Raji Singh’s Lore of the Lindian Woods
Torn from her home by a tsunami, young Ollie Octopus comes to live in the Lindian Woods pond. She cannot leave it and return to the sea. She would be out of water far too long and would die.
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Question: I have three hearts – all are breaking because I’ve lost my family. Eight arms – and my sense of suction touch with them is keener than that of any creature. I taste with that touch. I change colors as camouflage. Voila! Now you see me, now you don’t. This is how I protect myself. Everyone knows I tend the most beautiful garden on land and in the water: Why! Because gardening helps heal my aching hearts. Who am I?
Answer: Ollie Octopus.
* * *
Ever the optimistic Octopus, Ollie anxiously asks Turt as he returns to the pond after his ocean journey. “Did you find my home and family, Turt?” Ollie studies his massive, multi-tattooed shell, in vain, for any graffiti messages relatives may have left her.
Turt nods, bowing his beak snout so he doesn’t have to see the hurt in Ollie’s eyes. He tells her, “I am sorry Ollie. No, I did not. But those who live in the oceans are often connected. One day, on one of my journeys, I may meet a creature who knows them. And then, I will host the grandest reunion for you.” Turt thinks, ‘But how could I ever get her to them, or they to her?’
Ollie holds back tears and returns to tending her half in the water and half on the bank garden. Her arms move wildly and she cultivates eight plants at once. She strokes each fruit and vegetable with her suction touch to tell whether it is ready to eat. She finds some release from her sadness in the tart, sweet, or spicy touch of the crop. She whispers to herself, “I miss my family. I’d love to go home.”
Other creatures hear and feel bad for her. All of them like Ollie and want her to be happy in this, their home. Instead of saying, “There, there, Ollie, you’ll feel better soon,” they keep Ollie company by helping her do gardening.
The Frog Brothers, Frer and Brer chase bugs from the hydroponic tomatoes. The Ten Otters furrow through the rows of plants to keep weeds down. Hawk continuously swoops down swooshing withered berries from bushes so healthy ones may thrive. Captain Polly, clutching in her talons a Big Swig Styrofoam cup that humans had littered in the Woods, scoops water and drizzles it on naked buds as she flies overhead. The Toad Sisters push compost leaf fertilizer atop tender green stalks. The Beaver Boys dam an area to expand the fragrant water lily pads yellowing, reddening, purpling, and perfuming the pond.
From just above the Octopus Garden, Butterfly Calico flutters, “Exquisite!”
‘We are truly the Lindian Woods Community Garden,’ Turt thinks. He shows Ollie minute seeds he holds in his fin claws. He’d harvested them from sea plants and tucked them in crevices in his shell to transport them back to the Woods. “These will grow to be wonderful additions, Ollie. I don’t know what they are. But I’m sure you’ll recognize them when they sprout.”
At that moment, they hear rustling in the Woods: Humans, maybe fishermen. They’d be sure to see a creature so out of place as Ollie. But the Octopus is one of nature’s wisest. Ollie extends her long arms. She changes from her normal gray to the brown colors of the Woods. She remains so still, she appears petrified. The humans out for a nature stroll look right at her and pass her by. They think she is a tangle of tree roots at the edge of the pond.
Dozens of times Ollie will use this camouflage technique to avoid the two-legs, as the animals call humans. The disguise never fails her.
* * *
Years pass in the Lindian Woods. World traveler Turt makes many trips around the oceans. He always tries to find out about Ollie’s relatives, but sees nary a trace of them. Ollie grows old and contented as she works in her Octopus Garden amongst so many Woodland friends.
One day, as with all animals, plants, and two-legs must, she dies. All her friends smile when they hear her last whispered words, “I’m home. I’m truly home.”
Ollie is in the Lindian Woods to this day. Look close at those roots along the pond’s edge when you visit the Woods. You will see Ollie. She’s waiting for you there.
(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE. They are completely different stories. My novel is available at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.)
©2014 Raji Singh