They weren’t even really pirates. They didn’t think I was one either. Pillaging
101, that class was a joke. It didn’t even have a section on looting the mayor’s
mansion. But I failed, and they thought I was the joke. David Jones Jr. even called me a buccaneer. So his dad had the whole “locker” thing, I was a Beard for Christ’s sake. My dad Blackbeard said that school was against the whole idea of being a pirate, but my mom Nobeard insisted. She said in this day in age you couldn’t become a captain without going to The Boat of Prestigious Pirates in Plankwalk and Pillaging.
I looked around at all the captain hats on graduation day. The only reason I
was there was because my dad disemboweled the First Mate and Vice Captain. My mom pestered him to do something to ensure that I graduated. First he offered them treasure. They accepted, but he butchered them anyway. He was a real pirate.
My eyes rolled over the crowd of jostling graduates. I lingered on Antonia
Barbarossa. I watched her smile her shiny black teeth at Dean Captain Poseidon as she accepted her hook and pirate code diploma. Everyone wanted her in school because she was born with only one leg. She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I noticed she had the shrunken head pinned to her robes that Jason Hook had given her in our second year. She winked back at him as she left the helm. I looked over to Jason. He was one of the three bastards that made my life hell. Jason Hook was tall and slender with a feminine face. He didn’t inherit his father’s nose. Bartimus Smee was portly and blonde, with skin that looked like it had been made from a waffle iron. David Jones Jr. was broad shouldered and had long black hair. His jaw was jagged, but he looked more like some pansy prince than a pirate. They all smiled toothily at their parents when their names were called to the helm.
I stared at them with the utmost loathing. They weren’t real pirates. This school
was a fraud. My father was right.
For my mother I tried to do my best in the classes. I even got a tutor for
Intermediate Hook Sharpening and Peg Polishing, but I never got it right. Bartimus Smee got the Spanish Medallion trophy for the hook he made in our third year. My hook snapped in half when Professor Blackspot tried to pick up a formaldehyde head with it.
As David Jones Jr. walked from the helm with his code diploma and hook I
imagined poking both his eyes out. Him and his cronies never missed an
opportunity to humiliate me while on the boat. I got a D in Rum Chemistry Lab
because of him. I had been doing fine all year, but on the day of the final, David
poured so much water into my barrel that Professor Morgan didn’t even get drunk when he tried mine.
I remember one day in Fencing Tutorial I was paired up with Jason Hook. We
were supposed to be practicing lunges into the gut, but Bartimus caused a
distraction by poking Antonia Barbarossa’s parrot with his knife. While Professor Parry went to calm Antonia’s bird, Jason held me down while David cut off my index finger. They wouldn’t even cut off the whole hand. Half the kids on the boat already had one of their hands severed by our second year and everyone had one missing by graduation day, but David only cut off one finger.
Jason walked away from the helm and looked back at me. He twisted his new
gold hook onto his stump and saluted me. I gave him the finger with my four
fingered hand. I approached the helm and looked out at my parents. My mother
was waving at me. She tried to hide the tear falling down her face. My dad was
eyeing Chalestine Smee’s ruby broach. His upper lip twitched.
It was my turn at the helm and Dean Captain Poseidon stared down his
crooked nose at me. He held out a pirate code diploma, and a glove. I rolled my
eyes and and pushed past his outstretched hand. I walked off the helm towards my parents hearing the snickers from Jason, David and Bartimus as I passed. David grabbed my shoulder and turned me round to face him. Before he could say anything I grabbed his hooked hand and shoved it through his cheek. My father stood up and growled with a smile. He banged his peg on the deck repeatedly and beckoned me over with a wave. He knew what a real pirate was and so did I.
When we got back home I handed my mother the diploma. I threw the glove away. She kissed me on the cheek and pinned the paper on the wall. It was in between the shrunken head my dad had given her on their wedding day and his shriveling severed leg. I looked at the withered appendage and then to my father. The chair groaned when he sat on it. He leaned to one side and pulled Chalestine’s broach out of his pocket and set it on the table. Then he poured a pint of rum for him and me. He finished in three swallows and I watched him in awe. My father was a real pirate. No school taught him that.
I went into my room and stood staring around at the walls. There were
pictures of my dad and my uncle Bluebeard pillaging Tortuga together. I grinned and felt my blood begin to boil. My father had given me a tribal sword that he had used when beheading the shaman of a tribe in Montserrat. I grabbed it off my wall and sat down on the floor. I ran my finger along the blade and lowered it down to the flesh above my kneecap. The blood felt so warm and good when it sprayed on my face. It pooled out beneath my leg and began to flood as I sawed more and more into my thigh. Something that I thought would be a scream built up in my throat, but when I opened my mouth to release it, it was laughter. I cackled and wheezed the further I cut into my flesh.
There was a satisfying thump when my leg finally gave way and detached. I was exhilarated when I held my severed leg up in front of me. A toothy grin
infected my face. I was a real pirate. I called for my dad and heard him shuffle
down the hall. The door creaked as he pushed it open. I looked up at him from the floor and held up my leg. He snatched a torch from the wall and held it to my stump. I looked at his face while he burnt the wound. His eye was so bright. He told me he’d never been so proud.
Katheryn Svaldi has an extensive collection of wine corks. Most from bottles she has drank while writing short stories. She has two snakes, Frank and Bob. Sometimes she wraps them around her wrist while typing. If writing doesn’t work out she’ll fall back on something more dependable like professional juggling.
Illustration by: Mike S. Young