Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Reason for Finknottle's Absence:

an Explanation as Put Forth by His Assistant ~

I can explain….

Sir Gustave Q. Finknottle loves his readers. Over the past month I have read stories from Jeffrey at Liverputty making all types of wild accusations, seeking to besmirch Finknottle’s character in his absence, or his absence of character. These stories have been grossly exaggerated at best, completely false the rest of the time. Sir Finknottle is a scholar and a gentleman. Usually the first to help a lady, but always the first to help a child. He does not have an uncommonly foul odor, as had been charged, and he only uses opiates in a very casual, albeit frequent, basis. It pains my heart to see Jeffrey berate my master with these appalling accusations. I cannot help but feel that Jeffrey covets Finknottle’s word juicer. I have noticed him gazing at the mechanism with a glint in his eye.

I say that Finknottle loves his audience, and I mean it. Often, during his lonelier nights, I have heard him talking to you. Whether he was asleep or awake, I’m not sure. But I do know this: he is a man not easily chained, yet the mailbag which weighs heavily on his back is something he bears gratefully. It is only with a pain in his heart that he does not meet a deadline to address the concerns of his followers. Few things can tear him away from that obligation. As you might imagine, such a thing happened recently, directly after he filed his last column, in fact. A note had arrived at his desk, and when he saw it, he could not make heads or tales of it. It was a curious affair. Finknottle would not tell me its contents, but simply said: “Great riches await the end of this journey we are about to take, but we must blend in with the common folk. Go, straightway to the hotel and grab the pea-jackets. We depart immediately.”

“But where are we headed, sir?” I asked.

“To Lima!” he said, “I know someone there that might speed us along our path.”

“And what is our path, good sir?” I pressed.

“I’ll spare you such trifling details, for now, young Assistant. Now do as I say and don’t forget to bring my medication kit. I will meet you at the Chowder Inn at six o’clock. We will board a vessel as honest sailors.”

“Pray, how do you intend to find a vessel that is leaving tonight and that might accept our labor?”

“Accept nothing of the sort!” he bristled. “The ship will leave in a day or two, we are simply boarding early. I know many captains along the docks, and I do not believe there will be an issue. We will be treated as fare paying passengers, bye and bye, dear Assistant, but it is important that we alert no one to our departure.”

I hastened to do as he instructed and met him at the inn. We sat down in the restaurant and the waitress came to take our order.

Looking at the menu, Finknottle indulged to order for the both of us: “Maid, we will have two bowls of pea soup; an order of herring and salt eels; a brown herbolace – tenched with a larded broth; glazed pommoeaulx and a black civey of oysters.” He then turned to me: “what would you care to drink? Perhaps a port?”

But I did not get a chance to answer before the waitress interrupted: “Sir, we do not have any of those things.”

Flummoxed, Finknottle turned to the waitress: “Oh well, I am sure it is to no fault of your own. Then just prepare some bream and salmon pasties and fix a platter of porpoise frumenty…now, good Assistant, what beverage would you prefer?”

But the waitresses interrupted again: “We only have chowders and stews here as well as beans.”

Finknottle was visibly agitated: “No carp, no herring? Not even river fish a la dodine? Is this a place for dining or not?”

After much haggling, Finknottle settled on the clam chowder and a bottle of wine. Once it was served, he seemed to enjoy the meal and continued with explaining his scheme, or at least, explaining why he could not explain his scheme.

“I cannot tell you now, Assistant, about our ultimate destination…”

At midnight, we made our way the docks and selected for our passage a ship called the Sassy Wench. It was a rusty old freighter sadly in need of repair.

“Sir,” I asked, “this vessel looks as though she has seen better days. Just look at the condition of her hull.”

“I’ve checked the cargo manifest, and I assure you that we have chosen the right vessel,” he said with confidence. “She may not look like much, but she should be easy to get into.”

“But sir, do you know this captain?”

“Ah, but the question is: does he remember me? I should say it has been a spell since the two of us have broken bread. We shall see soon enough. Now to the hold.”

It was late and we laid our bedrolls in a dark corner of the hold. Finknottle had liberated a lantern from an unlocked chamber on the deck and we made ourselves as comfortable as possible. Barely fifteen minutes had passed before we each fell asleep – so tuckered from the day’s toil were we.

I awoke very early the following morning to the hum of the ship’s engine.

“Finknottle!” I shook him hard. “We are departing!”

“Fine, fine, Assistant, now go back to slumber. When the ship gets far enough from shore we shall present ourselves. You will need your rest.” And with that he went back to sleep.

When he did wake and had straightened his garments so that he would be presentable when he introduced himself to the crew, I managed to extract from him that he did not know this particular captain.

“But sir,” I protested, “the captain will no doubt turn us in to the authorities at the first opportunity.”

“That is a possibility, I suppose,” he said, tugging at his chin whiskers, "but I am willing to take that chance, if you are….”

“You will be stripped and searched…”

“As has happened before, with no harm as a result,” Finknottle scoffed.

“Yes, but they might find your letter!”

He paused at the staircase and sat quiet for a brief moment.

“You make a strong point, Assistant. What would I do without you? Perhaps it is best to stay hidden for a while longer. We should have enough rations to last us until Panama. If necessary, we can emerge and blend in with the crew in order to obtain more provisions.”

“I should say that seems to be the prudent choice, Sir.”

“Very well then, that is what we will do. Assistant! look in my trunk, you will find some spam along with an assortment of spices. We shall enjoy a hearty breakfast. In my leather flask is some choice grog.”

As we ate and drank, he retold of his time in the Baltic Sea under Lord Nelson.

“How is it, Sir, that you have managed to live so long?” I asked.

“I know not what you mean? Are not old men everywhere? Is not George Bernard Shaw old? I fail to see how I am so different.”

“Well, Sir, for one, Mr. Shaw has been dead for half a century or more. But even if he were alive, he would be only a fraction of your age, which by my estimate, would be upwards of 600 years old.”

“What is this talk of years? I’ve managed to maintain good health, I have much experience…nothing more.”

“Well, then, what is your secret to good health?” I asked. His eyes lit up and he grabbed me by the arm.

“Let me show you!” he said and stood up and led me past several large crates until he reached one that read: snuff.”

“Yes, the right brand of snuff taken in excess, along with free flowing liquors and wines, and you have what I would call a foundation for a balanced diet.”

“So that is why you chose the Sassy Wench.”

“Verily, Assistant. There would be no other reason to enter this smelly and rusty ship!”

For a couple of days we stayed out of sight, making one corner of our temporary quarters to be the privy, another corner was the kitchen. His rations, however, were not properly rationed and we soon exhausted his supply of spam, canned salmon and chestnuts and his dried figs. The grog, too began to run low – though we had an endless supply of snuff. On day three, per Finknottle’s insistence, we began cooking and preparing the ships rats for our meals. Finknottle, ever the resourceful cook, managed to prepare each rat in a unique manner according to his vast culinary knowledge. However, soon, we began to exhaust even the ship’s supplies of rats and we became very hungry.

“The time has come to mingle about the crew, Assistant, for in a few days I may not be able to muster the strength to climb this imposing staircase.”

“Have we completely run out of ship’s-rats?” I asked.

“We have, indeed, Assistant.”

“I am so glad,” I sighed.

We put on our pea jackets and emerged on the deck. As we made our way to the ship’s galley, we were almost immediately spotted as stowaways. Apparently the style of jacket that we wore was about a century away from what contemporary merchant marines wore. Finknottle attempted to explain away the difference, but the sailor was not accustomed to his language and insisted, in his uneducated manner, to present us to the captain.

The captain turned out to be a harsh man. He was not satisfied with our explanations on why we had stowed away on his ship and became quite agitated that a considerable portion of his snuff cargo had been used.

His first mate asked: “Where shall we put these men.”

“The room in the forecastle locks from the outside. We can secure them there.”

“And what about meals? Shall they eat the same as the rest of us?”

“No! We shall teach them a lesson. Have the cook feed them rats from the ship!” he growled.

Finknottle coughed as though to get the captain’s attention.

“What is it? Do you object to our prisoners’ menu?”

“Hardly, sir, but ships’ rats are wily and resourceful vermin. Do you think your men will be capable of catching one?” Finknottle smugly asked the captain.

As you might imagine, the captain was blushing, nay, boiling with anger.

“I would stake the Sassy Wench on it!” he said.

“Well,” Finknottle, fighting a snicker, “I would hardly know what to do with her, being as big and old as she is! I imagine she requires considerable maintenance and a periodic sandblasting. Aye, but she’s a fine ship, I am sure. No, I would be content wagering over something smaller, though, I would think, significant”

“A wager that I would not be able to feed you a single rat?”

“No, sir!” Finknottle fired back, “Two rats – within two hour’s time. One for my Assistant.”

“Alright!” The captain responded, “Now, foul smelling stowaway, are you meaning a total of three rats? Two for you and one for your less odious partner? Or a total of two rats, one for each of you?”

“Have your pick.”

“Three rats,” the cocky captain assured, “in two hours time. And what is the wager?”

“Your meals for the remainder of the vessel, a key to our quarters, roaming priviledges about the Sassy Wench and freedom once we are safely ashore in Lima.”

“We’re not going to Lima, you imbecile!” the captain scoffed.

“We are if you cannot feed me and my Assistant a rat dinner.”

“And if we feed you that rat dinner?”

“You see basically all we have right here.”

The captain laughed heartily.

“When you lose, I will seize all your belongings and those of your assistance, including your garments. You will clean the desks, the galleys and the crapper. Then you will be handed to the police when we dock.”

Finknottle agreed. “And I do like my rodent broiled and judiciously buttered and judgematically salted. Yes, and rare.”

“You will be lucky if it is cooked and all.”

After a gentleman’s shake, they locked us into a closet size space in the forecastle. We waited patiently. There was no way to tell time. The men were able to produce one rodent, which they pretended to cut in such a way as to suggest there were two. But Finknottle is dexteriously nimble and a gifted puzzle solver. Before the men could blink he formed the juvenile rat back into its singular self, so that there was no denying it was not two.

The time ticked away and before long the captain ceded victory to Finknottle.

One would have thought that our perils ended there, but they did not.

Dear reader, I wish that I could conclude this story in one sitting to bring you up to speed to our current predicament, but they are telling me I have only a few minutes left. I shall continue when I or Finknottle gets an opportunity.

Until then,
-His Assistant

1 comment:

Editor said...

Charlie Parsley said...

AARRRGGH, a Pirate's life for ye at sea Fink-ee. When wilst thou ever be advised of ye own advice. Save up your empty bottles for missives, someone will surely receive them, crews are afloat in search of you. They have concerns of some type of Bills of Unpaid. Godspeed you land apace.

7:35 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me thinks Finknottle has spent some time recently hiding out in an air-conditioned theatre enjoying (or perhaps simply viewing) that Pirates of the Caribbean sequel starring that lovely Depp chap...write on Finknottle, write on!

11:51 AM