Sam the Pirate

by Ahimsa Kerp

Sam was having a bad day. Nothing monumentally wrong had happened, but all the little things kept adding up. After working at the video store for an hour and thirty-seven minutes longer than he was supposed to, his car had almost ran out of gas on the way home. He’d coasted home on fumes, and wasn’t sure how he’d get to the gas station tomorrow. He’d already missed the crucial World of Warcraft tournament his clanmates were counting on him for. His mom wouldn’t cook him dinner now that it was after nine and microwave burritos lost their already small appeal the fourth night in a row. No doubt about it, the day was a total loss.

His parents lived in a nice boring suburban area. He wasn’t sure where he’d move next year, but probably somewhere similar—it was familiar. It was safe. He had no intention of leaving the east coast. Sam had parked his junker of a hand-me-down and was halfway up the walkway when someone called his name.

“Samuel,” a gruff voice said behind him. Sam hated when people called him Samuel. It wasn’t even his name. Then he turned and his sarcastic retort was lost on his lips.

Before him—beneath him—stood a dwarf. Not a dwarf like the dude in Willow, but a Dwarf like Gimlet son of Gloin. His copious hair was a dark red and his beard was braided into pleats. He wore dull chainmail and had an axe on his back. Incongruously, he held a clipboard with several sheets of paper in his left hand.

Sam was not a tall man—he told himself he hadn’t hit his growthspurt but at seventeen he was running out of time. Still at five foot five he was nearly twice the size of the dwarf standing on the sidewalk in front of his house.

“Samuel?” the bearded warrior repeated; this time it was question. There was no clue from the dwarf that Sam should find the situation in the slightest bit odd. The world was dropping out from under him.
“Ju—Just Sam,” the taller of the two said.

“Sam. My name be Roger. Roger the Red. I need your help.”

#

A half-hour later found the pair in Sam’s room. Sam’s father was working late and his mother was trying out a new kind of yoga. Sam was staring incredulously at Roger, who was sitting crosslegged on Sam’s bed.

“I can tell you more of the history later, the gist be that the twelve best pirates in the realm of Ocanica are competing in the most important race in history. Honor, pride, women, money—it’s all at stake. The winner will be named King of the Realm. My captain has room for one more, which is why he sent me to collect you. With you on our side, we could not lose,” Roger said.

“You’ve got the wrong man. I am no pirate,” Sam told him again. He sat on a plush computer chair that had cost more than his first computer.

Roger shook his head. “Your modesty be overwhelming, but we paid a lot for this information,” he patted the papers on the clipboard. “And I know it be true.”

From where Sam sat, the papers looked like some sort of spreadsheet. A Dwarf who uses Excel?

“What exactly does it say?” Sam asked. The world had dropped out from under Sam alright. He was just waiting to see if and where he landed.

“It be a list of the top pirates in the Multiverse, of course,” Roger said. He picked up the clipboard and flipped through a few pages. “Let’s see, William Kidd, the Dread Pirate Roberts, Jack Shandy, all taken already. Ah, here we are: Sam Glanser. Yes you definitely be here. And the highest ranked of any pirate not already committed to one of the dozen competitors.”

“What exactly does it say?” Sam asked again.

“Yes yes I be getting to that,” Roger said. “Ah yes. You are most certainly a most prestigious pirate. Downloading twenty gigs in one day. Not sure what a gig is, but they must be ferocious. Are they like gogs and magogs?”

“Are they like what?” Sam asked. He stomach felt fluttery as he began to comprehend the misunderstanding.

“P2P? That must be a term unique to your realm. Does it mean …. pirate to pirate?”

At an utter loss of words, Sam said nothing.

“I knew it,” Roger said. “My … P2P be pretty good too. I don’t understand a lot of this technical jargon myself.”

“It’s not exactly–” Sam began. He felt really sick now.

Roger was still perusing his data. “Ah, napster. I’ve nabbed a few beauties in my time, I can tell you.”

“Look,” Sam said sternly. “I don’t rob people. It’s just like borrowing from a whole bunch of friends.”

“Not a robber?” Roger asked. He jutted his hairy thumb to the spreadsheet. “It says here you have robbed several million dollars from Capitol Records and from,” he chuckled heartily. “From a Virgin. Never knew they had so much money, which again is proof of your piracy skills.”

At that, the dwarf looked around the room. Sam’s signed Lord of the Rings poster was the centerpiece, but the walls were coated with other paraphernalia—The Amazing Spiderman #17, a circa Blue album Weezer cover, and the first-print European covers for both American Gods and A Game of Thrones. Jewels and gold they were not. “And not overly ostentatious, like some of the nouveau-pirates” he said. “I have one more thing to show you.” He reached beneath the spreadsheets.

Sam had had enough. Whether this was a joke or some bizarre sting by the FBI, he refused to play along anymore. “Not interested. It might be best if you left.” There was a Polaroid in the dwarf’s gnarled hand. A dwarf with Excel spreadsheets and a Polaroid camera? Then he saw the image captured in the photo.

Sam was captivated. Sam was enthralled. He would later look at the background, see the massive ship rolling in the stormy sea. He would see Roger dressed in sailing clothes, clinging to a safety line. He would see the ship’s Captain, a white-bearded dwarf, bellowing orders beneath the mounted jaws of an enormous beast. He saw none of that now.

All that Sam saw was her. She was exquisite. She was stunning. She was a beautiful, dark-haired woman clinging to the side of the ship, wearing a blue dress cut low enough that more of her bronzed cleavage was visible than covered. Sam instantly fell in love with her.

Roger was looking at him, trying to gage his reaction perhaps. Feeling more lusty than he had for a while, Sam couldn’t resist. “Arr, take a look at that booty, harharhar.”

Roger looked at Sam blankly. “There’s no treasure in that picture,” he said gently, as he would address a child. “But she is the prize. Her, and more wealth than you can imagine.”

More wealth than he could imagine sounded good to Sam. But compared to the beautiful woman it was irrelevant. Assuming he could even spend gold doubloons in his world—he tried to imagine what he’d do if someone tried to pay him in doubloons for a few videos. Probably take it and pocket the gold, he thought. Then Sam thought of something. “If she’s the prize, the prize for any of the dozen competitors, why is it that only your ship is in the photograph?”

Roger shrugged. “We all got turns to create our recruitment photo. Quite frankly,” he added in a low tone, “ours be the best of the lot. We didn’t even use any of the gold in the photo. Just the lady.”

“That’s a real picture of her?” Sam asked.

“Aye, we spent ages getting the shoot right. Looks pretty good, does it not?” Roger asked, pride audible in his voice.

“Looks really good,” Sam replied, still not looking past the woman. “That expression on her face. She looks forlorn, yet hopeful. Resigned, and sad. Weighed down, perhaps, by an old grief.”

“The look?” Roger chuckled. “She calls it Red Obsidian.”

“She calls it?”

“You know how particular beautiful woman can be. She insists the right side of her face is the best. Won’t let anyone photograph her any other way. Everyone calls her Lady Starboard.”

That wasn’t a particularly beautiful name, Sam thought, but a woman like that could be called Gertrude or Fredericka and still not suffer for it. He almost commented on this, but refrained upon thinking that perhaps Roger had a grandmother dwarf with a similarly unfortunate name.

“What do you think about the waves?” Roger asked him.

“What do I think of them?”

“They look realistic, do they not?”

“They do. Are they not supposed to?” Sam asked.

“Created by the best weatherwizards in Ocanica.”

“Wow,” said Sam. He wasn’t sure of what to say. “I’m not sure what to say,” he said.

“Say that you’re ready to come. Join the race. Aid us in defeating eleven scoundrels and scallywags. We have not much time left.”

“If we win, I can talk with, with Lady Starboard?”

“Talk? Aye of course. You’ll be the only human on board the Mighty Beard. The rest of the crew be dwaves.”

“Give me a second to think,” Sam asked.

He considered his options, his mind a whirl. Mary at Blockbuster would certainly fire him, but he’d be leaving home in a while anyway. And it would serve her right for being late so often anyway. His friends would find time to forgive him for missing their match tonight. And he felt sure that his parents would be relieved at his absence, if they even noticed. Throw caution to the wind, he thought.

“I’ll do it,” he exhaled a deep breath. “I’ll do it. How long does it take? I can take a week or two off.”

Roger laughed heartily. “A week or two? You think this be sufficient for riches galore, and the hand of Lady Starboard in marriage?”

“Well how long do we need?” Sam asked.

Roger shrugged. “If all goes well, there be a minimum of unforeseen accidents, and we end up winning, somewhere from three to five years.”

“Three to five years!?” Sam exclaimed. “You’re crazy! I could never be gone that long.”

Roger said nothing, just looked at him.

He couldn’t be gone that long. Could he? What did he have to lose? Sam heard his voice speaking, and felt profound relief that it had chosen to leave his brain completely out of the process. “I’ll do it,” his voice said.

Roger’s grin was fierce. “Wise decision,” he said.

“A wise decision for Samwise,” Sam said.

“Samwise? Not Samuel?” Roger asked, making a note on his spreadsheet. “That is interesting. Where does the name Samwise come from?”

Having involuntarily braced for a joke regarding Sean Astin’s weight, Sam was surprised by the question.

“Some books my parents liked,” he told the dwarf and left it at that. There was so much more he could say, but they’d have plenty of time to discuss it further, after all.

“Come, we must away,” Roger said. “My ship be sailing on the dawn, and it be many universes away.” His hand disappeared beneath his chainmail, and emerged clutching something moments later. A flag?

“A pirate’s life for a pirate.” Roger told Sam, and tossed him a frilly white shirt.

“A pirate’s life for a pirate,” Sam agreed.

The End