No. 11.Admiral Hornswoggle in the Old West, part 2.

(Continued from part 1.)

AS THE SUNSET approached, my resolve did not waver, although many among both my crew and the townspeople tried to dissuade me from keeping my appointment with Iago the Kid. Higgs, my boatswain, quite literally fell on his knees before me and begged me to reconsider. I might have done so had it been a matter of my own pride. But the Queen’s honor was at stake, and my duty was to uphold it.

The townspeople were more practical in their attempts at dissuading me. A certain Mr. Obadiah Plant, the town mortician and by far the wealthiest man in Bad Pun, made even my most mundane tasks a bit difficult by following me everywhere with a tape measure. A number of other townspeople entered into lively negotiations for my possessions, which they did not hesitate to catalogue while they remained on my person, on the assumption that the various items they coveted would soon become available. Nevertheless, in spite of these distractions, I was able to make my few preparations, and promptly at sunset I appeared at the appointed location.

Osbert Kline’s corral was a ramshackle establishment, emblazoned with Mr. Kline’s initials in large letters over the gate. The horses had all been withdrawn in honor of our meeting, a horse perforated with gunshot being considerably less valuable on the open market; but they had left abundant evidence of their recent presence all over the ground within the enclosure. Iago the Kid was waiting for me by the gate.

“There you are, you whoreson clap-eared maypole,” my opponent greeted me. “Have you said your prayers, you cream-faced porridge?”

“It would be only fair to warn you, Mr. Kid,” I told him, “that by drawing your weapon against me, you may subject yourself to needless embarrassment. I shall not take it amiss if you decide to call off this engagement; on the contrary, I should be delighted if we could part on good terms, with no ill will on either side.”

“Oh, you would, would you? Yeah, I reckon you’d like it just fine if I backed down. Well, it ain’t gonna happen, you fawnin’ spaniel. I’m gonna give you ten seconds to get to the other side of the corral yonder, and when I say ‘draw,’ you’d better be quick as a greased enchilada, savvy?”

Having failed in my last attempt to bring about a reasonable reconciliation, I had no choice but to follow his instructions. Carefully threading my way across the corral, Iago the Kid counting in a slow and deliberate way all the while, I took up a position in front of the opposite fence and turned to face my opponent.

“All right, then, you lickspittle caterpillar. Draw!”

I stood my ground and did not move. Iago the Kid, on the other hand, was moving in a very undignified manner, as he struggled and pulled at his gun, grunting and panting; yet it refused to dislodge itself from its holster, defying its owner’s most concentrated efforts. At last, the man’s shabby leather belt snapped apart, and his trousers fell to his ankles, revealing a pair of brightly colored silk drawers with an especially lively floral pattern. We could hear the riotous laughter of the distant spectators, and Iago the Kid was much displeased, giving vent to his frustration in exceedingly colorful frontier language.

“I did give you fair warning,” I reminded him. “And it was you, after all, who invited me to choose my own gun. I believe I made a practical and effective choice.”

“What in blazes did you do to me, you muddy-mettled pestilence?”

“I chose a caulking gun,” I explained, “of the sort that every sea captain keeps strapped to his belt to take care of such small leaks as may from time to time appear even in the best-constructed vessels; nor did I fail to make use of it during our brief conference by the gate. The marine caulking commonly in use in our navy sets quickly and forms an impermeable seal, which suited it to my purpose admirably. And now, if I may take my leave, I have a ship to launch.”

I shall not weary you with his frustrated expostulations. I am, however, delighted to be able to record that the shame and embarrassment of that meeting made a reformed character out of Iago the Kid. It seems that his aggression had been a mere compensation, as Proverbs 6:35 would call it, for the frustration he felt in being unable to express his lifelong love of frilly silk and lace. His taste having been exposed in public, he found the courage to pursue his true vocation; and, having founded the Iago Lace Doily and Antimacassar Corporation of Bad Pun, grew wealthy and respectable, and is now a pillar of the Methodist Church.

It is always gratifying to do good in the world; but as much as it gives me pleasure to recall my own adventures, I narrate these events more from a sense of duty, in the hope that the youth of our present day may be inspired by these examples toward even greater accomplishments; and that young men with dreams may find the courage to pursue them, instead of growing into sociopathic criminals.