“Mommy!” Sally Simpson shouted from the site of her latest adventure. She was seven, desperate to be thirteen. She could find adventure in the unlikeliest of places — a cardboard box, a furry worm, or a pile of rocks could be turned into magic kingdoms and wiggly monsters. “MOMMY! LOOKIT!”
Sally’s mother sat on the veranda reading in the shade, a tall mint julep sat beside her; light on the mint — heavy on the julep. She lifted her sunglasses and tried to focus on her daughter. Between the distance and effects of her third drink, focusing was a losing battle. “What is it, sweetheart?” she shouted.
“I want to show you something.” Sally turned her scrutiny back to her creation. A small stack of old books borrowed from her mother’s library sat on the stump as a short pedestal for a small ocean; blue paper folded into a magnificent tiny boat stood amid cut bits of cardboard — a paper sea wrought and crafted from the big imagination of a clever little girl.
“Can you bring it up here?” Dana Simpson slurred over the top of her next sip. “I don’t want to get out in the sun.”
Sally turned back and watched her mother drink. At seven years old she knew the score and intuitively understood the fuel of her mother’s indifference. She resigned in futility and shouted back, “Never mind, Mom. I can show you later.”
Moments later, a mother’s watchful eyes closed as she drifted off to sleep, the open pages of the latest Nora Roberts caressing her chest.
Sally frowned and turned back to the tiny paper ocean. She laid her head down on the stump, her eyes level with the top of the books and focused on the little blue boat. “I wish I had someone to play with… somebody… anybody…” She closed her eyes.
A moment later Sally thought she heard a small voice, quiet and subdued, like a child far off in the distance. “I’ll play with you,” the tiny voice said. “We can play together!”
Sally opened her eyes and stared at the folded paper boat. She watched with marvel as the surface of the book turned to a light choppy sea and the boat began to bob in the undulating water. “Ahoy, Sally,” the distant voice shouted. “Avast ye land-lubber, are ye ready to sail the seas?”
And then she saw him, no bigger than a cricket, standing in the folds of the paper boat. He wore a tiny folded hat, black as ink, and adorned with feather bits and jewels. One eye was covered with a leather patch and the other eye was red as the tip of a burning match. “Are you a pirate?” Sally asked.
“I’m whatever you want me to be,” he replied. “Today I’m a pirate. Tomorrow I might be a cowboy or an astronaut. I’m anything you can dream me to be.”
She smiled and watched the little pirate in wonderment. “Can I sail in your boat?”
“Arrr, sweet lass, that you may. There’s booty to plunder.”
Sally’s world began to twirl in a mixture of sharp color and fractured sound. Around and around she spun, shrinking and spinning until she landed on the deck of her little paper boat. Her pink shirt and jeans were gone, replaced with the clothes of a pirate wench, much like her sister wore last Halloween. Gold rings hung from each ear and a heavy wooden sword tugged at a sash wrapped around her as a cloth belt.
“I’m a pirate!” Sally squealed.
“That you are, lass, a real scallywag.”
“What’s your name?”
“My name is Captain Black and this ship is the Papyrus!”
Sally Simpson and Captain Black sailed the Papyrus around the great seas of the world and took ship after ship as their prize. From Tortuga to Siam they practiced the pirate trade until the ship sat low in the water from the weight of treasure.
“It’s time we sail for home.” Captain Black said as he spun the boat’s wooden wheel around and around and around. “We should leave these waters before the storm.”
“Sally,” Dana Simpson whispered as she gave her daughter a slight shake. “Sally, you need to wake up, baby. It’s getting ready to storm.” Thunder crashed in the distance.
Sally’s eyes fluttered. Her head lifted from the side of the old stump, the stack of books and the paper sea, sat exactly as she remembered. Her mouth turned down in a sour bow and she scanned the tiny ship for a sign of Captain Black before sighing, “It was only a dream.”
Dana Simpson noticed that Sally had used one of her spell books, The Mind and Magical Journeys, for the landscape of her handiwork. “Sweetheart, you know I’ve asked you not to play with my magic books.” After a short pause, she quizzed, “Did you make any wishes?”
“It was only a small wish.”
Mickey Mills has been published at EveryDayFiction, Write-in Magazine, Everyday Weirdness and other places around the web. He is elbow deep in the NaNoWriMo challenge this November working on his second novel, Haunting Charleston. His debut novel, Haunting Injustice, has been described as: “…a bona fide page-turning thriller.”