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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 29

Canto Twenty-Nine – In the Arms of an Angel

When Valerie awoke, she was no longer on the ground.  Someone was carrying her and she had someone’s jacket wrapped tightly around her bare body.  Someone was gently, tenderly lowering her into a bed loaded with comforter and quilts.

“Be careful of her head, Ray,” said an older woman.  Valerie vaguely became aware that a young man or boy was holding her, and lowering her onto soft bedding.  “How did you ever find her in such a condition?”  The woman was Patricia Zeffer, Ray’s Mom.  Valerie looked groggily up into the face of her rescuer.  It was Ray.

“I found her in the alley behind Martin’s Bar and Grill,” Ray said with deep concern in his voice.  “She was just lying there, completely nude and unconscious.  Did you call someone?”

“I am going to in a minute.  I will call the hospital in Belle City for advice.  Then I’ll call the poor dear’s parents.  I just needed to get a look at what’s wrong with her.”

“She’s awake,” said Ray, smiling down at her as he pulled a quilt over her.

“Oh, my poor, sweet girl,” said Mrs. Zeffer, “whatever happened to you?”

“I… I’m not entirely sure.”  Valerie’s voice was shaky and soft, almost too quiet to hear.

“Did you see if she was bleeding anywhere?” Mrs. Zeffer asked Ray.

“She had some bloody scratches on her shoulder and back, maybe from an animal.”

“Are you in pain, dear?”

“No…  I mean, only where the cat clawed me.  It stings.”

“Why were you in the alley naked?  Did something terrible happen?”  It was obvious from the look on her motherly face that Mrs. Zeffer wasn’t too sure she should be asking this question.

“I… I don’t know.  I was with Mary Philips and Pidney Breslow.  I’m afraid they may be hurt worse than I am.”

They didn’t hurt you, did they?” asked Ray.

“Of course not.  Someone else…”

“Do you know who?”

“Mom, you better call the sheriff too.  They will need to find Pid and Mary and make sure they’re all right.”

“Yes, yes, of course.”  Mrs. Zeffer hustled out of the bedroom headed for the phone downstairs.

“Ray, um… you found me naked?”

“I’m sorry,” said Ray.  “I could see you needed help.  I put my jacket on you.  I… um… didn’t look too hard.”

“Ah… it’s okay.  You saved me.  You and Barky Bill.”

“The Martins’ dog?  He fought off your attacker?”

“Well, yes… kinda.   I think he killed my attacker.”

“He did?  I didn’t see anybody lying there in the alley.”

“Well, you wouldn’t have.  It was a cat.  I think the dog ate him.”

“You were attacked by a cat?  Come on, you have to tell me the whole story.”

Valerie did.  She filled Ray in on everything he probably didn’t already know.

“Wow, that’s really messed up,” said Ray.  “The witchdoctor wants you as a virgin to sacrifice to the volcano, but the cat wanted to eat you?”

“That’s how I understood it.”

“I’m glad the cat didn’t eat you.”

“You… ah… Ray… can I ask you something?”

“Yes, Val.  I can’t promise I know the answer, but you may always ask.”

“Thanks… uh, Ray… you saw me naked in the alley?”

Ray blushed and looked away from Valerie’s face.  “Yes, I’m sorry.”

“You don’t have to be sorry… but… um… am I the first girl you ever saw naked?”

“Well, I…”

“I know you never had any sisters…”

“No, I didn’t, but…”

“I mean, it’s okay if I’m your first.”

“You aren’t.  Mary didn’t tell you about me, huh?”

“Well, yes, but… I mean, no… well… what was she supposed to tell me?”

“About why I need friends now?  Why she thought I needed to be a Norwall Pirate?”

“About why you are so sad all the time?”

“Yes.”

“No, not really.”

“Well, you see… um, I have a girlfriend already.”

“You do?  And you’ve seen her naked?”

“Um, yeah.  You see, she’s pregnant.”

“She is?  Who is she?”

“Carla Sears from Belle City.  She’s the prettiest girl in my class.”

“And she’s gonna have a baby?”

“Yes.” 

“Your baby?”

“Yes.”

“So, you’re gonna get married, then?”

“No.  Her parents won’t allow it.  They blame me for the whole mess… and I suppose they’re right.”

“She’s going to have the baby all by herself?”

“Well, that’s one of the things they are talking about… I mean…”  Ray’s eyes were filled with tears.

“You mean they might…?”

All Ray seemed to be able to do was nod.

“Oh.”  Valerie’s eyes began to gush tears too.  “I’m so… sorry… I mean…ah…”

She reached up and put her arms around Ray’s neck.  When she did, the quilt and the jacket fell away, revealing her naked self to him.  She was past mere embarrassment, but she held on.  He cried against her neck.

As he struggled for control of his emotions, she knew they had to talk about something else.  Anything else.  The walls around them were painted a warm, sunny yellow.

“This room is very pretty.  Is it your room?”

“No,” he said simply.  “It was my brother Bobby’s room.”

“Your brother?”

“The one that died before I was born.”  Ray had enough control to pick up the fallen jacket and put it back around the naked girl.  “I never knew him.”

“That’s sad too.”

“Yeah.  And hard.  I was the replacement child for Mom and Dad.”

“Replacement child?”

“They knew if they had another child, especially a boy, that he could be a hemophiliac too, just like Bobby.  But they took the chance anyway.  They were heartbroken by his death, and well…”

“So, they had you.”

“They did.  And now I’m…”

“You would be a great dad, Ray… if they… um…

“Yeah… but they won’t.”

Valerie squeezed him tightly.  She was beginning to see things in a way she never had before.  Ray was worthy of love.

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 27

Canto Twenty-Seven – Begging for Counter Spells

Valerie-squirrel scurried through the cat door in the back of Mazie Haire’s Gingerbread House.  Once inside the house, she searched all around the downstairs for Miss Haire.  Not finding her anywhere around the kitchen cauldron and fireplace, or the sitting room and reading area, or even the bathroom, the little blond squirrel finally found the witch upstairs, watching something through the telescope.

“So, you still aren’t practicing your natural skills of seeing and knowing, I see,” Miss Haire said to the squirrel at the top of the stairs.

“Chit Chitter Chit-it-it!” said Valerie-squirrel angrily, even though she meant to say, “I need help, I’ve been changed into a squirrel!”

“You don’t have to talk like that, you know.  Just say it in regular people words.”

“Chit-chitter… do I use regular people words?”

“Just like that, girl.  You have to use the acuity of your own intelligent mind to see through the fog the spell put on your brain.”

“Spell?”

“Well, that’s what a witch calls it, of course.  But it is more like a bit of chemistry in gaseous form, I believe.  Did you not come in contact with a cloud of purple smoke at one point or another?”

“Yes.  The Tiki idol filled Mary’s basement with purple smoke right before Mary, Pidney, and I all turned into squirrels.”

“Yes, and somehow you were given some sort of powerful suggestion right before that, I believe.”

“Suggestion?”

“Ideas were placed in your head prior to inhaling the gas, I believe.  Someone talking, or chanting, or telling a story perhaps.”

“There was… some chanting… yes.”

“So, that was the trick of it.”

“Can you…?  Can you cure me?  Or reverse the spell?  I don’t want to be a squirrel, Miss Haire.”

“You are not a squirrel, child.  You are a rather stupid and completely naked girl.  I can’t cure stupid, but you can.”

“What do you mean?”

“You will continue to think you are a squirrel until you take control of your own mind and convince yourself that you are not.”

Valerie-squirrel looked down at her own paws and golden-blond fur.  How exactly was that done?  Everything she saw, heard, and smelled told her that she was really a squirrel.  A human girl in her mind, but definitely a squirrel in all her body parts.

“So, what do I do?”

“Obviously, me telling you that you are not a squirrel is not enough.  So, you are going to have to go back out there and find for yourself the proof you need to turn yourself back into a beautiful young lady, and not a silly, naked squirrel.

“Go back… out there?  Where the cat is?  And that dog, Barky Bill?”

“Yes.  Go back out there and find the focus, find the part of your brain that reminds you that are not what somebody else says you are.  Go out and find the part of Valerie Clarke that is not a squirrel.” Valerie-squirrel swallowed hard and looked back down the staircase.  This was going to be hard.

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 24

Canto Twenty-Four – Squirrel Time

It was Skaggs the cat that started the action.   He stared at Valerie-squirrel with evil, mismatched eyes.  He licked his evil cat-lips.  Then he launched himself into the air, intending to come down on top of Valerie-squirrel’s head.

Pidney-squirrel was having none of that.  Faster than the eye could follow, he dashed over to defend Valerie-squirrel, latching on to Skaggs the cat’s left rear haunch with his sharp squirrel teeth.

“Yeeowehrrrrr-owwwerrrr!” screamed the cat as he tumbled over his wound into a very un-catlike pile of Pidney-squirrel-and-Skaggs-the-cat-awkwardness all wrapped up in a fight to the death.

“Chreee-chit-it-it-it!” cried Valerie, trying hard to say, “I’ll help you, Pidney-squirrel!” but not managing it very well.  She caught the tip of the cat’s tail in her mouth and bit hard with her own sharp squirrel teeth.

“Have a care, cat!” said Oojie.  “You can eat the boy-squirrel, but not the girl-squirrels.  I need them alive!”

The enraged cat was, paws and claws, splayed out in agony in four directions at once, spitting his fury and hatred at the squirrels who still had him impaled with buck teeth.

“You will die, beautiful one!” swore Skaggs in the mental language Valerie-squirrel had come to think of as cat language.  “I don’t care what the juju thing says.  He is only someone’s servant!  Not the witch-doctor himself.”

Mary-squirrel pulled at Pidney and made him let go of Skaggs’ hind leg.  She dragged him over to the furnace fixture and up a pipe that was wrapped with black tape where the squirrels could get a decent claw- hold.  Both Pidney and Mary squirrels shot up the pipe and out the open basement window above it.

Valerie-squirrel realized too late that she should’ve let go and followed them up the pipe.  The evil cat whipped his injured tail around and launched her toward the stairs.  Mary Philips’ father always kept a waste basket at the foot of the stairs, and Valerie-squirrel, head over tail, spiraled into it.

“Get outside and get the other squirrels!” Skaggs commanded the other cats.  “This one is all mine!”

The other cats disappeared up the cellar stairs and out of the house.

“You cannot kill the girl squirrel!” commanded Oojie with a shout.

“Spare me, little familiar… for that’s what you are, only the witch’s familiar, not the actual witch.  Magic flows through you, but it does not come from you.  You can’t control me.”    

Valerie-squirrel knew she was in deep and dire distress, so she felt around in the darkness for possible weapons.  But how does one wield a weapon with squirrel paws?  And then she realized that the waste basket was made of wicker.  She quickly bit into the soft woody fibers with her amazingly sharp incisors.

“I am going to report you to the master!” Oojie said to the cat.

“Go ahead.  I will have a nice squirrel lunch while you get him.  I have her trapped in this human trash thingy.”

The hole was big enough to squirm through.  And with luck, there was a mouse hole in the basement brickwork right near where she tumbled out on the dark floor.  She wriggled through the opening and into the hollow tunnel that was on the inside of the cinderblock wall.  She could see light somewhere far above.

“Where are you, beautiful one?  How can you be hiding under this paper and string and old apple cores?”

Valerie-squirrel heard the basket being batted away and new light flooded in the door of the mouse hole.

“Aha!  So that is where you have gone.”

The cat’s paw came reaching in through the hole, the only part of Skaggs that actually fit.  He nearly got a hold on Valerie-squirrel’s bushy blond tail.  She wasn’t used to having a tail the way a real squirrel would be.  She tucked it up underneath herself just in time.  Then she began to climb up through the brickwork.  It was a long, hard climb basically going straight up, but she could manage with four splayed squirrel legs.

“You haven’t escaped me yet!” cried the cat.  “I will have you still.” Her tiny heart beat even faster as she climbed.

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 22

Canto Twenty-Two – A Beach-Front Home

I followed the naked girl and her pet red panda about a mile along the beach.  She skipped and sang songs in a language I didn’t recognize, but sounded a lot like the Filipino language.  The panda sported about like a playful puppy, following her devotedly.  I didn’t think you found red pandas on small Pacific islands like the one we were on, but it didn’t matter what I thought.  I was no scientist or naturalist, so I didn’t really know.  I kept looking worriedly out to sea.  I mean, I did know for a fact that Chinooki the mermaid could eat people.

“We have been coming to this house, my tahanan,” she said proudly, showing me a beached submarine from World War Two.  It had a large rising sun flag from the Empire of Japan painted on the conning tower.

“You live in a submarine?”

“It is where Mangkukulan wants me to stay while we wait for the volcano.”

“Oh.  It’s like that, is it?  Well, show me.  Do you have any guns aboard?  Or swords?  Something to protect us from Chinooki?”

“Oh, silly captain man, Chinooki serves Mangkukulan.  She will not be harming me.  And she is ordered not to be hurting you also.”

I was a little worried about the actual intentions of this coo-coo man.  I didn’t think he really had Malutu’s best interests at heart.  Not if he meant to toss her naked into an erupting volcano.  I followed her warily up the side of the submarine and down into a hatch near the nose.

“My goodness, this is certainly rusty and rather dreary,” I said as I surveyed the narrow candle-lit corridor in the center of the submarine.  I followed her into the forward section where I really expected to see a forward torpedo room.  I found, however, that it had been hollowed out, lined with bamboo, and turned into a cozy and rather decent living space.  It had a bed in the center of the not over-large room.  There was a potbellied stove that had obviously been put there for cooking.  The room was also decorated with carved wooden idols.  They were the kind of Tiki idols that you could buy in Honolulu if you were a tourist who liked kitschy stuff to decorate your porch back in Iowa with.  Especially one large ugly idol with a man-like body and wearing a frightful carved mask.

“You have a nice home here.  Didn’t you say something about clothes you could put on?”

“Oh, yes.  Or… you could be getting naked too, Captain.”

“No, no.  Put on a dress please.  You need to be decent around me.”

She pulled out a rather nice red cloth dress with a white flower pattern on it.  It was a Hawaiian sort of wrap-around affair.

“This okay?  Or are you wanting the kimono?”

“That one is fine.  You are very beautiful like that.”

“Yes, I am being beautiful for you.  It is being important that I get you to like me very, very much.”

“Oh, yes?”

“I am liking you.  But I must be telling Mangkukulan that you are here now.  Chinooki has done well.”

“Um, maybe we can hold off a bit on telling the coo-coo man.”

“Why?  I am supposed to be telling him immediately… faster if it is being possible.”

“Are you sure that coo-coo man has our best interests at heart?  I mean, it seems to me like he might be trying to hurt us in some way.”  I was imagining being tossed into the volcano along with the girl.

“Oh, no.  This he will not be doing.  I will be sending the juju to tell him you are here.”

She went over to the biggest, ugliest Tiki idol and tapped his tattoos, once each until she had tapped them all.  And she sang;

“Juju do dah goodah… oojie-magoober!”  Purple smoke poured out of the top of the Tiki’s head and filled the room with a smell like burnt sugar.

“Is that a magic spell or something?”

“Yes, it is being something.  We are wanting you to be very comfortable here, Captain mans.  Will you not be taking off your clothes?”

“I most certainly will not.”

“Okay.  We will be doing the talking about it.  You will see.”

To my utter shock and horror, the Tiki man began to glow with an unearthly greenish-blue light.  He moved as if he were alive and trying to shake himself awake.

“It’s alive?”

“Don’t be being silly.  It is made of wood.  But, Oojie-magoober, please be telling Mangkukulan that the Captain is here.”

“Juju doo dah!  Yaya!” said the wooden creature.  Then it scampered out of the room and out of the submarine.

“You are liking Malutu, yes?” she asked me.

“Yes.  You are very beautiful.”

“Good-good!  Now you will be taking off your clothes, Captain.”  And just like that she had me naked.  I was as much under her spell as the wooden Tiki man.

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 21

Canto Twenty-One – The Deserted Beach

I was all alone on the island for all I knew, so I immediately got busy on my best Robinson Crusoe plan.  And then my headache made me rethink that, and I went back to sleep for another two hours.  I think it was two hours, estimating by the sun, but I don’t really know how to estimate time by the sun, and as I decided the first order of business had to be to locate any useful wreckage from the ship that had washed up on the shore, my head started hurting again, so I slept again.  Now, I know from re-reading this paragraph that I was probably sleeping way too much… and I didn’t know for sure that Chinooki wouldn’t come up on the sand to eat me, but, well… having this kind of horror-story adventure in the South Seas was really tiring.

When I did finally search the beach, I found almost nothing at all to help me.  I needed a knife, or a hammer, or a gun, or a shovel… but all I found was this log book and a wooden crate full of Pink Fizz Cherry Soda Pop.  Luckily, I also discovered I still had a pencil in my jeans pocket, otherwise I might’ve forgotten everything that happened before I could write it all down.  I know my thinking was a little fuzzy at the time… or possibly Pink Fizzy… but I wrote down everything as truthfully as I possibly could so that whoever found the book would know what happened to the Reefer Mary Celeste and her crew. 

Inland on the island was jungle… a rather thick jungle.  But I desperately needed food and fresh water.  And if I tried walking the beach until I either found civilization or discovered I was on a deserted island; I might die of dehydration and thirst before I discovered I was all alone for certain.  So, I made a brief foray into the island.  If I met headhunters or an evil killer gorilla, I couldn’t do any more about it than writing a scathing commentary on why they shouldn’t be eating me raw in this log book.  I could write that I hoped to give them a fatal case of indigestion as long as they ate my writing hand last.

The jungle was very hot and humid, but I found a rainwater pool a short way into the jungle and was able to slake my thirst. Coconuts and bananas were growing in abundance near the pool.   I also ate.  And it was then that I saw her for the first time.  She was a young girl.  I admit, at the time, I didn’t really know how young.  But she was lovely.  She was Asian-looking with slanted eyes and caramel-brown skin.  She had black hair and dark brown eyes that twinkled at me as she smiled.  And she was standing on the edge of the pool completely nude.  The only thing she wore was an adolescent red panda sitting on her shoulder and grimacing at me with a raccoon-like smile.

“Parlez vous Francais?” she said.  “Tagalog?  Maybe English?”

“I understand English,” I confessed.

“Ah, so good.  I am liking practicing my English.  We don’t be speaking it on this island.  Maligayang pagdating sa masasamang isla.  That means be welcome to Evil Island.”

I didn’t know whether to be frightened or worried about the name of the place, or be incredibly embarrassed that I was talking to a completely naked girl.  “I… I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to spy on you while you were bathing.  I will give you some privacy…”

“Huwag pumunta!  I mean… don’t be going away!  I be liking you.  I don’t be wearing clothings on this island, but I am having a kimono back at my bahay… my house.  I can be putting it on if hubad is wrongness for you.”

“Um, well, I…”  I didn’t know what to say. I was seven kinds of flustered and at least three kinds of embarrassed.

“Please.  Gwapong Lalaki and I are wanting to be talking to you.  It is lonely on the island, waiting for sa galit na bulkan…  for the volcano.”

“You… you are waiting for the volcano?”  I looked up at the high mountain peak about a mile inland.  Black smoke curled nastily out of the top of it.

“Yes.  I am being the virgin bride.  I am waiting for my husband to be.”

This of course sounded like some of the worst rumors I had ever heard about South Seas islanders.  It seemed they intended to throw this beautiful, naked young girl into the volcano to appease an angry god or some such nonsense.

“We have to get you out of here,” I said as bravely as I could manage.

“Yes, yes, that is what I am waiting for.”

“Um, you are?”

“Oh, yes, my husband is to be coming and taking me away from here forever.”

I was determined to rescue the poor girl.

“What is your name, sweetie?”

“I am Malutu… the Red Flower of Matuling Lupa.”

“I don’t have a way off the island at the moment, but I can build us a boat or something…”

“First you are coming to the house of Malutu and Gwapong Lalaki.  Follow us.”

She padded out of the clearing on bare feet and back towards the beach.  She apparently had a house to live in while she waited for her evil people to throw her into the volcano.  I followed her, not knowing what else to do.

“Um, Malutu?  You haven’t seen any mermaids on the beach have you?”

“Mermaids?  You are meaning sirena Chinooki?”

“You actually know about her?”

“Of course, silly man…  She is being the one who brought you to me.”

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 20

Canto Twenty – The Evil Island

We were lost because the Reefer Mary Celeste no longer had a navigator aboard, and Chinooki had apparently destroyed the radio and all the other electronic equipment on board as well.  Kooky and I tried to keep her on the course we had been following, but two of us were simply not enough people to manage a ship of the size of the Mary.  We quickly lost our way in a thick fog and we were going in an unknown direction at too high a rate of speed.  We knew how to use a compass and we might even have been able to wait for the stars if our minds hadn’t been turned to Jell-O pudding by the mermaid’s singing.

“She killed all of our crew, didn’t she?” said Kooky.

“She did.  You know, Chuck warned us about her.  We should’ve listened.”

“You are right, Captain.  I realize that now.  But at the time, it was like I was under a spell or something.  She had power over me.”

“Yes, she did.  Over all of us, apparently.”

“I am so sorry, Captain.  I’ve caused the death of us all, haven’t I?”

“None of us should ever have let someone else take control of our lives.  We should’ve realized the danger from the start.  You can’t blame yourself alone.”

It was right after that conversation that Kooky spotted Chinooki sitting on a distant rock.

“I am going to make her pay, Captain.  She is going to regret coming on board the Reefer Mary Celeste.”

Kooky was at the wheel, and he steered the entire ship directly towards the rock where Chinooki was sitting.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I’ll ram her!  I will run her over!”

“Kooky, she’s singing right now.  Do you think maybe she wants us to do exactly what you are doing?”

“Maybe so.  Maybe not.  But I have ta!” And the strangest thing is that I let him do it.  I let him ram the Mary bow-first into the rock.  It tore through most of the front end of the ship, separating her at mid-ship into two parts, both of which sank to the bottom.  I remember swimming in the ocean with shark fins in the water near the horizon.  I remember hearing Kooky call out and a sudden thrashing, and I wondered if it were the sharks or the mermaid herself who claimed him.  I never saw him again.  I never saw any of them again.  I blacked out, and don’t remember anything before awakening on the sand of the Evil Island’s shore.

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 19

Canto Nineteen – The Log Book of the Reefer Mary Celeste

It would be two days before anything more could happen in the quest to understand about the Captain.  Valerie finally found the time to visit Mary Philips’ house while Pidney was also there.  None of the other Pirates proved available.   Danny had a 4-H meeting to attend in the old Norwall School House, and Ray Zeffer also was in 4-H.  4-H Club was the center of farm-boy life in small farm towns in Iowa.  Both the boys and the girls had their own division of the club.  Heart, head, hands, and health, the 4-H’s were an international organization that encouraged youth development and prosperity through projects and learning goals.  4-H was to farmers what Boy Scouts were to the Army, Navy, and Marines… indoctrination into the secret cult of the tillers of the earth.  Technically, the three Pirates meeting in the basement of the Philips’ house were supposed to be at the meeting too, at least Pidney was.  The Norwall Pirates were also technically a 4-H softball team, so there were definite ties to things that couldn’t be ignored for long.  Still, this secret meeting was temporarily more important.

“I’m glad creepy old Doble couldn’t come,” Pidney said.  “I don’t trust him around you girls.  He doesn’t go to 4-H meetings any more, but he apparently has more important things to do with himself anyway.”

“We have to consider him a Pirate, though,” said Mary.  “He is the only remaining member of the original club.”

“Yeah, whatever.”  Pid was frowning until he looked at Valerie.  Then he smiled.  “But I’m sure glad you could come, Val.”

Valerie smiled her thanks at the big Polack.  He could be kinda dense at times, but Valerie was deeply in love with him anyway.

“I have the log book here,” Mary said, “and we can pick up reading where we left off.”

“About the mermaid?” said Pid.

“Yes, about the mermaid.”

“Chinooki,” reminded Val.

“Let me turn to the book mark,” said Mary.

                The mermaid was a miraculous creature.  Kooky actually had very little trouble catching her in the nets he used for catching prawns whenever we were near the island of Tahiti.  It was like she wanted to be caught for some strange reason.  And we soon discovered that keeping company with Chinooki was something every man aboard desired with a passion.   Her singing voice charmed the men to sleep and suggestibility.  The mermaid possessed every piece of scrimshaw, every golden ornament, and every valuable jewel on board the ship in very short order.

                “Chinooki likes sweet mens,” Chinooki said so often we never stopped to think that it might have a double meaning.

                Chuck Jones was the first man to disappear.  Kooky later told me that Chinooki told him she ate the sweet man.  But she could say practically any scary and awful thing, and then sing a sweet song, and everyone would smile and think she did no wrong.  The cabin boy disappeared next, and Bob Clampett swore he saw the kid’s severed foot at the bottom of the oyster stew Cookie served that same night.

“I am becoming alarmed here at this story,” said Pidney.  “Is this one of those things where you read the scary story in a book and then it comes true in real life?”

“It can’t be,” said Mary.  “You know full well that Captain Noah Dettbarn was a fool and a liar long before he ever went to sea.  He has a reputation in this little town, and the old folks all say that telling a lie is the same as telling a Noah.”

Mary continued reading aloud.

                Chinooki was a favorite of every sailor aboard.  She entertained us constantly with stories and songs.  She could play Kooky’s ukulele, too, like a professional.  She had us all dancing and singing along without being truly aware of what was going on.  Crewmen kept turning up missing.  Then, when Kooky started kissing her on the lips at every opportunity, I realized I needed to confront her.  I think I owe Kooky for that, because if he hadn’t interrupted her songs with his kisses, I might never have returned to my senses.

                “Chinooki,” I said, late one night at the aft rail, “you have to stop doing to us whatever it is that you have been doing to us.”

                “Chinooki not know what you are meaning, nice Captain mans.”

                “Don’t accuse her without all the facts,” Kooky said.

                “The crew likes what Chinooki has been doing for us,” added Bob Clampett.

                “Look around, Bob,” I said.  “Where exactly is the rest of the crew?”

                Bob looked all around the deck.  There was a lot of nobody to count.  His eyes got big and round.  “Good Lord!  You are right, Captain!  Something is definitely wrong!”

                “Ho ho!  Sweet Bobs has seen through the glammer!  Maybe silly Captain mans too!” said Chinooki.  She then wobbled up to Bob using her fish tail to travel upright in the manner of a cobra.  She put her silvery arms around his neck and gave him a big old smooch on the lips. Then she bit deeply into the side of his neck.  Together they pitched backwards over the ship’s rail and fell into the ocean below.  Poor Bob did not even have a chance to scream.

At that point in the story, poor Pidney was so pale, that Mary stopped reading, apparently afraid the big Polish football hero was about to pass out from fear.

“Don’t stop now!” Valerie insisted.  “This old log book thing is getting really, really good.”

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