S: Tails of the Sea
FC: Tails of the Sea | Tails of the Sea | Tails of the Sea | Tails of the Sea
1: Prologue Once upon a time, a fellow named Joe Kremer told his children, Jim and Jill, a story. (Joe was known as Dad or Daddy to his children, and Granddaddy to his grandchildren. His wife was Gerrie, or Nina. There is another Joe Kremer, Jim's son, and he was named after his grandfather.) The story was entitled Filet the Flounder, and there were three original characters. Fil-lip, a grown flounder, and a teeny, tiny baby swordfish started the story off. Then there was Filet, a little flounder, one of Fil-lip’s great-great-great great grandchildren, and she was obviously the Damsel in distress. Next we meet Baghead the Octopus, who was said to be “slimy,” “nasty looking,” and to have the “meanest looking arms you ever did see.” Baghead was clearly the villain! Finally we meet Sabre the Swordfish, who came along just in time to keep Filet from being eaten up by Baghead, which makes Sabre clearly the Hero! The years went by and the story was largely forgotten. Jim and Jill grew up, married and had children, and their children had children. One day Jill asked Jim what he remembered of the story about Baghead, and they both agreed, not very much. Hearing the discussion, Jim’s wife Pat said she thought there was a copy around somewhere, and lo and behold, she actually found the original copy! Many kudos to Pat – without her all this would not have come to pass! The copy was typed and handwritten by Joe himself and had lain for some 60 years in a box. | -i-
2: -ii- | Well, when Jill read the story she was alarmed to find that Baghead was a dastardly villain. This was not her memory at all, and did not suit her in the least, as she had become quite an octopus lover. So she preserved the main content of Joe’s story, as far as it went, but allowed Baghead to emerge in a different light. The first four chapters comprise what remained of Joe’s original piece. (There were no chapters in the original manuscript but they seemed to be appropriate.) No one alive knows whether there was ever more told or written, but this was all of the story that remains extant. The rest of the tale has evolved from visits to the aquarium, conversations with grandchildren, and nights on the computer where the characters and action just arose from the mists of Jill’s imagination. The final party at the end, with strawberry shortcake and octopus jokes is Noah’s inspiration. Illustrations were solicited from all the grandchildren, and so it is that the original story of Filet the Flounder became a comprehensive family project now entitled Tails of the Sea.
3: Tails of the Sea Chapter One: Stuck Once upon a very long time ago, way down in the bottom of the deep blue ocean, lived a flounder by the name of Fil-lip. Now a flounder is a strange looking fish, not like any other fish that you have ever seen. He is flat -- almost as though he had been sat upon by an elephant. He swims along the sandy floor of the ocean looking for all the world like a moving plate. Another strange thing about a flounder is that he has both of his eyes on the top of his body. I suppose this just might be so that when he swims along the sandy floor of the ocean he won’t get sand in his eyes. What do you think? Well, the day that our story begins, Fil-lip was swimming along, minding his own business, when he looked up through those eyes that were both on the top of his body and saw a great big ship slowly settling down through the water almost right over his head. He gave a quick flip of his tail and swam out from under this great big ship. Just as he did so he saw a teeny, tiny, baby swordfish coming along, not paying any attention at all to where he was going. Fil-lip tried to signal to the little swordfish that if he didn’t look out, he would be caught under the big ship. Maybe the little swordfish was lost and trying to find his way home, or maybe he was just fascinated by all the wonders he saw. In any case he seemed not to notice Fil-lip at all. Or if he did see him, he certainly didn’t pay any attention to that silly old flounder that was waving his fins at him, a little like a windmill going around and around. | -1-
4: Well, just what Fil-lip was afraid would happen did. The little swordfish kept right on swimming and the big ship kept right on settling, and before long, the big ship had settled right down on the little swordfish and caught him by the tail. Try as he would, the little fish couldn’t get himself loose. The harder he swam, the tighter he seemed to stick. | -2-
5: Fil-lip felt sorry for the little swordfish. He wasn’t sure just what he could do to help him get loose, but he knew that he couldn’t just leave him stuck. He swam over to where the little swordfish was caught and told him to relax and not worry because before very long he, Fil-lip, would think of a way to set him free. Fil-lip swam slowly around the big ship, examining it from all different angles, trying to think of some way he could move the big ship so the little swordfish would be able to get away. Finally he got an idea. Quickly he swam back to where the little swordfish was caught and, “Now little swordfish, you stay right there until I tip the big ship over a little bit. Then you will be able to swim away.” The little swordfish looked at Fil-lip with big round eyes. The swordfish was certainly very teeny and tiny, but even so, he couldn’t quite see how a flounder would be able to tip a big ship like this over even a little bit. But since there was nobody else around who might be able to help him, he said, “Alright, Mr. Flounder, I promise I will stay right here.” | -3-
6: Chapter Two: The Plan Now Fil-lip had a plan he was pretty sure would work. As he was swimming around the big ship he had noticed that on its deck were many, many barrels full of bright shiny things. Now of course he didn’t know that this was a pirate ship, nor did he know that the pirates had been counting the pieces of gold that they had taken from another ship when their own ship had been sunk. Fil-lip swam over to one of the barrels and in his mouth picked up one of the shiny things. He carried it over to the other side of the boat and put it down. Then he swam back and picked up another of the shiny things and carried it over to the other side. Over and over again he carried shiny things from the barrel and put them on the other side of the boat. He emptied one barrel and started right in on the next. Every now and then he would swim down and ask the little swordfish whether the boat felt any lighter on him. “No,” said the little swordfish each time, “Not yet.” At long last Fil-lip came to the final barrel. He had carried most of the shiny things from this last barrel over and put them with the others. He now had a lot of them piled up in a big pile on the other side of the boat. He swam down once more and asked the little swordfish whether the boat seemed any lighter. “I’m almost afraid to say so,” the swordfish answered, “but I think that it is not pressing down on me quite so hard.” | -4-
7: Fil-lip dashed back and carried the rest of the shiny things over to the pile he had made and as he picked up the very last one, he thought he felt the boat move ever so slightly. He swam over to the other side and dropped the shiny thing on the pile. Sure enough, as he did so, the boat started to tip, and it kept right on tipping until it was lying on its side on the bottom of the ocean. At last the little swordfish was free and could swim back home. “I’ll never forget what you have done for me,” he said to Fil-lip. “I’m going to tell everyone I meet how kind you were to help me and, maybe, someday, I will be able to do something for you!” As it turned out, the little swordfish never was able to do anything for Fil-lip because Fil-lip never got himself into any trouble. But the little swordfish did tell everyone he met about the wonderful thing that Fil-lip had done. | -5- | Before very long all the fish in that part of the seven seas knew how a flounder had tipped over a pirate ship and freed a baby swordfish that had been caught beneath it.
8: Chapter Three: Baghead Many years went by and lots of things happened. Fil-lip grew older and had some children, and those children had their own children, until there were hundreds and hundreds of Fil-lip’s great-great-great-great flounder grandchildren living in the ocean. And the little swordfish grew up and also found a mate and had children, and his children had children until there were hundreds of great-great-great swordfish grandchildren living in the ocean. And during all these years the pirate ship had been lying there on the bottom of the ocean and, like all wooden ships do when they are in the water for a long time, it began to rot and fall apart. Its sails seemed to evanesce (you can ask mommy or daddy what that word means if you don’t know), and by the time Fil-lip’s great-great-great-great grandchildren were born there was not a great deal left of the ship but a few of the big brass guns, the bright shiny things that Fil-lip had piled on the other side of the ship to tip it over (which were not very bright or shiny anymore), and some of the swords and pistols that the pirates had had on their ship to use when they fought with other ships. It was in one of these big brass guns that Baghead lived. Baghead was an octopus, and a fascinating creature he was indeed. Can you guess why he was called Baghead? Right, he had that name because his head looked like a big, upside-down bag. | -6-
9: Attached to the bag were eight of the most slithery arms that you ever did see. Long, strong, leathery arms that had little things on them something like buttons –- hundreds of them on each arm! All of these buttons were like little suction cups. When Baghead caught a crab with his arms, each of those little buttons would start sucking on it, and hold it so tight it couldn’t get away. | Then he bent his arms in toward the center where he has a sharp beak, something like a parrot’s. It is with that sharp beak that Baghead, the octopus, eats his meals. | -7-
10: Chapter Four: Filet Goes Exploring One afternoon, not very far from where Baghead lived, the sunlight was streaming down deep into the blue ocean water. A little fish was listening to the story of how her great-great-great-great grandfather on her mother’s side had saved the life of a teeny, tiny, baby swordfish. This little fish was Filet the Flounder, and as she listened, the two eyes on the top of her head grew bigger and bigger in amazement that one of her grandparents could have done such a wondrous thing. When the story was finished, Filet the Flounder was swimming around feeling very happy, thinking what a grand thing it was to be alive. Suddenly an idea came to her. She would swim over to see what was left of the pirate ship where her great-great-great-great grandfather had made himself a hero of the whole fish world. Off she swam. And if fish can hum, she was surely humming a cheerful little tune, because she thought the ocean was a mighty fine place to live. | -8-
11: If she had been paying very close attention to everything around her as she came near to what was left of the pirate ship, she would have noticed a long, strong, leathery arm slowly being pulled back into the mouth of one of the big brass guns lying on the bottom of the ocean. As she swam away from the brass gun, if she had been watching behind her instead of looking at the swords and pile of things that used to be shiny, she would have seen a big, slithery creature that looked like a bag with arms, slide out of the mouth of the big brass gun and start after her. You guessed it. It was Baghead and he was thinking how good that little flounder was going to taste, because there was hardly anything he liked better than nice, tender, young flounder. Crabs were fine, scallops were delicious, and mussels would do, but small fish were not easy to catch, and were delectable indeed. He could almost taste his next meal as he crept up behind Filet very cautiously, not making a sound. | -9-
12: When he got close enough, moving very carefully so Filet would not notice him, Baghead stretched out one of his long, strong, leathery arms with the little buttons on it. The little buttons were just ready to grab hold of Filet when suddenly Baghead felt a sharp pain in his arm. It hurt so much that he quickly pulled his arm back. He swirled around to see what had happened just in time to see a big fish that seemed to have a sword instead of a nose, diving at him. | -10-
13: Chapter Five: The Battle Filet was quite startled at the whoosh of water she felt as Baghead pulled his arm back, and wondered what in the watery world was happening. She spun around and was amazed at the many-armed animal just behind her. She had never seen such a creature before. Baghead’s appetite suddenly left him and he saw right away that he was going to have all he could do to save himself from this swimming sword. What he didn’t know was that this fish with the sword-like nose was Sabre, the great-great-great grandson of the teeny, tiny, baby swordfish that had been rescued by Fil-lip all those many years ago. Sabre had just happened to see Baghead creeping up on Filet and he realized that the moment had at last arrived when a swordfish could do something to pay back the debt to the flounders from all those many years ago. He leaped at the chance. | -11-
15: Sabre knew right away that Baghead with cutlass would be a match for him, and he readied for the battle. One thing he knew: Filet was alright for now -- he had seen her swim away to a safe distance, and turn around to watch. The look of gratitude on her face gave him courage, and he turned to face Baghead. Baghead started waving the cutlass, passing it from one arm to the next. (His long, flexible arms were useful for many kinds of activities!) Each sweep created a fountain of bubbles in the water that made an airy ‘bubble curtain’ between him and Sabre. At first Sabre was confused, and for a while they danced around each other. Baghead waved his numerous arms, and bubbles arose all over. Sabre darted to stay out of the way, trying to see exactly where Baghead was behind the frothy screen. He also tried to stay between Baghead and the big brass gun because Sabre had heard that octopuses could disappear fast into very small holes. Looking over at Filet again he felt determined to keep Baghead from returning to his flounder dinner. Taking aim as best he could, he speared right through the bubble curtain with his sabre-nose, and sure enough, he touched one of Baghead’s arms. Baghead felt the second jab from Sabre, and he pulled back. | -13-
16: -14- | Do you know what happens when an octopus moves fast? Its body lengthens, the arms stream out behind, fluid like a wave. And this can all go very quickly. Well, that is just what happened. Baghead slid away, and as he did, his arms, including the one with the cutlass, straightened out, back toward Sabre and delivered a slice which was sharp and painful. The wound even started to bleed, creating a red balloon of blood in the water. Sabre looked over to Filet, and saw that she was still there, and he also noticed at a glance that a number of other fish had gathered around to watch the skirmish. It was something they had never seen before: an eight-armed creature with a cutlass in one of his arms, and a swordfish using his nose like a sabre. This was a battle that would go down in fish history, just like the tipping of the pirate ship many years ago. Even with the gash, Sabre was determined to save Filet from being dinner and turned back to the battle with great resolve.
17: Chapter Six: Escape Now, when Baghead saw the cloud of blood, he had two thoughts. The first was that he didn’t want to hang around near the red cloud. Sharks are attracted by blood, and earlier that morning he had actually seen Fin the Shark prowling in the neighborhood hard on the heels of a very colorful, but hapless fish, and Baghead had no interest in seeing him again because sharks are very fond of octopus for dinner. He would rather be alive than gobbled up! Octopuses are very intelligent, you know! | -15-
18: But the red in the water reminded him he had other options that he hadn’t yet tried. Why hadn’t he thought of them earlier? Baghead, you see, is a bit of wizard. He can change color in a number of astounding ways. Just as fast as he could wave his cutlass, Baghead could change to look just like the nearby sand and rocks, or like his prey, or even a predator. But that trick wouldn’t help now since Sabre had already seen him. But Baghead, too, can create clouds of color in the water. That was it! The perfect solution! So with a flourish, he flung the cutlass away, because he wasn’t going to need it anymore. Can you picture the scene? Flailing octopus arms, a flying cutlass, Sabre ducking and dodging to stay out of the way. | -16-
19: Then in a flash, a big black cloud obscured the whole area, leaving Sabre and the fish audience in the dark, and that clever Baghead disappeared in the billowing darkness. He had used the ink sac in his body to send out the black cloud, another one of octopuses' main defenses. The ink cloud also makes it harder for predators to smell, so it’s a doubly clever maneuver. | -17- | Sabre looked around, and saw the big brass guns of the pirate ship, and the cutlass, which had settled back down to the ground. The bubbles were gone, and so was Baghead (though neither Sabre nor Filet knew his name yet). And gone too, was the danger, at least for the moment, at least in the form of a hungry, slithery, cutlass-wielding octopus. Filet and the other fish all swam over and together they gave Sabre a high tail, which is the fish version of a high five, and Sabre lowered his sword nose modestly, and said, “Well, I didn’t really do that much, but we do have Filet with us to tell the story, and I’m glad I could help. Speaking of help, does anyone have a water-proof band-aid for this gash?”
20: Chapter Seven: Lonely As he expelled the ink cloud, Baghead was away like a shot, for in addition to being very intelligent, octopuses can be extremely fast, when they need to, using their jet propulsion. But where to go? Baghead had seen the group of fish gathering to watch the battle between him and Sabre, and that hadn’t bothered him at all in the heat of the fray. But now, he was feeling lonely. Baghead, you see, was not a typical octopus. Most octopuses are solitary by nature, but not Baghead. As a baby, before he was even out of his egg sack, he remembered how good it felt to be close to his brothers and sisters, having his mom nearby to take care that no predator disturbed the long, delicate strands of white eggs. | -18-
21: But then, after she had laid and cared for the eggs, Baghead’s mom died. This is the natural way with octopuses: the females die even before the eggs hatch. It often happens that way for spiders too, remember Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web? After she had carefully laid her thousands of spider eggs, it was her time to die. So Baghead had grown up all on his own. While other octopuses are used to their solitary lives, prowling for prey or resting under rocks, Baghead had often looked longingly at the colorful schools of fish as they swam by, and wondered why all the other friendly animals and fish stayed away, and there was no one around to talk to or play with. Now, sometimes it feels comfortable, safe, and pleasant to be on our own. We can enjoy our own company, perhaps read, or take a walk, or just enjoy being alive. Remember Ferdinand the Bull, who loved simply sitting under the cork tree, smelling the flowers, and didn’t have the slightest interest in snorting and fighting? He was very comfortable being on his own, and wasn’t lonely at all. But there can be times when we feel lonely -- maybe when some of our friends don’t want to play, or we want company and no one is available. Well now, Baghead was not only lonely, but you may recall, he was also hungry. That’s why he had gone after Filet, which was what got him into the tangle with that diving, piercing sword-nosed fish in the first place. | -19-
22: -20- | As he looked around, Baghead noticed some small, hard-shelled mollusks nearby, some clams and also some snails. Good luck at last. While not as tasty as a morsel of fish, those mollusks would do the trick. His suction cups were just the thing for holding the two shells that covered the tasty muscle meat while he bored through the shell with his sharp beak to the treat inside. So before long, at least he wasn’t hungry any more, and a few more shells had been added to the midden outside his den. But he still felt lonely. You see, he didn’t know that to Filet the Flounder and Sabre the Swordfish, and indeed to many of the other creatures in the deep blue ocean home, Baghead looked scary. Some of the creatures in the sea, if they knew about octopuses at all, even used words like ugly, slimy, frightful, when they talked about octopuses, and they tried hard to stay out of their way.
23: Chapter Eight: Getting Curious After Filet had gone to fetch a water-proof band-aid for Sabre’s cut, and the bleeding had stopped, all the fish who had gathered to watch the battle introduced themselves. It was a motley array. In addition to Filet and Sabre, were Harry, a young Hammerhead Shark, Prickly the Pufferfish, Agnes the Angelfish, Snap the Seahorse, a small school of Damselfish, Slick the Eel, and Stealth the Skate, who had joined the group just as the battle was coming to an end. It was Agnes who said, “What was that creature you were fighting with, Sabre? I’ve never seen such a beast before. What big saucer eyes it had, and what long arms, and so many!” | -21-
24: Now Sabre had seen octopuses before, but never up so close, and so he told the group that he didn’t actually know very much either. He’d just figured that in this case there was no time to ask questions, or Filet would have been caught fast in those weaving, waving suction cups. Sabre said that wielding that cutlass, the octopus had looked a bit like a pirate himself -- like the ones that had been on the ship that sank. All he would have needed would have been an eye patch! | All the fish laughed out loud at the thought of a eye-patched, cutlass- bearing, eight-armed pirate. As the laughter died away, Sabre said, “I wonder where octopuses live, and where this one made off to. He sure was fast! I’ve heard that they’re pretty clever, and have some tricks up their sleeves. And they sure do have a lot of those! I’d kind of like to see if we could find him. If we all swam together we’d have protection, and we could maybe...” | -22-
25: At this point Harry the Hammerhead was getting so excited he interrupted Sabre. “I think that’s a great idea. Let’s see if we can find him. I’ve heard that even giant octopuses can squeeze though teeny little holes, and that they can turn all kinds of different colors.” And Sabre continued, “Yes, I’ve heard that too, but I’ve never seen any of these magic maneuvers with my own eyes. All I know is that he sprayed out a great big black cloud from somewhere, and that I have no idea where he went.” | -23- | At this point all the fish started talking at the same time. “Let’s go right now, before I have to get home.” “Let’s find him, if we all fan out and look carefully, I bet we’ll uncover his hiding place.” “I’m really curious to see some of the magic.” “I wonder if he’s really so scary when you get to know him, and what he does with all those arms. I don’t even have a single one!” “What are we waiting for? Let’s go!”
26: -24- | Chapter Nine: The Search So it was decided. Sabre the Swordfish would start out up front, the school of Damselfish would follow in a fan behind him, and then each of the others would swim at a different level, in hopes of catching a glimpse of this odd creature. They figured that with the size and variety of talents in their team, they would be able to deal with any dangers that might be lurking, and in addition to that, there is safely in numbers. As they swam in the direction they thought the octopus had vanished, the waters began to get deeper. There was not much light close to the bottom, and Filet began to get anxious. She wondered aloud if it might not be a good idea to head on home. But both Harry the Hammerhead and Stealth the Skate said they would keep careful watch, and Agnes the Angelfish blurted out, “Oh, Filet, I bet we’ll find him before long. Surely you don’t want to miss out on the adventure. Come on!” So Filet took a deep breath, looked around at her friends, and decided to swim along. As she got more comfortable with the adventure, she sometimes flipped upside down so the eyes on the top of her head could also see what was happening on the bottom of the ocean. | Right about then Sabre stopped short and said, “Careful, gang. I see Buzz the Barracuda up ahead, and we don’t want to tangle with him. Don’t turn around or look afraid. Just stick close together and keep swimming. He will be so startled to see our unusual group that I feel quite sure he’ll leave us alone and drift on along.”
27: Our motley troup continued their search, meeting many other fish on their way. Some asked where they were going, and Slick the Eel said, “We’re off to find an octopus. Sabre, here, was in a fight with him to save Filet, and then saw him head over this way.” Hearing this, some of the fish quickly turned tail, having heard that octopuses are clever predators, smart and fast. Others hung around, also curious, like the members of our search party. When Stealth the Skate piped up, “Octopuses are full of tricks, like wizards, and we want to see some magic,” several of the fish got hooked. Elsie the Cowfish, for one, decided to join the search, and Sir Winston the Grouper, large and languid, but steady, reliable, and a particularly peaceful specimen, also came along. | -25-
28: -26- | Chapter Ten: There He Is! Snap the Seahorse drifted down toward the bottom to join Slick the Eel and Filet who had been scoping out the bottom all along. Together they noticed a rocky area off in the distance. Slick said he had sometimes seen some slinky, slithery creatures in the rocky sections right over there. Harry the Hammerhead looked over too, and because he was swimming higher in the ocean, his bright eyes spotted some very promising nooks and crannies. They motioned to the others to head that way. | Could it be they were getting close? There was no sign yet of anything with eight arms, or even anything moving, for that matter, but they still had some distance to cover. As they approached, Distress, the leader of the school of Damselfish, began to speak up. She explained that even if there were some danger, now that they were closer to some rocky areas, with corals, sea fans and pens, there would be places to hide. | Prickly the Puffer, though, was less pleased, saying he didn’t much like places where creatures could pop out of any nook or cranny. If he got scared and had to puff up, he might hurt himself on the scratchy edges of the rocks and corals.
29: -27- | At this point Sabre the Swordfish called everyone over and as they gathered around, he began to speak. “We are all in this together," he said. "At times it may feel comfortable to some of us and scary for others. And in other situations those who felt brave may begin to be alarmed, and those who were feeling timid will notice courage and confidence rising in their chests. That’s the beauty of being a team. We can help each other through the rough spots. Many eyes will be on the lookout for danger, and we will all pull together if there are any challenges. We are on a trip of discovery, and we’re all better off sticking together.” | The Damselfish, hearing this encouraging talk, began to swim about quickly. Prickly mustered a smile. Agnes the Angelfish and Snap the Seahorse nodded their heads. As Prickly took a deep breath, Harry the Hammerhead and Stealth the Skate began to swim forward again, and slowly but steadily, they all moved over toward the rocky area.
30: Sir Winston the Grouper spoke up now, and everyone paused to listen. “Watch out for morays. They also like rocky areas, and their teeth are not only sharp but dangerous and painful. I’ve seen them in these parts.” It was not long after this that Elsie the Cowfish said to the group, “I just remembered there is something I have to do this afternoon. I’d better be going. Bye-bye everyone.” Then she moseyed off in the other direction, and not so slowly either. Snap the Seahorse also felt apprehensive, but she moved up close to Sir Winston and whispered in his ear, “Please, may I stay close to you, Sir Winston.” Feeling flattered and important, Sir Winston puffed himself up a bit, and Snap tucked right in under one of his fins as they swam on. | -28- | It wasn’t long until Harry the Hammerhead, who was up ahead, and whose eyes were way out in front and also on both sides, said, “Look there! I see a long, reddish arm coming out of that hole. I’ve never seen such a thing before. It’s got little buttons on it, all over it, hundreds of them. What is that?” And Filet, her silvery scales shivering, took a big gulp and said, “That’s an octopus arm.” Sabre signaled for everyone to swim up close and be on the ready.
31: Chapter Eleven: Friends or Foes? And just at that moment another arm slowly oozed out of the cave, and another, then two more. The fishes’ eyes opened wider and wider, Filet flipped sideways so she see better, and Harry the Hammerhead kept turning from side to side to be sure what he thought he was seeing was really there, it was so surprising. You see, many of the fish had never even seen an octopus up close, and now, after a long search, they had found one. | -29-
32: Prickly the Pufferfish, who was carefully avoiding getting too close to the rocks, said, “Look it’s changing color! The first arm was reddish, with cream-colored buttons, and now as he comes out of the cave he’s turning brown and tan, and looks just like the rocks. He really is a magician!” Baghead (because the search party had indeed found where Baghead, after his mollusk munching, had settled in to sleep off his loneliness), was every bit as startled as the search party. There, not very far in front of him, holding quite still, looking as though they were watching a fascinating spectacle, was a most unusual gathering of creatures. | -30-
33: A few of them were familiar to him. He thought he recognized the little flounder, and he certainly knew that swimming sword-nosed one! But others of them surprised him as much as he surprised them. So many creatures, and of such extraordinary shapes and sizes, all gathered in one group left Baghead speechless. | He also felt a bit nervous, and part of him wanted to slither right back into his den and hide away. But another part of him was excited, and yes, if truth be told, even hopeful. After all, he had gone to sleep lonely, and now, just as he woke up, he was anything but alone. And it seemed as though these creatures were not just passing by. They were stopped still, going nowhere, and all of them were looking in his direction. He turned around to see if they were looking at someone or something behind him, but there was nothing there but the rocky wall. The creatures were looking at him! Right then and there Baghead made a choice. He decided to treat these creatures as friends, and not enemies come to attack. He would stay fairly close to his cave, so if something went wrong, he could quickly hide again. | -31-
34: “But how can I show them that I want to be friends?” he asked himself. Then he had an idea that answered his own question. As quickly as you could say, “That octopus has tricks up his sleeves,” Baghead had turned a pure, silver white, just like the smooth sand beneath them. Baghead had chosen white, because he knew white is the universal sign of peace. | The fish said, “Oooh,” and “Ahhhh.” Some gulped, and others gasped. They all realized they were in the presence of a very unusual creature. They all just hung there in the water, not moving a muscle, fascinated by what they were seeing. | Then Prickly the Pufferfish began to puff up, getting bigger and bigger. He didn’t really want to, it just kind of happened, because he was so startled. Baghead, his lidded eyes opening wider and wider, so he could take in all the shapes and action, saw Prickly, and said, “Oh my, who are you, and why are you getting so big?” | -32-
35: And as he said that, Baghead, who thought Prickly might be playing some sort of game, began to change himself again: his eyes got darker, so did his suction cups, and then he opened the webs between his arms so it almost looked as though he had on a cloak. He sometimes did this display to scare away predators, but this time he thought Prickly was playing and he just wanted to play too. | Well, Distress turned tail, began to swim away, and the rest of the Damselfish followed; Agnes the Angelfish was beside herself, and could think of nothing to say, which had never happened before. Even Stealth the Skate, Sabre, and Harry the Hammerhead, who had each bravely taken turns swimming out in front, now backed up, and many of the fish turned to head for home. But Baghead called out, “Wait, please, don’t go! I’d really like some friends. My name is Baghead, and I very much want to get to know you.” | -33-
36: -34- | Chapter Twelve: Friends Indeed, and Magic Too! His voice was kind of scratchy, as though it were sandpaper trying to talk, but it did not sound at all menacing or angry. Rather, Baghead’s voice had a ring of sincerity, and the welcoming words made many of the fish turn around again to look his way. Baghead had moved out toward them, away from his hiding place, and gone back to his normal size. He was clearly taking his chances on the group’s being friendly. He put one of his leathery arms up in a swirly wave, and then another two on the other side –- a triple-armed wave. This looked a bit comical and he saw some of the fishes starting to smile, which gave him an idea. He slid back closer to his den, where there were lots of discarded shells from previous dinners. His den was tidy enough, but instead of moving the shells from the mollusks and other creatures on which he had dined further away, he just tossed them out in front, creating a messy shell heap, called a midden. But this midden now came in handy, for there were a number of objects right there for him to use. You see, Baghead had the idea to put on a juggling act! He began to toss one oyster shell around from arm to arm, then he picked up a clam shell, then two scallop shells, deftly reached for some other shell parts, and before long Baghead was using all his arms and the shells were whirling around in the water in quite a magical way. It wasn’t long until all the fish started coming in closer to have a better look at still another remarkable trick that this wizard Baghead could do.
37: -35- | As you can imagine, the fish were enthusiastic, first about having finally found the octopus, and also about getting to see a number of Baghead’s tricks. And some of them were now becoming curious about some of the other amazing things they had heard about octopuses. Snap the Seahorse asked if it were true that octopuses could go through very small holes, and if so, could Baghead show them. Baghead said, “Yes, indeed," and "Sure, I can.” He began to glide over to one of the rocky places near by and moved toward an extremely small opening among the rocks.
38: Chapter Thirteen: Menace As Baghead slipped over to show what a tiny hole his body would slide through, he did not notice that another body was sliding out of another nearby hole. But Sir Winston the Grouper was on the alert and called out in his deep, booming voice, “Baghead, watch out. Menace the Moray is very close. You better be quick.” | Now morays like nothing better than to have an octopus come their way, it’s one of their favorite dinners. Morays have an excellent sense of smell, and Menace had just gotten a strong whiff of octopus because the hole Baghead was just preparing to squeeze through was barely an arm’s length away from the hole Menace inhabited. He opened his mouth quickly, which created a big sucking action in the water and Baghead was pulled right toward the gaping mouth lined with very sharp teeth. | =36-
39: There ensued a great thrashing about, and one of Baghead’s arms was caught fast. Now he couldn’t flee or hide, ink wouldn’t help, nor would changing color, and there was no cutlass at hand! Baghead was in trouble. All the fish tried to come to his rescue but Menace held fast to what he thought was going to a very fine dinner. Sir Winston the Grouper is normally one of the fish that Menace greatly fears, but there was so much commotion as Baghead waved all his remaining arms wildly around trying to get loose, and the other fish were darting here and there trying to distract Menace, that Sir Winston was not able to be of any real assistance. | -37-
40: All at once a hush fell over the crowd, and out of the dark blue ocean came a long, spiny, silver-grey fish, with an extremely pointed head that had sharp-edged, fang-like teeth. There was not a creature there that did not recognize Buzz the Barracuda. And Menace knew his time was measured, because barracudas are one of morays most fearsome foes. Menace chomped down hard on Baghead’s arm, biting it completely off, then turned to face Buzz. | -38-
41: Now it would be a hard choice which one to pull for, Buzz the Barracuda, or Menace the Moray. Nobody is all bad. Everyone, but everyone, has some good in them, no matter what it may seem like on the outside. And most certainly everyone has to eat! In this case, Menace, with an octopus arm in his mouth, found himself staring right in the mouth of Buzz, who was lean and hungry himself. Menace had had to venture out of his hole to chomp Baghead’s arm, and he decided at this point it would be a very smart move to tuck right back into his own safe hiding place as quickly as he could. But Buzz put himself in the way, and it looked as though there was going to be another battle royal. But Menace moved like a flash, and slipped by Buzz, whacking Buzz hard with his strong tail as he did. Buzz was enraged, but Menace was quick. As Buzz saw his moray dinner slipping away, he chomped down hard on that suctioned appendage that was no longer attached to Baghead, and the two of them wrestled wildly for the tasty treat. In the end, half of Baghead’s eighth arm turned out to be all the dinner those two were to have that evening. Menace was glad to be alive, and Buzz was determined to come back later. | -39-
42: Baghead, now with only seven arms, heaved a great sigh of relief. Octopuses do not live a long time, but he was glad that his end had not yet come. He was very much looking forward to some good times with his new-found friends. But right now he had to see about another quick escape. He shot away from the hole, leaving Menace and Buzz behind, and as he did so, and for good measure, he ejected another thick cloud of murky, black ink. | -40- | As he sped away, undulating gracefully through the ocean, he thought happily to himself, “That chomp on my arm wasn’t any fun, but it’s no big deal, because, thank goodness, I can simply grow my lost arm back!”
43: Chapter Fourteen: Celebration and Appreciation It was not long until Baghead found another small cave in which to disappear, one that was a safe distance away from both Buzz and Menace. But this time his friends had watched closely as he shot off. Sabre and Harry stayed around to make sure that Buzz went back where he came from, and that Menace stayed tucked away in his rock. They said to the others, “Follow Baghead, we don’t want to lose him again this time.” So Slick, Stealth, and Filet scooted away quickly along the sandy floor. Snap and Sir Winston, who had become very close friends after traveling in such a cozy way on the first leg of the journey, also headed off so as not to lose sight of Baghead. Agnes and Distress speedily rounded up the school of Damselfish, who were quite interested in exploring more new territory, and they all swished off to see where Baghead had gone this time. That left only Prickly, who said, "Hey, wait for me!” He had started puffing up again with all the excitement, but he was able to take a few deep breaths, tell himself things were going to be alright, and settle back down to his normal size. Then swimming as fast as he could, he was able to catch up to the group. He, and some of the others as well, were brimming with ideas about what they could do when they were all together again. Enough of the attacks, battles, scrapes, and escapes. It was time for some fun! | -41-
44: Now scarcely had Baghead begun to settle into his small hole, and was sadly thinking to himself that he was alone again, when he heard a chattering of fish voices. “Hey, don’t hide from us.” “Come out and play.” “We don’t want you to disappear again.” “Do you need a band-aid for your lost arm?” (This was Filet, who still had a supply of band-aids from when she had taken care of Sabre’s gash.) Baghead’s three-chambered heart, which is behind his beak and between his eyes, began to beat with pleasure. He hadn’t felt so warm and happy since he had been nestled up close to his brothers and sisters in that long white strand of eggs in the cave long ago. So instead of slithering in deeper to the spot he had found, he turned a bright red then snowy white in quick succession, and emerged with a big grin and his saucer-eyes lit up brightly. Filet and Sabre said, “We should have a party to celebrate!" And Agnes added, "I think we should have strawberry shortcake and tell jokes.” Now this sounded like great fun to all the others as well. So even though it was getting late, and most of the fish needed to head home before too long, they decided that this had been a very special day, and deserved a special ending. | -42-
45: Baghead said, “Does anyone know what the worst part of being an octopus is?” No one could guess, and he grinned and answered, “Washing hands before meals!” Everyone laughed. But since they were in the ocean, washing hands was really easy, and soon they dug into the strawberry dish, and all of the fish enjoyed the scrumptious dessert. Miss "K", the Clownfish, who happened to be swimming by, stopped in to join the party. As they were finishing up, Harry, who hadn’t said very much so far, even though his bright eyes had been a big help in the search, spoke up. “What does an octopus wear when it’s cold outside?” he asked. Even Baghead couldn’t guess, but Prickly, after puffing up just a little because he was a bit excited, offered, “A coat of arms?” and Harry said, “Right you are!" | -43-
46: After much dancing, swimming in circles and forming lines, making bubble curtains, swishing up the sand, and darting in and out of holes, they gathered around in a circle, told stories and fish tales, and shared some of the things that had happened in the day they remembered and were glad about. When it was time for the party to end, Baghead said, “Can anyone guess one of the best things about being an octopus?” When no one could, he said, “I’ll show you the answer.” And he hugged everyone at once, waved and blew kisses with all his seven arms. “Do you want to hear one more riddle?” he added. They all said yes, so Baghead puffed up once more, spread the webbing between his arms, and looking quite formidable he said in his deepest voice, “How does an octopus go into battle?” He waited briefly, and when no one had the answer, he said, “Fully armed! But, as you see, I’m not fully armed right now, and I’m planning to stay out of battles for a good long time!” Then for some final good-bye magic, he turned black and tan then red and white, and said, “How very glad I am to have you all as friends. Please come and visit me again.” As they were all leaving to go home he thought to himself, “Whew, that was an awful lot of excitement. I most certainly love having friends, and now I also realize how much I like quiet time by myself, in my own den. I never appreciated how wonderful it is just being home, simply on my own!” And he slipped inside his cave and fell fast asleep, tired and content. | -44-
48: Swimming toward their ocean homes, Agnes the Angelfish and Distress, the Damselfish leader, felt happy that everyone had worked so well as a team, and they appreciated Sabre's talk reminding them of their many talents and the great strength there is in numbers. Filet the little Flounder, and Prickly Puffer as well, recalling how Elsie the Cowfish had fled, felt proud and pleased they had both found the courage to stick with the adventure even though they had been somewhat anxious at times. Filet was grateful that Agnes and had encouraged her -- that's oné thing friends can do. Slick the Eel was glad he was Baghead’s friend and not his enemy, like Menace the Moray! Stealth the Skate and Harry the Hammerhead swam in great swoops, remembering all the excitement and bravery of the day, and Snap the Seahorse and Sir Winston the Grouper each basked in the warm glow we can feel when we make a new friend. Filet and Sabre were both very pleased to have dramatic and exciting stories to tell their great-great-grandparents, many of whom were still alive and wondering where they had been all day! | -46-
49: Epilogue: True and False Many, indeed most, of the details about octopuses that occur in this tale are true. Octopuses can and do * change colors in magical ways to foil both prey and predators; * expel clouds of black ink to protect themselves; * expand the webbing between their arms to appear larger; * keep their dens neat but leave a mess of shells and bones, called a midden, out in front; * shoot away fast with their arms out behind them; * regrow lost or damaged arms; * slither through extremely small holes, no bigger in size than their beaks. Octopuses are considered to be very intelligent: they undo jar tops to get at prey, solve problems, and escape from tricky places! They are indeed solitary, don't live long, and the females die after the eggs are cared for. Their predators do include morays, and also sharks. They have lidded eyes, like humans, and a three-chambered heart. They seem to be able to learn new behaviors from each other, and adapt to the changing environment. They have distinct personalities -- some are reclusive and shy, or even aggressive, while others are friendly and seek contact with humans. But they don't have friends the way Baghead does now! They do not juggle, tell jokes or eat strawberry shortcake, at least not that we know of! | -47-
50: -48- | Introducing the Illustrators! | Nick | Lilly | Marlena | Noah | Maceo | Anika | Rowen | Oliver | Orla | Gabriella | Dexter
51: -49- | Picture Credits Page Description Artist(s) Front Cover Oliver ii Baghead, Sabre, Filet Nick 2-3 Pirate ship sinking on tiny swordfish Oliver, Rowen, Marlena 4 Little swordfish Marlena 5 Shiny things and Swordfish freed Noah and Nick 6 Baghead near a ship's cannon Marlena 7 How BagHead eats a fish Nick 8 Filet humming a tune and Seascape Marlena and Oliver 9 Baghead emerging from brass gun Maceo and Orla 10 Battle contestants: Sabre and Baghead Noah and Nick 11-12 The Battle Noah and Marlena 13 Bubble curtain Marlena 14 Battle scene and Sabre's gash, bleeding Marlena 15 Fin the Shark after colorful, hapless fish Nick 16 Flying cutlass, Sabre ducking Noah 17 Baghead fleeing in cloud of ink Oliver 18 Octopus eggs in cave and Baghead alone Marlena 19 Sea star Marlena 20 Baghead in front of his cave, with midden Nick and Noah 21 The Motley Bunch: Harry - Oliver and Nick; Filet - Gabriella; Agnes, Harry, Stealth, Prickly - Orla; Sabre - Oliver; Slick - Orla
52: 22 Baghead as Pirate Nick 23 All ready to go! Oliver 24 Buzz looming Oliver 25 Elsie the Cowfish and Sir Winston the Grouper Anika and Nick 26 Search party coming to rocky area Grandma 27 Sabre and Damselfish with Prickly Noah and Lilly 28 Snap tucked under Sir Winston's fin Noah 29 Two arms slithering out of den Noah 30 Baghead emerging and changing colors Marlena 31 Baghead surprised at all the visitors Orla 32 Baghead turning white and Prickly puffing up Marlena and Rowen 33 Baghead webbing his arms, getting big Marlena Happy at the thought of finding friends Gabriella 35 Baghead juggling Noah 36 Heading for a small hole, surprised by Menace Orla Menace and Baghead battling Noah 37 Battle scenes Marlena 38 Buzz approaches Noah 40 Baghead, seven arms, fleeing behind ink cloud Dexter 42 Baghead, warm-hearted and glad Gabriella 43 The Party with Miss "K" dropping in Marlena 45 The Party with Strawberry Shortcake Noah Back Cover Noah | -50-
53: -51- | Acknowledgments Our joint effort, Tails of the Sea, has come to an end. Fil-lip and the swordfish told the story of the heroic ocean rescue of many years ago to their grand- and great-grandchildren. And now it has come to pass that Granddaddy Joe's tale has been enjoyed and illustrated by another set of grand- and great-grandchildren! Many thanks to Pat for finding Joe Kremer's original manuscript. This find made all the rest possible! Thanks also to the great-grandchildren whose enthusiastic and creative efforts have brought the story alive; to the helpful folks at Mixbook who found solutions or workarounds for all the editing challenges; to the parents who coaxed and scanned, faxed, or mailed the results, and kept the ball rolling; to the eagle-eyed proofreaders, Jim, Pat, and Mike, for their late-night editing and helpful suggestions. It's been great fun! Many this volume be shared for generations to come!