The Northville Review
an online literary journal
There Are Those That Live in Utopian Kingdoms, and Then There Are The Rest of Us

Ethel Rohan

Inside the coffee-shop, dressed hat to boots as a pirate, he asked to sit at her table. She looked pointedly at the empty tables about them, and shrugged.

He pulled out the chair, its grate a dog growling. She tried to ignore his cocked eyebrow, thick as a caterpillar. He asked about her book. Research: she was running her first marathon in three months, for children with cancer. Her husband said she’d never do it. She didn’t share that last part.

His best friend had run marathons, including New York and London; a couple of years back he was killed in a car crash. We get one spin.

She cleared her throat, and asked just how a pirate spins.

His smile faded. He looked down at his fluffy white blouse and black and white stripped leggings, as if indicating that was it.

She returned to her book.

“You might want to actually train,” he said.

She snapped her book closed, and exited.

He followed her out onto the street. People stared at his clothes and swagger. People also stared at her whenever she trained—usually gasping like someone had cut off her ventilator. The other day, a woman had asked if she needed medical attention.

They continued walking. Seemed he had no particular place to go. Neither did she. He adjusted his hat, black with gold trim, and returned his right hand to the silver handle of his sword, holding it like it might fly away.

They arrived at the Marina, and admired the moored yachts, the sailboats on the shimmering water. He dreamed of living on a houseboat. For now, he made do with a fog-soaked apartment close to the beach.

He told her tall tales about the most famous pirate of them all: Grace O’Malley.

She’d thought pirates were superstitious about women aboard?

Grace O’Malley had commanded her own ship, three galleys, and two hundred men.

She didn’t command her one man.

They moved down to the patch of sand. She refused to help him pull off his boots, and watched, laughing, while he struggled. Eventually, he waded into the cold water after her. As a child she’d yearned to be a mermaid.

“That’s a little trickier to realize,” he said.

“I can’t even swim.”

“There’s a start,” he said.

“My husband can’t either. He’s no Neptune.”

He watched her, looking like he was circling some knowledge.

She looked away.

He admitted he had a black silk eye patch, and liked to answer to Captain. She laughed, and almost told him he was crazy, but the words caught. Crazy was telling herself that she was running this marathon out of the bigness of her heart.

She wielded his blade, sounding a war cry, thrusting the air. He egged her on. She continued, imagining she channeled not so much Grace O’Malley or even the likes of Zorro, but the Little Mermaid who refused to remain at the bottom.

About the author

Raised in Ireland, Ethel Rohan now lives in San Francisco. She has a will of steel that chains her to her writing desk. Whenever she does break away the sun hurts her eyes. She's grateful to have published widely, in elimae, PANK, Wigleaf, kill author, Monkeybicycle, (So New) Necessary Fiction, and many others. Her blog is