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.