BOILERTOWN: Dinosaurs in the Sewers

This is the prologue to the epic Steampunk backstory of my housemates and I. Larry Sparrow as “Fenmore LeMerde,” MaryAnne TheContrarian McClusky as “Ms. Marlybone” and I “Greta Scot.” The more we discussed it, our story grew crazier and crazier. It’s set in the future at the very end of the world. There’s violence, science, time travel, and potty humor. The project has been going on for about five years now. I’ve always thought it would make a great cartoon or comic book.


THE BOILERTOWN SAGA: Dinosaurs in the Sewers.
By Jessica Hopsicker 12/18/2013

FENMORE LeMERDE stands in the sewer pipe alone packing a pair of pistols. Directly behind him is a narrow metal spiral staircase, it raises up and up and disappears entirely in the darkness. Nor can he see anything before or behind him.


He says to himself for there is no one else around.


He reassures himself and straightens up his jacket, being the well dressed man that he is, even if he is in the vast underground sewer system of Boilertown.

Fenmore LeMerde raises his pistols and takes his very first step into the great unknown.

Cakes of rusty brown vibrate on the sewer floor beneath his feet. He stops and looks at his shoes.

The ground beneath him jolts and shakes suddenly.

There’s a loud crash. It sounds like thunder. Followed by a great wailing.

Fenmore LeMerde maintains his footing as he’s jostled about. His pistols ready to fire.

The wail becomes a growl and then a furious howl.

Far ahead he catches a strange light glinting off of something white: Teeth.

There is a loud thwack as powerful jaws snap shut.

Not one but two colossal creatures round the corner and rear into view. They’re reptilian out of something he’s only seen in his story books.

They fight to their death right before his very eyes.

The one with the long neck, whipping tale and equally impressive jaw opens up and rears back ready to strike. It’s opponent though far less graceful looking makes up for it with sheer girth and bulkiness, lunges forward and barrels into the body of his assailant, ramming the monster into the sewer pipe wall.

Chunks of brown rain down of Fenmore LeMerde’s head.

The beasts battle, tearing at each other with teeth and talons. All the while they continue barreling down the sewer pipe.

Severely out gunned at a time like this Fenmore LeMerde drops his pistols without a second thought makes a beeline for the spiral staircase.

Up and up he twirls to the surface, gripping the pole tightly with both hands for there are no rails to hold on to. Within reach of neither the surface nor the sewer floor Fenmore LeMerde finds himself in the midst of the the deadly duel.

The staircase just below him snaps like a dry twig as the stocky one rears up on it’s hind legs and lounges for its more slender enemy on the other side.

Fenmore LeMerde hugs the staircase as hard as he can for he finds his boots are touching nothing at all. He lifts his legs at a 90 degree angle as the two behemoths battle directly below his bottom. He hollers until he’s hoarse but his sounds are swallowed immediately by the roaring dinosaurs.

Fenmore LeMerde hoists himself up to the remaining staircase, as a swift flick of the graceful one’s tail knocks the top hat clear off his head.

His hat drops into the billowing dust clouds below.

The creatures disappear around the corner continuing to snap at each others’ throats.

Fenmore LeMerde launches himself up the last steps to the door that leads to his surface salvation.

At the top he looks down one last time into the murky darkness. His belongings have utterly vanished. The top hat he will miss terribly but he could care less about the pistols at this point.

Standing on a balcony with a thin spiral stair that drops off to nowhere Fenmore LeMerde sighs heavily. Exhausted and in a state of shock, he throws open the metal door and falls inside.

The only thing that sticks out of the door is his dirty brown boots.

Fenmore LeMerde
I’m going to need a bigger gun.

He army crawls through the doorway and kicks it shut behind him.

TUMBLETY: Dear Florie

EXT. Ship Deck-Day

FLORENCE CHANDLER stands on the deck, her hands grip the rail as she  squints against the sun as it glints against the abundant waves. The ship pitches and heaves and her stomach does the same. She is green and seasick yet still a vision to behold for the cunning and trolling eyes of James Maybrick. She is a young debutante and the picture of wealth and southern beauty.

James Maybrick slides up beside her unnoticed.

(whimpers and swallows hard)
Please no. Don’t.

JAMES MAYBRICK raises his hands and politely attempts to back away.
I’m terribly sorry Miss, I’ll be out of your way-

FLORIE CHANDLER starts and smiles bashfully and places a hand on her chest as she finally notices him.
Oh! You startled me…I wasn’t talking to you.

And who my dear were you talking to?

FLORIE CHANDLER blushes a touch of color against her pallor.
The waves the ocean…

Are you seasick?

Yes, and I can’t help but keep thinking that land is just beyond the horizon.

JAMES MAYBRICK chuckles in spite of himself.
I am genuinely sorry to hear that, Miss. We have only departed this morning.

I know that. It’s just- and you Sir, if you don’t me asking, where are you from?

Liverpool, England. I know for a fact this voyage lasts six days.

Dear me- Liverpool, what is that like?

My favorite time of the year is June when everything is in full bloom.

That sounds lovely, I would very much like to see it someday.

I am sure you will.

The ship pitches. Young Florie who is too busy staring at James, she looses her footing and falls into his arms.

FLORIE CHANDLER pulls away after a prolonged moment.
I am so sorry Mister-?

JAMES MAYBRICK gives her a proper introduction.
James Maybrick.

FLORIE CHANDLER reciprocates the greeting.
Florence Chandler. I prefer Florie.

Well Florie, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I am sorry we couldn’t have met under more pleasant circumstances. I would very much like to see you again, and it is my selfish hope that time will go by as slow as you think it does now.

FLORIE CHANDLER blushes and blurts out
Will you please have dinner with us?

INT. GALLEY- Nightfall

James Maybrick joins Florie, her mother the Baroness Caroline Chandler Du Barry von Roques, her older brother Holbrook and the Ship’s Captain for dinner.

JAMES MAYBRICK is as guile as ever as he’s introduced to Florie’s Mother.
My Madam, that is a lot of surnames. I am so pleased to meet you.

The Baroness Caroline Chandler Du Barry von Roques blushes just like her daughter.

Florie’s older brother HOLBROOK is uptight and having none of it.
Mr. Maybrick, from what I hear of the cotton trade, if it is going so well for you, whatever would possess you to want to leave the country?

FLORIE CHANDLER chides her older brother.

Death. You see not too long ago, I was mere inches from dying. Stricken with severe case of malaria my own mortality was almost squashed by a singular mosquito.

James Maybrick swats the table for effect.

Both Florie and her mother jump.

JAMES MAYBRICK mainly addresses Florie at this point with the utmost sincerity.
I will never forget gasping for air, each new breath drawn was a battle. I couldn’t breathe, but I could think. Oh God, I could think. It all became frighteningly clear that this was the end and everything that I worked for was for nothing. I thought about my legacy for there was none. Unwed, no children to speak of and no one to carry out my name. It occurred to me that material wealth is not everything. There was family. But by then I thought it was too late for me. With luck, I have recovered and have been redeemed.

Florie Chandler practically swoons.

The Baroness Caroline Chandler Du Barry von Roques has her eyes on the Ship’s Captain.

Holbrook sneers.


Young Florie is in her bedroom, getting ready for the evening. There is lightness about her- a radiance. She picks up her sleeping gown and dances with it daydreaming about a bright and brilliant future.


I’ll be the bell of the ball,
and make every social call.
I’ll have my fortune and my fame,
and cotillions in my name.
I’ll put on airs in all affairs.
Oh, how happy I will be in high society.
A stranger to strife never work in my life
if I could be your wife. Oh James.

EXT. SHIP DECK – night

JAMES MAYBRICK roams the deck alone at night unwilling to retire just yet.

Your beauty cannot compare
to such fruit that life can bear.
With your flowing golden hair
and your lovely dead-eyed stare
like you are neither here or there
With a figure so widely storied
you will be my crowning glory
and I’ll lithely slip inside Dear Florie.

James Maybrick doses.


The SS Baltic reaches land six days later. Two of the five Maybrick brothers show up the dock up to greet James, Michael and the younger brother Edwin.

James Maybrick grins like a cat that ate a canary.

Florie Chandler is linked at his elbow completely over the moon.

Behind them is Holbrook and the Baroness.

Holbrook sneers in their direction.

Michael Maybrick’s face changes in a look of growing concern as the happy couple approaches.

Edwin Maybrick leers at Florie.

Who is this?

Good question.

JAMES MAYBRICK greets his siblings exuberantly.
My brothers, how good it is to see you again! I would like you to meet my fiancée Florence Chandler.

You’re engaged to be married?

FLORIE CHANDLER greets each of the Maybrick Brothers with a big squishy hug. She can no longer contain her excitement.
Isn’t it grand?

MICHAEL MAYBRICK is less than thrilled.
You met in Norfolk I take it.

Oh, no. We met on the ship.

(in shock and disbelief)
On the ship? It’s a six day voyage!

I know!

MICHAEL MAYBRICK leans in closer to James just to make sure he’s hearing him right.
How old is she?


Michael Maybrick clamps his mouth tightly shut unable to respond.

EDWIN MAYBRICK gives James a good nudge with his elbow.
Good job.

Edwin then turns his attention to Holbrook who is still glowering even with all the excitement.

What is going on with him?

James Maybrick shrugs.

MICHAEL MAYBRICK still glowers at his brother.
(under his breath)
My brother is an idiot.

TUMBLETY: The Deathbed

Meanwhile in…


Dismal Creek Swamp, Norfolk, Virginia


A PHYSICIAN walks down the hall and plaintively knocks on the door at the end.

A dry wheezy cough sounds from the bedroom as the door opens a crack.

The door opens for the Physician.

JAMES MAYBRICK a wealthy Cotton Merchant from LIVERPOOL taking advantage of the post war turmoil to get a “leg up” in the cutthroat trade, lays in bed, deathly ill, lost in a state in delirium, stricken with TYPHO-MALARIAL FEVER. His face is darkened and flushed, hot and harsh to the touch. As he struggles to breathe, his mouth is slightly parted revealing a tongue heavily coated and brown, deeply fissured and cracked. His teeth blacked with SORDES, encrustations of blood, build- up and bacteria as he suffers the symptoms of the debilitating fever.

Typho-Malarial Fever occurs in the the end stage of malaria. A most pernicious disease. It is unfortunate this stage can be easily avoided if the proper care and treatment were to be administered in the first place. The fever comes on swiftly, suddenly and often without warning. The first paroxysm is marked with a chill occurring earlier in the day, subsiding at night. Though the patient may feel a couple hours of repose during this remission, the fever never fully subsides. Then the second paroxysm strikes, carrying on with as much or more intensity than the first attack. Thus signaling a series of fits following a remission that decreases in duration until it ceases all together. The fever assumes a continuous form.

MICHAEL MAYBRICK steps into the hallway and closes the door behind him to speak in private about his brother’s rapidly deteriorating condition. His face is tired, drawn and care-worn. The prominent composer who goes by the name Stephen Adams has come to Norfolk, Virginia to collect his brother and bring him back to Liverpool, England dead or alive. It is beginning to look like the latter.

Michael Maybrick and the Physician speak in hushed voices, though it doesn’t make much of difference whether poor James Maybrick hears them or not.

MICHAEL MAYBRICK shakes his head.
The quinine has no effect. In fact he is getting much worse. I don’t know how long he can go on. Earlier, he could barely breathe, much less speak, but when he did he begged for death. Yet, with every jagged breath he cursed the fact he is condemned to die in Virginia

There are far worse things than dying in Virginia.

Please, we’re from Liverpool… And now, now, he just stares, lost to us in state of delirium and debility. And if this forsaken festering swamp takes his life-

We haven’t tried everything.


There is a hint of hope in Michael Maybrick’s voice, despite the fact that his brother is a bit of an asshole, he doesn’t want to see him die like a dog in Dismal Creek Swamp.


I could have had him up and eating, health fully restored before the first remission ever occurred. There would have been no need to resort to something so drastic as a mineral poison such as Fowler’s Solution.

It is a solution of potassium arsenate. A general tonic used to treat an array of afflictions such as ulcers, hypertension, and rheumatoid arthritis. And more severe conditions such as leukemia and syphilis. If you haven’t realized, your brother isn’t the only one suffering from malaria here in Dismal Creek Swamp. Would you like me to administer the drug Mr…?

Adams. It’s Adams. Yes please do.


Michael Maybrick pauses in the doorway of James Maybrick chambers. Expecting fully to see the all too familiar form of his dying brother.

The room is empty and so is the bed. The sheets are stripped and the mattress is bare.

Michael Maybrick looks puzzled. His brother is nowhere to be seen.

Wisps of smoke rise up past the window. Firelight flickers outside.

With trepidation Micheal Maybrick crosses the room to look out the window.

EXT. Outside the Manor- NIGHT

James Maybrick stands in front of a fire watching his bedding burn. He happens to look up catching a glimpse of his brother in his bedroom window. He’s no longer a sickly brownish hue, his skin is flushed from the heat of the fire and not the fever. He breathes in deeply and gratefully, stretching his legs, digging his heels deep into the ground, arches his back, and grins triumphantly and toothily up at his brother.


What was born from the ashes of the sheets of his deathbed was not dear Jim at all. He arose from his expiry as something entirely different. A creature-a creature of habit. Arsenic, I have seen it ruin many good men. Had I been there to intervene with my medical expertise instead of being so wrongfully detained, I could have stopped all this. We more than likely would have met later under less horrific circumstances.

TUMBLETY: The Homily



Francis Tumblety stands at the counter of the coroner‘s office dripping wet from a recent summer rainstorm and on his very last nerve.

The room is ill lit and quite cluttered with piles of paperwork and various organs preserved in jars.

THE CORONER sits at his desk. He is a deplorable looking man, dingy and greasy with questionable stains on his work clothes. He more than likely drinks formalin recreationally. Just the kind of man that Francis Tumblety is looking for. However, The Coroner ignores his only customer.

FRANCIS TUMBELTY clears his throat growing increasingly aggravated as time passes.
Excuse me, Sir. I am Doctor Tumblety and I request your services… Sir… Sir.

THE CORONER finally turns his head and faces his only customer.
(abruptly )

Francis Tumblety glares for a moment taken aback.

What- it’s one in the morning. Can’t you see I have work to do.
(impatiently motions to the paperwork piled on his desk.)
Out with it, I’m busy.

I’m inquiring about your matrices, I’ll pay you-

Mattresses? Look, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Matrices, and you are a man of medicine?

There’s a whorehouse down the street.

Francis Tumblety grimaces at the mention of the whorehouse. There is a short intake of breath then he blows up.

(gathers his composure and continues more candidly)
As I have said before I am willing to pay whatever price for any specimens you are-


Please sir, you are the only one who can help me, everyone turned me down even the Pathological Museum…

I can see why. You call yourself a doctor?

Yes, good sir, I am.

I bet you are, and I’m the fucking Queen of England. What did you say you needed these matrices for?

I’m having a dinner party.





Francis Tumblety’s quarters are well kept and well paid for. He is clearly a man of means and this party is held for Washington DC’s elite, politicians and military men. Noticeably missing from this particular party is women.

Seated at the card table across from Francis Tumblety is Colonel Dunham who looks around the room.

COLONEL DUNHAM catches his host’s attention.

Say Doctor, I happened to notice that aren’t any women in attendance. Why is that? My wife-

Francis Tumblety sets down the deck of cards that he was just about to deal. He looks at the Colonel, his eyes grow as dark as thunderclouds.

Women? No Colonel, I don’t know of any such cattle. And if I did, I would as your friend, give you a quick dose of poison than take you into such danger.

The room grows silent, his gentlemen friends look awkwardly amongst each other at the Good Doctor’s utterance.

Filthy vile creatures, Whorebeasts, Satan himself stemmed from a vagina. I have seen it. The mouth of hell itself.

Francis Tumblety abandons the game of cards and gets up from the table. He purposefully crosses the room to a pair of french doors that he slides wide open.

The parlor has been to converted into a study, or a pathological museum of his own. The room is furnished with cases, some round and square, comprised of glass and others made out of wood resembling wardrobes. Each shelf in each case is entirely occupied with jars of anatomical specimens. Some animal, but most of them are human.

At the Good Doctor’s behest the guests stand to join him in the doorway, puzzled at what Francis Tumblety is about to reveal.


Francis Tumblety approaches one of the wardrobes and swings the wooden doors wide open. As he does so he burst into a homily berating all of womankind with an emphasis on the “fallen ones.”



The sin and folly of dissipation
as self-indulgent as masturbation.
A licentiousness that plagues the nation,
evil is the seed of propagation.
And a whore is a scourge in reprobation
it’s divine right to end this abomination.

Francis Tumblety grabs a jar containing an organ that appears to be a uterus.

A PARTY GUEST leans into another.
Is that a womb?

FRANCIS TUMBLETY (cont singing)

Harlots and trollops,
Pinchpricks and dollymops and whores.
Harlots and trollops,
Pinchpricks and dollymops and whores.

As he sings he dramatically  presents the specimen to his party guests and places it neatly on a desk in front of them. When he is finished there are six of them in total.

COLONEL DUNHAM looks puzzled his eyebrows are knitted in a look of concern.

Well then… I’m sorry I asked.

The room is silent.

The Showdown at the Gloomy Whorehouse


Francis Tumblety immediately halts his musical splendor at the most inopportune time imaginable and steps right into the crowd.

The crowd stands around him utterly confused for a moment at Francis Tumblety’s sudden dramatic outburst and abrupt end.

Francis Tumblety purposefully parts the people as he passes them.

The looks on their faces go from shock to outrage as soon as they realize that the Good Doctor is making off with their hard
earned money.

The crowd quickly escalates into a MOB.

He’s leaving with our money!! GET HIM!

The Mob gets riled up, shouting, and calling him a thief and a quack among many other vulgarities. They begin to close in on the Good Doctor.

Francis Tumblety with his eyes still dark and stormy, face clouded in a permanent glower, indifferently swats them away like flies. He takes long purposeful strides across the road to the gloomy whorehouse.


In the lobby Francis Tumblety approaches his Whore Wife. Fists balled at his sides, his jaw clenched so tightly that veins are popping. Even his mustache bristles with rage.

FRANCIS TUMBLETY just inches from The Whore Wife’s face he opens his mouth and roars.

THE ANGRY JOHN who escorts her inside interjects.
YEAH! and I’m the one who paid for her.

Francis Tumblety ignores The Angry John

HOW? WHY? After everything I’ve given you! I’ve loved you.

Please, the only one you’ll ever love is yourself, Francis.
(she spits out his name in disdain.)

Francis Tumblety readies himself for a vicious backhand.

What, so, you have to sell yourself like- like-
(his voice breaks)

(interrupts angrily)
I said I paid for her!

Francis Tumblety suddenly turns his attention to The Angry John and grabs him by the shirt collar. Standing a head taller than the man and with surprising fury fueled strength, lifts The Angry John’s feet inches off the ground and shoves him bodily into the wall.

Francis Tumblety then turns to his Whore Wife as she glares defiantly back.

THE MADAM of the gloomy whorehouse runs up.

You Sir! Get out before I shoot.

Francis Tumblety turns to The Madam and sees she’s THE MADAM WITH A GUN and drops the Angry John

That’s a whore’s pistol.

The Madam With a Gun cocks her whore’s pistol and pulls the trigger.

A bullet flies past Francis Tumblety’s face within inches and pegs the wall behind him.

Francis Tumblety’s eyes grow wide.

The Madam With a Gun aims again using the second barrel.

 MADAM WITH A GUN threatens and motions towards the door.

And that’s a warning. Now get out.

As soon as I kill my wife.


Francis Tumblety slowly comes to his senses. He looks back and forth from his disgraced Whore Wife who glares back, the Angry John dazed but still standing and looking for a fight, and the Madam With A Gun pointed at his head.

On the other side of the door The Mob is shouting, pounding their fists and out for blood.

Francis Tumblety sees that he is surrounded. No longer able to stand the sight of present company in the gloomy whorehouse he raises his hands in a bitter sign of surrender and takes a step backwards towards the door.

FRANCIS TUMBLETY spits the words out as if they were rotten to the taste.
Fine I’ll go.

Angry John takes a step forward.

The door shakes and thuds with another forceful impact.

(to The Angry John)
I hope your prick goes gangrenous and a falls off… inside her.
(to his Whore Wife, dramatically)
AND THIS! This is on your head!

Francis Tumblety throws open the door. Within an instant several hands grab at him. With one last look to his dear Whore Wife, Francis Tumblety catches her mouth the word “FOOL.”

Clutching and clawing The Mob pulls him out the door.

Tumblety’s Spiel

A scene from an ongoing project of mine. A script about the infamous and illustrious career of Herbal Medicine Doctor and American Jack the Ripper suspect: Francis Tumblety.  So far, it is over a year in the making and I am pleased to say I have penned the first song. Yeah, it’s a musical.



FRANCIS TUMBLETY works the crowd as an Herbal Doctor, peddling his medicine. He strikes an imposing figure. Standing slightly over 6 feet, he is a head above the rest of the crowd, as they wave money and fight for his attention. Dressed in the most up to date fashion, he is clearly a man of means. Behind him is his equally amazing white stallion. What is most impressive about the well-spoken and charismatic gentleman is his mustache, dyed black to match his hair, it sweeps grandiosely off his upper lip. In fact, the only thing that can distract his clientele from doling out their hard earned money is the whorehouse across the street. With the utmost confidence and a cunning twist of his magnificent mustache he goes into his spiel.

Francis Tumblety unfurls his medical kit and holds it up for all to see and purposefully clears his throat.

The crowd is silenced.

Consumption, diphtheria, and cholera
whooping cough and scrofula
meningitis leprosy
no matter what ails you, whatever it be,
I will rid you of your malady.

Catalepsy, Effluvia, Pleurisy, Neuralgia,
Tetanus and Typhus, Grippe and Trush
Malaria and “Phossy jaw”
A case of Dropsy and even the chills,
My tonics here can cure ALL ills.

This is the edge in Allopathy.
And there is no need for surgery.
For I am a walking apothecary.
And if you have the decency…
Come see the Good Doctor Tumblety!

HECKLER calls out from the crowd

FRANCIS TUMBLETY doesn’t skip a beat and takes a flamboyant bow.
PRINCE of Quacks!!

He elicits and cheer from the crowd.


I’ve got tinctures and tonics, powders and pills!
Come on now and call out your ills!

Consumption, diphtheria, and cholera
whooping cough and scrofula
meningitis, leprosy
no matter what ails us, whatever it be

I shall rid you of your malady!

Catalepsy Effluvia, Pleurisy, Neuralgia,
Tetanus and Typhus, Grippe and Trush
Quincy and flux.
Malaria, “Phossy jaw”
A case of Dropsy and even the chills…

I’ll give you the vials when you hand me the bills.


He makes a big show of collecting the forms of payment from his clientele while passing out the medicine.

Whooping cough and scrofula!
Malaria and phossy jaw!


He shushes the chorus. In the brief moment of silence, Dr. Tumblety points to the gloomy whorehouse across the street.

From the wallowing whore knee deep in sleaze
to the all the trappings of highest society
Hell, I’ve even treated royalty.
You must see me before its too late,
better not hesitate for I will not discriminate!
I don’t need to beat my drum or even toot my own fife,
For I’m the Good Doctor you trust with your life!……

A Prostitute greets a John across the street. Side by side they  walk  inside.

Francis Tumblety’s face dawns in sudden horrid recognition. His eyes grow as dark as storm clouds.



WILD PIRATES. Part Three. Volunteer Day

“Bloody Lynne, wake up.” MAD mumbled outside my tent.

“Mumph,” My voice was muffled by a mouthful of pillow. “Areyouserious?” I whined with great consternation. The raucous song of all those infernally nocturnal animals was hardly the lullaby needed for sleep. I finally reached that magical land behind my eyelids when it all faded entirely from view. They sang throughout the night, chattering, chuckling, and burrowing beneath the ground around me.

“Yeah, I am.” She answered sullenly, hearkening me back to the bleak reality of morning. “We have to be at the bar in an hour. Big day.”

“I’m up.” I pulled my head out of the pillowcase, donned my fuzzy blue bathrobe and dragged myself out of the tent. Stuffed in one pocket was an energy drink and the other a breakfast bar. The two of us boldly trekked to the head to get ready. It was Volunteer Day.

As part of the Con our crew signed up to help rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward. We met at the pub at 6:30 in the morning as scheduled. The earliest I have been at a bar before, ever. Especially on a Monday morning. There was an interesting array of us assembled, ready and wiling to work. There was a folk band from Canada, proprietors of a pirate magazine, and an affable couple from California. The crew caravanned to headquarters., a non-profit organization allows volunteers to plant neighborhood fruit-bearing trees and help rebuild homes destroyed in the hurricane. There they sanctioned us off into teams and we were each handed a shovel and a map. Like pirates on a treasure hunt, only we were planting trees and not digging for gold we marched in step six abreast down the sun-baked streets with shovels slung over our shoulders. Our shirts matched. A few people asked what we were up to as we passed through the poorly populated parish. “You know, volunteering, planting trees, being pirates.” We’d answer cheerfully and gave them the information to the organization so they too could have their own fruit bearing trees which were already there when we arrived. There was roughly five of them in total. All we had to do was dig the designated holes and give them a home. For some of us, this was the most manual labor we had in while, myself included, having a desk job at a college publication. Then it was on to the next house. We got more than what we signed up for at the last stop. The lady recanted her life story as we planted her trees. We also hauled some rubbish to the roadside and the dumped stagnant water from her truck-bed compartment. In turn for our hard work she offered to give us a ride back to base. Seated on the wheel-well, I held on for my dear life. Mud and the dregs of dirty brown water sloshed and the shovels slid and smacked at our feet. We were launched on a torpedo tour of the Lower Ninth Ward. Sightseeing as we rocketed down the road, I was making friends with my buddy in the back of the truck, the one with the horns super-glued to his forehead. “This guy, he’s still talking,” I said to myself in wonderment, desperately trying to hear him over the rush of the wind and the screech of the tires. This guy was all right. The truck jostled and jumped. Any sense of direction was lost. Even after trekking through these very streets all morning there was no telling where exactly our driver was taking us. Not back to headquarters. Left turn, right turn and so on. Then we came to a skidding stop. Bodies and shovels collided and all conversation ceased. Before us stretched a great green mound and behind it the murky outline of the Mississippi River. Something some of us have only heard about, but have never actually seen. Not from this angle. Up close and in person. We sat there a second in silence until someone said the word “levee.”

“Its not a levee that broke, but you get the idea.” Our driver and tour guide said. “Go on have a look.” The volunteers disembarked on shaky legs from the vehicle and climbed up to get a better view of the busy port. Standing on top, one can only imagine a structure like that bearing the brunt and breaking under the sheer brute of nature. The landscape swallowed by so much water. We nodded in agreement and made our solemn descent to the vehicle and headed back to base.

At Lower Nine headquarters there was but a brief reprieve in between work. They fed us sandwiches, offered us a place to sit a spell and sent us back to work. Laying sheet-rock and slowly rebuilding houses that were still abandoned. Psalms and bible verses were scrawled on the exposed framework in permanent marker acting like wards and charms against further tragedy; an indelible addition to the infrastructure.

It was late afternoon when they no longer needed our services and the volunteers were set free. Sore, sweaty, dirty, wretchedly smelly and undoubtedly exhausted the three of us headed back to the bayou. Sadly, after such a hard day’s work there was only a matter of hours to regroup, shower, rustle up some dinner and a costume change before the next big event. Not enough time for a nap. It was the first time that two Curvy Dogs from Central New York and a Cincinnati Captain Jack Sparrow would make our piratical debut. For some strange reason, I had a nagging anxiety about the whole ordeal. Poised to enter and be counted among our kind I couldn’t help but wonder what if we weren’t accepted? Then I thought for second, we’re pirates for fuck’s sake, and we bravely boarded the bar. My fears were unfounded, washed overboard by the obscene amazement of $4 pitchers of PBR and a California-based pirate rock band called The Pirates Charles. It was lust at first sight. Once again drunk and overly stimulated I tossed and turned inside my tent. Sleep was still elusive.