Sebastian looked sternly at the little scroll that he held in his claw, as he read off every item on the list: "Compass!"
Flounder put the compass into the sack. "Compass!", he answered.
"Phosphor matches!", snapped the crab.
"Phosphor matches!", answered Flounder.
Ariel; who was sitting closeby, giggled. "Ink-spot remover? Why would we need that?"
Sebastian frowned at the mermaid. "When one braves de wilderness, one must be prepared! Crab-scout handbook rule # 243!"
"We're just going outside the palace!", insisted the girl.
Sebastian shook his head. "Dat don't matter none! One must be prepared for any situation! What if a squid squirted ink on you? What would you do then; hmm?"
Ariel smirked, "I guess I'd swim into the palace and wash it off."
Founder looked, uncertainly, between the two of them.
The crab motioned to the sack. "In!"
Flounder added the ink-spot remover.
"Who's gotta carry all that stuff into de wilderness?", asked the girl.
Sebastian shrugged. "Well,... You are the biggest,..."
Ariel smirked at the crab, then rose up; her beautiful red hair flowing out with the ocean current. "I'll be right back. I gotta tell Daddy goodbye."
The girl swam into the palace and found the King talking with one of his messengers. After he left, Ariel came up and kissed her father on the cheek. "We're leaving now, Daddy. I'll see you tomorrow morning."
Triton looked down at his daughter, with concern on his face. "Dear; I'm not too sure about this camp-out. I've just heard reports of a wild wolf-fish being spotted close to the city; maybe you and Sebastian should put this off for a few days."
Ariel's face wrinkled with anguish. "Oh; please Daddy! Me and Flounder have been looking forward to this for weeks! And you know how hard it is to talk Sebastian into doing something fun!"
Triton smiled. "Let alone, me! Well;...okay. As long as you stay within sight of the palace."
Ariel grinned. "Thanks Daddy! Bye!" She kissed him again and darted back outside.
Sebastian had just finished with his list. Ariel gasped at the bulging sack. "Are you sure we need all of that?", she asked.
The crab nodded. "Be prepared!"
"Rule #243", sighed the girl. She took the sack and dragged it along. "At least, we don't have to go very far."
The three campers stopped at a spot that Ariel picked out: a sheltered cove with pretty yellow elkhorn coral growing in it. Sebastian examined the area very carefully; turning over rocks and looking under them. "Scorpion-fish", he warned.
Flounder turned pale. "Scor,..Scorpion-fish?"
Ariel grinned. "Don't worry, Flounder. Just don't turn over any rocks!" She set down the sack and looked around. "This is a pretty spot! Let's camp here!"
"What do we do first?", asked Flounder.
"We must secure de area and then construct a temporary shelter", advised the crab.
"That means turn over rocks and put up the tent", explained the girl.
Flounder nodded, and stuck his head in the sack. "I hope we remembered to pack the tent,..."
Ariel giggled and joined her friend in rummaging through the sack. She pulled out a big seaweed tarp and set it on the sand. Flounder found some stakes.
"I don't see any poles in here,...", advised the girl.
Sebastian nodded. "In de wild, one must learn to improvise." The crab looked around for something to prop the tent up with. "Now; Let me see,... Rocks,...no; we can't use rocks,... There's some kelp growing over dere,....hmm. No. Too flimsy,..."
Ariel and Flounder took the seaweed tarp and draped it over one of the elkhorn corals. Ariel took a stake and put it through the tarp. "Flounder; Hand me a rock so I can knock this stake in the sand", asked the girl.
"No way! I ain't turning over no rock!", said the fish.
Sebastian was still searching, "Shells,...no,...Not long enough,..."
Ariel got the tarp down tight over the stick-like corals; there was plenty of room inside for the three to sleep in.
"A-Ha! I got it! We can use de coral!"
After putting their sack of "essentials" into the tent, Ariel swam out to join her friends. She rubbed her belly, "I don't know about you two, but I'm getting hungry."
"Me too!", chimed Flounder, "Let's break out the marshmallows!"
The crab frowned. "Here in de wilderness, one does not live on marshmallows. We must forage for our food!"
Flounder grimaced. "You mean we gotta work? I thought camping was gonna be fun!"
Ariel giggled. "Come on Flounder! Let's go exploring! Maybe we can find some stuff to eat."
"Just a minute, young Lady. Do you have your compass?", asked the crab
"Don't worry, Sebastian. Me and Flounder will stay in sight of the coral. How's that?"
"Dat's not in de crab-scout manual, but I guess it'll do. Just so we don't go hungry, I wil do some searching for wild foods too: as a crab-scout leader; I've had extensive training in recognizing such tings." The crab rummaged around in the sack and brought out the compass.
Ariel thought about the conversation with her father about the wolf-fish. "Uh,...Sebastian. You might oughta know,..." The girl hesitated. That wolf-fish was probably long-gone, and mentioning it would only spoil their fun. "Oh; Never-mind. It's not important."
Sebastian shook a claw at them, as he started off. "Don't get lost, now! I don't wanna have to come lookin' for you!"
"We won't, Sebastian! See you in a couple a' hours!", called Ariel.
The girl, with Flounder beside her, swam out of the grove. It wasn't long before the mermaid had found some ripe "sea-dews" and "water-melons". Flounder found some "sea-nuts", growing in a patch, next to some pink coral. Ariel sat down on the coral, as Flounder picked the nuts, and watched the squirrel-fish playing nearby. Sea-robins darted among the coral branches and called sweetly to each other. Wild sea-flowers grew abundently all around; Ariel breathed deeply their delightful fragrance.
Flounder brought the sea-nuts over to the mermaid. "Think this'll be enough?"
Ariel nodded. "Yep." The girl looked around and sighed. "It's sure pretty here, but I guess we oughta get back to camp; Sebastian'll be worried about us."
When they got back to the tent, the crab wasn't there. "Do you think he's still finding stuff to eat?", asked Flounder.
Ariel's face looked worried. "I don't know,..." She called out, "Sebastian! Sebastian; Can you hear me?!"
They strained to listen, but the little crab didn't answer. "I,...I have a bad feeling about this, Flounder", worried the girl. "I think I better go looking for him."
"Then you might get lost too!", moaned the fish.
Ariel looked towards the tent. "I know! We'll make a fire! We'll make a lot of smoke so he can see it!" The girl searched in the sack and brought out some "fire-rocks"; which were made from sodium, so they could burn in the water. She lit them with the phosphor matches and put some browned seaweed on top. Soon, the seaweed was putting out a good thick smoke.
"You keep putting seaweed on the fire", directed the girl. "I'm gonna go looking for Sebastian."
"Be careful!", urged Flounder. "Watch out for scorpion-fish!" With a swish of her tail, the girl was gone.
The more Ariel searched, the more worried she became. What if the wild wolf-fish had gotten Sebastian? Just the thought of it made the girl's heart ache. Poor Sebastian! It was all her fault!
"Sebastian!", she cried out desperately. "Can you hear me?!" The girl caught movement out of the corner of her eye. It was Sebastian! He was all right!
The little crab paddled up to her as fast as he could go; with a happy grin on his face. "Oh, Mon! Am I glad to see you!, he shouted. Then he hesitated. "I,..I mean; So,..Child; still looking for wild edibles,..hmm?"
"Actually; I was looking for you. We thought you were lost!", answered the girl.
The crab looked shocked. "Me?! Oh, no Mon. I was just,..scouting out de place."
Ariel smirked. "I see,..."
"Yeah Mon. A crab-scout must scout around de camp. It's required." The crab looked anxiously at the girl. "You two haven't found anyting to,...eat yet; have you?"
The girl grinned. "You should see all the stuff! Come on! Let's get back to camp!"
The crab looked around. "Yeah,...De camp,..."
Ariel pointed to the smoke in the distance, "See? We made a fire!"
Sebastian breathed a sigh of relief. "Dat was smart thinking! It's in the crab-scout manual, you know. I must have taught you dat."
They started swimming back, and Ariel stammered, "Err,..Sebastian. You might ought to know this,... Daddy told me this morning,..."
Ariel fidgeted. "Oh,...nothing. Nothing important." It would only spoil their fun; thought the girl.
As soon as they got back to the over-joyed Flounder, the three of them sat down on the sand and divided up the food they had found. The sea-nuts were fresh and crunchy and the sea-dews were ripe and delicious. The juicy water-melons washed it all down with their sweet flavor.
Flounder looked over at the crab. "Didn't you find anything to eat, Sebastian?"
The crab shook a claw. "Well,...I found some rock moss,..."
"Yuck!", exclaimed the little fish.
Sebastian frowned. "It so happens that rock moss is very nutritious; thirty-two essential vitamins and minerals and all dat."
"Why didn't you bring some back, then?", asked Flounder.
"Well,...I couldn't get it off de rock. And I didn't feel like carrying it. It was a big rock."
That evening, the three campers sat around the glowing fire, and roasted marshmallows; which they stuck on urchin quills. "Mmmm! The fire feels good!", said the girl, with a smile.
"And it keeps the mosquito-fish away", noted Flounder.
"Listen to the frog-fish!", laughed Ariel, "They sound funny!"
"Dey are a very valuable guard in de wilderness", answered Sebastian, as he munched on a marshmallow. "As long as dey are croaking, nothing is sneaking up on you."
Flounder looked nervous. "Does that mean, if they stop, something is sneaking up on you?"
"I,..hope they don't stop", stammered the fish.
Ariel's face brightened. "Let's tell scary stories!"
"Do we have to?", asked Flounder.
Sebastian lay back; full of marshmallows, and nodded, "Yeah, Mon. It's in de crab scout manual."
Ariel leaned forward, and her face reflected the red glow of the fire. "There's a legend among the Merfolk of a creature that lives deep down at the bottom of the ocean,... This,...thing is supposed to be so horrible to look upon that Merfolk's hair turns white,..and shellfish jump out of their shells with fright!"
Sebastian smirked, incredulously.
"What,...what does it look like?", stuttered Flounder.
Ariel tried not to grin. "Welllll,..It's huge! And it's got one big eye! And a huge mouth full of sharp teeth!"
"And it looks around with that big eye for something to eat,... It slithers along the ocean floor,....searching,....searching,..."
The little fish swallowed and looked around into the darkness. "The frog-fish! They've,...stopped!
Suddenly, they heard a growl, and saw a dark shape creeping up on them. "It's the monster!", cried Flounder.
"It's the wolf-fish!", cried Ariel.
The wolf-fish sprang out of the darkness and snapped at the girl. Ariel was frozen with horror, but Flounder grabbed her arm and pulled her away. The snarling beast gaped it's hungry mouth wide to take a bite out of the girl; Sebastian reached into the sack and threw the first thing he found into the wolf-fish's mouth.
The wolf-fish bit down on the ink-spot remover, and it sprayed all over the animal's face. The wolf-fish roared with rage; then started,...sneezing. It sneezed and sneezed; it couldn't stop!
As Ariel watched in amazement, the confused animal fled into the darkness; the sneezing fading into silence.
Sebastian looked out into the dark; then rushed over to Ariel. "Are you all right Child?"
Ariel gave a shudder of relief. "Yes. Thanks to you and Flounder." She hugged her friends. "What was that you threw in his mouth?"
"Ink-spot remover?!", exclaimed the girl.
Sebastian nodded; knowingly. "Yeah,...sure, Mon. Didn't you know ink-spot remover makes wolf-fish sneeze? You learn dat stuff in de wilderness."
"I'd like to see that in the crab-scout manual!", laughed the girl.
Sebastian frowned. "By-de-way; What was it dat your daddy told you this morning?"
Ariel blushed. "Uh,..Just something about some wolf-fish being spotted around here. I'm sorry, Sebastian! I just didn't want to spoil our fun!"
The crab smiled. "Well; We've certainly had enough of dat tonight! Let's hit the seaweed."
Sebastian swam into the tent, and Ariel and Flounder followed him. The little fish smiled up at the girl. "One good thing about all this; I'm not scared of scorpion-fish anymore!"