A long time ago in the Caribbean Sea, where every sailor steers clear of the Dry Tortugas, lived a pirate boy named Patrick. His mother, his brother and his father were all pirates, but sometimes Patrick fell into dreams. And this morning he dreamed of the prettiest, most beautiful girl in the Seven Seas and All the Oceans too.
Well, Patrick’s brother, Gene, heard him muttering in his sleep about that girl. So it was Gene got up that morning and said to his father, “Pap! Fix me up a sailing ship. I’m taking the seas pirating for the prettiest, most beautiful girl in the Seven Seas and All the Oceans too.”
“Hey!” said Patrick, “that’s my dream. You picked it clean from me.”
“It’s mine now,” said Gene.
So it was that his pap gave Gene a three-masted schooner with twenty cannons and a pirate crew. “But I get half yer booty,” Pap touched the handle of his cutlass, “or so help me I’ll hoist you by yer hair and skewer your belly tattoo.”
His mother wiped Gene’s nose. “Now, don’t you go sailing into the Dry Tortugas. There’s monsters down there.”
“Mum, I’m not such a fool as that, for I’m after the prettiest, most beautiful—”
“Ba-Gorah! I heard you yelling that all night long.”
“‘Twasn’t me, Mum.”
“You always shift the blame, Gene. Now, get on with you,” and she pushed him out the door.
They weren’t a lovey-dovey family. They were pirates. Gene went swashbuckling down on the dock to board his vessel. But on the gangway blocking him was an ugly old woman from the goat hills.
“If you’re sailing out pirating, young man, you’ll need some luck. Kiss my warts, and I’ll bring you good luck on the Seven Seas.”
Gene squinted at the hag and looked around at his crew. All their faces turned pale at the hideous thought of such kisses. So he said, “Dump her in the harbor.” And the whole crew scrambled down the gangway and dumped her. It was lucky the old gal could swim, yet the sharks nearly got her before she made shore.
Gene sailed away, but the winds weren’t right. The ship headed straight into the Dry Tortugas. That was welcome news for the three monsters waiting there. They scowled and brooded and bawled¾the Hot Monster, the Cold Monster and the Water Monster. They caught that ship and made short work of her. And for many a year sailors passing could see down full fathom five into those depths. They took a warning from Gene and his men swaying in the tide, seaweed growing out of their eyes.
Pap and Mum waited and waited around till they fell off their stools. But Patrick kept dreaming. “She’s the prettiest, most beautiful girl in the Seven Seas and All the Oceans too.” Yet nobody was listening. So he shook his Pap. “Get me a ship!”
“No ship to be got, my second son. Only a longboat. It’s yours if you want, but it won’t hold a cannon.”
So Patrick stepped into his boots and set off without a crew or a cannon.
“Oh, my boy, don’t go sailing into the Dry Tortugas.” His mother tried to wipe his nose.
But Patrick turned away. “I’ll mind my own nose, Mum, and I’ll sail where the wind takes me.” He waved goodbye. But down on the dock was that old hag from the goat hills sitting by his boat.
“Kiss my warts for luck, Mate!”
Patrick looked at her, and he saw the old woman was suffering from sores all over her body. He leaned over and kissed. It wasn’t to his liking, no it wasn’t, but he could use the luck. Then he tore off part of his sleeve, dowsed the rag with rum from his flask and wiped the old woman’s sores until they came clean. “Is that better?” he asked.
She smiled. “It tingles and burns right smart!” Then she waved her finger, and a little bird flew in, a yellow bird. She whispered to it, “He’s after that girl.” The bird flew out and landed on his shoulder.
So Patrick the Pirate stuffed the rag in his back pocket, raised his gaff-rigged sheet and sailed away on the blue Caribbean Sea with the bird on the bow. But the winds blew him down into the Dry Tortugas. The Hot Monster, the Cold Monster and the Water Monster thought this was their lucky day.
Patrick called out to them, “What do you want?”
“I’m the Hot Monster, and I’ll make you pay!” And that monster flung him a fistful of angry names, the kind nobody should use.
“I’m the Cold Monster, and I’ll make you pay!” And that monster leveled him with a two-ton glare.
“I’m the Water Monster, and I can’t control myself!” And that monster was very near to blubbering and blubbering.
Patrick didn’t know what to do, but the yellow bird piped up and sang on the pure air. Those monsters howled like wind, but they had never heard such singing. When Patrick heard it he started to dance a jig, tipping his longboat smartly side-to-side, and when the monsters growled and howled and bawled the louder he danced a hornpipe. Those monsters, against their bearings, felt themselves falling in step with the birdsong and dance. They weren’t sure they wanted to, but they all calmed down and climbed in the boat to help with the rowing and sailing. And Patrick, glad for a crew, took the helm.
They sailed past the Amazon River and Cape Horn into the Southern Ocean. They heard beautiful cello music on the breeze. Ahead was the Island of Cellos where the king of cellos lived. He loved cello music, and his daughter played it best. When the king woke up each day and heard her playing, well, that always made a good day for him.
But today Patrick’s little yellow bird came flying and singing at her windowsill. She stopped playing and listened. The bird flew out singing on the breeze. The princess looked out her window at a beautiful bronze man sailing to shore with his motley crew. Patrick glanced up at her, and they looked in each other’s eyes from ever so far. “Ah!”
But the king said, “It stopped. The music stopped.” There was birdsong, but he was used to only hearing cello.
Patrick bounded up the steps of the castle to the king. “Your Majesty, your daughter is the prettiest, most beautiful girl in the Seven Seas and All the Oceans too.”
“I know,” said the king.
“I want to marry her,” said Patrick.
The king looked at his princess and saw that she was willing, but he had other ideas. “Perhaps! Perhaps you can spend a night in the bed that FREEZES.” And the guards dragged Patrick off to a room. They strapped him into the bed that freezes, with a cold that stabs the heart. “No one can live through that,” said the king.
But the Hot Monster slipped into the room as well and wrapped his angry arms around the bed and his master
“Not too hot, now.”
“Trust me!” said the Hot Monster, and Patrick’s heart stayed in place.
The next day they were all surprised to see him standing strong. The princess was so happy, but the king other plans. “Perhaps! Perhaps you can spend a night in the bed that FRIES.” And the guards dragged him off to a room. They strapped him into the bed that fries, with a heat that sears the heart. “No one can live through that,” said the king.
But the Cold Monster slipped into the room as well and wrapped his jealous arms around the bed and his master.
“Not too cold, now.”
“Trust me!” said the Cold Monster, and Patrick’s heart stayed in place.
The next day they were all surprised, and the princess clapped for joy, but the king rolled his eyes and made a face. “Perhaps! Perhaps you can spend the night in the bed of a THOUSAND CUTS.” And the guards dragged Patrick off to a room. They strapped him into the bed of a thousand cuts. It was littered with broken promises, bits that cut a thousand ways. “Now really, nobody can live through that,” said the king. And there was truth in his words.
Patrick was cut all over, and the Water Monster slipped into the room. At the sight of Patrick, cut all over with broken promises, the Water Monster began shedding tears, salty tears by the cups, by the buckets, by the barrels. Water filled the room and splashed into every room in the castle. Then the salt sea itself began to rise, and the whole island was drowning in a tide of tears from the Water Monster’s blubbering and blubbering. He couldn’t control himself at all. Everyone in the kingdom grabbed a cello for a boat. But a cello can’t take the waves. It was never meant for a that. Even the king began to sink.
But the little yellow bird flew to the princess. She saw Patrick floating off. She paddled after him and pulled him onto the roof of the castle. The bird sang out.
“What? Where?” said the princess. “You mean in his back pocket?” And she pulled out a little rag of a sleeve. One at a time she wiped the bits of broken promises from his wounds. Patrick woke up, and the Water Monster calmed down. At last the sea fell back and the island began to emerge again.
Then the sun came out, and everyone got dry. Two days later they had a wedding. Those island people played their cellos. Patrick and his princess promised each other their deepest love and danced around with the motley crew of monsters. The day after that Patrick and his princess sailed away in their gaff-rigged longboat. Then the king was left to learn to play the cello himself. He scratched and scratched on the strings while his people plugged their ears.
Patrick and his princess took the wind across the sea to their own island, one with lakes and hills and a cello or two. They are still living there, last I heard, that is, if the winds didn’t come round and blow them back to the Dry Tortugas.