A Tall Ship Tale #82: The Full Montego

Paul DeAnguera nears the end of his epic.

The First Officer noted his chief posed morosely in the coolness under the jib on the H.M.S. Legume’s port bow. “You seem troubled, sir,” he offered.

“Do you know why we’ve come to the West Indies?” Quid suddenly inquired.

“For the birds,” he recited, “for whose subtle drug-like pheromones the Chinese would pup… pup… would give much gold!”

“But the risk?” he growled.

“Only the loss of one vowel, sir,” sighed the First. “Such is the price for coming to, so they describe it, “the EYE-LOND!”

“Tell me then the sort of bird we seek.”

“Why, the hummingbird, sir! The stre… the st…” Horror shook him then, so he left it there — stood mopping his brow with his sleeve, due not to the weight of the tropic sun nor to the thickly scented breeze, but to some terrible oppression of the spirit within him.

“How does it feel, my friend, to lose something so tiny, so subtle, yet so close to one’s soul? By which I signify the letter we’ve been enjoined by some weird phenomenon from ever using while we bide our time on this evil isle?”

“Not so good,” the First muttered, joining his C.O. by the ship’s side to observe the isle in question. “We must do this quickly! I would not like this condition to be perm.. pup.. pup… to go on indefinitely!”

Outside of Kingston, in the lee of rugged outcrops festooned in glorious tropic growth, the ship sent down its monstrous hook. Owen the bosun rolled the needed equipment in the ship’s widest cotton cloth. Then he rowed with some crew to shore to hunt the precious hummingbirds.

The cooper cut down some jointed, tubelike shrubs. He split them finely, wove the thin bits loosely into wicker boxes, then furnished their bottoms with soft moss which he found on the verge of some trembling pool. This he wetted with liquid sweetened from the ship’s stores.

One by one the men took up these odd devices, then stepped into the jungle to set them in trees. Then they hid themselves in the bower close by, holding strings connected to hinged doors on the boxes so they could quickly close them.

“How does the drug effect one?” Owen wondered, killing time.

“The pheromone of the sort of hummingbird we seek extends or enlivens one’s interest in sex,” the Professor lectured. “There is some common word for such things, beginning with the forbidden letter, so my mouth seems unwilling to form it just now — I suppose since we’re so close to its source. But we must be very discrete here. Overdoses were reported by preceding hummingbird-hunters; the results were terrible! Those who live here took strong exception to the ensuing events. It’s been their custom to imprison interlopers who exhibit the tiniest sign of exposure, to protect their community from evil perversions!”

“Rightly so!” Owen concluded. “Then we must never let down our ship by exposing ourselves to this terrible drug.”

“Or to this crew,” growled the luscious but sternly unresponsive doctor, setting up her syringes for the coming struggle. Then everyone sighed in wonder, for now occurred one of the most splendid sights of their lives. The jungle filled with the brightly jeweled plumes, the whirring wings of hosts of exotic hummingbirds! Some boldly entered the wicker boxes, seeking the delightful food inside.

“Quick!” Owen hissed. “Close them! Good men. Now, doctor! To your work!”

Chinese gold shone in the eyes of the beholders while the doctor’s slender fingers deftly drew precious elixir from one bird, then the next. Suddenly horror filled the bower. For one struggling bird punctured her skin with its unique, erotic poison!

Fierce jungle-dwellers rose out of the tremendous ferns, bows held stiffly on the interlopers. How their timing could possibly be worse is difficult to suppose. The doctor drew deep lungfuls of the flower-scented breeze, but she could not resist the pheromone. She seized the front of her blouse. The ripping sound brought the bosun running, unfurling his bundle to envelop her in thick folds of cotton.

“Too close!” the Professor sighed, stepping up to help hold the struggling doctor. “Lucky for us you brought this cloth. Otherwise we’d surely be imprisoned on this isle for…

“…Indies scent exposure!”

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