A Roo-yal Expedition: Part Four
I’ve been cooped up here for three days now. Julia’s annoying me, and I think she’s in a bad mood because we have to share the same bed. The rest of the crew sleeps in the next room. Diabbalo keeps looking at me strangely. I wonder what I did to upset him. I feel kind of sick, and I haven’t eaten in two days. We have to preserve the food, Julia says. I’d much rather eat it now.
Jaraiya closed the notebook with a snap and stuffed it under his pillow just as Julia walked in. She gave him a small smile.
“Up to anything fun?” she asked.
From below deck, they could still hear the waves crashing against the sides of the ship. The sails thrashed against the mast, making the boat turn wildly to either side.
“Have you been up there lately?” Julia asked. She sat on the bed next to Jaraiya, who hit the top bunk as he sat up. “I’ve talked to Caleb, and he thinks the storm should pass in a few more days at most.”
“Is there any damage?” Jaraiya asked. As he rubbed his head, the only damage he was concerned about was the bruise he was going to get.
“Not too much. Diabbalo’s been helping with a leak that we had. He’s been hauling water off the ship. The sails ripped, too.” She paused. “He’s a good pet, you know.”
“If he’s not shooting you dagger looks all the time, I suppose he is,” he said.
“Dagger looks?” Julia asked. She wrinkled her eyebrows. “Hm.”
Jaraiya waited for his sister to say something more, but she didn’t. She stood up and opened the door leading to the other residential quarters.
“Dinner’s at five,” she said as she exited.
Jaraiya met up with the other crew members in the small dining room off the kitchen. When he walked in, Julia handed him a portion of bread and a cup of water, which he looked at disdainfully. Before he could speak, Julia covered his mouth with her hand.
“Don’t say anything,” she whispered into his ear. “If you complain, everyone will.” She jerked her head at the other crew members, who seemed just as unhappy with their meals. Allie tried to smile bravely, but her smile faded as she brought the bread to her mouth. Diabbalo didn’t even conceal his discomfort; he spit out a chewed-up slice of meat onto his plate.
“So, Caleb,” Julia said brightly. “Any news?”
The Red Kacheek looked up, flustered. His fur, which had once been well combed, was now all over the place. He pulled the tattered red notebook out of his pocket.
“I’d say that the storm is going to lighten up a little by tomorrow,” he said. “We will need to get more food and water, as you can see we’re running low...” He looked grimly at the plate in front of him. “Also – ”
“Look,” Diabbalo said. The rest of the crew members turned in his direction, their mouths open. “We don’t need to go over all these details, do we?”
Caleb cast his eyes downward, obviously hurt.
“What do you mean?” Julia said slowly.
As the rest of the crew glared at him, Diabbalo lost his confidence.
He coughed. “Er... I mean that things will work out when they work out, right? No point pushing them.”
An awkward silence followed. Diabbalo picked up his plate, the bread half-eaten, and handed it to Julia.
“See you guys tomorrow,” he said. After he’d left, Allie patted Caleb on the back.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “He doesn’t mean it. We all really appreciate the work you’ve done on this.”
He gave her a halfhearted smile.
After dinner, Jaraiya walked immediately to Diabbalo’s room. He passed Zeal, who pressed against the wall as the Poogle passed.
“Sorry,” the Meerca said. Jaraiya grunted, and kept walking. He didn’t stop until he reached an old wooden door with a brass handle.
Jaraiya walked into the Aisha’s room without knocking. Diabbalo looked up, just as he was untying his bandana. He gave the Poogle one glance before turning back to talk to the mirror.
“Need something?” he asked.
“Yes, ‘mate’,” Jaraiya said. “Let’s have a little talk.” He waved away Diabbalo’s offer to sit down. “First of all, I don’t understand your intentions. You work hard on this ship, and yet you seem to hate everyone on it. My sister likes you, but I have no idea why. And you really hurt Caleb’s feelings back there.”
To Jaraiya’s surprise, the Pirate Aisha threw back his head and laughed. He didn’t stop until he noticed the Poogle’s cold expression through the mirror.
“Sit down, my friend, and let me tell you my story.”
Jaraiya reluctantly accepted a chair at Diabbalo’s desk. The Aisha himself perched on the edge of his bed.
“When I was a young pirate like yourself,” he began, “I was very outgoing and friendly.”
Jaraiya began to giggle, but it was his turn to stop at the frown on his crewmate’s face.
Diabbalo cleared his throat before continuing. “As I said, I was a pretty friendly fellow. I was contracted to work on a new ship, called The Star. The ship was the newest of its kind, fitted with the best technology. I was the luckiest pet in the world when I won that lottery.”
“What lottery?” Jaraiya asked.
“A lottery to be a member of the crew. From day one, I scrubbed and cleaned those decks as best I could. I lived off scraps that the other mates through away. But I was happy. And then...”
Diabbalo smiled sadly. “Then everything fell apart. We had a storm - much like this one - after the first week. One of the crew members flew overboard. I still remember his expression as he fell. I vowed that I would never meet that fate. The storm raged on, but I worked harder. I was determined to succeed, at all costs. By the end of the voyage ... I’d grown tough. Tough, but mean. And I’ve never gone back.”
He clapped his hands on his knees. “Enough of that. Honestly, the reason I didn’t like you at first was that you were the kind of pet I wanted to be – brave and yet kindhearted. I signed up for this voyage in the hopes that I would become a better crew member. It seems as though I have failed.”
“You haven’t failed!” Jaraiya said suddenly. Diabbalo looked up in surprise.
“No,” the Poogle continued, “I think you’re doing quite well. And now that I’ve heard your story ... well, I’ll stick by you.”
“Really?” the Aisha asked. He looked up, his eyes shining.
Jaraiya held out his hand.
“Friends,” he said.
Diabbalo smiled. “As long as we fight the same battles, of course.”
When Jaraiya woke up the next morning, he found that sun was streaming onto his face.
“Huh?” he said groggily. He lifted a hand to his head and felt a small bruise. He stuck his head outside of the bottom bunk, and pulled at Julia’s sheets.
“Julia,” he said. “Juliaaa...”
“WHAT?” she asked.
“Why is it sunny?”
“Yes, it is. Look outside.” He pulled on the sheets again, and Julia caught herself before she fell off the bunk. She opened her eyes and blinked rapidly.
“It IS sunny!” she said. She tore off her sheets and jumped off the bed.
“Caleb!” she called down the hallway as he ran out. “Come here!”
The Red Kacheek nodded at Jaraiya and followed Julia up the stairs. Diabbalo walked out of his room, too, and clapped Jaraiya on the back.
“Hey, mate,” he said.
Jaraiya grinned at his new friend. “Hey there to you too.”
Both pets shaded their eyes as they walked into the bright sunshine. They approached the edge of the ship, and leaned over the side. The choppy waves had disappeared, giving way to a calm, blue ocean. The sky above was cloudless. In the distance, Jaraiya could hear Beekadoodles singing. One swooped above his head, and he gazed up as it flew into the sun.
They had only a few moments to enjoy the view before a call came from the top of the mast.
Allie peered through her telescope, and looked to the deck.
“Land ahead!” she yelled.
“What did she say?” Julia asked, turning around to face her brother. “Watch the beds?”
All of the pets rushed to the prow of the ship. It was headed directly towards a small island that seemed to be only a few miles away.
Caleb pulled out his notebook.
“D’you have anything?” Julia asked.
“No,” he said. “I think that the storm put us off track. No one’s been checking to see how far we’ve come since it started.”
“So we have no idea where we are.”
“Do any of you have an idea as to what this island is?” Julia asked, turning to the other pets. Even Diabbalo shook his head.
As the boat moved closer, Julia and Jaraiya noticed that the island looked similar to the shore they’d first landed on. It was surrounded by a thick wall of trees that prevented the pets any chance of seeing through.
“Allie!” Julia called. “Can you see over those trees?”
The Spotted Ixi shook her head.
“What’s that?” Caleb asked. Jaraiya peered closer, and realized what Caleb was talking about. On the beach were ten figures or so, all bouncing up and down. One pointed to the ship, and the rest looked with him.
“Ahoy!” Allie called once she’d realized that they’d seen the ship.
A far cry came from the distance, sounding vaguely like “Hello!”
One of the creatures took a boat from the shore, and with a little help from his friends, pushed off from the sand. He picked up the oars and began rowing toward the ship.
Julia shot Jaraiya a bewildered look.
“What should we do?” Jaraiya hissed to Diabbalo. The Pirate Aisha shrugged, keeping his gaze on the small boat coming towards them.
The creature stood up once he was within shouting distance. He waved his oars.
“Hello!” he said again. “How may we help you?”
To be continued...