chapter five

The Cooperation Key

 

Hans asked everyone to take a seat on the sand. “This story needs to be told from the beginning”, he said.

“A long time ago our little community was happily living in the Sea of Tranquility. We have gills to breathe underwater, just like the fish, you see! Every day we would take it in turns to be on watch for any shark people, who would often swim into our domain, steal and eat the small tropical fish.

We spent most of the time in the sea, herding the tropical fish into the safety of the reefs, behind the Gates of Gratitude. The leader of the tropical fish schools was Nemo, a brightly striped Angel Fish, with one fin slightly smaller than the other. He would often lead his fishy friends too far away from the safety of the reef and put them all in danger from a shark attack. This was a challenge for us as we had to herd them back frequently, and we had several schools of fish to protect.

So we devised a plan for us to cooperate with the fish. Each of us would take the cooperation key in turn, while we watched over them. The golden key opened the Gates of Gratitude and was a sign of our cooperation with them. One day when I was on Gate duty I lost the key. I believe it was snatched by a rogue hermit crab, large and black, whilst I was napping.

Tears were now streaming down Hans’ face as he told his sad tale. All the other mermaids and mermen were crying too. Especially when he got to the point of the lost key.

“What happened next”, asked Barry?

“By the time I woke up from my nap, the key was gone, the gateway was open and the shark people were prowling around. Some had even breached the reef and stolen some of the tropical fish, including Nemo.

“Oh my god”, shouted the girls and the fish people together at the same time.

I blew the conch shell to summon my people and they began shouting at me and swimming around in panic! They were all talking over one another, arguing about what should be done! It’s been like that ever since. Without the cooperation key we are lost!

Hans finished his story just as the fish people started blibbing and blubbing again in unison. This time they were all pointing to the rocks where the hermit crabs live – they had seen a glint of something shiny in the claws of one large black crab standing on the top of the highest rock. The hermit crab was waving his claws, clicking at the smaller crabs scurrying around on the rocks below. They were on the search from larger shells – they had outgrown their homes – and the big black crab was pointing out where to go. They were all working smoothly together as a team. This was the season of the ‘great hermit crab migration’.

“That’s FINKLEBLOOM”, shouted Hans.

“And that’s our key”, yelled everyone else.

The fish people began to slither over to the rocks in a big muddle – clambering over each other – blibbing and blubbing loudly. Pandemonium again!

“WAIT”, said Harry firmly, raising her hands as a stop sign.

“You’ll scare them away! Let us get the key back for you”.

“Alright girls, we can do this together,” she said to her sisters. “We need to reach FINKLEBLOOM before they do, or all is lost”.

The Arry girls huddled together whispering, devising their plan. Barry took off the orange fluffy wig and handed it to Harry. They walked calmly towards the rocks. Larry went one way to the left; Barry went another way to the right; and Harry crept up behind the big rock. “Keep his attention on you”, said Harry. “I know how to get the key back”. With the wig in her right hand, and when she was close enough, she threw it like a fishing net over the large black crab.

FINKLEBLOOM was startled as the sticky, fluffy stuff, suddenly appearing out of the sky, got caught in his claws. He dropped the golden key and retreated as far into his shell as he could, just his claws still sticking out, stuck to the wig.

Harry gently picked up FINKLEBLOOM, shell and all, freeing him from the sticky wig.

Larry picked up the golden key.

Barry found a larger shell for FINKLEBLOOM!

Once FINKLEBLOOM had overcome his fright he exited his old claustrophobic shell and disappeared completely into his new one.

The Arry girls laughed and held up the key for the waving and blubbering fish people to see. They walked back to the mermaids and mermen and gave the key back to Hans.

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