made enough money to buy Miami
"That's not a boat, that's an unfinished shipwreck," snorted Drifty.
"She's yar, take my word for it," Blackbeard shot back.
"Take your word for it! You worked on submarines ... you guys sank your boats on purpose!"
"Only because we could," said Blackbeard defensively.
"I think she has a lot of character," I jumped in, trying to defuse the conflict. "She fits right in with the rest of this place."
"She's gonna take a lot of work." Even the eternally optimistic Desdemona was a bit skeptical.
"Well, we'll have the parrottpower," I replied. "I got an e-mail from Emilie this morning ... she's finished travel arrangements for JHat, AngelK, Jhnjb and Takeitez. This place is going to be jumping pretty soon."
"And Raven is coming, too!" added Desdemona. "I think we're going to need him, after what happened to Skip yesterday."
We all laughed. Skip Wiley had come bearing gifts for the Boathouse. He'd spent the better part of the day arraying the upper deck with strings of party lights ... chili peppers, pineapples, palm trees, parrots, Chinese lanterns and even little plastic Godzillas now glowed softly in the dusk. Unfortunately, a misstep toward the end of the project had sent him tumbling over the rail and into the lagoon, from which he had fortunately emerged unhurt. But we'd all had our share of scrapes, from thumbs hit by hammers to wood splinters to sunburn, and having Raven on the place with his medical knowhow would be reassuring.
Blackbeard finished tying up the Conch Queen and stepped onto the dock. "I'm gonna go get cleaned up. Margaritas on the deck later?"
"As always," I said, and turned my attention to my feet, dangling in the water. Bob the Mermaid surfaced and started nibbling my bare toes. "No more lettuce, lady," I apologized.
"Truer than you think," Salome said, coming down the stairs from the upper deck with a solemn look on her face. Glumly, she sat down on the dock next to Des, Drifty and me.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, I've been going over the books," our accountant said, "and while we've been pretty careful about our spending, the Drede Pyratte Roberts' fortune doesn't go as far these days as it would have in his time. I've invested a lot of it, but we should be thinking about a way to make this place pay for itself."
The water lapping against the Conch Queen and Bob's soft snorts were the only sounds for a while, as we contemplated the prospect of our dream beaching itself.
"OK," I said finally. "Meeting tonight on the upper deck."
The dock party broke up and we drifted off in different directions, thinking hard.
MangoHombre and NiteOwl rolled in that afternoon, a cooler full of shrimp in the back of their car. I tried to stay in the kitchen and help, but the sting of Zatrain's made my eyes water and drove me out. I blinked as I passed the bathrooms ... someone had taken chalk and crossed out "Fins" and "Tails." A wild scrawl proclaimed "Crawdads" and "Crawmamas." I laughed and headed for the stairs.
I found the floor of the big room on the ground level strewn with boxes, duffel bags and bright aluminum lockers. A big fellow stood amidst the mess like the Ghost of Christmas Present amid the makings of a feast.
"Hi, I'm Gator!" he proclaimed. "I brought stuff for the dive shop!"
"I see," I managed, a little stunned. "Dive shop?"
"Well, sure," he said. "I want to pull my own weight around here, and diving is what I know. Where should I put this stuff?
"Um ... through those doors, in the Boathouse," I said absently. "I'll get Drifty and Skip to help you." The wheels were turning in my brain ... kachunk, kachunk, kachunk ... and the beginnings of a plan were forming.
The upper deck was crowded that night. We sat in the dark, surrounded by tiki torches and glowing Godzillas, sipping our margaritas and relaxing. Irieblue idly picked paint the color of her name from her hands ... she'd received her welcoming drink and paint can the day before, and had almost as much paint on herself as on her walls. It had been a good, strong drink. Yomonk and Adrian, two lurkers who'd joined us, leaned on the railing, their backs to the water. I almost said something, but changed my mind. Dawn's new blender made potent potions and several of us, once "mellowed," had gone over that railing in past weeks. We called it "dancing with Bob," who never seemed to mind and good-naturedly nudged those of us who temporarily forgot how to swim back to the dock ladder. I wasn't about to ruin the initiation for our newbies.
"This meeting is called to order," I said. "Salome has informed me that we need to find a way to bring some income to this place. And I think I have an idea."
Des smiled. I'd run this past her already, and she'd been enthusiastic.
"Some of you know that for several years, I worked for Disney's theme park designers," I continued. "I always enjoyed going down to the Park in Anaheim and watching the adults having as much fun as the kids, especially on the Jungle Cruise. I think we could do something similar here. We've got the Conch Queen, and Gator's diving equipment. We've got Bob--"
"Hey," cut in Mayday. "Bob's my girl! I don't want her being exploited."
"No," I agreed. "But she could teach a lot of people about manatees. You and Des could write the spiels, Takeitez and Jhat can be the tour guides, and Blackbeard can pilot. Des and Raven can make their wonderful Key Lime pies for pholks to eat afterward, here on the deck, while they sip Mojo's margaritas. I'm going to ask MangoMan to come down and be our security guard/gatekeeper, and Angel38 can greet people at the gate and show them around. I'll give the garden tour. We can share the place with others on weekends, teach them about the Keys, show them a good time, make some money, and keep the place going. What do you think?"
Dawn's blender whirred in the silence as the crewe mulled it over. Finally, Whino spoke up.
"I'm for it," he said. "I'll help write the spiel ... you guys could use some one-liners to break up the education." He winked at Des.
"Me, too," chimed in Jhnjb. "I'll help give the tours."
Microvore spoke up too. "I've been a lurker up until now, but I'll be glad to put my PR skills to use for the cause."
"Yeah, this could be fun!" "I'm for it!" "Me too!"
OC grumped, "I don't like the idea of tourists comin' on the property, but if they're Buffett pholk, I guess it's OK."
All eyes turned to Bill Hoffert, Parrotthead Emeritus. He sipped his 'rita slowly, enjoying the suspense he was generating. Finally, he nodded.
"I like this plan. I'm glad to be a part of it."
The vote was unanimous. Paper parasols flew into the air and burst into tiny flares of light as they fell into the tiki torches. Jhnjb pushed the button on the boom box, and the deck swayed slightly as everyone began dancing to "Livingston Saturday Night." The Pirate Parrotts partied long into the night, and a few Astaires went over the rail to dance with Bob. The manatee didn't mind, and neither did her partners ... we fished our comrades out of the lagoon, wet but spirits undampened.
We were having too much fun to worry about whether or not the plan would work. It had to.
At the same time, in a darkened room some miles south of the KWFLPPBBB, a suit appeared in a doorway.
"Boss, we've got a problem."
The clatter of computer keys ceased. "Is it a real problem, or a legal problem?" a soft drawl asked, slightly annoyed.
"It's a real legal problem," came the equally annoyed reply. "I wish you'd take this stuff more seriously, Boss. It could hurt your copyrights."
The balding blond man rubbed his upper lip. The mustache was coming back slowly, he thought, but it's coming back. He smiled to himself.
Resigned, the writer executed the "save" keystroke on his computer and swiveled his chair to face his visitor.
"All right. Tell me about it."