Letting the Fox Out of the Bag

Tale Spin Fan Fic

by Katie Sullivan


Chapter 4

Just as Rome was not built in a day, Cabo Orgulloso was not rebuilt in a day, or even a week. Rather, the effort lasted over a month. The crew of the Iron Vulture worked with Don Gonzalo's pirates to clean up debris, repair damaged homes and find shelter for the island's inhabitants in the meantime. Scarlet's fellow air pirates were unenthusiastic about the task, but Don Karnage could be persuasive when we wanted to be. His crew was soon convinced into helping. Especially after he threatened to personally disembowel them all with an ice cream scoop.

Karnage also managed to keep his men too busy to ask questions. They weren't the most observant lot, and their ignorance of Spanish helped keep them in the dark. Mad Dog did ask why the gruff old wolf insisted on referring to him as "Don Felipe", but he sidestepped the question with insults and more orders.

Don Gonzalo Karnage accepted his son's assistance for just two reasons: Lorita and Dolores demanded his compliance, and he had no choice. Cabo Orgulloso was in ruins, and, like it or not, the prodigal pirate was his only hope for recovery. That didn't mean, however, that he liked it. Gonzalo and his son avoided each other when possible, and rarely spoke. Lorita encouraged conversation, with no success. The icy attitude they shared was palpable, even in the tropical air.

Don Felipe Karnage himself, of course, did not lower himself to manual labor. Let his crew carry lumber and sweat in the hot sun. He had more important things to do. Namely, catch up on old times with his mother and sister, and spend time with Scarlet. Scarlet was spared from any back-breaking work as well, due chiefly to her revised status. Since the revelation of Karnage's history, the line between mere crew member and lover had gone from blurred to erased. And she didn't want it any other way.

One afternoon, while the crew was slaving in the noon sun to drag one of Gonzalo's galleons out of the shallows, Don Karnage took Scarlet on a tour into town, or what was left of it.  The main settlement of Cabo Orgulloso was a shambles.  The buildings, many of which dated back several centuries, had finally succumbed to the elements.  Even with the ongoing cleanup, it was clear the devastation was immense.

They strolled down the main street, which was cobblestone but clear of debris, holding hands.  Karnage kept shaking his head, still stunned by the destruction wrought by the hurricane.  Occasionally an old acquaintance would stop hammering, sawing, or scrubbing to greet him.

Suddenly, a jubilant female voice rang out.  "Felipe!"

Scarlet stepped back, startled, as a pregnant wolf hurried up and threw her arms around Don Karnage.  "You're back!" she shouted in Spanish.

He looked nearly as befuddled as Scarlet.  "M-M-Miranda?" he stammered, awkwardly returning her embrace.

"Geez, look at you!" the wolfess said, holding him at arm's length for inspection.  "In a uniform, no less!  Nice!  And still just as handsome as ever, of course.  How've you been?  Where've you been?  Fill me in!  Gosh, it's great to see you again!"

Karnage blinked, recomposing himself.  "Yes, it is good to see you again, too.  But there is much more of you now."  He lowered a sly eyebrow at her pregnant belly.

She glanced down and laughed.  "Oh, yes, my second.  I'm married now.  You didn't think I'd wait around for you forever, did you?"

"Who is your husband?"

She gave an almost embarrassed smile and scratched the back of her head.  "Carlos."

"Carlos?" Karnage gawked.  "Carlos Jorge Amarillo?  Silly, scrawny little Carlos the fisher-boy?"

"That's the one."

"Good heavens!  I did not expect you to wait for me, but Carlos?"

She laughed and shook her head with fond tolerance.  "He's very sweet.  And at least when we hang out in the family tavern together, he can drink!"

Scarlet finally managed to nudge her way into the reunion.  "Ahem!  Hello!  Current significant other standing here!  What's going on?"

Karnage snapped out of his oblivious smile and hastily put an arm around Scarlet's shoulders.  "Oh, yes, of course, querida.  Scarlet, this is Miranda.  Her family owns The Scurvy Albatross, the tavern I was telling you about.  Miranda, this is Scarlet, my girlfriend."

Miranda held out a hand, and Scarlet warily shook it.  "Hi.  Nice to meet you."  The wolfess pointed at Karnage.  "Hang on to this one, mi amiga.  If you can learn to put up with his ego, I think he'll make you very happy."

Scarlet raised her eyebrows.  "Uh...thanks."

Karnage looked indignant.  "Ego?  What are you talking about?  Is not my fault I am the most brilliant, talented, suave and handsome pirate in the world!"

Miranda winked.  "See what I mean?" she said in a stage whisper.

Scarlet stifled a giggle.

There came a sudden cry from inside a nearby building, that of a discontented child.  "Oops," Miranda said, "that'll be my son, José.  I'll drop by later, and we can catch up on old times.  Okay?"  She planted a friendly kiss on Karnage's cheek and dashed off into the house.  Moments later, the child's crying subsided.

Scarlet turned to him with a questioning look, her hands on her hips.

"What?" he said defensively.

"Left out a few things, did we?" she asked in English.

"Perhaps a few," he said, coughing uncomfortably.  "Miranda is an old friend.  I have known her all my life."

"What's this about her 'waiting for you'?"

"Oh, that.  Well, you see, she and I were...close, once.  I have not seen her in twenty years, though, remember."

"'Close?'"

He coughed again.  "She was my first..."  He paused as if searching for the word.

"Girlfriend?" she inserted.

"Sort of..."

"Crush?"

"No.  Just...my first."

"Oooh, I see."  She took a moment to process this information, then wrinkled her nose at him.  "I see," she said again.  If she had really taken the time to think about it, she would have guessed she wasn't the first woman in Karnage's life.  Still, the reality of it was disturbing.  Their relationship suddenly seemed more fragile.

"But that was long ago," he reminded her quickly.

"Mmm hmm."  She lowered an eyebrow.  "And what did she mean by that comment, at least her husband can drink?"

"You picked that up, too?  I am beginning to think having a Spanish-speaking lady is not the best thing.  You understand too much."

"Lo siento," she said insincerely.  ["Sorry."]

"All right, fine, I will tell you another story.  Come with me." He motioned for her to follow him down a side street.  She did, and after working their way though a maze of rubble, they came upon a small hill.  It had once had palm trees shading it, but now was merely a lump of tangled greenery.  On the other side, the land sloped down abruptly to the ocean.  He sat down on the grass, and she joined him.  "Now, about the drinking," he said.  "You do not know about how alcohol works with the biology of a hybrid?"

She shook her head.

Don Karnage sighed.  "This is not a surprise to me. I did not know, either, unfortunately.  I had to learn the hard way.  You see that cove down there?"  He pointed down the beach, to where a jagged inlet was sheltered by the mutilated remains of a rainforest.  "That was the favorite party spot for the teen-aged people on this island.  Outside of town, out of hearing range.  Every weekend there were bonfires and parties there, late into the night, until the sows came home."

"Cows."

"Whatever!  I was never allowed to go.  Father said I was not old enough.  But one weekend when I was fourteen, I snuck out of the house, and met with Miranda and Carlos and some of our other friends.   You see, Miranda's parents own The Scurvy Albatross.  So it was easy for her to steal drinks.  She had taken a barrel of rum that night, which as you can imagine made her the most popular person around!"

Scarlet grinned.  "Yo ho ho and a barrel of rum, right?"

He rolled his eyes.  "You have seen too many pirate movies, querida.  Anyway, so I went to the party spot with Miranda and the others.  We sat around the bonfire and drank and listened to Hernando's guitar-playing.  At first I was fine, but after about the fifth glass I started to feel strange."

"You're always strange," she said with a smile.

"Shut up."

She giggled.

"As I was saying before I was so rrrudely interrupted--"

"Sorry."

"--I felt strange.  Very dizzy, and sick.  Even after...what is the phrase?  Chucking up?"

"Upchucking."

"It got worse.   I don't remember too much, but I know I was hallucinating.  Or else there really was a giant pink squid in a wedding dress playing football with Napoleon. Eventually I got so dizzy I passed out.  By that time the others knew something was unusually wrong, and they ran away before they got into trouble.  Selfish little half-wits!  Miranda, though, she stayed to help.  I don't know how she did it, but somehow she either guided or dragged me back home.  She laid me on the porch and knocked on the door.  I was still hallucinating then, because I do not think there are usually polka-dotted llamas jumping through flaming hoops in our yard.  My mother answered the door.  She knew right away what the problem was.  You see, she and my father knew about this danger, but they never told me. Being a hybrid was a disgrace, and anything to do with it was never discussed.  My mother told Miranda to leave, but I learned later that she stayed, hiding under the porch, to find out if I was all right.  She was a good friend.  My father came out of the house, although I believe the orange toga and galoshes he wore were part of my hallucinations.  Anyway, he was furious with me for publicly disgracing the family in this way.  I was too sick to defend myself.  He kicked me, called me worthless and stupid.  Mother yelled at him, ordering him to keep his temper.  I think that was when the flying chinchillas with the guitars came.  Or was that after the circus elephant on the ice skates?  I was not so clear in the head."

"No kidding."

"After Father calmed down, Mother took me inside to bed.  She had some strange herbs that kept the stomach down and brought sleep.  I don't remember anything at all after that, for three days.  I have been told I could have died.  When I was back to my usually wonderful self, she explained to me how the alcohol works with the biology of a hybrid.  A single drink is fine, a few will make you sick, but more than that...then the real problems start.  I was very angry that no one had told me this before, so I had to learn the hard way.  Father just shouted at me, saying I was too young to be drinking anyway.  One more thing to drive us apart."

Scarlet fingered her chin contemplatively.  "No wonder you have an aversion to drinking."

"Yes.  Under the right circumstances I understand hallucinations can be fun, but I was not impressed.  Now a glass here and there to keep up appearances is all I ever risk."

"So Prohibition wasn't a big deal to you."

"Correct.  Unlike your parents, the legbooters."

"Bootleggers."

"That is the word."

Scarlet leaned back against the warm soil of the hill and smiled with satisfaction.  "One more puzzle piece in place.  I told you I'd figure you out eventually."

"Perhaps, querida, but do not look the gift sow in the purse.  Remember, I tell you all this because I want to, not because you are making me.  Yes-no?"

"Whatever you say, Captain," she said with a smirk.

He leaned over to kiss her.  "Now...  There is one more thing I want to...  I need to see."  A somber cast fell over his face.  "Come."

He took her hand, holding it tightly, and led her across the remnant of a sugarcane field, up a very steep hill, to the grounds of an ancient cathedral.  This was the "church on the hill" which Lorita had referred to, the strongest building on the island, where most had weathered the hurricane.  It was also the site of the island's largest cemetery.

Karnage climbed through the remainder of a white wood fence.  He seemed to know right where he was going, so Scarlet stayed close behind.  Some distance away from the cathedral itself, near a rare, still-standing palm tree, was a very old section of the cemetery.  Through layers of moss and mold, she could see that some of the stones dated back to the 1600's.  Many of the names were unfamiliar, but there were a number of markers bearing the name Karnage.

Keeping his voice low, he pointed out a few.  "My great-grandfather, Eduardo...  My great-uncle, Manuel...  My great-grandmother on my mother's side, Clara...  My great-aunt, Yolanda...  And there is my grandfather Andres."  He indicated a tall, obelisk-shaped monument.  Scarlet put a respectful hand on the cool marble tower, admiring the fine carvings.  When she looked up, he was several yards away, kneeling in front of a smaller marble tablet.  She came over and put a hand on his shoulder.  He spoke, his voice low and solemn.  "And my brother.  Ignacio Juan Francisco Gonzalo Cesár Karnage."  He ran his hands over the curved top of the marker slowly, feeling each groove in the carved stone, then laid his sword on the ground at its base.  Not sure what to do, Scarlet knelt beside him and kept quiet.

After several long minutes of silence, he opened his mouth as if to speak, but no words would come.  She was surprised to see tears glistening, unreleased, in his eyes.  He swallowed to clear his throat, and said in Spanish, "You know what his last words to me were?  'You promised to protect me, but your promise was worthless.'"  His voice broke off.  "But I tried.  I tried, Ignacio.  I'm sorry."

He sat back in the grass and put a hand over his eyes, grimacing as if the memories caused him physical pain.  "He was my only brother.  He was my friend.  He was wise.  He was so young.  I tried to protect him."

Scarlet put a comforting hand on his knee.  "You did everything you could."

"I let him die."

"It's not your fault," she said softly.

"My brother is dead."

It was as if it had never really registered.  At the time, he was consumed by rage.  Now, after years of avoiding those thoughts, the reality of it hit him on a whole different level.  Grief washed over him in a dizzying wave.

Scarlet knelt at his side and tenderly wrapped her arms around him.  She didn't need to say anything.  Her presence was enough.  She cared.

He held his breath, his eyes clenched shut, as he tried to stop the embarrassingly strong urge to cry.  He was a pirate, for the love of all things holy!  He didn't cry.  Children cried.  Women cried.  Pirates did not.

Against his will, he found himself leaning into Scarlet, and when at last he could hold his breath no longer, a sob broke free.  He put a hand over his face in humiliation and took a long, deep breath.  Through his fingers, he looked up at Scarlet.  What she must think...

But she wasn't sneering in disgust, nor smiling in amusement.  Rather, her face radiated compassion.  She rested her chin on the top of his head and tightened her embrace.

Finally, the crushing surge of memories and dusty grief broke through his mental defenses, and, for the first time in twenty years, Don Karnage wept.


On to Chapter 5

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This story and the characters Scarlet, Dolores, Lorita, Gonzalo, Ignacio, Miranda, and Lorenzo Calaveras are © Katie Sullivan and may not be used without permission. Don Karnage, the Iron Vulture, the Air Pirates, Mad Dog, Dumptruck, Cape Suzette, Tale Spin and all related indica, etc, are © The Walt Disney Company and are used without permission for non-profit entertainment purposes only.