Mary and Tom looked down at their boy Bobby. They’d figured taking him to see the pirate film would have enthralled him. Instead, he looked sullen and crestfallen.
“What’s up, Bobby?”
“Fakers,” was all he said as he kicked at the gravel. His mother put her arm around him. He shrugged it off.
Pirates weren’t like that. They were barbaric, yet clever. What he had just been forced to sit through was complete and utter crap. He used the word in his head. To voice it would earn him a telling off.
His dad tried to pacify him.
“How’s about a chippy supper?”
“Go on then,” he said, it lifted his mood a little.
Warren Jones had seen the film too. They’d bumped into each other at the cinema. Bobby had hated the flick. Warren thought that the film was brilliant and was running amok pretending to be a pirate. That embarrassed Bobby. Bobby wore a Jolly Roger bandanna and acted like a real pirate. Warren was acting like a gay version.
“It was a crap film.” Bobby said as he pushed Warren over. Warren clambered up and looked ready to kick the shit out of Bobby. He managed to stop himself.
In class a little later, the teacher asked, “Bobby, do you want to get up and tell us about who inspires you the most?” it had been the weekend’s homework assignment.
A bunch of the kids had listed characters from cartoons and films. Bobby got up. He’d prepared a speech.
“Edward Teach, or Blackbeard as he be known. He, be a pirate from a better day, ye filthy Dock-Dogs,” Miss Kyle raised an eyebrow. Bobby continued, “His ship of choice be the Queen Anne’s Revenge. No one be quite certain where he be born. But he be a real living person, a time ago. Unlike the messy characters you lot be speaking of so far. Hollywood crap, ye stupid dogs of fish-wives,”
Miss Kyle was going to cut him off but reigned herself in. The kids were chortling and enjoying it. But any more off-colour words and no matter what. She’d tell him off. A quarter of an hour passed before Bobby finished his diatribe. Ending with the final fact that Teach’s head had been hanged upon the prow of a legitimate vessel.
The class had cheered. Miss Kyle, well she was relieved that it was over. Bobby, well he was fuming. The class were supposed to be on Teach’s side. Not that of the government. They were all as dense as Warren Jones was. Bobby sat back down and tightened his bandanna. He piped up with. “None of you lot’ll get to Fiddler’s Green. You’re all a bunch of dicktards,” Miss Kyle looked up. Her eyes widened. “What did you just say?” she bit her lip, calmed herself down and looked to Gary Smith. “Gary, your turn. Who will you be telling us about?”
“Doctor Who, Miss,” Miss Kyle was relieved. Bobby’s speech was a little bit too informative. Gary’s would be more suited to the class. Miss Kyle liked the smart ones. Sometimes, however, the thick ones, the ones that kept their spectacles together with sticky tape. Those ones, they made her life so much easier.
Outside of class Warren caught up with Bobby, “What’s Fiddler’s Green?” he asked.
“No point in telling you. You’ll never get there.” Bobby kept on walking. He tightened his bandanna as he went. Warren, his face darkened. “And why not?” He grabbed Bobby’s coat and was about to spin him and thought better of it.
“Because, you can only get to Fiddler’s Green if you’re a pirate.” Bobby spat.
“You’re not a pirate, neither!” Warren hissed.
“More of one than you’ll ever be.”
“Only if it’s an ass-pirate!” Warren hollered. He’d had enough of Bobby Corrin. But Bobby didn’t care. Bobby walked on.
Bobby headed down to Scarlet and stared out to sea. He envisioned great ships afloat. All of them majestic, and courting danger, and death, as they plundered the high-seas. Bobby continued along the roughened shore.
He swung his stick-cum-cutlass in an imagined battle with the Authorities. They were trying to board and take his vessel. Stones were launched into the sea. Each missile accompanied by an eleven-year-old’s take on what cannon-fire should sound like.
Bobby won the battle. The casualties had been many. The fight was over. He knew his mother would no doubt be in a panic with him for not going straight home from school. Besides, he didn’t mind going home so much anyway. He was getting tired and hungry.
With effort he climbed over the rocks and onto the road that shouldered the rocky shore. The only other road user was an old woman who was busily walking her dog. Bobby clambered up and over the wall. His arms and legs ached from the day’s activities. He cut across the fields, garnering a few angry shouts from farmers, but they didn’t bother him. If need be, he’d easily cut them down.
His mother was trembling when he came through the door. Then she crumpled and cried.
“Where have you been?” she begged, “You’re father’s out looking for you. Where have you been?”
Bobby, he sat down on a chair whilst his mother faffed about him. She let him loose. “I’d better phone your father. Let him know that your home safe.” She went for the phone.
Bobby wasn’t going to say sorry. Pirates didn’t say sorry. He reached up and took off his bandanna. He never left the house without it. He didn’t want others to see his bald head. His having no hair and his lack of energy were the only things that showed that he had cancer and that he was dying.
Bobby was finishing up his supper. His pills were already beside his plate waiting for him.
He looked up as his father entered. His father didn’t look angry. Just relieved. “Where did you go?” his father asked as he seated himself.
“Down to the shore,” Bobby said.
“I checked there first.”
“I was probably on the rocks.”
“You’re gonna turn me into a loony,” his father said it with a smile that was a little forced.
It was hard for them as parents, just as it was hard for Bobby to know that he was dying. They had to face each day knowing that if he reached his twelfth birthday then it would be a miracle.
The next day was a Saturday. Bobby talked his parents into letting him go out to the shore. He promised he would come straight home if he started feeling sick or tired. He took his time on the way there. He wanted to go a little further than the day before. On a weekday, time was short. The weekends on the other hand offered more than enough time to get to his vessel. It wasn’t that far, but it felt like a hundred miles when his constitution was getting ever feebler.
He made it there an hour later. His vessel was grand. Its paintwork was the kind that would instil fear into the enemy’s heart, if they had one. Its hull impregnable and its bow sharp enough to cut more than just waves. Bobby climbed aboard being careful not to put his foot through the many holes of the wreck that took his imagination to far corners of the world.
A little while later a voice came from the path.
“Ahoy!” the voice said. Bobby grinned and looked. It was Eli. There wasn’t anything that Eli didn’t know about the sea. Bobby stood up, demanded. “What flag ye be flyin?”
“The Roger of course,” was the old man’s reply,
“Then I be guessing we can parlay.” Bobby sat back down.
Eli set down his rods. “Permission to be boarding ye good vessel, Captain?”
“Granted,” Bobby said with a regal tip of his head. Eli got in and sat down himself down on one of the well weathered boards. He looked to Bobby. “Where be ye setting sail for this day?” was the inquiry.
“There are some things only a crew should know. And even then not always.”
That made Eli chuckle.
Eli, had been the one that had told Bobby all about pirates. That had been the day that he had first found the boy, sat aboard the wreck. The boy had been crying. Eli had talked to him. Asked him if he were a pirate, and that he had to be, the manner in which he sat like a captain aboard his boat. Bobby had been all ears. And so Eli had talked. Slowly Bobby’s imagination had been overcome and he had wanted to know more.
So many a Saturday went by with Eli telling him tale, after tale of the sea. Eli lived about half a mile inland in a little cottage.
It was only after telling the boy about Fiddler’s Green that Bobby had told him as to what was wrong with his health. And how the doctors had said that they could carry on treating him but it wouldn’t really be fair to him. There would be nothing to gain, only more pain.
Bobby, he liked Eli. Mainly because the old man knew that Bobby was dying. Yet he didn’t let it effect the way that they got on. Not the way that everyone else did. One day, somehow, they had gotten around to talking about Heaven and Bobby had said “God must be mad at me for something, so why would I want to go there?”
After that, if there was one question that the boy would always be sure to ask was. It was how you got to Fiddler’s Green. That was the home for pirates where the fiddles never ceased and the dancing never stopped. Bobby had to make sure that he knew the way.
The way to Fiddler’s Green. Eli had told him the way one Saturday was this.
“You get to shore. Grab up your oar and walk inland until you meet someone that doesn’t recognise what it is you are carrying and asks you what it is. And then that, Bobby, is when you’ll get to Fiddler’s Green.”
They’d talked for a bit longer until Eli figured that he needed to be about his fishing. The Herring, it didn’t know the way to his cottage and stove on its own. Eli gathered up his gear. Waved and walked on to his favourite fishing spot further down the coast.
The rain cut short that days plundering and he headed home early, much to his mother’s pleasure.
Bobby was watching the television after his medication when he had felt sick. His mother brought him the sick-bowl. He vomited blood.
Puking up blood. The doctors had said would be a sign that the final stage, the terminal stage, had set in. They went to hospital. At the hospital there wasn’t anything that anyone could do. All they could offer was that Bobby would be more comfortable at home.
They took him home with more medication. That night, only Bobby slept. His parents stayed up, his mother crying, and his father cursing God.
The next week Bobby didn’t go to school but found he felt slightly better. And by the weekend Bobby was up and about. He looked thinner and paler, yet stronger. The doctors, they’d said that there would be bad days, and not so bad days.
“I want to go to the shore,” Bobby said on Saturday morning. His mother was about to protest.
“Let me, mum, please.” Bobby hadn’t said please to either of them since the day that he had become a pirate. They looked to each other. Their hearts weren’t that hard. “We’ll drive you,” his father said. Bobby thought about it,
“Okay, but you’re not allowed aboard my ship,” Bobby said.
“We’ll sit in the car.”
They watched as Bobby boarded the grounded and ruined dinghy. They watched him as he went to war with no one in particular. Watched him as he sat down for a little while and rested. They watched him, and they watched him.
They watched as he picked up a knackered, old oar and disembarked. He walked away from the boat with his wooden burden. His mother made for the door. Bobby’s father stopped her.
“Let him get a little further away, then we’ll follow.” he said. The look in her eyes was one of pure desperation. But she conceded.
Bobby walked further, and further away, heading deeper inland. They waited until he was nearly out of view before they got out and followed at a slow pace. They followed him for a good half-mile. It looked like as though he was heading towards a small fisherman’s cottage.
They both looked puzzled. They watched as a man came out. The man, he talked to Bobby for only a few moments before Bobby collapsed. Then they both broke into a run.
The oar, it felt as if it were made of stone. Bobby knew he couldn’t be weak. He had to carry it; this was the only way to get to where he needed to go.
He coughed. His spittle was speckled with blood and his stomach hurt. He could see the cottage. He could see the old and broken lobster pots hanging outside. He could see the fishing poles resting against the wall. That was good, it meant Eli was home. Bobby was only a few metres away from the cottage when the door opened and out stepped Eli.
Eli nearly ran to Bobby. There was blood upon his lips. Something stopped Eli from running to help. Eli steadied himself. His entire being wanted to sob. Eli stopped and asked.
“What’s that you’re carrying there, stranger?”
Bobby smiled. He could hear the fiddles playing, the noise of the dancer’s feet as they moved in merriment. He could see the bunting. There was a hue for every person that danced. Bobby’s eyes went dreamy and his smile widened. He collapsed.
Eli rushed over. He fell to his knees, lifting the lad’s head and checked for a pulse. He found no drum. He looked up with his eyes wet and saw two people running over. Eli looked back down. Bobby’s lips held a forever-smile.
Copyright Lee Hughes 2009