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Rated: E · Short Story · Children's · #378401
A boy finds a pirate in his living room on Christmas Eve.
'Twas The Pirate Before Christmas

For Hal and Pat, the "real" Pirate.

It was the night before Christmas. And everyone except a little boy named Hank was asleep. The reason Hank was awake was this: Hank knew what Santa looked like -- or at least what Santa was supposed to look like -- and the man in the middle of the living room was not Santa.

Oh, the man did have a long flowing mustache and beard like Santa. But this man’s beard was black and brown and red and not at all white. And it was tangled and bushy and bristly looking, not silky and smooth like Santa’s. And, more importantly, the man was not wearing a red suit with white fur and a big black belt. Or wearing a red Santa hat with a white ball on top. This man, the man in Hank’s living room on the night before Christmas, was wearing red and white, but it was a red and white striped shirt. And on his head he wore a simple red scarf. And his pants were brown leather and ripped. And while Santa should have a large red sack full of toys for all the good little girls and boys, this man was carrying a worn, black, iron-banded chest. And, though he could not see inside the chest, Hank was fairly sure that it was not full of toys for all the good little girls and boys.

This man, the one in Hank’s living room by the Christmas tree on the night before Christmas when everyone else was asleep, was not Santa. This man was a pirate. Hank knew a pirate when he saw one and he was looking right at one.

But it’s one thing to recognize a pirate when you see one. And it’s quite another thing to know what to do about a pirate in your living room on Christmas Eve. Oh sure, you think you would run back upstairs, wake your Mom or Dad or both and tell them that there was a pirate in the living room. But if you take a moment to think about it, do you really think that your Mom or Dad would believe that there was a pirate in your living room on Christmas Eve? And anyway, Hank did not stop to think about it, he simply yelled, "Hey!"

At which the pirate -- and there’s no use trying to pretend it isn’t a pirate -- turned around to look at Hank.

And Hank said, more like accused, "You’re not Santa!"

The pirate, who by now was sitting on the floor in the middle of the rug, opening the treasure chest, didn’t seem very much surprised by Hank’s accusation or even by Hank. He did scratch his long bristly black and brown and red beard and look as though he was thinking. Then, as if he had thought as hard as he could, he looked up once again at Hank and said in a voice that was rich and deep and more like a Santa voice than like a pirate voice, "I was going to pretend I was Santa, but I can see that it would be no use trying to fool a smart boy like yourself."

Then, for a few seconds, Hank and the pirate looked at each other and Hank couldn’t think of anything else to say and the pirate didn’t seem to want to say anything else and then Hank thought of another question and he asked it, "What are you doing in my living room on Christmas Eve?"

The pirate once again sat there and scratched his beard and thought for a while and then stopped and said, "Once again, I was going to try to fool you, but I think it would be faster and easier and better for us both if I simply told you the truth. Or better still, showed you the truth." And the pirate pointed out the window, towards the ocean.

Now the little boy named Hank knew that there was an ocean in front of his house, so this was not surprising. But what was surprising was that there was a pirate ship caught on some rocks near the shore of the ocean.

"That is my ship. It is, as you can see, caught on a reef in front of your house. I don’t care much about the ship. It isn’t a very good ship, anyway, and now that it has a hole in the bottom where it struck the reef, it’s even less of a good ship. In fact," and here the pirate laughed a long and hearty laugh just like the laugh Hank expected to hear from someone who really was Santa, "it is going to sink under the sea and at that point it will stop being a ship at all. Because in my book, if it doesn’t float, it’s not a ship."

Hank had so many questions, but since he had to start with one question, he asked, "Can’t you fix it?"

The pirate turned the chest away from Hank and opened it so the top was facing Hank and he could not see inside. The pirate then looked over the top of the chest and said, "I am not much of a carpenter. And besides, I have all this treasure now, so I will no longer need that ship or any ship. And seeing as you are a very curious little boy, I think maybe I should tell you a little bit more, since I am in a hurry and need to get going soon and I can see you won’t let me go until I have answered most if not all of your questions. But I should probably fully answer your original question first: It’s cold and snowy and dark outside."

And, indeed, as Hank looked out the window again, he could see that while it was not still snowing, the wind was blowing the snow around quite a bit. And it did look cold. And there was no doubt, it being well after even his Mom and Dad went to sleep, that it was dark outside. But what confused Hank most of all was that he couldn’t remember what his original question was, so he simply decided to ask the pirate another question and as soon as he did, he realized that he had asked the same question again and the answer fit the question quite nicely, "What are you doing in my living room?"

The pirate simply smiled and went on looking through his treasure chest. Then he looked up and said, "And I need to take stock of my treasure." This seemed to finish the answer nicely, but Hank was no longer very interested in the pirate or why the pirate was in his living room on Christmas Eve or on any other night. He was more interested in what was inside the treasure chest. So he took a step around the chest. No sooner had he done so than the pirate turned the chest exactly the same amount that Hank had walked, so Hank was still right behind the chest and couldn’t see inside at all.

Hank took another step around. The pirate turned the chest a little more. Hank still could not see inside. Hank took two quick steps and the pirate turned the chest quickly twice. Hank took a step around the other way and the pirate turned the chest around the other way.

This went on for a little while after which Hank still could not see into the chest and the pirate said, nicely, "Please stop." He then peered over the chest at Hank, smiled, and said gently, "As I said, I am in a hurry. Seeing as you are not very easily tired or discouraged and will continue trying to walk around my chest trying to see inside for hours to come and I need to get going before the morning, I will make you a deal."

Hank stopped.

The pirate continued. "I will leave one thing for you--. No, I’ll do better than that. I will leave one thing for each of the people in this house under that Christmas tree over there," and he pointed to a rather large tree decorated as you would imagine and underneath which was loaded with colorfully-wrapped presents of all shapes and sizes, "but only if you leave me to my taking stock and run along to bed like a good child. I give you my word as a pirate-" at which he laughed that nice and hearty, Santa-like laugh again and added, "which is much better than it might sound."

Hank thought about the offer for a few seconds, then yawned, and decided that he was very tired and wanted to go to bed after all, so he said, "Agreed."

The pirate reached over the back of the chest and shook Hank’s hand. Then the pirate smiled and waited. Though Hank did want to see all the treasure, he decided that a little bit under the tree was more pirate treasure than any other boy might expect, so he turned away and began to walk up the stairs.

The pirate cleared his throat, "Ahem." Hank turned. "You’ll need to tell me how many others are in this house and if they be girls or boys or grown ups. Otherwise I might not leave the right amount of treasure or the right kinds," the pirate explained further.

Hank yawned again. And again. He was very sleepy. "One boy, that’s me, and two girls, my big and little sisters, and my Mom and Dad."

The pirate smiled again, "Thanks. And sweet dreams." Then the pirate began looking through his treasure again.

Hank went upstairs to bed.


In the morning, Hank, who had slept later than anyone else, was the last one downstairs. His mother, father, and two sisters were looking at the Christmas tree as if something were wrong. Hank looked quickly, hoping that the pirate hadn’t stolen all the presents, and saw that the presents were all still there like last night. What his family was looking at so oddly were the five little packages placed right in front. Five little packages that were all wrapped in dirty, red scarves.

Upon a closer look, Hank could see that there were small tags attached to the presents by thin strips of leather. The presents were labeled as follows: ‘Little boy,’ ‘Little sister,’ ‘Big sister,’ ‘Father,’ and ‘Mother.’ These were the gifts, of course, that were opened first.

Inside the ‘Father’ gift was a gold doubloon. Inside the ‘Mother’ gift was a pair of delicate gold and garnet earrings. Inside the ‘Big sister’ gift was a thin, golden necklace with a garnet stone attached. It perfectly matched the earrings. Inside the ‘ Little sister’ gift was the bracelet that finished the set.

The boy waited patiently until the other gifts were opened before he unwrapped his own. Then he hurriedly unknotted the kerchief and inside found a beautiful, real telescope made of etched silver and dark wood.

Attached to the telescope he found a note which read: Yo ho ho, Merry Christmas!

The End.
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