Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Chapter 34 - "Divas and Devils"

“Go on, Luc, he says! You take these last meals to la prison! And make sure you get ol’ Hamnquist to tell us where his treasure is hidden! – PWAH!”

Luc Duvall spat as he pulled the cart of covered dinner trays across the cobblestone streets of Willemstad toward the gaol doing his most disrespectful impersonation of Fifi LeFleur.

“Imbecile! He says – TO ME! Imbecile! I cannot cater the most important opera-related social event of the year and be expected to feed a bunch of unappreciative condemned pirates!”

Luc spat again – PWAH!

He continued his one-sided interpretation of the conversation aloud as he struggled with his burden; “But mon capitaine! I thought condemned men could request their favorite dish for a last meal?”

“They can request anything they like – they’ll get fish tacos! You can make fish tacos, can’t you, Duvall – you stupid, stupid, stupido!?”

“Oui, mon capitaine! But so can the boy – why doesn’t he cover the prisoners so I can help you at the opera? I LOVE the opera!”

“And a pig may love Jesus, but I’m not taking one to church with me!” Duvall continued to mutter as he tugged the cart along.


“How many encores are they going to do, Uncle?”

“Just watch the table boy.” LeFleur spoke sharply to his nephew as he ventured away from the refreshment table and poked his head in at the back of the opera house.

On either side of the entry to the auditorium, Fifi saw faces he thought he recognized – pirate faces – Boiler faces. He took a good hard look at the Leading Lady on stage. She had held the audience in the palm of her meaty hand all night and she was feeding them like the greedy baby birds they were – none greedier than the governor himself – who now lead the standing ovation beside his rather mystified-looking bride-to-be.

As his eyes adjusted to the darkness he could see that most of the crew of The Festering Boil was filling the standing-room-only section applauding appreciatively if not enthusiastically. Two notable crewmates not in attendance were Cementhands McCormack and Ol’ Chumbucket. Unbeknownst to the pirate-turned-caterer, the two of them were drinking in a pub across the street from the opera house.

With the final ovation coming to a close, Governor Van Wubbeldinker made his way from his box to the front of the stage where he joined the leading lady. As he moved, a full regiment of his troops took up positions behind him on stage and up and down the aisles of the auditorium with reserves in the lobby. These security measures caused Fifi LeFleur enough discomfort that he retreated to his refreshment table.

“Oh, my!” the governor gushed, fanning his face with his open hand to ward off “the vapors” as he approached the grand dame. “My dear lady, you are a treasure to the world of opera!”

Cap’n Slappy, unsure about the level of disguise his veil provided when up close snapped his fan open and shielded his face from closer inspection.

“Oh, governor, you are too kind!” he extended his right hand as on offering to Van Wubbeldinker’s gentlemanly lips. The governor bent over to kiss the singer's hand, then froze. The ring – the very same ring Slappy had been given to quiet his bitter complaints about terrible birthday prezzies – was suddenly in the governors face.

The governor recognized it instantly, it had his family crest on it. The Governor looked up from nearly kissing the hand and with a swift motion snatched the veil from Slappy’s face. “I should have known!” although he really didn’t think he should have – he just wanted to appear less stupid. “This is no diva! This is that devil – Cap’n Slappy!”

Something kicked in for Slappy and without giving it a second thought, he snapped the fan shut and twirled it in his hand until he gripped it like a knife that he then punched into the governor’s chest – without the penetrating point, his weapon simply jolted the governor off of his feet and planted him unceremoniously on his backside.

There was a moment of shock – when everyone in the theater stood frozen – eyes on the governor who seemed the most surprised of anyone. Slappy seized this moment of hesitation and seeing no exit stage left or stage right, charged directly down stage toward the audience and leaped – in full courtesan costume – over the narrow orchestra pit and began sprinting up the aisle toward the lobby.

Unfortunately, the stage lights had blinded him to the number of soldiers that now stood in his escape route and after but that one moment’s shock and awe, they fell on him in overwhelming numbers. Not to be left out of the fracas, the Boilers in the house threw themselves headlong into the melee as innocent opera fans (if there IS such a thing as an innocent opera fan) moved away from what was quickly turning into a riot.

Nearly blind in the darkness, Two Patch had to feel his way into the fray, but once he got a feel of Dutch uniform, he latched on like a ferocious barnacle – biting off the ear of an unfortunate guardsman. And despite the restrictiveness of his costume, Slappy was in rare form – using his corset as armor protecting him from body blows.

He punched and head-butted his way up the narrow field of battle delivering savage beatings with his fists and forehead. As the brawl spilled into the lobby, all of the combatants had to contend with a nearly blinding change in the level of lighting. Fifi LeFleur and his nephew positioned themselves in front of the refreshment table – and whenever one of the fighters – pirate or soldier – came too near the goodies, they were met with a staggering blow from a rolling pin which LeFleur brought for just such intrusions into the refreshments.

“Well, that cannot have been a part of Sloppy’s plan.” LeFleur whispered to his nephew.


“Now, let’s see if I have the plan straight.”

Cementhand McCormack began as he and Ol’ Chumbucket sipped their rum as they sat across the street from the opera house – watching the front doors for the first sign of satisfied patrons heading home.

“After Slappy’s critical success, he will insist on performing for the condemned pirate prisoners and, accompanied by his – or rather, her – entourage of off-duty Dutch boy painters …”

“Us” Ol’ Chumbucket clarified.

“Us” McCormack echoed before continuing, “… will gain access to the inner reaches of the gaol and after lulling the night shift of guards into a false sense of ease, we’ll overpower them and free not only Captain Hamnquist and our men, but all the other imprisoned pirates as well.”

“That seems only fair.” Ol’ Chumbucket nodded thoughtfully.

“Well, yes.” McCormack agreed. “Us pirates have got to stick together.”

No sooner had the words left his mouth but the doors of the opera house burst open – not with satisfied patrons, but with the struggling remnants of the bound and shackled dozen or so pirates and their leading lady as they were muscled into the street by the overwhelming numbers of Dutch soldiers.

McCormack began to get to his feet. "Well that can't be right can it?" he started to say. But Ol’ Chumbucket's hand on is arm stopped him.

“We can’t help them here – we can only join them.” He said calmly. “If we’re going to be of any use, we’re going to have to come up with another plan.”

“And soon!” McCormack added. “The wedding – and the hanging – are tomorrow!”

“I’m going to need help.” Ol’ Chumbucket confided, thinking out loud more than talking to McCormack.

“Well, what am I?” McCormack asked rather defensively and more than a little hurt.

“You’re now the temporary captain of The Festering Boil! You need to get back to her and sail her to Westpunt!”

“Gabriel can do that!” McCormack argued. “With those two actors for a crew?”

“They PLAYED sailors!”

Cementhands was not taking orders – he was giving them. “Here’s what we’re gonna do. I’m going to go tell the lad to sail north the Westpunt and meet you back here in a half hour! ONE HALF HOUR! Get whatever help you think might be …” McCormack struggled to finish the sentence, “… helpful! But be back here in four bells or by God I will attack that gaol myself – with a spoon!”

Ol’ Chumbucket watched as the big pirate dashed out of the pub. He looked across at the opera house where, through the open doors, he could see stunned opera-goers munching on reception cake and looking as if they’d survived a war – which they had.

In the middle of the crowd, he could see Mad Sally – and with a lover’s tunnel vision got up from his table and headed across the street. “ONE HALF HOUR!” he said to himself – “and whatever help might be … helpful.”


“Watch the table, garcon.” Fifi whispered to his nephew as he took off his server’s apron.

“Where are you going, uncle?”

“Just … watch the table and clean up when the reception is over. I’ll meet you back at the shop.”

Fifi made his way through the lobby toward the open front doors – arriving just as a familiar face appeared in the doorway. Fifi LeFleur and Ol’ Chumbucket recognized each other immediately as they nearly brushed shoulders passing each other – one entering while the other was exiting. They both froze without turning to look at the other while the awkwardness of the moment seized them – then, without a word – they decided that the business they were on trumped their curiosity about each other and they moved on without so much as a nod.

Through a forest of people, a single shaft of golden light seemed to guide Chumbucket to his beloved. He didn’t care that she was clearly engaged in a rather intense discussion with a well-dressed gentleman – his business was urgent and it was time for her to decide if she was friend or foe.

“Countess.” He interrupted. She held up a hand – not wanting to look at him or acknowledge his need at the moment.

“Countess Sonja.” He was more insistent. “This is important.”

“Of course it is, Ol’ Chumbucket, and Sally and I are ready to be of service.”

Bernard Jeffries spoke cordially – as if they were all old friends.

“Do I know you?” Chumbucket said with a snarl curling his upper lip.

“No.” Jeffries replied. “Not at all. But I know you – and I know you are here to get secrets from Captain Hamnquist. Miss Sally and I were just discussing a plan to breach the gaol without undue commotion – but we lack someone to play a large, blustery woman … and it seems one of our early candidates was just carted away in exactly that disguise. Do you know of anyone who might help?”

Ol’ Chumbucket looked suspiciously at his new advisor. “Perhaps. But we should probably continue this discussion across the street at the pub.” He then turned to Sally. “Can you pull yourself away from these festivities, Countess Sonja?” Sally smiled. “I’m a countess. I can do as I please.”


“Make sure you add cilantro to the mango chutney, Luc!” Duvall was finally within a block of the gaol – still spewing the bile of his earlier workplace dispute. “And not too much lemon! They’re already condemned, you needn’t add insult to injury!” PWAH!

Despite the weight of the cart and the bumpiness of the road, Luc Duvall took great satisfaction from the punctuating effect of a good spit.

As he closed within just a few paces, he was overtaken with the jostling procession of Boilers being taken away to prison – led by the still defiant Cap’n Slappy.

“I swear by the mighty man-nipples of Poseidon the vengeful that if my bustle is ruined I will find you and stab you in your left eye while you sleep!”

He pulled the cart aside to make way for the new prisoners – Butch got a whiff of the cooking and couldn’t help making comment. “Do I smell too much cilantro in the mango chutney?”

“NO!” snapped Luc, “You smell just the right amount!”

It was at that moment that he realized he was now about fifteen last meals short.


As he stood on the street shaking with rage, he was joined by his boss.

“Luc! Luc! I am glad to find you out here!”

“We have to go make fifteen more meals!”

“I know, Luc.” LeFleur’s tone was conciliatory.

“They can’t keep adding pirates, can they?” Luc Duvall was near tears.

“It’s their gaol – they can do as they please.” LeFleur said as he put an arm around his little friend’s shoulder and turned him back toward their shop.

“What do we do now, mon capitaine?”

“We make fifteen more dinners and serve them – then, we break all of the pirates out of prison.”

“Just us?”

“Us – and perhaps some help.”

“I love you, mon capitaine.”

“Oui. Luc. I know.”

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