Brian took off his coat and settled in his seat. It was time for his oldest daughter’s school play. He glanced at the program. There she was, on the back of the program, listed under stage crew.
He felt a little silly coming to watch a play full of teenagers when he wasn’t related to any of the actual performers. However, he felt like he was supporting the theater department by showing up, or something like that.
Halfway through the first act, he wished he’d stayed home. It was dark, and he couldn’t hear half the lines, and he kept falling asleep. Why had he come again?
And then, all the lights came on at once. The audience members looked at each other, blinking. The teenagers on stage froze in place, looking confused. And then four men in pirate costumes ran onstage.
“We are now stealing your show,” the one dressed as a captain said. He tugged on the end of his goatee with an evil chuckle. “You may get it back, but it will never be the same.” He laughed louder. The pirates behind him started to juggle and hula hoop, but they were rather terrible at both.
Brian straightened in his chair. This wasn’t on the program. The pirates looked too old to be teenagers. Were they teachers from the school? He didn’t recognize them.
The pirates were now attempting to jump rope and solve rubix cubes. Perhaps they’d do better to try one thing at a time. Brian snorted and clapped as a pirate managed to tangle two others in the jump rope.
The laughter and applause grew louder. They quieted as the pirates sang an odd song about grog and bowed. The audience cheered. The lights went out. When they went back on, the pirates were gone.
“Jenny,” Brian said to his daughter as he drove her home that night, “who were the pirates? They were hilarious. It was the best five minutes of the show.”
“That wasn’t part of the show, Dad,” Jenny said. “No one knows who they are.”
“That’s really weird,” Brian said.
Two weeks later, it was the opening night for the last movie in the trilogy about the dinosaurs that saved the world from alien invasions. All the showings were sold out for three days. It was going to be the movie of the year.
Brian had camped out overnight to get tickets for the first showing. Everyone he knew was jealous. Brian brought a notebook to record his impressions for discussions with his friends when they finally saw it. He pinched his arm when he entered the theater.
Everyone sat down for the previews and waited expectantly. Then the studio logo came onscreen. The audience cheered. Then there was a scratchy sort of noise and the pirates appeared, larger than life. “We have stolen the show,” the captain said. “To get it back, you must follow the map. Good bye!” He laughed.
A map of the theater replaced the image of the pirates. Brian copied the map into his notebook. His wife Sally and their children followed him. Most of the audience members were already searching the theater.
Seeing Brian’s map, a group joined them as they followed the trail. They followed the map to a storeroom at the back of the theater. The theater manager had come along with the group, and he let them into the room. The film was in a sealed box of serving containers for movie popcorn. When he opened the box he nearly cried in relief. “We can watch the show now,” he said. Everyone cheered.
Three days later, it was Sally’s birthday. Brian tried to convince her that the movie was an awesome birthday celebration, but she wanted a nice dinner out and had already made reservations. The restaurant was so fancy they had to dress up.
It had more than one menu and lots of silverware and a piano player in the corner playing classical music. Brian wanted to run away. “We can still go for pizza,” he whispered. His wife rolled her eyes.
They were halfway through eating their cold soup when the piano music came to a halt with a smash of keys. Everyone looked over. Two pirates were busy tying up the piano player. A third was tying his shoes laces together. The captain looked on, tugging at his goatee and chortling. He turned, hands on his hips, and looked at the diners.
“We’ve come to steal your show,” he said.
“You ruined my son’s track meet,” a man yelled.
“You knocked that poor mime into the park fountain,” someone else yelled.
“Did you really need to interrupt the debate competition? Or the spelling bee?” another diner asked.
A man glared, face red. “You were the ones who spoiled my press conference!”
“The audience was still laughing when my daughter won the beauty pageant. I hate you,” a woman said. She slammed her fist on the table. Her soup sloshed dangerously.
“I see that our reputation precedes us,” the captain said. “And so, for our devoted fans…”
“I hate you,” the woman repeated.
“… we have a special treat.” The captain continued. “A sword dance, with musical accompaniment.”
One of the pirates played chopsticks. The captain clapped along, and the other two pirates waved their swords around and stomped back and forth. A security guard approached them. The lights went off. When they turned back on the pirates were gone.
“I hate them,” the woman repeated.
“This was great,” Brian whispered. “I’m glad we came. Even if the soup was cold.”
Sally rolled her eyes. “At least someone is happy.”
The security guards untied the piano player. Several people were gathering their things and leaving. In the end, Brian and his wife stayed and got a discount on their meal and a free dessert.
Brian had a long meeting scheduled at work on Monday. He knew it was going to drag on and on, and no one would say anything new. He wondered if the pirates took requests.