|Mr. Coypu was a happy fellow, and very sensible, too. He loved the river, and lived by it, spending most of his time on his porch, in his rocking chair, smoking his pipe, swimming, or walking along the riverside, right next to the woods, where the smell of pine and maple mingled with that of the river’s own scents, the sound of squirrels playing, and the rustle of the wind.
In Mr. Coypu’s mind, there was no better life, and he was very happy. Except for one thing. He was lonely. He wished he had someone to share his wonderful life with. A friend to travel down the river with, to picnic with in his favorite field, to bask in the warm summer sun with, to swim with, and most of all, to talk to. To have long and complicated conversations with, in spring and summer on the porch over a nice smoke, and in fall and winter, warm and cozy by the fireplace, enjoying a nice hot cup of tea.
One cool spring afternoon, Mr. Coypu was sitting on his porch, smoking his pipe, and thinking to himself, and admiring the beauty of the river in the morning. AAAAH, the river. What a magnificent place, with the smell of cow tails in the air, the sounds of tall grass rustling in the wind, and the gentle swishing of the water as it lapped the riverbank in its soft caress. And every now and then, the sound of a fish leaping out of the water, marveling in its newfound freedom, only to fall back with a splash the next moment, or a frog croaking and hopping onto a lily pad, chasing a fly.
Coypu closed his eyes and opened his ears and nose, taking a big whiff of his pipe, and basking in the glory of it all. He let out a sigh of contentment, and was just settling down to take a nice nap, when an unusual sound mingled the familiar ones. It was the sound of someone else’s voice.
“Hello there, fellow.”
Coypu opened his eyes and looked out. On the other side of the river was a cheerful creature with a long slender body looking back at him, a large grin pasted on his face. Coypu was surprised. He did not know of any other creatures living on the river besides him. But he was polite, and he was eager to meet new people.
“Hello,” he said.
“It’s a lovely day for a swim, don’t you think?” the stranger said.
“Oh, yes! Lovely!”
“Why are you lying about on the shore, then?”
“Oh I was just having a little smoke. Would you care to join me? I’ve an extra pipe in the hall.”
“Love to, fellow. Be over in a jiffy.”
The new fellow walked gracefully up to the bank and dove head first into the water. Coypu watched as he glided swiftly and silently through the ripples.
Coypu was fascinated, and he ever so much wanted to get to know this magnificent creature better.
The stranger soon reached the other side, with his powerful legs propelling him across, and Coypu went to get his second pipe.
“Thank you, fellow,” the stranger said when Coypu returned.
“Do you live by the river, too?” Coypu asked.
“Oh, yes. By the river, in the river, on the river, under the river. I guess you could say I live with the river.”
“And do you like it?”
“Fellow, there is nothing better in the world.”
“There is nothing better than to sit, the way the two of us are now, and have a little chat over a pipe...”
“Or to have a swim in the refreshing waters of the river...”
“Oh, yes. And to walk with a friend down by the woods...”
“With the smell of pine caressing your nostrils...”
“And the soft grass tickling your toes. Yes, there is nothing like the river.”
“Do you have many friends?” Coypu asked, his curiosity still rising.
“My, fellow. You do have a lot of questions. I like that, though. It gives you a friendly air. Yes, I have quite a few friends, though none of this stretch of the river.”
“What’s your name, my friend?” The stranger laughed.
“My, my, fellow. After all your questions, it took you this long to get to that. Quite amusing, actually. My name is Rovren. Rovren the otter. I’m quite fond of it, too. After all, it is the only one I’ll ever have.”
“Yes, it is a nice name. Much better than mine is. Coypu. What a bland name that is.”
“So that’s your name, fellow? Coypu? You are an interesting chap. Coypu...”
“Yes, I am rather bland, I’m afraid. But I like being bland. I’m very happy being bland.”
“Fellow, you’re not bland. You’re just lonely, that’s all.”
“Oh, how right you are! My heart aches of loneliness. But I’m still very happy.”
“A fellow is never truly happy until true companionship is found. Remember that, fellow. Well, I must be off. Got to pick some lilacs for the front door. Would you care to join me, fellow?”
“Oh, do you mean it?”
“Sure, fellow. Jump in.”
He dove head first into the water. Coypu followed, thinking about what Rovren had said. “True happiness never comes until true companionship is found.” Perhaps, Coypu thought, he may have just found it.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Tagrin the water rat sat waiting for his friend. Gordo was late as usual, but Tagrin did not mind. He was enjoying himself, basking in the warm summer sun and listening to the sounds of the meandering river. He closed his eyes and chuckled to himself, listening to some young robins playing downriver. Tagrin liked little birds. He always felt a bit sad when he stole away with young eggs. Luckily, he didn't often get the chance. Bird parents were incrdibly diligent and rarely both left the nest. But a clutch of robin's eggs could feed Tagrin a tasty omelette every morning for a week, so he took the chance when he could get it. After all, his father had always told him to watch out for himself. "Sometimes you have to be cold," he had said. "And when that time comes, don't let anyone or anything get in your way."
Sometimes Tagrin missed his father, even if he was a mean and stupid rat with more sewer blood in him than most decent creatures. Tagrin and his brother and sister had not cried when he had died foolishly, and his mother had packed up and left within an hour. The foolish old rat had ignored his own warnings and eaten a wildflower that the weasel had told him tasted like cinnamon. Tagrin wondered if that was what the weasel had used for seasoning after it dragged his father back to its den. Tagrin thought that was a foolish way to die, but he still wished he could hear his father scolding him with some new fact or metaphor or advice on how to live properly. Even if he didn't manage to back them up, the thingd Tagrin's father had said were sensible, and Tagrin had come to trust most of them.
Listening to the river and thinking about his father was very relaxing, and Tagrin soon started to drift off to sleep. But he quickly brought back by the sound of Gordo, complaining loudly as he always did, trying to swim against the current and keep his funny looking new hat dry and on his head at the same time. Tagrin opened his eyed and laughed out loud this time at the sight. Gordo was very indignant.
"What's so funny about it?" he barked. "Why can't I just keep myself dry for once? Why is the current so strong at this time of year? Why do the rocks churn the water so and make such a spray? Can't I just take a nice dry trip for once? Why can't..." by this time, Gordo had just about reached the rock Tagrin was basking upon.
"My friend," the rat said. "You live by the riverside, and just now you happen to be in the river! What do you expect?"
"Well, I suppose it can't get much worse than this," the disgruntled beaver relented. He spoke too soon. Just then, a big fat bullfrog appeared right in front of Gordo, and spit a mouthful of water into his face. Gordo slapped his big tail against the water and fell backwards with a yell. His hat fell off his head and into the water. The frog croaked in mocking laughter and dissapeared under the water. Tagrin, shaking with mirth, fished his friend's hat out of the river and places it on the sunny rock to dry. Then he help his friend onto the riverbank.