Popeye stared at Colonel Sanders.
Colonel Sanders stared back.
“Pappy,” said Popeye evenly.
“Pappy?” asked Prince Carl in some surprise as he was shaking hands with Asiago.
“Beauregard?” Asiago turned to Popeye with equal surprise.
Colonel Sanders cleared his throat uncomfortably and turned to the Prince.
“Ahem…Sire, may I introduce you…to my son.”
The Prince broke into a smile.
“So this is Beauregard,” he said, releasing Asiago’s grip and reaching out a hand to Popeye. “The Colonel has spoken of you often. I had hoped for a chance to meet you.”
“If it’sk all the same to yer Highness,” the sailor replied with a small bow, “I prefers to be called Popeye.”
Sanders rolled his eyes.
“You know,” the colonel spoke coolly, “your grandfather’s name was Beauregard…”
This time, it was Popeye’s turn to roll his squinty eyes.
“Not thisk again.”
“He was a good man, and you should be honored to share his name.”
“I means no diskrepect to grandpappy…”
“And I am sure,” sneered the colonel angrily, his face reddening, “that you meant no disrespect when you decided to run off to sea instead of remaining in the family business. Seven generations of Sanders’ building up the kingdom’s greatest poultry plantation!”
“I yam what I yam!”
“What does that even mean? That ridiculous way that you speak! It’s enough to…”
“I’m Popeye the Sailor Man!” bellowed his now irate son, with fists clenched, and his pipe beginning to rotate in his mouth. “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man!”
After this final outburst, there was an awkward silence, as both Popeye and Colonel Sanders huffed indignantly.
“Sooooo,” Asiago spoke up rather uncomfortably, “speaking of fathers, how is yours, Prince Carl?”
“That,” replied the Prince, grateful for the shift in conversation, “is an excellent question. Unfortunately, I do not have an answer.” A worried look crossed his face. “I have not heard from anyone since he left the White Castle. He and his army should have been here by now.”
“Perhaps,” said Colonel Sanders, regaining his composure, “he has been temporarily detained.”
“But by what,” inquired Prince Carl, “or by whom? And why hasn’t he sent anyone to inform us?”
“Perhaps we should send our own scouts to track them down,” Asiago offered.
“And in the meantime,” Sanders added, smiling for the first time since confronting his wayward son, “now that our ranks have swelled considerably, it might be time to rethink our battle plans.”
“Excellent ideas,” said the Prince. He turned to Asiago. “As it was your suggestion, I will leave you in charge of arranging a scouting party.”
The captain nodded.
“Then I will begin revising our strategy at once,” said Sanders with a bow, and turned to go.
“Naturally, Popeye will join you,” Prince Carl said in a seemingly off-handed way.
Sanders stopped in his tracks, bemused.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I think this would be an excellent father and son project for you two,” the Prince said, spreading his arms out toward the gaping men, a look of mock innocence upon his face. “I’m sure you have a lot to catch up on as well.”
“Sire,” Colonel Sanders began gravely, “I hardly think this is the time…”
“Disgusticating!” Blurted the fuming Popeye.
“What say you, Captain Asiago?” Asiago glanced at the Prince just in time to catch a quick wink from a mischievous eye. The captain tried not to grin.
“I would not presume to question your wisdom, Prince Carl,” Asiago said with a bow.
“Well said,” grinned the Prince. “Then it’s settled.”
“Well, blow me down,” mumbled Popeye, shaking his head in dismay.
“Prince Carl,” Colonel Sanders said desperately, “I must protest…”
“My good friend,” the Prince interrupted mildly, “you wouldn’t presume to question my wisdom, would you?”
The Colonel heaved a sigh.
“Well,” grinned the Prince as he made shooing motions at his second-in -command. “Off you go, then. Plan us a great victory!”
“Where is my scout?” fumed Little Caesar. He and Jersey Mike were now in midst of their army camp watching the troops preparing for the day to come. All around, men were busily drilling, cleaning their weapons, combing their hair, straightening their ties, and running lint brushes over their suits. Jersey Mike and his army firmly believed that looking good was half the battle.
“And where’s that stinkin’ pirate?” added Mike. Silver and his men had yet to appear. “We can’t wait around all day. The mornin’s half shot.”
“All right,” said Little Caesar after a moment’s thought, “order your men to attack. Perhaps if we push hard enough during the first assault, we’ll knock Prince Carl back on his heels; and if you can figure out a way to deal with those accursed chickens, so much the better. Meanwhile, I’ll send another scout out to gather intelligence.”
“Sounds like a plan, L.C.”
“Lemme go, your Highness!”
“I appreciate your willingness to go out on a scouting mission,” said the Burger King to the erstwhile Portillo. “However, I feel that In-N-Out is a bit more experienced in these matters.”
“Can I go with him?”
“I’m afraid not. This mission calls for speed and stealth and in full daylight no less.” Portillo started to protest, but the King raised a hand. “Son, this is not a slight on your own impressive abilities. In fact, I find you rather invaluable and would prefer to have you remain by my side.”
Portillo knew that the King had just said that last part to make him feel better. Despite himself, though, the boy grinned.
“I wonder what Wendy would do if she were in my place?”
“Huh!” The King rolled his eyes in mock exasperation. “I imagine that she’d sneak off the first chance she got and hang the consequences.” He eyed Portillo warily. “But you’re not Wendy…are you?” The boy caught the King’s meaning and shook his head. As much as he wanted to be where the action was, he would not disobey the King.
“That’s good,” replied the Burger King, “because I don’t think this kingdom can handle more than one Wendy.”
Becker Jean did not exactly fit the mold of a scout. Her sunny disposition and tendency to break into dance at any given moment made her rather conspicuous in a crowd. However, Asiago figured that her blatant exuberance could work in their favor. After all, who would peg Jean as being on a secret mission?
Skirting around the enemy’s known position, Jean traveled north, first through the woods, then out into the open when she was sure that she was well passed any danger. It was hard for her to believe that on such a nice day there was a war going on. It was sure to be over soon. With the pirates out of action, and once the King’s army arrived, Little Caesar would have to surrender. On that happy note, Jean began to skip along, stopping occasionally to perform a shuffle hop step.
“Where ya headed, lady?”
Jean pirouetted around in alarm. Approaching her was a stocky, bald man, wearing sunglasses, a suit, and a sneer. Where had he come from?
“Umm…I, uh…” Jean stammered. “I’m not going anywhere…really. Just, uh, enjoying the day…”
“Uh huh. Enjoyin’ the day while everyone is off fightin,’ is that it?”
“I’m no shirker, if that’s what you’re implying,” Jean shot back indignantly, “and I’m sorry, but just what are you doing out here while ‘everyone is off fightin’’?”
“I gotta job to do, missy,” the bald man replied, the sneer still on his face. “And I’m thinkin’ you gotta job too.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Sure ya do. Ya think I can’t tell a spy when I see one. C’mon…” He reached out and grabbed her arm. “You can put on a little dance recital for Little Caesar.”
“Let me go!” Shouted Jean, struggling against the man’s strong grip.
Suddenly, there was a WUMP sound. Without a word, the bald man released Jean’s arm and toppled forward.
“Am I correct in thinking that he was bothering you?”
Jean looked up from the unconscious man on the ground to another man who stood a short distance away casually tossing a stone up and down in his hand. “I’m sorry,” he continued smoothly, “I probably should have asked first before I started flinging stones.”
“Who…?” Was all that Jean could get out. The man swept off his hat and bowed deeply.
“In-N-Out, at your service.”