A grandfather teaches his granddaughter of nature's delicacy with a poem about sea otters.
Grandpa Daniels occasionally visited his son's family during the week and did so that Tuesday afternoon. He still had confidence in his ability to navigate the streets of Ruby Falls though Michael called it debatable, in particular, when riding passenger side. At least his father was honest about any shortcomings — he apologized profusely after destroying their trash can backing out the driveway one autumn afternoon, though blaming it on the Vols one-point loss to Florida.
Dotty opened the door. “Come in, Pop.”
As they walked the short corridor into the kitchen (the family instinctively gathered there), she asked, "What brings you to our part of the world on a Tuesday?”
“Just wondering if Gabby mentioned the poem we read together.”
“Are you kiddin'? Won't stop talkin' about it. Best poem ever written. She read it to Michael and me and then to Jacob. Lovely poem.”
“Oh, really. Great.”
Michael pulled into the driveway and parked alongside his father's car. He had left work early that day. Before going inside, he moved the trash can a few feet into the yard.
“Glass of lemonade, Pop?”
Michael entered the kitchen and exchanged greetings with his father. Dotty informed him they were discussing the poem Gabby shared with them.
“Oh, yes,” said Michael. “We really liked it.”
“Care for some lemonade, honey?”
As Dotty poured from the pitcher she said, “Gabby's a little confused about who wrote it though. Says you never told her.” She handed Grandpa Daniels his glass.
He sipped the pink lemonade and responded, “Hmm.”
“Let you in on a little secret though,” Dotty continued, “she thinks it might be you.”
“Guilty as charged.” He had typed two copies of the poem and after reading it in the silence of his apartment, even he was surprised how well it turned out and was not adverse to a little credit.
“Is she here?” asked Grandpa Daniels.
“Went to the pond with Jimbo a little while ago.”
Jimbo had been Gabby's friend ever since Jimbo's family moved in next door. Over those years, Dotty had watched the two through her kitchen window as they sat on the curb, or ran through the sprinkler, or played with Bosco, the Daniel's black and white collie. Through all that time, their one constant was laughter.
“I think I'll pay them a visit.”
As Grandpa Daniels walked along the brown pebbled path, he thought about Odin. When Gabby had first asked about fresh air, for some reason the lovable creature popped into his mind. Then Yelden the Olden popped in right beside him. And because Odin's wife was named Miah, he remembered the son, Jedidiah, and the daughter of the otter, Jambaliah. When he wondered what word would rhyme with Olden, he thought of golden. Once he told Gabby a poem existed about a group of sea otters who save a kelp forest, he had painted himself into a corner. However, Clarence felt certain he could tell the Tale of the Juan de Fuca Strait. When the opening line — Odin the Otter stretched out on the water — came to mind, there was no turning back, no escape from rhyming. In the telling of it, he often thought of Dr. Seuss.
Of course, Clarence had heard about the otters who swam along the Washington coast and entered the Juan de Fuca Strait and revitalized a kelp forest destroyed by urchins. When news of it leaked out from the northwest, the story spread like wildfire through the marine biology world. What piqued Clarence's interest though was the mentor-mentee relationship. After all, he thought, is that not who we are or why we are here. One generation showing the next how to live. One generation showing the next what is important and what must be cared for. He had hoped the poem would show his granddaughter how important it is to take care of our seas which in turn take care of our climate. Like the International Treaty of 1911, people must work together or there can be dire consequences. And Grandpa Daniels hoped she would share the poem with others.
As he cautiously approached the back of the bench, the soft crunch of gravel was audible to his ears only. He came close enough to hear Gabby say to Jimbo, “You mean you've never heard of Odin the Otter?” Grandpa Daniels stopped dead in his tracks; he did not want to interrupt the moment. As he reversed direction, his foot slipped and the children turned around.
“Grandpa, what are you doing here?”
“Hey, Mr. D,” said Jimbo.
“Hello, Jimbo,” Clarence replied. “Don't let me bother you right now, Biscuit.”
“Yes, it's more important you tell Jimbo about Odin. I'll see you back at the house.”
“All right G-Pa. See ya at the house.”
He had only taken a few steps when his granddaughter call out, “Grandpa!” He turned and with the sun low in the sky squinted his eyes to see her giving him a thumbs up. “Thank you for letting Joey live!” Game over; too smart. He returned the thumbs up and continued along the path.
As Gabby began to read the poem to Jimbo, Clarence Daniels — former marine biologist and constant guardian of nature — walked among small flowering shrubs and, looking up, noticed a flock of geese in V-formation. He considered the bird out front. Why did he or she end up there? What made one of them decide to lead? He did not know. All he knew was that with one of them there, the others understood the way, and so they followed.