The RumBums of Bumstickle
“Coming!” came a yodeling voice from the hold. A moment later a large iron grate built into the deck was pushed aside by someone beneath the floor. A dark-haired women hoisted herself onto the deck, a great barrel of rum in the crook of her thick arm.
The crew halted their rowdy dancing to bow playfully to King Hoochewooche’s wife. One of them presented to her a dried, brownish flower, flattering her by smiling, “Yer as pretty as a rose, Miss.”
Queen Bellafattia’s gracious smile never faltered, not even when the crew good naturedly teased her by crowing, “Queen Bellafattia — fat enough to make the boat tip!” or “That Bellafattia, she’s fat enough to use as an anchor.”
In reality, the blue-eyed queen wasn’t fat at all — there was only enough food aboard the Sea Mama for one of them to get fat (the fine feaster was the king, who had a belly like a battleship). However, she didn’t mind their joking, because she had grown up among pirates and was used to their rudeness.
The queen wrenched the lid off the barrel of rum. She grabbed a nearby mug, which was tin and full of dents, and dipped it into the liquor. Bellafattia jerked it back out, holding the rum-filled mug aloft, much to the delight of the cheering crew.
“A pirate’s life is full o’ rum!” they shouted as the queen passed the mug to McFarty. She dipped up drink after drink, till every man had a pint of rum in his calloused hands.
“Eat, drink, and be merry!” exclaimed King Hoochewooche, raising his mug into the salty air and spilling most of the beverage on his untameable red beard.
“Eat, drink, and be merry!” echoed the crew. (This is, of course, where the well-known saying comes from.)
Once everyone had finished their third helping of rum, the dancing continued. The stamping of feet on the deck and the lively shouts from the pirates could be heard miles away. Suddenly, just as the sailors were reaching the part in their rollicking song about “tossing the scallywag overboard,” Queen Bellafattia shrieked, “Where’s PlumBum?”
PlumBum was Bellafattia’s pet octopus. The whole thing was scarcely bigger than your thumbnail. PlumBum’s slimy skin was magenta, with bright purple suckers on the bottom of her tentacles. She was from the rare species of octopus known as the RumBums, who staggered about on the tips of their tentacles in a drunken fashion. Because of this, they always seemed to be dancing.
Anyway, King Hoochewooche had given PlumBum to the queen when they were courting, so the creature was quite dear to her.
An anxious murmur washed through the crowd like a wave. “PlumBum?” they whispered. “The wee thing’s gone?”
The thought upset the crew greatly, because all of them loved PlumBum. They loved the way she stumbled about, and how she always smelled of rum.
“Everybody freeze!” ordered Belshaz. “Mates . . . please check your shoes.”
At this, the queen almost fainted.
Slowly, dreading what they might find on the bottom of their sweaty, stinky feet, the pirates lifted up one foot at a time and searched for a greasy spot between their toes that used to be PlumBum.
“Nothin’!” came their joyful cries as, one by one, they came up clean.
But there was one man . . . one man who had a look of absolute horror plastered across his face. He glanced down at his foot before whispering in a trembling, choking voice, “Belshazarrrr . . . I think I’ve found something.”
The queen fainted for real this time.
The Prince of the Pirates rushed over to the young man, a string bean of a boy named Lentil, who had several scraggly, unpleasant hairs sprouting out of his upper lip. Belshaz pinched his nose, then leaned toward the foot.
There was a sticky splotch of light brown on the ball of the young man’s foot.
Belshaz sniffed. The baffling spot smelled of meat. Octopus meat?
He sighed. The crew wasn’t going to take this well. Belshaz turned to face the nervous pirates, spreading his arms helplessly and announcing, “PlumBum has been found . . . on the bottom of Lentil’s foot.”
“Wait!” Lentil cried. He stuck his finger into the brownish goop, then licked it hesitantly. “False alarm. It was just some squashed beef.”
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, although there were some eyerolls mixed in.
“Then PlumBum’s still missing?” boomed Hoochewooche. “Hurry, men, we must find her! — but step carefully.”
In Musical class at my homeschool co-op, we were going over scenes and smoothing stuff out. But some kids had to sit on the stage and practice, like, two songs for the entire hour. Our teacher let them lay on the floor to take a break, and they were moaning and waving their arms around and stuff. I was 99% sure that they were in the early stages of becoming zombies. :P