“What did I tell you about listening?” Owl retorted.
“What you say?” Otter said again, gently tapping the side of his head. “No, really. I have water in my ears.”
“I can’t help that my voice is carried off in the wind,” Owl said somewhat exasperatedly.
“Why not just wait to speak once you’ve landed?” Otter paused. “Stupid.”
“Between the wind and the water that is permanently in your ears, it really doesn’t make much of a difference.”
“So are you about to tell me what’s up, cause I’m about to swim off if you’ve got nothing important to say.”
“Why are you so snippy today, Otter?” Owl stretched and flapped his wings. “Did someone steal your rock again?”
“Nah,” Otter said, his face suddenly brightening as he reached into the pocket under his forearm. “Got it right here. No way I’m letting that happen ever again.” He proudly held up a uniquely shaped rock – one side expertly sharpened.
“Be careful now,” Owl warned playfully. “Don’t drop it.”
A look of panic flashed across Otter’s face and he hurriedly stowed his rock away.
“Anyway, I came to tell you that there are new animals in the forest,” Owl said more sternly.
“What do you mean new animals? Like babies?” Otter rolled his eyes. “You know I don’t care about them kids, Owl.”
“I know. Not babies, new animals. The forest is at work again.”
“Why’d I have to end up in an enchanted forest? It’s exhausting.”
“Funny thing to say coming from an animal that takes so many naps,” Owl chortled.
“Hey, that’s not fair,” Otter said, lightly splashing Owl. “You know I don’t get enough good quality sleep.”
“Because you’re the only otter to ever exist that cannot float,” Owl said, his voice muffled as he preened his feathers.
“I can float, just not for extended periods of time. How many times do I need to tell you?” cried Otter, splashing again.
“I’m dense,” they yelled in unison – Otter indignantly, Owl mockingly.
“You suck,” Otter said before rolling over into the water to swim to a large moss-covered rock under the tree where Owl was perched.
“Love you, too,” teased Owl.
“Now about these newbies,” Otter said grumpily. “What kind of animals are we talking about? And don’t waste my time if they’re insects – they don’t count.”
“Huh? Okay, whatever. I didn’t see them, I just heard them as I was flying over the canopy,” Owl said as he fluttered down to the embankment.
“Why didn’t you go and see?”
“I was already well on my way here and didn’t feel like stopping,” Owl paused. “Plus, I knew you’d be grumpy if I went to meet them without you.”
Otter watched Owl and felt his heart warm with pride. Owl was always pondering something, carefully calculating what he would do or say next.
“I want them to have a space where they feel welcome,” Owl said slowly. “A safe place…” A breeze picked up and blew gently through owl’s beautiful, dappled feathers. Otter shivered. “A haven.”
“You look like you’ve been thinking about this for some time, Owl,” Otter said almost half seriously. Owl chuckled at his playful friend.
“I certainly have, Otter,” he replied sagely.
Otter snorted and leaped back into the water, “Let’s go then.” Otter swam off, gracefully gliding through the water. He’d reach the north end of the river in no time.
Owl watched him for a moment with pride – his best friend – and was thankful for someone who understood him and backed him so fully. He knew there was nothing that he couldn’t accomplish with Otter in his corner… even if it was only as someone to say that they believed in him.
What a pair they made.