A few pints later I was on the other side of the island wrestling with a pit bull in a circle of Pirates, Pete among them. The jalopy that had hauled us belonged to Pete’s friend Al, the jewel thief… “
by laine perry
Pirate Pete was sitting on the left of me stealing shots from his canteen. We were both taking Amtrak from Portland to Chicago. I was hacking and spitting like a cyclone, buzzing from the front end of train to the back end trying to calm the raucous hurricane wracking my lungs. On my third trip up to the bar car I managed to get the hot water I was after. Back in my seat Pirate Pete took pity on me. He took another slug of whatever his grandpa had brewed out back of their place, and handed me his canteen. It was thick, viscous, tasted like iron, and was a hell of an improvement on the boiled water I had. I thanked him by wiping the mouth of his vessel with my mitten. The alcohol had burned a layer of sickness off of my throat. We got to talking. Pirate Pete had a grandfather who’d been a bootlegger in NY when Pete had been a little runt who’d come to visit. This was the trip back from his grandpa’s funeral. The contents of his canteen held his inheritance in its entirety.
Pirate Pete had gone aisle by aisle sniffing out cold medicine on my behalf. A month later Pete came walking toward me in a pair of cut-off jeans, his barrel chest tanned, his feet shoeless, “Jane!” his voice tumbled toward me, “Jane!” Running into a Pirate on a Caribbean Island made some sense. Pete quickly deposited me in the back seat of a crusty Chrysler New Yorker, insisting I see the real St. John. I only vaguely remember the ride. A few pints later I was on the other side of the island wrestling with a pit bull in a circle of Pirates, Pete among them. The jalopy that had hauled us belonged to Pete’s friend Al, the jewel thief. Al wore a t-shirt that asked, “Got whine?” He liked my black coral necklace and offered me a trade. What I got for the bit of coral I’d strung on a piece of jute was a gold necklace with small rubies the color of blood.
They were taken by my fearlessness. The truth was I had plenty of fear in me. It was just not the usual fear of heights, dogs, bloody pirates…“Jane,” Pete said, “Jack’s pitbull’s in love with you! I’ve never seen her like that with anybody, not even ol’ Jack!” The dog and I were at home in a tussle with one another. It was a romp for its own sake, unencumbered by strictures and expectation. We slobbered and rolled, ruffled and petted. I remember her heat. “She’s a sweetheart of a dog Jack,” I said. Pete lifted an eyebrow in the dog’s direction. Al cocked his head to the right puzzling over that statement.
When it was time to catch a boat back to Barbados I felt a little queasy. It wasn’t often that I’d felt at ease with people. Truth was- I knew I had a place among these modern day pirates if I needed one but after a long stretch in a borrowed hammock and the best bowl of fish stew I’ve enjoyed in a lifetime, I headed home to my antique shop where I would hunt for treasure too, and maybe even make a living from it. Pete and his crew were planning their next heist and I wished them the best of luck with it. I do have a pirate’s heart after all.
Laine Perry grew up on the road with her mom, making music and telling stories. Many more of these stories from Laine can be found in the Vault of Smoke.