Kidnapped! By pirates!

On any normal day Stuart would have been thrilled. He had always dreamed of meeting pirates. But now he was face-to-face with his first band of real pirates, and he was too busy being scared to be very thrilled.

The kidnappers must have loaded him up right away and taken him out to their ship. The next thing he knew, he was waking up to stare straight into the face of the ship's captain. The pirate was wearing a black, three-cornered hat with a large letter 'B' in the middle of it. In fact, Stuart knew he was staring at Captain Brannigan, the biggest, the most awesome, the fiercest pirate of them all!

“Who... who are you?” Stuart asked anyway, still half asleep.

“I'm Captain Brannigan, the biggest, the most awesome, the fiercest pirate of them all!” growled Captain Brannigan. His voice was high and soft and airy, not at all how Stuart expected a fierce pirate captain to sound.

Stuart shook with fear anyway. He'd heard of all the terrible things that Captain Brannigan did to helpless prisoners. “That's what I thought. I just wanted to make sure,” he squeaked. He was sure the captain would make him walk the plank. Instead, the captain just stared at Stuart, so Stuart stared back. “Where am I?” he managed to ask next.

Captain Brannigan loudly explained, “You're on board me very own pirate ship, the Vengeful Revenge!” He made a fist and waved it in the air when he said the name of the ship. Then he looked at Stuart and grinned. “Good name, isn't it?”

Stuart thought for a minute. “I guess it is... for a pirate ship, I mean.”

Secretly, Stuart thought Vengeful Revenge wasn't a very interesting name, especially for a pirate ship. He knew that lots of pirate ships were named Revenge. If it were his ship, he would have named it something different. Like Corn and Oats, after his mother's garden, or maybe The Sweet Sarah. That was the name of his favorite restaurant. But he decided that it might be best to agree with everything Captain Brannigan said. He didn't want to make the pirate mad. Who knew what might happen then!

Captain Brannigan grinned again, proud of his ship. Then he frowned, and suddenly he looked as fierce as Stuart knew he was. “Now,” the captain said as he glared at Stuart. “I have some questions fer ye. Listen up, me yeller-bellied friend!”

But before Captain Brannigan could say anything more, the tall man who had kidnapped Stuart suddenly appeared. The toucan was still clinging to his head.

“Squawk!” hollered the bird.

“What?” yelled the captain.

“Hi!” said the man. “How's it going, Captain?”

“Felix!” the captain yelled back, angry at being interrupted. He stamped his boot on the wooden deck of the ship. “I'm interrogitatin' the prisoner. Can't ya see I'm busy?”

Felix looked at the captain, then at Stuart. His face brightened. So did the bird's. “Oh. Maybe I can help,” he said eagerly.

“Squawk!” the toucan said. He bobbed his head cheerfully. The captain was not so sure that would be a good idea. “Look, Felix, you're supposed to be the ship's bird boy. Now take your parrot --”

“It's a toucan, Captain,” Felix interrupted. “A premium quality, genuine South American --”

“Whatever!” yelled the captain, his face turning red. “Just take your... bird... or toucan... or whatever he is, and act like a bird boy somewhere else!”

“He's a bird boy?” Stuart asked. “I've never heard of a bird boy on a pirate ship before.” He wasn't sure he believed Felix.

Now Felix looked mad. “Well, this pirate ship has a bird boy! A bird boy who is very good at asking questions.” He stepped closer to Stuart. “Now, young friend, where were you on the morning of July tenth, 1543?”

Stuart was confused. “I wasn't even born yet.”

“Oh.” Felix wrinkled his eyebrows. Then he looked slyly at Stuart. “Well, then, when were you born?”

Now Stuart was really confused. “What does my birthday have to do with any of this?”

Felix looked perplexed. “I don't know. It just seemed like a good question.” He grinned cheerfully at Stuart and the captain.

Felix would have said more, but a short, squat little man dressed in green-striped pants and a red polka dot shirt ran up. A blue, plaid bandanna covered his entire head. He stood in front of Captain Brannigan, panting like a dog.

He saluted with his left hand. “Captain!” he yelled when he had caught his breath. “I have come to report....” He paused. His hand dropped from its salute, and he looked as perplexed as Felix. He put his finger in his mouth and chewed on the nail. “I have come to report.... Hmm. I was supposed to report somethin'.” Then he suddenly noticed Stuart sitting on the deck. “Oh, but yer busy. I can come back later.”

Captain Brannigan grabbed the short man's striped pants. “First Mate Shmee,” he hollered grandly, “we are interrogitatin' the prisoner. Do ya have any questions?”

Shmee nodded, and the tail of the blue bandanna bobbed up and down. “Oh, sure.” He turned to look at Stuart. “Um... uh... what's yer name?”

Felix swatted Shmee on the shoulder. “Hey, that was a good question! I never would have thought to ask that one!”

Stuart said, “My name is Stuart Onionbean. I'm my mom's first, best, and only gardener. I was on my way to get some seeds at Sweet Sarah's Feed Store and Country Restaurant when you pirates kidnapped me!”

Felix put his hand to his chest and sighed happily. “Oh, I love Sweet Sarah.”

Shmee smiled dreamily. “Oh, yeah, especially those Caramel Chocolate Cookies that she makes!”

Felix agreed. “MMM! They're so yummy! Though they haven't seemed quite as good lately. Not as chocolatey. Or caramaley. Have you noticed that?”

Shmee slowly nodded his head. “You think so?” he asked. “You think it's the chocolate? I admit I've been thinking the same thing.”

Suddenly Captain Brannigan cleared his throat. He looked angry. “Excuse me!” he hollered. He pointed at Stuart. “The prisoner... remember? We're supposed ta be interrogitatin' the prisoner! What kind o' pirates are ye? Eh?”

Felix stammered, “Oh, yes yes yes. The prisoner. Right.”

Shmee's face turned a bright red. It made the polka dots on his shirt look orange. “The prisoner. Sorry, Captain. Got carried away.”

Captain Brannigan sighed. He didn't look so angry anymore. “It's all right,” he said. “Now, where were we?”

But Stuart decided he had had enough. These pirates weren't acting like any pirates he'd ever read about. They weren't fierce. They weren't mean. In fact, they just looked confused.

“Wait a minute!” Stuart jumped up. He glared at all three men. “I don't think you're pirates at all!” he said. And he meant it.

Go on to Chapter 3.

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