A Tall Ship Tale #25: The Ball Drops

Ah, Paul de Anguera’s tale of the Goodship HMS Legume continues.

The merchants of Pisa were quite pleased to buy Captain Quid’s cargo of olives. It was the entire crop of the only Buddhist colony in the region; and by this they knew they had stolen a march on their competitors in Venice. So they decided to throw a party for the crew of the H.M.S. Legume.

“Wonderful!” the First Mate enthused. “Where will the party be?”

“We’ll use this tower you’ve moored your marvelous flying ship against. The Round Tower has long been our city’s center for every sort of festivity. In fact, Galileo used to hold balls there!”

The town bakers put their rivalries aside to collaborate on a truly gargantuan pizza which incorporated a generous portion of the prized olives. Meanwhile, the crew boisterously dressed and shaved and haggled over mismatched socks. The pizza wouldn’t pass through the stairwell; so the Legume’s crew hoisted it up with a block and tackle and passed it through a window of the tower. “It’s a miracle how you got that in here,” the grateful townspeople said. It was decided that a pizza this substantial should have a name, so they called it “Pizza de Miracoli.”

Only Emma Talligeist was still taking duty seriously. Shaking her head and grumbling under her breath, she clambered about the rigging, furling sails by herself, while gaiety built up on the deck below. She had just gotten to the upper-mid top-gallant jib spinnaker skysail when the Boatswain hollered up, “Emma! Get down here and let’s go! That’s an order!” She shrugged and sighed, then slid down to join the party goers.

By the time Emma crossed the gangplank into the tower, the party was in full swing. The giant pizza was cut and pieces passed around. So too was the bottomless green gin bottle, whose progress Jim Dayman followed unobtrusively in case his services as djinn should be required. Almo Sather sampled a large selection of chocolates, making faces as he tasted their fillings. “A box of chocolates is like life,” the Zen Master advised him. “You’re never going to get what you know!” Gusts of rainy wind rattled the windows but could not dampen the party. Kernel Sanders stood near the musicians. “We Unix worship Cybele through music and dancing!” he explained to a Pisan lady. “We too know the goddess of music,” she replied. “Only, here we call her Sibelius,” she finished. The room lurched, and the air filled with the sounds of screams and breaking glass. With a deep, shuddering groan, the room tilted steadily to one side.

“It’s the ship! All crew to the ship!” The First Mate cried. The crew streamed back on board the ship. Someone had forgotten to furl the upper-mid top-gallant jib spinnaker skysail. It was catching the full force of the gale; the Legume was drifting astern and trying to take the building along with it. The crew soon put things to rights. But the damage was done, and the beautiful Round Tower was now disfigured by a permanent lean. Next day, the town council met angrily to decide what to do about it.

“Your negligence caused this!” the Doge shouted at the Legume’s officers. “You must pay us a thousand pieces of money!”

“Look, let’s not get excited,” the First Mate replied soothingly. “This situation has a simple answer. Now, tell me — about this building — when was it built?” The councilmen glared at each other in puzzlement. “That’s all right,” He continued. “We don’t have to know exactly when it was built, just approximately. Was it between 1600 and 1750?”

“Why do you ask?” the Doge responded querulously.

Patiently, the First Mate replied, “Now, this is just a suggestion, but…

“If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it!”

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