PIRATES ON HARD SCRABBLE ROAD • by Walt Giersbach

No one in Dorchester ever asks for charity, but we needed a lot when Superstorm Irene come through with ten inches of rain. I feared for our general store under all that water. Not that some tourists would come by wantin’ suntan oil, but that our calico cat might not be able to swim or find high ground. In my rush to beat the storm, I’d forgotten Mehetibal at the store.

I pulled on my waders and began wallopin’ down the hill to Hard Scrabble Road what runs through town northeast of US7. Got to within sight of the store, which was built by my great-uncle Ezra Pierce back in 1896. It’s a landmark painted once for a cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

Walkin’ was slow, but I stopped to catch my breath when I heard a motor. Oddest thing I ever seen was a motorboat comin’ up Hard Scrabble with two foreigners in it. By that, I don’t mean Africans or Chinese or something, but they looked like they might’ve been from New York or a similar strange place.

“Stop, old man,” shouted the guy in the front of the skiff. He waved something at me. Took me a minute to see it was a pistol. A pretty big revolver.

“What you got that pistol in a plastic bag for?” I asked.

“Don’t want it to get wet. Where’re you goin’ walkin’ in water higher’n your butt?” He was a sullen fellow and so was the other dark, scowly man sittin’ in back holding the tiller of the outboard. I saw that it was Abner Crutchfield’s boat what he uses for catfishin’ cause it had his wife’s name painted on the bow.

I looked around, but the town was empty as a church on Monday mornin’. “Gonna open my store on the corner. Where you goin’?”

“You own that store? Get your ass into the boat. You’re goin’ with us to unlock the door.”

“We’re closed, fellows. Come back when we’re cleaned up and the water’s down.”

“We’re cleaning up now! Get in or I’ll shoot you dead in the street.”

“Street? This is a road,” I said. “Streets just go back and forth and never get you anywhere. This here’s a road and that’ll take you all the way to Montpelier.”

The sullen one kept waving the plastic bag. “Just believe we’re pirates, old man, ’cause we’re going to capture your store.” The guy at the motor thought this was funny as a bag of chickens.

Well, I couldn’t argue against that pistol and clambered aboard. I let him take me to the porch where I unlocked the door and called for Mehetibal, our calico. I saw the cat just a moment before he leaped on the stranger’s hat, a funny little fedora with no brim to speak of.

“Ramon, grab the cigarettes!” he shouted, tossing Mehetibal into the water. “And grab that bottle of Canadian whiskey on the shelf up there.”

“Hey, that whiskey is a souvenir,” I said in great umbrage. “My great-uncle left that to me from Prohibition.”

“Shut up!”

Well, quick as anythin’ they grabbed all my cigarette cartons and the bottle of antique whiskey and pushed me back in the boat with the cat under my arm.

“You robbed me clean,” I said. “Why’re you kidnappin’ me now?”

The captain said, “You‘re our hostage.”

“Hell,” allowed Ramon, “we need you to lead us to the highway where we left our car. All the roads look the same under water, and we gotta get to Montpelier for a party.”

The captain laughed. “Do a little job then party to celebrate.”

Well, we hadn’t putt-putted but a hundred yards up Hard Scrabble when I heard a whistle. It was Doris Goodbody, our lady police chief, standing on a post box. I stood up and waved my hand.

“Stop that boat in the name of the law.” Old Doris is a figurehead in our town and we may put up a statue in her memory, but it’ll take a whole lot of brass to make a statue that’d do justice to Doris.

The pirate stood up and fumbled with his bag, but he couldn’t fire it through the plastic. “Ram her!” he ordered his pal at the outboard.

Doris jumped down, dodged the boat and grabbed a floatin’ two-by-four. She whanged the wood across the motor when it went by. Knocked it clean off the end, stoppin’ the skiff.

“What’d you do that for?” shouted the pirate captain.

“You ran a stop sign, for one thing. Two, I know my friend Jared isn’t open for business today and him being in Abner’s boat means you’re up to no good. They haven’t spoke to each other for years.” She pulled out her gun. “Now, get out of the boat and put your hands over your head.”

“Doris, you’re a sight for sore eyes,” I said. “These here are pirates, and they sound like Yorkers to boot. They robbed my store.”

“Come on,” the pirate captain whined, “all we wanted was a cigarette. We were gonna to pay. Later.”

So that was my Monday in Dorchester. Doris had saved my cigarettes and great-uncle Ezra’s Canadian.

My wife Martha was a bit rankled cause I was late for lunch, but I told her I’d been attacked by pirates and showed her Mehetibal was safe. Martha was relieved because the only time we get a clear picture is when Mehetibal sits on the TV. She allowed as there’s always somethin’ interestin’ about livin’ in Vermont.

I agreed, sayin’, “For the next few days, I can go fishin’ on Hard Scrabble Road durin’ my lunch hour.”

I returned Abner’s boat when the water went down and we patched up our differences. The bad guys were wanted in New York for failing to pay for a tankful of gas, but the police there said Doris could keep ’em in Dorchester.


Walt Giersbach bounces between writing genres, from mystery to humor, spec fic to romance. His work has appeared in over a score of publications in print and online including 10 or so acceptances at EDF. He’s also bounced from Fortune 500 firms to university posts, and from homes in eight states and a couple of Asian countries. He currently moderates a writing group in New Jersey.


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