I just finished this short story today and would love feedback. Please let me know what you think. Enjoy!
by: Dan Mumford
“Avast thar ye scurvy landlubber!” the heroic pirate said. “Swab the poop deck and belay the mainstays or you’ll walk the plank!” A bolt of lightening lit the handsome pirate from behind as waves crashed up over the sides of the fearsome frigate. His beard flowed in the wind that threatened to pluck him from his perch among the rigging that he held onto gallantly with one hand, his other, clutching a rusty cutlass. “Titan’s Teeth! You’d best shift yourself, you yellowbellied son of a seacow or I’ll hang you by your thumbs from the yardarm and use you for musket practice!”
“How come I always have to be a landlubber?” Timmy said. “You always get to be the pirate captain! Why can’t I be the one who shoots the cannons or something?”
“Shut up Timmy! Pirates have to have someone to order around. How else can I be a mean pirate? Now go swab the deck before I keelhaul you, ya bifurcated bilge rat!”
“No! I’m sick of this game! I’m going back to the cottage to tell Mom you won’t let me be a real pirate.” Timmy yelled. He jumped down from the rocks on the sea wall that made up their pirate ship and landed in the soft, hot sand, then ran up the path, away from the beach. They had only been there three days and already Kyle was being a jerk. Who thought of playing pirates in the first place? Not Kyle. He even brought his video games with him. He said they were only for the car, but when Timmy wanted to go exploring down the beach, Kyle was too busy playing Blaster Master to care. It was Timmy who found the big wall of rocks that was a perfect pirate ship. It was Timmy who pulled two slats out of the weathered beach fence so they could swordfight. Kyle only agreed to play when Timmy said he could borrow his skull and crossbones handkerchief and use it on his head. Then all of a sudden he was the Pirate Captain who could order the lowly deckhand Timmy around.
Timmy stormed into the cottage and went straight to his room. He shut the door with a bang and flopped onto the bed. After a few seconds, he reached up behind him, picked up his book off the shelf, and started to read. We’ll see how much fun Kyle has playing pirates all by himself he thought as he immersed himself in and adventure on the Spanish Main. He couldn’t decide if he wanted to be Jim Hawkins or Squire Trelawney, but he always ended up imagining himself as Long John Silver. Except in his version, he had both his legs. Having a wooden peg for a leg made him shiver.
Sure enough, a few minutes later, Kyle came breezing in, asking for a popsicle, even though he’d already had one that morning. Of course Mom said yes. Figures. Oh well. He’ll get bored playing his PsP in an hour and then when he wants to explore again, Timmy will say, “No.” That’ll teach him.
That afternoon, a storm blew in from the ocean the likes of which they hadn’t seen before. Both boys wanted to go down to the beach to see the ocean and how big the waves must be, but Dad said it would be too dangerous. A tree next to the small cottage fell over right outside Kyle’s window just before bedtime. It took him an extra hour to fall asleep that night. Timmy used his spyglass out the window and tried to see anything down at the beach amidst all the swirling chaos. He could still make out the horizon faintly, and was just about to collapse his telescope when he saw something illuminated by a flash of lightning. Far out in the bay, he thought he saw a ship. This would have been nothing unusual because ships crossed the bay all day long. Except this ship had sails. And not just sails like one of those tiny sailboats that rich people have. Huge square sails, hung from three masts taller than the biggest telephone pole Timmy had ever seen. It looked exactly like a frigate might look straight out of the 1700’s. His eyes locked onto the spot as he fought his nerves to keep the scope steady, waiting for another flash of lightning. BANG! There was another one! But no ship. He panned the horizon from edge to edge but the ship seemed to have disappeared. Beneath the waves, or maybe…back to its own time.
Timmy flew off the chair he’d been leaning on and ran into Kyle’s room.
“I don’t care Timmy, just leave me alone.” Kyle said from under the covers.
“No. It’s really cool! I swear.”
“You’re not just gonna call me a scaredy-cat for hiding from the storm?”
“I just saw a pirate ship!”
“Shut up. No you didn’t. You’ve just been reading Treasure Island too much.”
“No really! I was looking through my spyglass just like Billy Bones does, and when the lightening flashed, I saw a huge ship out in the bay. With big masts and everything. Then it disappeared. For real. We have to go down to the beach tomorrow and see what happened. Maybe they landed and built a huge pirate fort with cannons right next to ours and we can have fights with them. This is gonna be awesome!”
“Fine, if it gets you to shut up about it, I’ll go exploring with you tomorrow. But right now, I want to sleep.”
“YES! Ok, I’ll wake you up early so we can go.” Timmy said. He bounded out of the room and across the small living room to the window for one last look before getting ready for bed himself.
The next morning broke softly in the bay after the big storm. Small whippoorwills and bobwhites twittered out in the trees while the sun struggled to burn off the early morning mist and dew that hung on the scrub pine trees surrounding their vacation retreat. Timmy scarfed down a bowl of Honeynut Cheerios and tiptoed across the creaky floorboards in the old cottage to his brother Kyle’s room. Much to Timmy’s surprise, Kyle was not only up, but had a bag packed, stuffed to the brim with assorted pirate stuff. The wooden dagger he had made on the lathe down in his uncle’s woodshop last year, the ragged eyepatch that never fit quite right, his replica map of the Caribbean from the 1700’s he bought in the gift shop the last time they went to Provincetown, even his old stuffed monkey with the missing leg that he had cut off so it would be a real pirate-monkey.
“Ready?” Timmy asked, although clearly, he was.
“Yeah. How about you?”
“I just need to grab my sword. I left it out on the porch last night. Did you have breakfast yet?”
“Nah, we’ll only be gone like an hour. I wanna wait for Mom to get up, then instead of cold cereal, I can have eggs and sausage and stuff.”
“Ok. Let’s go!”
The two boys went out through the side door so as not to wake their parents. Bare feet slid through damp sand on the way around the little cottage so they could pick up their homemade weaponry. They hop-skipped down the path to the road to avoid the prickly pine needles that always stabbed their feet. Kyle still got one on his left foot and hopped the rest of the way down to the hard packed sand of the private road that led to their beach like an injured heron. On their right, another cottage lay hidden among the trees. House seemed like a better term though, it was twice the size of the cottage they stayed in. Sure it was closer to the beach by 200 feet, but it didn’t have the clear view of the water that the boys insisted on.
Down the road and up to the top of the little wooden ramp that led down to the beach. A few years ago, there had been no ramp, just sand. Timmy and Kyle used to have contests to see who could jump farthest down the small sand-filled gully. Inevitably, one of them always hit one of the big rocks that were buried a few inches below the surface. Today, they scampered down the ramp without a second thought of past contests. Today, they were going to find a real live pirate ghost ship!
The tide was almost all the way in this morning. The swimming raft lay beached on the flat sand that made up the sandbar that lined the beach for almost 2 miles out in some places, but would soon be floating again as the incoming water continued its unstoppable march towards land. First stop, the tide pools. No pirates there, but there were always fun things to find. Hermit crab wrestling matches and oddly shaped seaweed clumps that looked just like the hair of some sea witch when you put it on your head. Kyle chased Timmy around for several minutes, trying to turn him into a barnacle with his new powers from the witch’s green scraggley hair.
“Cut it out!” Timmy whined. “I’m tired of this. Let’s go find the pirate ship now.”
“Fine. Where do you want to look first?” Kyle asked.
“Well…it was pointing left…I mean port, so we should head to port.”
“But Mom said we can’t go farther than the end of the sea wall.”
“Do you wanna see real pirates or not?” Timmy asked. “Come on, let’s go.”
The boys came back up the beach to the dry sand above the high tide mark and started walking down the strand. Each one kept a weather eye out for interesting bits of driftwood, ray egg cases, or horseshoe crab shells to bring back home. It seemed to their mother that each year, they were determined to collect the smelliest flotsam they could find, just to stink up the van on the long ride back home. After walking for ten minutes, Kyle started to complain.
“I think we should turn back now Timmy. Mom’s gonna be mad. We’ve never been this far down from our beach before. Besides, there aren’t any real pirates out here. I was just playing along. But it’s not fun anymore. Let’s go.”
“Aww come on! We haven’t even seen anything yet. They could be right around this bend. You can go back if you want, but if I find a big ol heap of pirate treasure, I’m not sharing any of it with you. And I’ll buy a hundred Ps2s and X-boxes, and a new BMX bike, and a remote control car with an awesome jump, and a real bow and arrow, and fireworks, and a pet tiger, and a thousand LEGO sets and I won’t let you play with any of it. Unless…you keep going.” Kyle stopped and considered for a moment, then resignedly kept walking. “That’s what I thought.”
Timmy and Kyle came up to a big curve in the beach that hid the rest of the coast from view. Neither boy noticed the imperceptible shift in the breeze, or the sudden absence of traffic noise from the road that ran parallel to the beach. They kept walking until they rounded the corner. Kyle walked right into Timmy’s back and fell down.
“Oww! Idiot! Why’d you do that fo…” Kyle’s complaints petered out as he took in the same scene that stopped Timmy in his tracks. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Timmy was right! A group of pirates looked up from their work on the beach. Behind them, a huge ship hove to off the shore with a giant hawser leading down to the biggest anchor they had ever seen, stuck halfway out of the ripple marked sand. A pirate with a huge tricorn hat, and a red coat with gold trim stepped towards them with a mischievous glint in his eye.
“Ahoy there lads! Come to give us a hand, have ye?”
It was only then that the brothers noticed the two chests brimming with gold, diamonds, rubies, silver, sapphires, pearls, and other assorted fineries. Timmy even saw a few crowns in amongst all the bullion. They just stood there gaping for what seemed like hours until the Captain addressed them again.
“Look lively there boyos. Them chests are full o’ blood money. I can see ye be powerful confused. Tell us why now, afore I unship me cutlass.”
Kyle looked at Timmy until Timmy finally spoke. “We saw your ship last night so we came down to the beach and searched for you. Are you real pirates?” he asked with a mix of admiration and fear in his young voice.
“Aye laddie. That we be. The most feared pirates that ever set sail. I’m Cap’n Bartholomew, but you can call me Black Bart. This here is me gunner Long Jim, my bosun Crazy Uncle Pete, and my luitenant Crook Eye Davy. The rest o’ these lubbers is deckhands. And who might you be, eh?”
“Oh! Well I’m Timmy, But you can call me Karl the Killer, And this is my brother Kyle. He goes by Kyle the Crustacean.” Timmy said smiling.
“I do not! Stupid!” Kyle protested. “I’m Bender the Brutal. And he’s my deckhand!” The boys started squabbling, but then realized they were in front of a real pirate Captain and had better mind their manners, at least for now.
“Well Karl and Bender, mighty pleased to meetcha. I can see you’re smart as paint. Just so happens, we’re in need of a new cabin boy. The last one had an accident with a brace o pistols after a poker game. Shame really, him being only 10 an’ that. Ah well, the troubles we face at sea, right?” the Captain beamed. “So what say you? Mind, I only have room fer one o’ you. T’other’ll have to stay behind. Maybe even keep watch o’er the treasure for us.”
The brothers looked at each other dumbstuck. Real pirates wanted one of them to go with them as crew. Their future life paths spun out before them in an instant, each boy imagining what it must be like as part of a real pirate crew. Kyle thought about the adventures they would have and cannon fights played out over swirling maelstroms of doom, threatening to suck the entire ship down to Davy Jones’ locker. But reality kicked shut the door opening onto his dreams. Being on a ship at sea would mean no more video games. No more computers, or online chats with his schoolmates about which band they liked. The only bands where he was headed were acoustic, and included hornpipes and jigs as their most requested tunes. No more microwavable mac n’ cheese or ice cream sandwiches, only hard tack, salt pork and plum duff if he was lucky. Kyle thought about all these things and found his answer deep in Timmy’s eyes.
Timmy was far more suited to this strange new life. Kyle had only watched a few pirate movies in his spare time, unrealistic poorly researched Hollywood affairs at that. Timmy on the other hand, in addition to seeing the over-the-top movies, had read all the classic sea tales and knew them by heart. Treasure Island, Captains Courageous, Two Years before the Mast, Robinson Crusoe, Mutiny on the Bounty, and many others. He knew what he would be getting into. He knew how to load and fire a cannon (theoretically), how many feet were in a fathom, and how to tie a sheepshank, whereas Kyle only had a vague idea how to do these things. He could even name all the sails, from the flying jib to the mizen topgallant staysail. Besides, Timmy never really liked video games all that much, preferring to play outside, every tree his ship, every sharp stick his sword. Without a word spoken between them, the choice was clear.
“I’m your man Cap’n” said Timmy bravely. “Only… can I go back and say goodbye to my mother?”
“Fraid not lad, as soon as we’re done buryin’ this loot, we sail with the tide. Young Marcy spied a colonial schooner nosing about these parts before the storm hit and we can’t afford a scuffle right now. We need to re-provision at the nearest friendly port o’ call afore we can snatch any more booty.”
Just then, Timmy had an idea.
“What year is it Cap’n?” he asked, already guessing the answer.
“Why, it be the year of our Lord seventeen hundred and sixteen. Just last month, that scurvy dog Sam Bellamy took a beautiful sloop right out from under our noses on his cursed ship Wydah. Why do you ask?”
“No reason, Cap’n. Let me just have a word with my brother here and I’ll be ready to go.” Timmy took Kyle by the elbow and led him off a short distance away from the group of seamen. “Kyle, do you realize what this means?” he said in excited whispers. “Somehow, we passed through some sort of time bubble or something. Like a door in time. Look around you. Do you see any of those expensive beach condos that Mom is always going on about? No? That’s because they don’t exist yet. If I really can’t go back and say goodbye, I have a plan. I’ll write a note to Mom telling her where I am, and that I’m OK. Then I’ll put it in the treasure chest. You can walk back down the beach and I think you’ll come out of the time bubble and be back in our time. Then you can tell them what happened. Get Dad to come help you dig up the treasure. Odds are, it will still be here in the present, just remember where to dig. Make sure and get some press there when you uncover the case with my note in it. This will be the greatest thing ever! I win ‘cause I get to go and live with Pirates. And you win because you and Mom and Dad will be rich from all that treasure. And we’ll all be famous because my note will prove that we traveled back in time. I’ll just have to put in something about i-pods and President Obama. Scientists will think it’s a hoax of course, until they test the paper and ink and find out it really is authentic from the 1700’s. This is awesome!”
“There’s just one thing.” said Kyle. “I won’t have a little brother anymore.”
“Aww come on. You know we never really got along. And besides, after you get all that money, you can buy the best video game system in the world and you’ll forget all about me.”
“No, that’s not true. I’ll always remember.”
“Thanks Kyle. Now let’s go. We don’t want to miss the tide, now do we?”
Kyle and Timmy walked back over to the Captain.
“Excuse me sir?” asked Timmy. “Can you spare some paper and a pen. I’d like to leave my own mark with this treasure, on behalf of my new crew.”
“Buckets o’ Blood! You can write?” the Captain exclaimed. Timmy nodded “And I expect you can read as well. What about poker? Can you play poker?” Timmy shook his head no. “Excellent! You’ll be the best cabin boy we’ve ever had!” Captain Bart reached into his voluminous coat and brought out a worn leather map case. He reached inside and handed Timmy a piece of parchment. From another pocket, he withdrew a feather. For a moment, the boys were confused, until they realized that it was a fountain pen, the tip carefully cut to dispense ink in fine flowing curves. “Only one problem, lad.” the Captain said. “We got no ink. You’ll have to do it the old fashioned way. Hold out your non-writin’ hand.” Timmy did as he was told and held up his left hand. Without warning, the Captain drew a small dagger and pricked Timmy in the meat of his thumb before he could react. Timmy flinched too late, and expected to see blood gushing out from his hand like a river, but when he inspected his palm, only a small drop of crimson betrayed the wounds’ existence. Not wasting any time, Timmy dipped the feather into his blood and began to write. As he wrote, he thought about how the scientists might even test the blood for his DNA. Further proof that they really did time travel. When he was finished, he let the blood dry, carefully folded the letter, and placed it onto the pile of gold in the last unburied chest. The pirates closed it up and lowered it into the waiting hole with grunts and snarls of exertion, then piled sandy dirt into the hole until there was no trace it ever existed. Then it was time for goodbyes. Timmy walked up to his brother and gave him a big hug.
“Goodbye brother. Enjoy the treasure, and try not to let Mom freak out too much when she finds out I ran away with pirates.”
“Goodbye Timmy. I’ll think of you whenever I look out to sea. May you have safe voyages and the wind always at your back.” Then Kyle turned to the Captain. “Goodbye sir. Please take care of my brother. May your hold swell with booty and your grog store never run dry.”
“Fare thee well Bender the Brutal. Now we must set sail.” And with that, the Captain turned around and marshaled his crew back to the bumboat they came ashore on, Timmy among them. He waved goodbye one last time as the boat battled its way out through the incoming surf. Then Kyle turned around and walked back towards his beach. As he rounded the corner, he felt a strange tickly sensation. He looked around and suddenly noticed the luxury condominiums butted right up to the edge of the beach. He noticed something else too. Yelling. His mother’s voice carried over the ocean breeze and the crashing waves like they didn’t even exist. She sounded mad. Oh boy, he thought. I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do.