A Tall Ship Tale #72: Oh You Echidna

Another punish episode from Paul DeAnguera.

Sir Hillary’s away-team was encountering difficulties in its search for Lao-tsu. The snow in the Tibetan canyons had become so deep that they sank up to their thighs with every third step. “There’s a corral full of animals ahead,” Owen Anatu called from his advance position in the fog.

“Just what we need!” Sir Hillary said. “Let’s see if we could ride any of them.”

First he tried to mount a lama. But it looked back at him reproachfully and objected “Really, sir!” Next he tried a llama, but it backed warily away. “It knows it belongs to another man,” Owen noted as he examined the beast’s harness. “Andy’s, I think.” Then Sir Hillary approached a lllama. But it rolled its eyes at him and he barely ducked them in time. Finally the sailors settled on some yaks, even though their incessant conversation was almost past enduring.

Meanwhile, the Captain had sent the First Mate in the captured pinnace to buy supplies. After they got underway, Ian Vilcorus the blacksmith explored the little craft’s cabin. “It looks like some enemy sailors were on board, but they’ve gotten clean away; I don’t see any sign of them now,” he reported.

They located a village nestled on a hillside above the river. “What luck!” the First Mate exclaimed. “It’s market day. Let’s check out the bazaar.”

“Or something mundane would be all right, too,” suggested Almo Sather as he puffed up the steep river bank.

“We have free samples of aromatics today,” a vendor called from his booth. “Radishes — onions — scallions — you can take a leek, right here, if you’d like!” So Almo did. After that, the supply party had to leave in more haste than they had intended. But at least they came away with a good lot of vegetables.

Back on the H.M.S. Legume, Captain Quid was working through some old dispatches. He picked up a yellowed sheet by his friend Captain Cook and read:

Saturday, 28th April, 1770

In the p.m. hoisted out the pinnace and yawl in order to attempt a landing but the pinnace took in the water so fast that she was obliged to be hoisted in again to stop her leakes…*

He belched shockingly, just as the First Mate stepped into the cabin. Quid had caught a nasty cold from sailing about in all the snow. The ship’s store of echinacea was exhausted; so he’d swallowed an echidna instead, and he was regretting it already.

“What do you have to report, Lieutenant?” he blustered in embarrassment.

“There’s a leek in the pinnace, and some seamen may have escaped, sir!”

Quid nodded knowingly; at least he was not alone in his troubles. “Where do you suppose the seamen went?”

“We have no information, sir.”

“Speculate,” Quid growled impatiently.

The First Mate wrung his hat uneasily. “Well, I’ve heard that Monica Lewinsky has some, sir!”

* James Cook, Landfall at Botany Bay

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