“Cap’n Kish Loukish, the Skulk-Rots are turning to fire!”
“Yes yes I know that. Get ready to turn on my signal but not before. Run out the starboard
battery and stand by the guns. We’ll take their first broadside across our bow. Have the crew
be ready to hit the deck on my signal.”
“Aye, Cap’n Kish Loukish.”
The cannonballs from the Skulk-Rot ship came roaring in like a herd of runaway trains. Some
zipped right over their heads, some smashed into the deck, and one even clipped the tip of
the delightful pink feather on Cap’n Kish Loukish’s big black wonderful hat. That made her
“First Mate Kish Mapkish has half a nyerk missing, Cap’n Kish Loukish, said Second Mate Kish
Bapkish. From down on the main deck, First Mate Kish Mapkish stood up as best she could with
one nyerk missing and bravely yelled out, “We can still answer, Cap’n Kish Loukish!”
“ARRR!!!” yelled the rest of the crew.
A head popped out of a hatchway. “No water in the hold, Cap’n Kish Loukish! No holes below
“HA!” said Cap’n Kish Loukish, waving her gleaming sharp cutlass. “They aimed too high! It’s
our turn now! Luff the starboard lubbers! Avast the bow lines! Scupper the foretop and brace
the mainsheet! AND RUN OUT THE GUNS! Smartly now, me hearties!”
“ARRRR!!!” yelled the crew, even louder. They hauled on the lines and the ship turned quickly
under her full sails. Now she was broadside to the Skulk-Rot ship, and all the cannon on her
starboard side were pointed at the enemy.
Eager Kishes stood behind each gun. Some aimed them, and some stood by with lighted
matches, ready to touch off the powder and blast the Skulk-Rot ship to pieces.
“Steady now, mates,” said Cap’n Kish Loukish. “Wait for it . . . “
And the wind in the sails pushed the ship closer to the enemy, until Cap’n Kish Loukish knew
they were just close enough.
“First Mate Kish Mapkish is waiting for your orders, Cap’n Kish Loukish.”
“The enemy’s ship is broken,” said Cap’n Kish Loukish. “Tell everyone to grab weapons, head
for the starboard rail, and prepare for boarding and nyerk-to-tentacle combat!
“Aye, Cap’n Kish Loukish!—oh, and ARRRR!”
Cap’n Kish Loukish was right. (Cap’n Kish Loukish was always right.) The Skulk-Rot ship was
broken. But there were still lots of terrible, fearsome Skulk-Rots aboard, waiting for the chance
to cut Kishes up and use them for fish bait.
Kishes below decks grabbed swords, axes, and pistols, and sprang from the hatchways to man
the rails and get ready to fight the Skulk-Rots.
Early the next morning, Kish Loukish got up, found some skruk left over from building the tree
house, and started building herself a sailboat. Kish Loukish almost never got up early, and Kish
Loukish did not know how to build a sailboat, but she did it anyway.
Later, Kish Palkish came out to see what Kish Loukish was doing. Kish Loukish explained about
the sailboat. Kish Palkish asked Kish Loukish if she knew how to build a sailboat. “Yes,” said Kish
Loukish. Kish Palkish said she would help.
Kish Loukish tried and tried, but every time she tried, the wind pulled the line out of her nyerk
and tipped the boat over and dumped Kish Loukish in the water. Finally, she was too tired to try
“Kish Loukish,” said Kish Bonkish. “We don’t know anything about sailboats, so we can’t tell you
why yours didn’t work, but you know what? Kish Bobkish sails, and I bet she can tell you and
might even help you re-do it and teach you how to sail it.”
Kish Loukish climbed up to her tree house and settled down to some serious sulking. She was
mad at everything and everybody because her sailboat didn’t work and she had worked hard
She remembered how much fun it was to sail on her trip to Earth, and she thought about how
different the sailboat there was from the one she built. But she had no idea how to build a
boat like that; it was curvy and pointy and had parts that moved . . . maybe she would ask Kish
Bobkish. But that would take a lot of courage because Kish Bobkish was her teacher and Kish
Loukish was very shy around her.
The next day at the Blak, Kish Loukish worked and worked on her courage to ask Kish Bobkish.
When it was time for break, she stayed behind.
“Yes, Kish Loukish?”
But even though Kish Loukish said it perfectly in her head, she couldn’t make it come out her
After what seemed like forever, Kish Bobkish patted Kish Loukish’s point and said, “It’s OK, Kish
Loukish—I’m just going to go over there and get ready for the next lesson and when you feel
like telling me, I’ll be here, OK?”
Kish Loukish was so angry with herself and so glad that the other Kishes were all off playing. She
called herself lots of ugly names and told herself that if she didn’t shape up and ask Kish Bobkish
like a big Kish, she was going to go jump into a volcano.
So she did. “Kish Bobkish, I want to learn how to sail, and my parents said that you know how
to, and they said I should ask you.”
“I’ll be happy to teach you to sail. I’ll talk to your parents and we’ll see about getting started,
“How was your first sailing lesson, Loukish?”
“Boring. We didn’t even sail, and she’s teaching Kish Mapkish and a Kish I don’t know named
Kish Latkish too, and we just stood there by the side of the lake and Kish Bobkish told us what
the parts of the boat were and made us repeat them until we got them all right and it took
forever and I messed up a lot and once Kish Latkish laughed at me but she got a lot of them
wrong too so I laughed at her. Then we learned how to tell where the wind was coming from.”
“Well, you have to know all those things if you’re going to sail.”
“I guess so,” said Kish Loukish. “I hope we get to sail next time.”
“You probably will, IF you do your homework so you can show Kish Bobkish you’re ready.”
“I know,” whined Kish Loukish.
“Don’t whine, please,” said Kish Palkish.
“I’m not whining,” whined Kish Loukish.
The next day, it was time to rig the boat and if they got that right, they could go sailing. Kish
Bobkish watched carefully. Kish Loukish was nervous.
When they finished rigging the boat, Kish Bobkish said, “That looks good. Now, where’s the
wind?” They all looked across the lake and turned themselves a little from side to side to feel
where the wind was coming from.
“That way!” said Kish Mapkish, who always had to be first.
“Yes, that way!” agreed Kish Latkish.
“I think it’s a little more this way,” said Kish Loukish, quietly.
“I think you’re right, Kish Loukish,” said Kish Bobkish. “Though you’re all close.”
Kish Loukish felt a warm big feeling spreading inside her that felt so good.
“Listen carefully,” said Kish Bobkish, and they did. “Each of you will make one short out-and-
back sail, and if that goes well, we’ll do it again. I will call instructions from shore, and you will
do as I say at all times. If someone gets in trouble, I’ll come out and get them in the other boat.
“Yes, Kish Bobkish,” they said together.
“Good,” said Kish Bobkish. “Now—everyone put on their float jackets, and who wants to go
Kish Loukish knew that Kish Mapkish would shoot her hand up and say ME ME ME! as loud as she
could, so she didn’t say anything.
Kish Mapkish shot her hand up and said “ME ME ME!” as loud as she could.
“And I’ll go second!” said Kish Latkish in her squeaky voice that Kish Loukish didn’t like.
“Is that OK with you, Kish Loukish?” asked Kish Bobkish.
“Yes,” said Kish Loukish.
Kish Loukish wanted to watch Kish Mapkish and Kish Latkish and see what they did right or
wrong before she went.
“All right, then—Kish Mapkish, let’s get her launched.”
Even though Kish Loukish wasn’t going out this time, she could already feel her heart beating
hard and fast and she felt tingly.
Kish Mapkish took the tiller in one nyerk and the sheet in the other, and almost instantly the sail
filled, the boat went straight and she was sailing away.
“Very good, Kish Mapkish!” called Kish Bobkish. “That’s it—lean back a little more—perfect!”
It was beautiful to watch, but Kish Loukish couldn’t be too happy; Kish Mapkish was doing so
well, and Kish Loukish didn’t know whether she would or not. Kish Mapkish did everything well.
“OK, Kish Mapkish—get ready to tack,” said Kish Bobkish.
Tacking was the hardest thing they had to do; it meant turning the boat into the wind with the
tiller while pulling the sail in until the wind filled the sail on the other side and the boat was
sailing with the wind on the other side and could come back to shore.
“OK!” said Kish Mapkish. “Ready when you say!”
Kish Loukish and Kish Latkish watched carefully as Kish Mapkish brought the boat around
smoothly and without losing any speed. In just a few seconds, she was heading back toward
them. Kish Loukish wondered: Can I do that? Of course you can do it, said another voice
inside her head. You already have—on Earth, remember? Just do that.
Kish Latkish went next and she did fine too. As she was getting out of the boat, a gust of wind
almost tipped it over, but Kish Latkish sprang lightly over the side and she and Kish Bobkish held
the boat steady and got it back up on shore.
“Your turn, Kish Loukish,” said Kish Bobkish. “The wind is getting a little gusty, so remember to
ease the sheet to let the sail out in the gusts and lean back to help keep the boat upright, OK?”
“OK,” said Kish Loukish. But to herself, she said, Great. I’m already nervous and my sail is going
to be harder than theirs. But she was determined to do well, so she put on her float jacket and
helped Kish Bobkish turn the boat around. The loose sail was flapping loudly in the wind. Kish
Mapkish and Kish Latkish were watching. Kish Loukish climbed in, smacking one of her nyerks
on the side of the boat, which hurt. She hoped Kish Mapkish and Kish Latkish didn’t notice.
With the rudder out of the water and the sail flapping loose, the boat couldn’t go anywhere.
Kish Loukish settled in, pushed the rudder down a little, pulled on the line called the sheet that
was tied to the sail, and started to move away from shore. She pushed the rudder all the way
down and the boat started to go straight. Then a gust of wind hit. The boat started to tip and it
got really hard to hold on to the sheet and the tiller. Kish Loukish got a scary feeling in her
stomach as the boat leaned and she had to brace herself to keep from falling . . .
. . . and then she remembered to ease out the sheet. The sail spilled some wind, the boat
settled back on her bottom, and the tiller stopped pulling on Kish Loukish’s nyerk. She was still
sailing. She hadn’t tipped over in front of Kish Bobkish and Little Kish Perfect Mapkish and Kish
Latkish with her dumb laugh that sounded like a boingy bird with its head stuck in a box.
Just then, Kish Loukish decided that this was the coolest thing she had ever done. She loved
the feeling of the boat moving through the water and the tug of the wind in the sail and how
she felt like a part of it all. She wasn’t shaking any more and her heart wasn’t pounding.
Maybe she could actually get good at this . . . be good at something . . .
. . . but Kish Loukish made herself come back from her imagination. She knew she had to pay
attention and concentrate or another gust would catch her when she wasn’t ready and make
her mess up. She did NOT want to mess up.
“. . . and I didn’t!” squeaked Kish Loukish when she got home. “I didn’t mess up!”
Kish Loukish loved practicing her sailing. She never wanted to let Kish Mapkish or Kish Latkish
have their turns, but she did.
They learned to tack (zig-zag) upwind to get back to shore with the wind blowing against them.
After several weeks of practice, Kish Bobkish let them sail on the lake when the wind was
blowing hard and the water was rough, so they could learn to handle the waves. She kept a
rowboat ready to launch on the shore in case someone needed help, but they all did fine.
“. . . so then Kish Bobkish said we get to have a Float Tillow—what’s a ‘tillow’?”
“I think she said ‘flotilla’—that’s a group of boats all doing the same thing.”
“Oh—so we’re going to sail together around booeys—what are ‘booeys’?”
“’Buoys are markers that float. You need to eat your dinner, Loukish.”
Next week’s sailing practice got canceled because it was storming. Kish Loukish had lots of
homework that night. Then Kish Palkish asked her to come help her cut up niftarsh for dinner.
“Why is Kish Bobkish coming over?”
“To talk about a sailing trip that you just might get to go on if you practice your sailing and do
what Kish Bobkish tells you and get along with Kish Mapkish and Kish Latkish.”
Kish Bobkish did come over after dinner.
“Kish Radkish and I have a chance to charter a big boat in Dontsaygosh Island, on the Red
Sea, during the two-moon conjunction, and we were thinking of taking the little Kishes as
student crew, if it’s OK with their parents and if they can show me they can work as a crew and
pass the Level 4 Sailkish test.”
Kish Loukish, of course, had nineteen—wait—twenty-six questions already. “charter . . . island . .
. big boat . . . conjunction . . . Level 4 Sailkish test . . . “—her questions were tumbling over
themselves in her brain. Kish Bobkish and Kish Bonkish and Kish Palkish talked. Kish Loukish
“Kish Loukish, do you think this is something you would be interested in?” asked Kish Bobkish.
Kish Loukish said Oh yes about seven times in her head as loud as she could but nothing came
out of her mouth. Oh no . . . Then she remembered she could nod. So she nodded as fast and
hard as she could until she felt that her brain was rattling inside her head.
“We don’t have any big boats here on our little lake, but we’ll practice on our little boats and
you’ll have a book and movie about big boats to learn with, OK?”
The very next Zinday, Kish Loukish felt tired and lazy after Blak, but it was time for group sailing
practice and the first step toward Level 4 Sailkish—so she grabbed her float jacket and headed
for the lake. Kish Bobkish had borrowed two more boats, and set out three buoys in a triangle
before they got there, so before long, all three students were on the water with their sails
drawing, heading (more or less) for the first buoy. Then they started to race each other, and
then things started to get a little messy.
“You’re stealing my wind!”
“Hey! You’re drifting down on me! Head up!”
By not paying attention to their sailing, all three found themselves in some amount of trouble.
Kish Mapkish’s sail was flapping and she was slowing down and losing control. Kish Latkish had
her sail trimmed in so hard and her tiller so tight that she was burying her boat in the water. And
Kish Loukish’s sail was flapping and she was slowing down and Kish Latkish was about to run into
And then they saw something small and red and fast, coming up behind them.
Then, just for a minute, they paid enough attention to their own boats to get themselves going
And then, all of a sudden, the red something came up and went by.
It was Kish Bobkish, in her own boat. She blew all three of them away. It looked so easy.
The three students looked at each other, with their boats trimmed well. They didn’t say
anything, but all three knew that Kish Bobkish had smoked them, and that they needed to sail
together and sail fast to catch her.
They didn’t catch Kish Bobkish, but they got closer, and sailed around, the buoys, and got
faster, and the next time, they didn’t let Kish Bobkish get so far ahead. They paid attention
when Kish Bobkish showed them how to trim their sails and balance their weight so they would
They practiced over and over again, tipped over and got back in, won races, lost races, got
rained on, sat on the lake with no wind and got hot, and sometimes came home so tired they
just went to bed. But they all passed their Level 4 Sailkish test, and Kish Bobkish and Kish Radkish
took them all out to dinner at the House of Big Wacky Fun, and then they started to learn about
big boats. First they watched a movie at Kish Bobkish’s and Kish Radkish’s house. It was about
big boat sailing.
“It looks a LOT different from our boats!” said Kish Mapkish.
“It’s different in some ways, but sailing is sailing,” said Kish Bobkish. “The boat works the same
Then Kish Bobkish gave them a book to read. Kish Bonkish helped Kish Loukish with some of the
Then, about two weeks later, after blak, Kish Bobkish told them she had booked their trip to
Dontsaygosh Island and gave them a list of what to pack (and what not to). It was hard to
believe, but they were really going to get to go. Kish Loukish was so excited she bounced high
all the way home, but she was also a little scared because she’d never been somewhere
without her parents before. But she didn’t tell anybody that.
“. . . and guess how we’re getting there! Guess!”
“I don’t know, Loukish—how?”
“No, you have to guess! Guess!”
“Okay, uh, moogilizer?”
“NO, not moogilizer! SUN-GLIDER! We’re taking a sun-glider!”
“That’s wonderful, Loukish. You’ll love that.”
And love it she did. When they got to the sunglider port she just stood and stared at it until Kish
Mapkish said “Come on! We can get in now!” When it left the ground she could see
When they got high enough to catch the thermals, the pilots shut the turbines down and all Kish
Loukish could hear was the whistle of the wind and they were so high the ground looked like a
design someone would paint on their point.
And then they played durps. For nine hours.
The final score was 9,864 to 8,741 to 7,699. Kish Loukish came in second. And then she looked
out the window, and in one instant learned that something real could be even more beautiful
than a picture.
The next day, their boat wasn’t ready yet, so they climbed up a jungly green mountain and at
the top they looked down into a clear blue lagoon way, way down. The island Kish who took
them up pointed up to where a big thick vine hung down from a huge tree. “On Dontsaygosh
Island, when a Kish decides she’s a grown-up Kish, she takes her fronks with her up here, and
she grabs that vine, swings way out over the lagoon, dives into the water, and swims to the
beach. And then when she comes home she is a grown-up Kish.” (‘Fronks’ is a Kish word that
means Kishes you’re very close to.)
Kish Loukish thought that was just about the scariest thing she could imagine doing. It was so
much higher than the high diving board on Earth, it made her dizzy. And then she heard this
come out of her mouth:
“I’m a grown-up Kish. I’ll do it.”
And then she felt REALLY dizzy.
All the other Kishes looked at her. Even brave always-first Kish Mapkish didn’t say anything.
The only thing Kish Loukish could imagine worse than doing it was not doing it.
She nodded her point at Kish Monkish (the island Kish). Kish Monkish showed her how to grab
the vine, where the worn-away spot was where you started way back from the edge of the
cliff, and how to run with the vine toward the edge. “And you have to run as fast and hard as
you can, and then you’ll be flying out, and you have to wait until you stop flying out to let go.
Then you’ll be over the middle of the lagoon. Then you let go, flip over, and dive. You have to
dive—you can’t jump—or you’ll be sorry.”
Kish Loukish nodded.
Kish Loukish couldn’t believe she had done it, but she could feel the tingling in her head and
the tips of her nyerks where they’d hit the water. She HAD done it. First. Kish Mapkish and Kish
Latkish dove in too. But I did it first. She really didn’t care if she ever did anything else first
again, but she cared very much that she’d done that. The cool water felt tingly-good drying
on her skin in the warm sun.
Kish Bobkish held up her nyerk. At first Kish Loukish was puzzled—then she realized that Kish
Bobkish was offering a nyerk-wrap. Nyerk-wraps were a sign of friendly respect between
grown-up Kishes. Little Kishes did not nyerk-wrap, except when they were pretending to be
grown-ups. No grown-up Kish had ever offered a nyerk-wrap to Kish Loukish.
“Kish Loukish, I’d like for you to be first mate on the cruise, OK?”
Kish Loukish said “OK” three times in her head but . . . . so she nodded.
“Is that fair?” Kish Bobkish asked Kish Latkish and Kish Mapkish.
“Yes, Kish Bobkish.”
And Kish Mapkish went up to Kish Loukish and said, “That was seriously Kishy.”
“Yeah,” said Kish Latkish.
“Thanks,” said Kish Loukish.
Then Kish Mapkish and Kish Latkish ran through the shallow water laughing and kick-splashing.
Kish Bobkish said, “Let’s get going—it’s time to load the boat and get ready to go.”
Wow. It was a big boat. And they were going to sail it away.
Kish Mapkish and Kish Latkish took top and bottom bunks on the port side, Kish Bobkish and Kish
Radkish took the forward cabin, and Kish Loukish took the top bunk on the starboard side.
They learned to use the winches and tackles to control the big sails, and to steer with a wheel,
and they took the boat out of the harbor and out into the wide clear blue sea.
Pretty soon, the water turned dark blue, there were waves that made the boat rock and sway,
and the wind blew harder. The boat leaned over and sailed fast. Then they looked behind
them, and there was no land anywhere. Kish Latkish said she didn’t feel so good, and then she
threw up over the side. Kish Radkish said to keep looking out at the horizon and keep working.
So they did. Kish Loukish felt a little sick but she tried to forget about it and concentrate on
sailing the boat. Kish Latkish threw up again but she was brave and asked if she could steer.
She drove the boat, Kish Bobkish helped her, and she didn’t throw up again.
Kish Latkish held on and steered the boat straight in the tossing waves.
“That’s Kishy, Kish Latkish,” said Kish Loukish.
“Thanks,” said Kish Latkish.
They took turns steering and staying awake and watching for other boats and tending to the
sails for three days and two nights. They were living in a different world.
Just before sunset on the third day, they passed through the Straits of Lemmein and entered
the Red Sea.
A few hours later, as Kish Loukish held on and watched, the two moons rose, one after the
other, and their soft light danced on the dark water. Kish Loukish didn’t think to wish she had
her paints—she just stared and wondered that she’d made it here.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if we could just float up off the sea and sail off to those moons?” said Kish
Loukish. She spoke softly because it was so peaceful and beautiful.
“Yes, but we can’t, because the sailboat isn’t fast enough to fly,” said Kish Mapkish. “Besides,
even if it was, it wouldn’t be strong enough to escape the gravity of Kishloo, and there’s no
wind in space, so we couldn’t sail, and we can’t breathe in space anyway.”
Kish Loukish nodded. She knew all that was true. Then she closed her eyes.