The hospital-gowned 10-yr. old boy tried to turn over, but the cords attached to the beeping monitors held him captive, a bound slave on the pirate ship, Jupiter.
“Water,” he croaked, “please, just a sip.”
“Nay, Matie, you’re the captain’s slave now! He don’t ration water to the likes o’ you! Have a sip of me rum, though.”
Eric stubbornly shook his head, but the evil-tasting spirits were ruthlessly flung down his parched throat.
“’Twill do ya good, laddie, you’ll see,” the mangy-clothed pirate replaced by a white-garbed nurse, “there now, try to sleep, little one.”
Her soft voice lulled him into a fitful slumber, a welcome relief to his feverish body, where he wiled away the hours in blissful ignorance of the worried faces of his parents.
The Jupiter was in the throes of a sudden squall, a northeasterner tumultuous storm that threw men overboard like little matchsticks, snapping masts and ropes and hurling them into the raging inferno of salt water, swirling waves and churning winds. Eric was bound down in the cavernous stronghold in the ship’s belly where crashing objects—a menagerie of flying doubloons, jeweled boxes, and casks of looted booty—beat against and broke the bars of his prison. After what seemed to him hours of battering, the storm ceased.
The deck was starkly barren. He was alone, adrift in the rocky sea, a fugitive with no place to go. The boy laid down on the wet, weathered boards, so tired and hungry, slumber was his only resort . . .
Eric awoke to a sunlit paradise of blue skies and solid ground, the ship now abutted into the banks of a deserted island.
“I smell food!”
Bulrushes at the shoreline had metamorphosis-ed into peppermint sticks! He grabbed one, sucking on it with all his might like a drowning diver with a repaired air hose.
“I must be dreaming--but it doesn’t feel like a dream.”
He plowed his way through the sandy beach to a red licorice tree, stuffing a strand into his mouth before happening upon plants’ steamy leaves of French-Fries, a pool of ketchup bubbling down below. Low hanging clouds were suddenly within reach, made out of foamy meringue and whipped cream. Grass was dew-dropped with soda pop and he licked blades until his thirst was quenched.
A lollipop-laden willow tree beckoned, it’s swinging branches a percussion concert. Further on, a dandelion-peppered meadow was really filled with crisp Cheetos, an oak tree was laden with blooming onions, pork rinds, and grease-covered hamburgers, and a towering maple tree off in the distance grew fragrant barbecue ribs covered in thick, rich sauces that seeped into the soil below.
Even though he was getting full, Eric managed to take tiny bites of all within his reach. Back in the recesses of his mind, he wondered that no adult was around to prohibit his binging, even as a queasy stomach began protesting. A nearby bed beckoned to him, its marshmallow mattress and cotton candy pillows comforting.
After a peaceful slumber, Eric awoke again with a rumbling belly.
“I smell pizza!”
Indeed, a bush had grown next to him while he slept. Each leaf was a juicy slice of his favorite, triple cheese-topped pizza. He downed three pieces, wiping his mouth with his tattered sleeve. He walked over to a pond of cherry Kool-aid, sprinkled with lily pads of blueberry pancakes, steam rising off their surfaces of melting butter. Further downstream, a waterfall of maple syrup splashed into rocks that were tiny pitchers in disguise.
“Yer eyes bigger than your stomach, eh, matie? Looks like we rescued ourselves just in time to find our escaped prisoner!” stale saliva drizzling from the dreaded pirate’s bristly beard, “we’ll be havin’ ourselves a feast tonight, boys, and then this fella can help us build another ship!”
Abruptly, all the food turned into dark stubby trees, even the ice-cream fudge-topped mountains dissipating, and, as prismed light crept up the valleys of Eric’s confused mind, he snapped into oblivion-free consciousness. His eyes squinted under the harsh fluorescent lights above the hospital bed.
“Praise Jesus, he’s awake!” and they wondered that he was not ravenous for special treats setting around the room awaiting his return to them.
The doctors chalked off Eric’s comatose adventure to a nervous reaction to the combination of mind-altering drugs and his empty stomach. But it was his reality, not theirs, and it fed his starving body as surely as the visiting preacher’s Bible-reading fed his soul.
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