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From Jules’ unpublished kid’s book The Last Pirates of San Francisco

When you think “eye patch plus wooden leg plus shoulder parrot,” what comes to mind?

You are correct; we’re talkin’ pirate. And this, as you have so cleverly surmised, is the story of a band of pirates — pirates who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Although the whole eye patch + wooden leg + shoulder-parrot thing is as much a stereotype as, say, the jolly fat man or the wicked stepmother, in this case it is an accurate description. P.C. (Pirate Captain) Billy Blythe did indeed possess an eye patch plus a wooden leg plus a colorful-but-bad-tempered parrot on his shoulder.

He’d acquired the patch from trying to figure out where in blazes he was by gazing at the sun through a sextant, one time too many. Slowly but surely, one gaze at a time, the sun had fried his right eyeball.

He’d lost the leg while trying to attack a surprisingly well-defended merchant ship. No sooner had he thrown said leg over the railing than a saber-wielding sailor relieved him of it. The sailor gained an on-the-spot promotion; Captain Billy lost his left limb. Just below the knee.

As for the parrot, Polly (yes, another stereotype, but that indeed was her name) was won playing Pirate Poker, a game in which all the players cheated, and the best armed took home the pot. In this case, the pot held nothing but a green bird with a bad attitude.

As he worked his way up from swab to sailor to able-bodied (this was before the leg incident) seaman to third mate to second mate to first mate to pirate captain, Billy Blythe sailed several of the seven seas.

He put in time in the Caribbean, pillaging and plundering. In the North Atlantic, he attacked merchant ships, though not always, as we’ve seen, with complete success. In the South Pacific, he robbed junks and sampans. And, now, older, somewhat creakier, and past the pinnacle of his career, he planned to raise holy hellfire off the Barbary Coast of San Francisco.

(There is another Barbary Coast, also a favorite among pirates, in North Africa. Strangely, Billy Blythe never made it there, though it was on his bucket list.)

By the way, and for the sake of complete honesty, Captain Billy did not reach the pinnacle of his career entirely through cheerful hard work and a spotless attendance record. He rose to the rank of pirate captain shortly after Captain Bobby, the ship’s previous captain, quite suddenly died in his sleep. No one ever knew for certain who had poisoned him — the ship’s sawbones discovered a rather large amount of strychnine in his potato soup — but there was no doubt that his unexpected demise provided a career opportunity for then-first mate, Billy Blythe. It’s an ill wind, etc., etc.

And speaking of ill winds, in the windswept waters of the Golden Gate, at the entrance to San Francisco Bay and beneath the most beautiful bridge in the world, Captain Billy Blythe now found himself being chased by the United States Coast Guard.

 

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