One morning Sylvia couldn't find Cedric anywhere. She went to all the places where they usually played each morning, but he was nowhere to be found. As she continued swimming around, she was concerned because he was always the first one out and ready to play. She asked some of his otter friends, but none of them had seen him. When she saw Cedric's brother, Cecil, she swam quickly to catch up with him, but Cecil hadn't seen Cedric since the previous night.
Finally, Sylvia found Cedric sitting near the opening of his den. He looked dejected. "Good morning, Cedric," Sylvia said in her usual happy way, trying to hide her concern. But her alarm quickly showed when she said, "I couldn't find you anywhere. Why are you just sitting here? What's the matter? Are you sick?" One question quickly followed the other with no spaces between to allow Cedric time to answer. When she was through asking, she waited and waited.
When it seemed as though Cedric hadn't heard her, she asked, "Did you hear me, Cedric?" He still didn't answer. Then Sylvia got out of the water and scooted up close to him. "Talk to me, Cedric. What's the matter?" "I don't want to talk," Cedric replied, with his chin still resting against his chest.
"All right," said Sylvia, but just remember that all problems have a solution. First the problem has to be identified and then it can be discussed and solved."
Cedricdid not respond. He just sat there. So after a few minutes, Sylvia slipped quietly back into the water and swam back toward her own home. There she tidied up some and then went out to visit with some of her friends. Three otters were out with their young sons and daughters, just beginning their swimming instructions. It was a happy group with the young ones playing carelessly, but their mothers were always nearby with an occasional nudge and some words of advice. Sylvia enjoyed her time with this fun-loving group for the rest of morning. When lunchtime neared, the mothers gathered their young and steered them back to their dens. Because all of the pups were only about three months old, they were still nursing. Sylvia went searching for some lunch. It wasn't long before she found some crayfish. She caught one, turned over onto her back and carefully removed and ate every bit of meat from the shell. She lay there enjoying the afternoon sunshine with a full tummy. She wondered about Cedric, but decided that she should let him be alone until he decided he wanted her company. She knew he would come around when he was ready, but she still worried about him.
As it was getting dark that evening, Sylvia was swimming around with a small group of otters when she noticed Cedric near the edge of the group. She swam up to him and asked, "Well, are you ready to talk now?" "No," Cedric replied. "Maybe in the morning." "OK," said Sylvia and she quietly swam towards her den.
First thing in the morning, there was Cedric, just like always. "Come on, Sylvia," he called, "I've got breakfast." Cedric had caught a mouse that he was willing to share. It took the two of them a long time to clean and prepare the mouse meat for their meal. They were very busy and Cedric made no mention of his sad mood the day before. They played with each other, with some other otter friends, some ducks, and even chased some birds who had come to the river for their morning baths. When they took some time out to catch their breath, Cedric told Sylvia, "I'm ready to talk about yesterday, but I'm not sure of what to say." "Well," said Sylvia, "let's play until we're hungry for lunch." "OK," he replied happily and off they went, chasing one another and some small creatures in the water visible only to them, before rejoining their friends.
After lunch they were lying on their backs enjoying the sunshine. Their friends had all gone to interests of their own. "Sylvia, I'm ready to talk about yesterday now." "OK," Sylvia replied. "Let's hear it."
Cedric was quiet for a while. Then he said, "I'm still trying to understand what happened. A bunch of otters and I were playing, just like alwaysjumping, splashing, and shoving each other around. Suddenly Emma corraled her three pups and told them to get home. Then she turned to me and said very angrily, 'I don't want you playing with my children again! When they're two years old, they'll be big enough to play with you. Until then you can play with other otters.'
"Sylvia," he said, "I don't know why Emma was so mad at me. It made me feel really bad and I don't know if there's anything I can do to make her like me again."
"I can understand why you were so upset," replyed Sylvia. "Let me think about this for a while." They continued to float peacefully on the water in the sunshine.
The next morning when Cedric came to play, Sylvia said, "I've got breakfast for us. Just a second." She dove under the water, swam into her den and got the crayfish she had saved for Cedric. She swam up and gave him the breakfast treat. "Oh, thanks!" he exclaimed. "Just a minute, I'll be right back," she responded as she dove back under the water. She returned with her own crayfish and the two of them enjoyed breakfast without any conversation at all. When they were finished, Cedric slipped out of the water onto the bank and Sylvia followed him. "I've thought over what you told me about Emma," Sylvia said. "I know you have continued to think about it too," she continued. "Do you still have no idea why Emma was angry with you?" she asked. "It seems she was angry because we were playing," Cedric replied. "We always play. That's what otters do. I don't understand why she was angry."
"Do you suppose she thought you were being too rough with her pups?" asked Sylvia. "Too rough?" questioned Cedric. "Too rough?" he asked again. "I play the same way all the time. You play with me every day. I play the same all the time."
"I know you do, Cedric" replied Sylvia. "And that's fine with me, but I'm an adult," she continued. "Perhaps Emma thought you were playing too rough with her pups. You know they're only about three or four months old."
"I didn't think about that," said Cedric. "They swim well and they laugh and seem to be having fun every time we play."
"Well," said Sylvia, "maybe all that fun is too much for such young otters." "I'm sure Emma still likes you," Sylvia continued. "She's just being protective of her pups."
"Do you think I should go talk to her and tell her that I didn't realize my play was too rough for her pups?" "Maybe I could offer to babysit with them for her," he continued. "I'd tell her I'll be gentle and kind. They really are lots of fun. I just forgot that they are still pups."
"That sounds like a good idea," said Sylvia, "but don't be surprised if she's not willing to trust them to you just yet. Perhaps they need to grow a bit more before she will feel they are mature enough to be left with anybody."
"I didn't know mothers could be so protective," said Cedric.
"I guess we can count this as one more lesson, can't we?" asked Sylvia.
"I guess so," Cedric replied. "Lessons never stop, do they?"
"No," said Sylvia. "We've always got more to learn."
They both quietly slipped into the water and headed for Emma's den.