It was a cold December equinox and the midnight sun was shining bright in Fiji. I had mended some holes in my pontoon glider and decided to take it out for a jaunt to a nearby turtle-back island. I was taking in the view of the ocean and eating a delectable coconut when a hairy fog coalesced in my toolbox.
“Boo!” It shouted from behind me, startling me enough to drop my breakfast, spilling milk all over the cockpit and stubbing my toe. “It seems my trap has been sprung!”
“Oh, not you again, Fanshaw,” I said, craning my neck to face the hirsute apparition.
“It’s Featherstoneaugh, you curmudgeon.”
“How do you know what letters I’ll use to write this down later? It’s a homophone.”
“Be that as it may, you’ll show me respect or die trying. And you’ll do it while hexed from that coconut!” He laughed shrilly as his image faded back into my assortment of wrenches.
“What on Neptune could he possibly have meant by glarble glarble glarble?” I glarbled.
Shocked by the turn in events, and the strange noises I couldn’t help but make, I maneuvered my entire body over to the side mirror. Normally, I would have reached over and pivoted the thing to point at me, but it seemed far more natural to writhe and undulate four of my arms to hoist my bulbous bodyhead into viewing position, where I discovered I was now an octopus and promptly fell off the side of my craft!
Once underwater, I saw the reef on the edge of the island-turtle’s shell and made an octopus-line for what looked like likely shelter. I found an old clam-half and repurposed it as a proper hat. A flute fish that wandered too close became my new cane. “Fine, but just for today,” he said, as I grasped him by the face.
“You seem to be missing a monocle, sir,” said a frond of kelp drifting past.
“If you would help me locate such, I would be much obliged,” I said, before I realized that it was totally insane to talk to loose plant matter in the sea.
A fitting jellyfish was located in the upper reaches and, even though it could not speak, I could tell it was happy to help my vision.
“Ooh, it really does bring out your eyes,” said the kelp frond as I examined my reflection in a trapped bubble.
“That’s the second time you’ve done that, leaf,” I said, facing the stray stalk. “I wonder how…” I trailed off once I saw it for what it was. What I’d thought was some mundane detritus was actually a sea dragon adapted with environmental camouflage. Upon closer inspection, her gorgeous eyes leapt out, sparkling in the rays of sunlight that dappled the reefscape around us.
Under my gaze, she blushed and giggled. I decided then to woo her using all available resources. Being an eight-armed cephalopod, my task was cut out for me; Sure, I had more arms to hold her with and a relatively massive brain, but how was I to make kissy faces without proper lips? I also lacked long, luxuriant locks with which to entice her touch (or hiding in, since I wouldn’t want to change her).
“OOOOUUUUURRRAAAAAGGGAAAAAHHHHHOOOOOOOORRRRRR” rumbled the water around us.
“Going to go out on a limb here and assume something’s the matter,” I said. “Shall we take a jaunt and see what the island has to say?”
“I’d like that,” she said, flittering around my hat. “My family’s home in the forest is headward, too. Just… FYI.” I noticed a pointedness to the statement and chose as hard as I could to not entirely ignore acknowledging its presence.
“You and me both, kid,” I non-sequitured, before beginning the rolling amble along the sandy edges of the reef. I tentacled her some chocolate hearts I had hidden in a hidey-hole of my newfound hat.
“Ooh, dark and not milk; you know me so well!”
Fortunately, it was fairly impossible for either of us to trip as I felt my way along the rim and she swam along beside, maintaining eye contact the whole way. The kelp forest near the shoulder loomed into peripheral vision and equine-headed leaves started hallooing as they spied their little girl’s return. Not simple joy to meet again, there was distress in the level of excitement: Something was wrong.
“Little one, there are crabs…” Her father said, when he was interrupted by an entire stalk recently cut adrift. We watched it float past before he continued, “They’re irritating Shelby!”
“I have an idea!” I said, snapping three tentacles together in a bizarre approximation of what my hand would have done.
With that, I sped away, into the bases of the trailing kelp. I came upon some shield crabs having a grand old time, creating such a ruckus. “Oi!” I cried. “Shove off!”
They stopped mid-saw and swiveled their eyestalks toward me. In response, I brandished my flute fish.
“Ugh, it’s a ponce,” one said to his mates. He slapped a claw on the shell-floor, annoyed.
“Yeah, this bloody place is no fun,” a second said. They gathered their razor scooters and skittered off toward Shelby’s rear, the low-rent district of hooligans.
I cleaned the place up a bit, then, tidying sand and fixing some roots. The fidgeting set off a (relatively) high-pitched “EEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEE,” from the turtle, who was apparently just a little ticklish.
“And what have we here?” Asked my lady-love’s mother as the trio swished back into their living space. “Not just handsome, but a gentleman to boot!”
“If it’s not too much trouble, I’d love to ask your daughter’s fins in marriage.”
Word was sent for a leopard shark to perform the nuptials and every resident of the shell shared in the festivities.
That’s the story of my second marriage, to a sea dragon in the Pacific, but my story will continue later…