Episode 251: The Fifth Flying Cloud Christmas Special
The N-109 -- née AT-38 -- gleamed in the late afternoon sun as she rode
from the mooring mast at Aunu'u, American Samoa.
Around her, the air station bustled with
commerce that would most certainly have dismayed the authors of the Volstead
Act. Marty and his boys had spent the day arranging for a cargo. Now they
sat in a bar, enjoying some sample merchandise while they waited for their
ship to be resupplied.
"This is good booze," Books remarked as he poured himself another glass.
"We should make a hefty profit when we get this load back to the States."
Jake reached for his own drink. The
table in front of him was covered with a neat row of parts from the
Thompson he was cleaning. "That'll be a nice little present for us
hard-workin' businessmen!" he quipped.
"Yeah," laughed Craig. "It'll be just like Christmas!"
Marty held up the notepad in which he'd been scribbling since they
"Speakin' of Christmas," he told his men, "get a load of this."
"Whadaya got there, Boss?" asked Jake.
"It's literature!" said Marty. "Uncork your ears, listen up, an' tell me
watcha think!" The gangster waited until the table was quiet, then
drew himself up and began to declaim.
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the station
Not a creature was stirring, not even a koala;
The airships had all been walked to their sheds,
With gallons of diesel fuel filling their tanks;
The airmen were nestled all snug in their bunks;
While visions of chorus lines danced in their dreams;
And the boys with their whiskey and I with my gin,
Had just settled down for an evening of drinking,
When out on the field there arose such a ruckus.
I stepped back from the bar to see what was up;
Over to the window I went for a gander,
Swung open the pane and peered outside;
The moon on the grass of the newly mown lawn,
Made it easy for me to check out the field;
And what, when I looked in the sky, did I see,
But an incoming airship with four mighty diesels;
With a chubby old pilot as big as a house,
I knew in a jiffy this must be Saint Nick..."
Marty turned to his men and grinned. "There, boys!" he crowed.
"Ain't that great poetry?"
Craig scratched his head. "How can it be a poem if it don't rhyme?"
"It don't need no rhyme," Marty announced. "It's free verse."
"Free verse?" snorted Jake. "You do a great job of running this mob, Boss,
but you ain't no e e cummings."
"Oh yeah?' said Marty. "I'd like to see you do better!"
"Awright, that's just what I'll do! Just gimme a momment." The gunman set
aside his tools, leaned back in his chair, and rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
At last, clearing his throat, he announced, "How about this!"
"More powerful than a diesel locomotive his engines they came,
And he adjusted the mixtures, checked fuel pressures, and called them by name:
"Now Packard! now, Beardmore! now Napier and Son!
On, Daimler-Benz! Let's open up those throttles and see how you run!
To the top of the mooring mast! Inside the air station perimeter wall!
Then ring full astern, ring for full stop, and finished with engines all!
As big white snowflakes that before the wild winter wind fly,
But under the influence of gravity and aerodynamic forces, sink from the sky;
Down to the waiting ground crew and handling equipment, the airship it flew,
With a hold filled with booze, and other undeclared cargo too; --
And when this was all unloaded, I'm sure it would be the honest truth,
That each of those bottles was at least 50 proof!
As I strolled back to the bar to tell all the boys what I'd found,
In through the door came Saint Nicholas to order us a round;
He was dressed all in flying leathers, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all covered with grease, engine oil, and diesel soot;
He had a case full of good booze slung on his back,
And he smiled at the boys while he was opening up his pack;"
Jake halted when he noticed the others' expressions. "What's da
matter?" he asked defiantly.
"That's terrible!" cried Jersey.
"It's awful!" said Craig.
"It's the worst poem I've ever heard!" said Al. "And I heard a lot of bad poetry
back in Frisco."
"Oh yeah?" Jake demanded. "What's wrong wid it? It's got plenty of rhyme!"
Books shook his head in dismay. "Jake, it ain't got no meter!"
"Humph!" snorted the gunman. "What da youse know about art?"
"Lots!" Books exclaimed. "It comes wid the job. Youse gotta have art if
yer gonna fool the revenuers."
"OK," said Jake, "let's so you try!"
Books knocked back the last of his drink, set down his glass, and rose to
his feet. For a moment he stood, composing his thoughts. Then he began
"His eyes were like eagles', but his face looked so merry,
His expression was one to surprise the unwary;
He poured out our drinks -- filled them up in a row,
And the foam on the beer mugs was white as the snow;
The stub of a stogie was clenched in his teeth,
And a pair of brass goggles hung down like a wreath;
He had a tough face and big burly shoulders,
That filled up his shirt like a sackfull of boulders;
He was ready for trouble, a muscular elf,
And I stepped back a little in spite of myself..."
"Hey, Books, that's good!" said Jake.
"Yeah!" said Jersey. "That verse is smoother than an eight-cylinder
"It's well-posed and insightful commentary on da human condition," said
"Keep those rhymes comin'!" cried Al.
"OK," said Books, "here's what comes nest..."
"A salute with his drink and a nod of his head,
Told us all without words what had to be said;
We hoisted our glasses and went straight to work,
If this man was buying, he wasn't a jerk;
But then he was leaving, that's how it all goes,
To a round of applause from his barstool he rose;
He boarded his airship and reached for the throttles,
It started to climb while we emptied those the bottles..."
The bookkeeper's voice trailed off.
"Don't quit now, Books!" cried Jersey. "Yer onna roll!"
"Yeah," said Jake. "What comes after that?"
Books shrugged helplessly. "I dunno," he told them.
"Da muse has fled. I'm outta inspiration. I just can't think of an ending."
At the head of the table, Marty had been busy scribbling. Now he stood up,
hefted his notepad, and grinned.
"No problem, boys!" he said triumphantly.
"I know just how it should go! Listen ta this!"
"But I heard him exclaim, as he flew out of sight --
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you from the crew of His
Majesty's Airship, R-505! We hope that your old year ends well, and your
new year gets off to an excellent start.
The saga of the Flying Cloud will be on vacation for two weeks
while our heroes (and heroines) make their way back to Australia.
Season Six will begin on 6-Jan-2013. We look forward to seeing