Monday, May 18, 2009

Pirates of the Flea Market

The sun shines on rows and rows of tables spread out in aisles across a large dusty field. Big tractor trailers and Winnebagos lay anchored in random spots on the field, breaking the monotony of the aisles. It is early, and the tables are mostly empty, but quickly filling with all manner of merchandise. The flea market comes to life rapidly, and by mid morning the field is bustling with activity as shoppers look for bargains. We settle on two tables next to each other, one full to the brim with stacks and stacks of old vinyl records. The other table is mostly empty but starting to fill up with woven blankets and other handmade items.

“Hi neighbor,” the man with the records says to the woman next to him who is carefully laying out colorful blankets, scarves and the like. “Name’s Charlie, pleased to meet you.”

“Hello,” the woman says with a smile. “I’m Louise, and I’m pleased to meet you as well!”

“First time here, I can tell,” Charlie says.

“How can you tell?”

“Everyone is set up already, and you are still takin’ your sweet time! There’s valuable money to be had! Gotta be quick!” Charlie says with a chuckle, which Louise returns with a smile.

“Anything worth doing is worth taking your time over,” Louise returns as she continues laying out her goods.

“Beautiful stuff there, Louise, I have to say,” Charlie says as he looks over Louise’s handmade items.

“Thank you Charlie, that is kind of you to say. I hand-stitched everything here myself,” Louise says with a note of pride creeping into her voice.

As Charlie and Louise pass the time, admiring each other’s collections, a high-pitched whine could be heard far in the distance, carried by the wind to their tables. Charlie pauses in mid-sentence and looks down the long aisle they occupy, eyes widening and obviously upset. “No, not already! They’re early today!” he exclaims as he gets back behind his table and busily arranges stacks of records, appearing to hide some.

“Who’s early? What is that noise?” Louise asks as she peers down the long aisle at a cloud of dust towards the far end. The loud buzzing whine is getting louder and sounds like a small engine or a plane of some sort.

“It’s them,” Charlie hisses at her. “Pirates!

As Charlie says this, the cloud of dust appears to part, and from out of the middle comes a parade of four golf carts garishly decorated and driven by what appears to be pirates. The carts each have a flag flying high over their roofs; black with a skull and crossbones symbol painted in the middle. The cart in the lead of the four has a man standing on a platform attached to the front. He stands with one foot up on a railing and a sword held high in the air. He has on a large black pirate hat, and his clothes are consistent with traditional pirate-wear. He brings his sword down and points it at Charlie. As he does this, the carts slow and stop in front of Charlie and Louise’s tables. The man on the platform descends to the ground, as one of the other men in the lead cart bellows, “All Hail Captain DUSTY!” The other pirates all cheer and Captain Dusty turns to them briefly, enjoying the adulation. He lets the cheering continue for a few seconds and then raises his hands to silence his crew. He slowly walks over to Charlie’s table and stands in front of him.

“Do ye be havin’ any Elvis Prrrrrresly Recorrrrrrrds?” captain Dusty says to Charlie as the rest of the pirates in his crew smile knowingly.

“You know I don’t, you took all of them last week,” Charlie says.

“Well, now, I know I didn’t take all of ye stash! Ye’d best be handin’ overrrr what ye got, lest ye be walkin’ the plank!” At this declaration, Captain Dusty’s crew all jeer and yell at Charlie while he cowers under the glare of the Captain.

“I, uh, I may have a few left in the car,” Charlie stammers as Captain Dusty glares at him.

“Aye, well, let’s see ‘em! I don’t have all day to be standin’ here bakin’ underrrr the hot sun! Arrrr!”

As Charlie turns to look through the trunk of his car, Louse stands dumbfounded. She watches this all play out not believing what she is seeing. Charlie returns from his car with two albums, both with Elvis Presley’s picture printed on them. The pirates all cheer when Charlie returns and Captain Dusty raises his hands again to quiet his men.

“See? I knew ye were holdin’ out on me, aye I did,” Captain Dusty says as he grabs the records from Charlie’s grasp. The Captain leans in close to Charlie saying, “I should make ye walk the plank anyway, as punishment fer hidin’ yer treasure from me!”

“P-p-please, not that,” Charlie stammers as Captain Dusty’s crew all begin chanting “Walk The Plank! Walk The Plank!”

“Ye can have one more chance to redeem yerself,” the Captain said as his crew quiets down. He looks over the stacks of vinyl records, perusing the choices. “Hand over all of yer Aerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrosmith recorrrrrrrds right quick, or I’ll take out yer eye and feed it to Polly!” Captain Dusty’s crew erupts with loud cheers and catcalls as Charlie flinches. “And while yer at it, throw in all of yer Doooooooobie Brotherrrrrrrrrrrrs recorrrrrrrds as well, and I may ferget yer insubordination!” Charlie dutifully gathers all the albums as per Captain Dusty’s request. Meanwhile his crew all celebrates as the Captain opens a pale brown jug and begins drinking sloppily from it.

Just then, a shot rings out and all sounds of revelry immediately stop. Captain Dusty drops his jug which shatters on the ground, leaking out its contents into the dirt. All eyes turn to the table next to Charlie where they gaze upon Louise, holding a revolver over her head which still has smoke pouring from the muzzle where the fired shot has just exited.

“That’s quite enough, ‘Captain Dusty’,” Louise says with a sneer. The silence hangs in the air mixed with the dust that rises from the fields. No one moves. Louise walks out from behind her table and surveys the pirates and their leader. “Take off those ridiculous outfits, and leave this man alone!” Louise shouts at Captain Dusty.

“That’s a fancy firearrrrm ye’ve got there, missy, but I be warnin’ ye – “ Captain Dusty starts but is cut off by Louise’s hand striking out and slapping his large black pirate had off of his head. The crowd, including the Captain’s crew, gasps at the sheer bravery of such an act. “Roger, that is quite enough of that stupid accent,” Louise says as ‘Captain Dusty’ grows visibly uncomfortable.

“Yes, I know it’s you Roger. And you Phillip,” Louise points at the driver of the first golf cart. “And you Timothy,” Louise points at members of the crew, calling each by their real names. “I taught you all in High School! I bet you never thought you would see me again! You should all be ashamed of yourselves, picking on this nice man. Half of you aren’t even dressed as pirates! Tim, you are just wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball jersey!” Tim hugs himself in an attempt to cover the pirate logo of his favorite baseball team.

“Um, uh, I’m sorry, ma’am,” Roger says, his pirate accent disappearing faster than his large black hat. “We were just, um, acting out a, well, a part of a movie and,” Roger stammers for a few more minutes and Louise waves him off.

“Enough of this. Get back on your carts and go back wherever you came from. And return every record you stole from Charlie by the end of the day today. If you don’t, I’ll come and find you!”

Roger gets back on his golf cart, and all of the carts do awkward K-turns and slowly buzz back up the aisle, disappearing in another cloud of dust. Louise hides her gun under a beautifully woven blanket on her table and then turns to a thankful Charlie.

“What is wrong with you? Did you really think they were pirates? At a flea market? What would pirates be doing at a flea market? One of them was wearing a white T-shirt that had ‘Pirate’ written on it in crayon!” Louise begins scolding Charlie who tries to shrink behind his table of records.

“I really thought they were pirates, and that I had to give them what they wanted, or I would walk the plank,” Charlie half-heartedly tries to explain while Louise looks on unsympathetically.

“Obviously, this flea market is populated by halfwits,” Louise says to herself as she begins clearing her table. Just then, a cry arises from the next aisle over, “All Hail Queen Louise!” The cry is met by a man from three tables over and it catches like wildfire. “Captain Dusty has been vanquished! All Hail the Queen!” Louise watches in fascination as people in all aisles begin dancing with exaggerated motions and hand gestures, while someone nearby blows into an enormous conch shell, producing a prolonged sound that is answered by someone unseen in the distance.

Louise finishes packing up her things while the celebration rages on around her. Down an aisle three away from hers, a large group of people run up and down beating large drums and blowing conch shells while someone in a hang glider flies overhead dropping flower petals on everyone. Firecrackers snap and pop from some distance away and small children dance in circles holding hands and chanting the name of their savior. A jaunty parade appears in the aisle next to hers, with a full band and a bandleader high-stepping and waving a silver baton while the band he leads plays a lively march. “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!” can be heard echoing throughout the flea market as Louise gets into her car.

Louise slowly pulls out the exit of the flea market, pausing to look in her rearview mirror at the chaos that had erupted behind her. “I swear, that is the last time I ever go to a flea market in Woodstock,” she says to herself as she pulls onto the highway. She passes four golf carts that had driven into a ditch by the side of the road, watching as the ‘pirates’ she had vanquished stand arguing amongst themselves as she slowly drives by. She throws an apple core out the window at them, and Roger (formerly ‘Captain Dusty’) shakes his fist as she drives off into the distance.

The hippies at the Woodstock Flea Market talked of Queen Louise for years to come. They erected a statue in her image that consisted of sticks and marijuana leaves, which didn’t really end up resembling a person, just a hastily constructed pile of weed and sticks. The day Queen Louise vanquished Captain Dusty’s pirate band would be celebrated each year as “Dusty Day”, which ended up just being another excuse to get high and sing songs all night (much like “Rain Day”, “Loaded Potato Skin Day”, “Air Day” and “Awesome Week”).

As the “Dusty Day Hang Gliders” crisscross in the air, dropping rose petals on the revelers, everyone knows they are safe until the next ridiculously costumed threat rears its ugly head. Maybe then, Queen Louise would once again return to save them. Until then, flea market life would go on as usual with marching bands, rose petals, conch shells, piles of sticks, massive quantities of marijuana, copious LSD tabs and hang gliders, just as it should be.

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