"One day, while reading your favorite book on the beach, you notice a boat slowly drifting to shore. It eventually lands near your spot. A person, draped in pirate clothes, yells to you from the boat, “I have a treasure map and I need help. Are you in?”"
Finally a day all to myself. I headed out to my favorite quiet beach access on the northern edge of Anna Maria Island. The sun was bright and intense, but there was a cool breeze blowing from the west that kept the temperature pleasant. I made sure to apply plenty of sunscreen to protect myself from getting burned. I had abandoned my Kindle and grabbed Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. It had been years since I had read that masterpiece in one sitting. Today seemed like the perfect day for it.
I set up my beach chair, dug my toes in the cool, soft white sand and opened the book.
“In the late summer of that year we lived in a house…”
Hemingway’s words were like a long set of poetic prose. Such a literary genius. After the first chapter I looked up on the horizon and noticed a tiny spot directly to the west. I paused at the distant ship for a long time, trying to gauge the size from the distance. It had to be a substantially big craft to appear at the edge of where the sky met the sea. I continued reading.
I read only a few more pages and looked back up again. The ship was approaching at an alarming rate. And even more surprising was that it sat at the same spot on the horizon, just a lot closer. I could tell it was some sort of sailboat. It looked like an old schooner. I stared at the ship a moment longer, before trying my best to continue reading. It wasn't long before I looked up again.
It wasn't a schooner, but a tall frigate, with three towering masts and her sails in full scuttle. The mainsail blocked out the sun. The ship came to a crashing stop upon the beach, sand and seawater spraying high in the air. I closed my eyes as the sand pelted my face. A strong gust of wind accompanied the arrival of this mysterious ship.
I must have dozed off reading Hemingway’s masterpiece. But whether it was a dream or not, I distinctly heard the steady thump of wood hitting wood. I wiped the sand out of my eyes and looked up to the top of the bow of the boat. That was the first time I saw him. The Pirate.
“I have a treasure map and need help. Are you in?” Of course, that question really sounded like ‘RRRRRrrrr you in?’
At that point I still thought this was some crazy ass dream, so I answered his question appropriately.
“Fuck yeah I’m in.”
“Well said lad,” this mysterious pirate pulled a worn leather cap upon his long mangy hair and stepped his pegged leg upon the wooden bulwark. “Now give us a push and climb aboard.” He sent a thick white rope raveling down the side of the ship. It was a good thirty feet for me to climb.
“Did you just tell me to give you a push?”
“Rightly so lad. Now quit your lollygagging and push us off this wretched beach.”
I chuckled to myself and put my hands on the center beam. That was the moment I thought to myself that the boat felt way to real to be a dream. But I pushed anyway.
And the boat moved.
(I could have ended it here, and left the rest of the story to the reader's imagination, but here is what I created)
“Damn your peg leg!” I shouted at Lazarus. We had about a hundred fathoms to go before we reached the Red Sea, and that was all we would need. From there Mary would find us. She had never let us down before.
What a crazy adventure. We had the treasure: the hulking chest, which we carried on two acacia poles that ran the length of each side. We had sailed halfway around the world, braved the weather, disease, the REAL pirates. Our crew had grown as large as forty-four, but now it was just me and the Captain; as it had been when this journey had begun many days ago on that wretched Florida beach. We had the single greatest treasure in our hands; the secrets to eternal life would finally be confirmed. We just had to get it out of Africa and share it with the world. The Ethiopians had been telling the truth. They had held the Ark for centuries. And only Captain Lazarus was brave enough to go after it.
Bullets continued to whiz by my head. Lazarus was running as quickly as he could, but his peg was slowing us way down. I should have drove the truck into the water. I thought we could cross the beach on foot. Mary had turned her sails and was rushing forth, but her powers ended at the water line. I felt a painful burning sensation tear through my right leg. One of the Ethiopian soldiers had finally decided to aim and not just fire their AK’s wildly into the air. The pain was intense and I momentarily fell to my right knee. The Ark shifted and we could hear the loud thumping of two heavy objects inside the wooden chest.
Lazarus, incredibly, began to laugh.
“Quick your lollygagging.”
“I just got shot!”
“Leave the Ark.”
Lazarus had already dropped his end and he grabbed me. The loud report of gunfire echoed around us.
“Yes lad, before you get killed. Or I get killed. I’ll have another go at this. But you got me the closest I have ever been. Let’s get to Mary and get you home.”
“But,” I tried to argue, but he was dragging me effortlessly to the water. Mary was waiting patiently, her starboard side facing us and a rope ladder strung over the bulwark. That was going to be a pain to climb with a shot leg. And then it dawned on me.
“The cannons,” I said as I gazed at their menacing iron barrels protruding from the gun deck.
“Takes a crew to fire ‘em,” Lazarus argued. “And we’re the only crew.”
“She won’t fire them?”
Lazarus just chuckled. “Not Mary.” We had reached her side. “She be a peace bearing ship lad. She won’t fire those cannons. I don’t even think she likes ‘em in her belly, but she can’t help that right now. Up the ladder, come on with you.”
I began to climb. Mary bore out to sea as soon as both the Captain and I had our hands on the ladder. I stole one look back to our treasure, which was now surrounded by Ethiopian paramilitary members. They had stopped firing. They had the Ark back in their hands. But I had touched those poles. I had seen the golden cherubim with my own eyes. I had heard the thud of Moses's stone commandments within the wooden chest. I had felt the weight of centuries old mystery and myth in my hands. I had felt the weight of the world on my shoulders as we had carried the Ark from the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion under fire as our crew engaged those selfishly guarding the greatest secret in the world.
Lazarus was right. He would have another go at it. The guy had couldn't die, unless his death came by the hands of man. He was immune to age and disease, forever frozen in time, ever since Jesus had brought him back long ago. But Lazarus was wrong if he thought he would be doing it without me. There’s a reason he picked me. We just had to find a better crew. We’d be back. The treasure would be ours and the worlds soon enough. We would need a new map. The Ethiopians were sure to relocate the Ark now. But the treasure would remain the same. We just needed to find a new first mate, a new crew, all who were waiting unexpectedly on a lonely beach somewhere in the world. I smiled and breathed in the fresh salty air, thinking back to that day when Lazarus and Mary had appeared out of the clear blue. I'm so glad I had said I was in.