returned to scanning the water with his spyglass. “Well, I don’t see them anywhere.”

Bernard Jeffries sighed again and glanced at the workmen putting the finishing touches on the trap door that would be used in the up-coming hanging and fantasized about a tragic industrial accident befalling the beloved governor of Curacao.

He smiled.

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