For my birthday, I wanted a nice trip down the canal with my family; sitting back, looking out of the window, watching the sunlit forest scroll by. I sat quietly, my husband Ralph sat quietly, but my little son Morris constantly raised his arm in the air, showing off an invisible sword. He was on a boat, so he was a pirate.
Though I told him to be quiet, his little pirate games made me smile inwardly, for I had recently been reading up about the Golden Age of Piracy and had been finding it interesting. Finally, there was something I had in common with my son.
‘So you fancy yourself a pirate, do you?’ I asked Morris, and he raised his arm again, speaking of ships and parrots and buried treasure. ‘Okay, but calm down. Some people here get scared of pirates.’ Once he lowered his arm, I said, ‘You know, pirates actually didn’t look for treasure that often. It’s in this book I’ve been reading. They actually stole food more than they did treasure, but don’t you go nicking anyone’s lunch here.’
Morris laughed. ‘Can I read your book?’
‘It’s not really for kids,’ I replied.
Ralph rolled his eyes. ‘Oh great, we’re about to have two bookworms in the family.’
‘Not my fault you don’t r…’
A tentacle slapped against the window. What looked like a fat green faceless snake pressed against the glass.
Ralph and I froze. Morris actually laughed.
The boat stopped and then I saw what the tentacle was attached to. It was the right arm –if it can be called an arm – of a green, three-eyed creature, who also had tentacles where a human would have a nose and mouth, wearing a faded brown coat and waistcoat. Another creature, looking exactly the same, pressed itself against another window, then another, then every window had a three-eyed monstrosity looking in.
Another came. It slithered into the boat, while I and everyone else there could only sit in silence. I grabbed Morris and held him close.
It looked exactly like the others – tentacles where there should have been arms, legs and a mouth, but it wore a hat on its head, one of its three eyes was covered by an eyepatch, and it wielded a cutlass.
It waved that cutlass near my face. Morris wailed and I held him tighter. ‘Mummy’s here…’
‘Landlubbers!’ barked the monster, its face-tentacles wobbling. ‘Give me yer money and no-one gets hurt!’ Still I couldn’t bring myself to move, at least until the monster yelled, ‘Now!’
What else could I do but dig into my pockets and dish out some loose change? If a human criminal threatened me with a sword near my son and demanded money, I would give it to him, so when a demon did the same…
I gave the monster my money. It took the coins only, pushing away the notes. Everyone else on the boat did as I did, spilling coins all over the tables, with the monster pocketing them all. Well, not them all.
He held up a coin at the end of his left tentacle-arm, before one of his face-tentacles became a tube which sucked up the coin like a vacuum cleaner.
‘This should keep me crew full for the next week. Thank’ee.’
The other monsters dove back into the canal, their visages no longer filling the windows. I almost laughed, I almost sighed in relief.
‘It’s good that ye’re so generous,’ said the “captain”, ‘Good for us, I mean; people of the last boat gave us indigestion.’