Deep, deep down on the ocean floor, there lives a world of creatures that you and I have never met, but a mermaid once told my grandmother, who was a fishwife, about the little octopus who loved too much, and that is how I know.
The octopus spent most of his days swimming past thickets of sea weed, playing on gentle ocean currents, cavorting with sea horses, and doing the things that would make a normal octopus happy, if that octopus had any capacity for joy.
This little octopus, though, sighed and moaned every day, because he could not find a lady octopus to be his sea-girlfriend. His friend the turtle said to him, “Come, come along with me to the shores of Bermuda, where we will visit the beaches of sparkling white sand. I need to go to the surface to feel the sun on my back and to feel the dry land under my flippers once more.”
“Oh, I don’t think so,” said the little octopus. “This is a mating trip, am I right? I would feel like a third wheel.”
“A what?” asked the turtle.
“Never mind,” said the little octopus. “I’ll just stay here and brood.”
“Suit yourself,” said the turtle, and he swam away in the general direction of Bermuda.
“I never get to have any fun,” said the little octopus. No sooner had he spoken, then along came the manta ray. She glided up to him on her shimmering silver-black wings, and waved her sharp tail in the dappled shadows.
“Why so glum, Octopus?” she asked. “I never get to go anywhere or do anything, and I don’t have a sea-girlfriend,” he sighed.
“Oh,” said the manta ray, “Wow. Well. I guess I may some other animals who are having a party this weekend, if you would want to go to that. I mean, I’m not sure it’s your crowd but–”
“Do you think I’d fit in?” asked the octopus. “I get really nervous at parties. I should probably go on sea-medication, but that just seems weird, and I don’t know–”
“Suit yourself,” said the manta ray, and she flapped away in the water on her graceful leathery wings.
The octopus glumly began to swim home, when he saw something that made him wrap a tentacle around a sturdy stalk of kelp and stay stock-still in the water. On the other side of a trench in the ocean floor, was a lady octopus who was by far the more beautiful than anyone the little octopus had ever seen. “Should I talk to her?” he asked himself. “What would I say? What if I asked her out? Where would we go?”
He stayed there, wrapped around the kelp stalk, til he felt sick and his tentacle was sore, and decided that he would have to go home.
Later, he placed a “missed connections” personal ad, but she never answered.
Once a young shark swam away from home for the first time, on her way to the sea university on the other side of the great reef. Her mother warned her not to speak to strange creatures, but the young shark laughed privately at this. After all, she was a shark, one of the most fearsome creatures in all the briney deep. What did she have to be afraid of?
She swam past sea weed rocks and old shells, and old tires and rotting nets. She swam further and further from her family’s underwater cave, until everything seemed strange and frightening, but as the shark said to herself, “I can’t lie: it’s all very exciting, too.”
“What’s that you say, young miss?” inquired a creature somewhere behind her right pectoral fin.
“Oh, why–nothing,” she said, suddenly remembering her mother’s warning.
“Oh, it was surely not nothing,” said the voice. “You sounded like you had something interesting to say, and indeed, I am interested, truly I am.”
“Well…I suppose it can’t hurt,” said the shark. “It’s just that this is my first time going to the sea university, and everything is very strange and exciting.”
“Sure it is!” said the voice. “But if you just stick with me, I can show you the best and worst of everything.”
“That sounds good,” said the shark, and they swam along together.
After a few minutes, she began to feel a little more tired than usual, a little heavier. “Sir?” she asked the voice.
“Yes?” it answered.
“I can’t help but wonder if I could see your face.”
“All in good time,” the voice said.
“Oh,” said the shark, a little doubtfully.
She swam on and on, but the more she swam, the weaker she felt.
“Sir?” she asked the voice.
“Yes?” the voice answered.
“I wonder if I might know your name,” she said.
“By and by,” said the voice.
The shark swam on, but as she swam, she began to feel something poking into her side. She shimmied in the water, but the feeling remained.
“Sir?” she asked.
“Yes?” the voice asked, “What is it now?”
“Are you biting my side, by any chance?” the shark asked.
“Indeed I am,” said the voice, and by then the shark knew it was a remora, the sharp toothed fish that clings to the bigger animals of the sea.
“Oh,” said the shark. She didn’t know what else to say, although she had a feeling that maybe there was something wrong with the arrangement. “Do you think I’m pretty?” she asked the remora, after a minute.
“Sure,” it said.
That calmed the shark, and she swam on towards the sea university.
The sea university was surrounded by a barrier reef of living coral and plants, but while it was beautiful, it was razor-sharp, and it required all of a young shark’s skill to get in successfully. Having the remora attached made it hard to get over the reef: it threw off her whole swimming style, and she scraped her belly on the sharp coral.
“Oh, dear,” she said.
“You better not be blaming me for this, because it’s totally not my fault,” said the remora.
“Oh, I’m not,” said the shark, even though she had been, because she didn’t want a fight right then.
“Good,” said the remora.
The shark began to swim towards the center of the sea-university, dragging the remora along with her. It was hard going. “Are you swimming in the opposite direction?” the shark asked.
“What about my dreams?” asked the remora. “Did you ever even bother to ask? What about what’s best for us?”
“Oh, but, you knew where I was going,” said the shark. “And you attached yourself to me anyway.”
“Things have changed since then,” said the remora.
“Please, let me just get settled in here,” said the shark.
But the blood from the scrapes on her belly attracted more and bigger sharks, and they surrounded her, and ate her right up! Some people thought they saw the remora swim away and attach himself to a different shark, but I know for a fact a spear fisherman got him later on. And a good thing, too!
Filed under: Your Friends and Neighbors | Tags: infidelity, jerks, owl, stoat, vole, yoga
A meadow vole tutted to her neighbor the owl “I just feel like I can’t get through to him. What am I getting out of this relationship? There has to be something in it for me, right? I cook and clean and pay all the bills and take care of the baby voles.” The owl thought about this and said “I wonder if it has anything to do with that stoat I saw him with after his yoga class? He’s always saying he’d just be ‘wiped out’ if he didn’t get to yoga each week.”
Actually, the owl was a jerk. The owl said “You really give 110% to that relationship. Have you thought about taking some time for you? You know, a bubble bath, maybe some emergency chocolate!”
Then the owl went home and called the beaver, and they laughed and laughed!
A snail who often spent his time on the shady end of the lettuce patch was minding his business one day when a giant hand came from the sky and picked him up by his spiraling shell and put him in a sack.
“This is a pretty turn of affairs,” said the snail. “I wonder what will happen now?” He munched some of the lettuce upon which he rode, and looked out of the burlap sack in the afternoon sunlight. The speed of his journey was dizzying. “I didn’t know I could survive this level of transportation,” said the snail, for he was used to living alone, and like many eccentrics, he had the habit of speaking outloud. “Surely soon everything will fall to pieces.” Suddenly, there was a jolt, as someone set the sack down.
Then, with a whoosh of leaves, the sack was overturned and the lettuce and the snail fell upon the counter. “I’d better just see what happens next,” said the snail.
With that, the leaf of lettuce he had adhered himself to and all of its near neighbors were sent under a bath of cold tap water and shaken vigorously. “Well!” said the snail as he went flying, “This is a far cry from the garden.”
He landed beside the kitchen door, and to his chagrin, he noticed that a large foot was approaching fast, and another one behind it! “I can’t outrace that,but I will try,” said the snail, and try he did. The foot missed him by so narrow a margin that the wind of its passing bent one of his horns. “I should get back to the country I understand,” said the snail, “but how can I? This new country is ridiculous!” He stood on his one long foot and watched the goings on of the kitchen. He was so fascinated that he didn’t notice that he was getting drier by the minute. When it occurred to him, he tried to walk on his slow march back towards the garden, but nothing happened. “How curious!” said the snail, and he blinked (he wouldn’t tell me how).
The problem was solved when the cook dumped a bucket of warm soapy water on the floor, and swept the broom after it. “I didn’t wash to travel in this manner, but I suppose it’s perfectly logical,” said the snail, as he was carried out the door, down a narrow worn path from where the cook dumped the water each day. “What an exciting afternoon! I can’t say as I care for these suds, but I will soon be out of it.” He was. The water soaked down into the dirt, and the snail was left just a few inches away from the lettuce patch.
“You know,” he said, “Maybe I don’t like lettuce so much after all,” and he left that garden as fast as he could to see the world. It took years, because he was a snail, but they’re eating his dust now, back in the lettuce patch.
Once my grandmother met an old Tom cat, who told her the one about the lost puppy. Seems the puppy was some kind of lab mix, and had tried retreiving a stick thrown into a current that was just too fast for him, and was carried far downstream. “Oh, woe is me,” he cried. “I’ll never get home now.”
And he didn’t. He never got home. Poor, poor puppy. I don’t remember what-all he was supposed to have done, but that Tom cat was a rough character, and I’m sure it was sordid. That puppy shouldn’t have gotten in over his head
In humid Southeast Asia, a herd of water buffalos gathered at a river delta. A shy female buffalo found herself plagued by a cloud of biting insects. She gently shifted to the left, the right, and even five feet forward, but still they persisted. She figured they must really like her and even need her, so she vowed to tough it out. The other water buffalos said “Why, why do you allow this? Come submerge yourself in the water, as we do! This delicious mud acts as armor.”
But the shy water buffalo was torn. Sure, the bugs were annoying, but who was she to judge? They had problems too, what with being so small and easily squashed. Maybe she could teach them to be less needy if she just showed some love first. This internal dilemma went on for days, and the other water buffalos looked on in horror as she grew wizened and scabby from the constant assault. “They are sucking your life’s blood,” they lowed.
“Well, I can’t help it if I give off positive energy,” said the female. In return, the insects gave her a blood-born parasite, and she starved to death.
Filed under: Your Friends and Neighbors | Tags: bluejay, the atlantic, woodpecker
Long ago, there was a woodpecker who desperately wanted to become friendly with the grubs in the old pine tree at the edge of the forest. Every day she would come knock, knock, knocking at their pine bark door, and the horrified grubs would burrow more deeply into the soft, rotten heart of the tree.
“They must be shy!” the woodpecker exclaimed to her friend the bluejay, who cawed in agreement. “What we’ve got to do,” the woodpecker said, “is draw them out.”
Bright and early the next day, the birds set upon the old pine tree as they never had before.
“Tell me about your family!” the woodpecker called to the first grub she saw.
“Oh, my!” said the grub, and he withdrew his head into the tree.
“Remember our plan!” the woodpecker said to the bluejay, and the birds began to hammer and peck at the old tree.
“It must be awful to be so shy,” the woodpecker rattled off.
“Yes, becoming our friends will be a big step for them,” the bluejay replied.
“You are making me very uncomfortable!” a grub said as the woodpecker’s dagger-like beak came perilously close.
“What do you do in your spare time?” the bluejay shrieked.
The more the birds pressed, the more the grubs retreated, yet still the birds pecked away. Finally, the old pine tree was reduced to a pile of splinters, and the grubs crawled away, vowing to find a new home far, far away from their irritating neighbors.
As to the fate of the bluejay and the woodpecker, I cannot tell you any more than what I know of the legend, which is, of course, too foolish to be true. It is said that they pecked and shrieked until they perished of exposure, but that even in death, their hellish cries of “Did you read that article in last months’ Atlantic? I found it fascinating!” still chill the blood of passing travelers.
New forensic technology, however, leads most experts to favor the theory that their raucous cries attracted a passing hawk, who tore them to bits.
There once was a mongoose who got engaged to a cobra on a whim.
He seemed very fun-loving, with a raw hypnotic sexuality.
Also, the mongoose was on the rebound, and had intimacy issues.
The mongoose had alienated a lot of her friends during her last relationship by constantly whining about it, so she had no one to tell her, “this is a bad idea.”
I don’t think she would have listened anyway. The mongoose tended to cut off anyone who disagreed with her.
But anyway, the mongoose made up elaborate justifications about why it was a perfect pairing, and the cobra told his friends that he’d finally found the girl who would provide him with “balance.”
He hadn’t had many long term relationships, just flings. Generally, with mice.
They ended badly.
Yeah, you could say he just overpowered them.
I drank a champagne toast at their wedding.
Many happy returns of the day.
Filed under: Your Friends and Neighbors | Tags: gossip, hound, siamese cat, taking sides
Once there was a Siamese cat who had a long-term relationship. She and her boyfriend enjoyed sitting on fences and yowling at each other, but he had terrible manners and would spray urine all over the house if invited to a party. Her friends mewled behind her back about how bad they thought he was for her, and how they hated to do things in groups with him, and what was she thinking?
The Siamese cat overheard them outside as she sat in the windowsill. At first she thought about hissing and confronting them, but instead she cooked up a plan. She and her boyfriend staged a dramatic fight the next time the group gathered in the alley, lashing their tails and spitting at each other. Oh, it was a sight to see and hear!
The next day, she approached her friends, and they all rushed to console her, saying “He was no good anyway, we never liked him!” Then the Siamese turned around and said “Ah ha, we got back together! Now I know how you really feel, you treacherous pussies. You are just jealous!”
Then she went home and found a urine-scented letter from her boyfriend, actually dumping her. Also, her owners acquired an overenthusiastic hound, and she was forced to sleep outside.