ESCAPE FROM BOILERTOWN

This is my only day off for I’ve been pulling about sixty hours for the past three weeks. As a result, my room is trashed, littered with clothes, and coffee mugs. I’m afraid I have ants on my writing desk. I wish I could pay someone to clean and do laundry while I sleep. Instead I did manage to get some work clothes washed for round four and wrote the teaser chapter for the next book. That is what I call time management.  

Welcome to Boilertown

The room she found herself in was similar to the one in the house in Abernathy Avenue. She had no idea how she made it back upstairs for the last thing she remembered was staring at the splintered wood of the entrance to the coal chamber in the cellar. She looked around the dining room, it was still the same front room, it had the same shape and dimension but it looked bigger and more spacious. There was no furniture, and no vast collections adorned the shelves. The floor was covered with plush throws, ornately woven carpets, and plump tasseled pillows. Instead of a vast number of shelves, tapestries covered the walls. “How?” she paused and asked the air as if coming out of a dream.

“That is exactly what I want to know.”

She spun around and found Grander standing there, his face a mix of shock and puzzlement. “No one comes in from the outside.”

“Huh?” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge asked, unsure of what to say next. “Bracken?” she asked remembering he was the reason she was there in the first place; her nightmares.

“Who? What? Now tell me! Where did you come from?” There was desperation in his voice. “As I said before no one comes from the outside.” 

“I came from-“she paused for a second and faced Max Grander, who seemed to look equally young and old at the same time and was currently not making any sense. Suddenly this was all too much for her to handle. She wanted to think of something to say, but nothing came out. So she just shut her mouth and turned around. “I came from my bed,” she resolved and that is where I am going to go. Good night.” She said and pushed past him.  

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Grander raised a warning hand and stepped in her direction barring her path.

“Excuse me?”

“It is different here,” Grander said, his voice exasperated as if he was tired of explaining this to her. Time and space are different here, you know. I wouldn’t run off because I might not ever find you, whoever, or however you got here.”

“Maximillian Grander, it is me!”

“Don’t you Maximillian Grander me. I have no idea what that is.”

“I don’t have time for this, I’m going to bed.” The Spiritualist slipped past the confused looking Max Grander that denied being who he is. He protested but moved aside nonetheless, figuring she would soon find out on her own. Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge turned the corner of the room and placed a hand upon the railing and was about to take the first step. Instead she paused and looked up, and up, and up, as the painted black stairs stretched before her. There must have been hundreds if not thousands, a veritable stairway to heaven, or somewhere else, for the upstairs of the manor was no longer in site.

“See,” not Grander said as he appeared behind her.

The Spiritualist jumped in spite of herself and for a second swore she was still dreaming. She spun around and sat down on the first stair. Her bedroom and back to some semblance of sanity seemed so far away. “What? Where are we?” She asked her voice was hopeless.

“I don’t know what this place is called exactly.” Grander’s voice and face were grim set as he answered her. “But I refer to it as Boilertown.”

“What?” She couldn’t help but ask again as she stood back up and looked around at the bottom of the stairs, and to her utter befuddlement she saw that the adjoining rooms of the kitchen and the parlor might as well have been miles apart from each other. It was also the first time she realized that the dastardly cat that led her there in the first place was nowhere to be seen. “You’ve got to be kidding me, Mr. Grander?” She turned around to face him.

“Why do you keep calling me that?” he was greatly puzzled at his new house guest. “How did you get here?”

Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge shook her head looking as if she made up her mind. The room that she was in held true to its dimensions, the front door was in view. That is where she planned to make her exit. She wondered why she hadn’t have done so earlier. “I’m leavening now.”

“I’m afraid you’re not.” He shook his head; his voice didn’t sound threatening there was more of a heavy truth to his words.   ”You can’t leave this place. I’ve tried.”

The Spiritualist chose to ignore his warning. She was beginning to wonder what had happened in her previous life for her to end up in the accursed manor on Abernathy Avenue in the first place and what she had done to deserve it.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” He said and shook his head for he already knew what was going to happen as his new and confused surprise house guest made a mad dash for the front door. He tried his best to reason with her. But he also knew she would find out soon enough, and the truth would be unbearable. He watched her visage shrink in the distance that spanned before him. He took a step forward following her, keeping a steady pace, for now he had a journey to make.

“Oh no,” she wheezed as she as she burst into a full on sprint. “Not again,” she didn’t know far she gotten but the front door wasn’t moving anywhere. It should have only taken her a few swift steps to reach her destination but it felt like she ran a mile already. Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge hated running, it was the worst. She wheezed again gasping with the strain, she could feel her face growing as red as her hair. She forced legs to push her faster. The door was still within sight but it was if she was sprinting in place. With a final burst of will she propelled herself forward. She groaned and closed her eyes as she felt her feet lift off the ground as she catapulted to the exit. Just as she thought she could fly no further she landed and the tips her fingers touched the wood molding of the door and the heavy leaden fabric of the curtains. She opened her eyes to see that she had made it. But her exhausted celebration was short lived as she madly grabbed for the door knob to find it was not there. She only grasped air. She got a closer look to see that there wasn’t one. “NO,” she said and repeated as she patted down every surface. “No, no, no, no, no.” The Spiritualist threw back the heavy leaden gray curtain revealing a plate-glass window. She remembered the curtains were lacy and wispy and the glass not being as thick nor tinted a putrefying green color. She squinted out the window and then her eyes went wide.

 The front porch with the crumbling bricks, wobbly railing, and rotten roof that she remembered were all but obliterated. So was the ground around the house. It was craggy and full of holes as if it had been blasted. Then she realized as the glass wasn’t tinted at all. The air was filled with a heavy haze that contained swirls of yellows, browns, greens, and reds. The Spiritualist could not put a finger on the color for did not know if a name for it even existed. Her eyes grew wider as she stared in horror as the cloud of heavy murk dissipated slightly as it wafted by and she saw forms shifting about in the rubble ridden world. “What,” she asked herself and then amended, “who?” for she saw that there were people outside the house. “What are they doing out there?” she asked shocked as she turned around to see to see the man that wasn’t Grander was still some distance away. She didn’t want to look back out the window but she couldn’t peel herself away. “How are they even alive?” She asked herself for they looked deader than anything, with flesh that sloughed off exposing bare bones that seemed to glow under the odd irradiated light. She could see the empty eye sockets as they continued to blindly go about their business. There were too many to count before the cloud cover once again took over. She heard a whistle ring out from sky above that grew incrementally louder as something descended at a deafening speed. The house rumbled under the weight of the sound, outside the sky lit up in a blinding light. “No!” she saw in horror and spun around as a flaming rock plummeted to the ground. The house shook violently upon impact obliterating everything outside. She turned away from the door and shut her eyes and covered her ears, still seeing the flash as it pulverized the people outside. When she opened them again, the man that claimed to not be Grander, but definitely did look like him approached her. His face looked grave. “I’m afraid there is no more outside,” he said. His was voice steady for he did not run like she did. He slung back the curtain, and she was thankful for the dust and rock filled haze that once again descended, obliterating the view.  “That was close,” he stated as he looked around grateful that the manor still stood erect.                    

The Spiritualist did not want to look out there ever again. So she turned against it and sank to the floor with her back sliding down against the door. “How?” She asked herself as another dark conclusion came to her, what if she really was awake. What if this was her life now? “Oh no,” She muttered and looked up at him with her eyebrows in a knot.

He glanced down at her in a grim grin in agreement to her sentiment.

“This is another nightmare, it has to be.” She stood up again once she managed to pull herself together. The Spiritualist put her arms up, brought her fingers together and delivered a vicious pinch to Max Grander’s forearms.

“Owww,” he squirmed and reeled under her grasp. “Why are you doing that!?” his voice was shocked as he managed to squirm free as he rubbed and patted the aggravated skin to try to soothe it.  

With her finger still held together she brought them up to her face to study them. His skin felt real enough. She lowered her left hand to about waist high and crooked her elbow in and gave her own forearm a hard pinch. Digging her fingernails into her skin, she bit her lip and whimpered before letting go choosing to hug her waist instead. “What? How? Where?” All the questions came on at once and she once again felt the floor rise up to meet her.

Not Max Grander dropped down beside her. His voice was sympathetic. “I’m afraid you’re not dreaming and I don’t recall how long I have been there.”

“What is this place? What happened here? And who are you?” She remembered the autonomous people she had seen outside, toiling away, despite the fact that they were burning. “Who are those people?” Then she asked the most important question as she looked him in the eyes. “What did you do?”

“What did I do? I survived. I woke up like this, appeared out of nowhere much like you. A ‘friend’ brought me here before he left me to go downstairs. I don’t know how long it has been since then. Time doesn’t exist anymore. I’m afraid it is even collapsing in on itself at this point. All I know is I’ve been here by myself, well sort of by myself, for a very long time.”

Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge realized her mouth was hanging open; it was a lot of information to digest. “If you’re not Grander, then who are you?”

“I am called LeMerde.”

“Le-Who? That’s French for-“

“The Shit, I know.” He got back up, and offered a hand for the Spiritualist to do the same. She reluctantly accepted, and pulled herself up to stand beside him. Grander, LeMerde, she mentally corrected herself, brought a sweeping hand to the dining room and motioned dramatically outward to the rest of the house, declaring himself lord of his territory. “And this is all mine.”

“I thought you said that time was collapsing in on itself, how come everything is spread so far apart? Shouldn’t it be closer together?”

LeMerde shook his head, “it’s more like the water peeling back before a tsunami and I’m afraid the wave will crash here soon enough.” He let slip a small mad chuckle as he delivered the grave news. “Welcome to Boilertown.”

“Wait,” a thought dawned on the Spiritualist as she remembered the how of his tale of woe. “You were brought here by a ‘friend’ you said. Did he have long dark hair, tall, gaunt, and really super pale? Did he say his name was Bracken by any chance?”

“He didn’t quite look like that,” LeMerde tried to remember the face he tried so hard to forget. “No, he didn’t call himself Bracken then. His name is LeMorte.”

Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge thought about retiring to the floor again for she knew what that word meant as well. “I know where he is. He is downstairs.” She said slowly.

“I could have told you that, I saw him walk down those stairs and never come back up.”

“There is a machine down there in the cellar, somewhere, with a million orbs powered by a million souls. It is a contraption called The Consciousness. He has hooked himself up to it; he has been down there the entire time.”

LeMerde looked at the floor again as well as he could peer miles beneath the earth’s surface. “How do you know all of this?” he returned The Spiritualist’s gaze.

“I have just woken up from nightmares about all of this.” She shook her head and looked at the door to the cellar stairs. “I’m pretty sure I came from the coal chamber down there. How I ended up here is beyond me. If we are going to survive that is where we have to go.”

He turned toward the cellar door. The words were grave ones indeed. He was afraid she’d say something like that and he said as much. “Fine, okay.” He said after a spell for the downstairs frightened him. It defied all laws of reality, he had ventured down there once before and nearly made it back out with his life. He felt makeshift bandages on his chest and arms that hid beneath his shirt, they covered gruesome claw marks he was pretty sure were festering at this point. “We’ll go down to the cellar, but we have to be prepared. We have to be armed.”

“Armed?” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge asked.

“There is someone I would like you to meet.”   

BOILERTOWN: Character Bios

Photo by Larry Combs

Photo by Larry Combs

Character Bios in Order of Appearance

Fenmore LeVie (P.E. Fenmore) – Inventor, eccentric, philanthropist, and humanist from the mid-nineteenth century who built himself a time machine out of a claw-foot bathtub. One of the first excursions he took was to the very end of the world to see how it all went down. The vision haunted him since and he vowed to do everything is his power to stop it. Through use of his time machine and an indeterminate amount of machinery and manpower he succeeded in capping the intense geothermal heat of a supervolcano before it’s eruption and by harnessing the hydroelectricity of the neighboring ocean he created an immense boiler system the likes of which the world had never seen before. Giant spires erected around the perimeter of the island power a force field to keep the air breathable and the encroaching atmosphere at bay. The remaining populace of the dying planet flocked to the last holdout of civilization and Boilertown was born. As his dreams of prolonging life on earth came into fruition he proclaimed himself leader and called himself Benevolent Dictator of Boilertown Fenmore LeVie, for he was indeed a giver of life. He was never really fond of first name anyway. Naturally with this new title he had taken to wearing white or beige tones. Fenmore LeVie could not have accomplished all of this on his own.

Willoughby– Willoughby is his assistant and a primary operator of the claw-foot time machine. It his duty to travel to the destination first and set the moment up to fall into its proper place in the future: Everything from mining the ore to form the pipes to decimating entire herds of dinosaurs to create more fossil fuels. The youngest in the Fenmore line referred to Willoughby as his butler, but he’s so much more than that he’s a time butler. Unfortunately traveling so much through time has done terrible things to Willoughby’s appearance. It has left him looking brittle, bedraggled, and sometimes barely corporeal. Most of his exposed skin is covered in sores from the onset of radiation poisoning. He is rarely seen in person, he usually flits about in and out of time sometimes in multiple places at once. Willoughby has been known to shove or body slam people to get them where they need to go. He has surprising strength for such an ethereal looking guy.

Fenmore LeMort- Conditions deteriorated considerably as Boilertown passed down from from one Fenmore to the next. LeVie’s progeny was everything the Benevolent Dictator was not. In fact he dropped the name Fenmore, for he was never really fond of his surname to begin with and just called himself LeMort. The Death. Systematically he destroys everything that Fenmore LeVie built. He starts by hijacking the time machine as well as its operator Willoughby. He travels throughout time harvesting people to help with the upkeep of Boilertown. Fraught with earthquakes, a failing shield, fireballs falling out of the sky, a whole ring of supervolcanoes about to explode, and time is about to fold in on itself these desperate times call for desperate measures. Through a grave new technology in the in the Fenmore family name these people undergo a shocking transformation and are reduced to soulless husks. Fleshy-byproducts that move about autonomously as if controlled by an outside force. Rumors circulated that these people were collected for a more sinister purpose other than indentured servitude. A handful of denizens that remained intact fled underground to the Boilertown’s expansive sewer system to escape the clutches of the lecherous LeMort. Their fate is a mystery. The last thing LeMort takes from Fenmore LeVie is his life and then he just disappears. Only one man remains in Boilertown with conscious thought and his body and soul intact.

Fenmore LeMerde– He is the unfortunate heir to Boilertown. Unfortunate in the purest sense of the word for LeMort gave him the title meaning “The Shit,” for not only was he left with the bitter end of of a thriving empire but it also means unwanted. There is a certain resilience his character and he even came to referring to himself as “THE Shit” As a child when things started to go downhill Fenmore LeVie packed him up in the claw-foot time machine and spirited him away to the Fenmore Manor in the mid-nineteenth century. Years later he was bludgeoned by his beloved butler Willoughby and brought back home. His grandfather may very well be dead, his father LeMort missing, and most likely guilty of the foul crime. Boilertown is in utter collapse and time is in ruin. Due to the indeterminate amount of time spent alone in his new home his age is unknown. Though he says he’s been there fifteen years with no one to talk to other than what he refers to as the Peons and they don’t respond to speech or violence. As time passes he grows to hate these beings more than anything for they exist as a constant reminder that he is truly alone. He has committed unspeakable acts as a means of survival. His only friend is a rescued robotic orb he named Orby. Despite seemingly insurmountable odds he is bound and determined to escape and look good while doing it. Somehow through all of this he acquired an impressive wardrobe -some say a time machine was involved. He is brash and when he first encounters Ms Marlybone he’s downright boorish. He is incredibly agile and never falls. Guns and gadgets are his reason for living.

Ms Marlybone – Magdalene Angelica Marlybone would like to think of herself as a right and proper Victorian lady but there is something rather otherworldly about her. For starters she’s always carrying around with her an antique oak box. It’s contents are very similar to that of Fenmore LeMerde friend Orby. Except her constant companion actually answers back. It’s a glowing red ruby with powerful capabilities. It came from a fallen meteorite when the earth was in its infancy. It used to be much larger but over the years its shiny sheer surface has been chipped away and passed through many hands, used for scientific breakthroughs and experiments and so on. In search of a new handler, the ruby was on a traveling exhibit that passed through little Maggie’s town. When she first saw the gem in person it spoke to her saying IMMORTALITY. MR. TALITEE is how her child mind registered it and her friend now had a name. As she grew older, her link with Mr.Talitee appeared to give her preternatural abilities such as sharpened intuition and heightened dexterity, sometimes it seems that her brain isn’t even on this plane but tuned into something far larger than what any of us on earth could imagine. She’s immune to most illness and has an increased threshold for pain. Perhaps Mr. Taltiee was right after all with that very first word he spoke to her and Ms Marlybone was on her way to becoming immortal. In the meantime she’s not particularly dying to find out. Protecting the special space rock became her sole purpose in life, she was trained in every manner of self defense and martial arts and a whole manner of weapons. Though mostly she is her own weapon. She was hired to work with P.E. Fenmore on a new life prolonging technology, unfortunately Willoughby got in the way and she was forcefully spirited away into Boilertown. She may very well be a skillfully trained killing machine with a veritable space alien living in her head but nothing prepares her for what she encounters in her horrible new home. She takes to wearing a Victorian Mourning dress as she grieves her loss of civility.

Greta Scot- Her past is a mystery and her name is made up. She was born in the sewers among the survivors that fled underground. She never saw the light of day. As a child a great tragedy befell her fellow sewer dwellers. Orphaned at an early age a pair of giant sewer rats took her in and raised her as one of their own. As she grew up she lost any semblance of humanity, relying solely on her animalistic instincts to survive. As far as morals are concerned, she’s fairly certain that they are some form of mushroom. She eats whatever creature she can find for there is a surprising amount of life underground being so close to a supervolcano. Rats grow to the size of dimetrodons and there are also dinosaurs down there too. Much like her diet she is an opportunist with her weapons as well, using whatever tools and bones left behind in her childhood home.  She lives in a well fortified sewer den with a stockpile of belongings from her former life. Her skin and hair would have have been pale almost translucent for spending her entire life underground except for the layer of decades worth of  reddish- brown sewer grime. Bathing is out of the question for she has to mask her scent. Greta Scot dresses in the  hide of her fellow giant sewer rats that she lovingly called her parents and sports one of their skulls as a helmet when she goes out hunting. Greta Scot’s life revolves around finding her next meal. In the wake of the death of her parents, they left behind two baby giant sewer rats. Being a good mother and raising them in a good home has taken up most of her time. Life was good in the sewer until Ms Marlybone and Fenmore LeMerde came traipsing in there with their big guns and tranquilizers and dragged her up to the surface. She sorely lacks communication skills but obviously knows a lot more about the current situation than what she is letting on to her new housemates. But then there would not be much of a story.

WAR VIRGIN

I stood staring blankly in the middle of the crossroads. From the bottom of the hill, around the bog, and stretching up to the top a vast expanse of canvas tents lay before me. The sun slowly crept up. I pondered my newly illuminated surroundings, mystified for the moment, until I toddled back to the “Port-O-Castles” to vomit.
Pennsic War at Cooper’s Lake Campground, Pennsylvania is singularly the biggest two-week event for the SCA. The Society for Creative Anachronism “The World’s Largest Civilian Army” originated at an outdoor party in Berkley, California in 1966. Members recreate their chosen century in Western Europe, learning the trades such brewing, costuming, cooking, and combat. Since then, it gained an immense following spanning kingdoms worldwide. There are Kings, Queens, Dukes, Duchesses, Barons, Baronesses, and Bards. The anachronism part comes into play because it’s the Middle Ages the way it ought to be, with the modern conveniences of running water and espresso machines, of which my camp Chez d’Argent had two.

If I was going to survive the week, clearly I was going about it wrong. I joked with my first mate MAD two nights before my departure. “I already know what’s going to happen. I’m going to get there and its going to be all ‘Fear and Loathing in the Middle Ages.’ Or something like that. I’ll have a brief freak-out, a little ‘what the hell am I doing here!’ and then I’ll get used to it. Besides, I’m in good hands.” She assured me I’d do fine. After all, we survived a week in New Orleans as pirates together that spring. A few months later I was at it again. If experience led me to believe anything, this new excursion would not be any different. Little did I know how right I actually was.

Of course, alcohol was the reason for my recent entanglement with the SCA. Every Friday night for months I was heavily involved with friends in the Shire of Coppertree, in essentially a brewing guild. There was Lady Edana Aldys Haukyns, the Baron Del Cavallo, Master Kenhelm and others. We called this precious time “Drinking Practice” where we watched our beloved brews of beer and mead develop from emptied and cleaned store bought bottles to our own finely fermented masterpieces. When the time came, I woke up the following Saturday morning with a severe hangover and a pre-registration confirmation for Pennsic. It was a bottling night. My password was something like rumrumrummyrumrum. There was no backing out. I was press-ganged and bound for War.

I rolled into Pennsic a little past 8:00 Friday night and hastily moved to set up camp before darkness fell. I upended the box my tent was in. “Oh no!!” I wailed, all of my grand plans were thoroughly dashed. One very essential thing was missing from that that box. The tent poles. You’d think they’d be there in the box with the rest of it. Where it should be… There I was, sometime in pre-seventeenth century Western Europe with no means of shelter for the entire week. After the initial shock, I went to those who graciously took me into their camp, and offered up a bottle of Pyrat XO rum. “I bring a gift… and some bad news,” I told them my plight as I ceremoniously placed the bottle on their dinner table.

“We will worry about it in the morning,” I was wisely told. After dinner, I made my way up to the merchant pavilion with The Lady Eddie and The Baron. There I sat with tankard of our own apple beer in hand, worrying with my brows knitted tightly together. They told me that I was entirely too sober. Over the course of the evening, I equated “worry about it in the morning” to getting piss drunk and sleeping in my car. I boarded the ship of the pirate encampment of Ravenspittle with no regard for the line. “Are you blind?” The sentry asked and my friend Thorn who marched up after me vouched for my action, “actually she is.” I was night blind and blind drunk. “Oh, in that case, you deserve a shot.” This mysterious shot called the “The Throbbler” was topped off with Everclear. “Oh goody,” I thought tossing one back and cringing.

Shortly after, my dwindling entourage walked me back to my car after much protesting on my part. The night was still young and my enthusiasm far too great to give in. This was nightfall at Pennsic, not everyday could you walk out of your backdoor and into the 1300s. Around the bog, the mist rose in the muggy midnight air. Black trees towered out of the hazy atmosphere. My surroundings wavered in the torchlight and reflected upon the water. All around us people were drumming. Regretfully, calling it a night I crawled into the backseat of my car, lit a cigarette, and changed my mind. There were three more trips to puke in the “Port-O-Castle.” Then I climbed into the front seat of my car. I sat in an upright and secure position and dozed off waiting for the sun to boil me alive inside. Then I’d worry about it in the morning.

Early that afternoon, I stomached my hangover and tagged along on a trip into town. Shopping for Saturday night’s famed dinner at Chez d’Argent. I bought a tent at a discount camping store a 7’x7.’ Shelter for the entire week for cheap. I parked my car in the hills to the north, all gassed up. Out of sight and out of mind. With the appropriate change of clothes, I was free to see what it was like to live as a Scadian.

The second part of my grand assumption came into fruition just as the first part did. It didn’t take me long after the first ordeal to get acclimated to my surroundings. My integration into Chez d’Argent played out as well as could be expected. My willingness to do dish duty helped. Some mornings, I leaned into the sink in the sun at a downward slope scrubbing for three hours. By Thursday, I was debating the convenience of a belt pouch as compared to lugging around a bag. Bloomers were indeed very comfortable. I thought about wearing harem pants on hot days. As for being in good hands, I couldn’t have been with better. With my merchant mates, I had access to the more elite parties on the grounds. An old art school friend attended that particular Pennsic as well. She was also a war virgin. I visited her Viking camp and a group of us wandered down to the clothing optional swimming hole. We passed around many bottles of mead, swam upstream, and floated back down. For an hour or two I fell in love with a naked gypsy man drinking a bottle of lambic. Then I left to wander the grounds on my own. Before I got my bearings back, I managed to loop the lake twice and ended up clear across the Serengeti plain next to the interstate.

Before I arrived, I had been terribly out of shape, spending my days behind a desk and a predilection for Cajun barbecue. I was also dehydrated not nearly drinking as much water as I should have. Dish duty, many treks uphill and down, walking the night frequenting parties and drinking more that humanly thought possible began to take its toll. By Friday afternoon we tried everything to stop my feet from swelling. I had them elevated above my head for hours, bathed in cold water and Epsom salt, and even braved an experiment from The Baron. It was all to no avail. I marched to the infirmary whereupon I received the biggest shock of my entire trip. The medic had one look at the bloated sacks of meat that I came to call my feet and I saw his jaw dropped. His face turned sheet-white. “You have to go to the hospital.” He said after a moment’s stunned pause, “like right now, this is serious. I mean it. I’m not joking.” My heart rate quickened as I looked around at my surroundings. I really should have brought some one with me, I thought anxiously. No one will know if I’m rushed to the hospital this very moment. I don’t want die, that would be too expensive, I thought seated on the gurney as the scared medic ran off to retrieve the ambulance. I was merely expecting drugs, something to relieve the pressure of such retention. Instead, I heard murmurs of Congestive Heart Failure. Luckily, before events took a turn for the worse I had a second opinion. “Congestive Heart Failure?” another cuter and more experienced medic asked me incredulously. “Aren’t you a little too young? How old are you?”

“26,” I said, my voice still wavering. I inhaled and exhaled deeply as he checked my lungs and my rapid heartbeat, for I have not gotten over the shock of my imminent demise.

“Everything sounds fine,” he said after going over my medical history. Pressing his fingers against my stomach and asking if I hurt anywhere. “Are you doing anything you’re not used to? Are you eating differently?”

“Well,” I smiled wryly more than willing to brag about my camping arrangements. “A running joke at our camp is ‘Oh, no filet mignon again.’ We’ve had lamb, jasmine tea smoked duck, salt crusted salmon…”

“Nice” he replied.

“Yeah.”

“Why do you carry around that walking stick?”

“Because I think it’s stylish and I like to threaten people with it,” I grinned coyly, slowly beginning to recover.

“Well, I say you’re fine. Just drink plenty of water and stay off of your feet as much as you can.”

“So, I don’t have to go to the hospital…” I glared at the oafish looking one who gave me my misdiagnosis. As I started to get off the gurney, it clanged and jumped as I stood up.

“You can if you want to, or if you fall off the gurney.” He laughed.

“No, I think I’m fine, but what about the-” I awkwardly replied adding the word drugs under my breath. Unfortunately, before I could finish my sentence he swiftly moved on to the next patient. A woman who sliced her finger open.

“I almost died today.” On the way back to camp I sat recovering with my formidable pirate mate and vendor Robin St. Graves.

“Would you like some rum?” He answered when I told him my plight. There couldn’t have been a more appropriate response.

That evening, despite my mistaken case of Congestive Heart Failure my pained feet took me back to the Serengeti for The Duchess Isabella of York’s infamous “Lady’s Night Out” party. Shirtless men passed decadent platters of smoked meats, cheeses, vegetables, dips, and chocolates. There was also a massage tent and an obscene amount of mead and rum at our disposal. We chanted, “naked drumming! Naked drumming!” at our entertainment, which had been known to happen at parties in the past. A group us managed to trap a server in the circle we were sitting. He gave us all foot massages. Then he drizzled chocolate on his chest. It was up to us to lick it off.

Purposely marching back to camp, with restored faith in my fellow man, I was suddenly bowled over by a veritable tsunami of rum. Precariously navigating down the hill from hell I gained more momentum than I could manage. Swinging my arms before me madly, I tried to stop myself from falling when tragedy struck. In mid-flail, my hand hit a parked minivan and I felt the silver ring Her Royal Highness Princess of AEthelmearc had so graciously given me fly right off my finger. I stood still three quarters of the way down the hill, sobbed silently, and fumbled for my penlight. Sadly, after a drunken search and recovery I realized my prized ring was lost to the night.

The contents of my menial tent exploded. Over the week, no matter what I did to combat the mayhem, what little organization I put forth was ruined in seconds. On my hands and knees tossing things around, I was looking for something but I couldn’t remember what. In my chemise, I laid on my stomach cradled in the half deflated air mattress; face down in a pile of garb. I gurgled once or twice and moaned a little, for it seemed that things had come to a bloated head. Had Pennsic broken me, or was this my reward for loosing The Princess’s ring? I hated the thought and trudged out of the tent. It grew to be my own little circle of hell. With much difficulty, I finished what had to be done and furiously exited delivering a few parting blows to the lightweight material with a nearby stick.

Once I made the arduous journey topside, I became a part of a longstanding tradition among my merchant mates to drink all the alcohol in the camp. Such a scheme would save us from having to transport it back to civilization the next day. If I had known that, I would not have stopped there first on my way to get ice for Chez d’Argent. I made my way back hours later, empty handed and drunkenly spouting Dr. Steel propaganda when my camp mates sent me to my bed. Laying upside down at an incline with my tent systematically sliding down the hill my feet stuck out sorely from the ripped bottom zipper. They grew wet in the drizzling rain. I dreamt I was abducted and experimented upon. The group of us managed to escape. We ran for the nearest pub to hide. The henchman, a boy on a big-wheel was sent to track us down. He pulled out a gun and fired. I awoke with a start as a flash of light and loud crack of thunder tore through the pre-dawn sky. With a certain degree of apprehension, I laid there staring through the screen window at a nearby tree until I realized that lightning would not cause it to fall down flaming onto my tent. As my luck would lead me to believe. I rolled back over and fell asleep, dreaming it was time to tear down camp. Throughout the course of the weekend there had been signs of our eminent departure. Since Friday, surrounding encampments systematically disappeared leaving behind decayed patches of muddy earth and white sun-depleted squares of sparse grass. I was sad to see it all go.

I retrieved my car from the north, which had been sitting neglected for over a week. Apparently, the beast wasn’t too fond of that for the fuse in the whole center panel was blown. Six hours on the road wasn’t bad at all, but without the radio or air conditioning I came to dread the thought. We dismantled Chez d’Argent. Around us Scadians were doing that very thing. Chances were they were almost all hot tired hangover and ready to leave as I was. This wasn’t just pack up your pup tent and leave kind of dismantling, these people were hardcore campers with rebar, pickaxes, ropes, furniture and acres upon acres of canvas. All of which had to be gathered, folded and tucked into trailers. Only to be taken out, dried, put back away to be used again next year.

I said my goodbyes, pulled away and drove up the hill one last time to the Merchant Camp. The second part of their longstanding tradition of drinking all the alcohol in the camp was being hung-over when it came time to pack up. Luckily, they were practically finished by the time I arrived and there was talk of getting some lunch before we headed off. Right before my departure, I finally read the pamphlet guidelines and helpful hints for War Virgins. Ironically, I managed to do just about everything they warned us about on that list.

Ready to relish the air conditioning we crossed the sun-baked pavement and paused in the doorway. The action was unspoken. We looked down at our Pennsic medallions and realized their irrelevancy. We finally put Cooper’s Lake behind us and would not need them again for reentry. With out a word, we pulled them off from around our necks and pocketed them, entering the diner as civilians.

At a deserted gas station in rural Pennsylvania, on a forgotten exit, the Baron’s vehicle was lost to a seized compressor and a melted serpentine belt. It was a situation I was all too familiar with. Of course, The Baron came equipped with AAA, our caravan stayed with him until we heard of the eminent arrival of a tow truck. When Eddie and I parted ways from the rest of the pack and started our journey home, it was nearing six in the evening. With my sights dead set on my bed, I plowed through the tempest at 40 miles an hour. Night blind and crazy from the driving rain, I perilously navigated. My eyes were pried wide open and hands clenched tightly on the wheel. I couldn’t have chosen a worse time to be caught in the throes of a panoramic thunderstorm on the last stretch of my cracked-out journey home. It well around midnight when I got off on my thruway exit and hydroplaned through the construction site. On the other side of the road people were stranded standing beside dead cars on the roadway looking thoroughly confused. Something must have happened shortly before I slid through the water. The highway was limited one lane of traffic, heavily barricaded on each side. A foot of water collected in the middle. Desperate to make it home I passed them without a thought. My radio and the air-conditioning were not the only things malfunctioning, so was the defrost. For the entire nerve-wracking journey my windows were wide open to the soaking rain to stop the windshield from fogging.

An hour later, I stumbled through the door and was greeted exuberantly by a dog that hadn’t seen me in nine days. After a cigarette to calm my overexerted nerves, I ventured up to my bedroom. I was home, dry, safe and utterly exhausted, when I peeled back the covers of my own bed. Of course, none of that mattered for hours later I awoke with a start. I hallucinated my surroundings were bathed in torchlight. My walls were comprised of canvas. Was I sleeping on another half deflated air mattress? I sat up exclaiming, “Who the fuck’s camp am I sleeping in now!”

WILD PIRATES. Part Eleven. Homeward.

The rest of the state was nothing but a dark blur and a line of headlights. North of us, the sky was alight in the glow of a city. Traces of Cincinnati loomed the distance, we successfully put the past behind us and a destination was within our sights. We rounded the bridge and into Ohio. I received a call from our helmsman in the HHR asking how the cavalier was faring. “She’s growling and is down to an eighth of gas. Pissed off but the bitch will make it,” I could no longer hold my composure. “Did you see that sign? It said Ohio.”

“Yeah it did,” Tears welled up in my eyes and I could sense it in his voice.

“We should go back,” I sniffled as we drove into town. “I think I left my liver there.”

A short forty minutes later, we stepped out of our cars and on to dry solid land of the apartment complex parking lot. Loaded down with only the barest necessities on our backs, a perilous and lengthy search for the keys ensued. We opened the door and crossed the threshold into civilization. The computer was turned on and the couch was found. Photos were uploaded. We did shots of Fluer de Leurs with the surprising dregs of our rum supply and cheered our safe return. “That,” I said breathlessly “was fucking awesome!” Once inside, the heavy sense of guilt and common sense crumbled into a sleepless giddy glee. “We did it! In my car too!” We risked our necks, emptied our pockets, stared down death, abandoned hope and through hard work and solidarity, we were redeemed. “We make a great crew.” The three of us were smelly, sunburned, bug bitten, and bruised. Wild pirates dredged from the murky waters of a Louisiana bayou with booze seeping out of our pores. Accustomed to the streets of the nocturnal French Quarter we were far too boisterous for the small hours of the morning; not ready to assimilate into the rest of mankind, even though Larry Sparrow had to work first shift.

As I finally lay down on the airbed in my crews’ craft room, a sickness crept into my sinus cavities. My body ached, my face swelled and I finally received my punishment. It was the Scottish Munky Flu from stealing the drinks of one such pirate radio DJ who in turn got it from the Scottish Pirate Metal band Alestorm. Despite the flu’s sordid legacy, it didn’t make me any less miserable.

For a week afterward I tried to recover, taking copious pills and drinking vinegar at the behest of a guile and crafty comrade of the Curvy Dogs who swore it would help clear my passages. MAD, Larry Sparrow and I parted ways on a Saturday afternoon. My mates’ were more than likely glad to rid me of their presence, and I set out alone on my solo voyage homeward.

The full moon glowed darting along the horizon line, bouncing brightly off the distant water and casting shadows on the side of the road. Tendrils reached out to pull me in. “Eyes on the road, Bloody Lynne Flynnt. Don’t look at the moon” I said deliriously to myself and savagely bit the head off a gummy worm and drained it’s life force. After an unfortunate detour from Cincinnati to Toledo, my mind and bank account were completely drained and overdrawn. Four hours later I crossed the border into Upstate New York, my home port.

It was rounding midnight when I slammed my bag of candy and the loose change scrounged from the depths of my dirty car on the rest stop counter-top. “I just got back from New Orleans! I need snacks!” I said desperately, fearing for my blood sugar. The attendant took a step back as he caught my wild-eyed gaze.

“I’ve-I’ve never been there, how was it?”

“Awesome, it was for a pirate convention. You couldn’t turn around down there without smackin’ a damn pirate- don’t worry,” I said hastily, realizing I wasn’t there to cause trouble, “I left my pistol in my car.”

The last treads of my sanity frayed and snapped like a dry rotted rope by the time I found a local radio station. I drifted perilously without an anchor for the last forty-five minutes. Sick and exhausted, I docked in the driveway and swam to the front door. “Dog, dog,” I muttered and braced myself in the doorway. The excitable mutt greeted me, bounding and running from couch to couch, rocketing across the living room. “Go back to bed. Nighttime. Nighty-night time.” I abandoned my shoes and ascended the staircase treating it like a sheer cliff face. Clinging to the banister for my life, I pulled myself up the last perilous steps. The black lab ran tight circles around my ankles. I was gone for more than a fortnight and she was as thrilled to see me as I was thrilled to see my own bed. I collapsed face-down upon the mattress snoring, muttering and sickly moaning into my pillows. Lost to my own corner of the world, and quite literally, the corner of my bed for the damn dog commandeered the rest. The following afternoon, I trudged downstairs with my back bowed and eyes swollen half shut with sleep. Unkemptly dressed in the clothes I wore the day before. Easter dinner with the extended family was already in progress, and life resumed as usual.

WILD PIRATES. Part Ten. The Bone Yard

We were on a brutal stretch of highway heading northward. The scenery hadn’t changed for over an hour and even the abundance of armadillo carcasses scattered the side of the highway remained a constant. The tragedy of these hapless animals was almost hypnotic, what was just as tragic was the fact that MAD was more than likely asleep in the HHR a couple of car lengths in front of me. My head bobbed my brain slipped for seconds and subconscious thoughts surfaced before I jolted myself awake. The energy shot I took at the last gas stop in Louisiana had no effect. There were five states and fourteen hours before I could even think about a bed. Anything could happen before I got there. The belt could break and the battery would die. A hard turn could a bearing could pop or a pothole could make it rupture. A tire could fall off the axle and the trip would end right there in a ditch on a desolate stretch of Mississippi highway. The water pump, the alternator, catalytic converter, or even worse the head gasket could go at any moment. Any type of problem I could think of ran through my head; it was easy because most of that already happened in that particular car. Once, while returning from a festival the motor mount fell off. Hell, it had been declared a Total Loss after a distribution collision. Once the beast was on the open road, I planned to push it as far as it could go before she sank. We figured out our gear, garb, merchandise and myself weren’t all going to fit in one solitary vehicle. Everyone told me not to bring the car. Maybe the good luck gods favored me after all, and I’d be able to take it down to the bottom of the country without too big of a price. Over the course of the voyage, The Curvy Dogs ceremoniously collected all the face-up pennies we could find and constructed a good luck alter with a gold Buddha and four-leaf clovers. At least I hoped for a handsome mechanic to give me a decent deal on repairs. The next day was Monday and if worse came to worse we could pass the night some place and get the problem fixed then. I decided not to think about it any longer, “we’ll deal with it when it comes,” I said to no one in particular and stared unblinkingly ahead.

We rounded midnight and I drifted in and out of sleep in the passenger seat of the HHR. Larry Sparrow had a movie cranked at full volume on the laptop and rolled his window down to keep himself awake. Over the racket, I heard his voice going on about what had transpired the previous day. “You’re still on that?” I said sleepily and rolled over as much as the laptop mount positioned pervasively in front of me would allow. That night couldn’t be more different than the last. It was early Monday and a completely different game. I was sad to put the tumult of New Orleans behind me but it was impertinent to move on. I glanced back to see the familiar headlights glowing unevenly behind us. I was half crazy from the road in a car that could fail at any moment. I relinquished my post behind the wheel and let MAD worry about it. I resigned to my fate of another sleepless night when over the din of the movie, I heard my phone ring. “She loves you. It’s just- well speak of the devil,” she called to say the engine was overheating, and had to blast the heat to keep it going. Even that wasn’t working anymore.

“I can drive more, I’m good for another five hours.” I could see it in MAD’s eyes, we didn’t call her Mad Anne Dandy for nothing, if it was up to her we wouldn’t stop until we arrived home some seven hours later. She astounded us the way she forged through to get there, pushing our crew straight through to dawn until the sky grew too red and heavy to see, and the lashing rains turned the interstate into a river.

After passing through Alabama without incident on the return trip, we pulled off the interstate and parked next to a rodeo themed gentleman’s club. It was one in the morning and we were somewhere in Tennessee. After some deliberation we decided it was best to park in a better lit area as opposed to Scary Town, USA. Across the lot and past the on and off ramps of the interstate a gas station glowed in the distance.

We scanned the aisles looking for a patch job- a can of something to fix my car but we came up empty handed. “I say we keep going,” MAD reiterated itching to get back on the road.

“I don’t know.” I said as we stood outside milling around, “I just don’t trust it.” I already told the gas attendant we might be passing the night in the parking lot. At that moment, a deluge of coolant flowed out from the undercarriage and we had no choice in the matter anymore. Larry Sparrow took it upon himself to keep watch the rest of the night. The poor pirate had to call his work in the morning and let them know he wouldn’t be making it in. Working the next day, resuming life as usual after what our crew went through was beyond my comprehension. Once we reached our destination, I planned to spend at least a week stationed in limbo between barely surviving in festival mode and resuming the rigors of the real world.

We bunked down for the night in God Knows Where, Tennessee. Hopefully, like my first night the bayou, the sun’s light might reveal something far less sinister. The local body shops would be open for business. Morning came many times as I drifted in and out sleep curled up in the driver’s side of my crippled ship while MAD and Larry Sparrow scouted the area for mechanics and called upon the GPS to find the nearest one. As luck would have it, we happened to make camp in an area that was teeming with them. There was a dealership no more than a block away that had a cheap diagnostic. Knowing the problem was better than speculating the hell out of it.

The climate changed greatly from the temperate weather of New Orleans and the cold snap that besieged Nashville. A bitter wind blew at my skirts as I made my way inside the dealership, navigating on unsteady legs. At that moment, even my shakes had shakes. ‘I’m the one with the busted up cavalier! That I obviously spent the night in!” I called out to the man who would decide my fate, perhaps a little too exuberantly. They took my car in and we awaited the diagnosis. Seated upright in the back of the HHR, stuffed amid the bedding and dirty laundry open-mouthed and unconscious, I dreamed I was hired on as part of a crew of a pirate magazine in California. At that moment, there was a knock on my window and I reluctantly roused myself and exited the vehicle with one last look to my compatriots. Slowly, I crossed the sales floor to await my sentence. Fate rested on his desk, written on the bottom of a single sheet of paper. My heart sank as I mustered the courage to look. Sentenced to hang for a week’s worth of transgressions. “Nine-hundred ninety two dollars!” I gaped and looked again, just to make sure I wasn’t cross-eyed.

“It’s the AC unit, miss, I heard it as soon you drove up. It’s completely shot. Pieces of it broke off. I’d advise you don’t drive it any further until you get it fixed. There’s a big stretch of nothing from here on up.”

“Is there anything you can do?” I bargained with my judge. “A patch job or something, I mean I had the money before I blew it all in New Orleans.” Ironically, I managed to scrimp and save roughly that amount to make the trip happen in the first place give or take a few dollars. “I have to make it to Ohio, and then Upstate New York.”

“I’m afraid you need a new one.” The car dealer said. Dejectedly, I crossed the sales floor again to tell my companions the verdict.

“Are you serious?” MAD gaped. “Your car isn’t even worth that!” She exclaimed obviously affected by the grave news. I spent the next half hour milling around the dealership, making phone calls. At work, they said that they’d spot me some cash in case of emergencies. But it was a rough time for print publications. We talked about refurbished parts, they did have one left but that would only knock off two hundred dollars off the bill. There was no other recourse than to call my parents and confess to them what trouble I was in. Seven hundred dollars was a lot to ask. Luckily, I could not quite remember my father’s work phone number and my mom didn’t have her cell phone on. While I drained my phone battery in a desperate attempt to gather the cash, MAD and Larry Sparrow used the dealership’s wifi against them to look for another mechanic. They also happened upon a short-belt bypass to wipe out the busted unit. It was practically snowing in Tennessee and it didn’t look like I needed my air-conditioning the further north I traveled. Of course, when Larry Sparrow brought it up to the car dealer, he denied that such a thing ever existed.
A short while later, I got my car out of there and followed my mates around the corner, down the road, and to modest mechanic who would do the procedure for roughly sixty bucks. It was a bloody miracle the thing still ran. I sat there in the waiting room, staring at the bulletin board. There were postcards of Jesus with prayers written in Spanish. With some consideration, I pocketed one; we weren’t out of troubled waters just yet. I still had the feeling that anything could go wrong; just to be safe I wanted Mexican Jesus with the golden Buddha, four-leaf clovers, and lucky pennies. About an hour later, the procedure was completed and deemed a success. Before we hit the road again, we stopped at the corner store to hit up an ATM to give the mechanic a $20 dollar tip for his troubles. My resources were wearing thin but it didn’t hurt to have karma on my side either. To celebrate our victory, my mates and I stopped for lunch: Cheap and plentiful fried chicken, the great redeemer and cure of all woes. Our reprieve, however, was short lived.

We were in Franklin, Kentucky just outside the Tennessee border. Our destination was in the next state. The mechanic said before we left that if the gauge goes into the red and the Cavalier starts to overheat to stop driving immediately or the whole engine could blow. Tensions ran high as we drove into Kentucky, rarely breaking gaze with the gauge. We were cutting it very close when we got off the interstate to find the nearest truck stop. “For Christ’s sake man!” I shouted into my phone. Of all the times, the editor had to call about work related business. “Do you think I know the ad changes to the theater! My car is running hot and my phone’s gunna die!” I shut off the phone and shoved it in my pocket as we pulled at the Flying J.

Our worst fear was that my car overheated for so long that the head gasket was going. We went inside to charge my phone and asked around for the fabled can of “stop leak.” We heard it allowed a trucker to drive 3,000 miles on a dying 18-wheeler. Once we made it to Ohio I had a 10 hour solo trek back to Upstate New York. As they sent us into town, they sky grew heavier and started to rain. When we reached the AutoZone, it started to freeze. The weather turned sour and the day grew late and it looked as if we reached the end.

“How much is a head gasket,” I mumbled when it finally sank in that a spray can of miracles wasn’t going to solve anything. “They’re expensive and a lot of labor.” MAD said outing the obvious. “Your car isn’t worth it. You’d have better luck getting a sledge hammer.” The idea of smashing the thing to a twisted unrecognizable heap of red metal made me smile. The sound of breaking glass and the mighty metallic crunch turned that smile into a gruesome grin. When my energy was finally spent, I’d let my mates have a go at it too. After all, who was I to have all the fun when we were in this current quandary together? One thing this town boasted was a junkyard. Both of our vehicles were filled to capacity. We discussed finding a cheap hotel for MAD and I pass to the night, unloading our gear and send the Captain Jack on his way. He couldn’t afford to loose anther day of work. We’d leave my car behind at the bone yard, and find a rental to get me home. Our financial aspects were dismal and an extra night on the road would surely sink us.

There was only a few car payments left. Once I returned, I hoped to pay off the loan, ride the thing to death and save money for a new one. Naturally, that wasn’t going to happen. After a week in New Orleans common sense finally took hold, which was something I hadn’t felt in an awful long time. Perhaps it was presumptuous to take such a foolhardy and ultimately treacherous trip, but the call of the Crescent City clouded our judgment. MAD and I prowled the streets like a pack of wild dogs, booze hounds, pirates. Guilt seeped into the cracks of common sense. “Bad dog…” I muttered. While MAD and I looked for sledgehammers Larry Sparrow had been talking to an employee and mentioned a bad thermostat, and the guy said it might just be the problem. Of course, it was something that Larry Sparrow had said all along but previous experiences led me to favor the worst possible outcome.

Slugs of freezing rain pelted the mechanic and the pirate as they flooded the lines. I cowered snugly in the back of the HHR. “I can’t do it!” I quaked, my voice muffled by the heap of bedding and dirty clothes in the heated car. “They wanted me to watch and yell when the car overheated… but it just kept looking like it was constantly overheating and I couldn’t do it anymore.” I abandoned all hope in Franklin, Kentucky.

WILD PIRATES. Part Nine. Mobilize

I stole a glance at Larry Sparrow’s  phone. “7:30, good. God, if you’re there, please let me have two more hours of sleep.” That morning was the start of the longest day of my life, and I wasn’t ready for it to begin just yet. It wasn’t God that woke me up at 9:30, however, it was a call from our good friend and drunk bastard. He was leaving town soon, and wanted to know about an exchange of goods.

“We’ll pick it up later,” Larry Sparrow mumbled into the phone, and knocked back off asleep. Is this really the end? I laid awake and wondered. Leaving was something I only heard about in passing. Seven drunken nights in New Orleans were over. I was convinced we lived through nine and still had more to go. Some sadistic part of me was ready for them. If leaving was our only option, we had to tear down camp and pack it up before sign out at 1:00 in the afternoon. After that, it was off to the pub to gather and pack our merchandise. Then retrieve our bedding and weaponry from the RV Park. Sometime, we needed oil changes before the 15-hour voyage back to Ohio. There was no sense in dawdling any longer, I thought, feeling reality sink in. Camp, pub, RV, oil, Ohio… COFFEE, camp, pub, RV, oil, Ohio– I corrected myself and crossed the campsite for the pot and propane stove. With a direction in mind, I set about the morning’s work. Surprisingly enough, I was in a generous mood and let my companions sleep. They would wake on their own accord.

Breakfast was the worst we ever tasted, canned ravioli seasoned with a week’s worth of ramen noodles, baked beans, corned beef hash, and instant coffee grime. The residue baked in a hot tent for a week in the bayou. It had to do until we found a real dinner. Order was to be made from the insurmountable amount of chaos that ensued over the course of the week. We spent months preparing and had to tear everything down in hours.

At the pub, we wrapped and boxed all the etched glass, and bagged the jewelry, hatpins, and hair dangles. We folded our flags and carried the gold trunk downstairs. Just yesterday, I mused, I sat here completely lost at sea, trying to make a few a dollars. The three of us were surprised at how well we were faring.

“Bad news,” Larry Sparrow said as we stood recuperating and re-hydrating after lugging all the merchandise downstairs. “All the car places are closed because it’s Sunday. Looks like were going to have to get our stuff fixed tomorrow.”

“Okay,” I said looking determinedly ahead, “Then we’ll get in our cars and leave this place and drive straight on through to yesterday.”

“Yesterday?” MAD asked incredulously before we both started laughing. “If we had a bloody TARDIS”

“Yeah,” I said just realizing what came out of my mouth. Apparently, my brain was more fried than I thought.

At the RV resort, the three of us unceremoniously crammed the bedding in what little room we had left. The One True Pirate was nice enough to fold and bag everything, our clothes, weapons, blankets and pillows. It was all piled neatly in a storage shed waiting for us. Regrettably, we left his place a mess Saturday morning in order to vend on time. When he wasn’t a scary drunk he was a real gentleman. “What a rogue.” He shoved off long before we showed up.
Driving out, we passed a cemetery and seconds later, I received call from MAD and Larry Sparrow asking if I wanted to stop and visit. “Hell yeah,” I said emphatically, thinking that very thing. Unfortunately, after parking and walking the perimeter of the place we realized that too was closed.

“We’re stalling, aren’t we?” I sighed as we stood in a parking lot looking to where the city filled the skyline.

“Yeah we are.” As much as we had to leave, it seemed none of us wanted to put this place behind us. The screech and squeal of my belt vied with the sounds of the French Quarter. I first heard that foreboding noise in Birmingham on the way down and knew it didn’t sound well. Tourists had the run of the streets during the day. We were idling behind a horse and buggy, no wonder my car was running hot. Stopping and going, waiting and turning I tried my best to keep my patience. After all, this impromptu tour was a drive-by voyage to say goodbye. Unfortunately, it was in my car. Finally we made it through the maze of busy streets and on to the highway. There was still another 45 minutes of stopping and going before we made it out of the city. Once across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway we parked in front of a Chinese buffet, “Nice, um, touring,” I said, glad to get out of the car; more than anything the damn thing needed to cool down.

“We were looking for places to eat. We were even thinking of Lafitte’s for a round, but its impossible to find parking for two cars.” Parking for one was hard enough.

“That’s fine, lets eat!”

We sat inside for the last supper before the voyage home. “Last year, we drove straight through, and got home at 2:00am. It is much quicker going back.” MAD and Larry Sparrow reassured me. They made the voyage before.

“Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning.” I answered prophetically.

WILD PIRATES. Part Eight. BANZAI!

While Cincinnati Captain Jack and Chicago Captain Jack chatted, sharing the make-up and prop tips of celebrity impersonators, and becoming fast friends with all of the other Captain Jack Sparrow impersonators on the stage, MAD and I were left to our own devices. “Oh shit MAD.” I held my newly acquired weapon away from me awkwardly pointing it upwards.

“What now.” she said surly, as if something was growing under her skin.

“I cocked it.” Despite the fact that I had grown familiar with such a fine piece of weaponry over the past couple of drunken nights, I never did that before and given the source, it could even be loaded.

“ I don’t know what will happen if I pull the trigger. We did after all just steal a gun from a true pirate.” I said holding the gun like a bomb about to go off. I envisioned myself pulling the trigger and knocked violently to the sidewalk by the powder blast as shot rained down upon a veritable sea of revelers.

“We’ll pull the trigger. And if anything happens we run.” MAD suggested It could just spark and pop, but we had to know.

“Yeah better to shoot it now instead of accidentally shooting someone with it later.” We were after all, fantasy pirates not real ones and had a limited grasp on such armaments other than the fact that we looked good wielding them. The Curvy Dogs stood bravely together with what could very well be a live weapon between us, we closed our eyes and braced ourselves as I pulled the trigger only to hear it faintly click.

The two of us sat regrouping in the back corner of a bar, nursing a beer. “I want my buttons,” MAD fumed, her mind still on that wretched girl. Somehow, during the course of the week, our crew picked up a stowaway. No one really remembers how she got there. Since the beginning, I had my reservations about the little drunk gutter-slut, other than suggesting we dump her in the alley a couple of times, I kept them to myself. After a few days of her tagging along on our excursions, all the drama came to a head. The three of us figured out her motive, telling tales to drive a wedge between them so she could have her way with a Captain Jack Sparrow. It was a pirate convention and the place was crawling with them.

“I’m going to take them back. Those are my pink silk breeches. She has no right to wear them.” My mate wanted nothing to with the pants themselves, not anymore, now that she wore them. The buttons were special silver and branded with a “P.”

“MAD, if you go and cut them off of her, I’ll admire you forever.” My voice rose cheerfully as I egged her on. I wasn’t about to discourage her or let her embark on such a purposeful mission all by her lonesome. With everything we went through during this expedition, we managed to stay together. For the sake of our survival, nothing was going to get between that. Indeed, this Kamikaze girl chose the wrong crew to mess with. Sure enough, there she was flanked by at least eight or so impersonators and dressed in Mad Anne Dandy’s pink silk britches. We pushed our way through the crowd and boarded the stage where she stood, working a whole flock of Sparrows. “I want your knife,” MAD whispered to the overtly resourceful Cincinnati Jack, knowing that he never went anywhere with out it.

“What for?”

“To cut the buttons off my pants.” She growled, absently, he handed it too her. Distracted by some drunken conversation, I turned around in time to see MAD kneeling beside the poor girl purposefully hacking away at hot pink silk.

“This pirate is my best mate!” I exclaimed as she returned successfully, five of the buttons were in her hand. The others were sadly lost. We watched mirthfully as she struggled for a bit with her broken breeches, and much to our displeasure, she successfully secured them with a safely pin.

“Damn, ya should have taken the safety pin too… and the bloody sash.” I didn’t have it in me to sacrifice her to The One True Pirate in order to save our skins Friday night, I might have been willing to see her wander those mad streets drunk and pants-less.

“We need to do something else,” Her mind was grinding, thinking of a new non-violent way to make her pay; despite the physical harm she really wanted to cause. MAD was in the right mind for fighting. “We could always toss a drink at her face.” She suggested after a while. It always seemed like a fun fallback whilst doling out Curvy Dog Corporal Punishment. But we were pirates first, and couldn’t bare wasting the our hard-earned alcohol on a petty thing such as revenge, unless…

“Swill,” we reached the same conclusion.

“Go around and find all the cups you can,” MAD ordered. We diligently set to work abundantly filling our cups with all the dregs we could muster.

Distracted again, I looked over to hear MAD shout something to the effect of “BANZAI!” and hurl her awful concoction into her face.
Pleased, I absently raised my glass to toast and remembered what I held. Purposefully, I strode across the stage, armed with the swill cup and the rifle still slung over my shoulder, I approached the edge where she stood dripping and confused. Looking down at her, I smiled, aimed for her cleavage as it popped poorly out of her corset, and poured.

“Thank you, I appreciate that.” She smiled politely with her jaw clenched tightly.

“Why, you’re welcome,” I said gleefully, bowed and made my way back to my companions. “She’s got limes in her tits.” The beauty of it was the fact that when silk gets wet, it smells an awful lot like fish that sat moldering in the sun. For the most part, it seemed our little escapade went unnoticed.
Suddenly, there was a confrontation afoot. “Why did you do that?” Kamikaze cried seeking sympathy from for the wrong person: MAD.

“Why are you still here?” she seethed back, “Go, leave, we don’t want you here”

“But-”

“I said-” she had enough and finished her sentence with a bodily shove that sent the stowaway sailing across the stage. The silence that followed lasted a second before everyone surrounding us went continued on their merry way. The mood among our crew changed, moments later after some conversation in the streets, we decided to depart and ride out the rest of the night in the seclusion of Pirates Alley. The stowaway was kicked out of the convention, for she had a history of doing such things, and Captain Jack Sparrows. At Last Call, we said our goodbyes to our compatriots and made our way back to camp, glad we survived yet another night in the French Quarter.

I laid flat in my mates’ tent since mine was lost in the storm. It was balmy enough that I didn’t need blankets, either that or I was finally exhausted enough to sleep. “Son of a bitch” I mused, before drifting off and I laughed aloud. It was finally quiet enough to do the math. “This entire night I’ve been telling people that we’ve been here doing this for nine days. I was convinced! But, if we arrived Saturday and today is Saturday… it’s only been a week!”