need more fruitcakes in this world and less bakers!
Grandmommie Parrothead had finalized the purchase of the PPBBB, working with Dawn and FastMovingAngel to research and resolve legal entanglements to the property, the Key on which it sat, and the waterways that laced the swamp around it. Desdemona and I moved in immediately, Des taking the largest room in the Boathouse, while I claimed the groundskeeper's cottage and greenhouse as my own. And then the rest of crew began to pour in.
" 'may I extend my services to you as a certified mixologist?' writes Cap'n Ron aka CafeMojo." Desdemona looked up from her computer screen. "Hey, didn't Dawn say she tended bar? We could split the job between 'em."
"We'll have to ... she's a falconer too, so I've already got her and her osprey down as chief fisherman."
"We're gonna have a bunch of fisherman living here already, Green," Des reminded me.
"I know. But we need someone who we can count on to catch something now and then."
'Oh, you're mean, girl!" Des chuckled, and turned back to the e-mail.
" 'You're gonna need somebody who can build the deck chairs, repair the walls, run the wiring, and keep the place in good shape for the parties, tourists, and Bubba.' Hey, it's EC Jester!"
"KWFL Handyman ... EC Jester," I typed. We were beginning to get a crewe duty roster roughed out. "Bob Robinson says he's working on our theme song. He'll sing it for us when he gets here."
"Hey, here's one from Drifty! Says he's bringing Bill and O.C."
"In the same car? Oh my...."
Des grinned in agreement. "We better hope that the bartenders get here first."
Some of you may remember those early days of the KWFLPPBBB as the best days of our lives here. Long hours of hard work were punctuated by impromptu parties each time another new vehicle rolled up the lane. The parking lot looked like the staging ground for some multi-cultural road rally, filled with an odd assortment of vehicles displaying license plates from both coasts and many points in between. Cars parked in the shady spaces under the coconut palms usually belonged to the newest arrivals, who had yet to learn one of the basic lessons of life in the Keys.
Des named herself The Lady of the Boathouse, and took charge of all therein. Under her direction, EC Jester and his willing apprentices poured their energies into the rundown old buildings and made them sturdy, safe and up to code. Newcomers were presented with a hug, a margarita, a choice of lodgings, a brush and a can of paint. Single ladies seemed to gravitate to the upstairs rooms in the Boathouse; following old Southern custom, single fellows were directed to lodgings in the Garcionniere, an old garage which had been redone as a group of small rooms with a common kitchen and bath. Des and Green each had clear views of the Garcionniere from their respective quarters. "Got to keep an eye on those single mens," they told each other, with conspiratorial smiles. Families settled into the bungalows, and an old shed was transformed into a 'Keet Coop where kids could play, supervised by volunteer parental units working in shifts.
Some pholks came to visit and vacation, others came to stay. Drifty the Gypsy rolled in as promised, with neither Hoffert nor O.C. strapped to the fender, much to Des' and my relief. They immediately claimed two bungalows next to each other, and erected twin patio umbrellas, one blue and one gray. And the Key West Foreign Legion slowly became a reality.
Oyster Cracker wanted to be our cook. He maintained that he already had a theme name, and he mentioned food in his signature line, so it was his destiny. We tried to persuade him that our concept of "cook" required more than shucking oysters and using a church key to open a long-neck Dixie every day, but he vowed he could do more. After he made red beans and rice, we were so impressed that we appointed him janitor. "Jimmy's Buffet," which we named the galley in the Boathouse, was staffed in rotation (the honor often bestowed by drawing of the short straw) while we waited for destiny to reveal the One True Cook of the PPBBB. Bill Hoffert declared himself Parrotthead Emeritus and declined further honors, titles and duties. Drifty declared himself Master of the Boathouse in concert with Desdemona, assuming responsibility for the lifts, the docks, and all other parts of the structure which were not living quarters. Now all we needed was a boat.
The problem came up one day while Des, Drifty and I were sitting idly on the dock, tossing lettuce leaves to Bob the Mermaid, as our manatee had come to be known. Bob had got the name from the body language required to keep a weak but fascinated manatee eye out of the water in order to observe all the amazing activity on the shore; Bob, lady that she was, accepted the name with the same good grace and delicacy she applied to chomping the lettuce we were providing.
"I want a boat to take care of," griped Drifty. "This is a Boathouse. I'm the Master of it. I want a boat."
"There's the Bateau Rouge," I reminded him, but Drifty only snorted. "That's a toy boat. I want a real boat!"
Right on cue, a steam whistle shrieked from the far side of the outrider isle. It didn't sound like a boat whistle at all. Startled and indignant, Bob dove to the bottom of the lagoon to wait out this new commotion appearing on her side of the waterline. "Hey, Drifty," Des asked, as the sound of a chugging steam engine began to clatter in our ears, "would you settle for a toy train?"
"Omigawd, look!" I exclaimed in delight. Even the crabs in the mangrove roots couldn't believe their eyestalks.
The whistle shrieked again, white steam mixing with a cloud of black smoke that trailed behind what had to be the homeliest boat any of us had ever seen. The graceful sweep of a Boston Whaler bow sloped back 20 feet to flatten into the drag-tail transom of a shrimp boat, crusted with rotting bumper sponges. A tattered rag of canvas that might have once been white clung tenaciously to a frame of metal piping over the pilot's wheel. Waving rakishly from behind that wheel, one foot on the starboard rail, was Blackbeard.
"Hey, guys, look what I scored for us!" The note of triumph in his voice was unmistakable.
Drifty tossed diplomacy to the winds.
"What the hell is that?" he asked.
Blackbeard, too wrapped in glory to recognize cynicism, smiled broadly.
"Meet the Conch Queen!"
The KWFLPPBBB had a boat.