The little girl was playing at the edge of the garden. She had decided, on this warm summer’s afternoon, that she was going to be an archaeologist. Equipped with her beach bucket, a little plastic... [+]
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Captain Pouic is beside himself. Tibou has disappeared! The captain’s concern is magnified by the darkness that has swallowed the ship, a sliver of cloud now covering the moon.
He motions to Cruvar, his loyal second mate.
"Blimey, Cruvar! Where on earth is that scounderel of a cabin boy?"
"Uh…how should I put it, Captain…" Cruvar weakly replies, avoiding the captain’s eyes.
"Come on! Out with it!"
"He's up there…"
"What do you mean, up there?"
The two men look up at the same time and spy young Tibou hanging on to the very top of the ship's mast, his crying barely audible.
"For crying out loud, what the devil is he doing at the top of the mast?"
"You told him, Captain, that with his joyful spirit and the passion for life and work that's in his very marrow, he'd soon reach the moon. So he climbed up to see if he could get it!"
"Holy rotten octopus! Is he an idiot, or what?"
"No, he's not an idiot, he's still just a bit young, naïve, and inexperienced."
"It's not the moon we have to grab now, but him! It's too dangerous — the sea is starting to really move, and the boat is fiercely rocking! He'll be tossed about like a wisp of straw up there."
"The thing is…he has vertigo, Captain!"
"What! Oh, yes, that's right — he told me so... I'm the one with my head in the clouds, by Jove!"
The captain rubs his beard and attempts to think. How can we get the reckless cabin boy down from there?
"You have to lure him down, Captain!"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, his urge to reach the moon was stronger than his fear of falling, so promise him…well, I don't know…the stars, maybe?"
"Stars down here? And not in the sky?"
"It's all a question of imagination, Captain, but one thing is sure: we have to get him down before the boat rocks too much forwards and backwards. It's getting urgent!"
The captain scratches his long, thick beard again, which often helps him to think. Everyone watches him as he considers the problem at hand. Finally, he blurts out:
"Son of a worn-out squid! I have an idea!”
He positions both hands on either side of his mouth like a megaphone and yells,
"Tibou! Instead of the moon, I can offer you a star!"
"What?" the cabin boy shouts from up high, frightened by the increasingly forceful rocking of the boat.
"If you come down, I can offer you a star!" repeats Captain Pouic.
Tibou looks up and the sky, skeptical in the captain’s ability to reach a star. They seem so far from here. But the captain is such a strong man that he might just be able to do it! And to own a star would be amazing!
So, cautiously, inch by inch, placing his feet on the cables and ropes and tightly squeezing the tall piece of wood all along his path, Tibou climbs down. He wants to have his star so much that he finds the strength and clear-headedness he needs to face his vertigo.
Below, the captain calmly welcomes him. Even if he is very relieved, he does not embrace him, avoiding too much brotherly contact, as these are all manly sailors!
"Well then?" the cabin boy innocently asks after having finally come down from his perilous perch.
Captain Pouic grins broadly, plunges his arm into one of the ship's barrels solidly attached by rope, and pulls out…a starfish!
Translated by Kate Deimling