Monday, May 09, 2005

Monkey Business

The Pirate Captain was married to the sea. He knew the crew joked about it behind his back, but he didn't care. No, he thought, she's just the kind of mistress that every man wants. He enjoyed her unpredictable nature. She was warm, calm, and forgiving at times and cold and biting at others. She let him take control most of the time - allowing him to ride her as hard as he wanted for as long as he liked. However, she occasionally liked playing the role of aggressor. On those nights she heaved with passion as she tossed him around his cabin, denying him even a moment of sleep and leaving him bruised, battered, bleary-eyed and barely able to function the next day. The Captain also admired her for remaining salty despite her majesty. But what made him love her most of all was her deep and mysterious nature.

Yes, if nothing else, one thing was certain about The Capitain -- he sure knew how to beat an analogy to death. In fact, it had gotten to the point where whenever he'd say the word 'like', his crew would suddenly remember that they'd forgotten to hoist the jib or batten down the hatches or some other sailor type duty that allowed them to quickly escape his presence.

On this particular morning, he was standing at the wheel of the ship and thinking about which of his comparisons between the sea and a woman would annoy his first mate the most. You see, they'd had a bit of a tiff the previous evening over which shanty to sing. The first mate suggested the 1640's classic "The Maid of Amsterdam" while The Captain held out for the more modern and jaunty "Get Up Jack! John Sit Down!" Eventually, The Captain won the argument by pulling rank, but he feared that choosing this route, rather than the time honored pirate method of a 60 minute debate featuring an impartial moderator and standard five minute question and response times, had cost him some respect among the crew. It wasn't the prospect of a debate part that bothered The Captain, it was the thought of having to go down "spin alley" afterwards trying to restate his main points and attempting to convince the crew that he'd won.

While he was working on a particularly tortured analogy about how waves (or maybe whitecaps) are like woman's hair, he spied a rowboat with eight of his men making its way back to the ship. This was mildly troubling in that he clearly remembered only sending six men ashore to plunder the small village where, it was rumored, a Spanish Merchant ship had deposited a chest full of pieces of eight for safekeeping while they sailed off into the pirate infested waters to sell their wares.Well, he reasoned, such things were to be expected. After all, he'd sent ashore his toughest men, not his brightest. If history was any indication, they'd probably lost count of how of them there were and had simply dragged along two hapless men from the village who happened to look vaguely pirate like.* No matter, thought The Captain, we can always use a few good men for the upcoming Pirate Talent Show Extravaganza®.

Off in the distance behind the rowboat, he saw smoke rising from the area in which the tiny village had been and he reflected with pride upon how well he'd trained his men in the art of pillaging and destroying. They were so efficient that a small detachment of his crew would often do more damage than an entire crew from another ship. This town was no exception. They had been through, plundering the treasure he'd sent them for before systematically destroying every building, killing every inhabitant, and leaving nary a trace of the town other than a large burnt out clearing.

Of course, had there been any women or children there, they would not have been harmed. He was, after all, a gentleman pirate and this was His Custom.™ His motives weren't entirely altruistic, for he also hoped that in gratitude for allowing them to live, the women would welcome his men with open arms (among other things) if they ever ventured back that way. The fact that it had never worked before - and often resulted in he and his crew being run out of town by a ferocious mob women whenever they returned to try to collect their favors - didn't deter him in the slightest.

As it turned out there had been nothing but men in this town - and damn few of them at that. When he had gone ashore on a pre-looting scouting mission, The Captain had been struck by how well-dressed and impeccably groomed the men were. He also noticed their strange custom of holding hands as they walked and kissing each other periodically - and he hoped it wouldn't catch on elsewhere. With the eye of a connoisseur he noticed that whoever had designed the settlement had gone out of his way to make it as quaint and charming as possible. It seemed that every other building was a bed and breakfast or an antique shop and it was impossible not to notice that the entire village was immaculate and that every dwelling decorated with aplomb. Were it not for His Custom™ of destroying any village he pillaged, The Captain might well have let the buildings stand (while still killing the men, of course). Oh well, what's done is done, he thought. He sighed and made a mental note to have one of the crew paint another one of those cool houses with a red 'x' over it on the bow of the ship to signify another village plundered and destroyed.

The rowboat floated up against the ship and the crew worked to secure the boat. Once done, they began to climb up the rope ladder that had been thrown over the side just that purpose. As they boarded the ship, The Captain was pleased to see that each of the men carried a large canvas bag slung across his back. He'd have been happy with one or two sacks of silver, but eight? Well, that was beyond his wildest dreams. He immediately began thinking of what he'd do with his share of the spoils. There was that new sextant he'd had his eye on when they were in England a few months ago, and he'd also seen a nice gold hoop earring that he hoped to get his hands on to complete his dashing Pirate Captain ensemble.

The rest of the crew patted their brethren on the back as they gathered on the deck and waited for The Captain to show them the booty.** To a man, they hoped that this time he'd skip the part where he stripped and roll around in it kicking and screaming "I'm rich! I'm rich!" as he'd done the past few times they'd come across treasure. He'd said he did it to amuse the men, but most of them secretly believed that he just liked the way the coins felt against his naked body. Afterwards, they were all a little hesitant to handle their shares of the loot for fear that it contained some of the coins that always seemed to get lodged the cracks and crevices of The Captain's body as he rolled around.

Each member of the crew did some mental arithmetic (it's well known that most pirates cannot read or write, but for some reason they're all exceptionally brilliant at math) and quickly calculated his approximate share based on the estimated weight of the bags that now sat on the deck at the feet of The Captain. If they were correct, then not only would The Captain be filthy rich, but each man's share would be enough to allow him his fill of rum and prostitutes for the next year (true to form - they'd probably just waste the rest of the money). ***

"You've done well, me lads" The Captain said in his best pirate-y voice. "Now let's have a look at the treasure ye scurvy wags brought back for us." The crew laughed uproariously at the good natured ribbing even though it wasn't all that funny. He was The Captain, after all and it was only polite to laugh at his jokes. With that, he opened the first sack and emptied the contents on the deck. The laughter of the crew died suddenly when, instead of the expected metallic clinking hundreds of coins, they heard a series of meaty thuds. The same happened with the second sack, and the third - all the way through the eight one. By the time he was finished, The Captain was knee deep in hairy arms, legs, heads and torsos.

He looked at the carnage and wondered what the hell had gone wrong, when suddenly it dawned on him. He wheeled about and faced the men he'd sent ashore - all of whom were still grinning from ear to ear, in expectation of having heaps of praise bestowed upon them. The scowl on The Captain's face and the fury in his eyes told him that not only were they wrong, but that their careers were about to come to an abrupt end with the pirate version of early retirement.****

They shrunk back as The Captain turned the full force of his fury upon them and bellowed:

"I SAID BRING ME PIECES OF EIGHT, YOU BLOODY MORONS - NOT PIECES OF APE!"

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* The Captain's assessment was pretty much correct. In the worst bit of timing ever, two of the townsmen had dressed as pirates in order to play a joke on the town banker (and because they simply adored pirate fashion). They'd entered the bank just in time to see the banker being run through with a cutlass by a particularly nasty looking pirate. Upon turning and seeing them in the doorway, the pirate readied his cutlass for a thrust that, had it been delivered, would have skewered the two men completely through and creating a faux pirate shish kebob. However, just before he struck the blow one of the men screamed "Arrrrrggghhh" in terror. Mistaking that for the secret pirate greeting the scoundrel sheathed his weapon and replied in kind. He was a bit puzzled by the high and piercing voice the man used in uttering the greeting, but he imagined that it was a quirk of the local dialect. And so, much to their dismay, the men found themselves conscripted into service aboard the pirate ship. Of course, their dismay was greatly diminished when realized that they would be the only survivors from the settlement. By the time they boarded the ship, they had become resigned to playing out the charade and when they saw a crew full men tanned and fit from the manual labor of the sea, they were sure they'd died and gone to heaven.

**Of course, they used "booty" in the traditional pirate sense and not the modern, slang usage - despite what the two newly conscripted pirates had hoped.

***They had no worries about keeping their plans a secret for, unlike The Captain, they weren't married to the sea but were merely seeing it behind his back. Consequently, they reasoned, she couldn't possibly get jealous if they got a little action on the side.

****Walking the plank into shark infested waters