Thursday, February 3, 2011


I live across the street from a pirate. I know you may not believe me, but it's true. He's about fifty years old, wears a red bandana, and carries around a single crutch, regardless of the fact he appears to have no functional need for it. He has a goatee, a few chain necklaces, and a little dog he keeps on a leather leash, a dog about the size of a parrot.

He's an early riser, the pirate is. In fact, for the past two years he's been my most consistent alarm clock, always crowing with the sunrise, howling like he's lost at sea, letting our city block wake up with a stir.

He doesn't have a job. No way. At least not in the sense that you and I probably think. The pirates job is to sit on his porch. That's it, which he's very good at. Day and night, rain or shine, or even blizzard, as I recently discovered, the pirate sits, cooing at random strangers. Some loud coos, some soft coos, but always with his full heart.

"Co, co, co," the pirate says.

The pirate is a cooer.

And he gets angry sometimes, too. At least once a week - maybe more. Little tantrums for the whole block to take in. I never actually see what he's upset about, however, just the aftermath. He'll stand in the middle of the street, with no apparent warning, yelling at cars, flailing his arms, spitting and hitting his crutch on the ground.

"Co, fuck, Co, cunt, Co, shit," the pirate says.

The pirate swears like a sailor.

Once, over the summer, the pirate came on to his porch inebriated and holding a knife. He stabbed the air, over and over, moving it in all directions. He even lunged at a person. It was terrifying. Naturally, people saw this and either went back into their homes or quickly scurried down the block, while the pirate simply moved to the center of the road, slowly, as if purposely making himself a centerpiece. And here he continued his stabbing, swearing, fighting off enemies that only he could see, like he had a war to finish he'd been training his entire life for. I wouldn't dare leave my apartment that day. I couldn't. So I just stared at the pirate from my window, watching him stumble with his little dog, pointing his crutch, bouncing his chain necklaces, and dancing his knife. And that's when I noticed that dozens of other people were watching him, too. All from the safety of their homes. All of us, together, like we were at a drive-in, a musical, and it was just another day. I remembered wondering why no one was calling the police. With the current situation, it seemed like a rather reasonable thing to do, but, strangely, I already knew why no one was calling. It was because he was ours. As crazy as it sounds, the pirate belonged to us, our block, and no one wanted to turn him away. And that's my favorite thing about him. The fact that he never leaves. Never. It's only porch to porch, or up and down the street. That's it, and then he turns back to where he started. It's almost like he can't go anywhere else. That he doesn't trust anywhere else. This is his home. His boat. The pirate. The captain. And I'd bet anything in the world that one day he'll die on this block. That's what he wants. I know it. Right here on Dekalb Avenue. Right here on his porch. His plank - walking off into the sea.

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