Billy was standing in the doorway with a pillow in his one hand, a swimming noodle in the other, and an excited expression on his face. Kate knew immediately that he had some sort of an idea.
"Hi, Kate!" he said. "Wanna play pirates?"
Kate gave this some thought. Her schedule for the afternoon was quite open.
"Sure," she said, letting him in. "What do we have to do?"
Billy thumped inside and swung around, nearly knocking things down with his swimming noodle.
"Hey, watch it!"
"Sorry," he said, tossing it on the couch.
"What's with the noodle, anyway?" asked Kate.
"This? It's called a 'compass,'" said Billy. "Every self-respecting pirate has one."
"Are you sure that's a compass?" asked Kate doubtfully.
"What does it do?"
Billy suddenly seemed less sure.
"I think it's supposed to point where you're going," he said.
Kate considered it.
"And you brought a swimming noodle?"
"Well, yeah," he said. "See, when I'm at the pool, it always points wherever I want to go," he explained.
"Oh... Okay, I guess that makes sense," agreed Kate. "Then what's with the pillow?"
"That's easy," said Billy. "Pirates are supposed to 'pillage.'"
"Oh yeah. Watch."
He grabbed the pillow with both hands and bonked Kate on the head with it.
"Hey!" Kate brushed the hair out of her face and glared at him. "Well... That's not very... you know... fearsome."
Billy bonked her again, this time right on the nose.
"Ow! Okay, okay, sheesh," she said and stepped back to be safely out of pillaging range. "What else do pirates do?"
Billy tossed the pillow next to the swimming noodle and thought hard.
"I think," he said, "I think we're supposed to wear an eye-patch and a wooden leg."
"That's silly," said Kate. "Why would you wear such things?"
"I think," said Billy, "the eye-patch is for safety."
Kate considered it. Her dad always wore goggles when he worked in the basement shop, and always talked to her about safety.
"That makes sense," she admitted.
"Yeah," said Billy. "That's why they say 'eye' all the time.
Billy screwed up his face in a fierce expression and said in a gruff voice: "Eye, mateys, watch for the eye!"
He coughed furiously and then added in his usual voice: "They also say 'R' a lot and talk about 'curvy dogs.'"
"Some kind of sea critter, I think."
Kate thought about it.
"Like a sea lion?" she suggested.
"I think so," nodded Billy. "Except it's a dog. That's why they need the wooden leg, see? When the curvy dogs attack, they take the leg off and throw it at them, like sticks. Then, when the curvy dogs chase after the wooden legs, the pirates sneak around and steal their treasure."
There was a pause while they both admired the mental image.
"And, if someone disobeys their captain," added Billy, "they get 'tarred and feathered.'"
Billy thought for a moment.
"I'm not sure what 'tarred' means," he admitted after a while.
Kate rubbed her nose.
"I know what a 'leotard' is," she said. "I have to wear one to my dancing lessons. Is that the same thing?"
Billy looked unsure.
"Does it have feathers?" he asked.
"No, but I have a feather boa," said Kate.
Billy was still unconvinced.
"Can I see?"
Kate dug deep into her closet and took out her sparkly green leotard and her purple feather boa.
Billy nodded vigorously.
"Yeah, that's it," he shuddered. "If you don't listen to your captain, he makes you wear this stuff."
He paused, then added with terror in his voice: "Ain't nothing you can do to a pirate that's worse than that."
Kate bit her lip. She wore the leotard every Tuesday and Friday to her dancing practice and did not think it was so bad, actually.
"What else do pirates do?" she asked, putting things back in the closet.
Billy breathed a sigh of relief once the offensive outfit was out of sight.
"They also have to sing 'sea-shanties,'" he said.
"What are 'shanties?'" asked Kate.
"Dunno," shrugged Billy.
Kate thought for a moment.
"I have an Auntie Sheila who likes to sing," she said.
Billy looked unconvinced.
"Is she popular with pirates?" he asked.
"She used to be a famous singer," said Kate. "I heard my dad say once that she was in something called 'The Urchins from Venus.'"
"Was it any good?" asked Billy doubtfully.
"I think so. She sang it at the Broadway music school in New York," said Kate. "Besides, if it has urchins in it, it's probably popular with pirates. Space pirates, anyway," she added.
Billy shook his head, doubtfully. He was pretty sure pirates didn't have much to do with either outer space or aunties from New York music schools.
"Do you know the words to these 'Urchins from Venus?'" he asked.
Kate screwed up her face trying to remember.
"I think I heard it once on the radio," she said. "It goes like 'Urchins, urchins! Emergency!'"
"The space urchins were probably attacking their ship."
"That makes sense," said Kate.
They stood quietly for a moment, admiring the mental image.
"Is there anything else pirates do?" asked Kate.
"I think that's it," said Billy. "No, wait, we have to pick pirate names!"
Kate thought for a moment.
"I think I'll be Uhura," she said.
"I already picked mine," he said. "I'll be Billy Big Bones."
"My mom always says that I'm 'big-boned,'" explained Billy. "That's why I'm Billy Big Bones."
"I think you should be called Spock," said Kate.
"No way, that's not a pirate name!"
"Don't argue with me, I'm the captain," said Kate.
"Wait, I thought I was going to be the captain!" cried Billy.
"No, you're not, Spocky."
"No way you get to be the captain! And it's 'Billy Big Bones!' OW!"
He got pillaged squarely on the nose.
When Kate's mom looked in ten minutes later to check on the kids, she found them chasing each-other around the room singing disco music. Kate was brandishing a pillow, while Billy was clutching on to a swimming noodle. He was wearing Kate's sparkly green leotard with a purple feather boa tied loosely around his neck. His face, covered by a pair of large safety goggles, was a bright shade of pink.