Episode Two

May 23, 2010

The Welcome Center

“Weclome to Scruvytown” proclaims the giant banner stretched across Broad Street in Scurvytown. It wasn’t that Captain Tullis was that drunk when he emailed the banner company, as he had only had nine beers that particular morning. The problem was that he was simply that terrible at spelling.

Broad Street, formerly Ho Alley, gets a bad rap for a lot of reasons, but most of them are not what you might think. It was a bit confusing to folks having a Yo Street, a Ho Avenue, and a Ho Alley all in the same vicinity, so it was voted in a town council meeting that the Alley Ho would become Broad Street, as it was much wider than the Avenue, and not much of an Alley anymore after the newspaper plant spontaneously combusted.

At the corner of Broad Street and Land Boulevard, there was an empty office building. One side of it was a bit scarred from the newspaper plant incident, but no one seemed to pay that much mind.

It was here that the town council set up the welcome center for all tourists who came to visit Scurvytown. Because it was stop one for all incoming visitors, it was the cleanest place in the entire town.

The floor was so pristine you could eat off it, though that wasn’t recommended, unless you happened to bring your own snack. The walls and chandelier were washed weekly. The receptionist/janitor for the center was quite good at her job, and seemed to take pride in her work. She was also the only female inhabitant of Scurvytown, other than relatives, who hadn’t bedded Captain Tullis, though the Captain remembered it differently.

A trip to the welcome center was mandatory for all visitors to Scurvytown. If you were found wandering the streets without your visitor’s bracelet, even if you’d lived there for forty years, which no one had because the town hadn’t been around that long, the offense was punishable by either a night in jail or a visit to the welcome center. One guess which experience was less painful.

Captain Tullis didn’t often stop by the Welcome Center unless he was really super bored. On this particular day, that was the case. The town had just gotten their new TV in that day’s shipment, which was great and all, but it was almost impossible to book any alone time with it since so many people were still tweaking from idiot box withdrawal. Soon enough, all that madness would die down, but the first few weeks were going to be rough on everyone.

If only they could figure out who kept smashing the town TV, life would be much simpler. Alas, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it, and each time it happened, the events seemed to be further apart, so by the time it happened again, people had all but forgotten the previous incident. It was a vicious cycle.

So, without his typical evening distraction, Captain Tullis found himself wandering down to the pier for awhile and watching the boats and fisherman. Five minutes later, he turned back towards town and stumbled over to the Welcome Center, which was weird for him because he didn’t usually go there without hitting the bar first.

As the bell jangled in the doorway, the receptionist dropped the island’s latest issue of Cosmo, which was actually a back-issue from two years ago, and was halfway through her saccharine greeting when she realized it was just the Captain.

“Oh nevermind,” she grumbled, as she swooped down to pick up the magazine. She thwacked her head on the desk on her way back up and uttered an impressive array of swear words as a response.

“Best welcome ever, Janet!” Captain Tullis said, grinning like a jerkfaced jack-o-lantern.

“Oh shove it up your arse!” Janet replied, following up her comment with a rude gesture.

“Quit hitting on me, Janet,” Captain Tullis said, overdoing a sigh for emphasis, “Or I’ll have you shipped back to the main island.”

Janet pursed her lips and went back to reading her magazine. She wasn’t sure if the Captain was kidding or not, but there was no point in taking any risks when going back to the main island was mentioned. After all, they had rules there, and curfews and all those disease ridden corpses lining the streets. Oh, and all those zombies, who could possibly forget that?

“Seen any interesting newbies today?” The Captain asked, realizing he’d hit a sore spot with her. It was a low blow and he knew it, but he had always been such a fan of those, he couldn’t help himself.

“Yeah, we had a couple of hot girls on spring break, and their stupid boyfriends,” Janet replied.

“Oh, I hate couples,” Captain Tullis said, shuddering.

“Hey!” Janet said suddenly, noticing for the first time that something was missing from Captain Tullis’s usual attire.

“Where’s Hopewell?” She asked, concerned.

“Oh, he’s being laundered,” Captain Tullis said, his shoulders sagging. “Things got a bit messy last night, to say the least, and I don’t really recall so I can’t say more.”

“Don’t you feel sort of naked without him?” Janet asked.

“In a way,” the Captain admitted, “but as I woke up butt naked in the fountain this morning, I’d say this is better. Poor Hopewell, though, he was in the middle of the road and covered in sick.”

“His own?” Janet asked, muffling a giggle with her hand.

“Suck it,” Captain Tullis replied, unamused.

If there was one thing Captain Tullis loathed, and there were a great many things he hated, it was people poking fun at Hopewell. Okay, so maybe it was a little strange for a grown man to have a stuffed monkey pinned to his shoulder. And stranger still for him to hold conversations with him, but it wasn’t hurting anyone, really, so it wasn’t right for people to joke about it, at least not to his face. Captain Tullis didn’t stand up for the rights of many things, but he truly believed in a person’s right to consider a stuffed animal their best friend.

“Anyway, the couples are scheduled to be back in two minutes if you want to take them on the tour,” Janet said, offering an olive branch.

Captain Tullis perked up immediately at that notion, and nodded.

“Just one thing missing,” he replied, excitedly, “I gotta run across the street and see if Hopewell is out of the dryer. He would kill me if I did a tour without him!”

Janet nodded and waved him away. Some things would never change. Captain Tullis would always be crazy, and as much as she hated to admit it, a part of her would always have the tiniest bit of a crush on him.

She pretended to read the magazine article in front of her, but her mind quickly drifted from “10 sexy things to say to snag a man,” to “10 salty things to say to ensnare your sailor.” She sighed deeply, mentally cursing the editor in her. Oh, to be back on the main land before everything got crazy, editing the holy frigdazzle out of epically boring manuals on jet engines, and on the weeknights to supplement her paltry editor’s income, answering pornographic letters to the editor for a non-disclosed publication.

In a rather cruel twist of fate, Janet Tor actually had a twin sister. Having a twin wasn’t the cruel twist of fate, it should be noted. The problem was nomenclature. Her name was Edi, and she was the true custodian of the family. Wow, could that girl not get enough of scrubbing bathroom floors with bleach, it was like an obsession!

It was rough having a sister like Edi. Janet found it difficult having to explain to everyone that no, they were never conjoined twins at the shoulder, and yes, her sister really did have a hump, and no, please don’t call her Quasimodo or make any references to a certain song by The Black-eyed Peas, especially not in front of Edi, who was as ridiculously strong as she was simple.

Life had nearly always been kinder to Janet, and now, here she sat working as a receptionist/janitor for the welcome center, which admittedly wasn’t the worst job in Scurvytown, while her twin sister got to stay on the main island and do all her editorial tasks as though she hadn’t herself been banished to Scurvytown. Life was a funny thing, its ups and downs and its subtle and blatant cruelties.

She sighed and put down the magazine as she heard the bell jingle at the door. She looked up, expecting to see Captain Tullis, but much to her surprise, the young couples had returned for the tour. Returning to the welcome center as scheduled was practically an unprecedented event. The Captain was going to be rather annoyed that he didn’t get to hunt them down and scare the crap out of them like was done with most of the newcomers.

“Hey, if you kids would just have a seat, I need to wrangle up our best tour guide,” Janet said sweetly.

The foursome complied, while Janet rang up the Captain’s cell phone.

“Yo ho ho,” he answered after only one ring.

“Hey, the newbies came back for their tour.”

“Oh, bugger, that’s less fun!” Captain Tullis said, disappointed.

“I know, right?” Janet replied, snapping her gum loudly.

Captain Tullis sighed and said, “Alrighty, they’re scrappy youngsters, we’re gonna wait bait.”

“Roger that,” Janet said, smirking.

“Oh, I’d roger that, all right,” the Captain replied.

She rolled her eyes as she hung up the phone, and shoved her magazine into her purse. She stuck her gum under the desk and stood up, raised her hands above her head, and made a soft noise as her back cracked. She was fairly certain the office chair was plotting her demise, but that was a story for another time.

“Well, kids, it’s quitting time for me, but your tour master, Captain Tullis, will be along shortly. Just hang tight.”

“You’re leaving?” asked the doe-eyed blonde girl with the big brown eyes.

“Yup, got a shift at the Bone tonight,” she said, turning her back on them and walking out the front door.

She smiled as she heard the door click shut. Those kids were not going to know what hit them.

*****
This episode went live on Sunday, May 23, 2010.

Stayed tuned for next week’s episode where we learn the fate of some deeply stupid youngsters. Meanwhile, the rest of the town is preparing for the big Moonshine Festival.

Episode One

May 16, 2010

Welcome to Scurvytown

The road to Scurvytown was definitely not paved with good intentions. In fact, it wasn’t paved at all. It wasn’t even gravelly, but sort of a dirt path, and strewn with litter. The only reason there was any kind of path at all was due to the frequent traveling from the distillery to the living quarters of one Captain Benjamin C. Tullis.

Once that path was established, folks decided that it looked weird to have a path there and not anywhere else, and they were bored that day anyway, so they decided to walk around until the rest of the town had similar pathways. In the end, it took a week to get it looking just right, but that was fine because the TV had been smashed by a mysterious unexplained incident overnight on Monday, and the new one was not scheduled to arrive at the island until the following Wednesday.

The Captain himself didn’t help out the rest of the townsfolk, because he had more important things to do lately, or whenever work was mentioned or needing doing.

Captain Tullis never considered himself much of a proud man, or much of a man at all. He enjoyed wearing women’s underwear, bright red lipstick, and pearl earrings which he claimed to have caught himself. He left out the minor detail that he caught them on sale at a farmers market in the middle of nowhere in Iowa when he was passing through on the midwestern leg of his book tour, and that most likely, they weren’t even real pearls.

He was a quiet man, though he was fairly talkative, if not incomprehensible after twelve beers. Luckily, his faithful companion, Hopewell, was fluent in drunk, so it all worked out splendidly.

It was a bit strange, having a monkey for a best friend, but the Captain liked that it set him apart from the norm. He did get a little tired of explaining to people why exactly he had a stuffed monkey pinned to his shoulder. His favorite response to people was that if he didn’t pin Hopewell to his shoulder, he’d keep falling to the ground. The simplest explanation was to tell folks that his cotton stuffed simian was more reliable than most people he knew. Somehow, everyone could relate to that statement, which the Captain found to be a little sad.

“Y’know, Hopewell,” he sloppily slurred, “It takes a lot of hard work to gain the respect of an entire town.”

Hopewell nodded bleakly on Captain Tullis’s shoulder as he lumbered over to the deck of his houseboat and urinated off the side.

“Hey!” Shouted a somewhat drenched sounding voice from down below.

Captain Tullis chuckled and continued urinating. If whoever got in the way wasn’t smart enough to move, that was their problem. And anyway, this was an island, they could go jump in the ocean and be squeaky salty clean within five minutes.

He heard a chime on his doorbell, and the sound of his mail getting dropped through the slot in the door.

Excitedly, but carefully, as he didn’t want to upset his precious jewels, as he had lately become quite handy with a bedazzler in the lost art of balldazzling, he zipped up his trousers. He bounded down the stairs, with Hopewell clinging for dear life on his shoulder. Ah, that monkey was such a trooper.

He grabbed his mail from the pile on the floor and noticed immediately that it was a bit soggy. He sniffed it, shrugged, and wondered if it had started raining or something. He certainly hadn’t noticed while he was out on the deck.

Quickly, he separated a bunch of bills and tossed them in the oven to dry out, and turned it on to the self-cleaning setting. Paying bills was so simple!

He let the junk mail drop to the floor: a letter from his mother, divorce papers from his wife, and a summons for jury duty. Boring! He was much more interested in a bright red envelope with a wax seal on the back in the shape of the letter “P.”

“Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” He said.

Hopewell, from his perch on Captain Tullis’s shoulder, shuddered at the thought.

Carefully, the Captain gnawed the wax off with his teeth. It seemed a strange thing to do, but he couldn’t help himself. Ever since pre-school, he had a compulsion to eat wax. Yeah, he was that kid, who had to keep his art supplies across the room until art class because otherwise, he’d have no paste, crayons, or glue left for making fridge art.

“Mmmm, cinnamon!” He grinned the gaping goofy grin of a three-year old child who’d just eaten a red crayon.

As the drugs from the wax began to kick in, Captain Tullis swayed back and forth like he was doing the hula. He popped open the envelope and began to read out loud. He was slurring his words so badly that even Hopewell was having trouble deciphering them.

The Captain dropped to his knees, wavered for a few seconds, and then slumped onto his side. As he lost consciousness, he heard the his front door swing open.

“Drag him by the legs,” a gruff male voice barked.

“Want I should turn off the oven, Smoke?”

“Nah, leave it, it’s on self-clean again. We can turn it off when we bring him back, just like last time.”

“Okey dokey, Smokey!”

“Damn it, Poke, how many times I gotta beat you before you stop sayin’ that?”

“I promise I’ll remember next time,” Poke said, wincing in preparation for his beating.

“Aw shucks, Poke, I’ll let it go this time, but you gotta put the Captain in the wheelbarrow by yourself, and push him both ways.”

Poke relaxed, and shook out his hands, readying himself to lift the slumbering ship’s Captain.

Just as he bent down to lift the Captain, Smoke clocked him good in the side of the face, hard enough for him to lose his balance and slam into the wall behind him.

Smoke held his sides as he quaked with laughter. Stupid Poke was always falling for that old gag, and it never really got old. While his comrade nursed his face and tried to regain his footing, Smoke slung the drugged Captain over his shoulder and dumped him in the wheelbarrow.

He began to whistle as he pushed it out of the houseboat and along the well-worn path.

“Hey now, wait for me!” Poke said, rushing to catch up.

Smoke pushed the wheelbarrow down the path, and up a very steep hill to the spooky hut where Doc Popov lived.

“What do you think that old mad scientist wants with Captain Tullis every month anyways?” Poke asked, still rubbing his aching jaw.

“Not our business,” Smoke replied, sternly, wondering if he should punch Poke on the other side of his face to even things out. It was a rough way of life, having OCD.

When they reached the Doc’s hut, Poke opened up the cellar door and Smoke dumped the Captain down the ramp, where he landed with a thud.

Smoke tied the wheelbarrow to the fence post because of that one time when he was a kid and he forgot to lock his bike up and it got stolen. No one was going to steal the wheelbarrow, but it sure made him feel safer to see it tethered there as he took one last look over his shoulder as they bounded down the hill towards the bar.

Smoke put his arm around his good buddy Poke’s shoulder as they sauntered down the hill like kings. Poke winced from the anticipation of the next punch that he knew was coming at some point. You didn’t hang out with Smoke and not get clocked on each side of the face whenever he hit you, after all.

Smoke began to hum a tune to drown out the sound of Captain Tullis’s screams, which eerily seemed to be following them down the hill from the mad scientist’s hut.

Poke sure didn’t like getting punched in the face, but he’d take that any old day over whatever the mad doc was doing to the Captain in that creepy old basement. He began to hum along with Smoke to help drown out the noise, when Smoke stopped suddenly and cold clocked him on the other side of the face.

“That’s what you get for humming out of tune, dude,” he said as he walked into the bar.

Poke lay on the ground, writhing in pain. As he stood up, a tooth came loose in his mouth and he spit it in the dirt. A quick glint in the sun, and he realized it was the gold one. His heart leapt with excitement. He quickly grabbed the gold tooth, pocketed it, and skipped into the bar like a kid skipping home from school the night spring break starts. He had heard a story on the radio that gold prices were up, and he couldn’t wait to share the good news with his best pal, Smoke.

*****
This episode went live on Sunday, May 16, 2010.

Stay tuned next week when the exciting saga continues with the lovable characters from Scurvytown. Next week: Take a tour of the town, just like a professional tourist, when Captain Tullis starts a thriving tourism business. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wish I hadn’t used the word “tour” three ways in the previous sentence.