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It's A Pirate's Life for me

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It is, it is a glorious thing
To be a pirate king.

-W.S. Gilbert

 

The telephone gave a shrill ring that was rather like a small explosion erupting into the evening’s quiet. With a sigh, Deborah left off scrubbing the bean pot and, drying both hands on her faded lavender pinny, she stepped into the hallway to answer.

Expecting it to be a sales pitch or something else equally annoying, her “Hullo” was rather more brusque than usual.

A very young voice, sounding much too posh for its age, said, “Good evening. May I please speak with John Watson?”

She was surprised, firstly, at the voice itself and then even more so at the request. All she could think of to say in reply was “Just a moment.” Then she set the phone down onto the tiny table and went into the parlour. John was sitting slumped in the slightly lumpy armchair that was his favorite, engrossed in an over-sized book with colourful drawings of pirates on the cover. She did not recognise it as being something from his bookshelf and wondered fleetingly if he’d broken the rule and gone to the library on his own.

But that was for later.

“Johnny,” she said, “You have a telephone call.”

He looked up from the book and blinked. “What?”

“You have a telephone call,” she repeated. No doubt he was surprised and justifiably so; John had lived his entire eight years thus far without ever receiving a phone call just for him.

But her boy John Hamish never wavered in the face of a new experience. On the contrary, he seemed to relish them. “Okay,” he said cheerfully. He used an empty chewing gum wrapper to mark his place and then carefully closed the book.

Already bathed and wearing his favorite rocket ship pajamas for bed, he pushed himself out of the chair. Deborah decided that it would probably be a good idea to remain where she was in the doorway. A recent article in the newspaper had mentioned that bullying sometimes happened over the telephone and the thought of someone being cruel to this sweet boy, with his tousled blond hair and wide, curious eyes, was unbearable.

He straightened [she had already told him not to worry about his height, because he was due for a growth spurt soon] and walked into the hall.
After taking a deep breath, John picked up the receiver. “Hullo, who’s this?” Always straight to the point, her son. Then a huge smile appeared on his face. “Hi,” he said and there was a sort of amazement in his voice. “How did you get my number?” He listened, his brow wrinkled in concentration. “Cool. Really smart of you.”

Deborah no longer felt as if there were any possibility of danger or hurt in this call, but she still didn’t like to move far away. All right, she admitted sheepishly, it was curiosity that kept her there.

“Yes, I’m reading it right now. It’s really neat.” John leaned against the wall and then slid downwards to sit on the floor. “What mistakes?” This time he listened for a much longer time. “Wow, you know a lot about pirates.”

She let the conversation [although it really seemed like more of a monologue, with John only making an occasional comment, mostly in admiration of whatever was being said on the other end of the line] go on for nearly fifteen more minutes before catching John’s eye and pointing at her watch.

John looked disappointed, but then he nodded. “I have to go to bed, Sherlock,” he said with obvious reluctance. “It’s a school night.” After a moment, he frowned. “No, you should go to bed, too. Sleep is not boring.” Then he giggled a little. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

The voice on the other end---was Sherlock even a real name?--- said something that made John look shy all of a sudden. “Okay,” he said softly. “Good night.” He hung up.

She waited until he was standing. “Who was that, Johnny?”

“A new boy in my class.”

Judging by the voice she’d heard, he was clearly not, unlike her son, a scholarship student at the exclusive school. “What’s his full name?”

“Sherlock Holmes. Isn’t that cool?” John was looking thoughtful now. “Everybody else thinks Sherlock is weird. I think he’s brilliant. He’s only six, but he’s already in my class and he knows a lot. More than anybody. Maybe even more than Mr. Hall.”

Since Mr. Hall was the teacher, Deborah rather doubted that.

John accepted the kiss she bent to press against his cheek and then started for the staircase. With one foot on the bottom stair, he paused. “Sherlock is my best friend.” He gave a determined nod and marched up to his bedroom.

She watched him go. Trust kind-hearted John to befriend the outsider. For a moment, she hoped that this Holmes boy appreciated what he had by having John Watson as a friend. If he were half as clever as John obviously thought he was, Master Sherlock would hold on tight to his new friend and never let go.

Then, with a faint smile, she went into the kitchen to finish the dishes.

***