During a three-hour road trip this winter, I spun off about six "Pye-witt" stories. Two survived. This is my favorite, probably because there's a grown-up moral or two buried herein. He'en prefers The Talking Treasure Chest, which will follow when I get a couple more free fingers for typing.
Once upon a time, there was a pirate. He was the roughest, toughest, meanest, dirtiest, and smelliest pirate in all the world. He loved only one thing: treasure! He didn't love anything else in the world. So of course nobody loved him back.
Because he was so rough and tough and mean, and because he was always trying to steal other people's treasure, this pirate was always getting into fights. In one of the fights, he lost his leg. In another, he lost his eye. He was so grumpy about losing his leg and his eye that he spent all day stomping around his pirate ship. When he stomped, his wooden leg would bang. So it sounded like this: step-STOMP, step-STOMP, step-STOMP. And that sound made him even grumpier.
One day, the pirate was sailing his ship far out at sea, looking for treasure. As usual, he was in a grumpy bad mood. Step-STOMP, step-STOMP, step-STOMP, he stomped around the deck of the ship.
Far below the waves, in the deepest brightest blue ocean where the mer-people lived, a mermaid heard the funny noise from above: Step-STOMP, step-STOMP, step-STOMP! She was a very good mermaid, very lovely with pale skin and long dark hair, and very curious. "I wonder what that noise could be," thought the mermaid.
The noise didn't stop. Day after day it continued -- Step-STOMP, step-STOMP, step-STOMP -- until it nearly drove the mermaid mad!
"I have to find out about that strange noise," she told her mer-friends. "I will swim to the surface and find out!"
"Oh, no," said her mer-friends. "The surface is much too dangerous! You can't go there!"
But the curious mermaid was determined to go. So early one morning, she swam up-up-up through the blue water. She swam far and she swam fast, following the step-STOMP sound. And when she reached the surface by the grumpy pirate's ship, it was dawn. The sun was streaming over the water. The curious mermaid was swimming so fast that she burst out of the water and into the air like a rocket! Water splashed and sprayed everywhere until it looked like a shower of diamonds in the bright morning light.
"ARRRRR!!!!" shouted the grumpy pirate from the deck of his ship, where he was awake early and step-STOMP-ing around. "TREASURE!!! Look at all those DIAMONDS!"
The curious mermaid splashed down into the water again and bobbed her head up. "Those aren't diamonds," she said, "it's just me. Are you the one making that wonderful step-STOMP sound?"
But the pirate wouldn't answer. He was too grumpy and too distracted, thinking only of treasure. "Diamonds!" he shouted at the mermaid. "Give me those diamonds!"
"Really, there aren't any diamonds!" protested the mermaid.
The pirate still didn't believe her. "Give me those diamonds or I will come TAKE them from you!" he shouted. And no sooner did he shout that, then he dove over the side of his ship and into the water, trying to grab the diamonds.
Well, but once he was in the water, the pirate couldn't swim, having only one leg. And he couldn't see, having only one eye. So he started to thrash around and flail around and started to sink.
The curious mermaid felt very sorry for the pirate (even though he had been extremely rude and greedy). She couldn't return him to his pirate ship, so she did the next best thing. With her mer-magic -- because all mer-people have at least a little magic -- she changed that pirate into a merman!
His wooden leg floated away . . . and his remaining leg turned into a tail! He still had his eye-patch but it turned into a giant pearly fish-scale held on by a strand of golden and silver seaweed. [He'en insisted on this detail.] And after a good dunking in the ocean, he was much less dirty, and he wasn't smelly at all.
But was he grateful? Oh, no.
"ARRRRGH!" cried the pirate, "Ye silly mermaid, what have ye done to me?"
"I've turned you into a mer-man so you wouldn't drown," said the curious mermaid, who wasn't about to put up with any more nonsense or rudeness. "Now come with me!" She took his hand and they swam down, down, down to the deepest brightest blue ocean where the mer-people lived.
As they swam, an amazing thing happened. The pirate saw treasure everywhere!
In the splashing water, he saw blue sapphires and aquamarines.
In the shining scales of fish, he saw silver and gold.
In the tiny bubbles all around, he saw crystal and pearls.
In the shining coral, he saw red rubies and purple garnets.
In the waving seaweed, he saw green jade and emerald.
"Treasure," he gasped, "Everywhere around me, there is treasure!"
At last, the pirate had found the one thing that made him happy. And in time, with enough treasure to satisfy him, he found that he wasn't so grumpy. He didn't miss his leg, because he had a fine new tail. He didn't miss his eye, because he could see very well underwater. As the days passed, the pirate found that he wasn't so rough, or tough, or mean.
In fact, he turned quite nice. And he fell in love with the curious mermaid who wouldn't put up with any of his nonsense. And they got married. And they lived, deep down where the mer-people live, under the bright blue ocean,