Two sisters, Sally and Georgetta, are walking on a path that runs through tall grass along the Pecatonica River.
“Where are we going?” Georgetta asks.
“We are going,” Sally says, “to the pirates’ cove.”
“I don’t know what a cove is?”
“If it’s in the ocean, it’s a harbor big enough to hide pirates, but in a river it’s just a little of the bank that’s been washed away; and instead of hiding big ships with sails and mermaids on the front, a cove can only hide row boats like ones I saw this morning.”
“Pirate ships have mermaids on the front?”
“Ocean ones do. And they have cannons along the side for sinking ships that don’t give up, and they fly a black flag with a skull on it, but you aren’t going to see any of those things where we’re going because river pirates couldn’t go sailing up and down our river with cannons and black flags and wooden mermaids because people would notice things like that.”
“How do you know they’re pirates then?”
“Because I was hiding in bushes like these and I saw them unloading their booty.
The path the two girls are on winds out of sight of the river and passes through a thicket of brush that scratches at the girls clothes and catches at their hair. Sally has to speak up so Georgetta, a few feet behind her on the path, can hear: “The booty that was being unloaded by our pirates was a a radio like the one we have in our living room and a box full of whiskey bottles. One of the bottles fell out and it looked just like the whiskey bottle that Dad brings out at Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
“How do they know where to find whiskey and radios?”
“They don’t,” Sally says, stopping on the path and turning to Georgetta. “They probably float along the river until they see a farm that looks like nobody’s home and then they get out of their boat and go through a field and steal things that other people will want to buy. They aren’t at all like the pirates in the movies because those pirates only steal from the people who deserve it.”
“Mean people,” Georgetta says, “and people who talk with their mouth full.”
Sally looks at her sister for a moment the way a sister does when she is wishing she had a brother; but she doesn’t mention that because Georgetta’s feelings are easily hurt, and you can’t raid a pirate cove if your sister is sulking.
“Are we lost?” Georgetta asks when it starts seeming to her that the world has become nothing but brush thickets; but before Sally can answer, the path opens back up onto the river; and right in front of the girls is a small inlet mostly hidden from view by the branches of an oak tree that are reaching out over the water.
Sally walks to the edge of the water and lifts up enough branches to reveal two rowboats tied to the trunk of the oak tree. One of the boats is empty and the other has a tarp thrown across the top.
“Those are the pirate boats,” Sally says. “We should probably find out what’s under that cover.”
Georgetta has stepped to the edge of the water, but if she expected to be able to vote on whether or not to explore the covered pirate boat, she is disappointed because Georgetta slips off her shoes, rolls up her pant legs, and starts wading out into the water.
“I can’t believe,” Georgetta says, as she takes off her own shoes, “that this is happening.”
To be continued . . .