This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a beaver slap. It can be an actual tail slap warning on the water or an imitation. Is a beaver slap the name of something — a new type of burger, perfume, or a sci-fi gadget? Take ecological and poetic licenses. Go where the prompt leads!
We don’t have beavers in Australia and I’d neither heard, nor heard of, a beaver slap before. However, we do have:
A Very Funny Animal
It isn’t quite a beaver, though it has a beaver’s tail,
A freshwater-living mammal, much smaller than a whale.
It’s something like an otter with body dressed in fur.
Its bill and feet are duck-like but it has a poisonous spur.
It burrows into riverbanks to lay its eggs therein.
It swims around in waters while having not one fin.
If you come across it, I urge you not to scream.
It wouldn’t ever harm you. It’s just a monotreme.
Its name can be quite tricky, but you’ll learn it without fuss.
Or – nith – or
(Apologies to C.J. Dennis for this poem poorly modelled on his wonderful Triantiwontigongolope which you can read in full here.)
You might know this creature better as the platypus.
The poem, although it is 99 words, isn’t really my response to the prompt. It began more as an explanation of my response which follows.
When Europeans first arrived in Australia, they had never seen anything like the platypus, which is an egg-laying mammal, or monotreme. The first scientists who studied the platypus, thought it was a fake, made up of the body parts of several animals. I hope I’ve captured its uniqueness in both my poem and my story.
You may enjoy this video about the platypus. My story Impossible Creature follows it.
By the way, we have neither otters nor beavers in Australia.
The day was magic with the sunlight and laughter of summer holidays.
They were resting on the riverbank when a splash broke the spell. “What was that?”
“A fish? Must’ve been big.”
“It was a duck! I saw its beak before it dived.”
“That’s ridiculous. It’s an otter. Ducks don’t have fur.”
“Can’t be an otter. Their tails aren’t flat. Gotta be a beaver.”
“Duh! There’s no beavers in Australia.”
The surface broke again.
“Look! Webbed feet. It is a duck. I told you.”
“But not with that spur.”
“A furry duck with spurs. Someone’s playing tricks. But who?”
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.
Note: The collection of stories made in response to the previous prompt Two Can Keep a Secret, including mine, can be read at the Carrot Ranch.