Monday, March 12, 2012

Michael Megliola: The Trial of Sombar the Pirate

Welcome to Michael Megliola and his wonderful new Middle Grade pirate adventure! The Trial of Sombar the Pirate will be free on Amazon Kindle for one day, Thursday, March 15th. Don't miss it!

If you can't trust adults, you can always sail away. Unless they follow you.


The problem with Stanley Prison is that it’s empty.

Constable Bragg needs a prisoner—for a day, or maybe two—just to show that he’s doing his job. He sends his half-witted jailer outside to find himself a criminal. There’s a boy that lives down by the docks, minding his own business, until the jailer cries, "Thief!" If a frightened boy takes a rowboat, does that make him a pirate?

The jailer thinks it does.

A real pirate would know better. A real pirate would go on a rampage as fast as he could, plotting to lay blame on the innocent boy. But what does that matter?

There hasn’t been a pirate in a hundred years.

* * * *


Constable Bragg cleared his throat.

He had slipped from his pocket a piece of parchment, unfolded it, and laid it on the prosecutor's table. It was morning, and a rapt village hall waited for his first words. Everyone was in his place—Alder front and center, Sombar and Danielson at the table for the defense, and the three captains in the juror's box on stage. Sleight sat upright in the same chair as yesterday, near the back. He had been among the first to arrive.

Bragg smoothed the parchment, so as not to stumble over the words.

He began.

"Friends, we will demonstrate beyond a doubt that the accused Sombar the Pirate has committed a most heinous series of crimes, capital crimes, for which now he is called to account. Some of the circumstances of his actions we know well; some among us bore witness to the first of his illegal deeds. Of the other terrors he wrought, some may be known only to those lost at sea.

"I appear before you this morning a humble servant, to remind you, respectfully, that those crimes alone for which we have witnesses and evidence are more than sufficient to convict the accused on all counts."

Bragg paused to catch his breath, but his audience did not. Entranced, they waited for his next words. They were in for a disappointment. The constable had not brought any more words. It had taken all night to pen just those that he had read, plus the many that he’d discarded along the way. They sighed as one when Bragg took his seat.

"Thank you, constable," said Alder. He turned to Danielson. "Has the defense prepared any remarks?"

Danielson pushed his chair back slowly and stood up straight and tall.

Most of the village got their first real look at him. He was taller than many men and bigger around than almost all, with the obvious exception of Hock. He had managed to find a shirt with a collar, which might at one time have been white. On the day of the trial, it was more the color of old curtains.

"Begging your pardon, sir," Danielson said in voice that filled the hall, "but speaking of evidence, you see this here boy?" He reached down and took Sombar by the shoulder, hauling him up to standing. Next to Danielson, Sombar looked like a twig. "This here boy ain't no pirate, mister. There ain't no way he could've done it." Danielson turned to face Bragg. "You might've run him off, you and that pork-butt jailer of yours … "

The crowd set to such a commotion, Danielson was forced to stop.

"Order," Alder cried, only adding to the uproar. Bang. "Order." Bang.

"Order." He hammered away until the crowd settled down.

"Mister Danielson," Alder said, "I will have to ask you to be civil in your remarks."

Danielson never stopped looking at Bragg. "I'll be civil, sir, sure enough. About time somebody round here gave that a try. Anyway, this here boy couldn't whip a squirrel out of his acorns, not last year and not now neither." Danielson plunked Sombar back into his seat. "This here ain't no pirate, he didn't do nothing of the sort. I myself know the real story, and that ain't it."

* * * *

When Michael Megliola was in high school, he accidentally won an award for a writing contest that his English teacher neglected to mention he had entered. The contest involved writing an essay in a room in a far-away school with a clock that ticked loudly. She might have wondered whether he would show up, if he had been warned, particularly about the clock. It all worked out in the end.

Michael dreamed of sailing around the world, despite never having been aboard a sailboat. He was accepted to Harvard College, having something to do with the writing award, or possibly some mix-up involving the Postal Service. Harvard College has lots of sailboats hung in neat rows in a big house on the Charles River. Michael learned to sail.

A banker named Tom quit his job and starting building sailboats. He built a boat for Michael, and taught him to respect the ocean. Michael quit his job and sailed away. He couldn’t stay away forever–he ran out of money–but he single-handed his sailboat for many years, living aboard when he could, mostly in the Gulf of Maine and sometimes in the Bahamas.

Being the luckiest person alive, Michael is raising three sons. They know about baseball and Shakespeare and how to count cards. Michael knows never to impugn their dignity. During the summer, Michael teaches them to sail a ten-foot sloop in Portsmouth, NH. During the winter he writes them stories.

* * * * *

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