Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pirockate Ship

I don't know about y'all, but I ain't spent a lot of time flyin around in rocket powered pirate ships (which I like to call pirockate ships). In fact, takin off outta Planet Meth was the first time I had to experience somethin like that. I mean, sure, I been on the rocket ride at the State Fair, but that really only goes up a couple thousand feet or so, and it barely cracks 3 gees. But this was an actual rocket ship goin to the actual moon. Unless, of course, I was just dreamin all of this in a donut-induced haze. It didn't seem that way, though, because, so far, I hadn't been chased by any giant donuts tryin to devour me and I wasn't twitchy and jumpy like I can get after eatin two whole boxes of two-day olds that we couldn't sell, so I was ready to take this all at face value and call this my first real space rocket ride. And, on first impressions, I didn't much care for it.

"But Pat," you're probably sayin, "how many times do you get to ride in a rocket?" To which I would respond, "Go and get a rag and wipe your eyes off or somethin. I just told you this was my first ride. Jeez!" And then, after bein properly apologetic because you're a nice person and your parents raised you right, you'd give me some advice to just sit back and enjoy the ride. I'd say that, normally, that'd be good advice, exceptin all the things you don't know about bein inside a pirockate ship. First thing that made the journey unpleasant was all the unwashed laundry layin around. I know sailors and spacemen ain't known much for their cleanliness, and I, myself, have been known to let my unmentionables pile up, waiting until I have to shoo away sherpas and old British explorers before takin it all down to the local land-ro-mat and spendin enough quarters to sink and/or buy a small island nation. Still, the state of the quarters on this ship was down right deplorable. There was sherpas everywhere, I tell ya. Some of 'em had even brought their oxen with them and were building pastoral, isolate communities among the hills and valleys formed by cast off skivvies down it the hold. I swear I even saw some of 'em herdin sheep.

Second, and I don't know if this is the same on all pirockate ships or just the one I was on, but the only place they gots to sleep is in a hammock. Now, I ain't opposed to takin an afternoon nap in a hammock, specially in the middle of summer with a frosty barley pop in one hand and a morning of lawn work behind me. But you ever try gettin a good night's sleep in a hammock? It's durned near impossible. Even more so given that I like to sleep standin up with my head tucked between my ankles and that's not easy when you're in a hammock that's swayin back and forth.

Lastly, and I didn't know this before, but it takes two and a half weeks to get to the moon. So, after all that rushin around, gettin past the cop, drivin insane speeds, rowin across a sea full of garbage, fightin that sea monster, gettin pulled down into the depths, meetin a mermaid that fell in love with me, angerin her father, bein exiled back up to the surface, havin a tense long-distance relationship with that mermaid for a time until she moved on and found someone else named Chuck, who's a whale wrestler, findin out she was havin Chuck's baby, becomin Godfather to the merbaby, realizin time for merpersons runs a lot faster than time for people from the surface, writin a letter of reference for my God-mer-kid to get into college, findin out before the end of paragraph one that he'd already graduated and had his own private medical practice and was flourishin as a merdoctor, learnin of the fall of the entire merempire due to their love of watchin mermen wrestle whales, watchin the mer-dark ages fall over their species until such a time they experience their merrenaissance, which I had to miss because it was take off time. I know I skipped over that whole mermaid thing in the tellin and went right from the car to bein on the pirockate ship, but, really, after the fifth or sixth mermaid to fall in love with you, the whole idea of it becomes old hat, and I didn't wanna bore you with all the details of our torrid affair and strained but polite relationship followin it. Point bein, that after all that rushin around and whatnot, I was expected to just sit there for two and a half weeks and twiddle my thumbs.

Now, I may be a world champion thumb twiddler, and I got the shirt to prove it, but there's only so much thumb to be twiddled in a given day. There's a twiddlin limit that cannot be exceeded even by the most dedicated thumb twiddlers. I may have the stamina to twiddle for an hour or two but after that I start gettin cramps and, if I'm not careful, I may just aggravate my twiddler's thumb that ended my career in competitive twiddlin. Not wantin to injure my thumbs, I went for a quick twiddle and then wandered around to find someone to chat with. While amblin below decks, I found out there's a surprisin amount of stuff that needs to get done on a pirockate ship every day. There's rockets what need to be maintained, decks what need to be swabbed and horns what need to be swaggled. Not to mention all the brass that needs polishin. Them pirate Pats was all so hard at work maintainin that ship that none of em had time for a chat or a game of cribbage. So I decided to apply my knowledge of organizations to the situation. As far as I can tell, in most businesses, the higher you get up the ladder, the less you have to do in a given day until, once you reach the top, you're pretty much just there to be dragged out at ceremonies, like the corporate logo or respect for the customer. Armed with this inferential knowledge, I went and knocked on the Captain's door.

Just as I suspected, Captain Pat was sittin at his big ol' desk, just kinda starin out the window. I asked him if we could chat about some things and he jumped at the chance. He ushered me to sit beside his fireplace, which he was all too happy to explain didn't burn an actual fire, but just used lasers to simulate a fire. I gotta say, the simulation was pretty solid. I always thought the only thing lasers was good for was pointin at things you was too far away from to point at with a stick and gettin dogs to chase somethin around without gettin your hand all drooly. But it turns out they got other uses as well. So, there we sat by the laser fire and Captain Pat asked my what I wanted to know about.

"Well sir," I said, "back at the base, I was hearin about the whole war with the moon spiders when Clan Platypus rudely interrupted us. I was just sorta wonderin how that whole thing turned out."

He leaned back in his chair and said, "Ah! Yes. The spider war. I'd just been sent here by a cloud of Dale's gas when that was all goin on, so I didn't understand a lot of what was happenin. It was an excitin time here. And not excitin in that whole I-just-won-the-lottery-twice-on-the-same-day way, but excitin in that whole I'm-just-about-to-be-run-the-heck-over-by-a-bussload-of-Dom-deLouise-impersonators sorta way. That is to say, it was pretty frightenin on a whole number of levels.

"The Squimonk was convinced that the spiders was mostly peaceful. Reason bein, them spiders could prolly have killed all the people and genetic mutants they captured, but, instead, they just kept them in suspended animation the whole time. Also, with their ability to transport themselves anywhere at any time, they could easily have wiped all of us out any time they wanted to. But they chose to hide instead. Them Squimonk thought that maybe the spiders was just scared and that, if we could get them to stay in one place for a time, maybe we could reason with them and get them to stop kidnappin us. Me, I just wanted to be able to sleep without fearin that a spider was gonna bite me in the butt."

"You sleep standin up, too?" I asked.


"Then why you got everyone sleepin in hammocks?"

"Oh, that. That's just for historical accuracy. We grow lime trees up on deck, too, even though we all take vitamin tablets to keep us from gettin rickets," he explained. "Alistair's all about gettin things right, historically speakin. Me, I just make the ship go and don't think much about it. Actually, most of what I do is tell that there GPS," he pointed to a panel on his desk, "where we wanna go and then I sit here playin solitaire or whatnot until we get there."

"Sounds boring," I commiserated.

"You don't know the half of it."

We sat in silence, nodding slowly at each other for some time until he jumped a little. "Right, where was I?"

"Spiders," I told him.

"Right," he confirmed, "spiders. Like I says, the biggest problem was that they just kept runnin away. The Squimonk tried everything to get them to hang around for a bit. They tried just talkin, then holdin up a sign that said, 'We won't hurt you,' which the spiders ignored, or so we thought. We later learned that moon spiders is incredibly near sighted and don't go much for written communication, what with their telepathy and all.

"So, one day, one of the Alistairs gets frustrated and decides he's gonna lasso one of them things. Well, we didn't have no rope around for him to do the lassoin with, so he weaved one himself out of the mounds of spider silk we found in the chamber where all them Pats and others was bound up. Right as he gets his lasso done, a spider pops into existence right in front of him. To this day, that Alistair says it was his quick reactions and smart thinkin that got the lasso on, but most of us think it was just luck. I'd say it's best not to bring it up. Regardless of whether it was skill or blind luck, that Alistair got that spider lassoed, but it still popped out of existence. Weird thing was, it took part of the lasso with it. Not all, mind you, just part. But, and here's the thing I never get, the part that went with it when it popped wherever it was goin was still attached to the part that was in the Alistair's hand. That rope was just stretchin out in from of the Squimonk and disappearin right into thin air, lookin like it was tied to the world's calmest gnat, but he could still feel the spider on the other end.

"So he started pullin, and he could feel the spider fightin him. And them spiders is mighty strong, let me tell you. They got this game they call "Car Ball" that's a lot like football, but there's no pads and the ball is made of ten wadded up cars. It's right excitin to watch a match, I tell ya. Anyhoo, Alistair kept pullin and pullin on that rope like he was landin the world's biggest catfish, the catfish bein a spider, mind you. Then he felt the rope go totally slack and the thought to himself, or so he tells us, 'Oh, no! I've popped its head clean off with my mighty strength!'

"He started reelin that rope in as fast as he could, hopin to heck that it didn't have a spider head thrashin around in the noose. But, when he got it past whatever portal it was stickin through, he saw the spider had chewed clean through. He was pleased that he'd found something that could connect us to the spiders, even though it didn't make them stay in place. But we combined that with a discovery from the far side of the moon base and changed our relationship with the moon spiders forever."

"And what was that?" I asked.

"Just settle down," he scolded me. "We got a long coupla weeks ahead of us. Don't make me use up all my stories on the first night."

So I went below decks again and tried to sleep.

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