Desert Pirates: Demise of a Sand Captain

December 9, 2007
By Abigail Branford, George, Western Cape

"ENEMY VESSEL ON THE HORIZON, yer majesty," bellowed the eccentric and slightly mad Signor Frederick-Frogslegs. The shock nearly threw Mr. Cutthroat Cuddles and me out of our hammock. "Oh blow," I moaned as the rest of my cabin hastily shot out of bed and began to arm for battle. "I'll be there in a minute." Then I rolled over...and went back to sleep.

My first thought when the sounds of battle rang through my ears were probably along the lines of: Oh, look an unguarded half-full bottle of grog! After disposing of said bottle of alcohol by means of questionable methods and I could think more clearly. Hell's teeth! We're all going to die! Oh, wait! We know how to fight! Yeah, take that, unknown enemy! Sainted feet, wait! What if Mr. Cutthroat Cuddles and I get caught deserting during battle? We could be keelhauled, or marooned, or even worse: have to walk the plank! Bob's aunt, wait! I know, I'll pretend to be dead.

And so that's what I did. I lay spread-eagle on the floor tongue lolling, eyes closed for five minutes. What are you doing? No pirate can truly be called a pirate if he/she displays such cowardice. Go into battle and claim glory and spit upon your enemy! Mwahahhahah! Besides I'm getting bored.

Peeping my head a few inches out of the lid of the hold I could just about observe the foe from a safe and comfortable distance. It was Captain Carbuncles arch-nemesis, Sir Switetdoff of the royal navy. The air was filled with a torrent of sand and dust, both pirates and officers alike were coughing with every clang of their swords. The only things I could see were bare feet and boots running by me in a midst of toes and buckles as the tussle continued. Not the most pleasant thing in the world fragrance-wise, but that could have also been the sketchy barrel of dishwashing-liquid I was standing on. Aha! So the officers have boots and we have bare feet. I think this calls for some innovational penetration...

"Arr," I growled as each of my victims fell helpless to the floor just before my crewmate would drive their cutlass through the sailor's heart in the confusion. Every time a pair of shiny black booties passed me I would stick out my deck-mop handle for them to trip over, mwahahhaha, thus the evil-piratey-genius of my plot. The plan was foolproof, or it would have been foolproof, if I had not been savagely confused when two pairs of booted feet started clanging away at each other. Well, shiver me lumber! The enemy are fighting each other, hooray! So I stuck out my mop handle with glee and, lo and behold, Captain Carbuncle comes crashing down upsetting the sand on the deck into a small cloud of dust. The Captain also wears boots! What a stupid, incredibly handsome, idiot I've been! I gasped at what I'd done -which I immediately regretted (the gasping that is), considering all the dirt in the air- and hence began to cough uncontrollably.

The Captain turned his crater-like face in the direction of the noise. A long, thin blade came out of no-where and drove itself deep into the Captain's chest. Flooded with remorse, maybe more guilt than remorse, I sprang out of my hiding place to kneel beside the Captain in his final moments. All I saw of the Captain's assailant before he disappeared into the musty fog was Sir Switetdoff twirling his wiry mustachio, the only hairpiece this side of the Sahara to ever rival the dreadlocks of the Golden Monkey.

" Oh, I'm so sorry Capt'n. I was just down in the hold fightin' so hard then I must've flung a mop and-." Once again the Captain cut me short in my apology,
"Jerry, fellow gentleman of fortunate, before I die, ugh, ugh," he wheezed a deathly wheeze, "I just want you to tell the crew, ugh, ugh," more ghastly wheezing, "that... you're...*nearly-fatal-sounding gaspy-sound* idiot." He grabbed whatever was closest, which happened to be his captain's hat, and hit me hard on the head with it.

You see, it is land-pirate tradition that when a Captain steps down from his post that he gives the new Captain his hat. Now, when the crew saw me wearing the Captain's hat (which happened to stay on my head after I was brutally struck with it) they made certain assumptions. Assumptions, that I, in the state of utter bewilderment the entire crew was in at that moment, had not the time nor soberness to correct.

"Hey, look, our Captain hash been killed!" From the slight slurring of the words, I deduced that the speaker was the rightful owner of the bottle of grog I so saintly discarded of this morning.
"Don't despair, we have a new Captain. Avast, Jerry has the Captain's hat!" came the distinctly un-mannish voice of Weedy-William. All the sword clanging ceased.

You know that feeling when you can't see anyone, but you know someone's looking at you? Imagine that, but in the middle of a sandstorm on a ship with about a 100 people on board. The only person I could see was Willie beaming up at me a few feet away like a half-wit. For a long moment it stayed like this, the entire occupancy of the deck staring in my general direction, the only sound the hiss of the sand.
"Tell them to do something, Captain," Willie whispered helpfully.
"Pirates, um, er...ATTACK!" I yelled. And with that came the horrid squelchy, squirty noise of dozens of throats getting cut then a tremendous hooray from the company of buccaneers.

As soon as the victorious cry of the privateers sounded the wind stoppped in its tracks, almost as if all the coarse, untrained voices in unison scared it off. Buckets of sand tumbled from the heavens, exposing the naked blue of the sky above. Bodies (including that evil cad, Sir Switetdoff), dressed in blue, leaked sticky red blood all over the sandy deck.

Now, for the first time we could clearly see the enemy vessel that had decided to board us. On the side of the ship, in neat letters, the words "The Stache " were painted. It was a huge, monster of a ship, the mast was so tall I couldn't even see the crow's nest. Willie asked, "What now Capt'n?" then looked over to the enormous empty boat beside us and grinned, "I mean, Commodore."

The festivities, drinking and general merriment over with, it was now to sit down and think: Who can I trust to captain the Salty Piglet? I was nice and snug in The Stache's captain's cabin, my cabin boy, Willie, serving me grog in a crystal glass.
"Now it has to be someone I can control, someone who will never betray me. I need someone who has no will on their own, no aspirations or greed," I pondered aloud.
"Forgive me, Capt'n, but do you mean's to say someone who's not really like a pirate? Someone who's interested in plunder, or loot, or power, or all of the above? Someone who's not all there-" added Willie but I interjected, "Someone who's not all there... not all there! You're a genius, Weeds my boy!" He looked totally confounded. "I was going to say not all there for the money, but as you wish." I tapped the side of my head to indicate to William what I meant, "Get it, not all there?"

Soon, I had Signor Frederick-Frogslegs sitting before me.

"After careful consideration and planning, I have decided to make you Captain of the Salty Piglet, the old pirate ship" Freddie just kept picking at his toes and didn't look up. "Now, I know you must be overjoyed." Still no reaction from Fred. "But, I truly think you've eared it." Still, nada. 'OH, MY GOODNESS, A FREAKISHLY LARGE FLY!" I screeched. Finally, Fred looked up,
"Where is it? I'll get 'im!" "Oh, it's gone. I was just saying how I've made you Captain of the Salty Piglet, now vamoose before I change my mind." With perhaps undue jubilation (since he was going to forget we'd ever spoken in about 5 minutes), that mad old bat ran/hopped out of the cabin.

Life was good. I slept until 12 in the afternoon before waking up and did bugger-all all day. I had unlimited access to grog supplies and, best of all, I was in charge of everything that went on regarding the ship.

My first few weeks of captaincy were exceptionally prosperous. We ransacked a small tribe of nomad bushmen and got a swashbucklingly good haul of ostrich-eggshell lamps, exotic beaded key-chains, combat loincloths, snake-skin tablecloths and, most intriguingly, an authentic glow-in-the-dark peashooter which now resides in my oak cabinet and gets polished by Willie twice a week.

We ran into a bit of trouble when a giant herd of cheetah's attacked us and the crew started to panic. Hundreds of speckled felines swarmed the hull of the ship their white fangs glinting in the sun. Grown men started to cry as the vicious cats circled their prey.
"What arrr we goin' to do?" cried Toothless-Tim grabbing hold of my leg, "Tell us Captain! What will become of us?" Using my cool reserve and quick thinking I made an announcement to the crew,
"Men... and women, do not be afraid! For around us there is no real danger. Cheetahs do not hunt in herds so we can confidently assume that these are not real cheetah's and that they are all merely a mirage, a figment of our imagination. Set the sails and we shall sail through this hallucination." A great cheer rose from the ship and, as with the previous sandstorm, the cheetah's all fled for their lives at the sound of the yell.

Other minor events include the pillaging of a band of lost real-estate agents; the battle between Jolly-Roger and Grinning-Gerald over a rigged game of chess; the theft of Peter-Pillock's giraffe which to this day remains a mystery; and lastly my abolishment of corporal punishment on both pirate vessels.

All the experience I gained as Captain/Commodore could not, however, prepare me for what was to come. Every man-jack who calls himself Captain's worst nightmare: mutiny. I can now see my fatal error (see page 11) as appointing Fred as my second in command. I presumed that Fred wouldn't exercise his power as Captain of the Salty Piglet, but egad was I wrong, as we are about to see.

Considering our previous encounters, I thought it wise to place the Boatswain on the old ship so that we wouldn't run into each other. Therefore it was a thoroughly unexpected and unpleasant surprise when he burst forth into my cabin and throttled me in my bed.
'No, Grandma I'm not going to school today..." I mumbled having not awoken properly yet.
"Zhut up, you fool! Thiz iz a mutiny," he spluttered into my face. "No I don't want any milky tea," I answered still not fully conscious and unable to decipher the Boatswain's strange accent. "That idiot, Zignor Frogfeet, he haz humiliated uz for to long. A voolly zheep could make a better Captain zan zat... zat.... imbezile! He makez uz run egg and zpoon racez and zing and dance inztead of zailing the zhip. He eatz only flyz and bugz and inziztz on painting ze zhip orange. There iz not a zingle drop of grog left; he uzed all of it to bath in! He iz az mad as a milk carton! Ve cannot take thiz any longer-" "Why has no one told me zooner, I meaner sooner?" "Zhhhhh! I am monologuing! Anvays, ve have dezided for you both to valk ze plank, good luck puny Commodore."

The plank in question was of a dubious nature so all the cutlasses pointed at my back as I tentatively edged across it were totally unnecessary since the board wobbled and I fell forward and slapped my face against the wood as I somersaulted to my doom.

When I regained wakefulness I found a perfectly calm Freddie looking over me.
"What a perfect place to have a Mardi Gras!" he exclaimed.
"Where are they?" I asked no one in particular as I got up from the sand dune I was lying on. I could just see a large ship and a small orange ship being swallowed into the horizon.

Starvation and sunstroke set in and seemed to strip away at my very being. The hot emptiness inside tortured my every waking moment on those forsaken dunes. All I could do to prevent losing my sanity was stare at the track in the sand made by passing ships.
"'Elo Jerry!" said a comfortingly familiar voice. I whipped round to see (can it be, is it a mirage? Have I finally lost it?) Weedy-William. "What's wrong with you? You've only been here ten minutes," he asked at the sight of my resigned-to-death-pose.
"Oh, really, only ten minutes? Wait, what are you doing here Willie?" I cried, delighted and confused. "Apparently, I'm the weakest link," he confessed with no further explanation as he sat down beside me, "So what are we waiting for?" "To be rescued," I answered simply. "Why can't we walk to the nearest village or to the coast or something?" he suggested. "No, we've got to do this by the book. How they used to do it in the old days by the sea. Walk the plank: got to be rescued." "But this is different, we can stand on the sand and just walk" he insisted. "You don't know much about the whole pirate thing do you?"

Some moments passed. All three of us just sitting on the sand. Doing nothing. Until Willie finally spoke up,
"Jerry, do see that?"
"That oddly misplaced dingy coming towards us just next to that boulder shaped like your head."
"Yes why?"
"It's got a lady in it."
"Who happens to be Miss Sabre."
"Well, what is she doing in the middle of no where?"
"Isn't it obvious?"
"We're about to be rescued."
"You know something, Fred?"
"I never figure out how, on the day that Captain Carbuncle died, you saw Sir Switetdoff's ship coming towards us through the sandstorm to call out enemy vessel. I mean I could barely see my hand in front of my face, let alone a ship miles away."
"Oh, I was just joking."
"Um, Jerry?"
"Yes, Willie?"
"Er, why is Miss Sabre turning to the right so that she won't actually come past us if she's come here to rescue us?"
"What do you mean?"
"Look, she's going the other way."
"Oh, bugger!"

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