Tarzan's Tripes Forever, and Other Feghoots

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A Tall Ship Tale #2: Better Plate Than Never

Category: alt.callahans, Puns, Rated G

Another of these fables by Paul de Anguera. It seems there are just no end to the variants on this particular punchline.


Boatswain Rhet Ayring was so humiliated by his ticklish failure that, as soon as the ship touched land, he deserted. This happened in Lisbon. The skipper sent out his first mate along with his dog, Ali, who could penetrate any disguise, to look for Rhet. But a storm had blown up and washed away the traces so that even clever Ali could not sniff him out.

So the Skipper sent out a press gang to look for a replacement for Rhet. That night they scoured all the lowest Portuguese dives for merchantman-sailors and any other incautious and able-bodied expatriates. As dawn broke they rowed back to the ship with a sullen and sorry-looking lot.

“Do what with such fools?” growled the Skipper, who was a miser even with words.

“I know they don’t look promising,” the First Mate admitted as the “recruits,” many of them rather elderly for sea duty, formed a slovenly line on the main-deck. “But as I was marching them along, one of them dropped a letter-written in code. Nobody would claim it, but I’m certain that one of them used to be a, well, as you might say, an intelligence agent. You know how well Captain Jack Aubrey did once he’d hooked up with Stephen Maturin-contacts on shore, romantic encounters, signals in the dark, and all that sort of thing!”

“Aye,” the taciturn Skipper grunted, and this encouraged the First Mate.

“Here’s a list of them,” he said, offering a delicate china dish gilded with the arms of a once-noble house. “We couldn’t find any paper at the inn we raided, so I just wrote it on the back.” The Skipper took the dish carefully; only one name on it mattered, but which?

The First Mate was thinking the same thing. “Anyone can see that the rest of these land-lubbers are no good for us. Which one should we keep, Skipper?” he asked.

The captives felt the sweeping rake of a crafty, heavy-browed gaze; then the…

…skipper culled a fragile list. “Take ex-spy. Ali, go choose!”

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