It was a hot day at the river, so the three otters, filled with fish and completely rested, went to a drinking establishment they knew to be nearby.
One by one, the tall one with a slight bulge at his belly, the short one with the really big eyes, and the middle-sized one who looked just like any other otter you’ve ever seen, went through the door, out of the blazing sunlight and into the cool dark. One by one, they mounted the bar stools in the middle of the bar, not too close to the veteran inebriants anchoring each end in their sudsy reveries.
The barkeep, busy at one end scrubbing away at a spot that didn’t exist, finally made his way to the three otters.
“What’ll you have?” said the barkeep to the three otters, who looked straight at him as he spoke as they had expected him to say something once he had obliterated that spot.
The tall otter, the one with the bulging belly, looked back at the barkeep.
The short otter, the one with really big eyes, looked back at the barkeep, then down at the slightly used, slightly stained coaster imprinted with the crest of some brewery, batting it back and forth between his lean paws and curvy talons, back and forth, back and forth, just like a smooth, flat stone at the river banks.
The middle-sized otter, who looked just like any other otter you’ve ever seen, stared back at the barkeep, or seemed to but was really staring over the barkeep’s right shoulder at the tiers of bottles festooning the glass shelves. Nonetheless, the barkeep evaluated the middle-sized otter’s gaze and believed it was staring at him, deep into his soul.
None of the otters said anything to the barkeep, so the staring—by the otters, who either were or weren’t staring and by the barkeep, who was swiveling his head slowly, side to side, to encompass all three otters as they were all potential customers—continued for some time until the barkeep tired of this game and walked away.
The otters continued to stare or muck about with their coasters however they wished.
Eventually—it couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes or so—the barkeep returned to the otters and tried again.
“What’ll you have? Beer? Wine? A liqueur? Mixed drink? Something straight up? On the rocks? Glasses of water all around? Just say the word, I’m here to please!” said the barkeep in his friendliest solicitation to patrons in recent memory.
The otters either stared at or ignored the barkeep as they looked right into him, beyond him, or at their coaster/stone as it moved back and forth between their long, slender paws.
The barkeep went and topped off the well-soused figurines at each end of the bar and surveyed the darker depths of the establishment for any other patrons who might require assistance. There were none. Just darkness at each booth waiting to embrace clientele later in the day. There was a brightly lit jukebox at the far end of the room but no one had thought to feed it a nickel and no music played.
Finally, the barkeep sidled up to the three otters yet again, a little frustrated, sure, but still ready to do as they bade him, at least with regards to filling drink orders.
“What can I help you with, young fellows?” said the barkeep, trying a more familiar approach this time. It wasn’t entirely misplaced, after all. If there had been a hint of conversation passing between them in his last couple of encounters, he might have considered them acquaintances at this point in his day. “Anything I can get you?” said he to the three.
Finally, as the barkeep scanned each of the otters in turn, waiting for some semblance of a clue as to their needs, the middle-sized otter, the one who looked just like any other otter you’ve ever seen, stopped batting his coaster back and forth, as this is how he had occupied himself since the last barkeep visit and his short friend with really big eyes did seem to be having a wonderful time with the coaster, the middle-sized otter placed his paws on the surface of the bar and did a graceful leap onto its surface. Standing upright, he waddled forward a few steps and leaned over, placing his left paw on the barkeep’s right shoulder and his whiskery, cold muzzle up to the barkeep’s ear.
He whispered softly as he did not want to alarm the truly pickled regulars ensconced to his left and right: “Look, pal, I don’t know who raised you or where you’re from but otters can’t talk. We’re just here for the air conditioning.”
At which point he turned around and resumed his place at the bar.