Jeremy looked at the black lump, half submerged and half afloat, in the crystal clear water and wondered what it could be. It bobbed up and down lifelessly with the rhythm of the tide. He probably would have just ignored it, had it not been for Sesi.
Sesi was an Alaskan Malamute and the boy’s best friend. Jeremy’s parents had given him the dog upon their arrival in Valdez. It was a consolation prize, of sorts, for moving him away from the only home he had ever known to the barren land of Alaska. Jeremy had given him the name Sesi because it was the native word for snow. If he had known just how much snow he would see in the years to come, he would have picked a different name. Maybe Shila, which meant flame.
Sesi crouched down low in the water, his eyes transfixed on the lump. As he crept toward it, Jeremy could hear a rumble coming from deep inside the Malamute’s throat.
He’s stalking it.
“What is it, boy?” Jeremy poked a toe in the water in an effort to join the hunt. He quickly drew the foot back. Even in the springtime, Alaska was no place for a dip in the ocean.
Before long, Sesi reached the floating lump. The big dog craned his neck and gently grabbed the blob with his powerful jaws. Sesi carried his prize back to shore and, after dramatically shaking off his thick coat, dropped the lump with a thud at Jeremy’s feet. Together, boy and dog stared at the mysterious creature.
It had fur, but seemed to be covered in some sort of black slime. Jeremy poked it with a stick. Nothing. He nudged it harder with the stick until it flipped over.
“Oh, no.” Jeremy’s eyes stung with tears as he looked down at what he now recognized as a baby sea otter, smothered in a thick layer of oil. He took off his jacket and wrapped it around the pup like a protective cocoon.
“Moooooom,” Jeremy cried as he burst through the door, “Help!”
“Jeremy, what is it?” His mother’s expression changed from worry to pity as she spotted the pathetic creature her son had carefully placed on the kitchen table.
“Oh, sweetheart, you know he’s not going to make it.”
“But Mom, we’ve got to do something.”
“Honey, these things happen.” She looked down at the otter. Jeremy had wiped off as much of the oil as he could, but the gooey mess was tangled deep in the animal’s coat. “We can’t save him. Now please take this mess outside.”
Jeremy gathered the otter in his arms. He could feel the sluggish rise and fall of the animal’s breathing as he carried it to the garage.
God, please help. This otter is your creature and I know you can save it. Please help.
Jeremy opened his eyes and waited. Sesi’s eyes darted back and forth between the boy and the otter. They stayed, watching expectantly, until Jeremy heard his mom calling him for dinner.
“Son, that otter won’t be able to survive. It can’t breathe or stay warm enough with all that oil caught in its fur.” Jeremy’s father was trying to reason with the boy while they cleaned up the dinner dishes.
“Dad, there’s a way to help. I just know it.”
“Son, Alaska can be a very tough place to survive. That’s nature.”
“This is not nature! That oil didn’t just get there by itself. Man caused it and we’ve got to fix it.” Jeremy felt like he was going to cry again and looked down so no one would see his tears. He stared hard at the soapy water in the sink and noticed the orange line of grease at the top of the suds.
He scooped a finger full of grease and held it up for further inspection. “Mom, what is this?”
“It’s grease. The detergent lifts it off the dishes.”
Jeremy’s heart hammered in his chest. “Where’s the detergent?”
“Right here.” Jeremy’s mom looked puzzled as she held up her blue bottle of Joy dishwashing liquid.
Jeremy grabbed the Joy and ran to the garage with Sesi scurrying to keep up. He doused the otter with the smooth, blue soap. He could see fur changing back to its natural brown color as he scrubbed with all his might.
Thank you, God! Thank you!
The boy’s prayer of thankfulness rose to the sky, along with sudsy black bubbles of Joy.
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