Chapter 23 Summary
The Aleut hunters have left many wounded otters behind them. Some float to land and die there; others Karana kills because they are obviously suffering. She finds one young otter that has not been badly hurt. It is lying in a bed of bull kelp, and she would have paddled right past it if Rontu did not bark. A strand of kelp is wound around its body, something otters do when they want to sleep; however, this one has a deep gash across his back. The otter does not try to escape when she reaches for it, and his normally large eyes are open so wide in pain and fear that she can see herself reflected in them.
She cuts the strands of kelp and takes the animal to a sheltered tide pool by a reef. Karana catches two fish and is careful to keep them alive, for otters will not eat anything dead, and places them in the pool. She returns later in the afternoon; the fish are gone and the otter is floating on his back, asleep. Salt water is a good healing property for the gash, so she does not try any other treatment.
Every day Karana brings him two fish, but he will not eat when she is watching. Soon she brings four fish, then six, which appears to be the correct number for a healing young otter. She brings them to him no matter what the weather. The otter grows and its wound is healing, but the animal does not leave the pool. Now he is waiting for her when she comes and will eat the fish out of her hand. The pool is small and he could easily get away, yet he stays.
The young otter is now the length of her arm and his coat is growing quite glossy. Whenever she is there, he follows her with his big eyes. When she speaks, his eyes move in “a very funny way,” a way which makes her throat ache because his eyes reflect both happiness and sadness. For a long time she does not name him, then she calls him Mon-a-nee, which means Little Boy with Large Eyes. Catching so many fish in every kind of weather is difficult, and when she has fewer than six fish to give him, he swims in circles and looks at her reproachfully.
One day the waves are too high to fish; since she has no fish for him, Karana does not go to the tide pool. It is three more days before she can catch fish, and when she gets there the pool is deserted. She knows he would have left some day, but she is sad because she does not think she will recognize him in the kelp beds. Now that he has healed and has...
(The entire section is 701 words.)