Voices across the water, a quiet motor, the groans of pulled-back muscles as another lobster pot is hauled in. Summer laughter, sailboats linger on the horizon and cormorants lazily soar on updrafts. A shout with splashing hands remembers the cold Maine waters. I look at the seascape, rocks, island, and conversations as we motor from cove to cove, navigating through the fog—fifty-five years later the coast holds, loons bend their necks, and seals sun themselves on seaweed-draped rocks.

But the cannons burst and there is no escaping the shouting, the conflicts, the wars, the lost souls. Discordant deceits fill the air—how do we fight tyranny, the step away from our dreams? What are we to believe, what to do? Cowbells chime, scaring away the terribleness, the wolves out there, the demons; newspapers twist facts to the glee of their readers. The calm summer breeze cannot contain the calamities to come.

What are you going to do? Sit there and scribble? Who will man the barricades, protect the children? How many more must die? How many more lies must fill the air?

My head shakes, the dory rolls on the morning waves. I turn about in confusion. It was not supposed to be this way. The garden I cultivated with rose, flox, Russian sage, and lilies were not supposed to prick. My hand bled, my heart stayed calm, but my head still sees beyond the horizon and it is not happy. This was not supposed to be my world.

Who will lead the revolution—will you, yes, you, with lobster and toasted potatoes on your plate, will you heed the call? Plunge into battle and save us from tyrants?

No, not me, it is too tasty here at the table. The meal brings on drowsy ripostes—it cannot be that bad, really. It has been this way for centuries. Good and bad. Sometimes better, sometimes worse.

The tide draws back, the mud is thick—blue mussels and clams feed the birds. I drop alabaster oyster shells on rocks. Seagulls wait patiently above—our conversations turn dark. Still, the gift of love lets me see through rose-colored glasses—a faith that it will get better. Somehow.

I scream late at night. The stars overhead tell me that we are a small speck in the Universe, unimportant really. Fascism or not. I wake early with sun. The lobsterman is still here, they catch less. Today spins to another. I scribble, hoping for an answer, as my mind wanders.

Adam, the boy sitting next to me last night, asks, “Please stop the pirates, the men that rob, kill, and rape?”

“I will, I promise, I will stop the pirates.” But his mother reminds me that he likes the good pirates.

My eyes turn; what I am supposed to do? I look down the table; all are talking, laughing, and walking out into the night, sated with comradery. Must we give up our dreams to push back the pirates—must we keep our promises? I shake my head, hold Adam’s hand. “I promise, no more bad pirates, I will stop the bad ones.”

This is not a dream; the tide moves in again, calming the mind, yet all is not well. How do we fight back, how turn the dinner conversation from pirates and tornados turning over towns to garden flowers and peace? The desperate destroyers must be decapitated. But we must not lose our virtue or pretend that we have no blood on our hands. The black-capped pirates must not win. The tide falls back again; a boat cuts across the bay. The summer is quiet, even as the bird mocks my musings.

I fear what is ahead. We must rid the sea of marauding pirates, starve them and throw them in jail, and then put them on trial. It must be fair; a fair and just trial by a jury of their peers. No more bad pirates. The seas must be safe and our hands clean.

Adam looks at me with quizzical eyes. “Really, you believe those fairy tales,” he seems to say.

Yes, I will rid the seas of pirates. Like Peter Pan, I believe; I too cried out for Tinker Bell at six. I believed in goodness and love. No more bad pirates, no more Captain Hooks.

Then our table can be set in peace. Fruit, cheese, and bread will fill our stomachs. Songs will rise with the harmony of thrushes and morning doves. The snake lies crushed in the sands, the sheep munch on the dew-dampened grass. The tide comes in again.

I sit here with morning coffee and look out on the gray fog enveloping each boat; each dream visits me here. I sit, I scribble, I hope.

Is that our plan? Will we, will you have the courage to walk into battle with bayonets to scatter the bullets of tyranny, counter all the lies? Will you capture and throw the pirates into deep dungeons, put them on trial, and bring back the light? Truth must win out, I tell the morning fog; the sun will not rise on another day until we do something to stop the lies, the tyranny, the assault on our democracy—the tide ebbs and flows. The day begins.

It is time to fight back again and again and again. Some will die. No more bad pirates. That is my promise.


John Ballantine has taken workshops through The Writers Studio and the Concord-Carlisle Community School with Barbara O’Neil, following the “Writing Down The Bones” method. His work has appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Arkansas Review, Carbon Culture Review, Cobalt, Crack the Spine, Existere Journal, Forge, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Lime Hawk, Massachusetts’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Nonfiction, The Penmen Review, Oracle Fine Arts Review, Ragazine, Rubbertop Review, Saint Ann’s Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Santa Clara Review, SNReview, Slippery Elm, and Streetlight Magazine.