Look, Daddy, a pirate!

The little boy tugged on his father’s hand. “Look, Daddy, a pirate!”

His father looked over from a storefront window displaying the latest wigs from England. He glanced at the filthy man lying against the wall. “It’s just a dirty old beggar,” said the father, pulling his son toward the shop door. “There aren’t any pirates any more.”

When they had gone, the old man coughed, and phlegm ran down his yellow beard. He stirred, and the overlarge coat weighed him down like an anchor as he stood up, bracing himself against the wall. He lifted his head to raise rheumy eyes toward the port, where the scaffold still stood as a reminder.

The old man wheezed, then spoke. “I’m sorry, lads. If I would have known it would be like this, I never would have run.” His voice was a dry rustle in his throat. “I can’t join you. I tried to climb it, to end it where you all did, but my knees won’t bend, and besides, I can’t remember how to tie the knot.”

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