Page 13 Cartoons

The Captain

February 15, 2007

One day, while I was cleaning my dorm room, I found a tiny pirate. I looked inside a gym bag I hadn’t used in a while, and there he was. He’s about the height of my knee, 15 inches I guess—he won’t hold still long enough for me to measure him. He’s got a tiny hat, a tiny cutlass, a tiny eye-patch and a tiny, mangy beard. When he saw me he brandished his cutlass and said, “Aarr.”

“Hello,” I said.

“Gyarr,” he said.

“How long have you been here?” I asked.

“Yo ho!” he said, and punched me in the face.

I have no idea where he came from—presumably there’s a tiny galley somewhere that’s missing a crewmember—or how long he’d been hiding in my gym bag. I think he’d been living off a big bag of stale Doritos. I bought a doggie bed for him and furnished it with some blankets and a bottle of Jamaican rum. I came back from class the next day and found that the rum was gone and the doggie bed had been fitted with a mast (whittled from my roommate’s baseball bat) and sails (sewn together from the pages of my econ textbook), and was being used to wreak havoc upon the waters of my overflowing bathtub. He prefers to sleep in a desk drawer stuffed with straw. My roommate and I call him “the Captain.”

There is no statute in the University Housing Regulations Handbook that prohibits the presence of buccaneers of any size in a dorm room, but all the same I havenÂ’t told our RA. My roommate and I agreed that this is probably the wisest course of action, as certain aspects of the CaptainÂ’s behavior might go unappreciated: dancing jigs at all hours, swilling bottles of rum twice his size, bringing in tiny wenches for tiny mischief-making, and so forth.

The Captain is great with girls. Whenever I take him for walks around campus, he always attracts a lot of attention. They ask if that’s my little brother or nephew or son riding on my shoulders and pulling my hair, and I very suavely reply that no, it is in fact a tiny pirate. “Yar-hargh,” the Captain says. They usually ask if they can touch him, and I advise that it’s probably not a good idea, because he invariably bites them, or leaps at their faces, or plunders their wallets and scuttles off into the bushes. We laugh it off and go have coffee. The Captain, meanwhile, runs around campus plundering until he gets tired or hungry, and then he goes back to the room. His favorite food is Oreos, but I make sure he gets lots of citrus because pirates are at high risk for scurvy.

I searched “Tiny Pirate Care” on Google, and between the Lego maintenance sites and the porn sites that I avoided for obvious reasons, I discovered a lot I’d found out already—he doesn’t play well with animals or children, one shouldn’t take his hat or tug his beard, he should be kept away from full pint glasses—and a lot of stuff I hadn’t—he’s a very adept sailor (provided he can reach the ropes and helm), may feel a quiet yearning for the sea, though he’d never show it (just because he’s tiny doesn’t mean he’s any less manly), and his favorite movie is Stuart Little because it features a tiny boat race (also because it is a movie about a tiny person overcoming adversity and finding acceptance).

Of course, the Captain and I have our differences. I disapprove of his tendency to start drunken brawls, which are usually with frat boysÂ’ shins. I keep telling him that if heÂ’d just leave them alone they would stop punting him into the river. He pretends not to hear me.

He seems not to appreciate my collared shirts, feeling that they need to have puffier sleeves and more frills down the front, and on several occasions he took it upon himself to make the appropriate alterations. However, he is a tiny pirate, not a tiny tailor, and the alterations were made mainly with his cutlass. I appreciated the gesture, but I canÂ’t wear those shirts again.

We tried to compromise on the matter of his hygiene—or rather, his conspicuous lack thereof. He despises personal grooming, as it is contrary to his piratical nature, and I don’t want to force him to do something that is against his beliefs, but he could at least hold still while I spray him with the Lysol so I don’t have to chase him around the room.

He can be very moody, occasionally trying to make me walk the plank, or setting my belongings aflame, or retreating to his drawer and slamming it shut and not talking to me for hours on end.

I tried disciplining the Captain once, after the incident with the showers. One afternoon I came upon him laying siege to the womenÂ’s showers on our floor. After blocking up the peep holes, dismantling the barricade and tiny trebuchets heÂ’d built from the common room furniture (heÂ’s an inventive little bastard), and putting a stop to his tiny cannonade (heÂ’d found a half-dozen tiny yet fully functional 18th century front-loading cannons for $100 on eBay; he paid with my credit card), I gave him a long lecture about manners, chivalry, the advances society has made since the Golden Age of Piracy, and the rules of honorable combat.

“You need to respect women,” I scolded. “It’s rude to ogle them and invade their privacy like that.”

“Harrgh,” said the Captain.

“Not to mention, it’s not fair to attack a group of unarmed, naked people, regardless of gender. They need a chance to defend themselves.”

“Yarr, gya-harr,” he protested.

“I don’t care if you live by the law of the sea. This is America! We do things differently here. When we’re on the sea, we can do things your way, but here, we do things my way. Understand?”

“Arr,” he conceded.

The next day, he attacked the menÂ’s showers. To his credit, he handed out loin cloths and cutlasses so his victims technically werenÂ’t naked and defenseless, and then he clogged the drains, flooded the room, and sailed around on his doggie bed boat, so he was technically under the jurisdiction of the law of the sea. The guys actually thought it was pretty cool, and were enjoying themselves until Jacobs caught a smattering of grapeshot in the shoulder. They told the paramedics he fell down some stairs.

I got back from class just as the ambulance was pulling away and maintenance was draining the showers. It didn’t take long to figure out what had happened, and when I tracked down the Captain we had a second, very long talk. Of course, he didn’t see that he’d done anything wrong, and I had a hell of a time explaining to him that while sea-faring and piracy may be enjoyable, they are not for the hallway or the bathroom. I told him he was grounded, and that he was not to leave the room for a week. In response, he tore out all the pages from my Spanish textbook and tried to get my roommate to walk the plank (the “plank” was actually a wooden ruler taped to the window sill; my roommate decided not to walk it). All in all, we both learned from the experience. I try to be less strict with him, and he tries not to shoot people.

Before we went home for Christmas break, I managed to convince the Captain that he couldnÂ’t take his cutlass on the plane and should leave it in the room, though he didnÂ’t part with it lightly, and moped about it the whole way to the airport.

He was pretty impressed with the size of the terminal and liked being able to see the planes up close, but was less-than-pleased with security. The guards were very dubious of him and kept asking to see his boarding pass and waving the little metal detector wand at him. Once we were on the plane, the stewardess wanted to put him in the over-head compartment, but I managed to talk her out of it. The Captain didnÂ’t appreciate the booster seat he had to use, and was frustrated that he couldnÂ’t reach the call button, but once he discovered how to open his bag of peanuts he settled down. He spent some time frightening the businessman seated next to us, but eventually curled up and went to sleep.

My family was pretty accepting of him. My little brother loved him, of course, and after a lot of convincing my parents finally decided that the responsibility that comes with looking after a mad seaman might be good for my growth and maturity. The important thing is: they let me keep him.

He liked my room at home, and he respected my parentsÂ’ hospitality enough to keep his raucous destructive behavior to a minimum. My German Shepherd tried to bury him in the backyard the first day we were there, but later she let him ride on her back, which he seemed to enjoy. HeÂ’s looking forward to going back in the summer.

It is trying at times, but the good memories far outweigh the bad. If I am angry at him for something he did or someone he shanghaied, I take a deep breath, count to 10, and remember all the pleasant memories: the time he split his Halloween plunder with me (twice his weight in candy and doubloons), the way he snarls and makes stabbing motions in his sleep, how I hid him in my backpack and brought him to Euro Civ on the day we covered Blackbeard and Anne Bonny (the latter of which he was totally smitten with), or the way he yells “Yo Ho” at my roommate’s girlfriend.

When all is said and done, IÂ’m glad I found him. Or rather, IÂ’m glad he found me. IÂ’ve promised to take him sailing on the lake near my house next time weÂ’re there, and he has begun building a schooner in preparation for the trip. IÂ’ll have to make sure he doesnÂ’t arm it too heavily, but IÂ’m certain heÂ’ll enjoy himself. Our futureÂ’s a little uncertain, but I know that with my tiny pirate by my side, we can brave the roughest seas and the darkest depths. Yo ho, me hearties.

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