Octopus - Peace Keeper


The playdate was not going well.  Harry and Jess from down the road loved rifling through other people’s treasures and Harry had whipped away several of Tom’s favourite Star Wars toys without so much as a please or thank you. Jess was preening herself in Martha’s mirror using all her ribbons and hair ties.

Martha thought that maybe there would be enough Stibler toys for them all to play. She let the others choose first and then pulled out Octopus for herself. ‘I want Octopus,’ said Harry.

‘No,’ said Martha, holding onto a tentacle, ‘I drew the seaside this morning and I need Octopus to sit in it to look real.’

‘But I need him,’ said Harry his voice rising. ‘I‘ve got shells to put in his arms!’

Martha was indignant. ‘They’re not arms, they’re tentacles, and where are your shells? You haven’t got any have you?’

‘He’s got loads,’ said sister Jess. ‘It’s not fair. Harry had Octopus first.’

‘No, he didn’t,’ Tom joined in. ‘He chose Cat. I saw him.’

All the children began talking at once so it was hard to hear who said what. A louder voice came from the kitchen. It was Mum. ‘Martha and Tom are you sharing nicely with our guests? I hope I don’t have to come in there and remind you how to behave.’

‘Harry’s not sharing,’ called out Tom.

‘Tell-tale,’ Jess sneered.

Octopus listened with some distress and although her voice was rather high-pitched, was able to say with some force, ‘Hold on, all of you. Let’s just take a deep breath here.’

Octopus had large eyes that wobbled a little in her jelly-like face so that it looked as if they might pop out at any moment.  There were eight tentacles to manage too and it wasn’t always easy to know which one was doing what. One tentacle was wrapped tightly round her head, another just to her left was twitching and the rather fat one (tentacle number 6) was swishing up and down, up and down, as if painting a shed with a broom.

‘My dears,’ said Octopus to the tentacles, ‘Let us be still!’

 “She’s minnnnnneeeee” cried Martha.

 “No. She’s MIIINNEEEEEEE” yelled Harry.

“Whoa, Whoa, Whoa,” said Octopus calmly. She’d managed to wrench her head free from number one tentacle, and was soothing the irritated one by nodding kindly at it and winking with one of her wobbly eyes.

The children, open-mouthed, gawped at Octopus. Octopus reached out a tentacle to stroke Martha’s hair and another to tap Jessica’s wrist, together with a wobbly glare. ‘Now then, all of you, unless you really want to have a miserable day fighting, could you find a better way to sort out who plays with which toy today?’

‘I really, really need you for my seascape,’ pleaded Martha.

‘We can get shells from my house,’ said Jess, suddenly anxious to please this strange, talking creature.

‘I want to play with the Cat,’ said Harry .

‘What lovely ideas,’ said Octopus. ‘What about if I sit in front of Martha’s sea picture and Jess and Tom can arrange all the seashells in my eight tentacles. As long as there are enough shells there won’t be a problem.’

You could tell that there might be a problem from the way the tentacles suddenly stopped moving, as if listening, as if preparing for a fight.

‘Sometimes the tentacles argue,’ explained Octopus. ‘It’s quite a job to stop the battles at times. A bit like you children, I imagine. But there’s always a way to keep the peace.’

Just then Mum appeared. ‘Martha and Tom if you can’t be trusted to share your toys nicely, then there’ll be no more playdates!’

‘We’re fine,’ said Martha. ‘Honestly, we’re getting on just fine!’