He left the bosun to his eel interrogating business and wandered to the bow of the ship. A ship's bow is renowned in nautical circles for being a good place for solid hard think. Leaning forward over the frontage one's mind can be set loose and become lost in the vastness of the water ahead, the ship and all its problems become cast into the unseen world behind. One can switch off from the demands of the captain, the insolence of the crew and the squawking of the gulls which optimistically congregate around the stern hoping for a free fish. And it was into this state that Mash had come to unclutter his mind and approach his problem objectively.
Now, where in the middle of an ocean could you be expected to find a star's lost twinkle? He gazed up from the dark choppy waters at the Earwig and in particular at poor Jamie who was unable to join his colleagues in their nocturnal ballet. If only he could question Jamie on his recent activities he might have a better idea where to look. To do that he would have to fly . . .like a bird . . . like a gull!
"You gull!" he turned and called at one of the gulls, "Over here!"
"Oooohh," squawked the gull, "And who do you think you are ordering me around like that? I'm not one of your crew, you know!"
"I have a proposition for you, gull," said Mash.
"Gull? Gull?" snapped the gull, "What's all this gull business? I do have a name."
"I'm sorry," said Mash, "But I didn't know what it was."
"It's Albert," replied the gull, "Albert Ross. And I'm not just a gull, I'm . . ."
"An albatross, yes," interrupted Mash spotting that one coming.
"Well," said Albert, "What's the deal?"
"You see Jamie up there?" said Mash.
"Oh yes, poor Jamie," said Albert, "Lost his twinkle, you know."
"That's right," said Mash, "and I want you to fly up there and find out what's happened to it. Ask him where he's been, when he noticed it was missing, what he's been doing lately - that sort of thing."
"And what's in it for me, then?" asked Albert hopefully.
"Guess," replied Mash.
"Er, a herring?" hazarded Albert.
"A bit obvious really, wasn't it?" said Mash.
"Yeah, I thought so," said Albert, "but tasty. OK, you got a deal."
And so up Albert flew, up into the night sky, up towards the blighted constellation of Earwig. Jamie was clearly very upset.
"Hello, Jamie," greeted Albert, "I hear you're in a bit of a fix."
"Yes," blubbed Jamie, "It's terrible. I just don't know how I'm going to get by without my twinkle."
"There, there," comforted the albatross, "Things aren't as grim as they seem. You see that ship down there?"
"Well, they want to get your twinkle back to you," said Albert, "They've asked me to find out where you lost it so that they can recover it. Now isn't that kind?"
"Kind but impractical," said Jamie, "I lost it as I rose out of the eastern horizon. It could have drifted miles by now."
"Nevertheless," said Albert, "it must be somewhere in the sea. The fishermen will scour the ocean for it. They know the currents. They'll know where to look."