art by Jonathan Westbrook
The Death and Rebirth of Anne Bonny
by Nancy Fulda
i: the imaginary quantity equal to the square root of minus one--symbol i, first quantified through the work of Rafael Bombelli in 1572 AD.
When I was twelve my father used to take me hunting for buried treasure. We'd rove the coast near his beach house looking for devil-fingered trees and rocks shaped like dragons' heads.
I felt close to him, out there between the sun and the sea, dreaming of studded chests and golden doubloons that pressed with the weight of history against your fingers. Waving goodbye and climbing in the taxi to head home; to Mom and winter life and the city... it always felt like yanking out a piece of my heart.
Maybe that's why I started taking Aye with me.
Aye was a Macaw with bright eyes and scruffy feathers, and he didn't really exist. Dad and I made him up one afternoon out on the pier, when I was pretending to be Anne Bonny and needed help escaping the law. Aye burst out of the palms and tugged Dad's hat over his eyes while Anne Bonny, the bravest and noblest of all female pirates, jumped from the pier and fled into the underbrush.
The parrot showed up again the next day, and I named him Aye, as in Aye, Matey. Because he was a pirate's bird.
I don't think Dad could really see Aye, although he pretended pretty well.
Mom had no tolerance for imaginary pets. I still recall the morning she lectured me on the importance of mature conduct while Aye hung upside-down from the chandelier, nibbling the iron links that supported the crystals and sending down occasional teardrops of sculpted glass.
When Mom found the broken pieces on the floor later that day, she fired the cleaning lady.
Aye spent the winters clawing my bedposts and nibbling at the corners of my books. He roved the beaches with Dad and me in the summers, searching for scratches in the rocks where dying pirates had marked the way to secret treasure. We never found anything, but I believed--really, truly, in the way only children can--that eventually we'd unearth a rich pile of doubloons.
And then one day I barged uninvited into Dad's private den.
It was late. I'd been reading a biography of Anne Bonny; a scholarly work that didn't shy from dirty details. Turned out she was just a plain old thief, not the selfless defender of justice I'd always believed in. I threw the door open without knocking and slammed the book on Dad's desk. "Why'd you tell me all that stuff about Anne?" I demanded. "None of it's true."
My Dad pulled off his spectacles, startled. If he'd had a chance to speak, maybe he would have found the words to soothe my anger. But just then my gaze dropped to the half-drawn treasure map spread in front of him.
Aye squawked and flew from my shoulder to pace along the inked lines. He raised his head to look at me in that funny, sideways way parrots have.
I don't know why it took me so long to realize that Dad's weather-beaten treasure maps were fabrications. But that night, watching Aye's tail sweep across the parchment, it was obvious. Dad had drawn the coastlines himself. The blood spatters were ink from an old fountain pen. The corners had been burned off in the flame from his desk candle.
"It's all a lie, isn't it?" I asked. "It was all always a lie!"