Our Big Mistake
“Stanley! Stop crowding me!” It’s Lil. Now that me, Wilfred, Wally, Mr Wombat, Mrs Wombat, Lil and Clary all have to sleep together in the same hole, it is getting rather squishy.
We have discovered something good. Clary and Wally are almost exactly the same age, and so are me and Lil.
“Wally, do you want to come play Hide and Seek with me? You know, in the kitchens?” Squeaks Clary.
“Yeah! When do we start?”
“Now! (By the way, I dibs Seeker!)” They race off, laughing.
“That brother of yours knows were to play Hide and Seek, doesn’t he! Your brothers and sisters told me that the kitchens are like a maze, with plenty of holes in the floor, empty barrels, cramped shelves and secret passages to hide in!”
“Yep! Someday, I might want to show ya around! I know this ship like the back of me paw.”
“Mum hasn’t moved ships since I was born! What do ya expect?”
A few hours later, Wally and Clary return.
“Lil, Stanley, there’s something you better see.” Squeaks Wally. I take one glance at his pale face, and know that this cannot wait.
“Lil, come on.”
We race along the deserted corridors.
“All of the crew are still asleep. That’s why the corridors are empty!” We hear a yawn coming from the room next to us.
“Grr… what’s that tapping noise?” says a gruff human voice.
“Or not! Run, or you’ll be caught!”
We race along the corridors, a growing mob of sleepy sailors stumbling along behind us. One peeks out of a bedroom right next to us.
“What’s all this?” Then he sees us. “Rats! Get them!” Now I can hear the whole mob shouting.
“KILL the rats!” Then I hear Wally’s voice, which is slightly more comforting.
“Stanley! Stop, or you’ll fall right in!” I skid forward, and stop at the edge of a rat sized hole that seems to tunnel down to the hold. Then Lil speaks.
“Wally! Clary! Stanley! We can hide from the sailors down there!” She jumps in. I jump in after her.
“No!” Shouts Clary. “Don’t go in there! You don’t understand!” Lil pokes her head up.
“Come in!” She says. Clary grabs Wally, and drags him into the hole.
“Come on, Wally! We’ve got to save them!”
I crash into some sort of wire meshing. It’s a cage! Suddenly, I feel a sharp pain at the end of my tail.
“Ouch! Lil, Clary, Wally, let’s get out of here!”
We all race behind a pile of crates in the corner. As my eyes adjust to the dim light, I see what is in the cages. The wild cats! There is something on their cages. It’s a label, and it says… I can’t read it. No, hang on… It says “THE PET PALACE!” I almost laugh out loud. The evil, savage wild cats going to a PET SHOP? What I see next, however, wipes the grin off my face. One of the cats slips out between the bars of it’s cage. My brain works quickly. This cat is too thin to harm any of us, but the cats must of worked that out already. They’re not stupid. (At least, most of them aren’t.) So this cat must be here for a different reason. What is it? Suddenly, something in my brain goes click.
“Lil” I whisper “do you think the cats have keys to their cages?” What I see next confirms my suspicions. It’s Deadeyes. He’s talking to the thin cat.
“So, Beast! Find the key, and bring it here!”
“But Master!” Deadeyes slashes his claws down Beast’s flank.
“Yes! If you fail, there will be punishment!” Beast is starting to sweat. “And believe me, you will not like that punishment.”
“Yes Master! I will find the key!”
“So, Lil” I hiss. “We need to find the key before that thin cat-Beast finds it.
“Yes! And however vulnerable he seems, Beast is still me enemy.”
We have finally found the hole that we got in with.
“Clary, Wally! Hurry up, we’re waiting!” Lil squeaks, impatient. We squeeze in.
The next day, me, Wilfred, Wally, Mr Wombat, Clary, Mrs Wombat and Lil crowd around a carefully drawn map of the ship. (At the bottom, the words ‘By Lil, Stanley and Clary’ stand out in black ink.)
“THIS IS OUR FINAL PLAN TO GET THE KEY!” Shouts Mr Wombat. “NO MORE CHANGES!” (He’s a bit annoyed that we kept on spilling the ink on purpose, and I suppose that he would be MORE than a bit annoyed after the annual rat and wombat ink fight. Yes, he did get covered in ink, yes, he did ask us to stop more than once, but hey, WE never made the ledge that the ink pot was sitting on break while he was sleeping underneath, did we!?)
“HEY!” Shouts Lil. “I thought we agreed I would do the labelling of objects, and YOU would do the rest of the writing!”
“Well, you’ll have to cope with not doing it, won’t you!?” I say. Lil snatches the quill from me, and quickly scribbles down the rest of the labels “NOW, LET”S ACTUALLY DO THIS, INSTEAD OF STANDING AROUND AND GOSSIPING!” Booms Mr Wombat.
The next morning, Lil, Clary, Wally and me all get up early.
“Now we have to wake the adults!” Squeaks Lil. “Me and Clary will wait here.”
“I’ll wake mummy and daddy! Oh, sorry, I mean Mr Wombat and Mrs Wombat.” Whispers Wally.
“And I’ll deal with Wilfred!” I say.
I scamper off to Wilfred’s room, and tug his tail and jump on his bed until he turns over, sees me, and groans loudly. In the room next door, I can hear Wally using the same method to rouse Mr and Mrs Wombat.
“Stanley, you demon!” Wilfred says “How many times have I told you not to wake me up so early!”
“Zero.” I answer truthfully.
“Oh Stanley, you funny little rat!” says Wilfred. He pats my head, and pulls on a beanie. (I notice that it is the blue one with the fluffy green bobbles that I made for him last Christmas.)
“So, Stanley!” he says “Let’s find this key!”
Lil and I go first. A door crashes open, and we dart behind the nearest barrels.
“This is actually dangerous!” whispers Lil, excited. “We could really DIE doing this! Oh, what fun!”
We keep racing along the corridors, until we are finally at the kitchens. I race behind table one, and wait for Lil. She doesn’t arrive.
“Lil! Lil, where are you!? LIL!” Suddenly, I spot her. She has been caught by one of the chefs. The fat one with the cleaver. And he has put Lil on the chopping board.
“Stanley! Help!!!!! HELP ME!!!”
I race up, and bite the cook’s leg.
“Waaa? Oh! Another filthy, dirty rat! I’ll get rid of this one too.” He lifts me up, and drops me on the chopping board with Lil. Then he presses us both down with his ugly hand. He lifts the cleaver, and brings it down. Just as it’s about to chop off our heads, however, both me and Lil leap forwards, and he only succeeds in chopping off half of our tails, which still hurts A LOT.
I leap down to the floor, and see footprints in the dust. Rat footprints. I sigh. Everyone else has passed through, which means they’re past the biggest danger.
“Now let’s catch up with the others!” I shout to Lil.
“Nothing!” I call to the others. We have arrived in the captain’s office, and gone to our assigned areas.
“Same here!” shouts Clary.
“I’ve checked all the shelves, and I haven’t found a thing!” Squeaks Wally.
“What about you Lil?” I ask.
“It looks like the captain has been using this safe as a lolly store! (That was a no, by the way.)”
“Oh dear! Where else would we find a key!?” I say.
“Maybe on that guard’s belt. It says ‘KEYS’ on it in capital letters.” Lil suggests.
“Yeah. Probably.” I say. “I’ll get it.”
“Okay, but be careful!” Says Lil.
I leap onto a barrel, then squeeze my hands into cracks in the wooden walls. I swing myself up… Then I let go.
I keep on swinging up, until I reach the ceiling. I jump onto one of the beams across the roof, and position myself so that I am directly above the keys man. I drop onto his shoulder, and dig my claws into his uniform. The I drop down onto his belt, and hold on.
Suddenly, I hear Lil.
“Stanley! Beast’s here! He’s watching us!” I shudder. If he sees this, Beast will follow us everywhere, attack us when we’re sleeping… He will stop at nothing to get this key.
I grab the keys, and pull. They come quite easily, FAR more easily than expected, and I catapult backwards, into Lil. She catches me.
“Stanley, are you okay?” She asks.
“Yeah. Just a few bruises and a chopped off tail.” I get up, and we all race back home.
The next morning, I wake up to a growling sound from outside. Then Wally (who always gets up early with Clary to play ‘dodge the fat cook with the cleaver’) screams. I leap up, and race outside. Then I see Beast. He has grabbed Wally’s tail in his jaws, and is attempting to drag him to the hold. I race back inside the hole, grab the nearest weapon, (which just happens to be the key,) scamper back outside, and hit Beast on his scrawny little head. Beast yowls with pain, drops Wally, and races off to the hold.
After all this, we agree that the key must be destroyed.
“Do you know if this ship has a blacksmith’s office?” I ask Lil.
“Yes. It does.” She answers.
“Great! Where is it?
“Why do you even WANT a hammer?”
“To break up the key, of course!”
“Then the cats could just find the pieces, and put them back together again!”
“Good point. Let’s throw it overboard instead!”
“I’ll go wake up everyone else. You, Wally and Clary can take the key up to top deck.” Squeaks Lil.
Me, Wally and Clary arrive at top deck. I lean over the side, and see a big, black fin. I jump backwards.
“Oh, hello up there.” Says the shark. “I’m very hungry. Would you please fall off?”
“I’m not planning to do that any time soon!” I say.
“Don’t worry. I’m patient. I can wait here forever, if you make me. But sooner or later, you’ll always become shark food.”
“Strange.” Whispers Wally. “I didn’t know sharks had MANNERS!” By now, the others have arrived.
“If you’re so hungry, then eat THIS!” Shouts Wilfred. He throws the key down to the shark. The shark almost immediately spits it out. It flies down and plops through a hole in the deck.
“Yuck. Not nearly as good as fresh rat.” The shark says, glaring at me. Then, I see a streak of ginger, flying through the air towards the shark. It’s Beast! He must have been following the key this whole time! Beast flies straight into the shark’s jaws.
“Yum!” says the shark. When he has finished chewing, he says:
“Yum! Fresh rat is not nearly as good as fresh CAT!”
“Let’s get this key!” Says Wilfred.
I jump through the hole in the deck, and fall. Then, just as I hit the ground, I realise where I am, and where the key must have gone. I am right next to the hole to the hold. CLICK. Oh no! The cats are unlocking their cages! I scramble away, but I am to late. Sharp claws grab me, and drag me into the hold.