The Pirates

by Adam Acidophilus

There was once a pirate captain so terribly feared that he could barely put into port.

Espying one day – through his telescope – the coast of a neutral land, he made course for its harbour, intending to stock up. But no sooner had the place come into view, than there opened a burst of cannon-fire from the quayside.

“Be the First Mate at his post?” asked the Pirate Captain.

“Aye aye Cap’n!” called the First Mate.

“Be the Bosun at his post?” the Captain added.

“Aye aye Cap’n!” called the Bosun.

“Be the Gunner at the ready?” the Pirate Captain shrieked.

“Cannon primed and loaded!” came the answer.

“Very well,” growled the Captain. “Fetch the Public Relations Officer.”

The Public Relations Officer hurried to the deck – abandoning the drafting of a press release (intended to mollify the local residents in the event of ‘unanticipated’ pillage).

“Captain?” said the Public Relations Officer.

The Pirate Captain sneered at him. “Why’s them peoples firin’ on us? Know they not that we be a trade delegation?”

“It seems not,” quipped the Public Relations Officer. “I believe it is a matter of optics.”

Optics, eh?” muttered the Pirate Captain. “Optics is it now? Very well. Fetch the Ship’s Optician.”

The Ship’s Optician was speedily fetched, and brought on deck to examine the optics.

“Now, Captain,” the optician began, “can you see our sails?”

“Aye, I can,” growled the Captain. “Black as night, they be.”

“And can you see the Jolly Roger pinned to the top of the mainmast?”

“I can.”

“And can you see those severed heads nailed to the bowsprit?”

“Nailed them there meself,” snarled the Captain.

”And you see the troops amassed upon the harbour wall? And the tell-tale splashes of cannonballs in the water around us?”

“Aye,” agreed the Captain.

“Then there is nothing wrong with your eyesight at all,” the Ship’s Optician assured him.

“Good,” said the Captain. “Throw him over!”

Before he could protest, the Optician was thrown over the side of the ship. And though he attempted swim away, he had only managed a few yards when a sniper on the mainland shot him.

“Well he didn’t see that coming, did he?” laughed the Captain – “Fetch the Public Relations Officer, again!”

 Sir!” snapped the Public Relations Officer, a little the worse for shock, but a model of efficiency and professionalism. “I see now that it is not the optics at all. No, ’tis the choreography.”

“Koree-Oh-Graffee?” echoed the Pirate Captain. “Very well. Fetch the Ship’s Choreographer.”

The Ship’s Choreographer was soon found – giving some of the younger crew a thorough work out, in the aft hold below the waterline.

“Captain?” he asked – reporting for duty, in his tights and ballet shoes.

“What say ye – ” bellowed the Pirate Captain – over the noise of the guns and mortars – “to the improvement o’ the choreography of our presen’ sit’ation?”

The choreographer appraised the scene. “Well you’re approach is all wrong, for a start … ”


“Why don’t you try it with a tack to the starboard, one to the port, one to starboard, one to port, heave to, turnabout, drop sails, fire!”

“Thow ’im over,” sighed the Pirate Captain. “I ain’t droppin’ sails for no man.”

And so the Choreographer was flung over the side, and made a gallant effort to swim away; but he was seized at the rudder (by a crocodile escaping from a previous fable).

By now, the fusillade had grown so severe that the crew could barely hear – nor see, such was smoke that covered the water. Rents and tears appeared in the sails, the deck and the gunwales were splintered; the occasional pirate fell screaming from the crosstrees (where they had foolishly attempted to hide).

“What ye say now?” the Pirate Captain grunted at his Public Relations Officer. “Any fur’der ideas?”

“I have it, sir!” said Public Relations Officer (who had). “This is no matter of optics – ”

“No – ”

“Nor is it a matter of choreography – ”

“No – ”

“For this is a simple matter of messaging.

“Harr harr,” agreed the Pirate Captain. “Messagin’ it be! SIGNALS OFFICER REPORT!”

The Signals Officer staggered on deck, drunk and bleeding, and singing a little to himself – for he was, after all, before all else, a pirate.

“Now listen ye . . . ” commenced the captain. “Fetch ye the nautical flags, remember ye thy nautical flag alphabet, and spell out the following message – ” handing him a brief note written on a scrap of vellum with a navigator’s crayon.

The message (which he had composed under the guidance of the Public Relations Officer) read:





Alas, such was the intoxication of the Signals Officer, his memory of the nautical alphabet, the availability of key flags – and the broadly negative influence of performing the task during a sea battle – that the finished message actually read:



and had the very opposite of the anticipated effect.

Moral: Always pay attention in class: one day, a lesson might save your life. (In this case, a lesson about nautical flags.)

© Adam Acidophilus 2023