PIRATES!

by Linda Bindner

CHAPTER ONE

Stuart looked at the crowd of people around him. He grinned. He smiled. Then he smiled even more.

“Hey!” he yelled, but nobody paid any attention to him.

It was a good sign. All those adults were too busy waiting for the king's speech to notice a boy standing all by himself.

That was perfect for Stuart. He might get sent back to work in the garden if somebody noticed him. He didn't want to work in the garden. He wanted to hear the speech. It was supposed to be about pirates, and Stuart loved to hear stories about pirates! He was so excited he squirmed where he stood at the side of the street.

Suddenly a horn blew. Stuart jumped, but he couldn't see over the heads of the people standing in front of him. They were too tall, and he was too short.

The horn blew again. A trumpet blared next.

Stuart bounced from his right foot to his left. He tried to see around the people in the crowd. They were too wide, and he was too skinny. He would never be able to see the king if he couldn't even see the king's trumpets! What if he missed the speech?

Suddenly a voice yelled over the crowd. “Hear ye, hear ye, hear one and all!”

It had started! Everybody turned to look towards the voice.

Stuart was so excited that he jumped up one more time. When he landed, he lost his balance and fell. He was surrounded by legs. Now he really couldn't see. He groaned. But then he noticed that he might be able to reach the street if he crawled through the legs of all those people.

The voice called again, “Hear ye! Announcing King Phil, Queen Eleanor, and the parade of the nobles!”

He was missing it! He had to hurry.

Stuart pushed his way between a pair of legs. A boot stepped on his pinky. “Ouch!” he yelled, and yanked his finger out from under the boot. The man wearing the boot looked down at him and frowned. Stuart smiled his sweetest little boy smile back.

Then he quickly wiggled through another pair of legs. He twisted around a barrel that smelled like fish, and between more legs that smelled like his mother's barn. Finally he reached the street. He jumped to his feet. He'd made it!

He stood up just in time to see the king and queen walk by. King Phil waved and smiled. Queen Eleanor waved and smiled. Princess Angie waved, but she didn't smile. She looked bored instead. Little Prince Andy grinned, but tripped over his royal shoes when he tried to wave at the same time. He was always tripping over things.

Stuart waved and smiled at the prince anyway.

The voice spoke again. Now Stuart could see that the voice belonged to a man dressed in a purple robe. He called, “Hear ye, hear ye, hear one and all... again! Because of all the pirate sightings in the area, King Phil would like to say a few words about pirates.”

The crowd grew quiet. It was so quiet that Stuart could hear the people around him breathing. He could also smell them breathing. It didn't smell so good. Stuart held his breath as the king stood up and began to speak.

A funny-looking man wearing ragged clothes came up to Stuart then, and he missed what the king was saying.

“Hey there!” said the man. He sounded friendly.

“Hi,” Stuart said, trying to be friendly too. He looked up... and up, and up at the tallest man he'd ever seen. A bird with brightly colored feathers sat on the man's head. It was a funny place for a bird to sit.

“Like my bird?” asked the man. “He's a real-life, genuine Amazon toucan. In fact --”

Stuart held up a hand. He didn't want to be rude, but he was missing the king's speech. “That's great. But could you please be quiet? I'm trying to hear the king.”

“Oh, sure, I can be quiet,” answered the man. “I don't mind at all. Nope, not at all. In fact, I'm wondering if you could help me?” The bird squawked from the man's head.

Stuart groaned. He was never going to be able to hear the king at this rate. “Sure, in a minute. After the king's finished with his speech.”

The man grinned. He had two front teeth missing. “You must be real smart to listen to the king and all.”

The man's missing teeth reminded Stuart of his own loose tooth. But he was too annoyed to wiggle it with his tongue right now. “Look,” he said, “do you mind? I'd like to hear this. It's supposed to be about pirates.” He smiled and nodded his head, still being friendly, then turned back to face the king.

“Oh?” said the man. He sounded interested. “Do you know a lot about pirates?”

Stuart looked up at the man and grinned. He couldn't help himself. He loved pirates, but he loved to talk about pirates even more!

“Are you kidding?” said Stuart. “You bet I do! That's why I'm here, listening to the king's speech. I know all about One-eyed Jake and his band of treasure hunters! Then there's Sam Bellamy, the king of the spice thieves. And Blackbeard, and Bartholomew Roberts, and... and... Oh gosh, I can tell you anything you want to know about jolly rogers and walking the plank and finding buried treasure and --”

“Well, then,” the man interrupted with a big smile. He was really interested now. “It seems that I've found just the person I'm looking for.” He looked behind him, and he was so tall that he could see over the crowd with no trouble at all. He yelled, “Okay, fellas, this is the one!”

Suddenly several men exploded out of the crowd. They surrounded Stuart and pushed him back from the street before he could even say, “Hey!” They tried to throw a bag over Stuart's head. The bag smelled like fish.

“Hey!” Stuart finally managed to say. He pushed the bag aside and took a deep breath. “What's going on? Stop that!”

The man grabbed the bag and helped the others throw it over Stuart's head again. “If you would just stand still for a minute --”

Stuart pushed the bag aside again. “I will not stand still! What's the big idea? Who are these guys?”

The man looked up at the sky, as if he was thinking really hard. “These guys? Oh, you mean the pirates? They're trying to kidnap you. If only you'd stand still long enough to --” He pushed the bag over Stuart.

Stuart flung the bag away. Was this tall man serious? “Pirates!” he yelled in disbelief. “As in real pirates?”

The tall man looked at the sky again. He was still thinking. “Well, uh.....”

Pirates! Stuart looked closely at the men surrounding him. They wore old clothes. They had missing teeth. They snarled and glared at him. And they smelled terrible! He'd never been around real pirates before. Meeting real pirates was very different from reading about them. They weren't at all what he expected. And he never expected to be kidnapped by pirates!

He was scared. For a moment Stuart didn't know what to do. Then he did something very embarrassing. He was so scared, he fainted.

Go on to Chapter 2.


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