Sunday, May 24, 2009


Chapter 26 - "Going Out Naked"

“Mon Capitaine.”

Luc Duvall spoke only loudly enough to be barely audible as he stood several paces away from Fifi LeFleur. The French pirate captain carefully scoured the port-side cityscape of Willemstad’s harbor.

“Mon Capitaine?”

Duvall spoke only slightly louder – half hoping not to disturb his mercurial commander with his probably all-too-petty concerns.

“In Dutch, Luc.” LeFleur said softly and deliberately – denoting full menace. “We’re working on our Dutch today.” He never broke his watch of the shore.

“With utmost ned-er-ig-heid” Luc carefully pronounced the word so as to impress the boss.

Humility” LeFleur spun around and looked at his bedraggled dogsbody with great affection and appreciation for his efforts. “That’s very good, Luc! You’ve learned the Dutch word for Humility! That will serve you well!”

“Merci – I mean, Dank u, mijn kapitein!” Duvall was ebullient with self-satisfaction.

“Splendid! Now, stop showing off and tell me what’s so urgent that you have to interrupt my surveillance of the bumbling Boilers and those hoop-skirted harlots with whom they are in cahoots!”

“Capitain LeFleur, it is probably nothing and if that’s the case then I volunteer to violently flog myself as you see fit, but I couldn’t help but noticing a pair of Dutch frigates loaded with marines and cannons and all manner of anti-piracy apparatus coming this way.”

LeFleur snapped his spyglass to attention and pointed it out to sea – true to Duvall’s word, two very dangerous looking Dutch frigates were making their way toward Curacao.

“Jean Pierre de la Muqueux!” LeFleur called out as if he feared some other de la Muqueux might mistakenly come a-running.

“Oui! – I mean, Yes! – I mean Ja! Mijn Kapitein!” panted de la Muqueux, breathless from his mad sprint from below decks.

“No time now for language lessons, Muqueux! The Dutch are coming and we need to move. Did somebody cover the name plate as I ordered?”

“Oui, mon capitaine – I saw it replaced myself!”

Fifi paused with a small but troubling concern. “And what, pray tell, is our disguise name for this harmless Dutch merchant vessel?”

Muqueux cast a desperate look at Duvall who looked up and whistled to nobody in particular.

Fifi registered their discomfort, but didn’t have time for it. “Damn it, Muqueux! Just tell me!”

A sheepish Muqueux confessed, “Neptune’s de Uitsteeksels van de Mens.”

There was an uncomfortably long silence finally broken by Duvall who translated.

Neptune’s Man Nipples, Captain.”

“I know.” LeFleur answered calmly.

There was another uncomfortably long pause before Fifi spoke again.

“Who …”

Muqueux and Duvall answered as one.


“Didn’t I recently kill him?” LeFleur asked calmly.

“Oui!” Muqueux replied.

“Ja!” Duvall corrected.

“Can I go back and kill him again?”

“Your rank and temperament certainly provide you with the right to do just as you please, Captain.” Muqueux answered with the wisdom of Solomon.

“Seems a bit of overkill, though.” Fifi confessed, finally smiling about the ridiculous name plate affixed to the back of his ship.

“The very definition of the word, Captain!” Muqueux chuckled in agreement.

“Why, your middle name could be, ‘Overkill’ Captain, couldn’t it?” Duvall joined in the laugh – but unfortunately squashed it in his attempt.

Fifi LeFleur stared at him for a moment – then decisively, “Take off your clothes!”

“Ce qui? – I mean, Wat?” Duvall was near panic – but the cold look on LeFleur’s face was all it took for him to start stripping. “Mama told me, ‘You’re always one verbal slip-up away from dropping from Dogsbody to Bugger-boy!’ and she was so right!” he thought to himself.

“Muqueux! Take command of – Neptune’s Man Nipples – and bring her around – as if we’re going out to sea. Then bring us in as close as you can to shore about a mile north of town. It should be getting dark by the time we arrive. I’ll swim ashore there with my nephew and dogsbody and we’ll sneak back into town and see what’s going on. You sail to the north end of the island – there’s a town there called, Westpunt. Keep quiet there for two weeks – if you don’t hear from us – sack the town and plunder what you can from this island! Do you understand me?”

“Oui! Mon Capitaine!” Muqueux snapped his heels and went off to do his duty.

“Hurray!” Luc Duvall thought to himself, “I’m back up to Dogsbody!”

“Duvall, go get us three havresacks for our clothes and small weapons.”

“Ja! Mijn Kapitein!” Duvall dashed away before his fortunes shifted again.

Young Jacques approached as Fifi LeFleur was beginning to disrobe.

He hesitated before speaking. “You wanted to see me, Captain?”

“Jacques! Nephew! My dear boy!” Fifi kissed both cheeks in greeting – as he did, his britches fell to his ankles. “You must call me ‘Uncle’ when it is just you and I!”

The young man hesitated as ‘Uncle Fifi’ stepped out of his trousers. “Uncle. I know we’re French, but …”

Fifi gave the boy a quizzical look before understanding the lad’s confusion. “Oh! This?” he made a self-sweeping gesture of his own near-nakedness. “No, lad! You misunderstand! We’re going for a swim!”

“Who, uncle?”

“Well, there’s me. Luc Duvall my faithful dogsbody.” He counted two on his fingers and pretended to forget the third. “Oh! Yes, of course! And YOU, my boy! You and I are going on our first raid together – as a family!”

“But we’ve gone on several raids together, uncle. I’ve been aboard your ship for months!”

“Not as my nephew, lad! Oh, this is going to be fun! We’ll swim ashore, spoil Cap’n Sloppy’s plan, get directions to the treasure from Ol’ Hamnquist and get out! Who knows? We might even get you laid!?!”

“I’ve been with women before, Uncle Fifi.”

“Yes! But not since I’ve known you!” Now nearly naked, Fifi became a bit self-conscious of his genitals – he held his boots in front of his dangly bits. “Ah, yes! The manly times we’ll have in Willemstad!”

Luc Duvall returned with three havresacks. He handed one to Jacques and began packing the other two with his and the captain’s clothes.

Jacques shrugged. “Aye-aye, Captain. But I should warn you, I’m not a strong swimmer.”

“That’s alright, lad! Neither am I! We’ll use Duvall here as a floatation device!”

Duvall nodded agreeably, but secretly wondered if that was a step above, below or lateral to the job of dogsbody.


“And just where the Hell do you think you’re going?” the marital tone caught Ol’ Chumbucket by surprise – even though it was coming out of his own mouth.

“I’m going to work!” Cap’n Slappy replied as he made some last minute adjustments on his blond page boy wig and coveralls in the tiny mirror in his cabin.

“With THAT on?” Ol’ Chumbucket’s overly broad gesture left Slappy searching the mirror for what he’d done wrong fashion-wise this time.

“What!? I’m dressed as a painter!” Cap’n Slappy’s tone was overly defensive, “Oh, sure, my costume is a bit houte couture but I had to get Salty Jim to make a few adjustments to accommodate my manly girth and provide ample opportunity for accessorizing. Have I committed some unforgiveable fashion faux pas?”

“And do you think a brace of six pistols is accessorizing that one might expect of a Dutch boy painter? – With a scraggly white beard?”

“Do you expect me to go naked?” Slappy seemed shocked and shaken to the core.

“No. That would be unpleasant for everybody – but I do expect you to go undetected!” Chumbucket removed Slappy’s pistols himself as he spoke. “And why are you wearing that ring?”

“My Precious? My Birthday Prezzie?” Slappy was back to his defensive tone. “Take away my pistols! Take away the two phosphorous grenades I’ve tucked away in the ample crotch of these coveralls!” (Ol’ Chumbucket merely glanced downward and winced at the idea of removing anything from that comically bulging crotch.) “But do not, I implore you, DO NOT take away this symbol of the unfaltering affection of my crew for their adoring father-figure … me!”

“Fine!” Ol’ Chumbucket acquiesced. “Wear the ring! But don’t you think you might get paint on it?”

“It’ll wash.” Slappy said as he headed for the door.

Ol’ Chumbucket stopped him – “WAIT!” Slappy turned around and rolled his eyes as if to say, “What now?” but let his body do the talking.

“YOU can't leave the ship! We’ve only got a skeleton crew – barely enough to set sail in the event of an emergency and most of them have little or no experience! I mean, with George in gaol and most of the crew in the work party, the next in the chain of command is Gabriel! And after Gabriel, it’s either Jonas Grumby or Miguel Magana! If you’ll recall, they’re actors who were pretending to be sailors – and they’ll be looking to young Gabriel for leadership!”

Slappy nodded. “He’s a good man!”

“He’s a CABIN BOY!” Ol’ Chumbucket snapped back.

“I know what this is about, old friend.” Cap’n Slappy said calmly – using his best annoying counselor tone.

“No you don’t.” Ol’ Chumbucket replied with equal calm – just hoping to avoid the topic altogether.

“Oh, yes I do! This is about Sally – You never futz over me unless you are heartbroken – and you’re never heartbroken unless it’s about Sally.”

Ol’ Chumbucket just shook his head – he knew any protestation would only make Slappy believe he was right – whether he was or wasn’t.

Slappy continued, “But my friend, she’s made up her mind. You need to let her go. Women …” Slappy thought for a moment – he wasn’t really sure where he was going with this. “Women are like the wind. They cannot be tamed. They cannot be predicted. And when they are broken, they stink.”

“Was that a fart joke?” Ol’ Chumbucket was trying to make sense of the jabbering spewing forth from the mind and mouth of Cap’n Slappy.

Slappy paused in thought. “Yes … AND No … with a dash of Perhaps.”

“I’ll take that under advisement.” Chumbucket offered Slappy’s favorite dismissive phrase back to him.

“Excellent!” Slappy approached his old friend with arms open wide. “I think this calls for a man-hug!”

“Really?!?” Ol’ Chumbucket replied.

“Oh, yeah.” Cap’n Slappy embraced Ol’ Chumbucket in a manly bear-hug that lingered uncomfortably long.

Finally, through squeezed lungs, Ol’ Chumbucket spoke, “Are those phosphorous grenades in your pants or are you just happy to see me?”

“Those ARE phosphorous grenades in my pants AND I am always happy to see you!” Slappy backed away and held his mate by the upper shoulders at arm’s length. Then, with a hearty slap on his mate’s left shoulder, “From my extensive experience with women I’ve learned this – make a decision, take action and never, ever look back.”

"And you've been married seven times."

"And I've NEVER looked back," Slappy said with smile. "Except when they were chasing me with large pointy weapons."

With that bit of sage advice, Slappy turned on his heels and out the cabin door.

Ol’ Chumbucket thought for a minute or two and then made his way up to the deck in time to see Cap’n Slappy pass a young man on the dock – the two didn’t speak, but exchanged nods as they hurried on their respective ways. He perched himself on the rail next to the gang plank and watched as the young man approached the ship.

“I’m looking for a sailor who goes by ‘Ol’ Chumbucket’!” the young red-headed man called up to the man himself.

“State yer business, lad!” Chumbucket called back.

“My business is with Ol’ Chumbucket and no other!” the young man replied with calm defiance.

Ol’ Chumbucket smiled. “Ye’re speakin’ to him, lad.”

“Permission to come aboard!” the young man kept to protocol.

“Permission granted!”

Something about the way the young man came up the gang plank – the way he moved and carried himself reminded Ol’ Chumbucket of someone he recognized, but couldn't think why. The stranger's very walk proclaimed a confidence bordering on cockiness – but always thinking and taking great care not to make a mistake.

“I have a note for you, sir, from Countess Sonja …” Ol’ Chumbucket snatched the note away before the young man could finish his sentence and began to read it in the waning light of the setting sun.

“I’m to show you the way.” The young man said – clearly eager to be going.

“One moment, lad.” Ol’ Chumbucket called below deck for Gabriel who scurried up from the galley.

“Aye, sir!” The cabin boy said with a smart salute.

“Gabriel, you’re in charge until I return. Or until the captain returns. Or until anyone else returns, anyone else at all – do you understand me, lad?”

“Aye-aye, sir!” another crisp salute.

The young red-headed man gave a curious look at Gabriel and the man who was leaving this boy in charge.

Ol’ Chumbucket quickly explained as they went down the gang plank together. “It’s alright – he’s a dwarf.”

Gabriel overheard this comment and called after them, “I’m not a dwarf!” When they didn’t react, he called again to them as they walked along the dock, “I’M NOT A DWARF!”

Then he turned back to the ship and glanced up and down at her timbers and rigging and took in a deep, satisfied breath, “I’m a captain!”

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