Sunday, August 07, 2011


The Curacao Caper, Chapter 46

Cap’n Slappy breathed in deeply.

Memories began flooding his mind … a trip to Wales as a child with his brother, Thomas. It was winter and snow capped the hills around Cardiff – a tempting playground for two boys and a toboggan.

Tom, are ye sure this is goin’ to work?” young Mortimer asked his older brother – fear and frosty air cracking his soprano boy-voice.

Of course it’s going to work!” Thomas growled. “Ye can’t live yer life in fear o’tryin’ new things, Morty! Ye’ve got to grab danger by the ears and kick it – REPEATEDLY – in the bollocks with the toe o’ yer boots, li’l brother!”

But shouldn’t I be sitting?” Mortimer choked while giggling nervously. “I mean … ain’t ye supposed to sit on this thing?”

Ye cannot face death on yer arse, little brother!” Thomas gripped the younger Slappy’s shoulders as he gave him what was, by tradition, a “Slappytime” pep talk!

Ye’re a SLAPPY, lad! And the Slappy family has always created for itself – OPPORTUNITIES! Now while it may be true that these opportunities of which I speak have often led to wrack and ruin in our ancestral tree – let me be clear that it is exactly these opportunities for disaster that have created in us – our finest moments! Before Great-Great-Great-Grandpappy McSlappy was exiled from Ireland did he or did he not import dozens of dangerous pythons to the Emerald Isle in hopes of breeding them for his fancy snakeskin boot-making scheme?”

Aye.” Replied a trembling Mortimer as he pulled the little sled up the side of a rocky hill – barely dusted by a thin layer of snow. “That is before Constable Patrick whats-his-name chased him out of Ireland – snakes and all – to Madrid where he was violently squished and eaten by the largest of his pythons.”

AYE!” Thomas declared with enthusiasm. “But if he hadn’t done so the family name wouldn’t have become Slappista!”

Which …” Mortimer intervened, “…it no longer is because our Great-Great-Grandpapado Slappista took it upon himself to bed, in alphabetical order, the wives of the council of thirteen that secretly governs the inner workings of Spain’s castanet export business. Forcing the family to live in hiding for two generations before emerging as flounder fishermen in Cornwall!”

Aye! We’re an up-‘n-comin’ family, Mortimer! That we are!” chortled Thomas as they reached the top of the hill. “We’ve come all the way to the top! And there’s only one way to go from here.”

Young Mortimer Slappy looked down at the snow-dusted rocks that jutted out of the side of the mountain and wondered how many Welch boys or boys from other parts of Great Britain had met an untimely end trying to sled down this foreboding slope.

Back down the way we came up?” he offered hopefully.

What are ye? A wee fancy lad what minces about fearfully evadin’ Death rather than latchin’ on to it with yer teeth and screamin’, ‘Come and get some, ye bastard Death! I’ll not run from ye or shirk any opportunity to kick ye squarely in the bollocks!’”

Thomas did a little mincing dance that was actually rather good – showing a surprising flow of body movement to a rhythm that was in his head alone.

Apart from nearly being hypnotized by his brother’s interpretive dance, Mortimer couldn’t help but wonder about his elder brother’s anthropomorphism of the concepts of “danger” and “death” and, more to the point – their collective possession of “bollocks” that were in dire needing of “kicking.” But he knew there were only two ways off that little Welch mountain – a long walk of shame or a glorious (and most likely … deadly) ride into the nether regions of danger and death – kicking all the way.

He stepped onto the toboggan and stood with knees limbered and ready to absorb the thousand bumps and bounces of the ride down the hill.

Thomas stood at the back of the sled – ready to give it a hard push to get it going. “When ye’re ready – recite the Slappy Family Motto!”

Slappy took a deep breath in. Instead of the cold, crisp Welch winter air he smelled the warm vegetation of the jungle and the smell of the sea down the other side of the hill.

Recite the Slappy Family Motto” he mumbled to himself – at the back of the cart Luc and Jacques crouched for a mighty push.

What the Fuck!” (Cap’n Slappy began the recitation solemnly and finished with a roar.) “Ye’ve got to die o’ something!”

Fifi nodded to his men who thrust the cart forward with every fiber of muscle working to full capacity. It was like it was being shot off the top of the hill with a giant rubber band.

At the bottom of the hill, the strange, large “Baby Man Gaoler” had just started up the hillside on horseback followed by six well-armed underlings. They were all stopped dead in their tracks by the sight of the wildly bouncing cart speeding down the hill in their direction with a compact, portly pirate violently bouncing – but maintaining his stance – in the middle of the cart. They could hear him singing a warlike song but couldn’t make out the words – if they’d been in the cart with their enemy they might have heard the words more clearly.

Come men o’ Ireland’s emerald isle

Who’ve traveled far – o’er many-a mile!

To battle with achin’ joints and bone
And kick ol’ Death right in his stones!
For nary a sight ye’ve ever seen

Like angry Irishmen in green!

Hims is gonna die now!” the big Man-Baby Jailor vowed as he dug his heels into the flanks of his horse and raced headlong up the hill toward the rapidly descending pirate. His fellows followed, albeit at a slightly slower pace and with considerably more caution.

The big Man-Baby’s horse may have had more going on in its head than either its rider or the singing pirate in the cart – but as creatures go – a horse is obedient – at least up to the point of death. And so it was obedience that drove the horse toward the cart – but not without something in the brain talking to it directly about survival. Gravity, on the other hand, is not as dependent on human behavior for its survival and therefore had only one job – to bring the wagon down the hill and to do so with increasing velocity.

Be it fate or serendipity – the forces of nature will always play their part in the course of human conflict. As it turned out, in this case, the force of nature was gravity and the “fate” were two poorly placed stones in the road that protruded just enough to stop the wheels of the cart dead in their tracks – but a body in motion tends to stay in motion … especially when launched, like a catapult, from the back end of a flipping cart.

And while it was always Cap’n Slappy’s intention to leap from the cart and land a crushing “head butt” to the middle of the Man-Baby’s face – he hadn’t counted on two things: the violent launching from the cart and the sudden rearing up of his enemy’s steed. Fortunately for Slappy, years and years of hand-to-hand and head-to-face combat had created in his brain a sort of automated attack sequence that even the anomaly of human flight couldn’t distract. The arc of his flight took him just over the head of the rearing horse and he was actually able to bring his forehead downward with a devastating blow to the facial area of the Man-Baby just below his eyebrows – caving his face completely back into his skull so that it gave the appearance of a smooshed-in “head bowl.”

The last thing the cruel Man-Baby jailor would see in this world was Cap’n Slappy’s hairline.

Free of its hell-bound master, the horse dashed to his right to escape the path of the on-coming cart which tumbled, end-over-end until it came to rest over the prone bodies of Cap’n Slappy and the now-deceased giant Man-Baby – leaving them temporarily entombed under its wreckage.

Combatants on both sides stood frozen for a moment – disbelieving what they had just seen. It was enough hesitation to allow Fifi and his men to begin running downhill as the town guardsmen finally moved toward the cart to see what, if anything, had survived the collision.

Under the cart Cap’n Slappy’s head was reeling. He was unsure of where he was – of how old he was. Questions like, “Did I just wreck the toboggan?” and “How will my brother, Tom, kill me for wrecking the toboggan?” rattled about in his freshly battered brain. But as he groped about in the darkness of the wrecked cart three things reminded him of his current predicament – the presence of the giant body on which he now rested … the sound of Dutch voices approaching his concealing shelter … and the butt-ends of two very large pistols – tied together with a ribbon of silk that the giant Man-Baby was wearing around his neck.

As two of the guards flipped over the cart – they were greeted with the blast of two pistols aimed directly into the chests. Leaving the number of Dutch fighters at four.

Cap’n Slappy three: Dutchmen zero.

But four Dutch swords can do some damage and two empty pistols tied together with ribbon offer little defense.

Cap’n Slappy flipped his feet backwards over his head and rolled off his victim as the four Dutch swords plunged deeply into the belly of the giant. The world around him seemed to toss and roll as his brain attempted to recover from the battering it had just taken. But once again, his fighter’s instinct took over and he spun the pistols around in his hands so that the butt ends could be used for cobbering purposes and lunged toward one of the guards as he attempted to extricate his sword from his leader’s belly.

From behind, Slappy slammed both pistol butts into the man’s ears with ferocious force … Cap’n Slappy four: Dutchmen zero.

Hold on, Mortimer!” Fifi called as he and his companions bounded down the hill – barely maintaining control of their feet beneath them. “We are coming to ze rescue!!!”

Slappy staggered around drunkenly as the Dutchmen moved to strike at him. The one closest took a slashing cut toward Slappy’s head – but the pirate fell backwards onto his backside and under the flashing blade. He held one pistol while swinging the other around in the air by the attached ribbon – like a sling shot – and released it in the direction of the guardsman who had tried to remove his head. The linked pistols spun through the air like an aboriginal weapon and wrapped themselves around the man’s neck – spinning like two tetherballs in opposite directions around the same pole – finally landing two solid blows to the head.

Five down … two to go.

Every fighter knows when it’s time to retreat. But for Slappy – retreat meant running up-hill toward his French mates. Fifi still had the blunderbuss! He could take down the remaining two easily if he could just get close enough to both of them. With the world still spinning around him, Cap’n Slappy climbed to his feet – almost – and began staggering at his best speed toward his charging would-be rescuers.

The two Dutchmen, seeing the pirate without any weapons and in desperate retreat charged toward him in hopes of exacting some revenge for their fallen comrades.

But once again – serendipity presented itself on those same rocks that stopped the cart – as they tripped the charging Frenchman. “Fifis flop” as it would come to be called – began with his earnest desire to get close enough to unleash the devastating effects of the blunderbuss on the two remaining Dutchmen. As the cart had been tripped up – so was Fifi – who yelled, “Catch!” as he tossed the “thunder gun” in Slappy’s direction.

He had hoped that Slappy would easily catch it and, turn and fire in time to take out his last two combatants. But when Cap’n Slappy looked up he saw not one – but five or six blunderbusses flying in his direction.

I think I can catch two of them!” Cap’n Slappy thought to himself and extended both hands in an effort to grab the gun – or guns – out of midair.

He grabbed neither. But luck wasn’t through with Cap’n Slappy as the gun in the middle that was practically invisible to him turned out to be the actual blunderbuss and while it fell between his outstretched hands it did land on his head – with just enough pressure applied to the trigger to fire it off.

The two Dutchmen had only enough time to recognize that they were full of holes – but not enough time to count them before they expired.

Cap’n Slappy seven: Dutchmen zero. (Assist, Fifi.)

But even as their final opponents breathed their last, the pirates' attntion was turned north, on the outher side of the hill, by the crash of guns. The min event was about to begin in the harbor.

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