“The Piccadilly Street Pirates,” Friend, June 1985, 2
When we started our pirate band, there were six of us: Jason, Kyle, Joel, Jeremy, Marv, and me. We made swords out of sticks and borrowed bright-red bandannas to tie around our heads. And we rolled our pant legs to our knees, wore patches over our eyes, and painted tattoos on our arms with watercolor markers.
Brother Rogers’s huge backyard was a jungle of cornstalks, cantaloupe and watermelon vines, apple and peach trees, and berry bushes, so we met there to make our plans for raiding and plundering everyone along Piccadilly Street.
“Do we share the loot?” Jason wanted to know.
“Sure,” I said, sounding as gruff as I could. “That’s what pirates do. We’ll bring the stuff back here and divide it up evenly. Any more questions?”
For a while everyone was quiet, then Joel asked, “Where are we going first? Who are we going to raid? And what are we going to plunder?”
I hadn’t thought much about that.
Jason spoke up. “Maybe we ought to look around first and see what there is to raid and plunder.”
“Good idea,” I agreed. “We’ll split up and meet back here in fifteen minutes. But don’t let anybody see you or follow you back here to our hideout.”
We all nodded, straightened the bandannas on our heads, adjusted the patches over our eyes, checked our swords, and sneaked out of the cornfield.
“Wow! What a gang of cutthroats!”
We all jumped and whirled around. Marv tripped over a cornstalk, and Jason and Jeremy dropped their swords. Joel jabbed me in the back, and the patch over my eye slipped down and covered my mouth.
Brother Rogers was hoeing the weeds around his cantaloupes. He leaned on his hoe and grinned. “I heard some dastardly deeds being planned in there,” he said, nodding toward the corn, “but I didn’t dare go in for fear I’d be taken hostage and put up for ransom.”
“Now we’ve been caught,” Joel grumbled. “We got caught before we even got started.”
“You’re not going to tell on us, are you, Brother Rogers?”
Brother Rogers took off his straw hat and wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. “Do you pirates have a hideout?” he asked.
“We figured on using your cornfield,” Marv muttered.
“Oh, an old cornfield isn’t any place for a pirate hangout,” Brother Rogers said. “You need a place where you can really hide and plan. I think I know just the place. Come with me.”
We followed Brother Rogers to the corner of his lot behind some thick berry bushes. Almost hidden by the bushes was a little shed. I’d seen it before, but I’d never paid much attention to it.
Brother Rogers pushed through the bushes, opened a little door, motioned for us to follow, then ducked inside the little shed. At first we wondered if Brother Rogers was going to hold us hostage, but we finally followed him.
For a little while we had to just stand still while our eyes got used to the dimness. The place was full of rusty tools, boxes of newspapers, and battered buckets and cans.
“This used to be my three boys’ clubhouse!” Brother Rogers explained. “It’s a little dusty, and there’s some junk in here that needs to be cleaned out, but it could be fixed up into a right good pirate hideout.”
“You mean you’d let us use it?” Kyle asked.
“Sure.” Brother Rogers grinned. “No other gang of pirates has asked for it yet. You’ll have to promise not to do any raiding or plundering around my place, though.”
“Would you get some of our loot?” I asked, not sure I wanted to trust Brother Rogers with our pirate plans or to give up any of our treasure.
“No, you can keep the loot.”
The others in the gang looked at me and nodded. I started for the door. “Well, let’s get going, then, and find out what there is to raid and plunder.”
“Wait a minute,” Brother Rogers called after us. “Are you good pirates or bad pirates?”
“Shoot,” Kyle said, “I thought all pirates were the same.”
Brother Rogers shook his head. “No,” he answered slowly. “It depends on how you raid. If you raid to do good, then you’re good pirates.”
“But what’s the sense of raiding and plundering to do good?” I wanted to know.
Brother Rogers thought for a long time. “Pirates are always looking for treasure, aren’t they?” We all nodded our heads. “Well, if you’ll raid and plunder to do good, you’ll find some treasure.”
“Oh, come on, Brother Rogers,” Jason said. “There isn’t any treasure around here. You’re just kidding us.”
Brother Rogers shook his head. “You mark my word—you pirates go on your first exploration, looking for good things to do, and before you’re finished today, you’ll have found some treasure.”
When we left, we weren’t sure that Brother Rogers knew what he was talking about. But since he’d offered to give us a hideout, we decided to give his way a try.
“What are we looking for?” Kyle grumbled, swinging his sword at a branch.
“Hey, look!” Jeremy pointed down the street at Tiffany and Tami Mason, who were walking our way. We crept into the bushes on the opposite side of the street and watched them approach.
“I wonder where they’re headed,” Marv whispered.
“They’d better watch it when they go past the Bailey place,” Joel said. “Old Ripper will scare the daylights out of them.”
Ripper was the Bailey’s German shepherd, and he was more bark than bite. But if you didn’t know that and he came charging up to you with his teeth bared and growling, you were likely to jump right out of your skin.
From where we were, we could see Ripper’s ears prick. As Tiffany and Tami approached, laughing and talking and not worrying about a thing, Ripper made his move.
“Now, Pirates!” I sang out.
Jerking the bandannas down over our foreheads and holding our swords high, we charged across the street, swinging our swords.
When Tiffany and Tami saw Ripper coming, they were so scared that they just froze. And Ripper was concentrating so hard on Tiffany and Tami that he didn’t notice us. He had charged around the Bailey’s chain-link fence and was only about five yards from Tami and Tiffany when we cut him off.
When old Ripper saw us pirates with our swords out and heard our pirate yells, his bark changed into a surprised yelp. He tried to stop, but he slid right into us. He didn’t waste any time getting turned around, though. And he didn’t stop running until he was clear around the Bailey’s house and under their back porch.
Tiffany and Tami stood wide-eyed with their mouths open. We grinned at them, and Marv made a little bow and announced, “The Piccadilly Street Pirates just wanted to make sure that you made it safely to where you were going.”
I liked the sound of that name. I puffed out my chest and said, “Yes, we’re the Piccadilly Street Pirates, and it’s our work and mission to go about spreading good.” Bowing to the two girls, I turned and shouted, “Let’s go, men.” And before Tiffany and Tami could say a word, we were gone.
“Hey, that was kind of fun,” Jason said as we hid in some bushes in my front yard.
“But we can only scare Ripper once,” Joel complained. “Now what do we do?”
“That,” Kyle said, pointing across the street to Sister Ballard’s garden. Sister Ballard had been in her garden most of the morning, pulling and hoeing weeds. But she had gone inside, leaving the last few rows of beans and peas unfinished. “Let’s finish weeding her garden,” Kyle said.
“Doesn’t seem like pirate’s work to me,” Joel grumbled.
“Let’s give it a try,” I said. “Maybe this will be as much fun as chasing old Ripper.”
We sneaked out of the bushes, crept across the street, and began to work. Because there were six of us, finishing the garden didn’t take long, and it was fun creeping up and down the rows and whispering to each other. When we finished, we gathered the weeds into a pile.
“When we do things,” Kyle said, “people need to know that pirates did it.”
“I know,” I said, “Wait here.” I ran across the street to my house for a notepad and pencil and scribbled a note: “The Piccadilly Street Pirates have struck again!” I put the note on top of the pile of weeds and jabbed a stick through it just as Sister Ballard started coming out her side door.
“Hide!” I commanded. We pushed behind the lilac bushes growing beside her house and watched. Sister Ballard pulled on her gloves, adjusted her straw hat, then walked right past the pile of weeds, picked up her hoe, and started for the rows of beans and peas!
We giggled as she began searching for weeds. She looked hard, scratched her head, and looked some more. Finally she saw our pile of weeds. When she read the note, the biggest, happiest smile spread across her face.
“The Piccadilly Street Pirates!” we heard her exclaim. “Well, that’s the best thing that’s ever happened on Piccadilly Street!”
She went into the house, and before we could slip away, she returned with a bulging bag. She set it by the weeds, then went back into the house. We looked at each other, then, making certain that no one was watching, rushed over to the weed pile. Taped to the bag was a note: “Treasure for the Piccadilly Street Pirates.” We snatched the bag and skedaddled. Safely away, we opened the bag and found chocolate chip cookies!
“Let’s go back to the hideout,” Marv said, “and eat our treasure.”
We headed for Brother Roger’s shed, but on the way we noticed that dogs had knocked over the Hansens’ garbage cans and scattered the trash, so we cleaned things up for them. Down the street Sister Wheeler had been trimming her bushes and hadn’t yet picked up the branches, so we gathered them and hauled them to the curb.
We dashed here and there, doing little good turns on the sly. And wherever we went, we left a note stuck someplace that said, “The Piccadilly Street Pirates have struck again!”
By the time we reached Brother Roger’s place, we were laughing and shouting and waving our swords like conquering heroes.
“Well, the pirates have returned.” Brother Rogers grinned as he saw us. “I finished just in time. Come in and see if you approve of your pirate den.”
“Wow!” I shouted as we filed inside. All the junk had been taken out, and the board floor had been swept. Brother Rogers had put an old table in the middle, with boxes and buckets around it for chairs. The two windows were covered with burlap sacks so that no one could peek in. There were nails pounded in the wall where we could hang our swords, and Brother Rogers had even made a big pirate map of the neighborhood and tacked it on one wall.
“We’re pirates for sure now!” Jason whooped.
“Thanks, Brother Rogers,” we all chimed in.
“And how was your raiding and plundering?” he asked with a wink.
“We saved Tiffany and Tami from Ripper.”
“We picked up the Hansens’ spilled trash.”
“We gathered branches at the Wheelers’ and hauled them to the curb.”
“We weeded part of Sister Ballard’s garden, and we even got some treasure!” I shouted, holding up the bag of cookies. “We’ll share them with you. And since we’re using your hideout, Brother Rogers, we’ll make you an honorary member of the Piccadilly Street Pirates.”
“I’ve always wanted to be a pirate,” he told us. “I’ve just been waiting for the right band to join.”