Friday, May 01, 2009


The Curacao Caper - Chapter 19

"All right then, that's the plan," Cap'n Slappy said. "Anyone have any thoughts, suggestions, additions or dirty jokes?"

The entire crew of the Boil looked around expectantly, but since they'd all been sailing together for some time now there had been no opportunity to learn any new dirty jokes, and the one about the pirate, the charwoman and the rabbi's duck, funny though it was, had lost a lot of its humor value by the 30th or 40th telling.

"No one?" Slappy asked.

"How are we going to proceed once we get ashore," asked Keeling, who was always one to want the details nailed down.

"Well, the painter disguise will get us into port," said Slappy. "Then we'll probably wing it to get into the gaol."

The look on Keeling's face told volumes about how happy he was about "winging it." Waiting for an opportunity was simply not the same thing as having a plan, in his book. But the rest of the crew merely nodded and shrugged.

"Aye," Cap'n Slappy said. "We'll muck around, see what happens, try to throw a little sand in the works and take advantage of the confusion."

"Standard operating procedure, then?" Dogwatch said.

"That's right," Slappy agreed. "So, no objections? We ought to be in sight of the island before sunset, so let's finish preparations. Are we all agreed?"

"Aye!" shouted the pirate crew, voting their assent.

"To work then!"

The pirates hustled off to finish their preparations. Ol' Chumbucket turned to go with them when he felt a heavy blow to his shoulder, which he realized was just Cementhands gently tapping him to get his attention.

"Yes?" Chumbucket responded.


"What do you mean?"

"No, what do you mean, xanthodontic?" Cementhands asked.

"Oh, that, just an effort to raise the level of my chastising. I can only call you slovenly and childish so many times before it starts to lose its sting, don't you see?"

"Sure, but what I really see is that you've been spending time with the "30 Days to A More Powerful, More Piratey Vocabulary" feature in Pirattitude Monthly again."

"Well, yeah," Chumbucket said, blushing slightly like a schoolboy who'd been caught at something.

"Is there some reason you don't just use simple, monosyllabic words that everyone can understand?"

"Well, mostly I do," Chumbucket protested. "In that last instance, there was 'caterwallin’ cluckmeisters' and 'natterin’ ninnies,' not" – Chumbucket held up his hand to forestall Cementhands' protest – "not that any of those are monosyllabic, but they certainly were understandable. I threw in xanthodontic because in the context – in the context – of the diatribe it clearly was not a compliment. I figured it might pique your interest and get one of you to look it up in the ship's dictionary."

"The ship has a dictionary?"

"Probably. Somewhere," Chumbucket said, flustered. "If nothing else, maybe one of you would be so interested that you'd find the ship's dictionary, which would benefit the whole crew."

"Or maybe one of us will just shake you until the definition pops out of your head," Cementhands said, his hand still resting on the other pirate's shoulder grasping the fabric of the shirt more tightly.

"No need," Ol' Chumbucket said hurriedly. "'Xanthodontic.' From the Greek xantho, for yellow, and dontic, relating to teeth. Xanthodontic. Yellow-toothed."

Cementhands considered for a moment, then a grin split his face.

"Xanthodontic. Yeah, that's pretty good. Xanthodontic." His mouth formed the word several more times, as if he were rehearsing it to make sure he remembered it. "Xanthodontic."

His hand lifted from Chumbucket's shoulder and he nodded his head.

"I like it."

"Glad to hear that," Ol' Chumbucket said, the fingers of his right hand probing his left shoulder to see if there was any permanent damage.

"Yeah, I like it," Cementhands said, turning away and looking for someone to try it on. "Hey, Sawbones!"

"Use it wisely, my pantagruelian pirate pal," Chumbucket said to himself.

The work in disguising the Boil had hit a snag. They'd picked Eggplant Sunrise, or Eggplant Surprise, as Cementhands insisted on calling it, because there was more of that color than any other. But though the bow was fully purplish (or violety, depending on which pirate you asked) and the black sides and red piping were covered down to the waterline, they'd started running out as they worked their way back to the fan tail. Grumby had tried thinning the paint, first with red, but that made it an even more violent shade of purple ("ultra-violent violet?" Keeling had asked, earning a baleful stare from Peddicord) and then with white, which made it more pink. Towards the stern the thinner paint hadn't covered as well, and the whole stern of the ship was still black.

"Well, it'll have to do," Slappy finally agreed with reluctance. "We have to have some paint leftover to carry off our disguise, and we're running out of time anyway."

The captain pointed to the southeast, where the first interruption of the horizon indicated the island was almost in sight.

"We've got to get everyone in costume. As long as we keep the bow pointed toward the shore, they won't notice," Slappy said, his tone indicating he was trying as much to convince himself as the crew.

Within the hour it was clear that they were indeed approaching the island. Three hours later, with the sun dipping toward the horizon, they were approaching the harbor.

Viewing it through his spyglass, Slappy's eyes lingered over the massive edifice at the waterfront.

"What is that? A stage? The skeleton of a new warehouse?"

"No," George the Greek said grimly. "Looks like one huge scaffold."

"A 24-noose scaffold," Chumbucket nodded.

"Well, let's try to avoid an appearance on it, shall we?" Slappy said, slamming his glass closed with predictable results, followed by the predictable string of Dutch profanity.

On shore, Governor Roelof Van Wubbeldinker stood atop the scaffold, scanning the horizon with his own spyglass and dancing a small, impatient jig, like a child who really has to take a leak.

“Is that them?" he asked.

“Begging your lordship’s pardon,” Bernard Jeffries replied with voice of someone who has been through this every evening for the last month," That ship appears to be flying a Dutch flag."

"Is the ship mine?"

"Our nation's, milord," Jeffries said with a sigh.

"Well, I must say, it doesn't represent our nation very well," sniffed the governor. "Have you ever seen such an ugly ship? Who would paint a ship that color? It looks like that vile vegetable I was served for dinner the other day."

"Eggplant, yes sir. A deep, rich purplish color."

"Purple? Oh no, I'd say more a violet, wouldn't you?"

"As you say sir. I understand that shade is all the rage thi … Oh my!"

The exclamation from the usually unflappable Jeffries was brought about when the ship, negotiating the tricky harbor mouth, was caught by an errant gust of wind on its rear quarter and slued to port, exposing the uneven painting that ran aft.

There was something about that ship that caught Jeffries' attention. It couldn't be the color, he thought. He'd never seen a ship painted that color. No one had ever seen a ship painted that color. But what as it?

"Oh, look at that!" the governor said, clapping his hands with pleasure. "It's purple AND violet, and black and red, all fading towards the end. It looks exactly like a giant floating bruise!"

Click! The connection closed in Jeffries' mind. He stared

The governor giggled, and it was only the sound of that giggle, a sound that horrified Jeffries as much as any sound on the planet, that snapped the valet back to the moment.

"Yes sir, very apt. A giant floating bruise." Jeffries paused, then said more to himself than anyone else, "Or perhaps a boil. A giant, floating festering boil."

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

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