Dedicated to CJ
Lucy was born with a pirate ship on her head. It sat where her hair should be, and had a small pirate living on it, she called Captain Bob. He would yell a lot, in a squeaky little voice
“Argh! Man de cannons!”
“Aye, swab de decks!”
“Oi! Climb de mast!”
even though he was the only one on board, which scared away any potential friends.
And he snored through the night, which was even worse.
The other kids found nothing wondrous about Captain Bob, or his ship. The laughed at Lucy, teased her, and kept well clear.
“That’s the dumbest hat ever!” they said.
Every month or two, Lucy would try to dismantle it, but Captain Bob would keep her up all night, putting it back together again.
Once she tried luring him off his boat with toys – battery-charged racing cars for him to drive, rocket ships, little fire engines, flying dinosaurs, gliding planes.
“Argh! Ye be mad!” Pirate Bob hollered, in his tiny voice. “I be a pirate! Aye, a PIRATE!”
Then he made her plastic farm animals walk the plank.
And every time there was a birthday party or math test, Captain Bob would sing rude pirate songs, which made everything worse.
“Can’t you sing anything nice?” Lucy would wail.
“Nice?” Ho-ho! I be a pirate! Aye-aye! A PIRATE!” he would yell, and fire off a cannon, or throw out fishing nets.
Lucy tried even harder to fit in, but with a pirate ship on her head, she found it hard to run, and, ironically, couldn’t swim.
“Arg! No, Miss, NO! This be a ship, not a submarine!” Captain Bob squealed as she entered the pool to splash and jump and dive with the other girls.
“But…” she protested.
“Miss, I’ll drown! Arg!” Captain Bob raged.
One day, Miss Floop talked about pirates in class.
“They had rotten teeth,” she said.
“Check!” Captain Bob’s tiny voice roared.
“Ha-har! Correct!” squeaked Captain Bob.
“And big crews that fought a lot.”
And Captain Bob didn’t call a thing.
That night, with moonlight coming through her bedroom window, Lucy watched Captain Bob in the mirror – scrubbing the decks, tending the sails, prepping the cooking pot for a crew that didn’t exist. Suddenly, he looked lonely. Painfully so.
Just like her.
Captain Bob woke at dawn, as always, looking to a sea that wasn’t there… and found his deck populated with a crew of little plastic toy soldiers.
“Gah! I won’t be havin’ it!” he raged, throwing them over the side. “Dey not be pirates! Arg! I ain’t no toy!”
And the plastic soldiers fell, raining down past the tears of a little girl.
Captain Bob felt bad. And felt mad about feeling bad. He was a pirate! A PIRATE! Yet all those years at sea had taught him what salt water smelt like. He had upset the giant little girl.
“I am what I am, aye, and is what I is…” he grumbled defiantly to himself.
Lucy had a think about it on her way down the street. She could be sad about things… or not. She was sick of being sad.
Instead, she went to the toyshop.
“Ahoy, Miss! Ye had better not be fixin’ to buy more toy soldiers!” Pirate Bob warned, swinging from crow’s nest to deck on his rope.
“No,” Lucy smiled. “I’m getting you something by buying it for myself.”
Pirate Bob scratched his head. “Arg, dat didna make any sense!”
For her part, Lucy realised they had never actually talked before. This was a positive start!
For the first time in living memory, Lucy went to the pool exited, nervous. She put her brand new snorkel in her mouth and began to swim… with her head just under the surface.
“Ye-haw!” Captain Bob shouted in pure delight! “Shiver me timbertops!”
His pirate ship was sailing in water!
“Oh, the joy!” he squeaked.
Larry Lumber saw the boat floating by and jumped, doing the biggest bomb. He splashed everywhere, yelling; “CANNONBALL!”
Lucy leapt to her feet.
“You leave Pirate Bob alone!” she roared.
“Are ye mad, Miss?” Pirate Bob called, hanging over the side. “Waves, the spray of sea, attacking giants!”
And they argued, while Larry slinked away.
And all the popular kids watched a little girl and her pirate swim and talk more.
The days after that were fun for Lucy! She took Pirate Bob snorkelling every chance she got, and in return he told her wondrous tales of life at sea. Of battling Spanish war ships, and buried treasure and fighting the Kraken!
And falling in love with a mermaid.
“Aye, ye mean well, Miss, but I sure do still get lonely none the less,” Pirate Bob sighed.
“Me too,” Lucy agreed.
Lucy looked at the weather forecast on her phone, while pirate movies played in the background.
“C’m’on maties! Get that there swashbuckler!” Captain Bob cheered, a tear in his eye. Movies never ended well. The hero was always the enemy for him.
The shudders of the house started to rattle, the wind picked up. Outside, a massive storm was brewing.
“At last…!” Lucy cried, and ran out into the wild wind, just as the hard rain came down.
Lucy was worried that Pirate Bob said nothing as she ran through the night. Leaning into the storm, she made her way out onto the jetty by the docks.
Rain came in at them sideways, cold and sharp, the wooden planks shook as thundering waves crashed all around, their salty spay launching into Lucy and her pirate ship, time and again. Lightening flashed, the wind howled.
“Aye, thank ye, thank ye, Miss…” Pirate Bob wept. “I be a man of the sea here, for sure!”
Lucy stayed until her face was numb, and walked home, happily talking with her pirate friend… while all the other kids watched through their windows.
“I think we’ve been mean, ignoring Lucy,” Betty said to the other kids in the schoolyard.
“She’s tougher than I thought,” agreed Amir.
“Yeah, her loyalty is sorta impressive,” admitted Li Lu.
“She doesn’t care what we think. Good on her,” agreed Tommy Tuckers.
“We should help,” said Tula Todarro.
It took a week of preparation, another week of practice, but, finally, a small, beautifully drawn note appeared under Lucy’s front door, with her name on it.
Lucy’s mother, who didn’t have a pirate ship on her head, found and read it.
“Honey!” she called. “I think you have an invite to a party!”
“Me? And invite?”
“There’s even little drawings of ships on it.”
Lucy nervously approached Tula Todaro’s door. With a pirate ship on her head, she’d never really been to a party before.
When she knocked, a deep-sea diver answered.
“Amir?” Lucy said.
And the corridor was filled with blue steamers shaped like waves, and starfish and cardboard seagulls hanging from the ceiling.
“Arg. What be goin’ on, Miss?” said Captain Bob.
Then, they entered the lounge…
“SURPRISE!” called mermaids and sea gods and kids dressed as fish, and others dressed as sharks with fins on their backs, and Tula, who was dressed as a giant squid. And three kids in a big fridge box painted grey, to look like a whale.
“What’s happening…?” gasped Lucy.
“Ohhh…” said Captain Bob.
“This way,” said Amir, steering Lucy and her pirate to the back porch, where a deafening cry greeted them.
“Ah-HAR!” yelled Li Lu and Tommy Tuckers and Betty and a dozen other kids dressed just like pirates.
They all gathered around Lucy and called and hollered.
“Set the sails!”
And two kids lifted big bed sheets, ballooned by others with fans.
“Man the crow’s nest!”
And a kid leaped into a barrel tied to the flagpole.
“Load the cannons!”
And sports balls painted black were rolled into big, grey tubing, while balloons with painted giant crabs and walruses floated around them.
Then, everybody faced forward, looking in the same direction as Captain Bob… and waited.
Lucy squealed with delight!
There were surfing posters on the wall, seaweed-coloured streamers, everybody was bobbing up and down. Tula’s mum and dad were spraying fine sea mist from ironing bottles. Kids dressed as hammerheads and lobsters and octopuses waited on the back stairs. The Hanson brothers from next door could be seen in the backyard, by the wading pool, in a big cardboard box made to look like a Spanish naval ship. Ready for battle.
Captain Bob knew they weren’t really Spanish soldiers, that none of this was real, but could feel Lucy shaking with joy. It filled the grumpy old pirate with a surge of happiness!
“You’re orders…?” said Amir.
Captain Bob stuck his chest out, raised his sword…
“Aye! Attack, my friends! Lucy’s mighty friends! Attack…!”