Thursday, April 30, 2009


The Curacao Caper: Chapter Eighteen - Color Me Pirate!

“It’s Purple!”

Wellington Peddicord’s temper was growing despite the fact that he was employing his storied two-pronged approach to anger management; deep slow breathing and imagining his Happy Place.

“And I say it’s Violet!”

Leftenant Keeling responded to rising tension as he always had, with icy self-assurance.



“Please.” Cementhands McCormack interrupted as he stepped between the two debaters and peered over the rail where one of two dozen ropes secured a member of the busy team of painters who now gave The Festering Boil a thick fresh coat of mystery color.

“How goes the work, Mister Grumby?”

Jonas Grumby looked up from his position just three feet above the waterline where he had partnered with his former shipmate, Miguel Magana, as they skillfully applied more paint to the hull of the moving ship.

“Painting is the easy part!” Grumby replied. “The trick was teaching the crew the mountaineering skill of rappelling off the side of the ship and painting with nice, even horizontal strokes.”

“Si!” Magana agreed. “Is good my years as stagecraft artist for the Organic Guerilla Theatre Troupe of the Swiss Alps is really pay off today, I can tell you! The ship, she is look – muy atractivo!”

Peddicord and Keeling joined McCormack at the rail; their debate still in question.
“Magana, my good man!” Peddicord called down, “What color are we painting the ship?”

“Can’t you see?” Miguel called back.

“Oh, yes! I can see! But Leftenant Keeling here seems to be colorblind!”

“I’m not colorblind!” Keeling called out in his own defense. “I just clearly have a keener sense of hue than my colleague! Go ahead, Miguel. Tell Welly what color this is!”

Magana examined the paint can in his hand carefully. He then leaped over a good seven feet and whispered something to Grumby, who also looked at the can and whispered back. Finally, after some discussion, he called back up.

Eggplant Sunrise!”

“There you have it, lads!” McCormack declared as he turned Keeling and Peddicord away from the rail and back toward the center of the ship. “Eggplant Sunrise.” McCormack paused as a look of distressing confusion passed across his face. “Really, Miguel? Eggplant Sunrise?”

“Si Senor Cementhands! She is this season’s most muy macho color for disguising a pirate ship when sneaking into a Dutch town to extract a Swedish pirate."

McCormack nodded in satisfied reassurance. “Well of course! EVERYBODY knows that!” Then, with a disdainful scowl pointedly toward Peddicord and Keeling he added, “Philistines!”

Keeling and Peddicord barely had time to compose a pithy rejoinder when the “All Hands On Freakin’ Deck” bell rang out. The best they could come up with on the spur of the moment was, “Spooner!” This was either a reference to McCormack’s famous charge of French cannons armed only with a soup spoon many years earlier or to the fact that he was, quite famously, a cuddler in his sleep.

The ropes around the rail of the ship jerked to and fro as their dangling occupants scampered up the side of the ship. Jonas Grumby dashed about to check on the progress of the job; casting his view from stem to stern and looking for missed spots. He gave a satisfied nod to Miguel indicating that the ship now had a fresh and disguising coat of eggplant sunrise. Then he quickly slapped an eye-patch over his perfectly good left eye. This caught McCormack’s attention.

“What happened to yer eye, lad?”

“Nothing, Mister McCormack, sir. I just thought that I would wear an eye-patch to look more … what’s the word I’m looking for?”

“Piratical?” Dogwatch suggested as he approached for the gathering amidships.

“Aye, Mister Dogwatch! ‘Piratical’ be the right word!” Grumby replied excitedly and in his best pirate voice.

“Don’t bother.” Dogwatch said in such a matter-of-fact tone, Grumby went from saucy to crestfallen in one breath.

“It’s not you, lad.” McCormack said in as comforting a voice as Cementhands McCormack could muster. “Dogwatch here speaks from experience about trying to be artificially piratical.”

Grumby and Magana cast their gaze at Dogwatch Watts in anticipation of an explanation. None was forthcoming, so McCormack filled in the blank.

“He spent his first six months aboard The Festering Boil wearing a fake peg-leg.”

Grumby and Magana gasped in shock. “You didn’t!”

Dogwatch gave McCormack the ol’ stink-eye. “Really?!? Really, McCormack? Do we have to bring this up? It’s not like I did an impression of a minor patron saint for nearly a whole adventure!” (As recorded in that epic adventure, "The Havana Caper.)
“It wasn’t an impression! It was a full-on POSESSION, Splinter!” McCormack’s voice had that unmistakable you’re-really-pissing-me-off-now quality to it.

Dogwatch was not backing down, “I’ll have you know that I was digging out slivers from my knee joint for three months following – but did I complain? No! I think I showed remarkable commitment to the bit!!!”

The heated exchange drew more disgruntled pirates into the fracas.

“What bit? You were a desperate attention-seeking respect-whore!”

“Me?!? What about you, Wellington Peddicord? If that even IS your real name! What’s with all the fancy-lad talk – pretending to be an Oxford don!”

“I went to Cambridge, you troglodyte! And what about you and your obsession with whip-play, ‘LEFT-TEN-ANT’ Keeling?”

“At least I HAVE a serviceable ship-board skill!”

“And BURGESS is from Oklahoma!”

“Bite me, McCormack!!! I’ve told you a thousand times! I’m from Tennessee!”

Without warning, a splash of cold sea water put a bracing end to the verbal melee. Ol’ Chumbucket stood above them on the quarter deck with the empty bucket – his hand extended toward young Gabriel for a second bucket should the need of it prove necessary. He made his demands clear; “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! You sound like a bunch of caterwallin’ cluckmeisters! Natterin’ ninnies! A veritable xanthodontic zoo! Belly-achin’ Bickersons! Do you WANT to sound like a bunch o’ Belly-achin’ Bickersons?”

As one, the pirates replied with a muted and shame-filled, “No.”

“Well than, Shut Up!” He turned to Slappy at this point. “They’re all yours, Cap’n.”

“Thank ye, Mister Chumbucket! Skillfully done, sir. Skillfully done.”

Slappy pulled a prepared statement from a pocket in his great coat and adjusted his reading spectacles.

“Fellow pirates. We are embarked on a mission of some importance. It now seems apparent that the legendary formerly dead pirate captain, Horatio Hamnquist is not quite as dead as had been previously reported by even the most reliable of witnesses – yet. Unless plans are thwarted by a pack of unruly bastards who have proven themselves quite skilled at thwarting plans in the past, Hamnquist will hang – and even more importantly, the knowledge of his remarkable treasure will, both metaphorically and in actuality, have the living daylights choked out of it until its eyes bulge in their sockets and come popping out in a moment both fatal and hilarious.”

General murmuring from the crowd affirmed Slappy’s assertion that eyes popping out during a hanging were surprisingly funny.

“We must, as we have so many times before, use our courage and our cunning to intervene in this affair and in so intervening free either the pirate – or, failing that – free the secret of his vast fortune for our own safe-keeping.”

Cheers and hearty “Huzzahs!” sprang forth from the assembled crew.

“Stage one is nearly complete. Thanks to Misters Grumby and Magana – The Festering Boil has a nice fresh coat of …” Slappy looked hard at his own handwriting. “Eggplant Sunrise? Really?”

“Aye, Cap’n! It’s all the rage this season for …” Grumby was cut off by a gesture from Cap’n Slappy.

“Yes, yes, Grumby. I’ll take your word for it. – In addition, Black Butch and Salty Jim have been kind enough to remove The Festering Boil’s name plate and give her, albeit temporarily, a name more in keeping with the subterfuge of our mission.”

Here, Slappy gestured to where Butch and Jim stood proudly next to their newly painted name plate – covered with a sail. At the captain’s signal, the two beaming pirates drew back the sheet to reveal the ship’s new, yet temporary name;

Het Pulserende Mensdom

There was, for a brief moment, a hushed calm – one might think, a reverence – over the crowd until short bursts of laughter shattered the moment of reverent revelation into a shower of mocking profanity.

“The Hell you did!?!” Wellington Peddicord blasted in an explosion of shock and glee.

“Now, now, Welly.” McCormack chided in faux composure. “I feel this one growing on me!”

More laughter.

Even those who spoke no Dutch were beginning to piece it together. Miguel Magana, however, wasn’t afraid to admit that the joke was completely lost on him. He raised his hand and waited.
Slappy stopped laughing long enough to wipe a tear from his eye and call on the newly minted Spanish pirate.

“Si, Cap’n Slappy, sir. What is the joke?”

Slappy passed the question on to Butch – who seemed more than a little miffed that the crew thought this was such a funny name.

“I wanted the Dutch to know that even if we are not pirates, still, the heart of real adventurers throbs in our manly breasts! So we – me and Jim, here …” he gestured to where Salty Jim had been standing a few moments before – but now had blended into the crowd. Butch soldiered on bravely but alone. “WE – decided to name her, The Throbbing Manhood – only translated into Dutch.”

“So to sum up!” Cap’n Slappy intervened, “We are now all sailors aboard a big purple ship called, The Throbbing Manhood!”

“Eggplant Sunrise!”

“Thank ye, Mister Grumby – I stand corrected.” Slappy smiled for a moment before going on.

“Of course, all this is but the backdrop of our new story. Sailing in as pirates would just add more kindling to the Dutch Governor’s pirate pyre – and we’ve played out our Dutch Fishermen act. We needed something fresh – something new – something stolen – something BLUE!”

On the word, “BLUE!” Pirate Jenny emerged from below deck dressed in blue denim overalls and a light blue shirt. She wore a blond, pageboy wig under a floppy blue cap propped just off the center of her head. In her left hand, she carried a paint can that featured the likeness of a Dutch Boy dressed exactly as she was – only without the hint of potentially unbridled sexuality. Her right hand held a paintbrush that had been dipped in blue paint. She strutted, more than walked, through the crowd which expanded and created an inner circle around which she danced and twirled while she smiled and winked at her cat-calling crewmates. This was Jenny’s moment to shine.

This spectacle was a bit too much for Cap’n Slappy. “Alright, ye animals! Quit yer ogling o’ the model!” Then, in a much softer tone he talked directly to her, “Thank ye, Jenny darlin’. That was splendid!”

“You mean you want us to look like sexy girls with paint cans?” Dogwatch asked.

“For the love o’ squid ink, man, NO!” Slappy snapped. “We’re goin’ in to Curacao as a team o’ Dutch painters – ye can see what they look like right on the can! The plan is foolproof!”

“Almost foolproof.” Ol’ Chumbucket warned as he cleared his throat. “There is the simple matter of our pirate tattoos.”

“Way ahead o’ ye on this one, ol’ chum!” Slappy replied with a satisfied smile and his sights fixed on Cementhands McCormack. “Yes we are former pirates turned painters under the guidance of a sainted Dutch painting master whose gentle leadership has turned us from our wicked ways and now we seek only to provide color in a dreary world. That man, of course, has no tattoos. He speaks fluent Dutch and has shown remarkable leadership qualities for years. That man will, for the duration of this mission, act not only as our painting master, but the captain of this ship – with all the rights and responsibilities thereof. All in favor say, ‘Aye!’”

“AYE!” came the nearly unanimous vote.

The lone dissenter, McCormack himself could only blurt out, “Oh, my throbbing manhood!”

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