Episode Thirteen

August 8, 2010

The Asparagus Festival

Poke had forgotten one very important thing as he sped on his scooter back to his parents’ house. It was festival season, and that night was the first night of the asparagus festival.

The thirteenth annual asparagus festival parade stopped him in his tracks. He had caught the very beginning of the parade, and so was forced to either drive around the half-mile long chain of Scurvitans wearing their asparagus-themed festival-wear, or sit and wait for the green conga line to pass him by.

Poke, lazy from the soles of his feet to the tips of his unfortunate looking fauxhawk, decided to stay and watch the parade. The asparagus parade had gotten kind of out of hand over the years, with folks trying to out-do one another, as if wearing a giant green phallic-shaped costume made you a better citizen of Scurvytown than the neighbors, who weren’t even flying a “Zomg Asapargus” flag this year, the amateurs.

Poke parked his bike and sat down on a bench near the town square. It was a pretty primo spot, right next to the Squatter fountain, which had been infused with essence of asparagus and dyed green for the weekend’s festivities.

A bunch of little kids ran past, tooting their asparagus horns: annoying little noisemakers, bright green and contoured to match the shape of the Scurvytown’s most revered vegetable. He was rather amused for a moment at the thought of chasing after them and smashing the horns to bits, but they were halfway down the block by the time the notion occurred to him, and he was so very out of shape anyway. Besides that, the parade was still full in swing, and mildly fun to watch.

He recognized a few people from high school marching past with their families, all adorned in matching costumes. Two dudes who used to pick on him in gym class, who incidentally had gotten married just last year, had the best outfits: they had LED lights that ran up and down the sides of the stalky part of the costumes. He would have complemented them on the design if they hadn’t been such dickheads to him back in school. Though to be honest, it was disinterest in social interaction that left him sitting on the bench.

After the super slow foot traffic of the parade, which was to be expected, considering how difficult it is to walk in such binding costumes, the impressive floats could be seen gently gliding down the road. Among the highlights were a scene portraying asparagus in Army fatigues as a tribute to soldiers lost in the Asparagus Wars, a rapping mobile full of bling-laden Asparaganstas, and finally, a mobile asparagus fountain as the finale, on the back of a giant Squatter tanker. That particular float was sponsored by the Squatter foundation and was meant to be the focal point of the festival, as the water tanker housed the asparagus infused Squatter that was intended to source many of the food vendors.

As Poke sat and watched the massive water tanker glide down the street, he heard a loud “bang” as the tanker rear-ended the float in front of it, sending Asparaganstas flying into the crowd.

The horror didn’t stop there. The tanker didn’t slow down, but gathered speed, as if the gas pedal had been glued to the floor. It veered off the road and through some bushes, onto the sidewalk and straight at Poke.

He jumped up off the bench and then promptly froze in place, as the tanker got closer to him. Right when he thought, “This is it, this is how it ends,” the tanker swerved at the last moment, toppling over onto its side and right into the Squatter Fountain in the town square. It was ultimate irony, really, that the float with a mobile fountain on it would take out the centerpiece of the town, converting it into a veritable Asparageyser.

Poke suddenly snapped to attention, which is to say it was like some other worldly force had reached out and slapped him into an epiphany. If something so out of the ordinary could happen just like that, faster than the snapping of fingers, then what was stopping him from acting? Waiting wasn’t getting him anywhere, and maybe he didn’t need his mother’s help after all.

As the sirens of emergency vehicles began to wail in the distance, Poke jumped on his scooter and headed back to the Boneyard. Maybe it would have been better if his epiphany had involved helping the folks injured by the accident, but Poke seemed to have the priorities of his quests all out of whack. Just like in the game, when taking a quest involving philanthropy or otherwise assisting those in need, he’d always ditch that one for the ones that seemed more heroic to him: saving the damsel in distress.

After he arrived back at The Boneyard, he had to push his way through the crowd who had gathered on the front patio. The ghosts wouldn’t let anyone leave the premises with a beverage in hand, as Catty Broadsides had instructed them after the first time she was fined for allowing a bar patron to wander drunkenly into the street outside the establishment, beer still in hand.

Poke weaseled his way back inside the bar, and sidled up to the girl again.

“Back so soon?” She asked.

“Yeah, well, I figured that while everyone was distracted by the fountain thing, I could just swoop in and we could leave.”

“What fountain thing?” She asked, lowering her voice, “Did it explode or something?”

Excitedly, he answered her, “One of the floats got out of control and smashed into the Squatter fountain on the town square!”

“That must have been a sight, seeing something taking out that giant octopus!”

“Squid actually, and yeah, it was. So, you coming or not?” He asked, losing patience. Quests in the game never needed this much banter.

“Got another helmet?” She asked, throwing down the bar rag and once again joining him on the other side of the bar.

Thankfully, the ghosts were so distracted by the occurrence down at the festival that they neglected to notice their ward was walking straight out of the establishment they were tasked to keep her from leaving.

Poke took off his helmet, and handed it to her. As she put it on, he reformed his fauxhawk with the sweat that had gathered on his brow.

He sat on his scooter and the girl settled in behind him. As she put her arms around him, he realized this was pretty much the first time a girl had voluntarily touched him. He pushed that thought to the back of his mind, and sped off the back way to his parents house, which took about ten minutes longer but completely avoided the cluster of emergency vehicles and disaster spectators downtown.

When they arrived at his parents’ house, she let him go and wiped her hands off on her jeans. He was generally a pretty sweaty dude, and he hung his head, trying not to worry about her level of grossed-out-ed-ness.

“Wow, you live here?” She asked, looking up at the impressive house.

“Yeah, it’s my parents’ house,” he confessed, sheepishly.

“No shame in that, I just moved out of my parents’ house myself, for this internship thing.”

“What’s your name?” He asked her, suddenly realizing he didn’t know what to call her.

“Capelli Moon, and you?”

“Poke Flack.”

“Poke? Really?” She laughed, while he blushed.

“It’s short for Pokemondius,” he replied, shuffling his feet awkwardly.

“I like Poke,” she replied, “Nice and short.”

He stood there for a moment trying to decide if she was poking fun (no pun intended) at him through innuendo. Luckily, his mother opened the front door at that exact moment, which shifted the landscape of the conversation considerably.

“Oh, you’ve saved the girl, son!” His mother slurred, sloshing a bit of her Long Island Lemonade on the ground.

“I wasn’t in that much harm,” the girl replied, “but I can’t lie that whatever’s next has to be better than slinging booze. Catty had me scheduled to work a booth at some vegan festival or something all weekend.”

“The Asparagus Festival, dear,” Poke’s mother said.

“With Asparagusto!” She said, giving a cheesy thumbs up.

His mother looked down at the girl, sort of like she was looking down at her little white dog for once again dropping a deuce on the sidewalk.

“Come on inside, you two, we have much to discuss!” His mother said, “And kick off those filthy sandals, you’ll track grime in the house.”

Capelli shifted an annoyed glance over at Poke, and then, seeing he had already kicked his shoes off in the foyer, did the same. The pair followed Poke’s mom into the living room and sat down. On the coffee table was a tea setting, complete with a three-tiered tray of snacks. Additionally, there was a manila folder on the table next to a very fancy looking pen.

“Help yourselves to some snacks,” Mrs. Flack told them, as she watched her son grab a handful of cookies and stuff them in his mouth, like he had been trained to eat by monkeys.

Capelli sat down and poured a cup of tea, sipping it just so. Mrs. Flack took note of this, and with a contented sigh, took another sip of her drink and settled onto the sofa across from them.

She looked back and forth from her son to the girl, and wished her offspring could have found it in himself to have some manners. He was sprawled on the couch, one foot underneath him, getting crumbs all over the freshly vacuumed upholstery. On the far end of the couch, Capelli sat with her legs crossed, nibbling on a cucumber sandwich and holding her teacup just so.

Mrs. Flack cleared her throat and spoke, “Now, I know there was some kind of mix up with that imbecile at the Welcome Center, but it’s an easy fix. I just need you to sign this document and tomorrow I’ll file it with the clerk’s office. Poke will show you to your sleeping arrangements, I hope you don’t mind the basement, I am afraid I have to apologize for that, but we hired contractors to work on the house, and we’re sort of slaves to their schedule for the next few months.”

“It should be fine,” Capelli said, brushing sandwich crumbs off her skirt.

She took the pen that Mrs. Flack handed her, and signed her name on the line as instructed, without reading the document.

“Welcome to the intern program at the Squatter Foundation!” Mrs. Flack said, shaking her hand.

“Thanks, I really promise to do my best,” Capelli said, standing as a sign of respect for her elder, who had just risen from her seat.

“And now if you kids will follow me, we have a few guests over for the evening.”

They followed her into the kitchen, where Mrs. Flack ditched her beverage on the kitchen counter. She then directed her son and her intern into the backyard. There seemed to be some kind of party going on, complete with balloons, streamers, and a giant party banner.

As Poke got closer to the banner, he read it and stopped dead in his tracks: “Congratulations on your Engagement, Pokemondius and Capelli.”

He felt more frozen to the ground than he had when the water tanker had been careening right toward him.

“Mother?” He hissed.

“Congratulations, kids!” Mr. Flack said, coming around from behind and slapping Poke and Capelli on the back.

Capelli looked back and forth between the banner, Poke, and his mother. It was more than her head could take, and as she fainted, the thought ran through her mind that passing out was only going to make things so much worse, once the rumors got started.

******
This episode went live on Sunday, August 8, 2010.

Stay tuned for the next exciting installment of Scurvytown, but for next week, enjoy some skip week filler.

Episode Twelve

August 1, 2010

Poking Around

Pokemondius “Poke” Flack was a fairly oblivious sort of guy. Most of his life, things had just sort of fallen in his lap, and he considered himself pretty lucky. Luck, however was not actually on his side. Truth be told, Luck wasn’t the biggest fan of guys whose futures were handed to them on a silver platter. Despite Lady Luck’s constant attempts to thwart him by infusing him with copious amounts of apathy and laziness, he continued to get by just fine.

When it came to Poke’s gaming, the laziness just sort of fell away. It was so natural to be a leader among the elves, witches, gnomes, and fizzlewarts of the gaming realm. There was just something about logging into a character and becoming someone powerful that really made Poke enjoy taking on an alpha role. He quickly rose to the top position in his guild, and for two years captained a league of misfits to the top of the PvP leader-boards.

Poke’s preferred character in the game was an orange-coated Fizzlewart named “Goldfingers.” Goldfingers was well known throughout the realm, Blustingburg Heights server, which was a city-scape realm filled with mystical creatures. He had garnered a reputation for being as ruthless as he was cunning. Not only could he tear apart an opponent in record time, but he had a knack for shredding their self-esteem with well-played quips and insults as beat them to a bloody pulp.

Poke didn’t particularly enjoy being mean to folks, but in the game, it was sort of funny to be this cute little fuzzy critter who no one would expect of such vile behavior. He may have been seen as a bit of a loser in the real world, but in the game, he felt like he was finally somebody. It was all he could do to go to work every day, and trudge through, pretending to give an iota of a crap. Nothing felt quite as good as arriving home and logging in to be surrounded by his guild mates, who all seemed to worship him as they applauded him on his latest conquest, and showered him with gifts and praise.

In the real world, Poke kept to himself a lot. His parents rarely saw much of him, other than the blur on his way in the front door and down to his basement domicile. So when Poke arrived home from work one day to find his mother waiting for him, he was a little confounded and annoyed.

“Son, we need to have a chat,” his mother informed him, and gestured to the sofa across from her seat in the big comfy chair in the parlor.

He sat down hard with a sigh, expecting her to finally have cornered him for the talk that would inevitably lead to his moving out of the basement and out on his own.

However, that was not on her agenda.

“We’re going to have a house guest,” she informed him, “and as most of the house will be under renovation for the next few months, upgrading and everything,” she trailed off as she noticed his deep frown and confusion.

“What upgrades?” He asked, assuming they were cementing in his basement or something so he couldn’t return once he was out on his own.

“I told you about that,” she sighed, as he never listened to anything she said. “Your father and I are re-doing the upstairs. But that’s besides the point, there’s an intern coming around in the next few days, and I’m sorry, but you’ll have to share your space downstairs just for a little while.”

He wanted to protest, but this might not be so bad. It might be nice to have another dude to talk to about the game and such, and if he didn’t play, he would once he got there. There wasn’t much else to do to pass the time in Scurvytown, after all.

“For how long?” Poke asked, shoving a cookie in his mouth from heaping plate on the coffee table.

“It’s one of those 3-month internships through the company,” she said, matter-of-factly.

Poke nodded, and that was the end of that conversation. He wandered back downstairs, not thinking much of it. A few days later, his mother sullenly called downstairs for him. She sounded kind of angry, and a little drunk.

He ran upstairs to see what she wanted. He had barely cleared the top step when she spoke.

“Son, I need you to go to the Boneyard and collect my intern. There was some kind of mix-up at the Welcome Center, and they’ve sent a girl, who immediately fell into the clutches of ne’er-do-wells. I’m afraid they’ll have her interning over at the brothel before we can get her over here.”

“Jeez,” Poke said, shaking his head. “I guess I can go down there and get her,” he said, grabbing his jacket from the hook on the wall.

His mother took a drink of her Long Island Lemonade, and sighed happily. She loved it when her plotting and scheming came to fruition.

Poke jumped onto the back of his little orange scooter, and put his helmet on. Finally, a real life quest! As he rode down the gravelly path, he realized he should have asked his mother what the intern looked like, other than the nondescript “not-a-dude.” But then again, new folks were a rarity in Scurvytown, so it wouldn’t be hard to find her at the bar.

He could have simply walked to the bar from the house, but saving the girl via scooter as his mount seemed much more heroic. Speed was everything in heroics, and anyway, walking was for lower level n00bs without mounts, not elites at a maxed out level with every cool creature and feature in the game unlocked and awesomed out.

Poke wasn’t the most frequent patron of the bar, but he liked to tag along with Smoke on a quest once a month, and the bar always capped off that little adventure, which was fine. It sort of reminded him of every game of Questioneers he and his old high school chums had played back in the day. He missed those guys, but they had all gone to the mainland for college and the so-called adventure that was real life.

He parked his scooter along the long row of much less geeky modes of transport: a row of more sophisticated scooters and a few giant motorcycles, any one of which could have taken a bite out of his little orange scooter like it was cotton candy. Amidst the snickering and sidelong glances, which Poke was impervious to after years of building up resistance, he marched into the Boneyard with his head held high.

He sat down at the end of the bar and waited for the regular girl Friday to come over and take his order. Janet would be the perfect place to start, since she worked at the Welcome Center, and was most likely the source of the error that had his mother’s intern somehow captive at the bar. As he waited, he daydreamed about sneaking into some back room, to find the girl chained to the wall, the grateful look on her face as he picked the locks (dexterity +15!) and saved her.

He was broken out of his reverie by a female voice asking him, “What’s your poison, sailor?”

He snapped to attention, but it wasn’t Janet asking the question, it was a young, somewhat familiar looking cute girl with a bright smile and big green eyes. He almost fell off his bar stool, but as that wouldn’t have been very heroic, he steadied himself, and managed to squeak out, “Bourbon, on the rocks.”

“Ah, a pussy’s quaff,” she said, winking.

He stammered a confused “W-w-w-w-what?”

She pointed to the blackboard and explained, “We’ve been tweaking the drinks menu, what do you think?”

He looked at the board and noticed that most of the harder drinks had been re-named degrading things like “Pussy’s Quaff, The Queefer, and Bone Killa.” All the girlier drinks like the wines and fruity pink drinks had been dubbed names like, “The Chesty, Pussy Magnet, and Bone Zilla.”

“Ah, inventory control again?” Poke said.

“Yeah, we get backlogged on wines and margarita mix, and plus there’s an extra tax on cases of bourbon this week, so we’re watering all that stuff down. You wanna get your buzz on? Fruity girly drinks is the way to go.”

“Actually not here for a drink,” he said, boldly. “Here for a girl.”

She threw her head back and laughed. Poke’s heart sunk a bit and he reminded himself he was on a quest, this was just like the game, no need to get all pansified.

The girl leaned in and whispered to him, “There’s a table of ladies right over there.”

She was gesturing to a table of aging hipsters (for what was the Boneyard but a hipster bar through and though?) who were holding a meeting for the Peri-Menopause Society (calling themselves PMS for short). Poke didn’t notice where she was pointing because he couldn’t stop looking down her top as she leaned over. It wasn’t just because she was a hot girl, she was also fairly freckly, and he had gotten caught up in counting freckles as he peered down her blouse.

“Eyes on the prize, eh?” She said, slumping back behind the bar.

“So about that drink?” he changed the subject, blushing.

“Gotta order it from the sign,” she said, smiling.

“Oh, then I’ll go for the Bone Zilla I guess?”

“Man after my own heart,” she said with a wink, then turned to make him a Cosmopolitan.

“So, you’re new here, right?” He asked.

“Yup, just moved here from the mainland this week. It’s been kind of a nightmare, to be honest, mix-ups with my citizenship paperwork and all, so I am working here for room and board until it gets sorted out. Apparently the council is a bit backlogged, so they said it could be as long as a month before I can get started on the internship I came here for.”

“I might be able to help you out with that,” Poke said, taking a sip of his Cosmo with his pinky finger extended.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, I sort of know the person in charge of internships, so I could talk to them and see if they could expedite things.”

“That’d would be, like, stellar and stuff,” she grinned.

This was proving easier than he thought.

“If you want to come with me after your shift is over, I can take you straight there,” he offered.

“Why wait?” she asked, tossing a bar rag down on the counter. “I didn’t spend four years at university to end up pulling pints and inventing vulgar names for cocktails. Which, ‘tail of the cock that bit you’ is a good one, come to think of it.”

Poke polished off his Cosmo and they walked to the front door nonchalantly. He pulled the door open and was met with a frosty blast of air in the face.

“Oh right,” the girl shouted to him above the roar of the icy roaring wind. “The ghosts have me on lockdown!”

“I’ll find another way!” Poke shouted to her, bracing himself against the wind and stepping outside. As he turned back to tell her to wait for him, the doors slammed shut in his face.

He ran to his scooter, jammed the helmet on, and whizzed off in the direction of his parents’ house. His mind was racing with ways to save the girl, and he wasn’t proud to admit it, but he was pretty sure he was going to need his mother’s help on this particular quest.

*****
This episode went live on Sunday, August 1, 2010.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode, to see if Poke can save the girl, or if he truly needs his mommy’s help.

Episode Eleven

July 25, 2010

Welcome to the first skip week for Scurvytown. I decided to give myself a one-week break once I finished the 10th episode. This was to give my brain a rest, and to sort of re-group and figure out where to go from here.

By a great coincidence, I picked the perfect week to skip because it was stress city at my stupid day job. It seemed like every night was sort of filled with annoyances as well, for the most part, and the mood to write was all grrrr. Basically, I read instead, which was good for me.

On Friday night, I decided I really want to write *something* to act as filler, and once I had half a bottle of wine in me, the idea occurred to me. One of Captain Tullis’s hobbies has been alluded to: the lost art of letter writing (real letters, not emails). And so I decided that one of his letters would be perfect filler for this week.

****

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing this letter to inform you of my severe displeasurement of the quality of your recent producks.

Previous producks have been quite good. Like those cute little cyber-ducks, which we set loose in the community swimming pool. Those little guys are still sputtering around even though it’s been like three months since we dumped them in there. I guess they are solar powered or something? I didn’t read the directions. Mrs. Cleaversmith’s poodle got attacked by one, but it was okay because it only gave the dog a fear of swimming so now we don’t have to clean pet fur out of the filter anymore. Of course, no one likes to go swimming in the community pool anymore, lest the ducks hit them with one of their electric charges, but I am getting off topic here.

The latest batch of producks I got were toilet-ducks, but the first time I flushed the toilet, they swam away and never came back. This is unacceptable. Again, I didn’t read the directions, but in the commercials, they are strong enough to handle a tsunami, so why these can’t handle a simple flushing toilet, is completely mind boggling.

I expect a full refund as soon as possible, or at least a replacement product.

All the best,

Captain Benjamin C. Tullis

*****
This skip week writing was posted on Sunday, July 25, 2010.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode involving thrilling heroics, or severe delusions. One of those.

Episode Ten

July 18, 2010

Squatters

When folks first moved to Scurvytown, there were two major issues. One, the town was absolutely overrun with hookers. It was nigh impossible to make an honest living. Second, the entire place was overrun with ghosts. This meant that the honest jobs out there were almost entirely filled by the non-corporeal faction of the island. In fact, they ran most of the town.

The trouble was, they needed the living to do a lot of their dirty work. That’s where their symbiotic relationship with the town whores came in so handy.

When regular folks started to outnumber the pleasure industry, the complaint-o-meter at the local hub for scientific measures and anomalies registered off the charts. The scientists had to wait until the demographic information was compiled before they could make an assessment. Either the new folks were seasoned complainers, which would mean having to re-calibrate most of the machinery, or there really were valid complaints throughout Scurvytown.

The scientists, being a pragmatic and rational sort, quickly went to work on a solution, which luckily was apparent within moments of initial number crunching. Since the chief complaints revolved around lack of gainful employment, the answer was simple: bring industry to town, and kill two birds with one stone.

Unfortunately, bringing the industrial age to Scurvytown killed more than just two birds, but it brought about the change that was necessary to normalize the scientific readings.

The number one industry in town was the beverage industry, and the most popular drink of all was Squatter. At first, people were appalled by the thought of drinking water infused with squid ink. But the teeth-staining properties were no worse than cigarettes or coffee, and since both were hard to come by off the mainland, this was considered a welcome exchange.

Second, the taste was quite off-putting, but one that a person could get used to, in the same manner that alcohol addiction makes the taste of rubbing alcohol and gin (in that order) not so bad. After all, you couldn’t fail with a cheaply bottled water-based product in recycled plastic with a tagline of “Once you’ve tasted Squatter, you’ll lose your distaste for everything else.”

It was a brilliantly successful marketing campaign, and not long after, it was declared unanimously by the town council that Squatter was the official beverage of Scurvytown. Squatter fountains were installed in all the schools and government building, and a huge fountain of an inverted squid was erected in the town circle.

Of course it was later discovered that 100% of the council members were taking kickbacks from the Squatter Foundation, but due to a well-written loophole in the town charters, nothing was to be done about it. In fact, people who read the story were legally obligated to shrug, say, “Well, what are you gonna do?” and go about their lives as if they were never the wiser. Anyone failing to do so could pay the penalty of some pretty steep fines, so pretty much, that’s all they were going to do about it. Rhetorical question answered.

In the end, the where and how-for were far less important than the fact that the Squatter Foundation was finally a nice, reputable place of employment on the island. As a bonus, the local women of the night stopped washing themselves local park fountains, which now being supplied with Squatter, had been starting to tint their skin a rather purplish tone.

Around the time the Squatter Foundation was bringing industrialization to the island, a vigilante group had moved into Scurvytown. They were quite advanced in their anti-prostitution propaganda, and in the end, their moral superiority was too much for the local whores to handle. Most of them cleaned up their lives and started working for the Squatter Foundation, under the “Cleaning Up Your Act With Squatter” back-to-work for working girls campaign.

Most of the company’s sordid history was of course spun into them being the saviors of a dying island. If people knew the truth, they didn’t let on or care. As a 10-year veteran of the Squatter Foundation’s workforce, Pokemondius Flack certainly didn’t care about his employer’s shady past.

For Poke, it was steady employment, and eventually, he’d be in line to inherit the entire Squatter fortune, as his mother was the lone child of the Squatter King. Squatter was in his blood, as his father was an accountant for the Squatter Foundation, who’d squatted his way up to director of finance, as the colloquialism went. With a title like that, and an bunch of underlings to crunch all the numbers, Mr. Flack could sit back all day, run his mouth in meetings, and play games on his smartphone.

Poke’s dad got his son a job as an intern in the mailroom in the summer between graduating from Scurvytown High School* and beginning online courses for his degree in computer science. Once his degree was complete, he moved up from the mailroom and into his comfy job in the IT department. (*home of the Fightin’ Squids!)

It was pretty much his dream job. He worked when he felt like working, he got to play around on the internet all he wanted, which was a lot, and there was no one to answer to because no one at the company knew more about computers than he did. It was so simple to talk his way out of things by just making things up that were all jazzed up with technobabble.

All he had to do was show up at 8 am, leave at 5 pm, and then he was free to go straight home to his parents’ basement, where he set up his nerd-core base of operations. His bachelor’s lifestyle was much to his mother’s constant disapproval. He was a cute kid, if not a little chubby around the edges, as his mother would tell any and all apparent single girls at the grocery store, at the shopping mall, and everywhere else she ran into eligible young ladies.

Mrs. Flack did what any other mother of a single son approaching thirty years old and still living in her basement would do: she placed an ad on Craigslist.

Most of the responses were blatant attempts by mainlanders to get away from the mainland and to somewhere with less restrictions and issues. After a careful screening process, she realized she was getting nowhere with her applicants. She needed someone naive, but smart enough to have at least graduated from college. Given the dumbing down of schooling lately, she realized that wasn’t saying much, but there had to be a way to find her son the perfect girl.

Poke’s mom was listening to a story on the radio about the economy and how difficult it was for new college graduates to find work when her solution came to her like a flash of lightning. And she knew exactly what that sensation felt like, having been struck by lightning a few years back.

Unfortunately, she had a living room full of squatters at the time, which was of the highest irony, given her position at the Squatter Foundation, where she’d met Poke’s father years ago. She was technically the heiress to the Squatter fortune, after all, and though she was almost disowned for marrying a lowly accountant, her father yielded to her carefully gathered blackmail when she discovered his secretary had been a former working girl. Funny how everything seemed to come full circle. Less funny were the squatters in the living room. Six girls who had answered her advertisement had taken it upon themselves to show up at the front door at the exact same time, as they’d arrived on the same boat, despite her immediate dismissal of their applications.

There wasn’t much she could do for them, as none of them passed her rigorous question and answer sessions. So she found them work in the menial tasks department at the Squatter Foundation, but still had to put them up for a night before shipping them off to the halfway house for immigrants. She was more than a little worried about her son’s complete ignorance of their presence, especially the almost-pretty blonde one. Maybe he just wasn’t into girls after all, she thought, and bookmarked a few websites on camps that promised to brainwash that out of him before being the good hostess to her unwelcome guests.

The squatter girls seemed to resent their rejection very deeply. It seemed like they thought they were applying to some kind of reality show to marry the heir to a multi-million dollar fortune. Mrs. Flack wasn’t sure what gave them that idea, as her advertisement hadn’t even hinted about the family fortune. What she didn’t realize was that most advertisements were spun through a tangled web of lies on the mainland, because life had become so dreadfully dull and predictable that reality television had taken the place of all original programming, and it was almost exciting to find oneself thrown in the thick of an unscripted show without prior knowledge or consent.

On this same day the squatters were ejected from the property, Mrs. Flack finally heard back from the university on the mainland that had been most interested in sending her some interns. She had insisted on photographs of the students, and passed them out to Poke after dinner, asking if he thought any of them were cute.

“Not really my type, mom,” he said, raising his mother’s suspicions even higher.

He pawed through the entire stack again, and then pulled out a photo of a cute little brunette girl with wide-set green eyes and a huge smile.

“This one’s kind of cute, I guess,” he said, handing the photo to his mother.

Mrs. Flack was delighted. Her plan was going so much more simply than she thought. She fired off an email to the school and let them know she had selected the perfect intern for a position at the Squatter Foundation.

She was a nervous wreck when the girl didn’t arrive at the house upon her scheduled date. She asked around town, but no one, not even the ghosts seemed to have seen her. Finally, she went to the welcome center to check the books with Janet, and discovered that the girl had arrived and immediately fallen in with Catty Broadsides, a local bar owner who was so far down on Mrs. Flack’s social radar, that Janet had to physically walk her to the bar, simply because rich people can’t be expected to think for themselves before 2pm. At least that was the excuse she gave anyway.

When Mrs. Flack arrived at the bar, she saw the girl was poised at the sink washing dishes.

“This simply will not do at all!” she thought, tsking like a bomb about to go off.

She stormed into the bar and sat down on a stool, after carefully wiping it down with a handkerchief. She coughed to signify that she expected someone to pay her some attention.

The girl looked over her shoulder, turned off the water, dried off her hands, and asked sweetly, “How may I serve you today?”

“Well, you can start by dropping what you’re doing and coming back to the house with me, dear,” she informed her, curtly.

The girl’s jaw dropped and she lowered her gaze to the floor as she spoke, “Sorry, ma’am, I think you have this place confused with the, um, boarding house across the way.”

Mrs. Flack stood up angrily, and sputtered a few incomprehensible syllables before storming out of the bar. Whoever this Catty Broadsides was, she wasn’t going to steal her intern out from under her, especially when that intern was in training to be her future daughter-in-law.

As far as Mrs. Flack was concerned, this was war.

*****
This episode went live on Sunday, July 18, 2010.

Stay tuned for next week when absolutely nothing happens.

Episode Nine

July 11, 2010

Over the Moonshine

Captain Tullis had never been so happy to see Hopewell as the day he reappeared after the kidnapping, which happened to coincide with the final day of the Moonshine festival.

He had spent most of the day interrogating the new girl, but unfortunately she wasn’t the culprit. She kept doing that pesky truth-telling thing where her story refused to change no matter now many times she told it. It was so frustrating. It was almost as if she wasn’t even trying to crack and confess to a crime she clearly hadn’t committed. The only logical conclusion was that there had to be someone else responsible for the kidnapping. Or maybe the girl was just crazy.

After the girl ran off, he took a walk through the festival grounds and barely even managed a smile as he watched a small child fall face first into the sand. Where there should have been cacophonous monkey guffaws, there was only silence. He could practically hear Hopewell’s snooty British accent remarking on the failed parenting skills of letting one’s five-year old get skunk-tank drunk. At the very least, he’d probably say, “Be a little more clandestine about your child’s blatant alcoholism than letting the little bugger roam ‘round the public fair grounds on their face.”

Captain Tullis felt overwhelmed with emotion. Nothing was quite as much fun without Hopewell. He was sick of being drunk and getting burned by the hot sun all day. The shade of his houseboat was barely taking the edge off the heat, but it was better than the fairgrounds.

Instead of joining in with the rest of the townsfolk, playing games and getting completely obliterated, Captain Tullis went home, worked on a letter to the editor of “Fishwife Bi-monthly” for what he perceived to be false advertising in the name of their magazine, and went to bed sober.

The next morning, he decided to wander the littered fairgrounds, as if there would be obvious clues left behind after the festival. He wasn’t sure what he expected to find, as ideas didn’t seem to be as forthcoming without a buzz in his brain. He wandered from empty booth to empty booth, and found nothing but a few stray pieces of litter and a couple of piles of stale vomit. Sadly, none of those things were talking.

As he wandered away from the fairgrounds and back to his houseboat, he kicked at a stray plastic cup as he passed it. He watched as it soared through the air and fell into the sand nearby. Something caught his attention in the distance. There was a park bench, and someone was sitting on it.

He ran over to question them, and as he approached, his shoulders sagged as he realized it was just one of the ghosts.

The ghost stood up at the sound of footsteps, and as he recognized the Captain, turned and sat back down. The Captain sat down next to him and sighed. It was just Guy Lafferty, the ghostly hobo who refused the constraints of the Boneyard, which his body lay under, so that he could haunt a nearby bench, which was a much more comfortable place for him to hover around.

“So I guess you’ve come to find out who took that dread monkey of yours?” Guy asked.

“Do you know who took him?” The Captain asked, eagerly.

“He was right here a few moments ago,” the ghost replied.

The Captain was not impressed. Moments were pretty much meaningless to a ghost.

“That is to say, just before the sun went down. Now that it’s back up, you can see, there’s a hole there, where he was buried.”

“Someone buried my monkey in the sand right here?” The Captain said, outraged. Cleaning the sand out of a monkey was such a pain in the ass. He slumped onto the sand and started digging.

“He’s not there now, stupid, and I didn’t see who buried him, I am afraid, but I did see who carried him away.”

“Oh?” The Captain said, as it finally seemed they were getting somewhere.

“It was a three-legged dog.”

“Let me get this straight,” the Captain said, trying to get a grasp on it. He didn’t usually try to carry on conversations when completely sober, so he was having a bit of trouble following.

He continued, “Someone buried Hopewell in the sand, and a dog unburied him and walked away with him?”

“Yup, a three-legged one. Ask that girl with the knit cap. She was sitting here when the dog came by. She saw the whole thing.”

“Then she did take my monkey!” He declared, slamming his fist futilely into the sand.

“Nope, I told you,” Guy said, exasperated, “some dog with only three legs sort of pogo sticked away with him.”

The Captain slammed his hand into the sand again because exercises in futility always felt awesome.

He almost asked what the dog was doing on a pogo stick, as it seemed difficult enough to get around on three legs, but realized what the ghost had meant before speaking, “Well, which way did the dog go?”

“Towards your house,” the ghost pointed, shrugging.

The Captain got up and started running, shouting a half-hearted thanks to the ghost as he ran off. As he approached the house, he could see that Hopewell was somehow attached to the front door. He must have been there when he left that morning, but he simply hadn’t noticed as he left. After all, who really looks at their front door as they close it? Certainly not a dude like the Captain who didn’t actually bother closing it as he left for each morning’s adventures.

The Captain screamed out as he saw that Hopewell was attached to the front door with a giant butcher’s knife right through his midsection. Why the hell would some sick bastard gut a stuffed monkey, he wondered. That three-legged dog must have had some kind of accomplice.

Carefully, holding Hopewell’s hand as he did so, he removed the knife from his gut. Then he took the monkey in his arms like he was cradling a baby, and ran as fast as he could to Doc Popov’s hut of mad science, tattoos, and tailoring. The old Doc was quite the seamstress, and over the years, had helped the Captain and Hopewell in many the stitch, quite literally.

The Captain knocked on the door loudly because no one dared barge into the Doc’s house without an appointment. His secretary was standing in the yard, as usual. Bertie was quite the looker, if the Captain did say so himself.

It was amazing how she could stand there for hours in the hot sun holding the deli ticket machine the doc had acquired in a poker game years ago from the local butcher. There had been quite the chaotic uproar at the deli counter in the week following that poker game, but soon after they switched to drawing naked lady playing cards that the butcher had labeled 1-52 with a sharpie, in order of hotness of the ladies. Luckily, he had been smart enough not to barter away his “now serving” sign, and order was once again restored in his shop.

Bertie always wore the same outfit: super short blue shorts, a bright green halter t-shirt with a recycling logo on it, and bright green knee socks. If the Captain didn’t know better, he’d think that knit-cap girl had gotten all her fashion tips from the Doc’s mannequin, er, that is, secretary. If anyone even thought the word mannequin in the Doc’s presence, it was like he could hear their thoughts and and they’d get as sub-par treatment as the crazy old man could muster, which involved quite a bit of mustard most times, due to his fondness for homonyms.

Captain Tullis marched over to Bertie and pulled a number. It was a two and as the Captain giggled at the fact that he’d just pulled a deuce, the front door immediately opened, and the Doc popped out his head and announced that he was currently seeing client number two.

As the Captain tried to cross the threshold, the Doc put out a hand to stop him. He pointed at Hopewell and then at his secretary.

“Monkey need appointment, too,” he said in his thick Russian accent.

The Captain sighed as he marched back over to Bertie and took a number from her. In his still sober frame of mind, he mused how funny it was he was technically getting a number from a hot girl.

Doc Popov waved him into the house and quickly shut the door behind him, as if to keep the riffraff out, who of course weren’t loitering today so much as sleeping off their massive moonshine hangovers.

“So what is today’s trouble, Mr. Tullis?” The doctor asked.

The Captain wanted very badly to correct him and say that it wasn’t “Mister” it was “Captain,” but he knew better than to correct the “Doctor.”

“Well, someone has stabbed my monkey,” he replied, gently sitting Hopewell on the examination table.

“Put his feet in the stirrups,” the doctor instructed.

The Captain obliged, but wasn’t sure that a gynecological exam was really what Hopewell needed right now. But then again, he wasn’t the one with the convincing looking array of degrees from authentic sounding universities.

“Now leave us!” Doc Popov demanded.

Captain Tullis did as he was told, and spent the next thirty minutes pacing back and forth in the lobby. A few times, he tried to sit down, relax, and read some of the magazines in the waiting room, but most of the pages to the interesting ones were all stuck together.

Finally, the waiting was over, and Doc Popov came bursting through the double doors of the examination room, with Hopewell bouncing happily on his shoulder. It was almost like the entire ordeal had never happened, other than the fact that the Doc seemed to think purple was a proper color of thread for stitching up a monkey. Sheesh, it’s not like he was a stuffed unicorn or something.

The doc gently, and with great care, lifted Hopewell off his shoulder and placed him onto the Captain’s.

“How much do I owe you?” Captain Tullis asked.

“About a pint,” the ole doc replied, with a sinister yet sweet smile.

The Captain sighed and followed him back into the exam room. He sat in the chair, put his feet in the stirrups, and braced himself while the doctor fished around in the cabinet for the milking machine. It was going to be a long day, but with Hopewell back home and safe, at least it wouldn’t be quite as bad.

*****
This episode went live on Sunday, July 11, 2010.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode, when something will happen somewhere on the island.

Episode Eight

July 4, 2010

Ghostly Happenstance

The final day of the Moonshine festival always had a sort of somber feel about it, kind of like the day after an exceptionally crappy birthday.

Catty Broadsides swept the floor of The Boneyard carefully, as she was still trying to clean up all the shards of glass from a few nights ago when she’d brought Captain Tullis back into her establishment. As she swept, she reminisced about the events of the past few days.

To say the ghosts were displeased with her when she brought the Captain back into the bar was quite the understatement. True enough, most of them were meandering around the festival before it got too crowded, but there were two who never left the bar. If Catty had had to bet about it, they’d be the two least likely to care if the Captain set foot in the bar again. Luckily, Catty was not a betting woman.

As the Captain crossed the threshold, all the glasses on the shelves behind the bar shattered in a brilliant display of glistening shards flying through the air. The Captain instinctively stepped back outside, shielding both himself and Catty with the door.

Once the shattering had desisted, Catty brushed past the Captain into the bar. She stood with her hands on her hips, and a face so drawn with anger, it could have frozen ghosts in their spot, which is exactly what happened. The O’Toole twins stood transfixed as Catty stormed up to them. She was wearing her favorite stompin’ boots that day, and a pretty yellow dress. The twins held hands and trembled as she approached.

Alice O’Toole pointed an accusatory finger at the Captain, who still stood sheepishly in the doorway, and said in a tattletale’s tone, “But he’s not allowed in here!”

“I think I’ve heard about enough of that,” Catty informed her, as though the 12-year old ghost had any authority over the others. She continued, “This is my bar, and if I can stand having Captain Tullis around, I should think a bunch of non-corporeals wouldn’t be so put out. So stuff it, you little pre-teen brats!”

The twins put their heads together in a whisper, and then eerily spoke in unison, “What will you give us if we don’t tell the others?”

“What do you want?” She sighed, and regretted the question the second the words left her lips. Asking ghosts open ended questions was not the best idea.

“I don’t have all day, brats,” she said, tapping her foot, as the twins huddled together in conference.

“We want full amnesty,” the informed her.

“Kids, I’ve had too much moonshine to remember what that word means. You’re going to have to be more specific.”

“We want protection from the Baron, he scares us,” they said.

“I will see what I can do,” Catty sighed, rolling her eyes.

“We need more reassurance than that,” the twins demanded.

“Fine, I will do my best, if I can’t offer amnesty, perhaps a compromise?”

The twins conferred briefly.

“That is acceptable,” said Alice, the only one who ever spoke alone. Catty liked to think of her as the Alpha Twin.

“But you have to do it now,” they continued in unison.

“Oh, for the love of Pete!” Catty said, annoyed.

The twins giggled, because Pete was one of their fellow ghosts who happened to have a giant crush on Catty, but she never gave him the time of day. They stored away an image of her saying that, because ghosts can totally do that, if you didn’t know, so they could show it to Pete later. He would be delighted, as would the twins, as this would definitely mean he was going to up his game in pursuit of Catty.

As Catty ran upstairs, her owl, Holmes, hooted disapprovingly at the Captain, who was still loitering in the threshold. Holmes, ever protective, was under the impression that he was there for Catty, and not on a mission entirely unrelated to her bloomers.

The Captain tiptoed into the bar the second the two ghosts disappeared. He helped himself to a bottle of whiskey that had been spared from the ghost induced glassplosion. As there were no drinking glasses left unbroken, he drank straight from the bottle, just like his mother used to do.

Meanwhile, Catty was on a hunt for the ghost who the others referred to as “The Baron.” He was actually one of Catty’s favorites, and even Holmes seemed taken with him, which was ironic since the Baron had once been a bright orange tabby cat. Catty liked the Baron because of his tendency to keep the other ghosts in check, which is actually the same thing that endeared him to Holmes, who didn’t give much of a hoot for the human spooks. The Baron somehow managed to manipulate the other ghosts into doing his bidding, like some kind of feline mafia don.

Catty found him in the first place she looked, snoozing in his empty litter box, which was sitting in his favorite sunbeam. It was funny how she could hear him purring as she approached, and she felt compelled to reach out and pet him, but the one time she did that, he scratched her arm so badly that she needed seven stitches. His meanness was another thing that molded her favorable opinion of him; it was so genuine. She found authenticity so lacking in pretty much all living people, so became quite found of all the ghosts, even when they did things of which she did not approve, like shattering all her glassware, or causing her physical harm. It was all kind of cute, really, the way the netherworld liked to reach out to the living.

Catty cleared her throat and spoke when the Baron ceased his contented purring. She had long ago learned that was a cue that he’d stopped slumbering and was rapt at attention. Her arm twitched, and she instinctively put her hand over her scar.

“Baron, I’d like a word with you, on behalf of the twins. It’s about the Captain, and his coming into the bar again, I think it’s time we lifted the ban, I’ll get him to promise never to use your box as a toilet again, I just need you to go a bit easier on the twins for awhile, like, say a year, I mean, if you don’t think that’s too long or whatever,” she rambled nervously.

The Baron opened one eye and peered out at her, then his body disappeared, and he gave a cheshire cat sort of grin as his head seemed to hang in the air like a low rising moon. It was his way of saying he didn’t give a toss what happened. He could be a really nice guy when you caught him in a good mood.

The twins suddenly appeared in the room, startling Catty so much she jumped. The Baron opened his other eye and yawned, which Catty took as a sign they were boring him with their request. He disappeared with a slight hiss in the air.

“Well?” Catty turned to the twins, with her hands on her hips.

“It’s okay, the Captain is drinking the last of your whiskey,” they tattled.

“Oh for Pete’s sake!” Catty sighed in exasperation.

The twins stored that image of her to show to Pete, who was going to be overjoyed that she used his name twice in one day. It was going to be a long month of showering and getting changed in the dark before Catty would feel like the unwanted ghostly gaze of Pete was finally off her back, and off her other parts as well.

She ran back downstairs to find Captain Tullis draining the last drops of the last bottle of alcohol in the entire bar.

“Ben!” She shouted as he shrugged sheepishly. Catty was the only one other than his mom allowed to call him that. They didn’t come much classier than Catty Broadsides, he thought. For a moment, he forgot he was on a mission to find his stolen monkey as his mind was consumed with her bloomers. Holmes hooted angrily, as if sensing a change in the air, and the Captain recalled his monkey, and how much he and the owl always fought.

Captain Tullis slid drunkenly off the bar stool and staggered over to Holmes.

“If I find out you’ve anything do to with my missing monkey, I am going to turn you inside out to find him!” He said, pointing a greasy finger at the owl, who stared him down menacingly without blinking.

“Oh please,” Catty replied, “Look at him, he’s not big enough to have an entire monkey inside him!”

The Captain thought about that for a moment, and decided that Catty was probably right.

“Who do you think took him, then?” He asked.

“I’ve asked the twin brats to investigate. I know, I know, they’re annoying, but they’ll pester the other ghosts until one of them tells us they’ve seen something. You know how the ghost grapevine works,” she said.

“Yeah, those bastards have a pipeline straight down to Satan himself,” the Captain said, frowning. “Do you think the devil might have stolen Hopewell?”

Catty sighed and held her head in her hand. “Ben,” she said slowly, “no, I think it was a person, and we’ll find out who, you just have to be patient. In the meantime, we finally got your lifetime ban lifted from the bar, so why don’t you at least take solace in that?”

Before he could answer, the twins popped back into the bar with a sizzling sound. The smell of frying bacon momentarily filled the air.

“We know who took the monkey!” They shouted, excited.

“Who was it?”

“Someone new to the island. No one would say who, just someone new.”

“Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” Captain Tullis said, breathing out a long whiskey soaked breath.

From all the way across town where Hopewell was being held, he shuddered, but didn’t know why.

“We need to go to the welcome center then,” the Captain concluded. “Get Janet to give us a roster of new people, and…”

Just as he was about to finish his sentence, someone new came into the room. It was a young girl in one of those “I’m With Stupid” t-shirt. She was wearing a stupid looking green knit cap, which was actually kind of cute, but looked stupid because it was the middle of summer.

She stopped in her tracks when her feet crunched glass and she backed up and looked a little wild eyed at the two people who were sitting at the bar. As the man with the gray beard lunged at her, she squealed in fright and took off running.

“I know you stole my monkey, you little twerp,” he growled as he chased after her.

As she ran through the wooded area, little did she know, she was running right into a trap. Funny thing about that, it was a trap the Captain had forgotten he’d set months ago for a totally unrelated issue.

*****
This episode went live on Sunday, July 4, 2010.

Stay tuned for next week’s exciting episode, where some annoying loose ends will get tied up. I think a few stand-alone episodes might be nice in the future, so looking forward to writing some of those over the coming weeks.

Episode Seven

June 27, 2010

New Moon

“I swear to you, I’m not with stupid or anyone else!” Capelli Moon shouted, not quite sure what she was saying.

“That’s what they all say,” the Captain replied, shaking his head, “but I know you’re with stupid, it’s right there on your t-shirt, and I know you’re the one who kidnapped Hopewell!”

“I already told you, I don’t know anything about a monkey!” Capelli wailed, on the verge of tears.

Not one single thing since she’d gotten to Scurvytown was going as promised. She’d been handcuffed, manhandled, and put through a series of ridiculous tests, and all for a 5-year welcome center bracelet which meant she was stuck there for the next few years.

As if to prove her point, the Captain gave her a dismissive “Whatever,” and turned on the nearby garden hose.

Capelli had only heard rumors of water torture, and as the water spilled out of the hose, she turned on her own waterworks.

The Captain had his back turned to her, as he waited for the hose water to get cold. He took a long drink, as he was feeling a bit parched in the hot summer’s sun. Interrogations were hard work, as it turned out.

He turned off the hose, and Capelli stifled her tears by holding her breath. She was beginning to feel a bit woozy in the sun.

“Oh, silly me!” Captain Tullis exclaimed, “I didn’t even offer you a drink!”

“No thanks,” Capelli said, futilely, as the Captain turned the hose back on and sprayed it at her.

He sprayed her mouth with the hose, which she instinctively spit out. He then got a glint of wicked in his eyes and sprayed her ironic and apparently erroneous “I’m with stupid” t-shirt. “I’m with stupid” was a movement a few years back in which a bunch of politicians decided to lay blame elsewhere, and “stupid” was clearly to blame. In the end, trying to pin a failing economy on the idiots of the country only ended up backfiring, as stupid outnumbered the self-proclaimed intellects, and no one specific was there to take the brunt of the abuse.

“Oh come on now!” She cried, struggling against the ropes which had her hands tied to chair she was on which she was sitting.

“Haha! Choice of words, stupid girl!” The Captain said, laughing, as he turned his back on her once again to turn off the water.

It was at this point that Capelli decided she’d had enough of being interrogated by a madman, and stood up and tried to run away, which admittedly is not the easiest thing to do when your arms are bound to a plastic chair.

“Oi! Stupid girl!” Captain Tullis shouted as he plodded after her.

He caught up with her easily and slammed the chair onto the ground. Capelli fell backwards into it with a soft cry. The Captain moved to face her and clamped his hands on her shoulders and looked deep into her eyes. She trembled at the smell of his breath, which if she had to guess was a mix of pickled beets and rocket fuel.

“You know what, stupid girl? I am beginning to think you didn’t steal my monkey after all!” He said, bits of spittle hitting her face.

“I really didn’t! I’m just here to write a book, I swear! Ask that lady at the welcome center, she just checked me in!”

“Well then, now since I’ve got you all tied up, I have to figure out what to do with you,” he mused, rubbing his patchy gray beard.

“You could just let me go,” she said.

“That sounds like a good Plan B,” he agreed, nodding. “But let me think a minute first.”

“You know what?” Capelli said, her own Plan A in full swing, “I should have mentioned this sooner, I feel silly having talked for this long without saying something, but you totally have fruit punch mouth.”

The Captain reeled back. “That’s not fruit punch, that’s lipstick, silly girl.”

“It doesn’t look any lipstick I ever saw. Go see for yourself.”

The Captain ran into his houseboat and checked in the mirror. He wiped at his mouth with his sleeve, but sure enough, it was fruit punch and not lipstick. It must have been from the giant glass of Catty’s infamous Moonshine punch he’d downed earlier.

Capelli Moon chuckled to herself as she freed the ropes that were tied around her arms. They had come loose when the Captain slammed the chair onto the ground, and she finally saw her chance to at freedom, all because he tied knots like a sissy girl.

Captain Tullis was mildly disappointed when he returned outside and noticed that she was gone. But as she was no longer his number one suspect, it was back to the moonshine festival with him, and later on, maybe he’d see if Catty Broadsides and her ghosts had turned up any clues. The night was still young, after all.

Meanwhile, Capelli ran through the heavily wooded area, until she ended up at the beach. She wasn’t sure where to go because she’d never felt more unwelcome anywhere in her entire life. Funny how the welcome center had a tendency to do that to people.

She sat on a bench, watching the waves rush in and thought about the course of events that brought her to Scurvytown. When she thought about it, all her childhood dreams were to blame for her current predicament.

Capelli had always wanted to be a doctor, but when she graduated from college and was applying to get into medical school, the fierce competition backed her into a wall. She had never been one to put up a fight, always picked last at sports, and generally seemed to have her head in the clouds. That said, she was a bright girl who rarely studied, but seemed to always get good marks in class. Testing just sort of came naturally to her, but unfortunately, so did being a bit of a ditz.

In the end, she opted for journalism school instead, as she was promised a future filled with travel and intrigue. Traveling was the number one thing she daydreamed about, and when she was told she was being sent to Scurvytown on her internship, she was delighted. After all, to those on the mainland, Scurvytown was considered, “A Gateway to Foreign Lands,” which was supposed to mean that once you traveled there, getting passage to other ports was even simpler. After her visit to the welcome center, Capelli now knew that it was a five year waiting period to go anywhere after arriving in Scurvytown, and that included back to the mainland.

Now, as she sat on this bench listening to the soothing sounds of the waves hitting the shore, she realized what a fool she’d been. Her low marks on the geography portion of the placement exam were brushed off as “standard.” After all, no one really could remember all 89 states in the union and their capitols. A few of her classmates had gotten assignments in Europe: one in Paris, one in Rome, and another in Brussels. Someone had even gotten placement in Tokyo. But not her, no, stupid girl was exactly the right nickname for her. She kicked the sand with her foot and it hit something.

She bent down and began to dig, hoping she’d find something interesting. But as she uncovered the object, her heart sank. It was a stuffed monkey, and it looked like it had seen much better days.

“Hopewell,” she breathed, understanding almost immediately that this was the monkey the Captain had been accusing her of taking. It was funny, the entire time, she had assumed he was referring to a live monkey.

Sure enough, stitched into the butt of the monkey were embroidered letters that spelled out his name. Capelli heard a noise that sounded like someone sucking in air really fast, having just witnessed something startling or embarrassing. She looked around, but there was no one nearby. She felt a chill in the air.

“Now what do I do with you?” She asked the monkey, pausing for the slightest of moments in anticipation of an answer.

She heard a dog barking and looked around again. It wasn’t safe for her to have the monkey, she realized, but she couldn’t return it, not after spending the last hour not having the slightest idea why or how she was being accused of taking it.

Quickly, she buried the monkey back in the sand, and sat back down on the bench, sighing deeply. The sun was beginning to set, and it made her feel awash in sadness. She thought about calling her mother and begging for her to find a way to get sent back home.

She could practically hear the conversation in her head, and no matter what, it was a battle she wasn’t going to win. And after all, in-her-head-mom was probably right. She was most likely safer in Scurvytown than back on the mainland. Too bad she couldn’t be in a fun city like Tokyo or Paris.

As she lamented her lot in life, she didn’t notice that she had company. A medium sized dog had sidled up next to her. It startled her when it barked at a nearby bird.

“Oh!” She cried out.

It nuzzled her hand with its head in an awkward head-butting fashion, and as she petted it, it wagged its tail. As she scratched the pooch, it rolled over and she realized the sweet thing was missing one of her rear legs. It sent a chill down Capelli’s spine as the stump twitched, where it would normally be scratching contentedly.

Capelli sighed and began to daydream about ways to get back home. Right now on the short list were: swimming the shark infested waters, stowing away on some boat headed back to the mainland, or Fed-exing herself to her parents house. She didn’t notice when the dog began to dig in the sand, and by the time she realized it, the canine had rescued Hopewell out of his sandy grave.

“Wait a minute,” she said, grabbing onto the stuffed monkey.

The dog pulled back in a futile game of tug-of-war. Capelli relented when she heard the sound of ripping fibers, which sounds like a euphemism for farts, but was simply a few threads in Hopewell’s stitching giving into the force of physics.

The 3-legged dog took off running, which was surprisingly a fairly fast gait. Capelli watched her go as the sun was beginning to set out over the water. Oh well, it was probably best if a dog ran into town with the monkey, unless of course it was the dog who was the kidnapper in the first place. Capelli chuckled at the thought.

She could hear festival revelers cheering at something. She was thinking a drink sounded pretty good right about now, and after all if you couldn’t beat them because you were too much of a wuss to stand up for a fight, you might as well join them.

Suddenly, someone put a hand on her shoulder, and she let out a startled squeal. It seemed to be the theme of the day.

“Don’t turn around,” a calm male voice whispered in her ear.

Capelli’s shoulders sagged. She couldn’t believe yet another denizen of Scurvytown was bossing her around.

“I saw what you did, and I have half a mind to report you to the Captain for the kidnapping, but I know who really did it.”

“Who?” Capelli asked, turning around to face the person.

“I told you not to turn around,” the voice said.

It belonged to the ghost whose memorial bench she was sitting on. As this was her first introduction to the island’s ghosts, Capelli let out a blood curdling scream and lost consciousness.

*****
This episode went live on Sunday, June 27, 2010.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode. It might be the final day of the Moonshine festival, it might be something totally else, haven’t decided yet! Ooh the suspense!

Episode Six

June 20, 2010

Up in Smoke

Francis Hornbuckle hated his name. He had often thought about changing it, but he hated paperwork and bureaucracy even more than rather unfortunate nomenclature, which could actually be pretty funny if it wasn’t happening to you.

He had moved around a lot since graduating from high school, and made damn sure everywhere he went, he provided his own nickname. He felt his name proved such an easy target for folks that he always immediately introduced himself by what he preferred to be called. Francis Hornbuckle learned at an early age that it was best not to leave people to their own devices.

He was also of the life philosophy that if you can’t beat them, work out like a mofo, so that one day you can beat them, if they happen to be stupid enough to give you a reason to. Also, if a beefy dude tells you his name is “Daisy Pillowfeathers” or whatever, you’re gonna to call him whatever he tells you to call him or suffer the consequences.

He had spent his formative years getting by as Frank, a gangly, but menacing lad, who listed frowning and growling at stuff as two of his favorite pastimes. Frank always felt he was destined for bigger things than small town life in Iowa had to offer.

When Frank was a senior in high school, he read Captain Tullis’s novel for a book report for English class. He even went the extra step and went to the book signing, which just happened to be passing through nearby Des Moines.

To say the book changed his life was an understatement. The day he graduated, he bid his mother farewell, paid his respects to his father’s grave, and kicked the dirt of Iowa off his boots for the last time. This was good because his mother had been telling him for three weeks to knock the dirt clods off his filthy hiking boots before walking on her brand new carpet. It was his way of saying that he’d listen to her, no matter where life took him, because deep down, Frank was every bit the mama’s boy one would expect a Francis to be.

Frank didn’t end up in Scurvytown right away. He moved around from state to state for awhile, acquiring a history rife with sin and situation comedy, the kind of stories that typically get told in due course.

When he arrived on the island, he was delighted to discover that Captain Tullis lived there. After an awkwardly painful episode of fanboying, Frank learned the valuable lesson that most celebrities, even minor ones, are crazy. In this case, the stuffed monkey pinned to the shoulder should have been the dead giveaway, but Frank had been too overcome with Fanboy-itis to notice it.

Frank’s heart leaped as Captain Tullis lined up behind him at the start to this year’s Moonshine Festival. It always made him a bit nervous to talk to him, but that faded the second the Captain slapped him on the back with a warm greeting.

The two spent the first few hours getting plastered, and when the Captain got beaned by a dodge ball, Frank dragged him over to a nearby tree and left him. The Captain was a bit unpredictable, and Frank certainly didn’t want to be around when he came to, in case he came to with a case of the mega-crazies.

“Heya Smoke,” his best friend Poke said, suddenly, distracting him from his reverie. “Check out that girl over there.”

Now is probably as good a time as any to mention that the people of Scurvytown, like the people of so many other towns, do not know Frank by that moniker. Rather, to the Scurvitans, he is called “Smoke.” To earn that nickname, he took up pipe smoking at the age of twenty-nine. Frank, or rather, Smoke, was a big believer in playing the part, even if it was to the detriment of his own health.

His friend Poke’s name was actually Pokemondius, which was actually the third most common name for boys born that year on the island. Also, Poke totally was right about him needing to check out that girl. She must’ve been new to town because she didn’t even have a welcome center bracelet on.

“Wanna go mess with her?” Poke asked, but Smoke was already three steps ahead of him.

He marched up to the girl and offered her a drink.

“No thanks,” she replied, dismissively. Her mother had told her to never take drinks from strange men at parties, and this guy definitely had a strange vibe about him.

“What’s your name?” He asked, making small talk.

“Capelli,” she replied, as she tried to make heads or tails of the map she held in front of her.

“That’s a weird name,” he replied.

“Thanks,” she said, sarcastically, “and what’s your name?”

“People ‘round here call me Smoke,” he said, proudly.

“That because you smell like you woke up in an ashtray?” She replied, sniffing.

Smoke was not too pleased with the way this conversation was going, as most people tend to be when conversations don’t go the way they planned them. He was struggling with what to say next when Poke piped up for the save.

“You’re under arrest,” Poke said, gruffly, pointing a flare gun at her.

She turned pale and dropped the map.

“You’re joking,” she said.

“No, he’s not,” Smoke said, smugly. “You’re on Scurvytown property without a permit, and that’s a jail-able offense, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to come with us.”

“On whose authority?” She asked, not believing them in the slightest.

“Scurvytown citizens arrest. If you’d read the by-laws, you’d know this, but as you’re here illegally, having not even bothered to go to the welcome center, you obviously haven’t read them,” Poke said, gesturing menacingly with the flare gun.

“But I was looking for the welcome center on that map!” She cried, starting to freak out a bit at having the gun pointed at her. As a prissy little thing, she didn’t know from guns, so they might as well have been pointing a plastic toy at her and it would still have freaked her out.

“That’s what they all say,” Smoke said, frowning at her.

Poke grabbed his handcuffs and before the girl realized what was happening, he’d slapped them on her wrists. She let out a scream which resulted in the DJ at the festival cranking up the music a bit.

They lead her to the welcome center, which for the record, she was never going to find on that map. It was a map of Lake Chattanooga, which was the biggest lake in Lost Dakota. It was actually a joke map that the Captain had printed up during his “Where in the World is Captain Tullis?” Sweepstakes. Nothing was funnier to him than maps of bodies of water as though they were land masses. He had learned that from his days as a writer from a fellow on the book tour who liked to write about elves and fairies and crap like that.

The two men lead the young girl inside the welcome center, and made her sit on the pink sofa, which clashed awkwardly with her outfit.

“I’ll find Janet,” Smoke said, as he was always looking for a reason to talk to her.

Smoke was not the most suave dude ever. His method of finding Janet was to whistle for her like she was a missing dog. He found her where he would have liked her, on her hands and knees. She was fighting with a toilet plunger in the ladies’ room, which was not actually what he thought about when he thought of her on her knees.

“Fricking festival jerkwads clogged the toilet!” She grumbled angrily, giving the plunger another plunge. “They’re not even allowed in here!”

“Well, if you want, I can fix that toilet for you, and you can go deal with the arrest that Poke just made.”

Janet hated dealing with arrests, but when given the choice between that and toilet trolling, she happily washed her hands of the bathroom ordeal. As she dried her hands off, she practically ran down the hall to get away from the toilet mess.

Smoke had the toilet unclogged in about five seconds flat, and was practically on Janet’s heels to watch her at work. As classy a lady as she seemed, he would have liked her a bit more if she’d been able to unclog it herself. There was just something about a woman who knew how to use a toilet plunger that reminded him of his mother.

“Okay, what have we got here?” Janet asked, as they reached the lobby.

The small framed brunette girl with pretty blue eyes stood up and whimpered.

Before she could even open her mouth to explain herself, Janet said, “ Save it, Toots, and sit your ass down, I was talking to Poke here.”

Janet really hated hipsters more than anything, and this girl, with her ironic “I’m With Stupid” t-shirt with an arrow pointing in a circle, and her bright orange leggings was not going to win any sympathy from her. And she didn’t even know where to begin with the lime green knit cap the girl was wearing.

“Found this cute little thing loitering at the fairgrounds,” Poke informed her.

“Oh is that right?” Janet asked, her hands on her hips. “Trolling for fairy dust and sparklers, no doubt?”

“Trolling for what now?” Capelli said, utterly confused.

“Name.” Janet said, snapping her gum.

“Capelli Moon,” the girl said quickly.

“Sounds made up, don’t it?” Smoke said.

“Sounds like a whore’s name,” Janet said, chuckling. “You miss your stop to the bordello, sweet cheeks?”

“Not that I am aware of. I’m a writer, doing a book on some guy named Benjamin Tullis. I guess he was a famous writer like twenty years ago or something?”

“Damn,” Janet swore, which wasn’t like her, because usually she used much harsher words than “damn.”

“We get to throw her in the slammer, right?” Smoke asked, rubbing his hands together, and realizing he’d forgotten to wash them after the toilet incident.

“No, I’m afraid she’s legit,” Janet sighed, disappointed.

“Pity,” Smoke said, shrugging.

Poke removed the hand-cuffs, while Janet sauntered over to her desk to grab a welcome packet. She had been hoping to cut out early from work, but new citizen paperwork always took at least five hours of placement tests and the occasional electro-shock therapy. She certainly hoped that at least she’d get to shock the little hipster girl with the silly name.

Poke and Smoke wandered back to the fairgrounds to start round two of drinking. As they walked back to refill their official Moonshine festival flasks, Smoke was a little sad that Janet wasn’t able to join them. He shrugged it off as the burning deliciousness of the drink oozed down his throat, competing with the hot sun of June for discomfort. The Moonshine Festival was in full swing.

*****
This episode went live on Sunday, June 20, 2010.

Stay tuned for next week, when the new girl meets the Captain for the first time, and he accuses her of kidnapping his monkey! Oh false accusations, you so crazy!

Episode Five

June 13, 2010

The Boneyard

One of the first buildings to be constructed when people began to colonize the island was a drinking establishment. It was no secret that the land on which the bar was built had once been a cemetery. The ghosts that haunted the bar made certain to make their presence very well known.

The inaugural Scurvytown council meeting had actually taken place in a tool shed on the freshly demolished cemetery’s outskirts. This meeting occurred immediately after a construction company paved over the cemetery and put up a parking lot. A group of concerned citizens immediately banded together in protest, as no one could understand why they were putting up a parking lot in a town whose primary means of travel was on foot or bicycle. Had the newspaper plant not been a smoldering pile of ash, they might have known that reason, but as it was, the ensuing rioting deterred the incoming shopping center from being built at all, and because there was no newspaper, no one even knew it.

Travis Stark, the man who brought the keg of beer, was immediately crowned the leader of the town council upon his arrival. Before that fateful night, he had been a simple forklift operator at the distillery. For the rest of his days in Scurvytown, as the first proprietor of the town’s brand new watering hole, he was regarded as a king among men.

To this very day, he haunted the remains of the tool shed that had served as the bar’s first location. On the day they cut the ribbon for the brand new building, which covered the entirety of the small cemetery, he had mysteriously been impaled with the ceremonial ribbon cutting scissors. Until his murderer could be brought to justice, he vowed to protect all future proprietors of his beloved venue.

As an homage to the land on which it was built, the bar was called The Boneyard, a term that was such a snickeringly good double entendre that the latest proprietor, Catty Broadsides, liked to promote that aspect of it as much as possible.

This was much to the chagrin to the ghosts who haunted the establishment. They had taken a lot of pride in running many the proprietor out of the shop, but Catty Broadsides was different; there wasn’t much that bothered her in the slightest. One might think this would make the ghosts even angrier and more determined, but it didn’t. Funny thing about apathy and its success as a contagion.

The ghosts were a bit difficult from the get-go. Catty had wanted to paint the bar a lively yellow to brighten it up, but the ghosts all agreed that that was bloody stupid. While they agreed to disagree with the new proprietor, they also disagreed with one another on what color the walls should be. In the end, Catty struck up a compromise and painted the walls a spritely lime green. That was the wisest decision, as it kept the ectoplasm splatters from being all that apparent, and it actually created a sort of wet look along the rear of the bar, alongside the 3 pool tables.

As if it wasn’t hard enough running a place that was so vastly haunted, she had to deal with a very demanding public. Catty had never been much of a people person, but she had owned a very successful gastro pub back on the mainland. It was a haven for local foodies, and prided itself on its snobbery and snottiness (though to be clear on the snottiness, cleanliness was of course next to godliness). Between that high-class atmosphere, and prices that were practically criminal, they were of course despicably successful.

Catty figured that if she could run a successful pocket-gouging fancy schmancy place on the mainland, then small pub fare would be small, but lucrative, potatoes. She was in for quite the culture shock when she arrived in Scurvytown and discovered what she had to work with. For starters, there was no way she could charge highway robbery for anything on an island without a highway.

Her next big hurdle was the lack of refined palates in town. Most of the locals were vegetarians, which would have been fine, but they were used to eating carrots straight out of the ground without even washing them. It was well beyond her means to use dirt as a spice when crafting her recipes. It certainly helped that she had attended culinary school in England, for she knew that deep-frying anything and serving it with booze was probably her best bet, so she based her menu thusly. Most folks will tell you that you haven’t lived until you’ve tried her deep fried beets.

That first summer Catty was in town, she struggled to find her niche, and was very close to washing her hands of the entire business. Her bar was empty most nights, as most people were either at the festivals or sleeping them off. In an act of desperation, she sough the Captain’s help to get back to the mainland.

Captain Tullis had long-ago earned himself a permanent banning from her establishment. As far as she was concerned, he was welcome any time, but the ghosts had other ideas. No one would talk about “the incident” that lead up to the ghosts obvious distaste for the Captain, and after awhile, Catty simply stopped asking. The ghosts weren’t talking, and she was sick of replacing shattered glassware whenever his name was mentioned.

Catty had often found that the best ideas came from the most unlikely of sources, and this was no different. When the Captain suggested that, “if you can’t beat them, join them,” she actually slapped herself on the forehead. It was so simple!

If no one was coming to the bar, she’d bring the bar to them. The Captain protested at her excitement, because all he’d meant was that she should give up working to drink with the rest of the festival revelers. Luckily, Catty had more sense than that.

She got to work that night, creating fabulous new recipes. At the time, the first annual asparagus festival was on day one, so it was a no brainer. She talked to the town council that night, as they were sitting around playing a game of “Spin the Asparagus” to help with the decision making process. Luckily, the asparagus was spinning in her favor, and they agreed she could set up a booth as long as council members got free samples.

This year, she was bristling with excitement over unleashing her new Moonshine punch at the festival. She’d also devised a cupcake that embodied a hint of moonshine flavor, while managing not to burst into flames in the heat of the June sun, and most amazingly, not burn all the way down the throat of the person who ingested it. Luckily, The Boneyard’s regulars were happy to taste any of her concoctions for free, and she was happy to use them as guinea pigs as long as they paid their tabs.

As the pistol sounded to acknowledge the beginning of the Moonshine Festival, Catty was tenth in line. Her booth wasn’t going to be ready for business until noon, as it was customary during the Moonshine Festival to let the first wave of heaving drinkers come and go before any food was set out. The town council may have had some silly policies, but after witnessing the rampages in the first few Moonshine Festivals, she now knew that waiting until the sun was high in the sky and the second wave of security went on the clock was quite the necessity.

Catty enjoyed a couple of flasks of moonshine at the start of the festival, and for once, enjoyed being a regular townsperson. Around noon, she sauntered over to her booth and was pleased that the red-headed college girl she’d hired to cover it for the weekend was selling her cupcakes like hotcakes. That might sound a little weird, but in the hot sun, the cupcakes did get a bit melty and needed to be eaten with a fork.

She watched the girl stow another $100 into the cash box, and she smiled. That smile was wiped off her face when Captain Tullis ran straight into her from behind. She had no idea what hit her until she picked herself up and turned around.

“What the hell, man?” She asked, her hands on her hips, like she was playing a game of “I’m a little sugar bowl” instead of “I’m a little teapot.”

“I know you took him, you and that bird,” that Captain spat, and wiped a smidge of blood from the corner of his mouth.

“Took whom?” She asked, utterly perplexed.

“Whom? WHOM!?” He shouted, pointing to the sky behind her.

She turned to see where he was pointing, and he blind-sided her again. As she untangled herself from him, she shook her head. She should have seen that coming.

As security retrained him, Catty realized his stupid stuffed monkey was missing from his shoulder.

“Oh, Hopewell,” she said, “can’t even keep an eye on a stuffed monkey?” She laughed.

The Captain broke free from security and lunged towards her again, but she was too quick this time, and he fell on his face.

“Sorry, love, dunno where your monkey is, perhaps you should keep him on a leash?”

He looked up at her, and asked, “If you don’t know, what about your bird?”

“Holmes?” She said, restraining a laugh. “He’s nocturnal, so he’s asleep at the bar.”

The Captain beat his fists into the ground at the realization that his number one lead was a dead end. If there was one thing he respected about Catty, it was her inability to tell falsehoods. If there was another thing, it was her respect for a fellow human in pain.

She waved security away and helped him to his feet. He smiled appreciatively.

“We’ll find him, don’t you worry,” she said, patting him on the back. “I know just where to start.”

As they walked back to The Boneyard, she hoped that most of the ghosts were either off at the festival or watching folks have it off at the bordello. Either way, she was going to have to offer him amnesty for the day, and suffer whatever consequences the ghosts had to offer. She hoped they would show her some mercy. As they walked along, she couldn’t shake a major case of the squickens, and she wondered why the hell she’d ever slept with him in the first place.

****
This episode went live on Sunday, June 13, 2010.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode. A mysterious stranger has come to town, and nothing will ever be the same.

Episode Four

June 6, 2010

The Moonshine Festival

Summer months in Scurvytown were twelve shades of lovely, especially if you spent as much time as possible in the shade.

In early June, a warm night’s air was typically permeated with the sickening sweetness of honeysuckle, and by the same course, honeysuckle wine-scented vomit.

When Captain Tullis first moved to the island nine years ago, it was on the cusp of spring. He kept his houseboat at the dock nearest The Boneyard, which at the time was a much spookier place to do all your heavy drinking than it is today.

When the first really nasty heat of summer sweltered in, rife with humidity and plague, he hired a dude to pull the boat ashore, to a piece of land he had traded to a local for his favorite hat. It was a pretty sweet deal, as it turned out, because the land was in permanent shade, and only a five minute walk away from the distillery.

The local who traded it thought he’d found quite the sucker in Captain Tullis. The land was no good for growing anything that didn’t love the shade. Also, everyone knew that when you were in possession of a person’s favorite hat, it meant you were in charge of their soul. So if the devil came to bargain with you, you’d have a spare soul with which to make a good deal.

Before moving to Scurvytown, Captain Tullis had never been much of a fan of the summertime. But here, summer meant the start of festival season, and arguably the best one was the one that kicked off the rest: the Moonshine Festival.

Two years ago, the Captain and Hopewell had gotten themselves a two-year banning from the festival. Since it had happened in the first five minutes of that festival season, the town council decided that that year counted as year one for the banning. It might sound silly, but that is the sort of thing that town councils really care about, and not just in Scurvytown, if such rumors are true.

It was a pretty stiff sentence, the Captain had thought, and he didn’t speak to Hopewell for an entire week after the banning. After all, it was technically the monkey’s fault.

Hopewell had a bit of a problem with another denizen of Scurvytown, and no matter how the Captain tried to get them to settle their differences, he and Holmes simply could not be in the same twenty foot radius. When Hopewell made fun of Holmes in the ceremonial pre-dawn Moonshine toast, which the town council also outlawed after what was to become known as the Moonshine Festival incident, it was all Holmes could take.

Holmes had a pretty thin skin for an owl, and had a tendency to leap first and glare menacingly later. Nothing was a worse insult to an owl than someone beating him at a staring contest, but Hopewell managed to do just that, even though the Captain had warned him like eight times not to make eye contact with Holmes.

Holmes blinked first, and in the next second, had sprung free from the plastic chain that Catty Broadsides, his owner and the proprietor of The Boneyard, used to pretend to restrain him for the benefit of the town council, who didn’t much like doing their drinking near “wildlife” when they frequented The Boneyard, which they did a lot.

When the owl leapt for Hopewell, his talons sunk right into his soft skull, and he ripped the monkey right off the mortified Captain’s shoulder. As Captain Tullis chased blindly after them in the awkward light of the pre-dawn, he tripped over a barrel of moonshine, and toppled over six barrels like they were dominos, but dominos filled with disgustingly intoxicating pixie water.

After that, the town council held an emergency meeting, wherein all barrels of moonshine had to be kept a certain distance apart from each other. Then the banning occurred, and they returned an owl-poop reeking Hopewell to his sobbing Captain, who was also thereby labeled a disgrace for life.

Being labeled disgrace for life wasn’t a big deal, the Captain had been called worse things. It was the banning that really hurt, and that’s what made this year’s festival so special.

This year, he wasn’t taking any chances, and even though Hopewell had pleaded with him all night, he refused to take him to the fairgrounds for the opening ceremony.

At dawn, the church bells in the town sounded, which was an odd thing to hear, as they never really used them regularly. Years ago, before the Captain had arrived in Scurvytown, it was decided by the council to only use the bells in cases of emergency and the beginning of festival season. Their reasoning was that no one liked to be reminded about how much they hated to go to church, and certainly not every hour, on the hour. The church was then transformed into a brothel and for the first time ever, Scurvitans flocked to this building religiously.

Upon hearing the bells, the Captain sprung up in his bed, and since he was fully clothed and already had his shoes on, he raced as fast as he could from bed to the festival. If his attire sounds odd, it’s actually his usual sleepwear because you never know when disaster might strike on a boat, even when said boat happens to have been grounded for the last nine years.

The Captain was not the first to reach the festival grounds. Apparently, a bunch of folks had stayed up all night at The Boneyard, and when they closed at 4am, they meandered on over to sleep awkwardly against some trees, as close to the fairgrounds as they could get. A few of them were still sleeping it off when the Captain took his place in line.

“Ahoy ahoy, Smoke!” He said, patting one of the local dudes on the back.

“Heya Cap’n, making in hap’n?” Smoke asked, as he wiped the sleep from his eyes.

“Oh you know it,” the Captain said. That was his favorite greeting, and Smoke knew it.

“Hey, so you’re not banned anymore?” A little dude who was always hanging around Smoke asked.

“Nope,” the Captain said, grinning.

A pistol sounded, and the small talk around them fell silent. The Captain was extra happy about this because he hated small talk, especially bull crap about the weather or traffic. In fact, he had a little book that he kept with him at all times, where he would write down the name of people who were frequent small talkers. Five infractions would get you ignored for life, and the Captain would often randomly wander away from people in mid-sentence, usually due to mistaking them for someone on his list.

As they forked over some cash to the cute sales girls, each person in line would receive their commemorative Moonshine Festival flask, which they could bring back to any cute sales girls and get re-filled for a fee. Service was only refused to people who were vomiting as they stood in line, or had urine stains on their pants. The girls were well-trained to be on the lookout for such tell-tale signs of over-drinking, but if you were clever enough, you could circumvent all that.

The day’s events were a whirlwind to the Captain. It was just like the old days before his was banned. It was only in the middle of the drunken dodge ball competition that he began to feel twangs of guilt that Hopewell wasn’t there with him, laughing as he pelted his opponents. It must have been this distraction that caused him to lose his focus, as a dodgeball beaned him in the skull.

After the little birdies stopped circling his head, and he stopped trying to catch them with his fists, he was dragged over to a tree and propped up by Smoke, who was a burly sort of fellow, and seemed oddly well adept at dragging folks across the ground. The Captain felt a strange sense of deja vu about it, but shook it off as crazy drunk thoughts.

After a few moments of sitting and staring off into space, Captain Tullis stood up and began the long stumble back home. His flask was still tied to his wrist, and he greedily drank the last lingering drops of moonshine from it, savoring the burning as they touched his tongue.

As the Captain turned the corner to the dirt path that lead to his houseboat, he got a sudden chill. Something wasn’t quite right. He hastened his gait, and when he arrived in front of the house, the door was wide open.

He swore masterfully, and grabbed his whacking stick from the shrub where he liked to stash it when he wasn’t using it to beat back branches and snakes on his way to and from the distillery.

First things first, he checked to see if Hopewell was safe. Whenever Hopewell was in punishment and not allowed to leave the house, Captain Tullis liked to keep him top of the bookshelf, where he could spy on anything going on inside the house without him and report back later.

But when the Captain looked, Hopewell was no where to be found. He ran back outside the house, frantically calling his name, but it was to no avail. Hopewell was missing.

He turned back to the house, and gasped as he noticed a dagger sticking in the front door. He unstuck the dagger and a piece of paper fell into his hand. He unfolded it and read, “If U Want 2 C yr st00pid monkey again, w8 4 my instructions.”

The letters were clearly cut from a magazine, and had been glued onto the paper. Captain Tullis wasn’t sure how an owl had the ability to use a glue stick, let alone scissors to cut out the letters, but he was sure that Holmes was behind this, he and that wench of a barmaid, Catty Broadsides. He was certainly primed and ready to find out, his whacking stick in tow as he headed back into town.

*****
This episode went live on Sunday, June 6, 2010.

Stay tuned next week for more details on the mysterious disappearance of Hopewell. Unless something majorly out of whack occurs, we’ll learn more about the proprietor of The Boneyard, her owl Holmes, and her views on the start of festival season.