by: Sammi “Mayor Gonzo” Mays
The time is now. The epic begins on Nest Key, an uninhabited mangrove island off the Straits of Florida, where a fantastical band of renegades, who call themselves the Pirates of the Florida Keys, are in the throes of a party of mythical proportions.
Unlike other modern day pirates, this society of unabashed brigands don dazzling head dresses and snazzy grass skirts and flock by the hundreds to the exotic locale. In a staggering spectacle of debauchery they consume mass quantities of Pirate’s Choice Rhum from its legendary bottomless bottle, and in a collective trance fueled by Gulf and West Indies music, they dance in a heated frenzy until exhausted.
Little do they realize that on this day, their gluttonous behavior would come back to bite them on the booty; for the Pirates of the Florida Keys are unaware of the far-fetched odyssey that awaits them.
The story you are about to read is one of fiction; any similarities to persons or places is purely coincidental.
It is the dog days of summer and in the heat of the day, the weather has taken an ominous turn. The groovy blue sky has suddenly disappeared behind a tremulous blanket of black. Two waterspouts duel for hydro as they make a run for the tiny atoll. The birds have all long since flown, and to save their vessels from grounding, so must the Pirates of the Florida Keys.
The Captain quickly delegates a cleanup crew to remove all evidence of their presence. They must leave the island a bit better than they had found it, for it is an eons-old agreement between the Pirates of the Florida Keys and the Party Gods.
However, on this fateful day, in their haste, an empty bottle has been overlooked and it is this lone abandoned bottle that angers the Gods. Once looked upon with favor, and in a simple twist of fate, the Gods have become disenchanted with the Pirates of the Florida Keys, and before they are to be allowed back into the graces of the party deities, they would be ordered to make amends by running the dangerous gauntlet of the bars – all while on a noble quest to save the Wild Bird Sanctuary. The Pirates’ journey home would be a long treacherous one fraught with peril, uncertainties, and hangovers.
From the blackened sky, the seething squall drove the Pirates of the Florida Keys to seek shelter in the shallow bay behind the Caribbean Club. Pointing their bows into the stinging head wind, the flotilla anchored down and in a race against the encroaching storm — while dodging deadly coconut missiles — they make their way ashore.
Once inside the sweltering cavernous bar, flickering candlelight brought to focus a strange brew of badass bikers, beer-bellied boozers, busty babes, Bogart’s ghost and a sniveling midget from the third world Isle of No Where.
With their backs against the wall, and fortifying themselves with rhum, the Pirates of the Florida Keys had just settled in for the duration of the storm when an unexpected thunderclap lights up the night and commands their attention!
There, out of a scene from Frankenstein, framed in the doorway, stood a terrifying figure dripping wet and smelling of rotting vegetation at low tide. “It’s Aga-Ou!” the midget from No Where screamed. “The angry voodoo Spirit of the Sea!” Oh but it was far worse than Aga-Ou. Straight from the insane asylum with a hideous Jagermeister grin plastered to its face, it was none other than the notorious bogyman Cujo!
He was armed with a roll of raffle tickets, selling chances to benefit his favorite charity, the Cujo Gone Wild Fund. It was a profound moment when the Pirates of the Florida Keys realized their trial at hand was to survive the dark stormy night and the con of Cujo.
One dollar a ticket, six tickets for five or an arm’s length for ten, with stealth precision Cujo worked the Carib like a carnie working a carnival thoroughfare. Oddly enough, not one single pirate questioned his validity or even asked what the raffle was for. Was Cujo crazy or a genius? As pirates buy quickly and back away from Cujo, it seems his foul breathe and bad hygiene was merely a tactic to sell his bogus tickets. His purple Crown Royal drawstring pouch bulged with ill-gotten gains.
Eager to count his earnings Cujo slithered off to the head but the Pirates’ reprieve from his funkiness would be short lived. From the bowels of the darken bar came the sound of a commode flushing, then the whooshing, choking sound of a second flush – and with a prodigious pea green aura surrounding him, the bar held its breath as Cujo hastily exited the latrine, accompanied by a nuclear stench that could have backed a buzzard off a gut wagon.
Choosing the lesser of the two evils and figuring their chances of survival better out than in, the Pirates of the Florida Keys were flushed from the den of darkness into yet another tribulation.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the wind and the water had grown eerily calm. The squall moved out over the open Gulf and in its place rolled in a dangerous blinding fog. But there was something enticing about this mysterious haze. Curious of the riches that they had convinced themselves were on the other side; perhaps even enough to save the Wild Bird Sanctuary, with their ship bells ringing and their fog horns blasting, boat-by-boat the fearless denizens of the sea disappeared into the murk.
It seemed days had passed that the armada wandered in complete oblivion until – what?! Neon lights and samba music guiding the Pirates of the Florida Keys in a conga line through the foggy quagmire?! No need to explain that of which cannot be explained. There are many strange and inexplicable occurrences in the Conch Republic like Yellow Book ad salesmen and foam parties.
When the great impossible foggy passage finally spit the sea dogs out the other side, the Pirates were soaked to the bone, befuddled, and out of control. Compasses and steering mechanisms failed to function. A mighty magnetic force with kinetic powers had hold of the fleet and was transporting the Pirates of the Florida Keys to a distant bar far, far away.
From overhead, an airship mesmerized the captive voyagers with billboards that flashed: Shipwreck’s Bar! Free Booze! Free Bait! Free Beer! Free Burgers! And Helium! It was Gomorra by the Sea alright and like any good pirate, the Pirates of the Florida Keys took full advantage of all its offerings.
Chug-a-lugging swill and dancing the cha cha while singing shanties with Donald Duck voices; the Pirates are completely oblivious to a gnarled low-down man huddled alone in a smoky dim-lit corner of the bar, fiddling with his pocket fisherman.
Just when it seemed the strange couldn’t get stranger, the Pirates were about to encounter the scummy, scheming, scandalous, cock-eyed serpent of the sea: Ol’ Captain One Eye –and he had been watching their every move!
To get a closer look at his prey, Ol’ One Eye reached back into the socket of his cocked eye and plucked it out! Holding the slimy yellowish orb between his stubby thumb and nubby fingers and, like a cobra ready to strike, he raised his hand and propped his elbow up on the bar and, resembling some spooky macabre periscope, turned the forearm ever so slowly, allowing the eerie eye to get a good look at each and every one of the Pirates Of the Florida Keys. He was not amused.
Disgusted and worked into a rage by their slaphappy camaraderie, the crusty red-faced rogue gulped his grog and let out a belch. Beer foam clung to his wiry handlebar mustache and a menacing curled lip appeared from under his ZZ Top-like beard as he slammed down a familiar Crown Royal coffer onto the bar, challenging the Pirates of the Florida Keys to a double or nothing drink off!
A rumble could be heard among the Pirates as they began to speculate on where the reprehensible Ol’ One Eye had gotten the booty. Somewhere along the way had bogyman Cujo fallen victim to one of the Ol’ Captain’s no prey, no pay schemes? No matter, their eyes grew wide for before them lay a small fortune, more than enough to save the Wild Bird Sanctuary and perhaps even earn their way back into the graces of the Gods of Frivolity.
Ol’ One Eyes’ karma was just about to catch up with him though for he had no idea that the Pirates of the Florida Keys were former members of the Conch Republic Olympic Drinking Team. Ok, so granted that was then. These days the Pirates just simply drank for the hell of it and to avoid hangovers.
With his secret hollow leg, Leroy the Pirate was designated as the team’s champion; and the rules were kept simple: remain seated, remove all prosthetics, and no hurling!
To signify the start of the match the house band belted out the tune: “One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer” and then slash-for-slash the opponents began trading shots.
The competition was fierce, and the momentum swung back and forth like a hypnotic game of double-jointed Chinese Ping Pong. No words were spoken between Leroy and Ol’ One Eye just a good old fashion stare down. They were psyched and all around a carnival atmosphere.
To break up some of the guzzling monotony, the Pirates of the Florida Keys gambled and placed wagers on whether or not bad-boy Pete Rose would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. They chowed down on funnel cakes and got henna tattooed while taking turns riding the pony and having their pictures taken.
The summer moon rose and fell for two nights and three days when, near dawn, an all too familiar stench of rotting vegetation at low tide rolled in over the spectacle.
“It’s Aga-Ou!” the midget from No Where screamed. “He’s back!”
Out to settle a score and to collect the soul of the loser was the voracious, vile and vicious Cujo – and still plastered to his face was that same hideous Jagermeister grin.
The surprise appearance by the devil himself startled Ol’ One Eye. “Drink up Captain!” Cujo vehemently spoke. “I believe you have something that belongs to me.”
It was evident that the Ol’ Captain was having trouble keeping his only eye on Cujo and on the game at the same time. Eternity was at hand and it seemed that the Ol’ Scallywag was just a shot away from having made two really bad mistakes.
The barkeep poured the umpteenth round and with his perception already askew and nerves frazzled, he made the only real fatal mistake a one-eyed pirate could possibly make – he blinked! Now in this warped universe everyone knows that when a one-eyed pirate blinks, he’s blind – and so with a toss of his scurvy head he knocked back the shot, the barstool wobbled, and down went One Eye!
Realizing they had won the Pirates of the Florida Keys turned to high-five one another and raised a mug of Bomba’s mushroom tea in homage to the Party Gods; for good ole Leroy the Pirate had drunk the sick and twisted One Eye blind! Victory was theirs, as was the all-seeing eyeball, and a tumultuous buzz to boot!
When they turned back again Cujo and Ol’ One Eye were missing – and ever since that day legend has it that no matter where your travels may take you, if you keep your ear to the ground you can hear the grinding discord of Ol’ Captain One Eye laboring away at calling the same repetitive 69 numbers from Bingo Parlor Hell.
Making a hasty retreat the motley crew took to their vessels and as if by some strange magic, one-by-one the Pirates of the Florida Keys fell into a dream-like trance; where on the wings of cuckoos, boobies and loons they were safely transported back to their homeport.
Islanders and landlubbers and even tourist from near and far came to celebrate the Heroes triumphant return, and to bear witness to the passing of the Crown Royal Pouch. The Party Gods gazed down on the Captain and crew with favor and reallocated their blessings, for the Pirates of the Florida Keys had saved the Wild Bird Sanctuary from extinction!
Upon the Pirates’ arrival, standing at the top of the dock was Mayor Gonzo who had been ordained by the Gods to present a special proclamation. “Quiet everybody!” the midget from No Where screamed. “The Gonz is gonna speak!”
“As the Official Honorary Mayor of Key West and fabulous Florida Keys … for living by the ‘Party With A Purpose’ creed, and for just being good-hearted pirates … with so many islands and so many bridges and with so many weird wonderful people in these Keys, may this rubber chicken – the international symbol of mirth, and of the Office of Key West Honorary Mayor, be your Key to Key West and to all the fabulous Florida Keys – opening doors you never knew existed!
It is my order, and I do hereby declare, that from this day forward, and forever more, that ye shall be known as the Parrot Heads of the Florida Keys!”