Tarzan's Tripes Forever, and Other Feghoots

The Web's Original Shaggy Dog Story Archive


A Tall Ship Tale #34: A Bird In The Hand

Category: alt.callahans, Puns, Rated G

It has been altogether too long since we have dropped in on Paul de Anguera’s tale of Nautical Adventure and Non-sense.


The steward uncorked a rare bottle of Grand Fenwick ’82, and glasses were passed around the Captain’s table. “And so you see,” Sir Hillary Throckmorton-Shillingsworth III continued, “To penetrate Mecca, which is death to ordinary Christians, is my destiny! I have immersed myself in the cultures of the far east to the extent that I can blend seamlessly and undetectably into native society. Indeed, my detractors accuse me of being prone to … IS THIS ALCOHOL?! ABOMINATION!” He seized the bottle from the steward and flung it through the stern window; a splash was heard outside. “…As I was saying, to falling into the native role unpredictably. But I maintain that such absurdity neither merits nor requires a response. Wouldn’t you agree, sahib — er, um, old chap?”

The First Mate considered his empty glass and decided to change the subject. “Now, we understand that in your specialty one must always be discrete, but it has just occurred to me that you might be in a position to assist us by explaining a message — a little puzzle, really, nothing serious, probably just bad handwriting.” And he offered Sir Hillary the mysterious letter which Cilantro had left:

“Your oar, dears! Art, to prose — cede to thee! Why douse, Anisette? Fie, you’re due wit!”

Sir Hillary held it at arm’s length and frowned at it. “‘Your orders are to proceed…’ Why, no, I can make nothing of it! I’m so sorry!” And he returned it to the First Mate with a shrug. “But if I may ask a favor in turn, that would be to discretely ask your crew member with the best night-vision to accompany me on a mission. It would be just a brief excursion, to fetch something I need to bring along to Mecca.”

“Your trunk, you mean?” the First Mate asked.

“Not exactly,” the spy equivocated.

“Is this … something … presently the property of yourself, or of another?”

Sir Hillary drew his robe together and stood. “All I’m asking is a little help in redressing an ancient wrong that has become of interest to the Crown. Believe me, I am on the right side!”

But the left side of the bazaar was the darkest that evening, and so it was here that Sir Hillary slipped from one shadow to the next with Emma Talligeist in his wake. “Besides the major religions such as Islam, there are many obscure sects in this part of the world,” he explained in an undertone. “Some worship snakes; others Baal. We are looking for a temple of gnome worshippers. It contains a venerated and very ancient lamp — the Gnome Light. We must bring it away with us and take it to Mecca.”

“Hsst!” Emma said; but she was too late. “What are you two doing here?” a suspicious woman called out. “The bazaar is closing!”

“We need eggs,” Emma improvised. “Our master is very ill, and only the freshest eggs…”

“Oh, well then! I just happen to have the freshest eggs you’ll find in Suez!” the shopkeeper exclaimed. Shortly they were on the way again, Emma cradling half a dozen eggs in her arms.

Sir Hillary led the way between two sagging stalls, descended a worn flight of stone steps and entered the Gnome Temple. Emma followed gingerly; one of the eggs seemed to be cracking. On a wide bench in the entryway leaned a guard, holding a huge scimitar, fast asleep. Beyond him they could see the altar; here offerings of fruit and spices surrounded a diminutive brass lamp from whose spout a warm yellow flame grew.

A bit of sand had blown into the passage, and it made a grating noise under Sir Hillary’s sandal. The guard’s snoring stopped abruptly, and they froze in place. There was a pause; then another snore followed, and they relaxed and started moving forward again. But Emma felt the eggs wiggling in her arms. She heard a pecking noise, and looked at Sir Hillary in alarm.

“I don’t think these eggs are fresh at all. In fact, they’re starting to hatch!” she whispered under the cover of a particularly loud snore. “What are we going to do?”

Sir Hillary pointed silently at her, then back up the steps to the bazaar. When he rejoined her outside, lamp in hand, he explained:

“You can’t Mecca Gnome Light with outbreaking eggs!”

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