Bob, the terrifying pirate captain, had four sons. He was proud to introduce them to all the frightened sea vessels he happened to cross paths with. “Prepare to be boarded by Bob the Terrible and his crew. And have ye met my fine sons Grog, Hunter, Alex, and Saber?”
Grog was on his way to being a fine second-in-command. He could load and aim a cannon while blind-folded and still hit a seagull flying leagues away. Hunter was a daring swordsman who could fight off twenty men and walk away without a scratch. Saber was still young, but he could sight an approaching ship on the horizon without a spyglass, and then steer to meet it unaided, even through the middle of a howling storm.
But Alex just didn’t seem to fit in with the other pirates. He tried. He was an excellent jewelry appraiser and could talk for hours on carats, cut, and clarity. He was a fine navigator, with a good knowledge of longitude, latitude, and degrees.
Yet if there was a fierce battle to be enjoyed, somehow Alex was somewhere else. When they were telling stories of adventure on the high seas, he looked bored. And after he’d appraised the treasure, he had no more interest in it, and never looked at it again.
“Did ye drop the lad on his head one day?” Bob asked his wife.
She hit him on the head with a spare wooden leg. “How could you say something like that? Alex just has different interests, like you did.” Then she sent him to peel potatoes while Saber took over steering the ship for a while.
Sitting in the galley peeling potatoes gave Bob a chance to think about the past. Bob’s parents were accountants. They loved to add up columns of numbers and fill out spreadsheets. They took their children on trips to the library and chess tournaments. While his brother Steve loved chess and numbers and books, Bob did not.
“Why can’t we go to the beach?” Bob asked one day. “I don’t want to be an accountant. I want to be a pirate.”
His mom laughed. “Lots of little boys and girls say they want to be pirates when they grow up. But then they find something they like better.”
“But I really do want to be a pirate,” Bob protested.
“Of course you do, dear,” she said. “But robbery and mayhem is a terrible career path. Why don’t you look into engineering? It pays well and is legal, too.”
Bob snorted as he finished peeling the last potato. Piracy paid just fine. But maybe it wasn’t for everyone. If Alex didn’t want to be a pirate, then Bob wasn’t going to insist on it. That wasn’t the pirate way.
And so, after dinner, Bob joined Alex on deck. Alex was looking out across the water, frowning. Bob patted him on the shoulder. “Son, do ye want to be a pirate or not? Because accountants are okay too, even if they’re terribly boring.”
Alex looked up. “Being a pirate is nice.”
“But do ye love it? It’s not a career for the half-hearted.”
Alex sighed and looked out at the waves again. “I don’t love it. I don’t like it when there’s fights or things get loud. I think treasure is boring. And sometimes, when the weather is bad, I get seasick.” He looked back up at Bob and whispered, “Are you mad at me?”
“Of course not.” Bob smiled and ruffled his hand through Alex’s hair. “Ye can’t help being who you are.”
“So now what?” Alex asked.
“We’ll write to your uncle Steve and see if he can recommend a good school for you.” Bob smiled as Alex hugged him.
Alex let go with a frown. “But if I go to school, I won’t see you and Mom and Grog and Hunter and Saber any more.”
Bob laughed. “Of course you will. Pirates never give up their treasures, and you and your brothers are my real treasures. You’ll see us. We have to find someone to appraise the rest of the treasure, after all.”
Alex smiled. “Someone else might cheat you and ignore obvious inclusions that affect the clarity of the gems.”
Bob nodded. “Yeah, that. So we’ll jump out from the shadows when you least expect it.”
Alex leaned against the railing. “I’d hate to get out of practice. Jump away.”
“That’s the plan. I guess someone in the family had to be respectable.”
Alex looked up. “Thanks, Dad. I love you.”
“I love you too.”