Anne E. Johnson writes stories, poems, and novels in New York City. When not writing, she plays and teaches Irish music. Her website is "Comfortable Otter" is in Short Circuit #13, Short Édition's quarterly review.

Image of Short Circuit - Short Circuit #13
Tremaine was an otter who would do anything to be comfortable. He used fluffy cottonwood seeds to line his hole in the rocky river wall. When the river roared too loudly, he tucked wet leaves in his ears. To keep out the morning sun, he hung up curtains he sewed from pale green reeds.
His best friend, Biggins, loved to tease him. "Have you ever watched him catch a fish?" Biggins asked his sister Grace when Tremaine came over for dinner. "He doesn't chase and pounce like a normal otter."
"I'm no normal otter," said Tremaine proudly.
"Then how do you catch a fish?" asked Grace.
"Get this," said Biggins. "He floats on his back, listening. When he hears a fish swishing by, he rolls over and scoops it up."
"Sounds silly," said Grace, laughing.
Tremaine shrugged. "It's more comfortable that way."
"Some day," said Biggins, "you may have to do something uncomfortable."
"I'll do everything possible to avoid that," Tremaine said, raising his glass of fern juice. "Here's to staying comfortable."
After dinner, Tremaine slid on his belly across the wet rocks until he reached his hole. It was late, so he put on his pajamas. They were woven from soft yellow marsh grasses. Needless to say, they were very comfy. He fell asleep quickly.
A sudden sound woke him. Grumbling, Tremaine pushed his ear plugs in tighter. "It is not pleasant to be jolted awake," he complained to a passing beetle. 
When the sharp hammering didn't stop, Tremaine pulled the wet leaves from his ears. "Well, drat. I must have a word with whoever is making this ruckus."
Although it was uncomfortably chilly, Tremaine crawled out from under his blanket. His body was tired, but he slid his feet into his tree-bark slippers and shuffled outside. The hammering was so loud, it made his teeth hurt. "Why must I put up with this?" he called. "It's time for sleeping, if you please!"
Then he noticed another sound between the hammer blows. A low sound. Groaning.

Tremaine knew that voice. "Biggins? Is that you?"

The groaning grew more urgent. Tremaine hitched up his pajama pants and headed out into the cold, muddy night. "Don't worry, Biggins. I'll find you."
Clouds covered the crescent moon, making it hard to see. But an otter knows what his best friend smells like. Tremaine followed Biggins's scent under some brush and up to the water's edge. The roaring river nearly drowned out the groans.
A flash of pink caught Tremaine's eye. It was Grace, in pajamas, balancing at the end of a flat rock, peering into the rapids. Frantically, she scurried from one end of her perch to the other.
"Be careful, Grace!" cried Tremaine. He hurried toward her.
"Oh, Tremaine, I'm glad to see you. Biggins is stuck under a crate in the river. It must have floated here from the humans' town upstream. I don't know what to do."

The rock she was on rose high above the water. Without hesitating, Tremaine pulled off his tree-bark slippers and tossed them aside so he could climb faster. When he reached Grace, he found her shivering. He pulled off his soft pajama shirt and wrapped it around her.
From the top of the rock, he spied the box in the water. Its wooden slats shook every time Biggins pounded on them.

"The water is rough," Grace said, tears filling her eyes. "Even if he gets out, he'll be too tired to swim."
"Then it's a good thing I had a big dinner to give me energy," said Tremaine. He dived into the dark rapids. The jagged stones tore his pajama pants. The water stung like ice. The current tried hard to push him away from the box. Tremaine fought back, ignoring all the uncomfortable things he felt. With a crack, he broke two slats from the box. He grabbed Biggins' paw and dragged the limp otter to the shore.
The next morning, there was a quiet knock at the opening of Tremaine's hole. It was Biggins and Grace. They had shy smiles on their faces and packages in their arms. 
"Come in, come in! What's all this? And how are you feeling after your adventure, Biggins?"
The two sat on Tremaine's soft couch. "You gave up your comfort to save me," said Biggins. "So, these are for you." He handed Tremaine the fluffiest blanket, pajamas, and slippers Tremaine had ever felt. "Grace said you didn't stop once to think of how uncomfortable you were."
"Well goodness," said Tremaine, giving Biggins a great big hug, "having a friend like you is the greatest comfort of all."

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