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!”

WILD PIRATES. Part Seven. Sixes and Sevenses

Saturday morning there was no wind left. Sixes and Sevenses, my mind and body set adrift in a still unmoving sea. It was a wonder I made it back to the RV. I woke up after a lucid dream of sleeping on the sidewalk in front of a bar. “I think I actually slept last night.” I remarked, not that it was doing me any good. It was rough.

“I didn’t” Kamikaze grumbled. “You were snoring.” Our stowaway was still there.

“I don’t normally snore.”

“You do when you’re drunk.” MAD had to agree since I spent many nights passed out on the longboat of the flagship of the Curvy Dogs. That couch was like my third home in my second home.

“I have to go to work.” Kamikaze said.

“You mean the stripper café?” In the sparse words we exchanged around the time I was planning to sacrifice her, I recalled the strip cub she worked at happened to have the same name of a diner we ate breakfast at early Wednesday morning. If ever there was town that a stripper/café could call home it would be New Orleans. A nutritious breakfast, complete with scrambled eggs, hotcakes and a lap dance. Larry Sparrow obliged to drive her while MAD and I prepared to face the day’s obligation of vending. We raided the RV for our belongings but found it impossible. The place was trashed. When our Jack Sparrow impersonator returned we departed leaving behind our sleeping host. While we closed the door behind us, I pocketed a couple dollar bills that scattered in the doorway, feeling I would need those later.

As it turned out in our absence, we only made five dollars at our booth. For most of the morning I was barefoot and still in my pajamas. My feet were too swollen for the pair of accursed shoes and I lacked the mental capacity to find any decent pirate clothes. I wasn’t hung-over just utterly brain dead. A garish bruise the size of my foot blackened the length of my thigh; a sheen of saliva grew sticky in my cleavage. Something was growing on the corner of my lips, which luckily turned out to be a pimple considering the fact that according to MAD I treated last night’s pirating expedition as if it was Fleet Week. I was motor-boated by everyone. We crashed the Dead Pirate Ball. I vaguely remember getting us kicked out of the RV hot tub at the end of the night and MAD griping about having to be everyone’s handler. At one point, Larry Sparrow even went missing. My current condition was very different from last night’s revelry; the godless town had chewed me up and shat me out. I looked like it and probably smelled like it too. When asked how I was faring, all I could muster was a weak deflating noise for there was not even enough wind left to properly sigh.

The mood shifted among our immediate crew. Despite the sun, dark clouds gathered overhead heralding a storm. I clung to the shadows of upstairs deck avoiding the blistering heat as Larry Sparrow and I stepped outside for a cigarette break. “I can’t believe I had to hear it from her. Who is that Kamikaze bitch anyway?” Apparently, en-route to the strip club she let Larry Sparrow know all the dirty details of a drunken discussion that she had with MAD after I passed out. I could tell he had been stewing all afternoon on it like salt rubbed into a wound. He looked great though, dressed immaculately as Jack Sparrow, and when the time warranted it, he never broke character. I couldn’t gather the energy to form coherent thoughts let alone deal with the ensuing drama but I admired his relentless professionalism.
“I dunno man. I thought she was bad news. Take it with a grain of salt.”

Days passed before I saw the bayou and I could only imagine what happened in our absence. My traveling companions made the trip back earlier in the week and returned with grave news. My tent was demolished in Tuesday night’s storm. At least the car was still intact, I feared for its welfare as well.

Driving through the familiar State Park lane we sniveled on the phone to Pearly Hawkins Hooke. “We’re so tired. We’ve had enough, we’re ready to go home- Oh! Look it’s an armadillo!” Our tale of woe was immediately interrupted as the fabled creature crossed the campsite road. Somehow, for that second it seemed to make everything better. All we wanted to see on this trip was an armadillo, a live one preferably, and perhaps if we were lucky an alligator- at a safe distance of course. “Is that it? It looks like a scaly opossum,” I curled back up in the back seat and closed my eyes, desperately trying to sleep before we reached our quarters. My tent was unzipped. I could my next door neighbors on the other side. The cloth was shredded, dry rotted and ripped wide open from the wind or the deadly claws of some creature. It was over ten years old. The ground around it was littered with even more holes. Everything else looked as we left it. Something swept over me I hadn’t felt in an awful long time: a sense of peace. We successfully escaped the insanity and cast off into our own secluded corner of the country to gather our bearings. Grateful, I was finally able to expand my lungs and breathe deeply. I lit a cigarette, inhaled the mild gulf air, coughed and vomited.

“Did you just sea cucumber?” MAD asked and it was a perfectly viable question and an old Curvy Dog term reserved for especially rough mornings. Sea cucumbers expel their guts, just as I did.

“Yeah,” I choked down water.

“But you didn’t drink anything, well just that one beer.”

“It was the cigarette.” I whimpered. “I can’t smoke anymore.” This was the first time I puked all week. My mates and myself included expected to see me splatter the sidewalks long ago.

“Are you sure you want to go back out?” She asked though there was no choice in the matter. After all, it was Bourbon Street, and it had this crew by our balls.

“Yes.” I cleared my throat and straightened my back. Despite everything, I had too much pride to let the that town win, “just let me find pants.” At that point, even the simple task of finding a change of clothes proved to be impossible. Our belongings were scattered senselessly: blouses, bodice strings, belaying pins, and blunderbusses lost to the depths of New Orleans. I was going to have to go as is. I was lucky if I could find my shoes. “Where are me shoes, me noggin’ noggin’ shoes. They have all gone have all gone for beer and tobacco. I’m sick in me head and I haven’t been to bed and across the western ocean I must wander…” I sang as I dug them out of the tent and stuffed my feet into the beastly things. The jumbled lyrics to the old shanty were all too true. We were pirates, all right, living the fucking dream. We said goodbye to the armadillos and left the bayou, leaving behind our little bit of solitude for the cacophony of the French Quarter.

“This is getting tedious,” MAD muttered through gritted teeth. Noisy streets clotted with people, she and I stepped aside and glanced back at Captain Jack, as he disappeared from view. Suddenly swallowed by a crowd. “Oh my god!” Women wailed. We were pretty much used to it at this point. But our patience was short. The Curvy Dogs had enough. I sighed and leaned doggedly against the wall and immediately leaped foreword startled.

“What just happened?” MAD asked.

“I leaned against the gutter pipe and it shook, like it was going to fall off the wall. We should step over this way…” Before I could cause further damage we reclaimed our lost compatriot and headed steadily into the thick of things.
“We’ll find our friend stay for a little, get our shit back, and get the hell out. I’m not drinking, tonight. I don’t think I can. “ MAD confessed.

“He’s too drunk,” She reported back, after a scouting mission to find the man who had our bedding and belongings at the RV Park. “He’s harassing people and threatening them with his rifle. We’re not sleeping there tonight. This sucks.” It looked it was back to the bayou for us, with or without bedding. We happened upon our misanthropic pirate radio DJ mate Bilgemunky seated on a bar stool charged with babysitting our belligerent host. He had taken away his gun and looked to us to take the man off his hands. I shook my head, “we’ve been here for nine days.” I growled, my way of saying I lacked the patience to deal with him. “Bully in the Alley, just let him go,” I said leaning in close, “you don’t have to be responsible for him… but we will take that rifle off your hands. I do love this gun.” With his rifle slung over my shoulder and the money I pirated off him earlier that morning I set out to find cheap booze.

“You know what I’m going to with you.” I heard his all too familiar drawl as he followed MAD and I out. We stopped dead in our tracks. I raised his rifle as I turned to face him, pressing the butt hard against his shoulder. “Absolutely fucking nothing,” I spit and sneered. He found it endearing that I was defending myself until he saw the look in my eyes and turned to wander off into the night. It was the last we ever saw of the man. Our stowaway Kamikaze, on the other hand, we couldn’t shake so easily.

WILD PIRATES. Part Six. The One True Pirate

Our Captain had taken a fancy to the man. We went back to his RV on her behalf to deliver a six-pack of The Curvy Dogs’ home brewed beer and a small special bottle of rum. She wrapped the package up, tucked it in a pouch for safe travel, and charged me with its delivery. “Tell him I got the pouch from a dead priest, the rest of his things were too covered in blood. So, this was all I could get,” Captain Pearly Hawkins Hooke said before my departure, “he’ll know what I mean.”

“That’s such a cute story. Don’t worry I’ll tell him,” I assured our Captain and we regretfully said our goodbyes. If she had chosen to go to New Orleans with us, things would have turned out quite differently.

Trying to find Pirates’ Alley was like trying to find Neverland. Pyratecon was gearing up and somewhere out there, pirates and privateers, brigands and buccaneers from all over the country were beginning to congregate. We circled the French Quarter for what felt like miles. We’d finally have a chance to encounter some of our mates face to face and not a photo on a profile page or name on a pirate radio chat site. We found out we were in over our heads as we later set out on our goodwill mission

“You know what I’m gunna do with you?” He got in my face.

“I’m a member of the press. People will know if you do anything.” I drunkenly challenged him and hid behind my boss’s camera; quickly snapping “photographic evidence” of the corner of the dinner table as I precariously backed away from his advances.

“I’m a true pirate,” he grumbled in a gravelly drunken drawl. His breath smelled of rum and absinthe. I chanced a glance at my surroundings. The girl was gone, passed out in his bed. She was the fortunate one, our little stowaway. Lucky bitch was unconscious comfortably oblivious with what MAD and I were forced to deal with. Somehow we ended up spending the night at an RV resort behind the overpass. Two Curvy Dogs verses the One True Pirate. Unfortunately, Captain Jack Sparrow was occupied elsewhere dealing with AAA after the keys were locked the car. The crew brew was long gone, so was the rumsinthe and we started on his wares. We found ourselves treading treacherous waters. I desperately needed sleep but was afraid of what might happen if I did. We were with someone we only just met in person, an alter ego in a chatroom. We knew nothing of the man and there was no telling what he would do if we let our guard down. If worse comes to worse, I thought of our stowaway, best to offer her up before any of us dies. The word Kamikaze was tattooed across her chest. Naturally, I was preparing her for sacrifice. Wait, that’s murder, I balked. How could I think such a thing. She’s a human being… Think of the headlines…

“You know what I’m gunna do with you?” He persisted, swaggering ever closer. “Don’t get me blood up.” He drawled and growled. I was running out of room in the RV. Face to face with a rogue, a true pirate, and I completely folded. I’m nothing more than a damned Disney pirate, a big fat fake. Tears welled up and my chin quaked.

“You need a cigarette outside.” MAD stepped in between us, and I was never more glad to have such a true friend. I nodded, screwing up my face, “I’m sorry.” I whispered, most of this mess may have been my fault. Somebody could die tonight. Risking one last glace towards the bedroom, just to make sure, I stepped outside to get a better handle on reality.

Reemerging a few minutes later, I found my brave mate engaged in deadly game. Drinking The One True Pirate under the table, taking shots of scavenged alcohol from the wreckage of our party. He had to pass out sometime she was trying to speed up the process. Foolhardily, I joined them. One slug, two slugs and so on. Time wore on it became perfectly clear, we’d run out of beer before he’d even flinch. I wasn’t doing so well. Bobbing and wobbling I burped up foam, and finally broke. “I can’t take it anymore! Its not working! And how are you still standing!” I turned to MAD, then it hit me all at once. “You were faking.” MAD nodded. Defeated, I slumped into the fold out bed, and looked wearily out the window. A pinkish hue tinged with lavender grew over the Vieux Carre. The color was quite lovely. “Is that the sun?” I asked. The madness stopped for a second. Those unlucky enough to remain awake turned to gape. It was Friday morning in the French Quarter. I sank into the blankets and hugged The One True Pirate’s prized rifle as it lay beside me for protection and moral support. “I think it’s time we get some sleep. We have a big day today.”

The sun reached it’s zenith and was well on its decent by the time we were ready to greet the day. We missed not one but two parades and wholly neglected our vending venture. Our rogue host graciously served us breakfast of toast, scrambled eggs, grapes and orange juice. He acted as if the last night’s indiscretion never happened. By the time we showered and got somewhat situated it was nearing five in the afternoon. After a good days sleep and food, the RV park shower was like stepping into Narnia. Feeling refreshed I joined MAD where she waited soaking her feet in the Jacuzzi. “We really should move down here,” I had no idea what made me say that, apparently I bounced back fast from last’s woes and was surprisingly itching to hit Bourbon Street again. Ready and more than willing to take up residency.

“I dunno,” MAD said after admitting she was thinking the same thing, “I love it here, but you know how I get in the sun. I might just burst into flames and you…” she didn’t even have to finish that statement.

“Yeah, you’re probably right, I might end up like that one guy at that bar who said he was born and raised behind a bag of potato chips.” His Star Trek tattoo was the nexus of the universe.

“We should get going,” MAD said after we had a good laugh, “they’re probably wondering where we went.” The sun sank and the low grumble of music and voices rose as the nocturnal beast of Bourbon Street awakened. Heeding the call, we had no choice but to lace up our bodices, hike up our stockings, stuff our weapons in our belts, and face whatever madness barreled toward us. Larry Sparrow donned his Captain Jack gear. As we dressed up, I dropped my double-barreled boarding–pistol knocking the flintlock clean off. I was sober. Our host gave me his deck-sweeper, a very fine piece with considerable heft and suspicious red stains on the butt of the blunderbuss. I didn’t deserve something so pretty, let alone be trusted with it while inevitably getting paralytically drunk. Then again, as a pirate, I never felt right without a weapon. What was Bloody Lynne Flynnt without something that could stab, shoot, or bash your head in? It was part of the reason I took up a pirate persona in the first place. It’s socially acceptable to stroll into a bar armed and no one would think twice. It was the same thing about getting ridiculously if not belligerently drunk in public. “Besides,” I’d tell people whoever wondered about my choice in dress, “any excuse to wear a bodice.” Everybody loves a pirate.

“The American Dream is dead!” I exclaimed as our crew headed out on foot down the street. “Fuck it all! Take to the seas!” We had a few drinks before we departed, so I was feeling good. It was a wonder there was any more beer left. Someone must  have went on a run, but the logistics have long since escaped me. We stopped at a bar for pub grub and mingled on the patio. The One True Pirate treated us to three-dollar rum and cokes. When Larry Sparrow started taking shots of ranch dressing and I found out my bodice hoisted my breasts so high that I could literally motorboat myself we were with full sails, swept into the gale, and speeding headlong into iniquity.

WILD PIRATES. Part Five. Validation

Waking up in the Lower Ninth Ward had a certain ring to it, like walking up in a wing of a sanitarium. Instead of a padded cell, it was a poorly padded mattress of our hosts’ fold out couch. After Wednesday night’s developments, I deserved to be put away. Leaning on my elbows, I had a quiet look around our current encampment. My mates still sleeping soundly next to me snoring. The previous day was a big day and as a result I may have gotten a little carried away.

The package arrived just before we did at the pub. The box had a ridiculous amount of stamps and was smaller than expected, not that I expected much. A few copies of a book, one that I co-authored.

“You know what I’m going to do?” I said with great determination, I’d been thinking about this moment for a very long time. “I’m gunna bite it.”

“What?” my mates said incredulously.

“I’m gunna bite my book to see if it’s real…” Unable to wait a moment longer I opened my mouth and bit down on the paperback cover, feeling it give under my teeth. What I had in my maw was four hundred and sixty eight pages a project five years in the making and it was real alright. I couldn’t think of a better reveal than in New Orleans.

“How’s it taste?” Larry Sparrow asked.

“Like a book,” I said, nicely stacking my copies neatly on the vending table. “How’d you think it’d taste, like steak? It tastes like validation.” It tasted like destiny and I hoped the book was one of many. For a while I buckled down, lived like a nun and worked like a dog and now had something to show for it. I was told I had to grow up live in the real world get a job that had benefits, insurance and a 401k. I was an author now, not squandering my young adult years. Blowing smoke up my arse with delusional dreams of grandeur and notoriety. The excursion this was not only a vending venture, it was a cause for celebration. For the rest of the week, this notion sent our crew reeling off into the deep end. It resulted in complete collapse in moral structure and responsibility. That night at the pub, I went as far as writing TIPS on my chest in eyeliner with an arrow pointing downward toward my cleavage. If it worked Tuesday night on Bourbon Street… I was a pirate and I didn’t give a damn. The lot of us even held up a Burger King drive-thru at pistol point. Many other transgressions transpired. As the night drew on our crew grew far too loaded to venture back to the bayou so the proprietor of this particular pirate festival was graciously took us in to pass the night in her abode. “With two cons converging like this, it’s is like a game of survival…” Someone said at some point. I took it to heart and perhaps a little too seriously.