Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Reason for Finknottle's Absence, Pt. 2

a continuation of the explanation as put for by Finknottle's Assistant

The Sassy Wench creaked and moaned grouchily with each swelling crest and dipping trough of the waves, such was her age that you would have thought she was in constant discomfort. Her engines left a trail of gaseous odor that must have remained far behind her sizable wake. The odor was so strong that the captain had warned Finknottle not to toss his cigar over the Wench’s stern as she tended to leak liquids quite uncontrollably.

For the first few hours after Finknottle had bested the captain in the wager, it appeared that the morose fellow might own up to the stakes. But soon after, Finknottle suspected that the he was plotting our demise. As we stood along by the bow of the ship, Finknottle glanced at the stars and estimated our course to run directly to the Orient.

“But we won the bet, Sir?” I said.

“Remember, Assistant, that this same man who made that pathetic attempt to make one juvenile mus appear as though it were two. It is not beyond reason to conclude that he may be crooked.”

“What can we do?” I asked, “he commands the whole crew. They could do whatever they wish with us. We are powerless, are we not?”

Finknottle abruptly bid me adieu and sped away with no further explanation. A few hours later I saw him again, emerging from the galley.

“Well, it certainly doesn’t appear that we will be eating from the captain’s menu,” Finknottle told me. “There’s barely enough fowl readied to cook to feed the captain, let alone us. But there is more than enough gruel to go around.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Not to worry, Assistant. Tonight it is best that we don’t eat anything.”

He said no more while I mused over that curious statement.

Within the hour, the captain sent some men to apprehend and confine us in the tiny forecastle cabin. He dropped any pretense of politeness and made clear that the wager was no more. When two sailors appeared and gave us some gruel, Finknottle accepted the bowl and the cup of water. I, too, accepted the bowl. While Finknottle drank freely from his water, he set aside his gruel without a word or a taste. I studied his face to get his meaning, but his coutenance was of stone. As I started to take a spoonful of the gray tasteless matter, he shot me a glance. I spit the mouthful out and set my bowl aside.

The next morning we learned that the entire crew had become extremely incontinent and miserably nauseated. Even the captain was in bad shape. Finknottle was quick to notice our guard’s illness and demanded to see the captain.

At first, the guard bawked, but when Finknottle explained to the green toned sailor that he would be able to cure his ailment, he relented and sent for the captain.

“My crew is almost entirely bedridden and I am busier than a filipino whore! What do you want, Fronkmitzer?”

“I seek to cure your crew, with your permission.”

“Are you a doctor?” the captain asked.

“I saw the discoloration in the guards eyes and have some idea of the bug that must no doubt have overcome the ship.”

“And why aren’t you or your Assistant sick?” the captain suspiciously asked.

“Have you ever been to Tanzania?” Finknottle shot back.

“What does that have anything to do with it?”

“Have you?”


“My Assistant and I made a trip to Tanzania some time back and, accordingly, received a vaccination for E. Congian Nuero dysentery, a rare and potentially deadly virus. The very bug that your crew has acquired. Fortunately, it is treatable if detected early enough. I can help your crew, captain.”

“Then do it!” the captain shouted between gagging heaves.

“But first, I must implore that you guarantee that from here on you treat my Assistant and me in ways that are befitting a gentleman.”

“Guaranteed!,” the captain agreed.

“Meaning that we can roam freely about the ship and eat from your pantry.”

“Okay!” the captain snapped.

As the guard unlocked our cabin, Finknottle turned to me.

“Assistant, grab my medication kit.”

Even though I barely made contact with the gruel, I too felt a pretty severe bout of the runs. When I related this to my master, he turned to me and suggested that I should have comprehended the meaning behind his facial expressions.

“But sir, you had no expression,” I explained.

“You have so very much to learn, Assistant, so very much to learn,” he said.

And with that, he proceeded to treat the crew with an assortment of herbal ingredients brewed into some type of mysterious tea. I requested that I should receive the same antidote, but he quietly suggested to me that I needn’t bother. Within hours the crew began to show signs of improvement, as did I. However, Finknottle had diagnosed the captain’s illness as more advanced than that of the rest of the crew:

“I’m afraid the folic acids inherent in most fowl tend to accelerate the effects of the virus, captain. As luck would have it, the gruel was not salted to taste, so the rest of your crew was spared,” he explained. “That is one benefit for treating your men so poorly.”

Finknottle placed the captain on a steady dosage of opiates and ipecac so that he was either in the process of kecking or in a state of agreeable euphoria.

For the next several days the crew held Finknottle in the highest esteem, since he had delivered them from certain death. Even the captain seemed to be completely under the influence to each of Finknottle’s suggestions. I would often notice Finknottle whispering in his ear. As a result, we ate like kings and enjoyed the comforts of the captain’s quarters. The shipment of snuff was opened up for the master’s use. In short, Finknottle effectively assumed proxy control of the Sassy Wench. Only one problem remained: how to correct the ship’s course to take us to Lima.

Finknottle feared that under the current environment, changing the Wench’s course might still arouse the suspicions of the crew. Instead, he placed a careful array of magnets around the navigational equipment so that the navigator would believe, so far as the compass told him, that the Sassy Wench was traveling west when she would actually be heading back toward to Lima instead. This plot took some time for Finknottle to properly calculate and was done in complete secrecy. Even after the first two days, despite the sun not setting properly in the sky, in part due to the overcast weather, the crew suspected nothing. During that period, Finknottle diverted the crews’ attention with an assortment of wild stories and addictive betting games. Through the latter he managed to acquire most of the crews’ possessions.

This turned out to be a poor move on the master’s part because after the crew was penniless their devotion to the miraculous stowaway began to shift towards resentment. Still, we may have avoided catastrophe had Lima been approaching on the horizon. However, despite his careful calculations, there was one misplaced magnet. Instead of nearing our destination, the ship had careened off course and we were hopelessly lost. This fact soon dawned on the crew as the Sassy Wench found itself far from any known shipping lanes. The oceans currents and waves eventually ceased altogether and the surface of the water appeared as one smooth endless mirror. The only ripples in the ocean were cause by the Sassy Wench’s fat rusty hull.

It was not long before the blame of our predicament was placed directly on Finknottle. A mutiny was afoot.

“The man is a Jonah!” one of the crew members shouted.

“Let’s cast the Jonah and his mate overboard!” another man yelled.

Noticing that the captain had been entirely complacent and accepting of Finknottle’s counsel, the crew concluded that he, too, was part of the problem and should be jettisoned as well.

While the crew agreed upon the three culprits of their dire circumstance, a split occurred regarding how to handle us. Some of the men simply wanted us to walk the plank, while the humanitarians among them preferred to drop a lifeboat and send us on our way with a scant supply of water and gruel.

They chose the latter and we were sent afloat as the gassy toxic Sassy Wench gimpily chugged away.

“How are we going to get out of this?” I implored.

“Indeed, this requires some thought,” my master responded. “Scribble, fetch me an opium tablet from my kit.”

Alas, dear reader, I have again run out of time. I, or my master, hope to be back next week with more of our story.

Until then, take care and leave the lamp on for us.

-His Assistant

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