“Looks like a map to me,” said the boy.
The old man stuck his bottom lip out and squinted. “It’s a pirate map, indeed, matey.”
The boy leaned in for a better look. “How can you tell?”
The old man lifted a dirty, bony finger and traced the curves. “Arrr, I’d know it anywhere. It’s useless, boy, let it go. We’ll never find treasure with a map like that.”
“But grandpa, why not?”
“Well, you see where things get all squiggly here, that’s where the rum kicked in. Pirates are famous for drinking all the rum they can find. I stuck to tea meself in me pirate days. Called me a teetotaler, but here’s the thing: being sober, I was the only one who could draw a line to save me life. This here map’s been drawn by a drunk, look how it meanders about. I tell you the treasure’s lost as can be. Best forget about it.”
“Okay grandpa,” said the boy, and pretended not to notice as his grandpa cut down the bit of branch with the map and shoved it into his pocket.
The retired pirate stared out to sea, contemplating the events of his life. He mulled over his nefarious deeds, his terrible doings, and his piratical offenses with pride. They were the hallmark of a well-spent pirate’s life.
He’d escaped the plank more than once, battled with a sea monster and won, and stolen a baker’s dozen ships from the King’s armada.
Still, he’d also been far too bold to ever lose his heart, never had any children, and a lifetime of mistrust and paranoia made it hard to make friends. This made for a lonesome retirement, but everyone knows a pirate is not meant to live long enough to retire.
A splash in the water caught his attention. He watched the waves, his nerves on end and his fright real. They would never let him forget why he’d been cast from the sea. His one regret, the one thing he never could escape, was the day he tried mermaid sushi.
The first twin leaned in and inspected the thing. “It could be anything: a crashed spaceship, a shriveled-up alien that couldn’t survive in our atmosphere…”
“Or a disembodied eye sent to spy on us by some weird old wizard!” said the second twin.
“You guys are so dramatic, it’s just a dried up rosehip,” said the girl.
The boys stopped and stared at her a moment before shaking their heads. “No way. If that’s not worth a fortune in some wizard’s herb shop, I’ll eat my shoe.”
The girl reconsidered. They were the only other kids in the neighborhood. She wanted them to like her, needed them to like her if she wanted to have anyone to play with. “Well, did you know rosehips can cure scurvy?”
“What, like in pirates?”
“Yeah, like in pirates.”
“Whoa.” The boys looked at her with a new respect.