Badger grumbled to himself as he clumsily yet gingerly teeter tottered onto the log that had floated close to the shore and lodged itself against other floating flotsam. Once secured on the makeshift barge, he pushed off and set sail out into the bay. He had stored some jerky and potato rolls in his backpack, along with some kumquat marmalade, but he had forgotten a butter knife, so he used a plank of the jerky to smear the citrus sweetness onto the soft bread, and he laid on his back with the roll in one hand and the jerky in the other, alternating nibbles from one then the other as his log bobbed up and down across the gentle waves.
As the sun became warmer, Badger began to drift off into a dream where he was having an audience with the mayor. The two were sitting in a café drinking caramel macchiatos and discussing the relative virtues of Alaskan ex-governors vs current Texan governors while a stinky sloth and a svelt sea lion attempted to play checkers at the same table. It was an awkward situation at best.
Suddenly, Badger was roused from his dream by a stinging sensation in the fingertips of his left hand. He started up, nearly losing his balance and capsizing his log. While he had been dozing off, his hand with the jerky had slipped into the water. Now, it should be stated that Badger loved his jerky, nearly more than life itself, and had learned over the years to keep his paws securely wrapped around the precious meat lest it be stolen from him by greedy babies or drooling bullies. So, when Badger pulled his hand up out of the water to see the cause of the pain in his fingers, he was surprised and alarmed to find the jerky was gone as well as the tips of his fingers!
Badger sat up straight, popped the remaining wad of marmaladed potato roll in his mouth, chewed it the requisite number of times before swallowing it and then cried out loud, “Where is my jerky? And where are the tips of my fingers?”
Without missing a beat, a pointy fish head popped out of the water. It turned to one side, and then the other so as to get a good look at Badger and then said, “So that was your jerky and your fingers? Hmmm… good jerky, boney fingers. But still tasty.”
“What? You ate both my fingers AND my jerky?”
“Well, uh, yeah. I did. I’m a barracuda. It’s kind of what we do. If you didn’t want me to eat them, you shouldn’t have dangled them in front of me like that.”
“Oh. I see. So, don’t you read labels before you eat something?”
“Nope. Can’t read. No reason to. Anyway, with eyes stuck on either side of my head, I imagine reading would cause a crick in my neck, such as it is. Gee…I never thought of it. Do fish have necks? I’d Google it, but I don’t have a computer and, like I said, I can’t read, so the point is moot. Got any more jerky? I kinda doubt you’d be willing to serve up the rest of your fingers. And like I said, tasty, but a bit boney.”
“I can’t believe this! How…how RUDE of you to take what was clearly mine!”
“Really? You’re going to argue about THIS? When there are other issues in the world far more pressing?”
“Oh, I don’t know, drunken Alaskan ex-governors, Texan governors in bad glasses and ‘Pro-Life’ terrorists refusing to support health care for the mothers and children of all of those ‘lives’ that they’ve saved. To name a few.”
Badger sat on his log and thought for a minute. He regarded his missing finger tips for a moment, then looked in his backpack. He paused and looked up into the sky where he saw an albatross flying figure 8s above him.
“So…?” asked Barracuda.
“I’ve got another potato roll in here. And another slab of jerky. The cumquat marmalade is nearly gone, but I’m willing to share. Join me?”
“Certainly. How thoughtful of you!”
And thus began a long and awkward friendship.