Tony Whittaker was what you would call a typical fourth grader. He was typical in height and weight, and there were no extraordinary things about him. He was, in fact, EXTRA-ordinary. The only interesting thing about him is that he didn't like to do the thing you are doing now. He didn't like to read.
Now that's not to say he couldn't read. He could. He just didn't enjoy it. "What," he would ask, "is the point of reading when I can just go down to the video store and watch a movie? I mean, c'mon. There are a ton of movies that are based on books, anyway. I'm not missing anything, right?"
Our story takes place on a dreary day in September. Tony was sitting in the last class of the day, English. At the front of the classroom, Mrs. Polinski was droning on in her monotone about nouns and verbs and whatever else English teachers enjoy talking about. Tony sat with his head on his hand, staring at the clock. Only two minutes left, he thought, just two minutes…Just then, Mrs. Polinski said something that cut right through his stupor.
"Tonight, class, I would like you to read for half an hour and write about what you read. It doesn't matter what book you choose; Choose one that you think you will enjoy."
Tony sat straight up, horrified. "What?!" he yelped. Everyone looked around at him, but he didn't care. "Why do we have to do that?"
Mrs. Polinski glanced curiously over at him. "Why do you have to do that?" she repeated. "You are going to need reading skills to succeed in life, Mr. Whittaker. The earlier you learn them, the better prepared you will be in life."
The bell rang, and the rest of the class got up and left the room, chatting and laughing on their way out. Tony stayed put, staring up at the board, stunned.
Later, Tony stormed into his room, slamming the door behind him. "I'm not reading some stupid book for half an hour," he said, tossing his books and bag on the floor and flinging himself onto his bed, "I've got better things to do." He then promptly fell asleep.
Tony woke up suddenly, heart racing. He was positive that he had heard something moving. He lay perfectly still, listening hard.
"Surely there are better things you could be doing?" said a voice right next to his ear.
Tony jumped so violently that he fell right off of the bed. Crash! Tony leapt to his feet, staring around and trying to locate the source of the voice.
"You might want to try looking down here," the voice said again, sounding impatient. Tony looked down. There, looking right back up at him, was one of his books. A face had emerged on its front cover, and that face was presently scowling up at him.
Tony stared at the book, dumbfounded. He started to ask "What are you?", but that seemed rude. Instead he asked, "Who are you?"
"I'm am a book," the book replied.
This confused Tony. "Don't you mean, 'I am a book'?" he asked.
"No." The book scowled even harder up at him. "That is my name. M. A. Book. Marvin Archibald Book. And you must be Tiny Wit. At least your parents knew what they were dealing with."
Tony became annoyed. "My name is Tony Whittaker. Not Tiny Wit."
Marvin rolled his eyes. "Whatever you say, Tiny." He squinted up at Tony. "Isn't there something that you need to be doing instead of sleeping?"
Tony wasn't sure what he meant for a moment, and then it came to him. "What, reading a book?"
"Sounds good to me," Marvin said.
Tony started pacing his room, angry now. "Why would I read a stupid book? It's not like they're interesting…"
"I see," Marvin said. "Tell me, what books have you read?"
Tony paused in his pacing. "What?"
"Well," Marvin said slowly, "You seem to believe that all books are boring. What books have you read that made you feel that way?"
"Erm," Tony said, thinking back. Now that Marvin mentioned it, he hadn't really read very many books. That only annoyed Tony more. "Why do you care so much?"
"Because it's important," Marvin said, sounding impatient again. "Reading is a very important skill. Without reading, you won't be able to get very far in life. Besides, reading builds vocabulary. You want to sound smart, don't you?"
"I sound plenty smart," Tony argued. Marvin rolled his eyes again.
"Yeah, sure, kid. Why don't you answer my original question?"
Tony was silent for a moment. Finally, he mumbled, "Hurrying to Wait."
"What was that?" Marvin asked.
"Hurrying to Wait," Tony said, louder this time.
Marvin groaned. "Of all the books in the world, you had to pick that one? What possessed you, lad?"
"The cover was cool," Tony said, shifting uncomfortably.
Marvin sighed. He opened himself and floated up to Tony's eye level. "You can't always judge a book by its cover. Believe me, I'm a book, I know."
"Well, what am I supposed to do?" Tony asked. "Open every single book I see and read it to see if it's good?"
"That's not a bad idea," Marvin said.
"Forget it," Tony said. "I hate reading, and there's nothing you can say to change that."
"Perhaps there is nothing I can say to change your mind," Marvin said. "However, I bet there's something I can show you."
"What?" Tony asked, curious despite himself.
Marvin started spinning quickly in midair. Tony backed up, growing concerned. Suddenly Marvin stopped, and a tattered old book fell onto the floor. Tony moved forward, disappointed. "That's it?" he asked. "I was expecting something a little more spectacular."
"That is spectacular," Marvin said. "That book on the floor is called Dog Moon. Have you ever heard of it?"
Tony shook his head, still staring at the book.
"I thought not," Marvin said. "Dog Moon is considered one of the greatest pirate novels ever published."
"Big whoop," Tony said. "It doesn't look interesting at all."
"It might not be much on the eyes," Marvin said, "but what would you say if I told you that this book contained about as much action as the last Pirates of the Mediterranean movie?"
"You're crazy," Tony said. "Pirates of the Mediterranean was action-packed. There's no way that you can get any more action than that. And certainly not from a book."
Marvin glared at him. "You really believe that, don't you?"
"Of course I believe that," Tony said. "It's the truth."
Marvin sighed. "I was hoping I wouldn't have to do this."
He closed his eyes and started chanting something. Tony didn't recognize the language, but whatever it was that Marvin was saying, it was certainly having an effect. The book Marvin had conjured, Dog Moon,was rising up off of the floor and slowly rotating over towards where Tony and Marvin were standing (or, in Marvin's case, floating). When it reached them, the book opened and pages flew, stopping somewhere in the middle of the story. Tony stared at the page in surprise. Instead of words, there was a miniature scene playing on it. He saw two ships in the middle of a stormy sea. One of the ships was flying a British flag, and the other was flying a black flag with a skull with two crossed bones underneath it—pirates. Tony leaned in closer just as one of the British cannons fired a shot; the flash seemed to surround Tony. Then he realized that he was moving forward into the book, and the flash of light was marking his passing from the real world into the world inside the book. The wind was rushing around him, he was surrounded by sound, the scene in the book was rushing at him, and then…he suddenly found himself standing on the deck of the pirate ship, completely soaked. "Marvin?!" he called, losing his cool. "Where are you?"
"I'm right behind you," came Marvin's now-familiar voice.
"Thank goodness," Tony said. He turned around to see Marvin floating behind him, smirking. "What the heck is going on?"
"Isn't it obvious?" Marvin asked. "We're inside the story."
"I kinda gathered that," Tony said, looking around. "What I meant was, how did we get here? And while we're on the subject," Tony narrowed his eyes at Marvin, "why are we here?"
The floating book made a movement that might have been a shrug. "I'm just trying to prove a point. You said that reading is boring, so I'm showing that it really isn't."
Tony looked around him. The deck was empty except for the cannons on the right side of the ship. "This is certainly an odd way of showing me that. Tell me, when does it get interesting?"
"Shhhh." Marvin hushed him. "Listen."
Tony frowned at him, trying to figure out what was going on. Suddenly he heard a voice coming from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
"I was asleep when the British attacked," the voice intoned. It was young-sounding. Tony frowned even more. A kid's voice? he wondered. But I don't see any kids. Well, apart from me, anyway. The voice seemed familiar to Tony…but the narrative hadn't stopped, and Tony concentrated, trying to pick out the words over the British cannonfire.
"I had spent the night working with the captain, reading charts and taking down dictation from him. None of us had expected anything out of the ordinary, so he let me sleep in, for once. Apparently, even old Artemis in the crow's nest had fallen asleep, too, which explained how they had managed to sneak up on us."
"Who's talking?" Tony asked, unable to contain his questions any longer. Marvin, for once, didn't seem annoyed; instead, he grinned slightly at Tony.
"Not so boring now, is it, lad? That voice is Jonathan, the main character – and narrator – of this story. Dog Moon is the story of his first ever sea voyage on board the Greathound. He was probably about your age."
Tony nodded slowly, taking in everything Marvin had said. The voice – Jonathan – started talking again.
"I woke up when I heard the first shot. It took a few moments for my groggy brain to realize what was happening, but the second I did, I was up and pulling my boots on. I dashed out of the cabin and headed up the passageway to the ladder topside. I saw the captain reach the ladder ahead of me, climbing with a furious energy and bellowing orders as he ran."
As Jonathan's voice was echoing around them, Tony heard muffled footsteps and shouts coming from the deck under his feet. Tony, becoming worried, turned around to Marvin. "What's going to happen?" he asked nervously.
"Don't be nervous, lad," Marvin said reassuringly. "We're not in any danger. We're just observers – nothing that happens in the story can hurt us. Besides," Marvin smiled mischieviously, "if I told you what happened next, I'd be ruining the story for you."
Tony laughed, relaxing slightly. His laughter was cut off when he heard a loud bellowing behind him. He turned around to see a giant of a man standing in the middle of the deserted deck, staring at the British galleon. "Where are yeh, yeh bilgerats?" he bellowed. "Get up on deck, yeh scurvy dogs, or ye'll be sleeping with the sharks tonight!"
The deck exploded into a flurry of activity. Pirates of all shapes and sizes burst out of the decks below. Some of them started working the ropes around the main mast, others started climbing the rigging to work the ropes higher up. Still others began tying down the cannons and loading them. The giant looked around the ship searchingly. "Where's Jonathan?" he roared. "Get over here, boy!"
"I'm coming, sir," piped up a small voice through the crowd. It was the same voice that Tony had heard giving the narrative. He watched the crowd part slightly to let Jonathan through…
And felt his jaw drop. There, pushing his way through the crowd to the giant, was a boy who looked exactly like Tony. "He looks like me!" he breathed.
Marvin looked sidelong at Tony, but didn't say anything. Tony watched in fascination as Jonathan finally reached the colossus and looked up at him expectantly. "What do you need me to do, Cap'n Travers?"
The captain looked down at Jonathan, his face softening slightly. "Ah, yer here." He glanced up at the platform at the top of the main mast – the crow's nest – and the fierce look returned. "I'll need yeh to climb up to the crow's nest and see what Artemis is doing. If he's been at the rum again, I'm gonna cut off his fingers."
Jonathan nodded and took off towards the riggings. He started climbing. The voice – Tony's voice – started narrating again.
"Despite what the captain said, I could tell that he was worried about Artemis. Artemis had been Travers' mentor ever since Travers' had joined the crew. Artemis was getting extremely old and frail, which meant that the crow's nest was the only place where he could still perform a useful service to the crew. If he hadn't seen the British coming…"
By this time, Jonathan had climbed nearly halfway up the rope ladder that led to the crow's nest. Tony watched him, squinting up against the rain. Finally, his curiousity overcame him, and he ran to the rope ladder and began clawing his way up, trying to catch up with Jonathan.
"What exactly do you think you're doing, lad?"
Tony glanced off to his left. Floating next to him, wearing a bemused expression, was Marvin.
"I'm climbing after Jonathan," he answered. "I want to see what he sees."
"Ah," Marvin said, beaming. "Excellent! Finally becoming interested, are we?"
"Maybe a little," Tony admitted reluctantly. He turned his attention back to climbing. Marvin floated beside him for a moment, then spoke up, "There's a much easier way to do that, lad."
"Oh really?" Tony asked, panting slightly from the exhertion. "And what would that be?"
"Let go of the rope."
Tony looked down. He was already close to thirty feet above the deck. "No chance," he said, looking up again. Jonathan was nearly to the crow's nest about twenty feet above him; Tony started climbing faster, excitement building. Beside him, Tony heard Marvin mutter something about disrespectful little whelps…then suddenly zoom straight at Tony. Caught by surprise, Tony found himself losing his grip. He only managed a frightened squawk as Marvin's charge completely dislodged him from the safety of the ladder…
And found his fear turning into confusion as he noticed that instead of falling straight to the deck, he was, in fact, floating above the deck. His confusion quickly turned into delight as he started spinning around in circles and doing somersaults in midair. He had just finished doing a complicated gyrating cartwheel when Marvin cleared his throat behind him.
"Didn't you say you wanted to see what was going on?" he prompted.
"Oh yeah!" Tony said. Concentrating on the crow's nest, he found himself floating up towards it just as Jonathan clambered over the side. There was a gasp of surprise, and Tony put on an extra burst of speed. He cleared the lip of the crow's nest and looked down to see Jonathan standing in the middle of the otherwise empty crow's nest. The narrative started again.
"I looked around, trying to figure out where Artemis could be. It was possible that he had fallen out in the rocking of the storm…I pushed that thought out of my mind. Artemis was alive. He had to be. But why wouldn't he be at his post? It just didn't make sense."
"He's not…?" Tony asked nervously.
"I can't tell you that, lad," Marvin said. "You'll have to pay attention for the rest of the story in order to know for sure."
Below them, Jonathan climbed back onto the ladder and started descending. "I had to tell the captain the news about Artemis. I didn't want to, but if Artemis had gone missing, Travers had a right to know."
Tony followed Jonathan back to the deck and watched as Jonathan set off toward Captain Travers. Tony started to tail him, but stopped suddenly, listening hard. A faint whistling sound behind him was growing steadily louder. He turned around and let out a surprised gasp as he noticed a cannonball, fired from the British ship, falling gracefully towards the Greathound.
"Hit the deck!" he heard Travers yell. Tony heeded him and instantly dropped down; from the sound of the multiple thuds a second later, it was clear to Tony that he was not the only one who saw the wisdom in the captain's words. There was a great crash, a surprised yelp, a muffled thump…Tony looked up. The cannonball had nearly overshot them, coming down on the far side of the deck and smashing through the railing on the side. One of the pieces of debris had caught a large pirate on the side of the head, causing him to collapse. Jonathan, who was nearest to the fallen pirate, crawled up next to him. "He's alive!" Jonathan shouted to Travers, and from where Tony was lying the slight rise and fall of the pirate's chest was just barely visible. "Looks like he's just been knocked out, sir."
The captain stared at the fallen raider, thinking. Abruptly, he turned to two of the stronger-looking men working at one of the cannons. "Take him below, both of yeh. Use my cabin, it's closest."
"Aye aye, sir!"
The men picked up the fallen pirate by the arms and legs and started towards the stairs leading belowdecks, the pirate's limp body occasionally banging on the deck. Tony watched them go, then started listening as the narrative began again.
"I had never fired a cannon before. As Hektor and Simon carried James downstairs, I made my way over to one of the cannons."
Tony whirled around. Sure enough, there was Jonathan standing by the vacated cannon, studying it closely. "The captain wasn't paying attention to me; no one was. The other cannons were already firing out return volleys. I decided that I would try to fire once, and by that time Hektor and Simon would be back. I checked inside to make sure the cannon hadn't already been loaded. It had."
During this time, Jonathan had studied the cannon and looked down the barrel, unnoticed by anyone. As Tony watched, fascinated, Jonathan walked back around behind the cannon and pushed it into position. Adjusting the cannon so that it was aimed straight at the British ship, Jonathan grabbed the wick used to light the cannon and started bringing it slowly to firing position.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING, BOY?!"
It seemed that Captain Travers had finally caught on to what Jonathan was doing. Tony turned to find the captain running as fast as he could towards the loose cannon. Jonathan looked up and, with a sudden look of fear, touched flame to wick.
There was a deafening bang as the cannonball shot up and out over the open water. Jonathan, Travers, Tony, and the rest of the crew watched as the cannonball reached the top of its arc and start drifting lazily down, down, down, until…
The cannonball hit the British ship smack-dab in the center of the upper deck. As they watched, the main mast toppled over into the water with a loud splash. From where he stood, Tony saw the distant shapes of lifeboats lowering into the water. Within minutes, the British ship was sliding out of sight beneath the waves.
"I don't believe it," Tony said. Marvin chuckled.
"You're not the only one, lad. Listen."
"I couldn't believe it," Jonathan's voice said. "I had just sunk the British ship. One lucky shot was all it took. I knew I should be happy, but I also realized just how much trouble I was in. Only the older crew members were supposed to fire the cannons. I took a deep breath and turned to face Travers."
Tony ran over to where Jonathan was at about the same moment Travers reached him. Jonathan looked up at Travers and said nervously, "I'm sorry, sir."
"Jonathan," Travers said, quietly, "Yeh understan' that only senior members of this crew are allowed to fire the cannons."
"Yeh realize that I should probably take away yer meals for two days as punishment for disobeying orders."
Tony saw Jonathan gulp. "Y-yes, sir." Jonathan stammered.
Travers was silent for a moment, watching Jonathan squirm nervously. The rest of the crew was silently. Suddenly, Travers threw back his head and laughed.
"Ho-ho! Who'm I kiddin'? Those British dogs are joining the flounder, and it's all thanks to you, boy! I'd be a fool to punish you for that!"
The rest of the crew laughed. Jonathan looked shocked, probably because he had expected to be punished for his actions. He looked around, and a grin slowly replaced his shocked expression.
"I couldn't believe I wasn't being punished," Jonathan's narration said. "Travers had never missed an opportunity to punish me before. As I looked around, though, I began to realize that I was even luckier than I had first thought. By sinking the British ship, I had gained the respect of the crew and of Travers, which was more valuable than any amount of gold could possibly be. I was on my way to becoming a real pirate."
"That's enough for now, I think," Marvin said softly. Tony jumped. He had forgotten that Marvin was even there. "What do you…?" Tony asked, starting to turn around. All of a sudden, there was a blinding light and a loud crack, and Tony found himself standing in the middle of his room. "What the..?"
"We finished the chapter," Marvin said simply.
"So what?" Tony asked angrily. "I still have some questions I want answered!"
"Well," Tony started, "What happened to Artemis?"
Marvin chuckled. "Tut-tut!" he said. "That would be telling! You don't want me to spoil the book for you, now, do you? You'll have to find that out on your own."
Tony glared at him. "You're hilarious," he said sarcastically. "Alright, Mr. Smarty-pages, why did Jonathan look like me?"
"Ah," Marvin said, smiling. "I was wondering when you would ask that. The answer is very simple: You imagined him that way."
"What do you mean?" Tony asked, confused.
"This is where it gets a little confusing," Marvin said brightly. "Basically, the narration wasn't the only thing going on. All the while, you were being told details about the story in the back of your mind, and your brain translated those details into images."
"Whoa, whoa," Tony said, walking over to his bed. "Let me get this straight…The book was telling me things about the story, and my brain turned those things into pictures?"
"Pretty much," Marvin said, clearly happy that Tony had figured it out so quickly.
"That doesn't make sense, though," Tony protested. "Why didn't I notice anything?"
Marvin made a motion that might have been a shrug. "Do you always notice minor details?"
"I suppose not," Tony said.
"Well, then, how do you expect to hear a small voice in the back of your head when you're standing on the deck of a pirate ship being fired at by the British?"
"Good point," Tony said, laughing. Marvin grinned.
"Was there anything else you wanted to know?" Marvin asked.
"I suppose not," Tony said. "I can't think anymore."
Marvin laughed. "I don't blame you, kid. You've been through a lot today. Well, if there's nothing else you'd like to know, I suppose I had better leave." Marvin floated to the center of the room. He paused and looked at Tony. "If I were you, I'd get started on your reading," he said, glancing toward Tony's backpack.
"I suppose so," Tony said. Marvin smiled.
"Well, so long, Tiny."
Marvin started spinning quickly in midair. He spun so fast that loose papers began to fly through the air. A bright light glowed in the center of the room where Marvin was spinning. Tony shielded his eyes, trying to see what was going on. Suddenly, there was a loud crack, and Tony was blasted backward onto his bed. The last thing he remembered was the sound of Marvin's laugh.
"Man, what a dream."
Tony sat up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He glanced at his watch. 5:30. He had been asleep for almost an hour and a half. "I must have been really tired," he said to himself.
He looked around the room. Everything was exactly as he had left it when he had fallen asleep. "Weird," he muttered. He got up and started walking to the door. He passed his backpack and froze, staring. Lying on top of his backpack was a tattered old book. He picked it up, trembling slightly. He looked at the title. Dog Moon. Still staring at the book, he turned around and walked back to his bed. Sitting down, he opened the book to the first page and began reading.
My name is Jonathan Kesler. This book is the story of daring, humor, and hard lessons learned. It is the story of how I became what I am today. This is the story of how I became a pirate.