A Story by Charlie Dennis
I was visiting Uncle Simon Gabriel on one of many evenings after a long day of fishing oysters in Malagawatch. Gabriel lay on his bed next to the warm stove. His mouth was full of chewing tobacco and there was a spittoon nearby.
Often something was said by him or me that would remind him of an episode he experienced in the past. One of his stories that intrigued me the most was about the time he spent several years in Malagawatch without going home to Eskasoni. He told me that one winter he had a craving for eels, but it was February and ice had covered everything. He knew ice was very thick everywhere and it would take hours to make a hole.
He finally got the eels out of his mind but by the next day the craving was back again. Finally, in order to distract himself, he ventured along the shoreline keeping a close eye on nice pieces of dry wood for kindling for his stove. As he walked along the pond, Uncle Simon caught a glimmer of something moving and playing in the channel. He had forgotten about the channel, with water moving constantly because of the tide going in and out of the pond.
He saw what he thought were ducks jumping and splashing, but as he got closer to the channel, he realized that it was not ducks but a pair of otters having a grand time jumping and splashing in the open section.
He loved wildlife and decided to take a closer look, but not too close to scare them off. He positioned himself behind a large spruce tree so he wouldn’t frighten the otters away. The two otters did not see Gabriel behind the tree. Gabriel noticed that one of the otters had dragged something onto the ice, played with it for a second or two, and jumped back in the water. His interest increased as the other otter did the same thing. He would play with it and leave it on the ice.
Finally, Gabriel had to find out what the otters left on the ice. The two otters did not run off but started playing at the end of the channel. Meanwhile, Gabriel circled around. As he got closer to the scene, he figured out that it was eels that the otters had left on the ice!
After further investigation he noticed that the tail and heads were eaten while the rest of the eels were intact. He took one last look in the direction the otters were playing, having a grand time. Gabriel thought the two otters would not miss the four eels as he had plans for their left-overs. He pulled a plastic bag from his coat and off he went with a big smile on his face. Eel stew–here it comes!
Shortly, he had the pot boiling and a four-cent cake and fresh tea ready to go. As he watched the pot boiling, he heard a knock on the door. As he opened the door, he heard “My it smells good in the camp and here. I was concerned about you being stuck in Malagawatch.” It was Roddie Stevens checking up on Gabriel and dropping off fresh supplies. Roddie asked, “How in the world did you get eels this time of the year?” “Well Roddie, it was not easy. Because I knew you’d be here for lunch and tea, I worked very hard to get these eels and I think you will enjoy this meal. I’ll tell you the story while we are enjoying this feast.” Gabriel chuckled to himself while Roddie filled himself.
Gabriel never forgot the two otters. “Thank you boys” he thought to himself.