I decided to rewrite “The Reluctant Pirate” so here are the changes I made. I hope you like it.
I was fourteen years old when my father died. The last words I spoke to him were, “I’d rather be dead than have a father like you; no wonder mom left!” I stormed out of the house, slammed the door behind me and went to a party. When I got home I called out to let him know I was home. I always did that, so even though we were mad at each other it just came out automatically. Then I heard it; a loud report like a gunshot, but I was sure it couldn’t be a gunshot because we didn’t have a gun in the house. So I was only curious when I went into his room to see what it was. It was a gunshot; my dad had killed himself. The bastard waited for me to come home so I could not only find him but hear the moment when he did it. And he didn’t even bother with the usual gun in the mouth thing that would have left a hole in the back of his head and him falling back so he’d look like he was just lying there asleep; he’d put the gun to his temple so that half his face was blown away and his left eye was hanging on by a single membrane and his brains were hanging out the other side of his head. All I could do was stand there and stare at him. I don’t know why I couldn’t look away from such a gruesome sight but I couldn’t. I just stood there thinking about that last sentence I said to him before I went out to have fun and forget about him for the night and trying to think of the one sentence I could have said to him that would have made him prefer to be alive. Nothing seemed good enough. By the time I called the police some of the blood had dried and they didn’t believe me that he had shot himself after I got home. They kept saying that because I was so young I must be confused. The M.E. came in and confirmed my timing; then he took my father out of the house on a gurney and the social worker that the police called in started asking me a lot of questions that I barely remember answering because I was still hearing that gunshot and seeing my father lying in that awful pose.
It took me three months before I could close my eyes without seeing him lying on his back on the bed, soaked in his own blood with the side of his face blown apart and a part of his head spread across the bed and on the floor and by then I had been in juvenile detention long enough to hate it and for my aunt in Georgia to send word that she wouldn’t be coming for, “That devil child who killed my brother.”
I remained in ‘juvey’ until the day after I graduated from high school at the age of eighteen. The worst four years of my life. I walked out of that place and never gave it another thought until today when I saw Lupita staring at me from across the coffee shop where I’d been working for a year. She was eating biscotti and drinking an extra large low-fat latte with a double shot of caramel and whipped cream on top. I hadn’t recognized her when she’d ordered it and I don’t know if she recognized me but then she sat directly across from the counter and now she was staring straight at me with a look of recognition. The last thing I wanted to do was run into anyone from the Rodney Ackerman State Home for Orphans and Troubled Children, so I pretended I didn’t see the look she was giving me and went back to serving my customers. She didn’t wait for me to acknowledge her though, she came right over. I had my back to the dining area refilling the coffee machine when she approached the counter.
“Hello Fattah,” she said.
I tried to pretend I wasn’t who she thought I was so I turned around and said, “Excuse me Ma’am?”
She laughed, “Oh come on Fattah you know you recognize me.”
Okay, I did recognize her but I wasn’t ready to admit it, “Do I know you?” I said over my shoulder hoping she couldn’t get a good look at my face but it was no use. She knew me and she knew I knew her.
“Fattah; come on. How could I not recognize someone I spent two and a half years tormenting?” she asked.
That was true enough. She was one of the worst there was at making my life miserable in that state home, there was no denying that. I dropped my head and said, “Okay go ahead, get your little remarks out and let me go back to work.”
She shook her head, “Oh I’m not here to make fun of you; I’m here to make you an offer,” she said and then waited. I don’t know what she was waiting for; maybe to see if I was interested enough to ask her what it was all about. Maybe she knew me better than I thought she did. Maybe I was just nosey.
So I asked her, “Okay, what are you offering?” A woman about sixty years old came in right at that moment and asked for a plain old cup of coffee with two shots of cream and two teaspoons of sugar. The older ones were like that; they just wanted coffee the way it was always made, no fancy flavored creams or designer milk. Just a plain old cup of Joe with cream and sugar. I made the old lady her coffee and put one of those cardboard holders on it so she wouldn’t burn her fingers, and then I waited for her to leave before I asked Lupita to continue. When she did it wasn’t anything I expected.
When you end up taking a dead end job after high school because you couldn’t afford college and it’s the only job you can find that doesn’t require any special skills it’s the last place you want to run into any of your old high school acquaintances. And if you do run into someone the last thing you expect them to do is make you a job proposal. And if they do run into you and they do make you a proposal the last thing you expect that job to be is the thing she offered me. I took off my apron and walked out of the coffee shop with her. My shift wasn’t over but what did I matter, I hated that job. We didn’t even go back to my little one room studio apartment to get the rest of my stuff either; there wasn’t anything there that held any memory that I wanted to keep anyway. We went straight to her place.
When we got there I had my second big surprise of the day. Her place was as pathetic as mine. I was so sure that because she had family who accepted her that her life would turn out better than mine. I guess there was still a lot I had to learn. She pointed to her little sofa indicating that I should sit there and went to get two beers out of the freezer. Okay, she did have that over me; there was nothing in my freezer but wilted lettuce and half- a -quart of spoiled milk. Then she told me that the others would soon be arriving. What others? Nobody said anything about any others. I thought. The others turned out to be a rough looking guy about five foot five inches tall who appeared to be made up of nothing but muscle, and another guy about six foot one equally muscular but ten times more good looking; mocha colored skin, raven dreadlocks and the fullest pair of lips I’d ever seen that weren’t painted red. The two men seemed to take up all the space in the room when they came in. Lupita also gave each of them a beer and sat on the couch next to me. They remained standing. The tall one spoke. He had a voice that sounded like milk chocolate melting in your mouth; his teeth were so white and perfect I thought they had to be dentures. I was so busy marveling over his good looks I almost missed what he was saying but then he said something that brought me out of the daydream.
“Whatever we make from our missions we share in equal parts except for me, as captain I get twice what everyone else earns.”
Captain, I thought, what is this, the starship Enterprise? SoI turned to Lupita and said, “What’s all this about missions? You said we’d be working in…I don’t know…collections or something.”
The little ball of muscles shrugged his shoulders, which in itself was an interesting sight, and said, “Oh we’ll be making collections alright,” and smiled.
I looked from him to “the captain” to my friend and said, “Hold up Lupita, what’s going on here? What kind of work are we really gonna be doing?” my head swiveled from one of them to the other like I was at a tennis match.
Lupita took a long drink from her beer before she spoke, “Okay, what we do is… salvage. We locate wreckage and find any valuables that might be worth selling to the highest bidder.” She put the bottle back in her mouth quickly as if to keep herself from saying more.
Then the captain said, “And if someone gets there ahead of us and gets all the good stuff…we take it from them.”
“Captain,” Lupita started, but the captain cut her off, “If she’s going to have a problem with that we might as well know right off. No sense taking her on if she’s going to run at the first altercation.”
That caught me off guard. ‘Take it from them?’ ‘altercation?’ “That sounds like we’d be pirates, or something.”I said. Then of all things the room went quiet. No one tried to deny it, or clear up my thinking, or correct me or anything. Now I was really beginning to get nervous, so I decided to try being funny. “What are you, some kind of; yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, swab the deck and lift that sail, pirates,” and giggled. No one else laughed; they just stared at me. Lupita raised her eyebrows and gave me a resigned look. Then the ‘captain’ said, “So are you in or out?”
“But we wouldn’t really be pirates though, right?” I asked.
“In or out?”
I turned to Lupita, “Is he serious, he’s talking about being pirates,” I looked from her to the others and didn’t see a smile on any of their faces. I couldn’t believe it; they were really talking about being PIRATES!
I stood up, “That’s not the job offer you were making to me in the coffee shop?” She took a sip from her beer and said nothing, “You said I’d be working with experts in the…the field.”
“We are experts in the field,” said muscles.
“In or out?” the captain asked again.
“Who becomes a pirate anymore?” I said, “There’s no such thing. It’s like becoming a knight, the job no longer exists!”
Do you know that tall, gorgeous, perfectly toothed man just kept a straight face and asked me again, “In. Or out?”
I stood there with my mouth open looking from one of them to the other thinking about what they had just offered me and what my future job options were. I’d just walked out on a job that I hated, I had ten dollars left in my bank account, both my parents were long dead, I had no boyfriend, or husband or kids I’d be leaving behind. I didn’t even have a best friend, a buddy, a chum, a pal, or even an acquaintance that would miss me or come to my funeral if I died in the next five minutes. There was just me and the memory of the sound of that damned gunshot and a bed full of blood and a man so hateful that he made sure I would find him with half his face blown off.
I sat back down on the couch and said. “I’m in.”