The Rumbums of bumstickle
Belshaz rushed over to where his mother was crumpled on the deck. He seized a bucket of salty Bumstickle water and dumped it on Bellafattia’s head.
The queen lurched into an upright position, gasping and spitting out seawater. “PlumBum’s dead!” she wailed.
“Mum, Mum,” cooed Belshaz, wrapping a muscular arm around his mother’s soaked, shivering shoulders, “we don’t know that for sure.” He held Queen Bellafattia while she cried, as the crew of the Sea Mama zipped around the ship, searching for the tiny magenta octopus.
* * *
It was a week after PlumBum had gone missing, and everyone had given up on the octopus — everyone except for Belshaz. Queen Bellafattia’s six-hundred-and-sixth birthday (actually, she was only turning forty-eight) was coming up, and her son was desperately hoping to find PlumBum in time to return her to the queen as a birthday present.
However, things were looking grim. PlumBum was nowhere to be found. Belshaz had looked everywhere: in the galley, in the hold, in the crows nest; he’d even shimmed out on the bowsprit and checked on the figurehead.
Belshaz spent the queen’s birthday frantically combing the ship for PlumBum. When the sun finally sank beneath the horizon, and the rippling sea reflected its dying light, he had to give up on PlumBum. Either she was dead, had slipped into the Sea of Bumstickle, or was still aboard the ship in an extraordinarily good hiding place. Whatever the case, there was no way that Belshazarrrr would be able to find PlumBum in time for the queen’s birthday feast.
While the mustached cook prepared the finest foods for the feast, the crew worked on a ballad, Belshaz drew architectural designs, and King Hoochewooche fashioned a present for his wife out of items he found aboard the ship, Queen Bellafattia locked herself away in her cabin and mourned the loss of her beloved pet.
At midnight, everyone gathered on the deck. The pirates were dressed in their best clothes. Moonlight and torchlight bounced off polished pewter plates piled high with the cook’s fanciest dishes. And although everyone tried their hardest to make the celebration merry, nothing could replace PlumBum’s adorable awkwardness.
As Belshaz bit into a spiced slice of beef, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. Jagged letters were appearing on the outer wall of his cabin. A stumpy piece of white chalk was hovering in the air, scratching against the wood. His horrified gasp drew the attention of the banqueters.
“What be the problem, lad?” McFarty asked.
Belshazarrrr pointing a quivering finger at the words.
At that moment, the men (and queen) resembled fish in an uncanny way, with their mouths hanging wide open and their glossy eyes like saucers. Most of them backed away from the wall in fear. Everyone was fumbling for an explanation, so, naturally, someone shouted, “Magic!”
“Magic?!” roared King Hoochewooche. “If that be the case, then someone be castin’ the magic.”
Immediately, the sailors’ eyes darted around the deck, suspicious of everyone.
“Squid-Eye’s the guilty one! He be sweatin’!” Lentil pointed an accusing finger at the one-legged pirate.
Several men snatched food from the table and chucked them at the pirate, growling, “Squid-Eye.”
“I say!” shouted Squid-Eye, blocking the projectiles with his hairy arm. “I’ve done nothing of the sort.” He grabbed a mug half-filled with rum and splashed it on Lentil.
Now everyone was enraged. The pirates chose sides — Lentil or Squid-Eye — and an epic food fight ensued.
Dodging catapulted food, Belshazarrrr sprinted through the warzone toward the writing on the wall. The chalk was still working, spelling out what looked like a complaint: “You’re rum is terrible. You should –” And that’s as far as the chalk had gotten. Belshaz watched the tool silently as it did its work. He wanted to know what made it tick. As Belshaz sat patiently, and the food fight raged on around him, the prince was finally rewarded. Something tiny, purplish-pink, and wiggling, waved over the top of the thick piece of chalk.
“You’re rum is terrible. You should let the RumBums take over the rum-making business,” the chalk’s note now read.
“Aha!” yelled Belshaz triumphantly, springing to his feet. “Pirates — it’s not magic!” And he plucked the chalk out of the air, shook it over his palm, and held up his hand for the men to see. Nestled in his open palm was a tiny magenta octopus.