Photo by Sabina Kallari (Pexels)

Don’t Cross Cap’n Pinkbeard

Sophie Thompson

“Sure, don’t be worrying. I’ve been marooned loads of times. Honestly, give him a week — maybe two — and he’ll come ‘round. They’ll be back to pick us up in no time. It’ll be grand. C’mon, there’s a wee viewpoint the other side of the island. Spectacular views of the Cliffs of Moher.” Nine-toed Noel squidged his bare soles into the sand, face shining up at Sam with a gappy grin.

Shivershanks Sam groaned, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands. A headache brewed, bubbling behind his brow. The lads were emblazoned in his mind’s eye. God, their faces. A crew of crimson steamed lobsters. Everyone onboard had lost their dignity that afternoon.

“D’you know, my first marooning was an evening like this. Nice and still. Rosy clouds. You know what they say about a red sky. D’you mind what it was for?”

“What was what for?” Sam sulked at the dried scrap of dulse on his knee.

“My first marooning.”

“It was for leaving the gristle on the Cap’n’s mutton.”

“Oh God aye! Always in trouble for something, amn’t I.”

“Aye, I know.”

“What am I like?” Noel chuckled, brimming with bonhomie. The sun jigged on his knobbled teeth as it slunk away over a horizon heaped with cherry blossom and candy floss. The French call it barbe à papa.

Pinkbeard. The Cap’n hadn’t seethed the way the lads had. He’d simply stared at Sam, lips a leathery line, latched together like limpets to a hull. The disappointment had been enough to send Sam’s stomach crashing through his arse.

“Here, tell us this. Is this your first time, yourself? Marooning-wise, that is.”

“It is, aye.” A perfect record, sloshed overboard with the greasy, blushing dregs from the laundry tub.

“Ach, you should have said. We should do something to mark the occasion. D’you know, I always say, not much beats a good marooning. Think of it as a bit of R&R. If it’s only your first time like, the Cap’n will definitely get over it. And sure, see the sun? Nature’s bleach. You’ll be grand, promise you.”

Sam scratched at the dulse in silence, shrivelled and stuck to his skin. He prayed Noel was right. The sunset wasn’t the same with the steady shore under your hoop. He ached for the weightlessness of a swaying hull beneath him. How long was a week?

He was roused by the scattering of sand on his shin as Noel plucked all nine of his toes from their hiding place in turn.

“Ach Jesus, Noel!” He scowled, dusting his leg off.

“Sure, it's only a wee bit of sand, Sam. Here, tell us this. Did you like building sandcastles when you were wee yourself? We could have a competition, to pass the time, like. Personally, I prefer the four-turret style, now. For structural stability. But if you've another you’d like to do…”

Sam looked back to the sun waving goodnight. He licked his lips, tasting the last lingering kiss of the brine in the cracks of his skin. That feckin’ sock amongst the suds… He cringed coral at the thought. He blamed Sean Scarletstockings. He’s the one should be festering on this forlorn spit with Noel.

“Sam? Sam!”


“I was saying, if we go now, we can still catch the sunset on the cliffs. Honest to God, they’ll look absolutely stunning in that light.”

Sam sizzled, cheeks a pair of king crabs. “Would you ever just give over, Noel!”

“Here, don’t be getting salty with me, like. I’m only trying to lighten the mood. Anyway, it’s your fault we’re here. I just said the Cap’n looked fetching in fuchsia.”

Sophie Thompson is a writer and social researcher, originally hailing from Northern Ireland. She currently lives in Essex, UK with her partner, young son and three chickens. She was a finalist in the WOW! Women on Writing Fall Flash Fiction Competition 2023 and the runner-up in the Farnham Flash Fiction Competition February 2024. You can find her at