Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The white seal

Years ago, my daughter saw a cartoon about a white baby seal. It was a 1975 film based on a Rudyard Kipling story, available at the library on DVD. 

The seal's name was Kotick, but the actors pronounced it "Koteck." Watching the movie with my daughter, I was preoccupied with how much the seal's name sounded like a certain feminine product. I half-expected him to get covered in blood and unceremoniously thrown in the trash. That was not Kipling's plot, however.

My daughter --  then about four years old -- fell hard for the white seal. She watched the film over and over, yearning for a seal of her own.

At a toy store downtown, we found one: a plush white seal cub with melting brown eyes. My daughter took it home and cherished it. It slept in her bed. She introduced it to all her other stuffed animals.

The other day, she brought the brother of Koteck in from the garage. This was an identical white seal, purchased some weeks after the first seal.

Tucked in her bed with the white seal at her side, she looked adorable.

"I'm glad you brought Koteck inside," I said. "He missed you. I can tell he's happy to be with you again!"

"Mom," said my daughter, suddenly awake, her eyes shining with merriment. "Remember the first white seal? Remember what happened?"

"Uh, no, I guess not. What?"

She recounted how her brother had been lying on the couch, sick, when he suddenly leaned over the side and threw up. By sheer coincidence, the white seal was on the floor beneath him. 

Helplessly my daughter looked on as waves of vomit erupted onto the head of her white seal, to the sounds of groans and retching.

Needless to say, the white seal was defiled beyond repair. I bagged him up and threw him in the outside trashcan.

"Oh yeah. Now I remember!" I said. We had a chuckle, though it had not struck her as funny at the time.

While just as cute, the second seal was not quite as beloved as the first. By the time he came along, some innocent corner of my daughter's heart had closed forever.

Now seven years old, she gave a last cruel laugh at the memory of the white seal and fell asleep next to its replacement, a faint smile still on her lips.

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