Excerpt: Just an Otter Day

 

The salty sea breeze was cool and encouraging, just right for fishing. A pity, really. It’d be much harder to find food with fishermen hanging around. He’d seen them, their withered hats softening tough, fin-shaped heads, talking gruffly and loudly about yesterday’s catch. Their boats swayed slightly, shifting the deep blue water. It was a cloudless, merry day for every fisherman on the wharf, and a troubling, problematic morning for the otter below.

He glanced up at the fisherman nearest him, whose cheap cigarette was almost finished. His chequered yellow shirt was neatly patched, and the otter could smell food in a faded brown basket next to his metal chair. The otter was a fair way away from their old boat (its speed hobbled by the slight crack in its hull), but the fisherman caught sight of him anyway.

‘Hey, Harvey! See de little seal o’er there!’

‘That ain’t a seal, Tom, I’d bet me wife.’

‘Well, can we catch ’im?’

‘Naw, he’s too far. They’re quick, too.’

The otter huffed angrily, a little insulted to be taken for a seal, but he doubted that they’d noticed. His brown, wet fur glistened like the sun off the water, and his large, wet nose was silky black. His small eyes, light and playful, blinked rapidly, and his long tail swayed lazily, propelling him forward on his back.

He shot underwater as another boat, its lifebelts swinging against it, came floating out of the dock. His feet, large and webbed, were ready to turn him around at the slightest notice.

The water was cool and pleasant, swishing past his whiskers. Coral burst out of wet, dark sand far below, and fish swung past him in an arc, each scale shimmering like diamonds in the night. Their school was thinner than usual.

Fiery red crabs, frozen in their stations at the underwater plants, snapped at purple and yellow fish that got too close. Algae blanketed the deep sand and crawled over spread-out surfaces of the multi-coloured, oddly shaped, blossoming aquatic plants. The otter ducked and swung to avoid lace leaf that got too tall, or orange duckweed that swung too close to his face. A riot of colours erupted in the sunlight. Purple, red, yellow, green, magenta, turquoise, all became a blur as he danced through the ocean.

With a burst of speed, he threw himself to the ocean floor, snatching up a large, black crab. The crab’s claws clicked angrily, horrified that he’d been discovered.

When the otter surfaced, the crab wasn’t struggling any more. Floating, once again, on his back, he held his meal between his paws and chewed hungrily. He was glad to have found a decent breakfast, though fish was out of the question this morning.

The rest of the morning was spent sunbathing on the buoy, and the otter was able to grab a couple of hours of rest before the noise from the clicking of fishing poles and yells as the struggles began forced him out of his slumber.

He stared straight up into the light blue sky. Were there fish there as well? Was it another ocean of sorts? Did the sky end anywhere? It must, he told himself. Everything has an ending. Then his thoughts took a new turn, insisting that it couldn’t possibly be another ocean because one could float in the ocean, and only birds could float in the sky. Still, it was a nice idea. And his daydreams went on, to what he would find beyond the horizon, and what kind of oceans these other places had. His thoughts unravelled to the pinpricks he saw shining late at night in the black sky, and he wondered if they were other otters, far away, glimmering in the black waters of the night sky. Was that where his parents had gone? To live with these other otters? ‘If so, I must find a way to reach there too,’ he concluded, as he sat staring at the bright, full moon, his claws brushing the surface of the sea.

‘Honestly,’ he grumbled as he slipped beneath the black, unmoving waters, ‘I wonder at these humans. Why don’t they spend their time doing something a bit more useful? They rage at everything that isn’t them and disgust at anything that is; all to decide who gets to destroy what first.’

The sea was quiet as the night; a clear velvet sky was reflected in the silent, slow-moving waves brushing against the shore.

The salty sea breeze was cool and encouraging, just right for fishing.

 

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