Robin Hood slashed his way through the King’s soldiers in a straight path to the Sheriff of Nottingham. The clang of metal on metal rang through the stone castle. Parry and thrust to slip solidly into the midsection of the man in front of him. A hard pull backward and he falls to aged floor. A shadow caught his eye. His arm moved up and to the left as the sheriff sliced downward with his broad sword, both hands clutching the handle in a death grip on its arc downward. The clang echoed through the hallway ratcheting along Robin’s weapon into his arm with a resounding quiver of bone and flesh. The blade nearly fell from his hold. He fell backward with a cry. The Sheriff advanced seeing the advantage by swiftly slicing to the side. Robin’s control came back in a flash as his body automatically moved to deflect the heavy blade. The Sheriff moved aggressively forward beating Robin back step by step ever waiting to for that mortal opening. His foe, barely keeping the steel from its butchery, moved in whirling the blade into ever closer contact. Robin feinted to the right. The Sheriff’s sword automatically swung into its advantage but met air. Our hero had slipped through that mighty swing and leapt upon the stone stairway. His enemy’s sword sounded against the floor as Robin jumped again to a point behind the man recovering his weapon.
“Hold!” cried Robin.
The Sheriff considered his cry, turned to seek the mortal spot only to be halted by the jab of Robin’s sword at his chest. The leather, cleanly sliced, became wet with blood…
“Rick! What are you doing?”
“Huh?” It was Clyde waking me with a start.
“I was…uh…just about to slay the Sheriff of Nottingham.”
“Robin Hood? Again?”
“Yeah. I like Robin Hood.”
“Maybe you do but do you have to always be Robin Hood. What about a pirate. Remember? We saw Treasure Island last week.”
My mother had dropped us off at the theater to see Treasure Island the week before. It was good, but Robin in Sherwood held my imagination.
“Treasure Island was good,” I agreed, “but Robin was English.”
“Well so were the pirates. Didn’t you hear Long John Silver’s accent? Arrgh, miteys. Shiver me timbers and a bottle o’ rum. Besides on the wall, there, is a pirate. Cutlass and all.”
It was true. On the wall was a pencil drawing done by my uncle, three of them, actually. A hardy soul, one eye patched and a tricorn hat atop a bandanaed head stood dark against the light wall. His face was fierce. His cutlass, menacing. And beside him was drawn a voluptuous pirate of the female persuasion. She stood in dark shorts fit over shapely legs seemingly reaching for miles. Her bosoms, Clyde had informed me of what bosoms were, were lightly clad with a low cut peasant’s blouse. Her black hair tantalizingly rolled over her shoulders onto the soft contours…
“Hey!” yelled Clyde. “You going into a trance? You act like you’ve never seen these wall drawings.”
Actually I hadn’t until that moment and suddenly I wanted to be a pirate and find this woman, who to me had become, not a pirate, but a damsel in distress taken from her plantation on the shores of Carolina in the year sixteen hundred and something.
“OK. I want to be a pirate. We need to save this lovely creature. She’s in need of saving. Shall we go?”
Clyde looked at me. It was an odd look but he quickly changed, shouting along with me.
“Yes! To ship! Set sail for the Island of Treasure!” he yelled jumping onto the mattress, grabbing the bedpost and leaning over the edge. I could see the salty spray of the ocean soak him as he watched the horizon.
“Go below, Schmee, and search out our cutlasses. I see a ship on yon horizon. We will board her. Away to the armory for our weapons.”
“Hey! Don’t call me Schmee. That’s Cap’n Hook’s first mate in Peter Pan. That’s a cartoon. Treasure Island was real. I wanna be Hawkins.”
“Quiet, Hawkins. We don’t want to scare off the ship laden with treasure to our port side. Away man. Bring us our weapons.”
“Aye Cap’n Silver. Hey Clyde.”
“We don’t have cutlasses. Could we, maybe, use Uncle Charles’ swords?”
“They are called fencing foils and I don’t know. He might not like it. Don’t we have some sticks?”
“Maybe but they won’t give the sound of metal like a real sword. Come on. We won’t hurt ‘em and he’ll never know once we put them back.”
“Well…. OK. Get the weapons, mitey”
Happy as a lark I raced into the closet and pulled out two fencing epees. I placed my hand behind the guard. I swiped at the air criss-crossing an imaginary foe. I moved like lightning just as Robin had done on the stone stairs battling The Sheriff.
“Cut it out, Hawkins! Bring me mine and steady on now. The ship approaches. Stand to shipmates!” he yelled across the bow of the bed.
I slipped my sword through the loop in my pants. It dangled at my side.
“Ready Cap’n.” I stood beside the bed.
“HEY! I don’t want to be standing in the sea,” I said. “I want to be next to the mast.”
“That’s the Cap’n’s spot. Not the crews’. You’re not in the sea. You’re standing on the gunnel. That’s where you have to be to throw the grappling hooks.”
So I crouched along the side of the bed awaiting my chance to board the ship that was coming aport, according to Clyde.
“Ready with the grappling hooks!”
I grabbed the imaginary hooks and began to twirl the rope over my head.
“NOW! Throw and pull!”
The weight of the hook circling my head I launched over the side. It caught the railing and I pulled with all my heart.
The crew went over the side. I scrambled with them. My feet hit the deck of the prize ship. My sword was in my hand and I tugged at it to get it free of my scabbard. The blade was too long for my arms. I had to grasp the blade and continue pulling it upward. Hand over hand until it was free from my belt loop, uh, its scabbord. Once free I tossed it straight up to catch the handle.
Clyde became a member of the crew of the ship to be plundered---since it was only the two of us on this adventure, we had to jump sides.
“Avast, mitey,” he said. “You shall die by my blade.”
“Not on your life!” I yelled. We circled one another our swords whipping the air.
I lunged. He parried. He knocked my blade aside driving his steel to my midsection. Being a squirrely youngster I dodged and hacked at this weapon. I swiped at his thrust with overly zealous cracks of steel against steel.
“OW!” he yelped. “Not me, you bozo. The sword! The sword!”
“Sorry. I won’t do it again.” I backed off looking for an entrance to deliver the point of death. In his moment of pain he left himself open. My arm extended forward, my body following, shoving the tip within inches of his side. He stepped away like a matador, the tip of my weapon grazing his shirt.
“Too close, varlet!” He moved in with a ringing of steel as he deflected my instrument of death. He whirled around me bringing his mortal sting along my right side but reflexes dealt a swift deflection and my death once again was avoided.
Once again we circled one another. I noticed a red welt on his arm where my sword had whacked it. It must have hurt because he was paying more attention to that than my movements. And there it was my chance to split his gullet. I lunged with all my might. His move was lightning fast. I missed him completely. He looked triumphant at having cheating death once more. I saw his smirk. Then I heard the SNAP!
We both looked in the direction of the sound. My sword had bent double in the side of the bed. The bend was quick and bowed by the weight of my small frame, hardly enough to do harm I thought, but the snap was the sound of the blade breaking. The first four inches of my sword lay on the floor after bouncing to a standstill. What I held in my hand was a fencing foil slightly bent and short by those four inches.
Clyde lost the triumphant look of escaping death. He looked at me. He looked at the sword and then me again. He looked at his weapon and with a quick flip of the wrist divested himself of sword and any activity with it. He walked away quickly to the front room and grabbed a comic book.
My days as a pirate were over. I had broken one of my uncle’s prized possessions. I was alone with the broken foil in hand. And, as it happened, that was the moment my grandmother came through the back door with a bag of groceries. Clyde was up and in the kitchen before I could say, “Hello Grandmother.”
He was out to the car and grabbing bags to bring back in.
I still had the weapon in my hand as I walked into the kitchen.
“Rickey, what have you done now? You know your uncle doesn’t want you playing with his things. And those are not toys.”
Clyde came through the door with a bag in each arm. He looked at me. His grin glinted white teeth.
“Hey, nef. What are you doing with my brother’s fencing piece? I told you not to touch that.”
“You see, young man. Clyde knows not to play with those.”
“Oh, Rickey,” said Clyde through his grin. “What did you do? That sword is too short and where is the safety piece on the point? You broke it, didn’t you?”
“What?” said my Grandmother, “See here, young man! Give that to me.”
She took the blade from my hand.
“Go sit on the couch and don’t move. Clyde, what am I going to tell your brother. Can’t you watch Rickey closer? You oughten’t to let him get his hands on Charles’ things."
“I know, momma. He was in the other room and I got caught up in my Blackhawk comic. It won’t happen again.’
I caught the twinkle in his eye as I turned the corner into the living room. I fell on the couch. I picked up my Robin Hood Classics Illustrated Comic and dived into the world of Sherwood.
“ Maid Marian here I come to save you,” I said quietly.