While at the Gull Lake beach, collecting all my belongings that I had left behind in the days before, I met a very interesting man. I found him sitting on a bench, deep in concentration while writing something important on a piece of paper. I asked him a lot of questions about what he was doing but he didn’t say very much. I quickly understood his problem. He needed to do a lot of writing but he didn’t know many words. In the half hour that I had been asking him questions I only heard him use the same dozen words over and over. Some of those words I can’t say: “boy, go away”, “leave me alone”, “run along” “holy —- please stop”.
The man eventually came to accept the reality of the situation. I was never giving up. He put down his pen and told me everything. He explained that he had been trying to complete an important job application for a position on one of the steamships at the Gravenhurst wharf. He said they were only two job openings so he needed to rush his application in immediately.
It sounded like a lot of fun. Imagine being able to work on a ship out on the water where all the good fishing is. If I had a job like that I’d be fishing so much I’d hardly get any work done at all! That is pretty much the best job in the world! I suddenly realized something else he said: “There were two job openings“. That meant he could have one and I could have the other!
I wasn’t exactly dressed properly for a job interview on a ship so I raced home and got changed into something more appropriate. I put on my sailor uniform, wiped the chocolate milk off my face and got the gum out of my hair, or whatever that sticky stuff was which is now stuck all over my pocket knife. Half an hour later I stood on the dock ready to start my new job.
But first, there was that silly matter of the job interview. I don’t know why they bother with those old-fashioned formalities but I figured it might be an ancient naval tradition so I should play along. That proved to be a little bit more challenging than I expected! I saw someone on the steamship dock so I marched up to him, stood at attention, saluted and demanded to speak with the captain. Wouldn’t you know it but this was another guy who only knew those same dozen words! Imagine running into two of those in one day! Actually, my record is at least eight but it’s been a long time since I’ve tried to get a game in the pool hall.
The man on the dock was very stubborn and I sensed that my usual persistence would get me nowhere with him. If you want a job in this economy you have to be tough! You have to fight, stand out and prove your worth! You have to give it all you’ve got! So I did just that, and in mere moments after starting to cry and puffing up my lower lip I was headed for a meeting with the captain!
Before the interview even began one of his assistants brought me a tissue and then returned a few minutes later with an ice cream cone. It was chocolate, soft-serve and had sprinkles on it. I was immediately impressed with the benefits that came with this job and I hadn’t even been hired yet!
It was very nice that the captain managed to fit me in for an interview like that. He hadn’t wasted any time putting on his uniform with all the medals and he wasn’t carrying his sword or wearing shiny black boots either. He simply showed up in a grey t-shirt, old blue jeans and sandals. I saluted him anyway while introducing myself, “I’m Otter! Reporting for duty! Sir!”
The captain asked what job I’d be able to do and then mentioned something about swabbing decks. I don’t know what that is so I suggested I could run powder from the ship’s hold to the cannons. I also said that although I wasn’t big enough to lift cannon balls I could at least roll them in the direction of the cannons to get them close. The captain smiled so I knew he felt impressed with my skills. He said that I’d be a very handy boy to have around any time a naval battle breaks out on Muskoka Lake! He went on to explain that at this time we are not at war with anyone on the lake. Seeing the deep disappointment in my face he paused to allow me a moment to digest that unfortunate information.
I was taken aback by the news that there isn’t much war happening at least somewhere on the lake but I quickly recovered. I said, “OK fine, no war. But what about pirates?” The captain’s eyes lit up, “Very good point Otter! We always have to watch out for pirates!”
The captain excitedly announced I would have the rank of Midshipman, and explained that in my case it meant “Midget Shipman”. He said I’ll be allowed to move up to another rank once I’m “tall enough to no longer pose a tripping hazard to passengers and crew.” Then I heard his secret plan. I am supposed to never tell anybody any details about my important job of protecting the steamships from pirates. Any time I’m down at the wharf I have to look for pirates on the docks where the little boats are moored. It’s from there the pirates launch their attacks. My job is to spot the pirates before they attack and send a signal to my captain to warn him.
I wondered if the pirates really had wooden legs, eye patches, tattoos and ugly scars but my captain said they are much more tricky nowadays. The pirates on Muskoka Lake wear clever disguises. These days they look like very pretty women, often in bathing suits. If I ever see one of those pirates the captain needs to know about it right away!
I interrupted my captain to ask if he would be so kind as to make sure the sword he gives me isn’t any longer than twenty inches or I’ll trip over it while I’m walking around. I said, “don’t ask me how I know these things, but trust me, I do”. He shook his head and replied that I would have to work without a sword, or a rifle and not even a pistol!
I tried my best to negotiate for some weapons, “But sir, surely you’ve noticed my size. How can I slay those pirates if I don’t have weapons? Am I supposed to jump up and punch them in the knees until they give up?”
The captain picked me up and stood me on a chair. He kept his hands firmly on my shoulders and moved in close until his nose almost touched mine. Looking deep into my eyes he spoke with a most serious tone, “No Otter, no weapons and no punching. Never attack the pirates. Your only duty is to report any sightings to me.”
I promised him that I could handle the responsibility and he promised to pay me with an ice cream for every good pirate sighting I can send to him.
When I got home I felt so full of excitement about my new job that I could hardly sleep! I can’t wait to get started so today I got up extra early to give myself time to scrub all the chocolate ice cream stains off the front of my sailor suit. I hope it will be dry in time as I have to report for duty in an hour.
There are always a lot of those pretty pirates down at the docks so I know it’s going to be hard work sending reports to my captain and then having to eat all the ice cream that will come my way. Try to not worry about me too much. It’s a tough and dangerous job but it’s something I have to do to help maintain the security of the fleet. Semper Fidelis!