On a black night, beneath a canopy of dense trees determined to prevent the moon from illuminating his route, Ted Merritt furiously pedaled his bike to his summer job at the local Stop to Shop supermarket. It was 11:05 p.m., he was late, and he had just launched himself down a steep, zigzagging road.
The wind whipped Ted's face and the glow from his bike lamp bounced off the eyes of animals hiding in the trees. He held his breath on the plunge down, hoping no cars would come barreling around the bend and send him flying into the woods, where he was certain he would become a slender meal for any number of ravenous sharp-toothed beasts. Reaching the bottom of the hill, he exhaled, took a sharp right onto a set of abandoned railroad tracks, and began pedaling through broken gravel and rusty metal stakes that poked up from the rails, eager to pop his tires. Two miles later, Ted cut up a dirt path that crossed the backyard of an old man who spent his nights etching designs onto seashells using an acid-dipped nail.
"Hello, Mr. Gamrecki!" called out Ted, receiving a hrrmmph in response. Scraping through some shrubbery, he boomed out onto Main Street, dodging flashy cars driven by barhopping tourists who liked to speed around and pretend they owned his town. Finally, Ted coasted to the front door of Stop to Shop.
Inside, the bacon was waiting.
As he entered the supermarket, Ted glimpsed his reflection in the glass of the automatic doors, and he experienced a familiar pang of dismay at how his appearance and the way he felt inside seemed to match up so perfectly.
His brown bangs were sweat-mashed against his forehead. His white collared shirt was buttoned incorrectly. His earlobes were slightly uneven--one was attached to the base of his ear as it should be, but the other one dangled freely, which was the result of being nipped by a shar-pei puppy when he was a baby, and then being stitched up by an elderly, and unfortunately shaky, doctor. Too often, he felt like a platypus--a creature assembled from a mishmash of mismatched limbs and parts, compelled to hide in a burrow.
And as always, looking into the fingerprint-covered glass of the automatic doors, Ted saw him. Hovering behind his shoulder, the familiar black tricorne hat were sitting atop a greasy mop of hair, and the bearded, liver-spotted face highlighted by a large mouth filled with cracked and missing teeth.
He saw the rotund body draped in a loose-fitting shirt that had been falling apart for the past three centuries. A pair of plump legs sported striped tailored trousers that had been the height of fashion in their day, and beneath these pants were two leather boots polished to a high shine.
This jumble of flesh and clothing and dirt and hair was Scurvy Goonda, a pirate who had been hanging out with Ted every moment of every day for seven of Ted's fourteen years. He was as much a part of Ted's life as Ted's own skin.
"Hello, Scurvy," sighed Ted.
"Ahoy, hello, and yes, Teddy m'boy!" said Scurvy. "It is time to eat some animals. Me goal tonight is tah not even chew. O, a yo ho ho, and a yo ho ho! Ya've never heard somebody go two yo ho hos in a row, have ya! To the bacon!"
In Ted's workstation of processed meats, Scurvy Goonda was stabbing packages of bacon with his dagger and sliding the raw slabs off the blade into his mouth. Scurvy loved the cured, smoked strips of pork with an insane enthusiasm.
For as long as Ted could remember, in the tradition of piratical pillagers, Scurvy had demolished Ted's sand castles and broken his toys and caused all manner of destruction for which Ted was inevitably blamed. Every night at the Stop to Shop, Ted was forced to conceal the pirate's meat-aisle carnage from Jed, the night manager, so that he didn't get fired.
"Please. Tell me again: why bacon?" asked Ted. "Why raw bacon?"
"Ah, a story, ya want! Y'see, I once survived on a lifeboat fer three weeks with a lovely pig named Alfie," said Scurvy, small globs of pink meat decorating his beard.
"Alfie was a dear old friend, but there came a point where it was him or me. So I ate me dear piggy, I did. Roasted the lovely strips of him right on the blade of me sword. Alfie kept me company, and then kept me alive. Since that day, tah me bacon has tasted like friendship."
Ted nodded. Over the years he had learned it was best not to question Scurvy too vigorously about odd moments from his past.
"But it isn't good for you to eat it raw like that," said Ted, something he'd told Scurvy many times before. "Part of the point of cooking it is to burn off the fat."
"Don't ya worry about me, Teddy-boy," said Scurvy. "Whenever me heart stops, I just give it a wee pep talk--Ahoy! Ticky-ticky thump pumper! Yer better than that! Buck up and do yer jobbie!--and all of a sudden it's beatin' again like I'm a teenager in love."
Whether consuming cured meats, juggling chainsaws, cliff diving, or any other manner of questionable and dangerous activity, Scurvy approached everything he did as something to be devoured. When Ted went skiing for the first time, Scurvy slapped on his own skis and insisted they take the lift to the top of the highest peak, whereupon he told Ted that they needed to forge their own trail through the wooded backcountry.
"To the ledge!" he'd roared.
Ted had promised him it was certain death, but Scurvy launched himself over a sheer cliff and went tumbling down the mountain, head over leather boots, all the way to the bottom. Then he got up and brushed himself off, all fine and dandy.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Scurvy Goonda: The Story of an Odd Boy and the Pirate Who Ruined His Life by Chris McCoy. Copyright © 2009 by Chris McCoy. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.