Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Lighthouse in Wintertide

Sean Harris BGN
It has something to do with light.

Candles, bulbs, roaring fires and the stars above; this time of year is heralded by them, cutting through the darkness of a Winter’s night. Mankind has always followed the illuminated path for eons as we search for light in the darkness of insanity.

They not only light the way, they are the way. Singular candles hold vigil in households beckoning loved ones safe return. We watched 26 lone flares disappear in the chilled night sky, snuffed out by the darkness between the stars. Cathedrals and roadsides are adorned by a congregation of candles lit to honor the memories of the lost. The Maccabees saved their tribe's tradition by coveting the flame. Churches, Mosques, and open hearths draw diverse peoples closer to the warmth. 

Stars are nothing but the brilliance of our past; events ceased long ago; memories hanging in the night sky. They have embellished many a nation’s flag inspiring hope. The very twinkle of that which may no longer exist lights the way for all to wish to deliver either exotic spices or goodwill.

Not all candles are so hallowed. Some sputter more smoke than light. These candles forged long ago are cast of poor tallow. It is a reflection of generations of starless nights. If their lone spark hasn’t been extinguished there lies hope. Otherwise the smoldering ash is a child of the unbridled wind.

The world is a calamity at best, randomness we spend lifetimes forcing symmetry to. How can one stoke this sacred flame when the reckless winds of time are so relentless? We have all seen lives pass away and new ones begin in this dark Solstice. We’ve seen flames that once burned bright falter and cease. Like remembrance candles, each flame will eventually be snuffed out by the passing of time.

Then I look into a baby’s eyes as they perused the
beauty and complexity of our world. There the flame burned the brightest and the most pure, its glow reflected in her parent’s eyes, their parent’s eyes, and in all who bear witness. How can such a fragile entity capture such power so effortlessly?

I spoke with a person whose loss was as raw as a freshly scraped knee in a schoolyard. Despite her melancholy a glow came over her face as tales were told, warm memories rekindled, and as words were shared a smile not thought possible moments before shone.

Then I got it. What broke through the shadow of her smile was not solely hers; it was that of her deceased loved ones. Their legacy was passed on in her every thought, deed, and grin. In those moments we are at our best; reflective, resilient, and humble. It was the same flame burning bright in that child’s eyes, a reflection of her soul and those of all who preceded her. In the shadow-play cast by that dancing flame, I believe I saw God wink.

Shelter that flame. Remember when it burned brightest and pass that memory forward. No darkest night, no tempestuous wind can permeate its glow. Don’t worry if it withers down to a spark. You are never truly in the dark. You still possess the makings of a righteous fire.

May you find safe harbor led by the light that burns within. Hold your loved ones close, be them by your side, away, or in the hereafter. Shine. Then passion enflammée; your passion will reawaken. Then you too can look into a fire through a child’s eyes and get it.

It has something to do with light.

(special thanks to Lotti, Amy, Shelagh, Charles Bukowski, Nick Lowe, and Newtown.)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Writing Hell week 4

It is the end of Nanowrimo 2012.

What is this Nanowrimo? National Novel Writing Month, 50,000+ words of a novel in 30 days. As of midnight I clocked in at 90135 words, well over 50,000  of the tallied words less than a month old so in the course of this exercise I over doubled the pages of my manuscript to now just over 300 pages. My last novel clocked in at 400 pages so because I took on this task and kept to it I am three quarters of the way to a completed 1st draft of The Kahunas of Lobster Cove. Now I don't expected the pages to actually be readable to others until Springtime but I appreciate the productivity of my efforts.

So according to Nanowrimo I am a winner, right? Does the novel have to be finished as well to qualify. FYI: just in case I added the words "The End" to the conclusion of my last writing, Chapter 16; Ebb Tide, so there!

Now there is a new manuscript to be dealt with, one I can no longer shove into the bottom drawer of my writing desk.

  • STILL my job search is a total failure, I am still unemployed with the nation's and my own personal fiscal cliff looming.
  • STILL my toilet sings to me (at least is stopped crying)
  • STILL my tub decides to not drain, then drain, and then not drain, at will.
  • STILL my car rabbles and shakes and now decides to pee through whatever gas I can afford to give it. Mechanics say driving it can't make it much worse and as I listen to its choppy idle I agree.
  • STILL my phone and internet connections cut out long enough to contact my provider, then return after an appointment has been set, then return. "They can't fix what ain't broke" they tell me and for them to come to my home would be fruitless and they would have to give me another bill I can't pay.
  • STILL my thermostat is locked at 40 degrees as it have for three seasons now

  • STILL my writing continues.
 You can see how each bullet point impacts the others, a quantum theory that make my nights long and my teeth grind. Now it seems the only place where the rush of "What if"s and "What Now"s fade into the distance is when I write. Who would have thought?

Nanowrimo forced me to write out of my comfort zone. During the scary ride I learned the depth and the strength of my characters much to my surprise. Plot-points, never charted or even dreamed of, appeared on the page leaving me as surprised as the characters dealing with them. Most of all I read as they led with their hearts. On my best pages they weren't pontificating about life, they were living it.

I will take their lead. When this new novel is complete (or for the Nanowrimo police, "Now that my new novel is complete...) I hope that the readers can gleem what I have from its telling.

Its December 1st. 
NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing month is over. 
PerFiJoMo, Personal Job Finding month has begun. 

oh yeah, and coming soon, NaHo-Ho-HoMo, but I don't even want to think about that yet. 
One deadline at a time.

-S.E. Toon

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Writing Hell week 3

The Kahunas of Lobster Cove
So today is Thanksgiving.

It is also the end of the third week of Nanowrimo 2012.
What is this Nanowrimo of which you speak? It is National Novel Writing Month, a godless endeavor where thousands of people attempt to write 50,000+ words of a novel in 30 days while the rest of the nation honors veterans, gives thanks for our freedom, honors the misrepresented history of our country's discovery, helps our fellow man through whatever a bitterness Mother Earth can dish out, and, let's not forget participates in the contact sport called Black Friday. Nanowrimo is a narcissistic practice of the Literati and I am a participant. You're welcome.

As if reaching 50,000 words wasn't enough, I decided to double the word total. Trust me, in doing so I am nothing close to the heroes that inhabit the pages I am churning out. I decided to include previous pages that I have been conveniently rewritten to fit the changes in the story's plotline that arose while cranking out 2,000-3,000 words a day. My three week total is 70,763 words HOWEVER the new-page total is only a mere 34,498. There are only 9 days left. For me to reach the 50,000 words minimum and a be an honest-to-God Nanowrimo Winner I need to crank out 1,723 a day. This is achievable since I have been averaging 2000 new words per day. I thought I was writing not doing math (which I was NEVER good at, thus, writing... duh!)

Someone who became a master by twisting their legs into pretzels once said "Its not the destination its the journey." (humble apologies to writing guru, Natalie Goldberg,author of Writing Down the Bones and to anyone else who is flexible enough to do the downward pretzel and have that feed their writing.) Writing is its own transcendental discipline. Self-imposed goals such as Nanowrimo force the writer to experience the insights of the process. Its like the writer's mantra. "Writing is writing, so write" Of course Nanowrimo does ignore the second tenant of a writer's philosophy, "Writing is Rewriting" but I digress.

I did an exercise with my creative writing students where they came had to come up with affirmations on writing and the creative process. We posted them in our writing space to inspire us each day we approached a blank page. I started them off with this little chestnut; "Write right, right?" then followed it with "Write, write, write!" Nanowrimo could care less about the first phrase but it burns incense at the alter of the second. Enough said.

Its Thanksgiving so here's my obligatory short list of grateful shout-outs:

Family. Having a creative in the family must be a lot like Michael Jackson's Never-land. While it initially sounds like a really fun idea to have an amusement park in your backyard, it's still kinda weird to everyone else. Thanks for your patience.
Friends. They say you can count your true friends on one hand. I have been blessed in my life to the extent that I'd need to be the Indian goddess Shiva to count them all.
Beasts. Pallet, the miracle cat of Borders. You are here for me, and I for you. Without sounding like a cat lady, let me say you are a constant reminder of just how interdependent we are.
Children. The ones I teach, the ones who decorate my neighborhood with inspiration and ears eager for a story, and my newborn niece, little Lotti. May I  always see the world through your fresh eyes.
Past. Writers don't have bad times, they gain material. One of my mother's favorite phrases was, "This, too will pass." Whether it is good times or bad, her words hold true. It is all the more reason to write, as she did in her day, and I in my own twisted way, do now.
Muse. The miracle of a story on a page will never cease to amaze me. Being a conduit to bringing a tale to life is forever a humbling experience. It is there we do our best work.

With 1,700 words a day in 9 more days it feels appropriate to close with the beginning of the poem Sea Fever by John Masefield that my Dad would recite from his chair. (I have even included an excerpt of it in my latest novel.) Thanks Dad for that. It was probably those magical moments listening to him pull words out of thin air and the patient hours my sister read to me that still puts me in the writing chair day after day. 

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.  

Thank you all for being my ship as I shoot for the stars.

-S.E. Toon

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Writing Hell week 2

The Kahunas of Lobster Cove
So today is the end of the second week of Nanowritmo 2012.
What pray tell is nanowritmo? It is Nation Novel Writing Month.
In November.
Turkey time.

During the past decade I had found myself in the wonderful world of retail which, by definition, requests that you surrender all other aspects of your life to your job. In most business environments near 60% of annual profits occur in just five short weeks. To succeed it demands sacrifice. As much as I think opening during the holidays, the dreaded Black Friday and elongated hours are a blight on humanity, from a business perspective, I understand the desperation in the retail establishment's hellbent efforts.

It always seemed an impossible task, to write, to work, to fit living a life between the two.
But here I am unemployed with a manuscript in need of completion. What excuse could I possibly have not to embrace this crazy proposition. I should feel liberated and free to write with abandon, shouldn't I? But no. I know this sounds like the crazed words of a syphilitic mind but I miss it all, so much. The team leading, the feverish multi-tasking, the communing with shoppers like an elf with the perfect gift for everyone on their list. Unemployment wears on you. It slowly eats away at your self-worth while the financial crisis that grows with each passing week gnaws at your innards each sleepless night.

A lot of noise to cut through when you want to concentrate on story and character.Still, I made a commitment to myself, daunting as it may be, 100K or whatever it takes to finish a draft by December 1st.
What could go wrong?

For no reason it starts dripping, tap, tap, tap as I try to tap, tap, tap on my keyboard. Then it starts to trickle just as my words cease to flow, then a stream, in the bathroom, not from my imagination. No funds for a new toilet or, god forbid, a plumber (you are such the joker!) so I spend the next two days, dissembling, replacing piece by piece to no avail. Once, Twice, thrice. Tap, tap, tap now only on the bathroom floor. In a last ditch effort I reassemble it once again, this time reenforced with silicone throughout, even on the inner porcelain walls where I suspect a hairline crack. Finally dry on the outside. It grumbles every now and again just to remind me that I have just put the beast to sleep. Before bedtime I threaten it with a roll of Duct tape like a priest with holy water. "The spirit of Christ compels you, out demon!!"

If that wasn't enough madness to keep me from the keyboard, my car, or as I have come to name her, Beelzebub, decides to have a conniption, its idiot lights blinking a cartoon engine while the motor shakes in fits and starts. As I accelerate it sounds like a prop engine on a dingy. I make it to the repair station and leave it, heading home to wait the prognosis. The bathroom goes tap, tap, tap. I try to mimic it with keystrokes. The car will cost over a quarter of my monthly income so I have to figure that out alongside automatic payments, a mortgage payment and holidays looming. With a lot of penny pinching I might be able to swing the car in time to dash through the woods to the new grandmother's house. I'm told that I can drive the car at my peril without any more damage to the engine (save for it stalling and not being able to be restarted.) Driving now is like sitting in front of a Jack in the box as someone slowly turns the crank. You drive forward, not unlike the country, hands clenched to the wheel waiting for Chuckles to burst forth as soon as you let your guard down.

Still, the story waits for me.

Enough bitching. It could be deadlines, papers that need to be graded, lives that need to be saved, bones needing to be mended, babies that need to be burped. Its always going to be something. It's called life. The key is to persevere. Success never comes to those who don't try. 

Nanowritmo is a marathon. You just don't quit the race because to get a stitch or run out of metaphors 
(that, perhaps, could be a good thing -wink-)

Tap, tap, tap... (this time not coming from the bathroom.)

Week Two: 
44948 words in 14 days
GOAL: 100,000 words (or the finish line, whichever comes first.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Writing Hell week 1

So today is the end of the first week of Nanowritmo 2012.
What pray tell is nanowritmo?

Why Nation Novel Writing Month. It is always November because no one has anything else to occupy their time during that month. No impending holidays and the stress that they can compound. Thank the stars, that would making trying to crank out a manuscript for a novel that clocks in at 50,000 word in 30 days a nerve-wracking experience.

I'm all in. Let's start writing. This is my own personal method.

S.E. Toon's First Level of Writing Hell.
Now my process of writing involves taking extensive notes both on plot and on character development. I write the first draft in long hand because I find it an organic form of making my thoughts real. I can cross things out, put an asterisk on a passage and add to it or question it for a re-write. I can lasso parts and draw arrows to where it should be moved to. In short, to anyone but myself, it is an indelligable mess. The secret service should use my method. IMPORTANT: No one should ever read this draft.

S.E. Toon's Second Level of Writing Hell.
Then I decipher my mad scribbles and type them into my word processor. At this stage I am editing, waxing poetic, polishing as I write. Reading the computer screen, making another pass then print. IMPORTANT: No one should ever read this draft.

S.E. Toon's Third Level of Writing Hell.
Then its time to make the pages bleed. I take out my trusty read pen and correct grammar, dreaded adverbs, delete extraneous back story. Delete, delete, flesh out, delete again. Get another pen because the present one has run out of ink, and repeat. Then I type the bloody page back into the computer, futzing and tweaking as I type. IMPORTANT: No one should ever read this draft at this time but I let them just so they can drill me a new one. I've learned from my experience as a graphic artist that what you usually miss on your third pass, the final markups, is not the mouse type, its is what is in the largest font size. Same with writing for me. Dumb tense mistakes, passive phrasing, more show, less tell. Only another writer's eyes can take off my blinders.

Then its rinse and repeat.

You can't do this in nanowritmo! 

Nanowritmo's New and Improved (?) Level of Writing Hell.
This is a race, not a stroll. Your writing needs to be a stream of consciousness relying on your inner voice. The words need to go directly into the computer devoid of editing save for a smidgen of spell checking.  This is so against my nature I find it maddening. I still refer heavily to my notes to get me on a writing jag and I confess I have already broke down and hand written a passage before typing. So you do what's necessary, write like every letter is sacred and when you get to the finish line this warning still applies, IMPORTANT: No one should ever read this draft.

I keep thinking of what I tell my creative writing students. Writing is rewriting. First you need something to rewrite. You can't create a sculpture without a block of stone (and if you are some kind of smarty pants that wants to say, 'Sure you can. You can make a sculpture out of steel, paper, even macaroni.' I'll have to hunt you down and stab you in the throat with my metaphor.)

See what's happening?? ARRRRG! Now I so want to add this blog to my week's total (645 words) alongside the words I enter each week into (1602 words), even my grocery list (88 words, very hungry). I could use them all woven together as an example of extreme fiction to create a YA House of Leaves.

Or maybe I should just stop typing here and get on with my story.

Week One: 
27,103 words in 7 days
GOAL: 100,000 words (doable but at what cost?)

If you want to join in the insanity, better late than never. 
Share the misery. See you in hell!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Got Your Nose


The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

Meet your worst fear.

Three teens find themselves the victims of a cruel prank and are locked in an abandoned asylum on, of all days, All Hallow’s Eve.

Even worse, the building knows what really scares them and conjures personal nightmare worlds for each of the intruders.

It is up to each teen to battle the malevolent building’s manifestations and confront the real fears haunting their lives. Only then will they truly be free.

Come inside. Don’t be afraid.

Good luck with that.

  It is formatted as a booklet and has (2) PDF files. One is the text, the other the cover. You can go to your local print shop and have them make the booklet for you (est. cost $2.40) or just read it on your computer. You can also load it into your personal reader if you choose. Copyright. All Rights Reserved. Not for sale.

the link is Http://

Special Thanks goes out to fellow storyteller Kymberly Anderson for getting the story up on the web and to my junior high Creative Writing Boot Camp participants, Haley, Mellissa, Alyssa, Alexah, and Allison, who inspired this story during one of our "cluster" sessions. Pleasant screams!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

All Hallow's Read Treat

It is entitled Got Your Nose and I will be posting a link to PDFs of the story for you to download. It is formatted to be a chapbook (2 pages fit on 1 8.5x11" page and can be printed as a booklet. There is also a PDF of a cover. You can take the files to your local printer and they will make the booklet for you OR you can read it on your computer, OR you can, if you are device savvy, import it into your reader.
It will only be available until Midnight on Halloween, then it will disappear (spooky,huh?)

The seed of the story came from a Creative Writing boot camp I taught this past summer with a group of creative junior high students.Special thanks go out to Haley, Mellissa, Alyssa, Alexah and Allison for sharing their fears, at first hackneyed then slowly dug down deep to the good stuff. Thanks for sharing. 

What is All Hallow’s Read ?

Scary books. Halloween.

This new tradition is the brainchild of macabre author Neil Gaiman and 2012 will be the third year the event will be celebrated. It’s simple! During the week of Halloween, or on the night itself, you give someone a scary book. It doesn’t take the place of trick or treating, it’s in addition to all the usual Halloween fun stuff. The book should be age appropriate but scary.

Here’s Neil Gaiman’s initial proposal:

On Hallowe'en or during the week of Hallowe'en, we give each other scary books.

Give children scary books they'll like and can handle.

Give adults scary books they'll enjoy.

I propose that stories by authors like John Bellairs and Stephen King and Arthur Machen and Ramsey Campbell and M R James and Lisa Tuttle and Peter Straub and Daphne Du Maurier and Clive Barker and a hundred hundred others change hands -- new books or old or second-hand, beloved books or unknown. Give someone a scary book for Hallowe'en. Make their flesh creep...

Give a scary book.

If you don't know what kinds of books there are, or what would be appropriate for the person you're giving a book to, talk to a bookseller. They love to help, most of them. (The ones that don't tend not to be booksellers for long.) Talk to librarians. (Do not plan to give away their books though, unless they are having a library sale.)

That's it.

Scary book.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pirates of Lobster Cove Chapter 1 - Ahoy!

Here's the first chapter of The Pirates of Lobster Cove. Since it will be offered online in October when the entire book will be available as an E-Book, I figured to post it for the devote now. We'll let you know when you can upload your copy for $2.99. We need to sell LOTS of copies to catch the interest of the agents and legitimate publishers. Enjoy!
 It was during the summer of my fourteenth year when I first rubbed elbows with legend. There he was in all of his pirate glory, stopping before my cottage porch. The man clutched the guardrail to remove his sandblasted leather boot and emptied whatever sand or pebble that was irritating his good leg. He slipped the boot back on and tucked his pant leg inside its lavish cuff. The boot’s ample leather slouched down his calf in a jaunty, well, piratey way. As he stood up and pulled out a red handkerchief to wipe the early morning humidity from his brow, our eyes met for a moment. The stranger at my front stoop stared at me through the screen.

‘Billybones,’ I thought.  I didn’t dare utter the nickname that came to me as I stood there transfixed by every childhood fear I ever had of pirates. I just mouthed the name as he loomed before me.
BillyBones was a sight to see. His lanky form stood a crooked six foot four. He was thin but in no way frail. His bare forearms revealed a taut musculature, rippled like suspension bridge wire wrapped with tan skin, a coat of faded red hair in full effect. He looked English, or what I assumed an Englishman would look like from my grandfather’s tales of WWII, the big one. He always commented how threadbare their uniforms were and how gaunt and battle-worn they looked, but to “beat’m,  you’d have to kill’m”. That was tough, BillyBones tough.
The rest of his appearance also fit the pirate profile. His pants faded brown canvas that hung heavy on his form. His shirt billowed in the salty air where the white gauze hadn’t clung to his perspiration. A large buckled belt tied the two together, a walking stick slung beneath like a sword. His face possibly forged in the heat of a hundred summers was sculpted in sun burnt highlights and dull brown hollows that looked more like smudges of dirt than tan. In contrast, his eyes shone sea blue, eyes that knew history, eyes with tales to tell.
 “Mornin’, kid.” the stranger muttered in an exhale as he adjusted the bag slung on his back. It was a statement not a greeting. His eyes lingered for a moment, sizing me up like a wild animal that had stumbled into a clearing only to find the threat of campers. Sensing a safe haven, his look softened ever so slightly and he turned from me, the doe-eyed boy behind the porch screen, and turned his gaze to the path that went from the shoreline towards the center of town.
 “I’m a see’n ya, I’m  a walkin.” He paused a moment in thought. “Morning . . . good mornin,” he muttered to himself. He swung his favored leg out in front of himself to walk away and then turned back to me. Making a double check of his safety level he gave me a slight nod of his unshaven chin. With a squint of his one good eye he shielded from the early sunlight he turned up the path. Perhaps it was a wink. The connection was unspoken but very much real. He knew me, and I might have just met a pirate.
Before I tell you what happened next and the adventure that unfurled that summer, I need to fill you in on the world where my small circle of friends and I were transplanted every summer. To us, summer was the Cove, Lobster Cove on the map, but it was “Lobstah Cove” to us.
There were snowbirds, locals and daytrippers. Snowbirds would fly into town in June as soon as hometown schools closed and stayed in the Cove right through Labor Day. My friends and I were said birds. We did enough time on the Cove so we were welcomed like migrant geese crossing an early spring sky. Locals found themselves trapped in the Cove year ‘round, through the vicious Nor’Easter snowstorms and coastal flooding that would ensue off-season. They were mostly blue collar workers in the fishing industry who worked hard and long through the best months of the year only to find downtime between plowing gigs in the misery that can be winter on the Atlantic coast.
So what is a daytripper you ask? They were the time shares and weekend warriors that congested our fair fishing village just long enough to wear out their welcome.  They came from Albuquerque to Zaire from Memorial Day to Labor Day. They pronounced Lobster Cove devoid of any discerning accent leaving a week later with the best New England accent that they could muster.  Lopstahhh!’
The term “Lopstah” became a slur of sorts like “Arrr!” must be to a pirate. When daytrippers would try to get all chummy and butcher our local-speak with phrases like, “So, how are the Lobstahhh biting?!”, we would just roll our eyes and bite our lips. ‘Go home, ‘tripper! Lopstahs don’t bite; you do!’ we wanted to say.
We knew better. They spoke with cash. The adults, no matter how much the daytrippers looked down their nose at them, refrained as well. They realized that these people were their bread and butter during the short summer months.
Half-awake locals would head to the docks about the same time each morning as my first pirate sighting. They would carry lunch buckets or brown-bag leftovers. Many had beer bellies covered by soiled t-shirts for Red Sox Championships or last year’s NASCAR winners, their glory and color as faded like these shore men’s memories of youth.
They worked hard and they played hard: up before first light and catching last call in the neon-lit confines of locals-only watering holes. At another time and place Billybones would impart to me, “Good men, lobstah men, workin’ with what God gave’m. Can never have a bad drink with a lobstah man,” sounding nothing like a daytripper.
“Ye worst day drinkin’ with a lobsterman is league’s better than drinkin’ top shelf with a landlubber.”
I had to take Billybones word on that. The one time I had tasted alcohol it tasted like paint thinner. I assumed the difference between shelves was similar to Mountain Dew and the generic drink at the Cove Market, a beverage so poor in taste; they didn’t even bother to give it a catchy name, just Lemon-Lime Drink.
First looking upon him I knew that he wasn’t a daytripper or a snowbird. You sensed he was older than the bleached docks at the harbor though he looked barely fifty. He was of old blood, as local as the coastline itself. He could say “Lopstahhh” any time he chose and no one would ever challenge that he didn’t belong.
Billybones had shuffled his way up the street, lame but strong in stride when two of the aforementioned lobstermen crossed his path. The men instinctually knew not to look the man directly in the eyes. They passed, heads bowed slightly, almost reverently. They were a good three paces past before they even dared look back. They huddled together like school boys passing notes in class, fearing of being caught by teacher. One man whispered to the other. BillyBones stopped. The men cowered and stopped in turn. The assumed pirate adjusted his duffel bag and continued towards town. The two men waited a few strides before walking further. Billybones was alpha dog, and no curs in the Cove would contest it.
My first vision of the pirate faded into the morning haze. I sat transfixed on the porch. Was it real or remnants of a dream? I needed to know. I sprang to my feet and bounded out of the breezeway to find someone awake who could confirm my pirate sighting.
The golden hue of first light cast a warm sepia tone on the kitchen walls. The toaster popped up similarly tinged slices of bread. ‘The toaster!’’  That would mean Mom must be about. And as luck would have it, she came around the corner from the pantry with a jar of flour and a wire mesh basket of eggs. ‘Alas, a witness!’  Failing to find words, I grabbed my mother by the arm and dragged her into the porch, almost breaking an egg in the process.
“Tyler Lewis Byrne! What in the heavens has gotten into you?”
She whispered in hopes of keeping my brother asleep. I escorted her briskly to the porch and pointed repetitively like a mute. She followed my finger and looked up the road to the crest of the hill leading to town. The outline of BillyBones could still be seen in the distance through the glare of the sun. I swallowed, more of a gulp, and found my voice.
“Look Ma…” I whispered in a tone even quieter than my mother’s. What if the stranger heard my accusation all the way up the road? I pictured him turning on his heel and looking back with plundering intent.
“…a pirate… see’m?” I asked as if merely asking would question my very own sanity.
 There must be a place where they put delusional kids who see things. Perhaps only adults know of the existence of such institutions. They only talked of the place when they were not within earshot of a child. “Haven’t seen the youngest around these parts in a while, dear?’ ‘Well, one thing led to another and he had to… go away. Saw pirates, the poor thing.”
Admitting the vision to my mother might usher in a fate as fearsome as the potential pirate at my door. If she didn’t see him, then it would surely be a one-way ticket to the booby hatch.
My mother squinted at the figure at the top of the hill, tilted her head a bit to focus and then let out an exasperated sigh. Then she did something that made my heart stop. She opened the front door screen and waved. With a lilting tone she called to him.
It all happened before I could pull her back inside to protect her from whatever wrath was yet to come. ‘Ahoy?! You might as well go Arrr, Ma!’ my inner voice shrieked. The man turned, gave us a curious glance then managed a halfhearted wave as he turned back to the road. My mouth fell open. We had dodged a bullet.
Mother closed the screen and went back to preparing breakfast.
“Him? He’s the curator at the new nautical museum opening in the square. A mister. . . Smythe I believe.” Her air of familiarity was unsettling. She looked at me with a mother’s eyes, all too aware what a short time of this childlike innocence was left.
Stopping her morning chores, she giggled, “A pirate? Of course, a pirate.” Her amused voice was louder than before and was enough to rustle my older brother Ryan from cutting Zs on the living room couch.
“Maaa? Wh’d ya say,” he muttered half-awake under a rubble of sheets. I looked desperately at my mother silently pleading, ‘Noooo!’
“I said pirate dear, imagine that! Tyler thought he saw a pirate.” My inner voice lamented, ‘O man, here it comes…‘  Ryan’s head popped up from under the sheets like a maniacal teenage jack-in-the-box. He was all cow-licked hair, pimples and smiles.
My 16 year old poor-excuse-for-a-brother paused a second so that his slow mind could load up with verbal ammunition. The sound and smell of sizzling bacon filled the cottage as both the strips of pork and I were grilled.
 “A pirate ya’ say? Sure it wasn’t the Easter Bunny, twerp? I hear that Santa Claus vacations here this time of year. He’s got that whole beard and boots thing going on too. Sure it wasn’t the jolly old elf? Snap!”
He rolled back into the sheets in a fit of uncontrollable laughter.
The morning all but faded from memory. I spent the rest of the day awash in daydream questioning whether or not I had even seen the supposed pirate at all. The man I had named BillyBones became a half-real, half-imagined figment of my imagination.
It wasn’t until after dark that the moment played back in my mind, sharper and more vivid than it had in the hazy morning light. I was alone in my bed, tucked snugly into the eaves on the second floor of our cottage. The repetition of the tide lulled me to dreamland. I saw his figure fade into the distance as my mother turned away from the door. Then, just as I started to turn to follow her to the kitchen, I looked back. BillyBones face appeared not three feet before me on the other side of the screen, smelling of Old Spice and chum.
‘So, yer thought ya’ mighta’ seen a Pirate, did ya Lubby??’, he spewed, one eye blazing blue in my direction, one hazed over, not quite looking my way. His jagged teeth, a sickly yellow grimace. “Well, did ya or didn’t ya!,” he hollered, his spittle spraying against the screen door  like sea foam. “Well, well, boy… stranger things have happened… and will!”
Suddenly there was the tip of a sword, a flash of steel, a spray of crimson. The blade tore through the screen, just shy of my right ear. I heard the rapier blade sing, its warmth cutting air.
I awoke, rushed to the upstairs window and look down on the road below. It was basked in pockets of streetlight. From the shadows I heard a footfall, then drag, footfall, drag. I looked further up the road to see the profile of BillyBones in the distance disappearing past the road’s far horizon.
Writing it all off as a bad dream, the result of one too many slices of pepperoni pizza, I turned back to the comfort of my bed. Resting on my pillow lay a sheered lock of my hair, a halo of crimson pin dots encircling it.
I then went to the linen closet to change my sheets.