Pirate Ned


Pirate Ned:
Or
The Story of How a Boy Called Ned Became a Real Pirate
and Married Maggie, the Sweet Love of his Life.

~ A Short Story~

“A ship in a harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” - Anon

If there was one thing that Ned had wanted more than anything in the world, ever since he was a little boy, it was to be a pirate. Well, to be more specific, he wanted to be a real pirate. After all, he already was a pirate. In fact, his whole family were pirates. All his friends were pirates too. Everyone he knew was a pirate. They all lived in a pirate village filled with other pirates, on an island in the middle of the ocean that was called, appropriately enough, Pirate Island.


Now here, even just one paragraph into this story, I have to stop for a little confession. You see, I haven’t quite told the truth, dear reader. I said that everyone Ned knew was a pirate, but actually, he did know one person who was not a pirate. That person was Maggie, and Maggie is a very significant person in this story.

You see, Maggie was the sweet love of Ned’s life.

Maggie lived with her father and mother in the village. They owned one of the most popular shops in the village, Yo Ho Ho Apparel. They sold hats and boots and swords, made to exacting standards and premium quality. Pirates who aspired to look authentic – or really really piratey - came to shop at Yo Ho Ho.

Most people were impressed by what you could buy at Yo Ho Ho, but Maggie was bored by the pirates who came in to try to look more ripped or more weatherbeaten or more scarred.

“It doesn’t matter if they have silver cutlasses, or torn-away breeches or parrots on their shoulders,” she told Ned privately. “They still aren’t real pirates.”

Ned felt uncomfortable when she said it, but he knew that what Maggie, the sweet love of his life, said was true. And that was the whole problem with Pirate Island.

There were lots and lots of pirates, but none of them were real.

They had silver cutlasses but they didn’t ever fight with them. They said “Ahoy there, me hearrrrties” but they didn’t know what it meant. They hung impressive looking treasure maps on their walls, but they didn’t go looking for the treasure. They bought expensive pirate ships but they didn’t sail them out to sea.

All the pirates on Pirate Island did was talk about being pirates. But they weren’t real pirates, and Maggie and Ned knew it.

In fact, Ned had known it in the back of his mind ever since he was a little boy. As soon as he was old enough to talk, he asked his father, Captain Blackbeard Pratt, lots of questions.

“What do pirates do, dad?” “When are we going to go out to sea and have an adventure, dad?”
“If we’ve got a treasure map on our wall, why aren’t we out looking for the treasure?”
And Captain Blackbeard Pratt would look up from his copy of Pirate Weekly and sigh. “Oh, Ned, do you have to ask so many questions? I’ve had a hard day at work.”

When his mother, Cutlass Kathryn, asked him, “What do you think you’d like to be when you grow up, Ned?” he would answer, “A real pirate, Mum.”

“Oh, don’t be silly,” she would laugh. “You already are a pirate. No, I mean, would you prefer to teach swordplay at school, or sell pirate ship insurance? You know – a real job.”

And Ned would mumble something under his breath, sigh, and go and throw stones at the skull and crossbones flag which flew from the roof of his house.

Or, he would go and play with Maggie.

Because Maggie was the sweet love of Ned’s life, he wanted to marry her. In fact, he had always wanted to marry her. But ever since she was a little girl, Maggie had only ever wanted to marry a real pirate.

“Yes, I love you too Ned, but ever since I was a little girl, I’ve only ever wanted to marry a real pirate,” she told him whenever he asked her to marry him, which was nearly every week.

It was very discouraging. And as time went on, it became even more discouraging. The only two things that Ned really wanted to do weren’t happening. No-one would let him be a real pirate, and Maggie, the sweet love of his life, wouldn’t marry him.

And Ned would walk home from Maggie’s house, kicking rocks and feeling miserable and sorry for himself.
Now like most people on Pirate Island, Ned owned a parrot, because, as you well know, dear reader, parrots are the pet of choice for pirates. Like most parrots on Pirate Island, Ned’s parrot was trained to say piratey things like “Blow me down” and “A bottle of rum”. Ned’s parrot was named Percy, and most of the time Percy stayed in his cage (which was big enough for him to fly around in). However, one day Ned decided to take Percy with him to visit Maggie, the sweet love of his life.

As usual, Ned and Maggie had a lovely time together, until as usual Ned asked Maggie to marry him, and as usual Maggie refused.

Ned left her house feeling miserable, and slightly annoyed with himself. And as he walked home, he started to feel even more annoyed. You see, Percy was enjoying his excursion out into the village so much that he wouldn’t stop talking.

“Blow me down,” he yelled across the street to some girl pirates. And “a bottle of rum” he squawked to the shopkeeper in the milk bar. And then he started to repeat his favourite phrase, over and over again.

“I’m a pirate,” he whistled. “I’m a pirate,” he squawked. “I’m a pirate,” he chanted.
Percy went on and on and on. “I’m a pirate I’m a pirate I’m a pirate I’m a pirate I’m a pirate I’m a pirate I’ma pirate I’ma pirateI ma pirateI mapi rateI mapi rate I…”

“Be quiet Percy,” Ned said. “Be quiet.” And then, “Oh, just shut your beak, you squawker.”
But Percy kept going on and on and on.

And then, suddenly, something extraordinary happened. Ned began to join in. “I’m a pirate,” he said. Softly at first, so no-one would hear him. And then a little bit louder. “I’m a pirate.” “Yes, me, I’m a pirate.” And then he jumped for joy and yelled so loudly that everyone on the street could hear him.

“I’M A PIRATE!”

Percy slid off Ned’s shoulder in amazement and landed in a feathery heap on the cobbled stones. He was so surprised by Ned that he stopped squawking, but Ned kept going, talking very fast to himself, with an enormous smile on his face.
“I’m a pirate. Yes, me, I’m actually a pirate. I can be a pirate. I can be a real pirate. All I have to do is go and be a pirate. What’s stopping me? I’m a pirate. Yes, that’s right. Me. Ned. I’m a pirate.”

And down the street he raced, followed by an astounded, waddling parrot, trying to keep up.
Dear reader, do you know what happened to Ned? I’ll let you into his secret!He suddenly realised that he could be a real pirate if he wanted to be. He didn’t have to be the same as the other pirates around him. They didn’t want to go to sea, but he did. They didn’t want to have adventures, but he would. They couldn’t be bothered finding treasure, but he could!

With this big thought swelling in his heart, Ned raced off. He suddenly knew where he could find help in becoming a real pirate.

Down in the replica pirate pub on the replica pirate wharf, where all the replica pirate ships were moored (by the way dear reader, ‘replica’ means looking just like the real thing, but not quite real), Ned found Old Salamander Bill.

Old Salamander Bill was the sort of character that in a normal pirate village full of real pirates, would have had one leg, a patch on his eye and a bedraggled parrot on his shoulder. He would have sat in the pirate pub all day with a half-drunk cider in front of him, and he would have said, “Aargh me hearties, listen to the old, old stories from the high seas” in a croaky sort of voice with a dreadful accent. He would have been the person that everyone laughed at as the crazy old-timer who always exaggerated his stories.

In fact, Old Salamander Bill was the person whom everyone laughed at as the crazy old-timer who always exaggerated his stories. But they also laughed at him because he wore a t-shirt and jeans and steel-capped boots! They laughed at him and said that he might have had a few pirate stories to tell, but he wasn’t a real pirate like the rest of the village. After all, he hardly looked like a pirate – not like them!

Ned had met Old Salamander Bill only once – when he was six years old. He had been down on the docks with his mum and dad, taking a pirate-like walk next to the moored pirate ships and enjoying the salty breeze. Captain Blackbeard and Cutlass Kathryn were admiring a particularly fine ship renovation they had seen in a feature in Better Boats and Gangplanks and weren’t watching Ned when an old man in funny clothes came up to him.

Ned was extremely surprised when this strange old man bent down in front of him. He looked him in the eyes, cupped his hand on Ned’s shoulder and spoke in a gravely voice: “You’ve got something, me boy. You’ve got something. You’ll do it, alright. You’ll do it.”

And with that, he had walked off again, with Ned staring after him. It had been so quick that his parents didn’t even notice.

Ned had put the whole incident out of his mind, but now it came back quickly and forcefully. He knew Old Salamander Bill was the one to help him.

He found him down at the docks, ignoring the parade of passing pirates and ignoring the flotilla of fancy boats. Instead he was sitting on a post, staring calmly out to sea.

Ned walked gingerly up to him. “Are you Old Salamander Bill?” he asked, a little nervously. “Can you help me be a real pirate?”

It took a minute for Bill to turn his head. In fact, he didn’t look at Ned when he replied.

“Can you say that again? What was it you asked me?” he said slowly, still looking out to sea.

“I’m sorry,” said Ned. “I just wanted to know if you could help me to be a real pirate, but if you’re busy…”

“Busy? I’m not busy,” said Old Salamander Bill. And as he turned his face to look at Ned, there was a tear shining in the corner of his eye. “I’ve been waiting my whole life to be asked that question. And you, you have something. You really have something. You’re the one to ask it.”

For the rest of the day Ned talked non-stop with Old Salamander Bill. He asked questions, and Bill gave answers. Things like, “How do I start?” and “What do real pirates actually do all day?”
And then it was Bill’s turn to ask questions and Ned’s turn to think about his answers. Things like, “Once you’re a real pirate, you can never go back. Are you ready for it?” And, “Things can get really tough out there. Are you sure this is what you want?”

The two of them laughed and cried and talked and planned until sunset, and then the next day they talked and planned some more.

“The first thing you must do is to not worry about appearing like a pirate,” said Old Salamander Bill. “All these people here in this village just think about what they look like, and whether their boots are genuine dragon-skin. But a real pirate is who he is. He doesn’t have to worry about getting the outfit right. The pirate-ness of who he is just comes through.”

Here Old Salamander Bill had a sip of his cider. He set it down on the table and took a deep breath. Ned braced himself for another long important-sounding speech.

“The second thing you must do,” said old Salamander Bill, “is find a ship. Any pirate worth his salt has to have a ship.”

“That’s more like it,” thought Ned to himself.

The two of them walked out to inspect the lines of boats moored at the docks. There were sleek looking brigatines, garishly-painted square-riggers and huge shiny schooners. Ned was dancing up and down with excitement but Bill kept walking right on, past the beautiful boats and down to the other end of the docks where the wrecks were kept for spare parts.

He finally stopped in front of a small, ragged looking ship. It was a small, two-man sloop, compact and neat in the water. But its paint work was bedraggled and its sails were torn.

“This is the boat for you Ned,” said Old Salamander Bill with a triumphant wave of his hand.
“She’ll serve you well. She’s just what you need.” Ned had time for just one tiny wistful look back at the fabulous boats behind him, before he remembered what Bill had said about not worrying about looking right. If Bill recommended this boat, this was the one to have!

Ned and Bill fell to work over the next few weeks, painting, polishing and scrubbing the decks. They mended the torn sails and wound the ropes. They touched up the figurehead and tightened the masts. And then, Bill handed Ned a brush loaded with red paint.

“What are you going to name your ship?” he asked.

Without a word, Ned reached over, took the brush, and painted ‘Maggie’ on the prow of his ship, in his best handwriting.

And soon, very soon, the good ship Maggie was ready to sail. And Ned was ready to be captain on his very first pirate voyage. He had asked Old Salamander Bill to be his first mate and the two of them had stocked up on food and treasure maps. As they hoisted the skull and crossbones flag up the mast, Ned breathed in a great breath of anticipation. He was going to be a real pirate after all.

Dear reader, I’m sure you can see, through the eyes of your wonderful imagination, the blue skies and even bluer waters that Ned journeyed through. I’m sure you can smell the salty wind whipping around him and Bill as they stood navigating at the helm. I’m sure you can feel between your toes the sand that Ned trudged through, following his map and looking for treasure.

I’m sure you can also feel the tears that Ned cried inside on the days when the wind and rain wouldn’t stop and the little ship was pitched from side to side. I’m sure you can understand when he hugged his coat around him for warmth in his hammock on those cold nights. I’m sure you can feel the gnawing of Ned’s stomach as the rations began to run out on the way to new ports.

Being a real pirate was not quite what Ned had imagined. He had thought that his days would be completely filled with adventure and derring-do. Yes, there were some days like that, full of joy and exhilaration, but there were many more days of ordinary sailing on the sea. And there were even some days of sheer terror as the ship was caught in storms.

Sometimes, mostly on the hard days, Ned found himself wanting to be home in his village, looking like a pirate but not being one. But even though it was tempting, he knew that his new life, even though it was not always easy, was the real life. He was a real pirate. And his pirate-ness was beginning to show through.

Dear reader, it was a fabulous day when Ned’s treasure map finally yielded its secrets.
He had landed at Frisk Rock Island, moored the boat, and gone ashore. He had strode 50 mid-size paces to the north, jumped three metres South-south-west, turned around on one foot and pointed to his left. There, just sitting under a bush, and not even buried in the sand, was a chest absolutely completely full, even chock-a-block, of gold coins, necklaces, jewels and fine china.

It was the find of Ned’s life. He and Bill hoisted the heavy trunk back to the ship, grunting and groaning. That night they divided up the spoils and drank toasts to Frisk Rock Island, to pirates, to maps, to fine china, and to the good ship Maggie.

“To the good ship Maggie!” chortled Old Salamander Bill. And “To the good ship Mag…” started Ned, but he could not continue. He turned suddenly and fiercely to Bill.

“We have to sail home tomorrow,” he said. “We have to. There’s something extremely important I need to do.”

And Bill nodded gravely. He completely understood.

The very next day, with their treasure safely aboard, Bill and Ned set off for Pirate Island. The voyage lasted about five days and every day Ned seemed to become more and more anxious. On the very last day, he started pacing the decks. And as the good ship Maggie sailed into the harbour, Ned was wringing his hands.

Now to see a ship actually sail in to the harbour was a rare sight for the good people of Pirate Island, and as the sails of Ned’s sloop fluttered into view, everyone came out of their shops and offices to watch and wave. Even the people in the most popular shop on the island, Yo Ho Ho Apparel, gave up looking in the mirrors that lined the walls and ventured out onto the street to see Ned’s ship sail through the harbour entrance.

And it was then that Ned heard a tremendous yell and a scream and saw a young lady came running at full pelt down to the docks, waving her apron and jumping up and down for joy.
“Ned! Ned! It’s really you. Ned!”

Yes, it was Maggie, the sweet love of Ned’s life. She was yelling and shouting and waving at Ned as the boat approached the docks.

At first, Ned had to strain his eyes to check it was actually her, and then as he could see that it was, and that she was pleased to see him, he started to wave back and jump up and down himself.

And finally he was so excited that he stripped off his waistcoat and boots and dived off the gangplank into the harbour. He swam up to the docks, hoisted himself out of the water and fell, wet and dripping, straight into Maggie’s embrace.

Then he stopped. He disentangled himself and removed a small starfish which had caught itself in his mouth. He looked right into her eyes and he took her hands.

“Maggie. You are the sweet love of my life. I am Ned the Pirate. Will you marry me?”

Maggie looked right back at him. She ignored the piece of seaweed that was hanging from her hair, and she gripped his fingers tightly.

“You betcha.”

So Ned and Maggie were married, and there was great rejoicing all over Pirate Island. But it didn’t last for long, because the very day of the wedding, Captain Ned and his first mate Maggie boarded their two-person sloop and headed out of Pirate Island, in search of more pirate adventures.

(Just so you know, their lives were long. They had happy days as well as hard days. They sailed the world and lived the life of pirates. And when they grew old and looked back, they were pleased that they had done it. They had become real pirates, and they had loved each other.)

And that, dear reader, is the story of how a boy called Ned became a real pirate and married Maggie the sweet love of his life.

The End

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