A lime fairy tickled Viper’s nostrils with her feet. She stretched across his cheek and tugged out his ear hairs one by one. Viper slowly drew his hand from his side to squish the pest like a mosquito when a growl from the underbelly of the ship awoke Viper from his dreams. A clap of bells and a sweet tangy scent caused Viper to raise his head. Sunlight streamed through the cabin windows. He groaned and closed his eyes.
“Land Ahoy!” cried Albie.
A stiff knock rapped at Viper’s door, then Albie’s voice rang out again. “Cap’n? We got a bit o’ a problem. Ogre’s a troll an’ Cook’s plum mad.”
Another growl from below.
Viper rubbed his palm in his eye, blocking the sun and trying to ease his hangover. “What be that devilish growling?”
“Ogre? I hadn’t seen th’ lad’s since…” Since the frogslingers?
“Ogre be accusin’ Cook o’ poisonin ‘im, an’ now he be troll.”
“A troll?” Viper laughed, knocked three empty rum bottles out of bed, sat up, then fell over with a roll of waves. He moaned and grabbed his head. His stomach threatened to spew. “What be wrong wi’ Cook?”
“Don’t know. Already tookst a dingy an port fer th’ isle.”
“He be doin’ what? Arrr!”
Viper leapt from the covers and threw open the door.
Albie glanced Viper down and lifted a finger to his small head to stifle a sneeze. “He, uh, excuse me, Cap’n,” he turned and blew loudly into a hanky.
Strudel and several others turned and looked, then looked away.
Albie continued, “Cook be lookin’ like he might’ve caught the yellow jack. Ever since the…” He raised his hand in the shape of a hook.
Viper raised his brow.
“Ogre’s been sleepin fer weeks, and when he be awakin’. He be something fearsome an’ ugly. He be accusin’ Cook o’ witchcraft. O’ turnin’ im into a troll.”
“Well, be he?” asked Viper.
“Be he what?”
“A troll,” said Viper.
“What be th’ difference?” asked Albie.
Viper stroked his chin. “Me don’t be starboardly knowin’. We need t’ consult th’ Wiswell Manuel.”
“What th’ hell be that?”
“A sort o’ consultation.” Viper flipped his fingers.
“A Wiswell consully?” asked Albie.
Another growl from the underbelly, and the Wicked Woman shook with Ogre’s rage.
“What do ye want us t’ do, Cap’n?”
Viper felt a breeze from the door. He smelt something soft an tangy. And again, heard a soft clap of bells. Suddenly, he became aware he was standing buck naked with the cabin windows and door wide open. Strudel and the other crewmembers stood on the poop deck, casually glancing off to the side, snickering and picking their noses, doing the things men usually do when other naked members are about.
“Prepare th’ crew t’ leave ship fer th’ isle wi’ Big Bob’s body. Me wants ye scallywags loaded wi’ cannons n buckshot lest we be meetin foe, an rum fer after the chickens be plucked.”
“Out, smartly! Me needs to find me britches.” Viper turned.
“Cap’n. It be about yer britches.”
Viper turned back to Albie. “Aye?”
“Ye ain’t got britches.”
“Wh’ do ye mean?”
“Remember ye be rippin’ off a piece fer cook’s arm n hook?”
“Well, Strudel be sewin’ em up last ‘ight ee was, but ‘ere be a mishap an-“
“An what?” Viper looked over Albie and eyed Strudel who was creeping away from the poop deck.
“Ye won’t have ye britches today.”
Viper smiled. “Strudel!”
“Aye, Cap’n?” Strudel responded. Quietly. Very quietly.
“Albie, keelhaul Strudel.”
Albie put up his hands. “Me ain’t big enough.”
“Big Bob always did. Ye be learnin too.”
Viper’s head throbbed. He couldn’t believe this conversation. “DO IT.” He paused. “Then give me yer britches.”
“But me britches be too skinny.”
Viper looked at Strudel.
“Me britches be too short.”
Viper looked at another bloke whose name was Outlaw. Because. He was outlawed in all countries, except Arabia. “Outlaw?”
“I’m afraid these pants are outlawed.”
“That be just fine. Take ‘em off. “
“Captain.” He folded his arms and glanced at his nails. “I fought a croc for these.”
Viper felt the small snake awaken behind the wooden eye. “Shiver me timbers! Take ‘em off!”
“Enuff! Watch me lads an take note! Me be tired of dawdling!”
Viper reached for his gun. But grasped something else. He straightened his voice and grabbed his pistol off his sheets.
“Take em off.” Viper cocked his pistol. It made a funny click.
“What…” it wasn’t a pistol anymore. “Who in bloody hell stole me pistol?”
Outlaw whipped off his croc pants and tossed them at Viper. Viper caught them and continued to shout as he slid them on and carefully, very carefully zipped, zipped? Them up. What?
“What be this?” Viper pointed at the zipper.
“That’d be yer penis, Cap’n,” said Strudel.
“I spake t’ dump th’ lad overboard!” Viper shouted.
Outlaw picked up Strudel, walked to the deck, and plopped him into the waves.
Albie tossed him a ring.
“Thank ye, Mate!” said Strudel.
“Now answer me, “ said Viper.
Outlaw shrugged and looked mystified. “It was a draw string yesterday. It changes dependin’ what time you’re in.”
“What do ye mean what time? An’ why do ye talk funny?”
Outlaw grinned and rubbed his stubby chin. “You know more today than you did yesterday, don’t cha mate? There’s more than just one world. Can’t there be more than just the time we are in now? Perhaps one can flip between future and past like a monkey on a vine.”
The crew stood silent as if that very moment a super massive black hole had swept like a tornado through a crack in the sky and sucked every wave, cough, ship creak, rope twinge and Ogre/troll growl and gobbled it up for an intergalactic feast reserved for a time and place light years from this very now.
Viper glanced at the men. Suspicious. They all glanced away. Could it be they all knew more than he did? Was he the only one from his time and place? If so, why were they here? But hadn’t he himself chosen them each for his crew? This was ridiculous. His head hurt.
Viper squinted at Outlaw. He’d never spoke much before. But looking at him, he saw that he didn’t belong. He was clean. Skin clear. His eyes sparkled with mischief. Why did he draw so much attention now?
“Did you switch out my pistol?”
“Of course not, captain. I imagine your pistol changed to a blunderbuss about the time my draw string changed to a zipper.”
“An’ maybe,” said Albie. “That’s why Ogre be changin’ to a troll. Cook had nothing to do wi’ it.”
Viper glanced at him. “We be needin t’ catch up wi’ Cook. Perhaps he be not havin’ th’ yellow jack, but th Sea o imagination did somethin wi’ his head.”
He glanced at Outlaw. “Ye’ll be stickin’ wi me today.” He pointed his blunderbuss at him. Outlaw nodded with a hint of a smile on his lips.
Another clap of bells and a soft feminine scent tickled Viper’s senses. “Did ye hear bells?” he asked Outlaw.
“Bells? Are ya hearing fairy bells, Captain?” Outlaw started to laugh, then laughed harder and slapped his bare thigh. All the men laughed with him.
Viper set his mouth. “What th’ hell be those anyway?”
Everyone looked at Outlaw’s underpants. They resembled a sort of black and white striped tight panty.
Outlaw put his hands firmly on his waist and slapped at his sword belt. “Polyester. Wrestling attire.”
“Poly-who? What do ye wrestle?” asked Albie.
Viper smiled and tied on his gun belt. “He wrestles crocs fer their skin.”
Outlaw’s blue eyes twinkled. “Nah, matey. I wrestle frogslingers for their skin, aye?”
“Me’d like a piece of the amazon goddess’ skin!” Albie licked his own arm sensuously. And the crew laughed.
“Me imagines the Cap’n like t’ be in ‘er britches!” said another.
The crew laughed again. Viper tried to think of something to retort, but the mention of G’s name got his mind working in green delicious places, then red hot places when Outlaw said, “I’ve already been there, mates!”
The morning exploded into whoops of rowdy laughter and catcalls. Someone sluffed a bucket of bilge over Outlaw’s head. He growled, dropped into a wrestlers stance, and tackled a dwarf named Blighty.
Viper fired his blunderbuss into the air. The ruckus quieted. Outlaw stood and wiped the bilge from his eyes.
Viper walked to him. “Thank ye fer th’ borrow o’ th croc britches. Let’s be hopin’ th’ natives don’t decide t’ wedge yer wrestling panties up yer arse.” He laughed. No one else did.
He turned away and holstered his blunderbuss. “Prepare t’ leave ship!”