The Mole felt exhausted as he fell back into the hammock outside the Rat’s home after spending the day in the skiff. He tried to stay awake but dozed off and then awoke with a twitch of his whole body. He fell asleep again quickly, this time soundly as he was carried into a dream.
The Mole’s dream was all in sepia tones—a world of browns with no other colors. He was surprised to realize that when something caught his attention—no matter how far away it was—it took only a few strokes of his oars, and he would be there.
Through the mist the Mole saw a boat with a crew of six rowers and a man sitting near the back leading them. Two strokes of his oars, and he was next to the boat. None of the men in the boat seemed to notice the Mole except the man at the back.
“Who or what are you, you scallywag?” said the man gruffly to the Mole.
”I am the Mole, and I am a Mole, to answer both of your questions. And who are you?”
“Everyone knows me. I am Bill Johnston, the pirate,” he said.
“This doesn’t seem like any pirate ship I have ever seen in pictures,” said the Mole.
“I’m between ships currently…I seem to have burned the last one,” said Johnston. “This is a gig, but we’re making do.”
“Do you have a hook, a wooden leg or maybe a parrot?” asked the Mole.
“You are one strange animal,” said Bill. “Do you see any of those things?”
The Mole reached out, checking Bill’s leg to see if it was wooden. When his hand reached the leg, it passed right through with no resistance. Bill was a ghost!
“What year is this?” asked the pirate.
“I don’t know what you mean by year,” said the Mole. “It’s summer.”
“I mean,” said Bill, “is it 1838 or 1839? Without a year, how do animals keep track of when something happened?”
“We tell time by seasons and keep track of the day by the sun,” explained the Mole.
“Probably a better way of doing things,” said the pirate. “We humans worry too much about the past and the future and not enough about what is happening right now.”
“Animals only know about right now,” said the Mole. “We can’t always count on there being a tomorrow.”
“Speaking of right now” said the pirate, “I need to do what pirates do and take over your ship and everything in it. Prepare to be boarded!”
“Ok,” said the Mole, “but be careful. The last time I tried standing up in a skiff, I ended up in the River.”
The pirate drew his sword, shoved aside one of his crew and took a step toward the Mole’s skiff. Stepping from the gunnel of his gig, he jumped into the skiff with both feet. Of course, being a ghost, he met with no resistance and went straight through to the River. The swift current carried him past the skiff, and his head popped back up a bit farther downriver. He began to struggle in the water because the truth is, he couldn’t swim. In fact, more pirates died by drowning than in sword fights!
The pirate’s crew rowed over to him and managed to bring him back into the gig. He looked quite dejected as he sat there soaking wet.
“Not much of a pirate, am I?” said Bill. “Can’t even commandeer the skiff of a small animal—and no booty either!”
“I wouldn’t worry too much about it,” said the Mole. “After all, you do have the River, a boat and your crew. That is more than most people have.”
“I am blessed, I guess,” said Bill, “although a little booty would be nice.”
“How about if you were to take—by force of course—this tin of sardines the Mink left in the skiff?” offered the Mole.
“That’s it, hand over that tin right now, you scallywag!” said Bill holding out his hand with a menacing look.
Playing along because he was feeling bad for Johnston, the Mole dropped the tin into the pirate’s hand. The tin went right through his hand, into the River and sank because Bill was, after all, a ghost.
The Mole’s eyes met Bill’s, one set full of pity and the other full of shame. Bill’s shoulders slumped, his head drooped and he seemed to shrink in size as he looked away from the Mole. Bill’s crew began rowing away into the looming fog; and the Mole sat thinking about how often things just don’t go the way one hopes.
Thunder boomed and lightning flashed off in the distance, miles away, as the wind came up and drove waves which rocked the skiff. Then, fat raindrops hit the Mole hard on the head, and he wondered which way was back home. He began rowing as it rained even harder, the lightning came closer, and the Mole was really getting wet. Suddenly he awoke and realized that he wasn’t in a skiff, but a hammock, and it really was raining, and he’d better get inside. He started to get out of the hammock but didn’t time his exit quite right with the rocking of the hammock and was tossed out of it. He ended up sitting on the ground, all wet; his shoulders slumped, and his head drooped, and he knew just how the pirate had felt when the sardines hit the water.