Authors: Keith Thomson
We watched the whale swim off, our last harpoon a pencil, then
“But George said he saw a B on the whale’s head,” said
Moses, confounded like the rest of us.
“George,” Nelson scoffed. “In that case it could’ve just as
easily said WRONG WHALE on the whale’s head.”
“No, I saw it too,” I said. “It was definitely the B.”
“Even low in the water as he was, I should have known it
wasn’t the bastard,” Flarq lamented. “He was too quick, and not
“Probably a pod mate,” Thesaurus reckoned.
“Possibly same squid leave B mark on more than one
whale,” Duq said. Duq has become an aficionado of sorts when
it comes to the signature-like-way giant squids gouge whales.
“Maybe this whale was a scout,” Thesaurus put forth.
As Flarq considered this, his brow knitted. “Yes. Bait, I
think, to draw us to ambush.”
“Come on, man,” Nelson said, “no whale is that smart.”
“Ours is,” I said. I don’t know crap about whale
intelligence on the whole, but I know Dickhead.
The others nodded in agreement, and, as we rowed back
to the Georgette, awe and—mostly—fear combined to silence
everyone. Except me.
“This isn’t bad,” I said, “Now we know where to go get
“Sorry to hassle your buzz, Cap,” said Nelson, “but there’s
“So what? We usually have eight problems.”
“The Georgette’s out of fuel.”
Below, a self-scrimshaw by a troubled Flarq. You can tell when
Flarq’s troubled by the fraction of a wrinkle on his brow. A
normal man’s eyes would’ve been bulging out.
The Georgette’s got enough fuel
to go about a harpoon’s throw. So
unless Dickhead pays us a social
call, we’re not going to get him
anytime soon. And even if does
drop by, we have no harpoons.
Fortunately we bought
a bunch of cans of beans and
chowder or we’d be out of grub
too. It’s hardly four-star French
restaurant fare though. “A couple
days of this stuff,” Nelson said,
“and we’ll have enough gas to get the boat to Tripoli.”
At this, George suddenly brightened.
Nelson took me aside and said, “How about we throw him
“How does that help with our problem?”
“Everyone’ll feel better.”
Nelson had a point. I ruled against it though as George
would have probably exploded somehow and killed us.
The one thing we have got is Sybil. I hadn’t wanted to
ask her for any more stuff than she already gave us. That my
vendetta’s largely about another woman is always a tough one
to get around in conversation with Sybil. Also, I guess my own
stupid pride was in the equation. But now there’s not a lot of
choice. I’ll ask. It won’t be much for her to send us fuel, or, for
that matter, victuals from a four-star French caterer.
“Have them cook something either with sherry or au vin,”
Moses begged. The lack of liquor’s getting to him.
“Other things have alcohol,” Duq suggested. “You can get
drunk from alcohol in things like shampoo and mouthwash.”
This astonished me and the rest of the crew. We had no idea
Duq knew of such products.
I just hope Sybil can get to us before the Tortolan navy
does—according to the Tortolan Daily Ahoy’s online edition,
they’ve just weighed anchor. The weird thing is, Sybil’s one of
those folks who returns an e-mail from you practically before you
hit SEND, but she hasn’t returned any of mine the last few days.
Not even the one where I dropped in “Love, Gus.”
Moses is having terrible withdrawals. He’s heard, among other
things, a long conversation about cinema between two rolls of
duct tape. Also, he’s complaining of bees following him around
the brig. No one else has seen so much as a fly—nor’d we expect
to this far out.
Thesaurus, however, thinks Moses may be onto something
supernatural. Since we entered Bill’s Triangle, Thesaurus has
been praying to his gods at a record rate and, every other minute,
casting a wary eye over the rail in search of sea monsters—to
which locals attribute the many ship disappearances here. It’s got
everyone on edge. Except Nelson.
“Who exactly are these sea monsters anyway?” Nelson
asked Thesaurus. “Those old Jap movies get it right?”
“No, spirits, mostly, like the Sea Witch.”
“So what are your gods going to do to them, slap them
“The gods will tell the monsters to let us be.”
“What’s in it for the monsters?”
“They don’t incur the wrath of the gods,” Thesaurus said,
piqued—this was the sort of thing that, in his mind, even Stupid
George could’ve figured out.
“So what’s the worst the gods can do to them?” Nelson
said. “They’re already ugly, dead monsters living in the muck at
the ocean bottom.”
“The gods can do things that our mortal minds cannot grasp.”
“The immortal thing’s got me wondering too. If I’m
an immortal like, say, Sunoco, why would I do shit to another
immortal like the sea monster on behalf of some puny human. I
mean, say they run into each other at the same immortals’ store
or bar or whatever—it’d be awkward. And if you live forever,
that’s bound to happen.”
Nelson was pushing it. One more of his questions and
Thesaurus would likely let fly one of his suitcase-sized fists.
Nelson had five or six more questions ready. Before he could ask
them, fortunately, Stupid George leapt down from the bridge
and shouted (even though I was just two feet away from him),
“E-mail just in from Sybil, Cap!”
The whole crew eagerly followed me up to the bridge.
“Tell her to pick up Sea Dog Sherry if she can,” Moses said.
On the bridge, everyone except for Moses—suddenly
plagued again by bees—gathered around the computer as I read
Date: Saturday, August 14, 2004
From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
sorry, i have to end it with you. i’m no good at letters like this.
in any case, the bottom line is: that’s it (i realize that in this
case that, technically, that was the top line of this message, but
Do you Yahoo?
Check out the new Yahoo Front Page www.yahoo.com
P.S. Here’s Flarq’s rendition of a sea monster as he remembers it
depicted either from local lore or a late-night movie on TV.
The news from Sybil hurts because it leaves us adrift in
dangerous waters with hope of rescue only from folks who would
immediately, in the better scenarios, shoot us.
Of course it also hurts on a personal level—I’ve made no
secret of my feelings for Sybil, and I’d been dreaming of being
with her after killing the bastard. I inputted BEAUTIFUL,
SMART, ROYALTY, and GREAT SWIMMING POOL as
criteria into an online dating site and got zip. Of course there are
other dating sites...
Rejection and disappointment I’ve had plenty of in my
life and I know well how to lick wounds and keep trucking. It’s
tougher in this case though because I’ve got no idea what Sybil’s
thinking was—her unpredictability, one of the things I liked best
about her, was ultimately a double-edged sword. I like George’s
explanation the best. “Maybe the e-mail,” he said, “was from a
different lady named Sybil.”
The other guys in the crew are trying to comfort me with
their own theories and advice. Nelson said, “I’m thinking she
simply took a step back and realized, ‘Hey, he’s just a one-armed,
chubby guy who’s got cat food factory stink on him for life.’”
Then he shifted to a softer tone and added, “Cap, seriously,
know that it hurts the whole crew really deep though. All of us
were counting on cashing in on the royalty business.”
Moses is a bit more clear-headed today. He managed to
ferment the juice from a can of plums and “take some of the
edge off.” He recommended I try the same with the leftover
sauce from the beans.
“Womens good to wash clothes and clean house, yes,”
Duq said, “but as rule they lot more trouble than they worth.”
This surprised me and the rest of the crew. We had no idea Duq
knew about laundry.
In addition, I think he’s wrong about women. He
counters that he had had five wives. However, he bought four of
Flarq offered the traditional silver lining you’d expect
from an old-school mariner: “Now you can focus better on killing
It was Thesaurus who claimed to know definitively both
why Sybil broke up with me and what would happen next. We
all braced for a discourse on signs the gods had given, how prayer
was the answer, etc. However: “I just saw a news flash from the
Tortolan Daily Ahoy on the computer,” he said. “Sybil’s getting
P.S. Flarq, who has a thing for scrimshawing kitchen utensils, did
one of the toaster (we could use the toaster to make the bread
taste less stale, except it’s rigged up now so that it’d kill us).
I’d never read the Wedding Announcements section of the
newspaper before. After this, I sure as crap never will again…
Reprinted from the Tortolan Daily Ahoy:
QUEEN SYBIL ENGAGED TO BE MARRIED
by Jamison Queague, Staff Reporter
CONCH CITY, CONCH—The Conch Palace announced this
afternoon that Queen Sybil has accepted the marriage proposal
of Admiral Ricardo Vurman of the Tortolan navy. Sybil, 32, is
the daughter of the ex-King and Queen of Conch, whom she
overthrew and exiled to Boca Raton, Florida. Vurman, 49, is the
only son of Tortolan accountants Marco and Guidilda Vurman,
who both died in 2003 from bad breadfruit. Persistent rumours
that foul play was involved have never been substantiated.
Vurman will now be crowned King of Conch.
The nuptials will take place tomorrow at sunset. As the
bridegroom is en route to Bill’s Triangle in pursuit of the
outlaw Gus Openshaw, the ceremony will take place aboard
the Mathilde, the new, state-of-the-art flagship of the Tortolan
navy. Bluepeace attorney H.C. Mutherford will preside. The
honeymoon will, by necessity, be in the Mathilde’s stateroom
(whose deluxe features include plush, wall-to-wall carpeting and a
cozy sauna), until Openshaw is dead, upon which time the happy
couple will jet to Niagara Falls.
I don’t know how things can get much more bleak
(though I’m sure I’ll find out). There is still one thing, though,
that can set everything right and make my life worth having
Kill, somehow, the blubbery bastard.
P.S. To cheer me up, Nelson downloaded this engagement
scrimshaw. “You lucked out,” he said. “Sybil’s gotten fat.”