Fauna

Fauna by Alissa York Read Free Book Online

Book: Fauna by Alissa York Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alissa York
Tags: General Fiction
her own hands floating webbed and lifeless by her sides.
    The second otter was a boy, Mij, and unlike Chahala, he lived. He survived a gruelling trip by plane and car back to Gavin’s home, though he fought the box that held him until his face and paws were wet with blood. Mij chittered too, but he also had other ways of making himself understood. A simple whistle-chirp. A harshly whispered
Ha!
or
Hah?
upon entering an empty room. He burbled to greet a bathtub full of water, hummed a serious warning and wailed to herald a coming bite.
    He was clever in other ways too. He could untie knots and turn on faucets, carry a marble or a flower or a shotgun cartridge for miles. He played like a child in the bathtub, and swam in the
burn
, which was another word for a creek—though the burn in the book ran brighter and deeper than the one that crossed Edal’s own back woods. Mij learned to catch his own food there, and soon he moved on to swim in the pounding sea. Once, he got trapped in the shadowy ravine above the waterfall. Once, he went missing for so long, Gavin imagined him eaten by a killer whale. All this and more Mij survived. Then, after a year in Gavin’s company, he went wandering and met a man called Big Angus working on the road. By then he knew no fear of humans. He didn’t evenflinch when Big Angus lifted his deadly pickaxe and brought it down.
    Edal feared that would be the end of animal companions for Gavin, a loss too great to chance repeating. She never dreamt another could take Mij’s place.
    It was a charmed meeting. Gavin—a man with an otter-shaped hole in his life—crossed paths with the MacDonalds, a couple who were most anxious to find a home for their unusual pet. “‘Everyone admires her,’” Letty read in the voice of Dr. MacDonald, “‘but when they come to the point of actually owning her they all shy off … Poor Edal—’”
    Edal squeaked. She couldn’t help it. Letty met her gaze, her brown eyes mild, unblinking. Then she nodded, and Edal knew she’d heard her mother right.
    Edal was a girl otter, and she was different from Mij in other ways too. She shared some of his language; other sounds were her own. The hum Mij had threatened with, she used to ask for the food in a human hand. By then Gavin had a helper, a boy named Jimmy Watt. Edal loved Jimmy fiercely, scolded him often and followed him when it suited her mood.
    She learned to fish for eels in the burn as Mij had, and to swim in the sea, though at times the depths sent her panicking to shore. Her hands had no webbing, so she was capable of even greater feats: picking pockets, peeling boiled eggs. The boy on the cover could only be Jimmy, so the otter in that picture had to be her. The description fit. Where Mij had been a dark, luxurious brown all over, Edal was silver-headed, with a snowy throat and chest. Her skin was several sizes larger than she was, and she turned inside it as Edal the girl might turn in a sleeping bag, or in Nana’s old rabbit-fur wrap.
    The book ended happily enough, but it felt unfinished somehow. Edal watched the spot where her mother pushed it into its row, and took it back down the first chance she got. The photographs came as a shock. Letty must have pinched the slick pages between finger and thumb and turned them as one, eager to learn what happened next. Edal turned them singly, holding her breath.
    Camusfeàrna was about the same size as the house Letty and Edal shared, but instead of crouching amid trees at the end of a gravel driveway, it sat in the open on a grassy coastal field. Edal had thought she and her mother lived far from their neighbours, but Gavin had only the land and the sea.
    Gavin wasn’t a real father, but he had a fatherly look about him—worried while he was awake, a little less so while he slept. In one photograph he wore a skirt, but Edal thought she knew something about that being all right for Scottish men. In another, the boy Jimmy stood naked at the top of the

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