PASTEL PIRATES. Short story 6. Final installment.

I had arrived at my destination in Provincetown at the end of Cape Cod Massachusetts, jet-lagged and full of anticipation. On arriving all I hoped for was a quiet evening and a comfortable bed before beginning my review of a project the following morning. The harbour wharf, on which the ‘Billy Bones Bar’ perched, was deserted. I expected it to be much the same on the inside.
As the front door was locked, I looked round the side and found another, which was open. I went in shouting, “Hello!” There was a small lobby and another door that opened onto the bar at the back. I walked in; a few people were gathered round the bar.
“Hi,” a cute girl with a lovely smile said, “Are you John?”
“Yes,” I said, “are you the pirate project people?”
“Sure are,” said a young guy. Then suddenly and overwhelmingly in the way that Americans do, they were all over me. I’ve never had such a welcome, not even when I was born! In the flush of greetings and hand-shakings, the jet lag flew away. Here was a new bunch of friends to meet and the prospect of an exciting new project. I thought, whatever happens I must keep a grip on myself and make a good impression. They all seemed laid back but I needed from the start to come over as a ‘Professional’. After all, I hadn’t actually got the job yet.
All smiles and handshakes on the surface, underneath I was nervous as hell. Starting something fresh with new people always made me nervous, and this job if it came off, designing a world-traveling exhibition about pirates sounded incredibly exciting! And now I’d seen the place, I wanted it badly.
Jake, Mike, Ted and Joanne, my project hosts for the night so it turned out, were all intent on getting a first drink down my throat and keen to learn more about who I was and what I’d done. It seemed that Phil who had first called me in Yorkshire hadn’t told them much and he wasn’t there.
Jake from behind the bar slid over a margarita, a drink I’d never tasted before (up to this point I had led a sheltered life), saying that this was the “official” welcome drink of Provincetown and it and anything else I wanted during my stay at Billy Bones was on the house!
I asked, “So what’s the connection with the project and the bar.”
Joanne spoke up, “Well the guy who found the pirate ship, that’s his boat outside, “The Vast”, owns this bar as well. This is sort of like the project base.”
“Nice office.” I said looking round and out at the reddening sky over the water.
“And this is where you’ll be staying and working from. I’ll show you your room in a while, “ said Jake. “First have another and relax.”
Gosh, I thought to myself, I’d better take it easy.

Well that margarita with it’s sweet saltiness was so delicious and so harmless tasting, slipped out of the glass and down my throat a bit too easily as did the next and the next and soon I was in full- on party mode as was everyone else. Bloody hell, I thought, what a job this is going to be!
After the third or maybe the fourth glass things started to get a bit fuzzy. I don’t think I’d even taken my coat off. What I remember vaguely in a misty sort of way was that the bar started to fill up with more people and took on a bizarre and Fellini-esque appearance.
The new people coming in were large ladies in fancy outfits. There was something odd about them. They didn’t seem to fit with the setting of the rather Spartan room. As I was getting to know the team at the bar, I didn’t pay them too much attention and carried on chatting as the room filled up. Then a big woman smoking a large cigar approached me, tapped me on the shoulder and in a strangely deep voice asked me to dance. It took a little while longer until I realized she was, in fact, a man – a rather large one. It was her full-faced brown beard and large biceps that gave him away, though I liked the blonde wig and blue satin dress. Trouble with the dancing though; it was difficult to know who should lead, but as I’d never attempted the tango before it didn’t seem to matter.
Whilst being dipped, I saw huge bulbous calf muscles all around and stilettos and blue veined feet stuck in them; there were silk gloves on mitts the size of frying pans, rouge and lipstick, feathers, frilly underskirts and handbags. Yet apart from Joanne laughing at the bar, there wasn’t another female in the place. Weird and nightmarish as it could have been, what was going on all around me didn’t seem to matter much at all, especially as more of the salty sweet drink found it’s way into my stomach.
As the evening degenerated further, it became more of a foggy spiral of loud music, blurred action and interaction, pastel shades, satin and lace, hairy arms and strapless little cocktail numbers, in which fat bellies had been stuffed. It started to feel and look quite normal as did fishnet wrapped legs many the size of ham-hocks, and big men in frocks and fancy hats. It was dreamlike, the kind of dream you wake up from screaming, but somehow as part of it I was just carried away. Was I laughing or screaming, couldn’t tell. The last thing I recall is the sound, rocking music and shrieks of laughter, disco balls and flashing lights, then everything fades to black.
The next thing I remember was several hours later; I came round slowly with eyes closed and became aware of a ringing-chiming-clanking sort of sound, like bells. I wondered if I’d died in the night and arrived in some sort of celestial clearinghouse. What if there’d been a disaster? Maybe the building had fallen into the sea.
I needed to speak to some entity just in case the authorities in limbo had lumped me in as one of the cross-dressers. I opened my eyes and closed them again; the light was too bright; in fact it was shining celestially. I had crossed over! Then my head hurt, oh it hurt, maybe I had gone direct to hell! The sound carried on, what was it? I pushed open my eyelids with my fingers and discovered that I was alone in a room with building equipment. Obviously limbo or wherever it was, was so busy with souls piling in to be sorted they were having to build extensions. There were lights on stands and sawhorses and sheets of wallboard, buckets of nails and electric drills. Apart from the heavenly do it yourself gear the room was empty, the only piece of furniture being the mattress I was lying on. Then I came to my senses. This wasn’t limbo or heaven (just as well as I hadn’t changed my underwear in two days). I was still earthbound and four large un-curtained windows were the source of the brilliant sunlight that streamed in. I covered my eyes and fumbled for my specs and found them in my shirt pocket.
Struggling to sit up with my back on the wall, I noticed that beneath me the mattress felt slippery, cold and clammy. I looked down. I’d been stretched out on a double mattress still in its plastic wrapper. There were no bed-clothes (sheets in America). If this was hospitality it was a bit weird or maybe some kind of test. I must have been lying there prone on the cold plastic all night. Then the sound started up again. It was coming from outside. I strained and looked into the brightness. The bells were in fact ropes clanging against the masts of boats. With that I remembered where I was and an indistinct shadowy notion of what had happened the night before passed through me like mental colonic irrigation.
I shivered; it was cold, I was cold. I didn’t have my coat or my jacket on but seemed otherwise to be fully dressed apart from having one shoe missing. I looked down, trying to focus on my clothing and noticed something else; hanging round my neck were several necklaces made of large shiny coloured beads. More disturbing, on the wedding ring finger of my left hand was a very large, very showy ‘diamond’ wedding ring!
Instinctively I checked that all my clothes were in one piece and in place. I remembered my first wedding night. Thankfully, I was buttoned and zipped and hopefully completely intact, but why was I wearing a wedding ring?
I thought I’d better make an effort to get up and investigate in case whoever it was who’d given me the ring returned. And anyway I was there to do a job after all.
Rolling over I managed to un-stick my legs from the plastic and get my feet onto the dusty floor. Standing up was more of a task as everything seemed to be made of jelly and when I stood up my head burst into fireworks of pain as the nausea monster woke in the pit of my stomach and started moving about on its own. I teetered a bit so I leant against the unfinished wall and looked for a door. There was a doorframe, but no door in it. Running my hands along the wall for support, like one might on a strange ship, I stepped out into a short corridor leading to a flight of bare wooden steps. Remembering that the building, if it was the same one I’d seen last night, was dangling on rotten sticks over water, I moved slowly and cautiously, as I didn’t want to be the cause of its collapse! I thought maybe it might just tip over and float off to sea. Managing the unfamiliar staircase, at the bottom I once again found the door that led into the bar.
“Hey John,” said a voice from behind the bar. “How are you?”
“A bit less than perfect actually, er…” I couldn’t remember the chap’s name.
“Jake, remember? From last night?” He looked disgustingly bright and perky. “Like some coffee, juice or something?” He asked brightly.
I plunked down on a stool at the bar like a sack of soft green potatoes.
“Man you look rough!” he said.
“Thanks Jake, some juice please with a quick acting poison if you have some, bleach would do.” I said, the movement of my tongue making me realize that something must have crept into my mouth during the night, pooped and died.
I stuck my tongue out and looked at it in the mirror on the bar.
“Oh God,” said Jake, “You’re not going to put that back in are you?”
“Unforthunately yeth.” I said.
“Well,” He said passing me a large glass of juice, “I thought that you English were reserved and stuffy, you know dry, stuck-up and boring.”
“Yes we are.” I was strangely proud to admit it.
“Well man you must be the exception that proves the rule!”
“Why’s that?” I said nursing my head.
“You were wild man, woo—who! You don’t remember?”
“I was?” I said, “when?”
“Last night.” He said, “Here we took wedding pictures.”
“What, it was someone’s wedding party?” I asked trying to make sense of the tangles of gaily dressed party folks in the pictures. The Polaroids were a bit blurry.
“Yes, yours!” He said, “You married the Pirate Queen.”
“I did!?”
“Sure did.” He handed me another print.
“Is that me? Who’s that carrying me and where to?” In the photo I was laughing and being carried in the arms of a large bearded lady wearing a blue ball-gown and a pirate’s hat with a skull and cross bones on the front.
“Belinda,” Said Jake, “she’s the queen of the Pirate Queens, you made a good move man, a real good choice.”
“But I’m already married!” I said trying to get the ring off my finger. Then a terrible thought crossed my mind. I caught hold of Jakes arm. “Jake,” I said whispering, “what’s that room upstairs, where I just woke up?”
“The Bridal Suite.” he said with a smile, “Well at least it will be when we’ve finished it.”
“Oh my God.” I said. “Jake, Jake, you don’t think…?”
“Consummated, don’t think so man; Belinda is really Steve from Boston, a businessman with five kids and a second wife.”
I must have looked perplexed as well as green.
“And he’s a transvestite. They just like to dress up like women; they’re not gay like me. Last night was Belinda’s birthday party and as it turned out you made the ideal gift. All the Trannies thought you were great man, they love the accent!”
“Oh God.” I said. “How embarrassing!”
“And there’s one more thing about Belinda. You really lucked out.” Jake went on,
"Why? I asked.
Jake leant over and slapped me on the shoulder. "If you get this job, she’s the guy who’ll be paying you!”
And that’s how I joined the pirate crew but thankfully without the nuptials!

PASTEL PIRATES. Short story 6. Final installment.

John Sunderland

New York, United States

  • Artist
    Notes

Artist's Description

Last installment of the true story of how my pirate life began.

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