Authors: James Kahn
“No, they didn't have herring then,” Data explained patiently. Being of Chinese descent, he had a lot of patience. Also had
a major thing with history—like I said before, he was a kind of all-around heavy thinker. “This was right after Christopher
Columbus,” he went on sayin', “in the seventeenth century. They only had ships. They were adventure guys and explorers. They
made maps and captured Indians and spent all their time killing each other with swords—you know, Errol Flynn stuff.”
That was right, too. My dad used to tell me about some of it. This place was like a suburb of the Spanish Main at one time.
And up here, in this old attic collection, I could almost see it, almost smell it. You know what I'm talkin' about?
I walked over to a corner near the skylight where a bunch of old framed photographs and drawings were stacked. I started flippin'
through 'em. Right above me a little piece of glass had cracked out of the skylight. It wasn't raining now, but the wind had
picked up and was blowin' in onto my face. That old October wind. And suddenly somethin' about the way I was standin' and
the funny greenish-purple sky and all this olden stuff around me and that zoned-out something's-gonna-happen wind and that
musty attic smell… I just knew I was on to somethin'.
And it was right then that I looked down and noticed this framed map.
I picked it up to look at closer, but it was impossible to read, all covered over by this dusty, yellowed glass. I tried to
pull off the frame, but it wouldn't budge. I turned it over, but the back was covered by a sheet of wood. The only way I was
ever gonna get to read that map was to break the glass.
But I couldn't bring myself to do it. I mean, my dad was responsible for all this stuff, I couldn't just go around trashin'
it. On the other hand, Uncle Art always said you can't make an omelet unless you break a few eggs. On the other hand, Uncle
Art is still on probation, I think, or maybe he's in that work program now.
Anyway, just then I noticed Chunk workin' on tryin' to get a paint can that he'd accidentally stepped into off his foot. I
thought I should help him, but I couldn't if I was
holdin' the map, so I got an idea. “Hey, Chunk, hold this for me,” I said, and handed it to him.
He nodded and took it. I had to stand there maybe ten or fifteen seconds, trying to figure out the best way to help him before
he suddenly lost his balance and fell over, dropping the map, shattering the glass into a zillion pieces.
Like I said before, Chunk wasn't the lightest guy on his feet.
“Can't you do anything right?” I sort of snapped at him. He shrugged, kind of embarrassed, and I was sorry right away that
I'd made him feel bad, just for breakin' my eggs—I mean, glass.
So I helped him up and got the paint can off his foot and then, with this weird feeling, I picked up the map.
It slid out of the frame real easy now, along with a small gold doubloon. Swear to God, a real gold coin.
The map was all creased and cracked and hand-painted in perfect detail. All of the writing was in Spanish with little arrows
by some of it and little pictures by some of it, and at the bottom it was signed by some guy named “One-Eyed Willy.” It was
written in Spanish, but that's what Mouth said it said.
I stared at that signature. Man, I stared. Something about it, I don't know, something just got me.
I looked over at the part of the map that was coastline. It looked real familiar to me. I followed it up slowly with my eyes,
around this peninsula that looked kinda like the head of a hammerhead shark, then back up along this pretty straight area
that got more and more full of coves, until it came to this kind of mountainous cliff drawn in, and right below the cliff
was this big red
I felt, like thunderstruck. I just knew, somehow, that this big red
. You know, like
spot. And all this stuff I've been tellin' you, about foolin' the maid and foolin' my mom and all this other foolin' around—that
was all kids' stuff.
marked the end of all that.
Ye Intruders Beware… One-Eyed Willy… We Slip Out the Back, Jack… We Stop for Provisions… Jerk Alert… Saved by Brand… Up the
Coast… The Lighthouse
All the other guys gathered around. They were still wearing some of the pirate things, hats and scarves and stuff like that.
The doubloon was like a large round coin, with sort of a coat-of-arms stamped on it, and three irregular triangular holes
cut into it, two near one edge, one near the opposite. There was also a cross stamped near the third hole, and Spanish words
around the edge, and some notches on one side. I held it up to the light.
Chunk took it out of my hand and looked at it real close. “This says 1532. It that a year, or what?”
“It's your top score on Donkey Kong,” said Mouth.
Data ran his finger along the map's coastline, like he was into some really deep stuff. “Maybe that's how it used to look,”
he said. “You know, before they put up all the Wendy's and McDonald's.”
“All the good stuff,” Chunk added. Some day he was
gonna do the editorial rebuttal at the end of the 6 o'clock news, I bet.
Brand pointed to the Spanish words at the top of the map. “What's all this say?”
Mouth translated. “It says ‘Chunk's… father… screws… sheep…’”
Chunk hit him a good one, right in the kidneys. Mouth just gave his usual obnoxious cackle, though. Then he got on his straight
face, and translated again, for real, this time:
“Ye intruders beware
Crushing death and grief,
Soaked with Blood,
Of the trespassing thief.”
We all looked at him like he was jackin' around again, rhymin' just to hear himself rhyme, but he raised his hand in the Boy
Scout Pledge, which meant no lie.
Data got kind of BFD about the whole thing then. “That map's old news,” he said. “Everybody and his grandfather went after
that treasure when our parents were our ages. Didn't you ever hear of that pirate guy? One-Eyed Willy?”
And Mouth sure wasn't gonna believe in anything Data didn't believe in. “Sounds like your basic, boring Saturday morning TV
junk for teeny kids,” he said just too cool.
“Hey! One-Eyed Willy!” I said. I was tryin' to get some enthusiasm going. “He was the biggest pirate of his time. My dad told
me all about him one night.”
“Yeah, Dad'll tell you anything to get you to go to sleep,” said Brand.
There was no point in dealing with Brand when he got like this, though. “He had millions in treasure,” I told
'em, “but the King sent ships after him. So Willy took
ship, called the
, and ducked into this cave to hide. But the King's men sealed him up inside it with cannon fire.” It was clear as a picture
“Your dad oughta write for the movies,” said Mouth.
“My dad doesn't lie,” I said, “and he told me that Willy and his bunch spent years hiding out down there, building these underground
caves loaded with all kindsa booby traps to protect the treasure.”
“Whatever you say, man.”
Then Chunk looked down to the place where I'd found the map, and next to it he found a framed yellow newspaper with a photo
of an old, smiling man who looked sort of like Gabby Hayes in a miner's hat. Chunk read the headlines on top of the photograph.
“‘Chester Copperpot Missing in Pursuit of Local Legend.’” And then under that, in smaller type, he read, “‘Reclusive Scavenger
Claims “I have the key to One-Eyed Willy!”’”
Data doubted. “Nobody ever found nothing. Why do you think that map is sitting up here instead of in a safe-deposit box somewhere?”
Their doubts were like water down my back, though. “But… but what if…
, you guys! What if this leads to One-Eyed Willy's stash?”
Then Brand stepped in, like a cold, rational fish. Like a wet blanket. Like an adult. “Take off all that junk, you guys. My
mom's gonna come back soon.”
And then the door bell rang.
It was like time for study hall or somethin', with the hall monitors out in force. We all tore off our pirate clothes and
raced down to see who was at the door and to show whoever it was that we were bein' nice, behaved kids.
It was the three guys in leisure suits. They were standin' behind the front screen door like big flies. The ugliest one kept
practicing his golf swing. The closest one talked.
“Hello, guys. I'm Mr. Perkins. Troy's father.”
Perkins was one of the owners of the country club, and a bigger jerk has never existed in this galaxy, except maybe for his
idiot son Troy.
Brand kept his cool, though. “My dad's not here, Mr. Perkins.”
“Well, then, is your mommy home?”
What a flake.
“No, sir,” said Brand, “she's out at the market buying Pampers for all us kids.”
Perkins laughed like someone had taught him how, then stopped like he forgot the way the rest of it went. “Well, you can give
these papers to your father to read over… and sign. Somebody from my office will pick them up in the morning.”
Brand took the papers and closed the door in the guy's ugly face.
“What is all that stuff?” I asked. But I knew.
“It's Dad's business,” said Brand. He was real depressed now.
We sort of looked at all the legal forms, but they were too complicated to figure out. Then we looked out the window at the
three insect-men as they walked away, and they seemed real simple to figure out. Scums with money.
I remember seeing this old movie on the tube,
You Can't Take it With You
, about this stuffy, tight banker who's about to foreclose on the good-hearted heroes, but they convince him with love and
generosity in the end that it's better to be kind and fun than rich, so he doesn't foreclose
on 'em, he plays the harmonica instead. Stuff like that only happens in the movies, though.
“If I found any treasure with that map,” I said, “I'd pay all Dad's bills and buy his mortgage, and then maybe he could get
to sleep at night instead of sittin' up tryin' to figure out a way for us to stay here.”
Brand just grabbed me by the hair, though. “You can forget about any adventures, limp lungs. You go outside now and Mom'll
ground my ass. And I got a date with Andy on Friday.”
“You're dreamin', dude,” said Mouth. “Besides; who's gonna drive you? Her parents? Then you gotta make it with her and her
“Eat it, Mouth,” Brand said, and walked back to his exercise area.
I pulled the map from inside my shirt, and the guys pushed in to check it out.
Another lightning bolt flashed outside. It looked like blue neon. The map brightened and dimmed.
It looked like my future.
So me and the guys powwowed and came up with an exceptional plan.
We waited until Brand was sitting in his straight-backed chair in the rec room, pulling his spring-coil chest exerciser across
his chest. We drifted around behind him, and then, the second he finished the fifteenth rep of his third set and dropped his
arms like a couple quivering lumps at his sides, we jumped into action.
Mouth held Brand's arms to his sides; me and Chunk grabbed the exerciser and wrapped it around his chest, arms, and the back
of the chair; and Data clamped the two
ends of the exerciser together in back. Brand was totally chained. It was totally cool.
“Hey! Wait… lemmee out!”
We were outta there, though.
We snuck through the backyard. Grandpa was sleeping in the hammock, probably dreamin' about Ziegfeld's Follies or somethin'.
“Careful, don't wake Grandpa!” I whispered.
“Shhh, yeah, don't wake him.”
Just as we rounded the corner of the house, though, Mouth shoved the hammock, and Grandpa woke up.
It's not that Mouth was a mean person, you gotta understand—he just had this basic urge to do whatever it was he shouldn't
do. I think it was genetic or something.
Anyway, we split before Grandpa saw us, slipped out the back, Jack, and ran to the side of the house. Mouth let the air out
of Brand's ten-speed while we climbed onto our dirt bikes.
I looked to make sure Mouth wasn't slashin' the tires or anything. “It took him 376 lawn jobs to pay for that,” I said. “It's
his most favorite thing in the world.”
“Now it's his most
thing in the world.”
Suddenly we heard Brand screaming from inside the house. “Mikey, I'm gonna hit you so hard, when you wake up, your clothes
are gonna be outta style.”
I didn't need any more encouragement. We shot down the driveway and were gone.
We rode toward the old coast road, which seemed like the best place to begin, according to the map. To get there we had to
pass the edge of the business district, which meant two things. First we went by the museum.
Dad was up on the rooftop, nailing down a leaky
shingle. “Hi, Dad!” I called out to him. He waved back and smiled. I sort of wanted to say good-bye to him, in case this hunt
took me somewhere I couldn't get back from. I just had that feeling. You know?
The last place we passed on the way out of town was the Stop-‘N’-Snack. I zoomed on by it, the map spread open on my handlebars,
headed for the coast and maybe dire straights. When I looked over my shoulder, though, I saw three bikes parked in front of
the Stop-‘N’-Snack, and the guys walkin' inside.
I skid-stopped on the gravel. I held up the map. “Hey, guys—what about this? Huh?”
They just waved me over and kept on in. I guess old habits die hard.
So I turned around and joined them. Last one in, as usual. Data was buying a pack of baseball cards, and Mrs. Keester, the
old lady who ran the place, was ringin' it up on a computer cash register. The thing was jammed or somethin', though, so she
started pounding it with her hand. Data made her stop. He opened the little door at the back of the thing and began fiddling
with the wires.