Fast little loans
The Bountiful was becalmed in the middle of the southern Atlantic Ocean, impeding the boat’s progress towards St Helena, the small and isolated island where Captain Blackbird knew – well, intuited – that Napoleon had long ago buried his many mistresses’ jewels, as well as his own collection of bling.
Even redoubling the stringent efforts of the oarsmen had not helped to solve the captain’s problem, and indeed had exacerbated the predicament, for most oarsmen had, after days of endless rowing, either died of exhaustion or reported terribly sick.
“LJP, get all the deckhands mustered up on deck, pronto!” Blackbird instructed first hand Long John Platinum. “We need some buggers to swim to the island.”
The first-lieutenant willingly obliged, and soon the boat’s motley bunch of pirate ratings were gathered expectantly, chattering madly and resembling a vulture colony.
“Now listen up, yer bleeding rascals and rapscallions,” shouted Blackbird, “I need some of you to swim to St Helena and claim a stake over Napoleon’s mistresses’ burial grounds, before those ambitious Germans annex the Atlantic.
“Now hands up. Who of you can swim?”
Understandably, only a small number of hands were raised, reluctantly so, and far too few for Blackbird’s purposes.
“LJP, rig up a plank, will yer,” Blackbird instructed, as the junior pirates exchanged worried, nay terrified, glances. A gangplank was placed off the boat’s stern, protruding about a crocodile’s length across the water.
“Okay swimming sailors, strip down to your Speedos, and don’t be shy,” the courageous captain cautioned. The deckhands complied with the instructions, their blushes ruddily mingling with their rum-rosy cheeks.
“Now, as a group, though one by one,” said Blackbird, “jump in and swim to the horizon and back. We’re going to time you.” LJP, start counting.
Uncertain of Blackbird’s ambiguous instructions, though clear on his intent, the swimming sailors all jumped off at different angles into the water below, gathering somewhat haphazardly and swimming leisurely. All, to a man, were doggy-paddlers.
Soon the last of the swimming sailors returned. The midday sun was beating down and the pirates were ruddier than before.
“Righty-oh then,” said Blackbird, “now, all you landlubber-loving lot, I want you to do the same.”
“Er, Blackbird, they can’t swim,” LJP whispered under his breath, careful not to show any insubordination and humiliate the captain in front of the crew.
“Well, we’ll see about that, now keep yer gob to yerself,” Blackbird whispered back. “Come on, get on with it,” Blackbird instructed.
The scared sailors jumped ship, dropping like stones into the sea. At first all was quiet, eerily so, as the bubbles of their breath burst to the surface. LJP hung his head in shame, as a conspirator of such horrific treatment.
“Wait,” said Blackbird, noticing LJP’s teary eyes, and patting him gently on the back with the round edge of his hook-arm. “Just give it some time.”
Then, after a minute or two, something near-miraculous happened. A few heads started to pop and bob like corks on the surface, attached to frantically flaying arms, feet and torsos.
“Swim, me mateys, swim,” Blackbird blurted enthusiastically. “Off you go now, to the horizon and back,” cajoled Blackbird, and the sailor-shoal slowly turned away from the boat. They too were doggy-paddlers, but more vigorous. And they too eventually returned, well most of them.
Following a promotional, liquor-fuelled celebratory ceremony, the officers returned to their mess for the evening. “How the hell did that happen?” asked LJP of the miracle he had witnessed.
“Easy, LJP,” Blackbird answered. “You know I’ve lately been reading. Well, yesterday I finished Lee Iacocca’s memoir of how he turned around Chrysler. Captains of industry, like me, say skills like swimming mean nothing,” explained the captain. “It’s passion you want in your people.
“I also read up in the latest You magazine that the best way to teach a baby to swim is to throw them in. You’ve witnessed yourself how fast we can all learn to swim, or at least most of us.”
Treasure Hunting Tip: Recruit folk of higher passion and lower skill rather than people who are highly skilled but dispirited, sceptical and cynical. Most basic skills can quickly be learnt; the wrong attitudes are far harder to change.
l Peter Christie is with Exclusive People. Contact them at 011 440 8560. Visit www.exclusivepeople.co.za