Johnny Panda wanted to do a double run (whatever that was), but he still had no idea of what the little Octopode was capable of, so he arranged for Otto to spend the day at Barnyard Knoll, helping to prep for Verity’s Fox’s birthday bash. After five years of her restaurant serving the island, folks wanted to say thank you. Her food had changed their lives. They had decided to have her party on Barnyard Knoll, instead of at the restaurant, so that Verity couldn’t hide in the kitchen and cook all night.
When they finally got to the farm house Otto couldn’t believe his eyes. Cynthia Cow greeted them hurriedly but managed to rush them through a small tour. The expansive farmhouse manor was magnificently decorated inside and out. Most of the party was to take place outside on the knoll where there would be a corn roast, a cheese fondue and a chocolate fountain for dipping fruit in. Otto tested it with his tentacle, and then was quickly put to work hanging more lanterns.
“What have I forgotten?” Cynthia cried from in the dining room. Georgia Pug looked up from a clipboard.
“Nothing. We’ve remembered everything. It’s just that you are so good at this stuff that you feel like it should be more difficult.” Georgia offered.
Cynthia thought out loud, “I think I’ve been too easy on myself. This party has to be special. I’ve been lazy. Where is the wow!?! I told you we should have got that ice sculpture.” Cynthia lamented.
“We did.” Georgia replied. “That’s what’s taking up the entire freezer.”
Cynthia sighed unconvinced. She looked around the dinning room for something to provide her a coup degras. Instead she saw Otto hiding in the rafters of the ceiling. “You up there.” She called to Otto. “I see you. Is your plan to sit up there all day and watch me struggle or do you plan to make yourself useful?” Otto shook his head vigorously yes, too afraid to speak. “I’ve a good job for you then. Make sure you take these invitations and deliver them by hand…or tentacle…. to the names on the front of the envelope. And don’t go taking all day we still have more hanging for you to do…” Cynthia paused, “Maybe… we hang the ice sculpture.” she declared.
“Too much.” said Georgia.
“No, it’s too much” agreed Cynthia. “I just really like the way the light shines through it…Stop looking at me like I’m crazy…I’m not crazy. I just want this to be super super super good.”
“It’s going to be amazing” Georgia supported. “The best yet by far.”
Cynthia, unconvinced, flopped herself down in one of the big living room chairs.
Georgia Pug ushered Otto to the side and started to apologize “Don’t mind her, she is a bit of a wreck, if you deliver these it would greatly help get something out of our hair.”
The invitations were written with gold scrollwork. One said B. Unicorn the other K. Kitty.
Georgia then pointed out a path that went down to the beach. Beau Unicorn was an artist and was said to be working on his latest piece down on the bluffs that overlooked the harbour. Otto hadn’t seen much of Beau’s latest work.
The trail opened onto a grass hill, atop an overlook that soared high above the harbour. Wild flowers grew in pastel rainbows on the grass. And there was Beau, one of them. He worked over his easel, long hair flowed down over his hoofs as he dabbed paint to the canvas. Otto approached in his view but made no sound. Beau continued to concentrate. Otto was in awe of his work. There was so much color to it.
Otto approached, cooing approval, but Beau continued to stare down his painting, dabbing or cutting away more paint with the fine point of his horn. Otto crawled up on top of him.
“Wow.” Otto breathed. Beau finally seemed to notice the small octopus on his head.
“It’s not my best work.” Beau said, “It’s a decent offering but it is quite a departure from my previous collections. I’m sorry. That sounds so pompous.” Otto climbed down onto the ground. The sea birds clung to drafts blowing above them, almost seeming to stay in one place. Effortlessly balanced on the breeze. Otto raised his tentacle and handed the envelope to Beau.
“I will be attending, of course. This work I’m creating is for none other than Verity Fox herself and I plan to put every attention to detail into this piece that she does in her kitchen. She is my muse as I endeavor to attain new artistic heights,” he sighed. “but I worry that if I do something too different than what people are expecting it won’t feel like a ‘Beau’. Or if I try something too difficult, the work will appear unskilled. But, then, if I make something completely derivative, what is the point of making a new piece at all? ARGH.”
Otto looked up at the painting on the easel. It was unfinished, but it was already starting to look spectacular. Bold. Beau stood back from the painting, his hoof over his jawline.
“Everything is hard before it’s easy.“ Otto shrugged. “It’s going to be amazing, the best one yet by far.” Beau looked down at Otto seriously and then a huge grin spread over his face.
Otto didn’t know what else to say so he waved a goodbye and continued down to the bay, in hopes of finding Kitteh Kitty on one of her walks. From his high vantage point he could see the crescent of shoreline around the edge of the bay. Waves continued to crash in to the beach rolling up small stones and making pockets along the shore. Otto climbed down to the surf where it poured itself over the sand and then would just fade away. He had seen someone from above like a shadow moving across the softer part of the sand, leaving footprints. Otto caught up to the black cat trudging persistently up the beach sniffing.
“Kitteh?” Otto asked. The cat stopped in mid stride and turned to look at the octopus. Otto held out the envelope; the scrollwork glinted in the setting sun.
Tears filled her eyes. “I thought they had forgot me,” Kitty laughed a choked sob. “It’s stupid. I had to think about asking someone if I could come or not and I sort of freaked out and kind of didn’t want to know, in case you know…people didn’t want me to come. I’m kind of a house cat. But I heard that people had got these crazy invitations. I got sad about it and figured I didn’t get one because I don’t usually come out. Unless I push myself to come down here for my walks. But even that’s uncomfortable”. Kitty picked up a piece of old glass in the sand “I feel a bit like sea glass, all tumbled up.”
“It’s ok you missed the other parties. This one’s going to be amazing,” Otto stated. “The best one yet by far. Because you’ll be there.” Kitty laughed a little. Otto just looked up at her smiling. They walked back up the hill to the bluff and ran into Beau, who noticed the sea glass in Kitteh’s paws at once. They started to talk about color and art. Otto turned back on the path to the farmhouse around the time Beau and Kitteh decided he was going to need a larger canvas.
Otto wandered back to the knoll and did his best to remain helpful with the party preparation. Johnny picked him up in the late afternoon and they went together to the restaurant. Johnny was carrying a bag for Verity that bulged awkwardly with pointed shapes. Otto was told to go sit in the restaurant while Johnny and Verity Fox had a serious discussion about something in the kitchen. Soon Johnny came out. Carrying two bowls of food for him and Otto. They sat in silence while they ate, Johnny was hungry but Otto was consumed by his thoughts. He thought of the folks he’d spent the day with and if there was some way to help them. They all seemed to be struggling in their own ways. He closed his eyes at the restaurant table for just a second…
Otto was at the beach, standing on the shore where he met Kitty. But Kitty was gone. The beach looked desolate and empty. It was raining, but sunny at the same time. He walked alone carrying a stack of envelopes. He called for Kitteh but she wasn’t there. Otto walked up the cliff face, the stack of envelopes kept squeezing out and he would have to stop to pick up invitations. When he got to the top he found the painting easel, but no Beau. Otto looked around. Suddenly he saw something curious out in the water. It looked like Beau and Kitty, they were struggling and splashing about.
“They’re in trouble!” Otto said to no one. He dumped all the invitations and ran down the hill as fast as his tentacles could take him. As he approached the shore he could see Cynthia and Georgia splashing in the ocean too. Why was everyone drowning? But then he looked closer.
They weren’t in danger; it only looked like that from far away. In fact, as he got closer he realized that they were all mermaids.
And they weren’t drowning.
They were swimming. Kitteh treading water, Cynthia and Georgia paddling about, and Beau taking huge, strong strides with his tail to leap right out of the water, pop an elegant pose in front of appearing rainbows and then plip right back into the water to attempt another effort-laden leap.
“Whoa buddy, wake up! You’re falling asleep in your dinner.”
Otto started awake. Johnny smiled.
“Long day?” he asked. Otto smiled sleepily and nodded.
“It was amazing though,” Otto said. “best one yet.”
And as the sun set, clusters of turtles began to gather around the edges of the Forest Noodles Café, intent on some unknown purpose.
But that’s another story.