Archive for March, 2014

“I must protest Phinck, I will not shoot a glass off your man’s head. I will not run the risk of killing a man…a pirate of honor will not—”

“Oh swallow yer’ honor Sandy and shut yer’ yacker, be grateful Hob is such a natural at this, otherwise you’d be shootin’ glasses off of yer own crew’s heads.”

“It is Koufax, not ‘Sandy’.” Even with dark skin, one can see the redness in Koufax’s face, I hope anger doesn’t affect his aim. “No one calls me that, you understand? NO ONE!”

“Very well…I will stop calling you Sandy if yer are able to beat me (the Mississippi will scarce have a drop of water in it before that happens) and yer crew will walk free and not have to worry about polin’ my keelboats for the rest of their lives.”

“Oh I’m behind the eight-ball…” Offrey adjusts his fedora, “my arms are much too short to be of any use as a poler, or rower if it comes to it.” Nose twitches, “Burn powder captain! For all our sakes!”

I feel the same as Offrey, now if only hope can make a shot hit straight…

Koufax glances down at the elderly man, “Are you sure of this? Won’t he flinch when he see’s us level our guns?”

“No more than anyone would and even less so…” Phinck tubbles next to Koufax, “there’s a reason we call him ‘Blind Hob.’”

“But I ain’t deaf yet Phinck!” Hob takes a swig of…something probably alcoholic, and smiles.

Ewww, is that whiskey dripping out of his mouth? Or Spit? I don’t think I want to know, just look away.

“Youins’ better take a few more steps back. Make sure I can’t hear ya’ real good.” More whiskey for Hob.

“Is he going to be able to sit straight with him going like that?” Worry crosses Koufax’s face, I guess none of us had thought about him hitting a moving target.

“Tar-thundering rock and rapids! Hob’s a true keelboater through and through.” Phinck’s face is aghast, “he’s only had half a gallon so far today,” (even though it’s nighttime) “he’s got at least another quart to go before he be startin’ to get all woozy like. Enough talk! Time to shoot and see if your honor is as great as your words!”

The boat begins to shake, Phinck’s crew are cheering again. Home-field advantage I suppose. The lantern-light shimmers against Koufax’s pistol (I have said it is quite beautiful and cool-looking before, right?), his eye peers straight down the sights, arm straight as a rail…if the rail in question was made to be straight…okay, anyways…

Crack!

And the jug shatters. A sigh of relief from us, groans from Phinck’s crew. Koufax smiles.

“Ol’ Hob could have done that, move out of the way sky-barnacle, this is how a real pirate shoots.” Phinck throws his pistol behind his back, twirling (Phinck’s surprisingly agile for such a large man), swigging whiskey (I

should really just mention when he’s not drinking), the pistol lands in his left hand, finish the twirl…and Kercrack!

Shards clatter around Blind Hob, who places a bottle on his head. I guess there is no EPA or Sierra Club or anything here in Whimsy, otherwise we’d all be slapped with poisoning the water with lead and pottery/glass shards. Of course I don’t know if they would be willing to reprimand a bunch of drunk pirates, you know, run the risk of getting held hostage awaiting some terrifying fate.

Five paces back, Koufax, face set as steel, lowers, aims…and Hob puts another bottle on his head. There is no smile this time. Phinck takes his next shot with no fanfare, save the obligatory drink. Five more paces.

A hand lands on my shoulder, I jerk from the hit (it was rather hard) not from nervousness or anything like that. I can stay calm under pressure, do you even know how many penalty kicks I’ve made?

“You two need to not worry so much.” Squirrel smiles. “The Captain is the best shot I’ve ever seen, there’s no way he’ll let us down.” Fingers cup around his mouth, “show that fat, tottering dredger what sky-pirates can do, captain!”

I cringe. “I wouldn’t be insulting Phinck if I were you, not while we are surrounded by his crew.”

“You don’t know our ways Al, shouting insults it part of being a pirate. Any pirate worth their salt can give out a decent insult.”

“Yet you are not a pirate of any sort if I recall,” do Offrey’s eyes actually have a little bit of menace in them? “Unless Bunyan call his crew pirates? Darb! There’s something funny for you, lumberjack pirates! Ha!”

“Guys!” Two pairs of eyes suddenly turn to me. “Shut up and watch Koufax! I don’t want to die!”

“Koufax will hit regardless of whether or not we’re chinning,” Offrey bobs. “I’m just going to make sure I put up a good fight when they bring the Brunos over. Don’t worry Bo, we’re not going to do the dance, Phinck’s not a madman, just a boozehound.”

Glass shatters, men cheer, Phinck raises his pistol in celebration. Five more paces, but this time Blind Hob puts a shot glass on his head.

“You’ve down well yer scalawag, but this is where we separate the men from the boys…at least if there were any men that could shoot as well as me!” More cheers.

“We’ll see.” Arm down, gun down, eye straight, hammer down…the glass is no more.“Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Phinck!”

“I would if I smoked, never like the taste of tabacca’ myself. But never mind that, I have a sky-barnacle to stomp on.” Flame and smoke, five more paces.

“We’re running out of ship Phinck, why don’t we call this a draw.”

“We ain’t gonna’ stop if we hafta’ walk out on the great Mississip’ herself to finish this. No way I let any man who impugns me honor settle for a tie, I’ll see ya’ tar-whipped yer skag! Now shoot!”

“Captain!” One of Phinck’s crew yells, dozens of eyes turn. “What’s that across the water?”

The eyes turn toward the river, a heavy mist creeps toward Phinck’s ships.

“It can’t be…”

“And to whom do I owe the burbunden honor of having a barnacle such as you, disgrace us with your presence.” Phinck takes another swig; I think there is a crazy look in his eye, in all their eyes. Why did we willingly allow ourselves to be surrounded by river-pirates?

“Barnacles can’t live in the river, I thought a snapping turtle such as yourself would know that.” Koufax’s hands rest not-so-nonchalantly on his sword’s guard; he’s practically jutting it out for all to see, maybe that’s the point.

“Indeed they don’t, but that don’t be changin’ the fact that you still is one. A sky-barnacle if there ever was one; a crusty spot on my bombastic whale of a hull!” Cheers respond, it really wasn’t that good of a comeback, but I’m not going to bring that up to a bunch of drunken river-pirates. “Besides I hear your pride and joy is down in dumps, quite literally.”

Ssshhhhiiiiinnnnggggg! Koufax’s sword sounds as perfect as crystal, but that’s not the only sound…

Click. Clack. Ter-tick. Click. Click. Tunk. Tick. Click. Clock. Clack. Click. Tick. Tock. Tick-Tock. Click. Click. Click. Click. Tuck. Tink. Click. Click. Clack. Tunk. Cla-click. Click. Click. Etc…(seriously I had to stop, all of them have guns, most have two and I could have sworn I saw a one-armed man holding three…)

“Um Captain,” Offrey’s nose isn’t the only part of him twitching. “I know you are keen to defend The Dodger’s honor—”

“And she is a fair lady, a Mona Lisa to these Picasso’s of clunky geometric workmanship.” Koufax slams his foot down for emphasis, like he really needs to do that when we have who-knows how many guns pointed at us.

“Hey! I ‘appen to like Picasso.” A burly man with enough chest hair to constitute a shag carpet steps forward. “Me mum named me Pablo in ‘onor of ‘im. No one says nuthin’ bad about me mother!”

“I would never insult a man’s mother, I am a man of honor! ‘Pirate’ may be part of my job title but I bring honor to our vocation; not to act as lubbers expect me to. Would you want your mother to see your behavior at present?”

Shag Carpet backs down, everyone gets rather quiet…mother…I haven’t really thought about her since all of this. I wonder what’s going on over there, back on Earth, but is this a dream? Am I in a coma like in so many of those fairy tale stories, and I’ll just wake up with family and friends surrounding me? But Koufax talked about traveling between the two words, said something about a shadow coming between Whimsy and Earth. Best not to tempt fate, I want to get out of here alive; speaking of which, I think there is about ten guns pointed at me.

“A sky-barnacle has no notion of river-folk such as we. River-women have the Great River water running through their veins, you need to be half-alligator, half-otter, an’ half-wild horse just to make it day on the Mississippi. We are men cut from a different cloth, a burlap sack ya see’; we’re just plain an’ simple folk, enjoying the simple pleasures of life and the freedom the mighty river brings!”

More cheers, more anger on Koufax’s face, more nose-twitching from Offrey; the river-pirates aren’t even pointing their guns at us anymore, I guess they’re more enamored with Phinck’s bellowing and old-style sailor cursing.

“We may be too uncouth for the likes of high-follerin’, gull-swallowin’, pomp-and-presh folk such as you; people who think honor is all in the looks. But can you drink white lightning all day an’ still shoot straight; roar like the rapids and be gentile enough to love only one woman (the missus would shor give me a wallopin’ if she caught me with another woman); be as cunning as a water moccasin and still fair as a preacher? We play as much of a tightrope act as those curious circus folk, you and your fanciwonderous clothes and gleemin’ sword and gun and

buckles and buttons mean nuthin’ for honor.”

“I doubt anything you have to suggest could be considered honorable.” Why must Koufax keep antagonizing Phinck?

“Never said it would give yah lubber-honor, but you want honor amongst pirates? Yah, gonna need to do this sky-barnacle; you’re on my ship barney, you abide by the captain’s rules.”

Koufax’s teeth glow orange but still shine brilliant, “then let us do the challenge.”

Cheers. Phinck smiles. Whisky sloshes everywhere. I hope the ‘challenge’ just has to do with honor and not lives of the crew.