(This story is part of the "Wrapstuffed Tribemembers - Background" series of stories -- see listing for related stories.)
Otter tiptoed into the wrapstuff den with all the stealth he could muster, which by this point in his six turns of the seasons was considerable. It amazed him sometimes the things his elders didn’t want him to do or see. The only way he got away with having any fun was to sneak and do it! Another few feet and he would be home free and could chat with his friend. Suddenly though, to his surprise, a squeaky, high- pitched voice startled him. “Trouble-Splash Highthing no bother wrapstuff!”
Otter nearly jumped out of his skin as he turned to face his tiny accuser. The Preserver was perched over the doorway and had spotted him immediately upon his entrance.
“I’m not going to hurt anything, Dewdrop,” He said after regaining his composure and seeing which bug was harassing him. “I’m just visiting.”
Dewdrop eyed him skeptically and maintained a close watch as he continued to creep into the room. With luck, the adults hadn’t heard the bug’s outburst. He might still get some peace and quiet.
“See. I’m not going to hurt them or anything. Just be quiet and let me sit down here for awhile.”
“No shake the wrapstuff this time! No poke either! Dewdrop will tell Fur-Tumble Highthing!”
Otter made a disgusted face at the bug and continued to creep over to his friend’s cocoon. Dewdrop made no move to go tell his mother yet so he took that as a sign that he was safe for the moment anyway. Settling in beside the large white mound of wrapstuff, Otter lay his head against the soft surface. When he did so and listened really, really hard he thought he could sometimes hear his friend’s voice. Maybe it was just his imagination. He was sure that was what his mother would say. Whether it was or not, it still comforted him.
“Newt? Are you awake in there?” he whispered as loudly as he dared. There was no telling what might set Dewdrop off so he had to be careful. For the time being the bug was content to casually observe him from across the room as it hummed to itself.
“I know it’s been a while since I visited. Mother keeps thinking of silly chores for me to do. Right now she thinks One-Leg is teaching me about mending nets.” Otter giggled at that, wondering why anyone would want to do such a thing. He then cocked his head a bit and listened intently.
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe he’s my daddy. Remember, Mama wasn’t sure. Just like you, she said I was born outside of recanishon or something like that. Not sure what that means. Do you know?”
Again he assumed the posture of someone listening most intently to a distant whisper.
“Yeah, I guess that’s a grown up word.” And he shrugged. Who could understand what grown-ups were thinking? All he knew was that with the river frozen over and no one to play with he was feeling all pent up and bored. So much so that he had actually tried to go play with Crackle of all things! That had turned out horribly of course, which he proceeded to describe to his slumbering friend.
“She’s such a baby, Newt. Can’t even walk or talk good yet. I tried to play with her and all she did was spit up on me. I wish you would wake up. You used to like to swim, didn’t you?”
Otter pressed his ear up to the cocoon as close as he dared under the Preserver’s watchful eyes and listened hard for his friend’s reply.
“Well yeah, that’s what I thought. If you could just wake up we could swim when the river thaws out. Or if you woke up now we could play smack-ball or follow-me. Aren’t you bored in there?”
A long moment of silence was all the reply that Otter got to his question. In the distance he heard the distinctive sound of his mother calling his name. Maybe that was why Newt wouldn’t answer….he didn’t want Starskimmer to know he and Otter were chatting.
“Ohhhh…I get it. If she doesn’t know you can talk she won’t tell me not to come back.”
Otter was very proud of his deductive ability on that one. Newt could be so clever sometimes. If only he would wake up then they could be best friends; maybe even soul- brothers once they were both old enough to have their secret names. He turned to go but at the last moment stopped and gently embraced the cocoon before running to find his mother.
“I’ll be back later, friend. Just try to wake up, please. I need you.”
With one last backward glance at the cocoon Otter hurried from the wrapstuff chamber. As he left, he was already thinking up the tale he would give his mother as to where he had been and what he had been doing. He was also planning the next time he could sneak away and visit again. Newt didn’t say a lot but it was better than not having any friends to play with at all.