Captain Moab squinted into the dazzling sunlight. He stood tall in the wind, the Jolly Roger flapping behind him. He lowered his spyglass and called out to his fearsome crew. "Yarr! Land ho, mateys! And by the looks o' 'er, with a fair tide and the wind a'stern, we'll be drinkin' with Ruthie 'fore noon!"
"Aye!" called out the crew as one. They had come through another battle and won.
"Grog!" shouted Kentucky Jack.
"And wenches!" Nobby Pete hollered to the sky, his gold earring glittering in the sun. The crew all cheered again.
Moab looked over his crew with pride. Baked by sun and scarred by time, there was nothing they wouldn't do for their captain or their mates. "Helmsman!"
Izzy looked up from the helm, the tail of his red and white cap flapping around. "Aye, Captain!"
"Lay a course for Ruthie's. And helmsman?"
"A hundred lashes should you not beat the tide!"
"Aye, Captain!" Izzy called out with exuberance. He mashed the accelerator of the Crusader to the floor and with a roar the huge automobile, a dinosaur of a forgotten age, rushed down the long, straight New Mexico highway.
Moab remained standing and put one foot on the back of the front seat. He cut a fine figure in his black boots and red velvet coat, his hair streaming behind him in the wind.
"Oh, Hell," Ruthie said as the pirates careened into the parking lot. "Is it that time of year already?"
Miguel appeared from the back of the restaurant and watched as a pirate threw an anchor over the side of the car to land with a thunk in the dirt parking lot. "You know these vatos?"
"I'm afraid so. They come around her every year about this time."
"Circus freaks? Locos?"
"Treasure hunters. Lookin' for buried treasure down on the White Sands Missile Range." Her voice was skeptical as she began to line eight glasses up on the counter. "Back in the '30's a guy says he found a cave filled with Spanish gold. Since then it seems the entrance to the cave has disappeared. The mystery of the treasure keeps people coming from all over the world, hoping to find the cave, and the piles of gold."
Miguel smiled and shook his head. "Gold, huh?"
"Yeah." Ruthie rolled her eyes. Out in front, Moab had gathered his crew in a circle, and was shouting and gesticulating wildly, working the other six into a frenzy. Ruthie sighed. It was going to be a long day. "These guys get into it more than most." She turned to Miguel. "Could you go into the back and get that pitcher, the one with 'Grog' written on it?"
"I was wondering what that was for."
"And make sure that little book is in it." Miguel nodded and headed back into the kitchen.
Ruthie watched as Moab turned toward the door of the diner. He drew a realistic sword and with a shout the pirates rushed the door.
"Yarrr!" cried Moab as they burst into the cafe. "Stand fast and surrender yer booty, if ye value yer lives!"
"Hello, boys," Ruthie said.
Moab stopped, arrested by the vision in front of him. "Ah, Ruthie! Still a vision of desert splendor!"
Izzy chimed in. "Aye! The most comely wench of the Desert Sea!"
Ruthie noticed a pistol strapped to Izzy's hip, modern and deadly. She pointed. "You can't bring that in here."
"Ha!" Nobby Pete said, slapping Izzy on the shoulder. "No scurvy dogs in Ruthie's! You'll have to go outside with the mongrels!"
"Not Izzy, the gun." Ruthie folded her arms. "State law."
Moab stood tall. "We be makin' the laws now, Ruthie! And for us, there is only the Pirate's Code. We fear no man, law or otherwise!"
Ruthie was not impressed.
Moab faltered. "But, if it will take that scowl off your pretty face, I'll send Izzy back to the Crusader with his musket." Izzy saluted smartly and left as Miguel emerged from the kitchen, holding a plastic beer pitcher with GROG written on the side. "Is this the one?"
"Grog!" shouted Moab. The other pirates joined in.
"Guess so." Miguel said. Ruthie pulled a booklet out of the pitcher and set it next to the register while Miguel poured the first pitcher.
A voice came from behind Moab. "Where's your friggin' parrot?"
Moab's blade whistled through the air and stopped a hairs breadth from the throat of the startled trucker. Everyone in the cafe froze, the other pirates ready to draw their own blades and step into the fray if needed. Moab stared the hapless trucker in the eye, then looked out the door at the endless desert. "Ah, yes, dear Lucifer, bless his feathered soul. he made the ultimate sacrifice. He took a musket-ball meant for me head."
"That's too bad," Ruthie said quickly. She put her hand on Moab's sword arm, gently pushing the blade away from the other man's neck. "He was sweet. He said 'pieces of eight' and everything."
The trucker threw some cash onto the table and stood to leave. "And I thought California was filled with freaks."
Before the fight could begin anew Ruthie asked, "Did you bury him at sea?"
Moab hesitated. "Do you mean Lucifer, or Willy Longshanks?"
Ruthie looked around and realized there was one more beer glass than there were pirates. One of them was missing. She remembered a taller pirate who wore a red and white striped shirt and had an angry scar across his forehead. "What happened to Willy?"
Moab accepted his beer from a crewman and pulled himself erect. "He died a pirate!"
Miguel picked up the extra beer to pour back into the pitcher. Moab whirled on him. "Leave that be, boy! That be Willy's grog, and he'll be needin' it where he's going." Moab turned to his pirate crew, somber now as they contemplated their fallen mate. Moab raised his glass. The rest of the crew joined him:
He died to early, but not too soon,
Choked to death on Spanish doubloons!
His bones may float, but his soul must fall,
When we get there, he'll be runnin' it all!
Moab completed the epitaph. "The sands of the Desert Sea are scourin' his bones, now." He gestured with his glass. "To Willy!"
"To Willy!" the crew shouted, boisterous once more.
"I bet you all could use some burgers," Ruthie said.
"Aye, we be havin' burgers, Ruthie."
"To burgers!" the crew shouted as one.
"Those'll be green chile cheeseburgers, eh Ruthie?"
"Green chile cheeseburgers!"
Ruthie smiled, glad to have the situation under control. "You want fries with those?"
Moab nodded. "Aye, we be havin' fries."
Before long there were no other customers in the restaurant, and the pirates were getting out of hand. One was on a table, dancing barefoot around a broken glass while others threw things at him. They were bad enough most years, but this year their exuberance bordered on madness. All except Kentucky Jack, who was off at a table on his own, studying blueprints with TOP SECRET stamped on them, and holding a potato. Ruthie decided against calling the cops, the confrontation was bound to cause more harm than letting them exhaust themselves. She consulted the tide tables that had been in the pitcher. It wouldn't be long now, anyway.
Moab brought the pitcher back over to Ruthie for a refill. "Are you sure you have time for this?" Ruthie asked as she refilled the pitcher. "Tide changes in twenty minutes." She set the pitcher on the counter, where Izzy picked it up.
"Twenty-six minutes, Ruthie." The GROG pitcher reappeared, empty. "And we be havin' two more pitchers." While Ruthie filled the pitcher once more, Moab grabbed Izzy and steered him away from the hubbub, towards the door. "Izzy, Ruthie here's been a safe port in many a storm. It's time we show her a little gratitude. Row on out to the Crusader and get a bit o' plunder for Ruthie, a pirates true treasure."
"Aye, cap'n" said the faithful navigator, saluting.
Izzy hurried out to the ship. The great car had been decapitated somewhat sloppily years ago and the body was rusting in places, but to Izzy it was beautiful. Mechanically it was sound and it was capable of getting them where they needed to go very, very, quickly. The back of the car was emblazoned with Crusader, painted in gold with a looping script.
Izzy popped the trunk, but the heavy lid wouldn't stay open on it's own. He struggled with a heavy machine gun, which he used to prop the trunk open, then he surveyed the contents of the trunk -- the booty from their last raid.
The items on top -- the nuclear warhead, the alien fetus in the jar the assortment of exotic electronic gear -- were hardly appropriate for Ruthie. He managed to hoist the warhead out, but dropped it onto the hard-packed dirt. He pushed aside the rest and found a White Sands souvenir snow globe next to an ancient golden figurine, both nestled in a pile of Spanish gold. He stood, undecided, mesmerized by the snow globe. Looking around guiltily, he put it in his own pouch. Ruthie would have to settle for the golden statue. A wallet caught his eye, lifted from one of the soldiers at White Sands. He grabbed a credit card out of it and returned to the restaurant.
Down the highway, two black Suburbans, windows tinted, drivers wearing black suits, speed toward Ruthie's. They are joined by a pair of black helicopters. "Twelve minutes," the lead pilot radios to the cars below.
Inside Ruthie's, Moab was preparing his men for departure. Kentucky Jack jumped up from his table. "Captain! Captain! I've got it! I know how it works!"
"Well, don't just stand there, man! Get it workin'!" Moab shoved him toward the door.
"Aye!" Kentucky Jack hustled out to the ship.
"What was that all about?" asked Ruthie.
Moab turned back to her. "I have no idea. The man's a bit of a mixed nut. Found him up north a few years back. Good with that electricity stuff -- and he works knots pretty good, too. Made me a hammock."
Ruthie turned to business. "So how will you be paying this time?"
Izzy pulled up next to his captain and slipped him the credit card -- an American Express gold card. Moab presented it with a flourish. "With gold, Ruthie, with gold!"
She inspected the card. "So, you're a major now, are ya?"
Moab shifted a bit. "Aye, but you can still call me Captain."
Rather than use the electronic scanner, Ruthie pulls out a mechanical credit card machine and writes a bill for $8000. Moab signs with a crude X, then turns to his men. "The tide's a-changin! To the Crusader!"
"To the Crusader!" the men all call, raising their glasses. They gather their things and head for the ship.
As much trouble as these boys were, Ruthie knew she was going to miss them. "Are you sure you should be leaving? I mean, you've had a lot to drink. Maybe you should stay a while and sober up a bit."
Moab turned to her, a light in his eye. "Ah, Ruthie, I've been waitin' many a year to hear you say that." His gaze became distant. "There's few things that would keep me from staying snug in your harbor, but one of them is F-117's. I'm afraid we have to be sailin' on, at least this time. Ah, the pirates life can he a curse." He smiled. "But you know how I love cursin'."
Moab kissed Ruthie passionately while he slipped the figurine onto the counter, then turned to leave.
Outside, the crew was preparing the ship. Kentucky Jack had clamped the potato into a mysterious electronic device. He shoved two probes into the potato, and sparks flew as a digital readout on an eight-track cartridge began to count down.
"It works! It works!" Screeched Kentucky Jack.
Moab strode out of the cafe, pausing only long enough to bow grandly back through the doorway. He turned back to his crew as they held the car door open for him. "Weigh anchor! Raise the sails! Set a course for the Sierra Madres!"
The mighty vessel rumbled to life, and the pirates pulled out of the parking lot and onto the highway, directly toward the oncoming military.
Ruthie watched them leave, then noticed the golden statue. She lifted it -- it was surprisingly heavy. "Well shiver me timbers."
The Crusader is flying down the road, the crew shouting, when Kentucky Jack puts the eight-track with the timer into the player. The music starts, the time counts down to zero, and the car vanishes. Only the cheering of the crew can be heard. The Surburbans and the helicopters appear over the rise and sweep past in the opposite direction.