An Otter Failure by TK Wade

Life in the aquarium was great. There were plenty of rocks to play on, fresh fish was served several times in a day, and then there were… the fans! Mustn’t forget the fans. Fans from all over the world would come just to see her. Suki was the most popular exhibit at the aquarium, and she knew it. The cute, female otter loved to swim and play for her audience and hated when she got tired and had to sleep. She knew her fans would be sad.
An Otter Failure
An Otter Failure by TK Wade
The staff at the Osaka Aquarium loved their prized exhibit so much that they constructed a cute, little necklace for the otter to wear made out of a clamshell. Suki wore it all the time, and the crowd could not contain themselves. “Oh, so cute!” the girls would shout. “She looks so happy! I want a necklace like that too!” Suki grinned knowing that there was none like the one she had. Oh sure, they sold worthless copies of it at the gift shop, but these replicas were not the same at all. Suki’s clamshell necklace… was magical. She–needless to say–was not sure how it worked or even how to activate it, but as soon as she took her first glance at it… she knew. It was a magical clamshell, and it was all hers. As much as she loved having so many people watch her, she never really thought much about them. It was just a regular thing for her. But on that one evening, someone caught her eye. It was a man–a human man. He was tall and fit. His eyes had a curious sparkle. He walked up to the glass with an inquisitive look. He had not seen her yet, but she already knew the truth. In that small, seemingly insignificant moment, she realized that she was in love. Hotaka approached the glass curiously. The otter exhibit was the most popular attraction in the entire aquarium. Everyone always talked about how cute they were, and he wanted to see them too. The man was afraid that they might be asleep or something, but to his surprise, the otter everyone was calling Suki was sitting right there on one of the rocks. She was staring right at him. The man smiled and admired the cute, little clamshell necklace around her neck. Hotaka placed his hand onto the glass as if to say hello. When Suki saw his gesture, she jumped into the water and quickly swam right up to him. Hotaka said, “Hello, cute Suki.” She pressed her paw against the glass right where his hand was, and in that very same moment, the aquarium’s PA system started playing “That Old Black Magic” by Frank Sinatra. They both smiled, but Suki’s eyes went wide. So it was mutual! She could not believe it! It was not that she just loved him, but that he loved her back! Already, she could see them both swimming together through open waters. He swam so perfectly–just as if he was born an otter as well. She saw them sharing two halves of a live fish. She wondered what kind he liked the most. They would be together forever and never have another problem in the world. As he took his hand away from the glass, she realized that there was only one problem: she could not get out, and he could not get in. Hotaka simply stared at her. She sure was staring at him a lot. It was starting to get a little embarrassing, because the girls around him were picking on him about it. “Hey she really seems to like you!” they would say. “Wow! She must think you are really cute!” another giggled. The man rolled his eyes and turned around to go to another exhibit. Suki sighed out some bubbles and swam back to her rock. The comfy life that she had been given now seemed more like a prison–this being true if she could not spend her days with the one that she truly loved. Then it occurred to her that there might be a way. Her magical clamshell! She reached down and took hold of it. Suki stared at it and wondered how to make it work. She walked over to the wall and struck the clamshell against it trying to get it to activate. The girls outside of the glass took pictures and said, “Wow! What is she doing? That’s odd behavior. Still cute though!” Suki turned around and desperately shook the clamshell. She wished with all of her heart that there was some way to be alone with her one and true love. The clamshell suddenly made a tiny, tingly noise and little, shining sparks seem to emanate from all around it. She looked at them with confusion–wondering if she had done it correctly. The sparks zipped back into the clamshell, and the otter disappeared from the rock. The girls outside all shouted and screamed when they clearly saw the otter poof out of existence. “Where did she go?! Did you see that?! Where’s the cute otter?!” A nervous voice announced from the PA, “I’m sorry, but we seem to be having some problems in the otter exhibit. We assure you that everything is fine. Please enjoy one of our other exhibits.” Most of the visitors assumed that not even the aquarium’s staff could explain what had happened, but there was nothing they could do. So… they left to see the other exhibits. ***** Only moments later, Hotaka was in the gift shop trying to figure out if he wanted anything. A young lady walked up to him and asked while bowing slightly, “Is there anything you were looking for in particular?” The man smiled at the pretty woman and said, “I’m not sure. Are those the necklaces that the otter was wearing?” “Oh yes,” she happily announced. “The very same kind. The clamshells are real too. Would you like to see one of them?” He smiled and nodded. “I would. You know… as a souvenir. The otter… Suki was it?” She nodded as she retrieved one of the necklaces. “Suki seemed to really take a liking to me. She came right up to me and everything. It was really strange, but I—.” The woman was about to hand the man the necklace, but to her absolute surprise, he vanished right in mid-sentence. One moment he was right there in front of her, and then… just gone. She nervously looked around and said, “Sir?” ***** “…don’t think I’ll ever forget…” Hotaka stopped. It was as if the lights all around him had just turned off. He strained his eyes to see something or anything, but it was just too dark. “Um. Hello?” His voice echoed all around him. The sounds of dripping water were audible as well. “Where am I?” he asked the nothingness. A small spark was seen to his right, and in its place appeared a lantern. It was simple and fire-lit, but now Hotaka was able to see where he was. It looked like some sort of underground cave. No matter where he turned, he could not find an exit. There was, however, some water in one of the corners. He walked over to it and gazed down into it. The head of an otter suddenly popped out–giving him such a fright! He screamed and fell to his rear. Suki crawled out of the water and slowly inched over to him. Hotaka crawled backwards away from her, but still, she followed him all the way until he was backed against the cavern wall. And then–to his surprise–she hugged his leg and nuzzled it with her cheek with what sounded like a brief, little purr. Hotaka mumbled, “What the…” He just stared at her wide-eyed and confused. Why was he acting like this? Suki got him alone with her and everything. Maybe her technique was slightly off. What was it that humans did when they wanted to make romance? Suki wished that she knew but decided to let her magical clamshell do the work. She padded away from her new boyfriend and gave her clamshell a shake. Hotaka gasped when a table appeared in the center of the cavern with two pillows on either side. There were lit candles on top and strange violin music playing from somewhere. The only thing stranger than that was Suki walking over to one side. She was waiting for him to join her. Hotaka was starting to get the idea that this weird, magical otter was in love with him! But that would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? The human decided to play along; Suki was obviously in control here. He walked over to the table and knelt down. Suki was staring at him with half-cocked eyes and what looked like a goofy smile. The table did not have any food on it. He cleared his throat and asked, “Um, are we supposed to eat or something?” That’s right! Food! Suki had got the atmosphere right, but there needed to be food–and perhaps someone to wait on them. She tried to think of another animal that could stand upright that could take their order. Suki gave her magical clamshell another shake and in proofed a big, black bear holding a towel over one arm. The otter grinned at her masterpiece. Hotaka nearly had a heart attack. He stared at the humongous thing that was standing there like a proper waiter. He raised a finger up to the bear and nervously said, “Excuse me.” The bear suddenly went into a snarling rage–roaring and clawing at the air around him. Hotaka screamed, and Suki was even shocked by it. They both ran into the nearest nook in the cavern wall that they could find. The bear gave chase but could not squeeze into the tight space. It clawed over and over at them trying to make them his meal. Hotaka screamed, “Make it go away! Make it go away now! Help!” Suki desperately fumbled to get a hold of her clamshell. When she achieved a good grip, she shook it like crazy trying to get rid of the mistakenly made, crazy waiter bear. Just before one of his big claws was about to strike them, it poofed out of existence leaving the otter and human pressed into each other–panting and nerve-racked. Hotaka sprung out of the nook past the otter and started yelling, “What is this?! What are you?! Are you some kind of crazy, magical otter from hell?! That bear could have killed me!” Suki ran up to him and bowed down to the floor itself as an apology. She really did not mean for it to happen that way. Hotaka was still yelling, “Why did you bring me here?! Why am I even asking you things; you can’t even talk! Well, if you can understand me at all, I want to get out of here now!” Suki crawled over to him and hugged his legs with a whimper. She did not want him to leave. She could make it up to him. But how? She looked up to the man with big, sad eyes. The man could not believe this. “What’s that look for? Is… is this some sort of apology?” She nodded quickly and ran back over to the table–hoping to start over. He grumbled and knelt back down at the table. “You’re Suki, right? The otter that was looking at me at the aquarium.” She nodded once again. “Why did you send me here?” Suki gave her clamshell another shake, and, once again, the sound of Frank Sinatra’s “That Old Black Magic” was playing while she stared into his eyes lovingly. Hotaka finally understood, and all he could say was, “Oh, dear.” ***** There was a lot of silence that followed. Both of them seemed to have hit an awkward spot in their relationship. Hotaka just did not know how to break it to her. And Suki, well… she did not have any idea how to make a human happy. Hotaka finally asked, “Well, we really didn’t need a waiter. Why can’t you just do that hocus pocus thing and get us some food?” Suki wondered why she did not think of that to begin with. A bear?! What was wrong with her! Bears are just fat slobs that kill people! She could get him food just as well as any other animal. She took hold of her clamshell and gave it a shake. She wished for Hotaka to have something to eat–something delicious! Before they knew it, both Suki and Hotaka had a live flopping fish inside their mouths. The human nearly gagged and ran over to the water to spit it out. He screeched, “Ughh! Yuck! That’s not what I meant!” What did Suki do wrong this time? She gobbled up her own fish with no problem, but her lover had left the table. It was beginning to look like there was nothing she could do right around him. She just could not understand. If humans did so much fishing, why did they not eat any of it? Maybe they needed a waiter to serve it to them as a custom, but she was not about to try that one again. Suki was flat out of ideas. The otter laid her chin against the table dejectedly. Hotaka grumbled all the way back to the table. He was about to let her have it, but then he saw her sad, little face just resting on the edge of the table. Even though they were entirely different species, something told him exactly how she was feeling. He sighed and knelt back down. “Look, Suki, I… I am really, very flattered. You…you are obviously a fine girl as… as otters go. But…” The look in her eyes was breaking his heart. “What I am trying to say is that… you see, humans usually go out with other humans. And otters usually find other otters for… their… mates. But humans and otters usually don’t…” When he saw a couple tears fall from those big, sad eyes, he choked on his words and just could not speak anymore. Suki already knew what he was saying. She knew it was true. She realized how stupid all of this was from the beginning, and now, she wished that she had not done any of it at all. It was still true that she loved him. She loved him with all of her heart, but they could never be mates. All her dreams came crashing down on her, and now, all she could do was cry. Hotaka slowly got up and stepped over to her side of the table. He knelt down and rubbed her back. “It’s alright, Suki. I’m so sorry. I’m really, really sorry.” Suki sniffled and whimpered. She loved his touch. It was everything she imagined it would be. It made her think about what life might be like if he could be with her forever. But she had no right to bring him here. She had no right to take him away from his life. This human had shown that he clearly did care about her. It may not have been love, but to Suki, it did not matter. He cared. His actions at that very moment had proven it. Suki looked over to him and forced a little smile. Hotaka grinned back and said, “You just didn’t understand. We can’t be mates, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel for you. Who’s to say we can’t be really good friends?” Friends? He wanted to be Suki’s friend? The words touched the little otter with such force that she felt she was going to cry again–not out of sadness, but out of joy. She turned around and hugged the human once again. They would be friends, and that would be enough for her. Hotaka smiled and said, “I don’t know how any of this was possible, but if you return me home, I’ll come visit you often. I promise.” Suki stepped away from him and nodded her little head. The otter took hold of the magical clamshell and took back her wish. ***** One week later, Hotaka returned to the Osaka Aquarium’s gift shop. The woman who had helped him the last time gasped at the sight of him. He made a nervous smile and said, “Oh, hello again.” He bowed slightly. The woman approached him and asked, “Sir! Last time you were here—!” He interrupted, “Oh, yes. I’m sorry. I realized at the last moment that I was late for a very important meeting. I had to run out of here very fast.” “But I saw you disappear!” Hotaka rubbed the back of his neck and chuckled nervously. “Yeah, I’m told I’m pretty fast.” The woman seemed utterly amazed. He continued, “I was wondering if I could buy one of those necklaces that I was looking at last time. They’ve been on my mind all week.” She bowed a little and walked over to get one for him. He noticed that she kept looking back to check if he was still there. He blushed but tried to keep his composure. ***** It is hard to explain love. Some say it happens the moment you see someone. Others feel it happens over time. Some might even profess that it occurs in the bed. But whatever love truly is, it is real and very powerful. As powerful as love is, it pales in comparison to caring and friendship. Love may be strong, but it can be quite selfish at times. It can lead us to do things that we should not have done, and often times, it can lead to some terrible mistakes. But those with compassion for others are the stronger ones. Caring and friendship are the true foundation of a real, meaningful relationship. If you love someone, you should care for them as well. You should think about them and understand what makes them happy. This is a lesson that often goes unheeded, but some figure it out. Suki and Hotaka were not meant to be, and as hard it was for her to accept, she realized that it was true. When she saw him through the glass that day, she was truly in love; however, she was not thinking of him as much as what her life would be with him. This blinded her to everything else–including his feelings. When she realized that their relationship was to never exist, she cried because she had failed, but in addition to that, she had ruined his day in the process. But with a single act of kindness, she realized what true friendship was all about. It might have been what attracted her to him to begin with: that sparkle in his eyes. He cared. And when she realized that, she understood the meaning of friendship, and that would be enough for her. There was no magic necessary to make it work. It was already perfect the way it was. They were now friends. ***** Suki smiled when she saw her friend walk up to the glass. She jumped into the water and swam over to him. He was wearing a clamshell just like hers around his neck. She blushed at the gesture. It was the sweetest thing he could have ever done, or was it? She saw Hotaka reach into his pocket and pull out a can of sardines. Her eyes went wide, and she licked her lips wanting them desperately. He pointed over to the bathrooms and then at his clamshell. She nodded and swam back over to the rock and crawled out of the water. Hotaka smiled and walked into the men’s restroom and waited. Suki stepped behind one of the rocks so that no one could see her. All the girls outside of the exhibit sounded sad that she was hiding, but the otter did not mind at all. Although she would never be able to use her magic clamshell to make him fall in love with her, she sure could use it to get at those sardines. With a shake of her magical clamshell, both otter and human appeared in the hidden cavern to share the meal–two friends having lunch.

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