Tom is on his way to boarding school unless he can escape and sail down the coast to his father. To get his Dad’s boat back he must perform one task on the night of the summer solstice for the Hermit of Purgatory Cove. The old man claims to be a 300-year-old pirate cursed to live on land. His treasure is waiting for him in a magical place call Tir-Na-Nog.
Tuesday had a ‘Monday’ feel. Even with summer three weeks away I wanted to pack my things and vanish. I knew it was coming too, that stupid letter, and I’d already worked out an escape plan, sort of. What I hadn’t figured on was meeting a crazy old pirate who had the one thing I needed.
I grabbed my house keys and faded Sox cap, pulling it down over my eyes as I headed toward Purgatory Cove.
It was early. I stopped my bike near a pile of newspapers at an old factory building. I rolled them, then rode back and forth across the narrow street. There was no traffic, just a truck full of dead fish at the Harbor Inn. The tide was up, filling the stone parking lots. I wanted to turn around when the road began to rise, but there was one more delivery at the dead-end.
I peddled slowly up the hill towards a fenced yard with a shack and a beaten-up barn in the middle of it. There was no grass, just gravel and nautical garbage thrown everywhere. Like a junkyard for ancient boats, complete with a cranky old dog.
The junkyard’s owner didn’t tip. He paid in coins counted out precisely, placed in an envelope he stuck in his fence. I’d rather he didn’t pay at all.
The guy kept to himself, some sort of ‘criminal’ or ‘dangerous psycho’ according to what I hear in town. Some mornings I could see him out near the barn, or out by the broken boats, walking around, but I never got a good look at him, only his bushy white hair blowing like a cotton ball in the wind.
He knew how to use the phone though. I’d only had this job a few weeks when he called to complain to my boss. Apparently, he wasn’t getting his papers. That wasn’t my fault though.
I had the paper in hand, ready to let it fly from a safe distance, but I stopped across the street shaking my head. There was a small white envelope in the fence. I would have to go over and get it.
What could be in there, a dollar, maybe two? Probably less. I could pay it out of my own pocket, I thought as I sighed and climbed off my bike. I crossed the street, holding the paper like a club.
I knew he was there. I could feel him watching me. The old man’s dog had a tail but it never wagged, not that I’d seen anyway. Then again I was usually running away from him.
My eyes went over the yard wondering where he’d come from. There were sailboats and motorboats. Near the back, there was even an old tugboat towering above everything.
I was a foot from the envelope, my eyes searching for the dog when something caught my attention. Half-buried beneath a pile of pallets was a small sailboat. Yeah I know, that’s like finding sand at the beach, but this boat was special.
The paint was faded gray, but I could still read a name stenciled on the back, Caroline. I reached out and touched the fence. This was my dad’s old boat.
I stood with my mouth open wondering how it ended up here. That’s when the dog attacked. He sprung out of nowhere, ramming his skull into the chain links. The fence rattled as his head shoved me back. His teeth were bared, yelping and barking.
I fell over clutching the envelope in a slobber-covered hand. The dog pushed his body into the fence shoving it out, trying to reach me as I scurried across the street. I’m not going to lie, part of my retreat was on my hands and knees. I think that’s the definition of scurrying.
When I got to my bike the dog howled a moment longer, then he settled down onto his belly, growling a little, looking content and happy that yet again he’d managed to get me.
“I used to like dogs!” I shouted at him. He bared his teeth and growled a little.
“I gotta deliver this. It’s my job.” I held up the paper, explaining. It was pointless, though, because he was a dog, and also a jerk. He stood up as I came closer. I’d squeezed the paper so hard. It looked unreadable.
I was trying to see through the fence towards the boat, but it was too far back and I’d come too close. The dog started gnashing his teeth and barking again.
“Fine, fine you win,” I said tossing the paper over the fence. The dog grabbed it out of the air. For a moment I thought he was going to bring it to his owner. I should’ve known better. He started chewing and tearing, ripping it to shreds, sending pieces in the air like confetti.
“I really hate you,” I said. I was sure my boss would be getting another phone call.
The worst part, was this day wasn’t done with me yet.