How Deep is the Ocean, How Long is the Plank?
Set after the 6th season episodes “New Kid on the Block” and “Family Feud.”
Rated PG (mild violence)
Genre: Comedy/Adventure (Swashbuckler, Satire/Homage/Spoof)
Characters: Balki, Larry, Tess, Jennifer, Mary Anne, Gorpley
Synopis: Larry and Balki tell Tess a pirate story in order to get her to go to bed.
Archive: If you wish to archive this story on your site, just e-mail me!
Disclaimer: Perfect Strangers is the property of Lorimar Productions and Warner Bros. Television.
“And then the little sheep said, ‘No, no, no, bad Mr. Troll, I am going over this bridge, whether you like it or not.”
Tess rolled her eyes at her neighbor Balki Bartokomos’ Myposian fairy tale “The Little Sheep Brothers.” The seven-year-old girl was sleeping over her friends’ apartment while her parents were out of town. Balki’s roommate and best friend, Larry Appleton, was in his room, working on some story or the other for the newspaper. “Balki, that’s baby stuff. I’m not a baby.”
“Well,” Balki said in his funny accent, putting the old Myposian fairy tale book down, “what kind of story do you want to hear?”
“Something with a lot more action than a baby story,” Tess explained. “I want to hear a story with lots of adventure and exciting stuff.”
“Well,” Balki said, “I don’t really know any adventure and exciting stuff stories.” Tess looked disappointed. “But I could make up a good story with lots of adventure and scary things.”
Tess settled on the couch, where she was sleeping that night. “Well,” she said impatiently, “tell me a good story!”
“Well, once upon a time, there were three little sheep…”
“Balki, no baby stuff!”
“I tease you, Tess.” She narrowed his eyes at him, and he continued. “Ok, here the real story. Once upon a time, there were two cousins...”
“Like you and Larry?” Tess asked.
“Well, yes, like us,” Balki admitted. “They worked together and lived together and were best friends. They were taking their ship, the USS Dimintri, home...”
Tess smiled and snuggled into the throw pillows. If Balki could use his imagination, she could, too. Balki’s words swept her away in spite of herself. She almost felt as if she was on the little ship, helping Captain Laurence Appleton and Officer Balki Bartokomos search for pirates and treasure.
Captain Laurence Appleton looked through the spyglass. He wasn’t the head of the USS Dimintri for nothing! He was in charge of keeping everything ship-shape, and darned if he didn’t intend to make sure the ship remained in shape. The Dimintri was bringing a million dollars’ worth of gold bullion to the US government from England. The money was bound to attract pirates, criminals, and all kinds of weird folks.
“Cousin?” He turned to his best friend, distant relative, and first mate. “What you doing up there?” Officer Balki Bartokomos smiled, taking the spyglass from his cousin. “Are you watching for birds? Oh!” The tall youth pointed toward the sea. Captain Laurence just avoided having his eye poked out. “There’s a bird, and a very big fish with blue skin. It’s making happy noises.”
Captain Laurence grabbed the spyglass back from Balki. “I’m not looking for birds,” he explained. “I’m looking for pirates. These waters are full of them.” He rolled his eyes. “And that’s a dolphin, not a big fish. It’s a mammal.”
Balki looked excited. Captain Laurence sighed. This was his cousin’s first trip as a member of the USS Dimintri, and he didn’t quite understand everything about his duties yet. “Oh, cousin, are we going to meet pirates? I’ve heard about all the exciting things they do…”
Captain Laurence’s hazel eyes widened in fear and horror. “Exciting! Balki, pirates are terrible criminals! They destroy and rape and burn ships and whole towns! They’ve been known to kill people! They take all the plunder and bury it on tiny little islands.”
Balki shivered. “I don’t want to be plumbered!”
Two of the female passengers distracted them at that moment. Miss Jennifer Lyons and her dear friend Miss Mary Anne Spencer were traveling to New York City from Europe. Captain Laurence knew the moment he saw the beautiful and intelligent Miss Lyons that he was in love with her, but he couldn’t bring himself to act on his feelings.
“Cousin,” Balki insisted, “why don’t you ask Miss Lyons to walk with you on the deck?”
Captain Laurence shook his head. “I could never strike up a conversation with her, Balki. She’s the heiress to a fortune, and Miss Spencer is almost as rich. Why would they want to talk to a poor sailor?”
Even as Captain Laurence spoke, Miss Spencer trotted over to them. They quickly straightened their shirts and navy-blue uniforms. “Hi there!” Miss Spencer giggled. Miss Lyons remained where she was, but she glared at her friend. “I’m Mary Anne Spencer, and that’s my best friend. We’re going to New York City to meet our fathers.”
Balki enveloped Mary Anne in a huge hug that nearly knocked the breath out of the tiny young woman. “I’m Officer Balki Bartokomos, and this is my cousin, Laurence Appleton. He’s the ship’s captain.”
Mary Anne beamed. “Oh, my friend Jennifer has been dying to meet you! She loves ships!”
“She...she has?” Captain Laurence stammered. He tugged absently at his ruffled shirt collar and heavy coat. He almost wished he’d just chosen to wear the vest, like Balki did. He suddenly felt very hot.
Jennifer came to retrieve her friend. “Don’t mind Mary Anne, gentlemen,” Jennifer told them. “She’s inclined to talk to anyone and anything without thinking.” She smiled. Captain Laurence nearly melted right there. “We’ll see you gentlemen later.”
Captain Laurence sighed. “Someday, Balki, I’m going to marry that woman. I’m going to spend the rest of my life with her.”
Balki never got a chance to reply. Captain Laurence, who was leaning against the deck, noticed a ship drifting by them. His eyes went wild again, and he took Balki’s arm. “Balki, there’s a ship! It could be pirates! They’ll burn the ship and steal the gold and kidnap the girls and kill us!”
“Cousin, don’t get your loop in a knot,” Balki warned. “It’s probably just a nice ship that wants to say hello.”
The ship inched closer and closer on the horizon. Captain Laurence could tell, even from this distance, that it was twice the size of the Dimintri, with cannons that would have easily taken up their whole deck. Gazing up at the flag on the mast confirmed his worst fears.
He grabbed Balki by the collar of his flowing, balloon-sleeved blouse. “Balki, look at that flag!”
Balki looked. “It’s black, with a skull and crossbones. So what?”
“Balki, that’s the Jolly Roger. It’s the pirates’ corporate symbol!” He clutched his cousin harder, shaking him. “We’re all going to die! I’m too young to die! You’re too young to die! We’ve still got seas we haven’t sailed, comic situations we haven’t mined, seasons of the show yet to be filmed…”
The sound of cannon fire finally detached Captain Laurence from his now-breathless cousin. “Cousin, please,” Balki exclaimed, “this is no time to have a nervous meltdown on me! We have to figure out how to save our ship and the ladies!”
“Hey, guys.” Balki’s cousin Larry walked into the room, stifling a yawn. “Tess, shouldn’t you be asleep?”
“Balki’s telling me a good story,” the girl explained. “It’s about pirates and sword fights.”
“Aren’t you a little young for that?” Larry asked.
“I’m seven years old!” Tess reminded him. “If I’m old enough to watch PG movies, I think I can handle a pirate story.” She giggled. “Balki, go on! I want to hear about the pirates!”
Larry joined Tess on the couch as Balki continued...
The two ducked as a cannonball whizzed by. “Oh, my Lord, that was close!” Captain Laurence gasped. “What do they think this is, ‘Cannonball Run’?” He ran to the nearest intercom box. “Attention, this is your captain speaking. I want all able-bodied crewmembers on deck now! Repeat, now! And bring your weapons!” He adjusted the pistol on his belt and nodded at his cousin. “Do you have your sword?”
“Yes,” Balki admitted as he and his cousin ducked another burst from the cannons, “but why? Are we going to have a duel?”
“Yes,” Captain Laurence said quickly. “And the pirates are going to want a lot more than our ears!”
Balki finally looked nervous. “Maybe our noses, too?” He touched his own nose. “I hope not. I like my nose on my face.”
“Balki, they’re going to chop us into little bits!”
“My nose, too?”
“Yes, your nose, too.”
“Cousin, we have to save our noses!”
Captain Laurence nodded. “Among other things.” He got on top of a crate as his men hurried onto the deck, followed by the Misses Lyons and Spencer, both carrying their ruffled parasols. “Ladies, gentlemen, and Balki…” he began.
Balki blushed. “Oh, cousin, thank you for remembering me.”
One tall, balding, middle-aged crewmember raised his hand. “Captain, are we being invaded by pirates? I hate being invaded by pirates! I don’t work well under pressure.”
Captain Laurence nodded. “Yes, Officer Berman, we’re being invaded by pirates. Balki, hold him up,” he added as Officer Berman started to weave back and forth. “This is no time to panic. We have to remain calm.”
Another cannonball barely missed Captain Laurence. The men went crazy, running this way and that, cursing and screaming and complaining about waking up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Balki pushed through the crowd and let out a whistle that could be heard on his native Mypos.
“Enough! Cousin Laurence is right. We have to stay calm and think of a way to defeat pirates. This is our ship. Why should we let them take our ship? Our honor is at stake, not to mention our lives. Are we going to just let them walk up and take what is ours? The United States government is counting on us to bring the USS Dimintri and the gold soup to New York City, and we can’t let the government of the United States down!”
Yet another cannonball interrupted Balki’s speech. Mary Anne jumped into his arms, and Jennifer grabbed Captain Laurence without thinking. “Um, Captain” Jennifer said, a little embarrassed, “would this be a good time to panic?”
The pirate ship was now alongside the USS Dimintri. It was staffed by the kind of brutal, bloodthirsty cutthroats and ugly extras that can always be found in pirate stories. A tall, blond haired man in a fancy suit and extravagantly plumed hat held a megaphone. “This is Captain Samuel Gorpley, of the pirate ship Lady Luck. Look, my crew could probably eat yours for dinner and use the rest of that pile of splinters for toothpicks. Give up your treasure and we may think of letting you go with your arms and legs still attached.”
Balki spoke before his cousin could. “Don’t be ridiculous! We’d never give up to a pirate like you! We’ll fight you until we see the yolks of your eyes!”
Mary Anne looked at him proudly. “I love it when you talk like that.”
Captain Laurence gulped. “Balki, I thought he was being reasonable.” He nodded at the grinning pirate chief. “I’m Captain Laurence Appleton of the USS Dimintri, and this is my cousin, Officer Balki Bartokomos.” He tried to smile. “We’re thinking about it, sir.”
Balki frowned. “Cousin, this is our honor at stake. A Myposian’s honor is very important to him!” He turned back to Captain Gorpley. “We’ve thought about it, Captain Gorpley, sir, and we want to fight!”
Captain Gorpley shrugged. “If you insist.” He pointed at the now-scattering crew. “Ok, bloodthirsty creatures, do what you want to Appleton and Bartokomos, but I want the women unharmed.”
Balki waved his sword over his head. “You asked for it, Mr. Wise Pirate!” He pointed it at the drooling, hairy beings flooding the deck of the Dimintri. “Begin the fight sequence!”
Swords crashed, cannons thundered, and Captain Laurence’s pistol blazed. Black smoke billowed against a blue Technicolor sky. People ran into each other, shot each other, leaped, stabbed, played cards, exchanged insults and bad sheep jokes, got stuck together, jumped overboard, gave each other golf pointers, and bought peanuts and popcorn from the vendors in the Dimintri’s food court.
Captain Laurence was impressed with his cousin’s swordsmanship. Balki skewered five of the largest members of Gorpley’s crew using moves that would have left Errol Flynn breathless. “Where did you learn that?” the captain got a chance to ask when he and Balki were briefly pressed together by two duelers. “I haven’t seen anyone do those kind of moves since My Favorite Year.”
“You’re not the only one who gets to spend time with great swordsmen,” Balki explained as he casually leaped out of the way. “Myposians are taught fencing from a young age.” He smiled. “I also watch a lot of late-night TV.”
Captain Laurence left his cousin to find the women and defend them. He dove under a fallen mast and made his way around a pirate and a member of the Dimintri who were arguing over last week’s Chicago Cubs game. He suddenly felt someone stick him rather hard in the rear end. He turned his pistol to his attacker…and found himself face-to-face with the lovely Miss Jennifer Lyons.
“Miss Lyons!” he stammered. “Shouldn’t you and Miss Spencer be in your rooms?”
She poked a pirate in the posterior with her parasol. “Captain, our rooms are a little crowded at the moment. The pirates started a Monopoly game that got ugly.”
“Someone got Boardwalk with three hotels and the others didn’t like it?”
“Boardwalk, Park Place, the Electric Company, all four railroads, and two hotels.”
“Ouch.” He gestured at her parasol. “Where’d you get the umbrella of doom?”
“Mary Anne and I had them specially made in Paris.” She smacked one pirate over the head with the umbrella. He collapsed, his eyes rolling into the back of his head. “Father thought we’d need a way to defend ourselves, seeing how we were traveling alone, but he didn’t like the idea of us carrying guns or swords. Our parasols are made of steel, with extra-sharp points.”
Officer Berman hurried up to the captain. “Captain Appleton,” he nodded at Miss Lyons, “ma’m. Captain Gorpley wants to see you, sir.”
The remains of the intercom blared. “And I want to see you now, Appleton!”
Captain Laurence rolled his eyes. “I can’t even get away from that jerk in a dream sequence!” He stormed onto the deck, with Jennifer and Officer Berman following close behind.
Gorpley’s pirates surrounded the remainder of the Dimintri’s crew. Mary Anne and Balki huddled in one corner, holding each other for dear life. Officer Berman took one look at the snarling, growling pirates and promptly fainted. “Hey, Appleton,” Gorpley sneered, “you’ve obviously lost the battle, so why don’t we make a trade? We’ll take your money, your women, and your ship, and let you and your dimwit cousin keep your lives. How does that sound?”
Captain Laurence thought it over. “That sounds fair,” he said, his voice quavering with fear.
Balki’s eyes widened. “Cousin, you’re just giving up? This is a good pirate story, and it cannot end with the pirate winning!” He let Mary Anne go and stomped up to Captain Gorpley. “Captain, I challenge you to a duel.”
“Oh, Balki,” Mary Anne exclaimed. “You’re so brave!”
Gorpley snorted. “You challenge me to a duel?” He took his own sword out of its scabbard. “This should be easy.” He thrust at Balki before he had a chance to move. “Take that, you idiot Mypiot!” Balki was thrown off-center and barely missed the point of the sword. “I’ve always wanted to say that!”
Jennifer took Captain Laurence by the arms. “Captain, you’ve got to stop him! He’ll kill Balki!”
“What am I supposed to do?” Captain Laurence whined. “Ask them nicely to please stop poking each other with sharp and deadly weapons?”
Jennifer pushed him aside. “You’re such a coward! Some captain you are!”
Balki recovered, jumping away as Gorpley slashed at his arm. “You first, you Pirate of the Caribbean!” he shouted, assaulting the tall pirate with a series of blows.
Balki and Captain Gorpley were evenly matched, and the two ducked and fenced and jumped all over the deck, knocking over people and barrels and the TV production crew’s cameras. Mary Anne bit her nails to the quick. Captain Laurence’s eyes bounced from one man to the other like hazel ping-pong balls. Jennifer just stared at Captain Laurence in disgust.
“Balki!” Larry interrupted Balki’s narrative. “I thought this story was about two cousins.” He made a face. “Why do you…does Officer Balki get to fight the pirate? Why can’t the captain defend his own ship?”
“Cousin, who is telling the story here?”
“Balki, all I’m saying is that I...Laurence seems to be perfectly capable of defending Miss Lyons, his cousin, the treasure, and himself.”
“Yes, but he is too afraid and worried.”
“Why do I always have to be the one who’s scared?” Larry complained. “Why can’t I...why can’t he be the hero, just for once?”
Tess sighed. “Can I hear the rest of the story?”
Larry nodded. “Yes, Tess, you can.” He nodded at Balki. “May I tell the rest?”
Balki shrugged. “As you wish, cousin.”