There was an otter named Monk, he lived by the river and fished every day. His friends passed him by saying, “how do you do, Monk” each day about half past noon. By dinner time Monk would have about 8 to 12 fish and would take them back to his small den, divvy them up, and prep supper. He’d spend his night experimenting with spices he collected along the rivers edge every morning.
One particular evening there was a rap a tap on his door and Monk answered it with a curious expression painted across his face. He never had company at this late hour. “Why how may I help you?” he said. Monk became even more curious as the light from his entryway shined across two small lads about the age of 10 or 11.
“Sir, we’re very hungry,” one sniffled.
“I was hoping we could have a bite to eat perhaps?” said the other.
“I never was one to turn away house guests, especially not at this late of an hour,” Monk said. “I do declare though, it is awfully late to go around knocking on people’s doors. They may get the wrong impression you know.”
“Mister if its a bother we can try Ms. Sussie’s again,” said the smallest boy.
“They did seem to be full up on house guests,” the larger boy said. “I believe maybe they had the mayor visiting.”
“The Mayor?” Monk said. “Well we can’t have you impose, no sir. Now tell me you names, a proper introduction is in order if your to stay for dinner. My name is Mr. Cornielious Monk. People call me Monk for short, so can you.”
The eldest stuck out his hand, “I’m Fred, Fredrick T. Rosselburger, call me Fred”
The younger boy was shy and stuck to the corner near the door. Monk saw him and urged him forward. “I’m… I’m Red… just Red… my Mum likes that name she said”
“Well Fred and just Red welcome to my home,” Monk said. He bowed with a flourish and escorted them beyond the entrance into the small cavern that made up the rest of his functioning hobble.
Monk went back to the wood stove that heated the small cave and tossed the frying pan about the small burner. The smell of fried fish wafted through the air. The boys mouths watered as they found their seats on the ground next to a small wooden stump that had been drug in to function as the dining table.
“Fred tell me a bit about yourself while I prep dinner,” said Monk.
“I’m just turned 11 a month ago Mr. Monk,” Fred said.
“Monks fine boys”
“Okay, Monk… Well I like to fish and I go to school down at the Old Oak, the one hit by lightening last year.” Fred said. “My pa taught me how to whistle and I can tie three knots by myself.”
“That is a lot to be proud of,” Monk said.
Fred beamed with pride. Red sat with his head down not saying a word the entire time. Monk came around with the hot pan. “Red, get up and get 3 plates from the cupboard please and don’t forget the forks,” Monk said. “Then I want to hear all about you.”
Red got up from his seat and set table as Monk asked and sat back down. Still shy Red didn’t know what to say so he went back to hanging his head. Monk plopped the largest piece of fish onto Red’s plate, “looks like Red gets the largest piece,” said Monk. This made Red look up, shock etched his face. He had never seen a fish so large in his life.
“Thank you,” said Red.
“He speaks,” said Monk. “Good, now you can answer my question. Tell me about yourself lad. I promise I don’t bite.”
Monk served the rest of the fish and sat down himself. Red coughed then said, “I’m 10 and I live up the river a ways with my ma. We have a garden and I like to help grow carrots. Fred and I… we get into trouble a lot says my Ma.”
“Trouble?” Monk said.
“Well you know she says we bother people too much or something,” Red said. Red took another big bite of fish.
“Is it good boys?”
“Sure is,” Fred and Red answered at once.
“Well to pay for your dinner you can come back tomorrow and I’ll have something for you to do,” said Monk.
“What do we have to do?” asked Fred. A suspicious look on his face.
“Don’t you worry about that,” said Monk. “I promise it will be something exciting. When the boys were finished, dishes cleared, bellies full Monk leaned back against the cave wall and looked at the two boys. They reminded him of himself when he was young. He saw the reflection of his shyness in Red and his curiosity in Fred. “Boys your mothers must be getting awful worried about you, its dark out now and people have been saying wolves are about,” Monk said. “I will walk you boys home and tell your mothers that I expect you here after school for some extra curricular activities.”
“Yeah my Ma gets awful worried about me if I’m late,” said Red.
“Well, we shouldn’t keep them waiting then,” Monk said. He stood up and grabbed his walking cane and threw on a ragged green cloak that drug in the sand behind him.
They traversed quickly over the terrain between Monks home and Fred’s. The river bed between their two homes had dried out last year leaving a nice trail to follow. Monk explained his plans to Fred’s mother and she seemed pleased with the prospects and the idea of her son having something constructive to do with his time. The path to Red’s home wasn’t so easy and they had to circumvent the marshy land between Fred’s and Red’s. This made Red a tad late for his curfew which his mother wasn’t too pleased with but was glad he had the company of an adult. Monk also spent time explaining his plans to Red’s mother who was similarly pleased.
Monk bid Red’s Ma adieu and began the trek home. Carefully avoiding the marshland. He did not want a run in with the wolves tonight. After a 30 minute walk he made it home and began to prepare for bed. Morning came early and he had to prepare for the boys arrival. Morning came bringing a soft westerly breeze cresting over the hill, down the small valley. It ran along the river cooling off the townsfolk and cheering people up as they began their day. Folk didn’t pass by Monk today but stopped to watch because Monk was being interesting. Instead of just sitting under his normal tree trunk with a fishing pole tucked between his legs he had a large net out and was fixing large holes in it.
“Nimble fingers,” said Mary Kollington. “I should have you thread my needles.” She laughed and watched Monk tied a few more knots before continuing on her way up the road with a basket full of roots under her breast.
“Never catch any fish with that thing,” Old Man Turner said. “Too many holes. Lost cause if you ask me.”
The sun passed high noon and peaked. The boys would be there shortly. Monk picked up the netting and began to drag it towards the small canoe he kept hidden under the brush at the river bend. The boys came around the bend on the pathway the moment Monk got the canoe uncovered.
“I got the perfect thing for you boys to try out today,” said Monk. He picked up the net. All the holes were fixed, except a couple frayed ends on the corners. “Were going to try to catch some fish for the town today.”
“Alright, lets do it,” Red said enthusiastically out of character.
They clamored into the canoe and Monk handed Fred the oars. “Oldest gets the paddle first.”
“I never paddled a boat before,” said Fred.
“Well its a canoe,” said Monk. “Its easy. Too much to the right and you turn right, too much to the left and you turn left, both together and you go straight. Both together now and bring us down the river to those lily pads.” Fred started to paddle and with a little effort he picked it up after almost running them ashore.
“By George I think he’s got it,” said Monk.
“Monk?” asked Red. “What am I supposed to do?”
“You young sir are going to help me pull in the net.”
“Okay,” Red said.
Monk tossed the net over the side of the canoo and let it drift out a bit. It sank down with the weights. “Now we sit here and wait,” said Monk.
It seemed like forever but Monk jumped up finally, “Start pulling and don’t let go,” Monk said. “Hand over hand like this”
The net was heavy, Monk hoped it wouldn’t break under the pressure of the fish pressing against the weak netting. “I can see the top of the netting,” Monk yelled.
They pulled and struggled with the net until they finally managed to get it over the edge of the canoe almost tipping them into the water. They all cheered. What a catch it was. The fish flopped around. Some escaped onto the bottom flooring of the canoe.
“Row us back to shore,” said Monk. “Then Fred… I want you to run up to Mr. Baron’s and tell him to send down his wagon. Tell him I sent you.”
Red sat back against the edge of the can00, running one of his hands along the surface of the water. “That was hard work,” Red said.
“Good work though,” Monk replied. “Town will eat for a few weeks because of you boys. You should be proud of yourselves.”