Little Dugong was very talented. He actually was, and not only because his Mommy Dugong thought so. (Every mom thinks their baby is the best. I once even heard a holbrookia boasting that her daughter had an exquisite ear for music, but I preferred to break no squares with another quixotic mommy.) Anyway, let’s return to our muttons… or, rather, dugongs.
Yes, Little Dugong was very talented. He painted with watercolors in the Biedermeier style. He painted an ocean, ships, topless sea-maids and sunken treasures. His forelimb was free and easy, his eye was sharp, and his imagination went above and beyond. Little Dugong would have a great future as an artist.
This year Mommy Dugong decided to prepare something really special for Little Dugong’s birthday. She woke up very early, quickly supped up morning kissel, put on her best tilt-bonnet, gave a peck on Little Dugong’s nose, and went to the city. In a few hours she was back with a big package; it was gift wrapped with starfish and chamomiles. Little Dugong was bursting with curiosity as to what this could be, but he knew he would have to wait until the festive dinner.
Finally, that long-awaited moment was upon him. Little Dugong impatiently droned, “Many happy returns!” then snuffed out the candles and with bated breath unfolded his precious gift. Holy mackerel! It was a drawing book!
It was covered with smooth emerald-green leather and had acid-free cold-pressed pages with a pleasant ivory hue. There was even a wide elastic band to keep the book securely closed to the nosy beaks of curious gulls and the beady eyes of elephant fish! It was the best drawing book in the whole world!
Happy Little Dugong fussed over the drawing book for the entire evening. He was opening and closing it, caressing its flawless sheets, sniffing its sweet-smelling leather. He even licked it once or twice while Mommy Dugong was busy with the dirty dishes. When Little Dugong got between the blankets later that night, the drawing book rested cozily beneath his pillow.
As soon as the next day broke, Little Dugong hurried to the shoals, climbed onto a big stone, and opened his treasure. He imagined all the beautiful things that he would paint, and this sent his heart fluttering with delight and joy. Little Dugong decided to start with a charming mermaid that he had met a day or two ago near some random rock.
However, once he raised his limb to a pristine sheet, a wormling of doubt started to gnaw inside his mind. After all, the mermaid wasn’t so youthful; her breasts were a bit faded and the pearls in her hair were kind of wishy washy. No! She wasn’t worthy to be in these pages! Little Dugong decided to paint something else.
An ocean! He would paint the illimitable ocean. It was deep, green, and full of mysteries and lost ships. Then Little Dugong dropped his eyes and saw a white plastic bag swaying on the waves. Yuck! No, he couldn’t spoil his flawless drawing book with such an imperfect thing as an ocean! He simply had to pick something else, something ultimate and picture-perfect.
The time ticked by… Little Dugong was still sitting on his stone with his untouched drawing book. He didn’t hear his Mommy Dugong calling him for midday meal, he ignored his friends who ran off to play hurlbat, and even disregarded a youthful sea cow who gave him a playful wink. Of course, he hadn’t even noticed a sea gull who sat not too far away and was looking at Little Dugong with malevolent curiosity.
The sea gull got off the ground and made a slow circle. Then another one… and another one… then it hovered right above Little Dugong… and shat all over the drawing book with much relish.
What happened next? Of course, Little Dugong howled like a jackal and ran to his Mommy Dugong. He was just a child after all (though he weighed more than a metric centner). The spoiled drawing book stayed on the stone and its smooth emerald-green leather gently shimmered in the late afternoon sunlight.
by TETIANA ALEKSINA
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