The mid-afternoon sun cast its glow on mounds of blankets draped over furniture and tables. Dust, like tiny fairies, floated among the golden rays. A quilted corner flung open, and a little boy, not much older than a toddler, jumped up onto the couch raising a soft ball high above his head. He appeared to struggle under its weight, but the blue and white sphere was no match for this child. Dressed in a black pirate hat with a red feather that bounced in back, the boy adjusted a patch over his left eye with a free hand and growled, “To the port bow!”
He reached for his sword, but the sturdy blade was not fastened to his belt. The ball’s heaviness was soon forgotten as he began to look around frantically. He lifted blankets and tossed pillows, but it was no where to be found. A chirping tickled his ear, and he paused to listen. The clinking of porcelain against metal and a rush of water suddenly stopped. He heard her voice hovering in the air as she answered the phone with a warm hello.
With cannonball in both hands, the boy jumped off his boat fort and into the shark infested waters. He ran as fast as he could, while swishing his arms from side to side, to escape the jaws of death. Reaching the threshold where land met sea, the young boy slid into the safe haven of a brightly lit kitchen. A soft smile of the damsel leaning her delicate back against the sink welcomed him into his private little pub. Then, she turned around to continue the conversation on her phone. The boy danced around his mother, calling out her name, and after much persistence, she placed her hand over the receiver and pivoted around to him.
“Eli! Can’t you see that I am on the phone?”
“I need my sword,” Eli said shifting from one foot to the other. Time was of the essence, and the British Royal will not wait to destroy his ship. Eli needed his sword now to protect his treasure and crew from those bullies.
“It’s in the attic for the yard sale,” Eli’s mother said as she straightened up.
“But, I need it right now! Mom, can you go get it, please,” He leaned his head to one side, pushed out his lower lip, and drooped his eyes to create the irresistible puppy dog face he knew his mother couldn’t refuse.
“I will get it after I’m done with my call.”
She dismissed him with a wave and resumed her conversation about something she called a meme that made her laugh. Eli hung his head low, and his shoulders dropped as he walked toward the living room. What was he going to do now? There was no way he would be as lucky to cross those waters again without his trusty blade in hand. Those sharks would certainly tear apart his flesh, and the British Royal would undoubtedly destroy his boat. He wanted to be brave for his crew, but he didn’t know how.
Eli paused at the water’s edge, and he took a deep breath. He was about to dive in when he glanced over his shoulder toward the stairs. The attic was on the third floor and was unlocked, because his father had lost the key sometime ago. If his mom was too busy to get his sword, maybe he could rescue it himself.
Another adventure formulated in his developing brain. There was no longer a staircase in front of him, but a towering jungle with parrots cawing and monkeys swinging from tree to tree. Eli looked back at his ship as it swayed between the waves. He adjusted his hat, crouched low to the ground, and pressed himself against the wall. Stealthily climbing the tree roots along the mountainside to the hidden cave above, Eli dodged a few bananas along the way. He was on a mission, and he was determined that a lost sword will not deter him from the rescue at hand.
Eli reached the attic with little debauchery from the primitive animals below. He curled his cannonball into the nook of his arm and reached out for the knob. It turned with ease, and the door swung open to more beams of sunshine piercing through dusty windows. Below the windows were piles of boxes, and he spied one with the letters T.O.Y.S. written on it.
Eli knew instantly what those letters spelled out. It was one of few words he had learned in pre-school recently. With the ball forgotten, Eli fell to his knees in front of the box and rummaged through the pile of toys for his sword. The ball bounced on the rough wooden surface toward a dark corner, curved behind a few more boxes, and knocked a small board loose from the wall. The loud thud caused Eli to jump, and he took a moment to look around him.
Nothing had seemed out of place. The only noise he could make out was that of his mother’s voice floating up the stairs. After feeling confident that he was still alone in the attic, Eli resumed the search for his sword. Toys were thrown about his feet, and he finally found it shoved in a corner all the way down at the bottom. Eli wiggled his little form out of the cardboard container, tipping it slightly. He steadied himself as he stood in a valiant triumph with sword in hand.
Eli made a run for the stairs but stopped short. His cannonball was missing now, and he couldn’t bring down the British Royal ship without it. He sighed as he sheathed his sword into his belt loop. Eli scuttled about on his hands and knees, kicking up dust bunnies and peeking behind chests, an old desk, and more boxes. At last, he found his ball wedged between a plank that was leaning against a hole in the wall. Eli swiped it and was about to leave when the color green caught his eye. Paper rectangles tumbled out of that hole like a swoosh of leaves discarded in the Autumn wind.
The green waterfall continued as Eli picked up one of the pieces of paper and inspected it; turning it over from front to back. There were numbers written all over the paper. He recognized the numbers, but he hadn’t quite learned how to count that high, yet. However, that many penguins had to be rescued from one of his favorite television shows, and he knew that 100 was very big number. In fact, there were a lot of green papers with the same number all over it tumbling at his feet. It occurred to Eli that this was so much more than just green paper.
“Money!” Eli squealed. He reached down, grabbing a handful of bills, and tossed them in the air around him declaring, “Celebration!”
Eli repeated those words over and over again, giggling, until a small black book slid down with the final flow of cash. The book was old, tattered, and dusty. Eli grabbed it, wiping the dust off of it’s front cover, and sat on the floor Indian style next to his sword. He snatched up the ball and placed it on his lap. The money lay scattered around him as he cracked open the spine. Eli’s curiosity put a pause to his adventure, if for, but a moment, he were to discover secrets that lay hidden inside.
Hieroglyphics of squiggly lines filled the colored pages, as he flipped through this unknown tome. One particular page stood out to him. It had a lot of numbers, but there was a letter in front of the numbers that he did not recognize. It looked like an “S”, but it had two lines over it and following this strange letter were the numbers eight and five with a lot of zeros. Eli counted the zeros out loud and settled on the number six.
“Wow! Look at all those zeros!” He exclaimed as he counted them, again. Eli thought that whoever wrote this book must have liked zeros since there were so many of them on this page.
He continued to flip through the squiggly code until a roughly sketched drawing appeared. There were fish swimming around wavy lines, triangles bunched together to look like mountains, and a cluster of trees with a line running through them. A dotted line, starting from the water’s edge, ran the length of the drawing up to the mountains, over a river and through the trees to a great big red “X”.
“’X’ marks the spot,” Eli whispered, and his jaw hung low.
In his very hands, Eli was holding a real life treasure map. His excitement grew, and he sprang from his seated position to bolt toward the door. Eli didn’t get very far before he remembered his need for the cannonball and sword. He gathered them together, along with the book, and bounded down the stairs.
“Mom, Mom! Look what I found!” Eli shouted as he commenced his dancing around his mother. He waved the book furiously in front of her face; desperate to let her in on the secrets he had just uncovered, “Mom, Look! I found a treasure map!”
“Eli, shhh…” His mother’s brow furled as she placed a finger to her lips. “It is rude to interrupt someone who is on the phone.”
“But, Mo-om!” Eli shoved the open book in front of him, commanding her to take a look. But, she wouldn’t.
“We will talk later. Now go play,” She said and swooshed him away from her conversation about tomato plants, quilting, and other things that didn’t make sense to him.
Eli did not understand how those things could be more important than what he held in his hands. Frustration filled the boy as his mother continued her conversation, but adventure was beckoning him. His mood shifted as he focused on the booty that waits for his discovery. Eli knew what he had to do. He had to cross the shark infested alligator swamp and commence the battle for his ship and crew.
Tucking the book inside his shirt pocket for safekeeping, Eli patted his chest and sprang into action. Once he and his crew win over the British Royal and make those rapscallions walk the plank, then they will seek out this new treasure. The map will lead him straight to it. He was sure of it. He forged ahead through the swampy waters swishing his sword at the creatures below and throwing his cannonball at the British ship.
Later that evening, the eye patch discarded on the floor and donned in his shark pajamas, Eli climbed onto his bed with pirate hat in hand. His mother pulled the covers up around his chin and asked, “Did you have a good day?”
Eli’s eyes sparkled and a grin formed at the corners of his mouth. He told his mother all about the seafaring adventures. He was animate with an imaginary sword and cannonball while the real ones were safely tucked under his bed. Mother and son broke out in a fit of giggles from Eli’s comical triumphs over the British ship, and she settled him down by placing an arm over his shoulders; giving him one last tight squeeze for the evening.
“So, did you find the treasure chest you were looking for?” She asked.
Eli furled his brow and glanced at the ceiling. He tapped his finger on his chin as he thought about his mother’s question. He was in battle that day, and there was no time to hunt for treasures. There were banana throwing monkeys, pecking birds, slithering alligators, and shark with teeth so large that they could cut clear through his arm. Perhaps, his mother didn’t know all of this, and he conceded to tell her the conclusion of his story.
“The scallywags thwarted my crew today, Mom. But, you don’t worry. We will get them tomorrow!”
“Yes, Sweet Pea. Tomorrow holds promise for more adventures,” She gently pressed her lips to his forehead and reached over to turn the lamp off with a click. Eli’s mother to exited his room; bidding him good night.
“Good night, Mom,” Eli replied as she closed the door.
The nightlight overhead illuminated a tropical rainforest of colorful parrots, lazy sloths and monkeys swinging from one branch to another while eating yellow fruit. Eli rolled over to his side and slid a hand under his pillow. Safely tucked between the pillow and the bed sheet was the tattered old journal he had found in the attic earlier that day. Eli fanned the pages with his fingers and closed his eyes. He drifted off to sleep dreaming of another realm where piratey adventures commenced for future tales to be told.