“You mean we can eat this?” Asiago stared at the can of spinach that Popeye handed to him.
“‘Course,” Popeye replied as he gave a can to Semolina. “It’sk good for ya.”
“I mean…there’s nothing…special in it? No magical ingredient that can only be consumed by chickens?”
“Nuthin’ artificskal for me ladies.”
“And you’re just telling us this now?” Semolina asked, aggrieved.
“We didn’t needs it before,” Popeye shrugged.
“So eating a can of this will give us a boost of power?” Asiago asked.
“Enoughsk to tear a ship to pieces.”
“Information that would have been useful…” began Semolina angrily, but Asiago held up a hand.
“If we were to send a row boat full of men to the Red Lobster, each of them with a can of spinach…”
“Asiago!” came a shout from the bright red pirate ship. “We demand an answer! Surrender or die!”
“Red Lobster!” Asiago called back, “we seek to parley with you. I will send a boat with some of my crew to negotiate a surrender.”
There was a moment of silence, before a response came back from the Red Lobster.
“We are agreed. Send your men, provided they are unarmed.”
Asiago turned back to Popeye with a wink and a small smile.
“I hope they don’t mind the men bringing along a little snack.”
Samuel T. Ickes crouched at the head of the life boat as it was rowed toward the Red Lobster. Despite his youth, he was the only one among the hand-picked volunteers with sailing experience. Therefore, he was chosen the leader of the six-man force.
“Oi, Sam,” one of the men piped up. “We really gotta eat this dreck?” He held up his spinach. “I ‘ate veggies.”
“Our trip is a little pointless if we don’t,” Ickes replied, his eyes focused on the approaching red ship.
“Yeah, well,” the man retorted, “but I ain’t never seen no spinach that does what that Popeye bloke says.”
“Are you crazy?” another man said. “Did you see what those chickens could do?”
“Yeah, but I’ve also seen ‘em layin’ eggs and sittin’ in their own messes. It don’t make me wanna emulate ‘em, if you know what I mean.”
“Quiet!” Ickes turned around and hissed. They were now coming alongside the Red Lobster. “Keep those cans out of sight. When I give the word, we eat the spinach.” He glared at the reluctant first man. “All of us.”
The man grimaced but nodded.
Once on board, the six men were quickly surrounded by leering pirates. Ickes heard a rhythmic thumping noise, but before he had time to wonder where the sound was coming from, Long John Silver stumped through the circle.
“Well, well, well,” Silver said with a sly grin, “come to parley, have ye?” He looked the men over carefully. “Would one a ye be Asiago?”
Ickes stepped forward.
“He was unable to come. I am Samuel T. Ickes, and I speak for the captain.”
“Do ye, now?” replied Silver condescendingly. “Yer awfully young fer such a task.”
“I’m old enough,” Ickes said coolly, folding his arms across his broad chest. “Now, about the issue of surrender…”
“Ya get right down ta business. I like that, lad. Me terms have already been stated. You will give up your…”
“I’m sorry to interrupt,” interrupted Ickes, “but my orders from Captain Asiago were to accept your surrender.”
Silver and the pirates burst out laughing. Unfazed, Ickes calmly scratched at his trimmed beard. His five companions tried not to look nervous.
“Son, I believe ye’re not aware of yer situation,” Silver said after his fit of laughter subsided. “Either that or yer captain is playin’ a jest upon ye.”
“Oh, I’m well aware of the situation,” replied Ickes with a confident smile. “And I think it would be wise of you to back down before something…unfortunate happens.”
Silver’s grin became a sneer.
“Are ye threatenin’ me, young man?”
Ickes put his hands up and put on a look of innocence.
“I’m just giving you fair warning.”
The pirate snorted in derision and turned his back on Ickes.
“I know all about yer devilish chickens, boy. Yer not goin’ ta be surprisin’ us with that. And even if ye could overwhelm this ship, there be eleven more ready to sink yer boat to the bottom of the sea.”
“There’ll be no chickens tonight, I can promise you.”
Ickes calm was starting to get on Silver’s nerves. In annoyance, he swung back to face his antagonist and pointed a finger at him.
“Then yer bluffin’! Yer outnumbered, and without yer attack birds, ye’ve got nothin’. Now, belay this nonsense! If ye won’t listen ta terms, let me talk ta someone who will.”
Unruffled, Ickes turned to his companions.
“Well, I tried to warn him. Ready boys?”
Almost in unison, the six men pulled out their cans of spinach. As directed by Popeye, they squeezed the cans until each lid sprang open with a satisfying popping sound. Then they began to scarf down the contents.
“Blech!” said the reluctant man when he had finished.
After that, there was a moment of tense silence. No one was quite sure what to do next.
“We got food on board,” Silver said dryly. “Ya didn’t need ta bring…”
“Blimely, I feel funny…” blurted the reluctant man.
“Me too,” said another.
Ickes felt as if his entire body was buzzing, and a prickling sensation ran up and down his arms and legs. He felt so much energy building up inside that he was afraid that he would explode if he didn’t use any of it. The others must have been experiencing the same thing. The reluctant man seemed compelled to walk up to the nearest pirate.
“No ‘ard feelin’s, mate,” he said. Then he punched the pirate clear off the ship.
With that, the five other men sprang into action. Two of them ran over to the mast and began punching it, causing it to wobble menacingly. Two more grabbed ropes and sped around the remaining pirates, binding them hand and foot before they could even react. Ickes wasn’t sure what to do, so he started stomping holes through the deck. Meanwhile, Silver had dodged his way out of the melee and began frantically signaling to the other pirate ships to come to his aid.
Asiago watched all of this with grim satisfaction. As the pirate ships began to converge on the Red Lobster, he looked up to the crow’s nest where Semolina was waiting.
“Send the signal,” he called up.
With a wide grin, Semolina saluted, then picked up a red flag and began to wave it. From the other ships in the fleet, flags were fluttered in response. Lifeboats full of spinach-welding men began to be lowered from each. Popeye strutted up to Asiago and happily slapped him on the back, nearly sending the captain overboard.
“I’s been a’waitin’ a long time for this,” the sailor said.
With a loud crack, the Red Lobster’s mast snapped, the top portion falling into the water.
“I believe,” replied Asiago, recalling Silver’s words, “that the term is ‘deferred gratification.’”