The novelist awoke with a horrible jolt. He wondered if there were any other kind of jolt. Given the nature of jolts, especially the jolt that woke him so horribly, he doubted it.
For once, the abstract noun had no animal equivalent. The novelist looked around cautiously to see if some furry faced jolt would be growling in the distance, but all he saw was the awkward silence, yarking strangely in a corner, behind a sea chest.
That was odd.
The novelist stood up, and promptly sat down again as the ground reeled under him with a creaking of wood and ropes.
That was odd, too.
He realized he was in a long, pitching room, filled with moldering sea chests and stacks of coiled ropes. The air stank of stale rum and ancient Spanish gold in mothballs.
This was too much odd even for a madman, the novelist decided. Especially when he’s fainted at the bottom of a crag on a desolate plain lit by only three stars.
The novelist spread his hands. ‘Where’s my applesauce sandwich?’
From the reek and gloom, all three of his companions sighed. The awkward silence yarked happily.
‘You don’t have an applesauce sandwich, old boy.’ The Press sat scrunched between two piles of rope, balancing his fedora on his knees. ‘It wasn’t on the diner menu, remember?’
‘Ah, yes.’ The novelist scrunched his nose. ‘What is this, the diner kitchen?’
‘It’s the belly of the good ship Despair,’ said the Press. ‘Cap’n Jonas Sly has taken us all hostage, you know.’
The novelist looked around. ‘Are there any baboons?’
‘There are parrots, I think.’
‘Yaw-awk!’ yarked the awkward silence gleefully.
‘Er,’ said the novelist, ‘what’s wrong with the awkward silence?’
The poet left off drilling a corkscrew into a sea chest, sighed again. ‘It found a jug of rum, I think. And I don’t think it’s an awkward silence anymore.’
The novelist watched what used to be an awkward silence chase its tail backwards, with minimal success. ‘And, ah, what is it?’
‘I think,’ said the poet gloomily, ‘it’s that one story your uncle tells after dinner just before the awkward silence.’
‘Ywakrkrawk!’ yarked the awkward silence.
There was an awkward silence in which no furry animals appeared.
The novelist sat down again, volitionally this time. ‘You lot have all the fun, you know that?’
‘Yes,’ said the poet.
‘Well,’ said the committee chairman sullenly. ‘I don’t know if you’d call it fun, getting kidnapped by a lot of filthy pirates, that smell of—’
A bullet ricocheted off a sea chest at his feet. ‘Avast, ye swab! Do I hear y’ talking ill of me fine crew? I hope, for your old mother’s sake, I hear something else.’
Cap’n Jonas Sly loomed on the ladder above them. He looked the way every pirate cap’n should look. Gold shone on the buttons of his greatcoat, on the buckles of his belt and his shoes, on the hilt of his sword and the butt of his pistol, on the rings in his ears and on his fingers. A diamond shone on his eye patch. Silver studded the end of his wooden leg. His hair flowed like a magistrates wig, and his beard bristled like a horrified cat. He grinned, and more gold gleamed.
‘Pirates, d’ye say? We’re nothing of the kind, mateys. We be gentlemen, us’n, with fine reputations if y’ can find ‘em. Arrr.’
‘Arrr?’ the novelist demanded. ‘Did you just say, arr?’
‘Arrr,’ Cap’n Sly repeated. ‘Arr as in arr-eye-pea. Which is what you’ll be doing, if I heard you speak ill of the good ship Despair.’
‘Arr-eye-pea?’ the poet repeated. ‘Is that—oh.’
‘Er, relaxing in Paris?’ said the Press hopefully.
‘Reincarnated in penguins,’ said Cap’n Sly. He twirled his cutlass, grinned.
‘Oh, for pity’s sake!’ yelled the novelist.
‘Haven’t got any!’ roared Cap’n Sly.
The novelist ignored him. ‘Can’t you see what this chap is? He’s a stereotype—nothing but a stereotype! That confounded Scriptwriter’s done it again!’
The cutlass slashed past his ear. ‘If you’re speaking ill of me dear old matey—’
‘Oh, pooh!’ The novelist was quivering with rage now. ‘I want an applesauce sandwich. And I want to do something that’s not stereotyped, that’s not even in the script. And you know what? I blithering will!’
He never quite knew how what happened next, happened. All he knew was that he reached for the pie, and it was there. So he threw.