Sink and Swim
The idea started out as a bet, which I lost miserably.
It was a fine summer day near the lake with a few friends. Beers were opened, feats of strength performed, and revelry commenced with much gusto. Typical post college age shenanigans.
A herd of fluffy ponies had taken up residence by the lake side, obviously scavengers of lakeside parties. They took care to stay away from people, waiting until people left before swooping to eat whatever morsels got left behind. They weren’t as filthy and bedraggled as some of the city ferals were, but they were still pretty grubby nonetheless.
“Hey, can fluffies swim?” my friend Steve asked.
“Nah, that whole ‘fluffy pony drowns’ thing isn’t just a meme,” said Rajesh. “Fluffy ponies sink like bricks, and drown like it’s their job.”
“I could teach fluffies to swim,” I said. Maybe I’d had a few beers, but it sounds perfectly reasonable. I was on the swim team for years and I was lifeguard all through high school. I’d taught my younger siblings and cousins to swim and some of them were pretty dim.
“No way, roger,” said Steve. “I bet you fifty bucks you can’t teach a fluffy pony to swim.” One handshake later, and I was talking to a herd of fluffy ponies by the edge of the park.
“Buh wawa bad foh fwuffies!” the leader insisted.
“But what if water, like, wasn’t bad for fluffies?” I asked. “What if you could swim?”
“Wha swim?” asked a unicorn.
“it’s like walking, but with water,” I tried to explain. “You can swim across to the other side of the lake and get food there. Or maybe dive for fish and eat those.”
“Fish icky nummies!” said another earthie. “Gif bad tummy huwties an nu smeww pwetty.”
“Isn’t your fluff hot in the summer?” I asked, switching tactics. “What if you could go in the water and cool off?”
“Fwuffy nu git hawt,” said another fluffy. “Fwuff keep wawm in cowd time, cowd in wawm time!”
“Wouldn’t you want to be clean?” I asked, trying to find a reason to get these stupid things into the water. “Have your fluff be all free of dirt?”
They seemed skeptical, but followed me into the shallowest part of the water. The lake water lapped around their fluffy legs, soaking into their fluff. Predictably, many of the fluffies shied away from the water with an ear splitting “Eeee!” before running back into the woods. I promised the remaining fluffies spaghetti, though I had no idea how I was going to deliver on that promise.
“Alright, you’re doing great,” I told the ten or so that remained. “Now just relax yourself and come out deeper.”
“Dis nu seem wike good idea,” said the orange earthie, standing on his tip toes and barely holding his head above the water. His fluff spread a bit in the waves as they lapped the shoreline.
“Would I let anything bad happen to you?” I asked. I had no idea if I would. They were just fluffies after all and it’s not like they were my fluffies. “Keep your heads up and out of the water and just float.”
A few brave fluffies took tentative steps into the open water and bobbed slowly along the shoreline. One panicked as soon as his feet left the bottom and splashed violently before sinking beneath the water. He was under for less than ten seconds, but by the time I pulled him up, he was stone dead. Water poured from his nose and mouth as the wet fluffy hung lifeless in my hand. It’s like he went through the effort of inhaling as much water as he could. I put him back down to bob among the waves.
“Lookin’ good,” I said, ignoring the other fluffy that drowned while my back was turned. The ones that hadn’t drowned bobbed along the surface, trying not to panic. “Now kick your legs and try to move around.”
Most of the fluffies started scrambling their limbs at random in a desperate attempt to move forward. They dipped below the surface, then floated back a moment later, face down. I didn’t even bother to check on them. The orange earthie managed to coordinate his kicking legs to make forward progress.
“Good, good!” I said. “Keep at it, and keep those heads up!” The orange earthie managed to paddle up to me, before grabbing onto my leg with all four of his.
“Dun wike wa-was!” he cried.
It’s about then a power boat went roaring by. The fluffies that hadn’t drowned squealed and ducked beneath the water in a misguided attempted to hide from the roaring engine. The orange earthie clung to your leg and closed his eyes. I felt the water around me grow warmer. As the engine faded into the background, the orange earthie turned to look at the floating corpses of his friends.
“Tol you wawa bad foh fwuffies!” he admonished. “Pwease haf skettis now?”
On shore, I was greeted by peals of laughter as I waded back to the beach with a fluffy pony desperately clinging to my leg. His incessant pleas for spaghetti only brought further jeers from my friends as I silently had over fifty of my hard earned dollars to Steve.
“So you going to give that fluffy the spaghetti you promised him or not?” asked Rajesh.
“Say what now?”
“Pwease gif skettis!” begged the fluffy clinging to my leg. “Pwomise skettis!”
“I’m not giving you shit,” I told the fluffy, prying him off my leg. “You lost me fifty bucks.”
“Dude you can’t Welsh on a promise,” said Steve. “You promised the fluffy spaghetti. You’d better get him some spaghetti.”
“Spa-Ghe-Tii!” chanted the rest of your friends. ““Spa-Ghe-Tii! Spa-Ghe-Tii! Spa-Ghe-Tii!” They were soon joined by a chorus of fluffies emerging from the woods.
“Skettis! Skettis! Skettis!” They chanted in their obnoxious sing song voices.
“You can all get fucked,” I said. “Come on, Fluffy. I think I saw some fluffy kibble at the general store.”
We walked around the edge of the lake as the fluffy dried out, eventually coming to the lakeside general store. It was mainly a pace to sell beer, but they carried odds and ends one might need on a trip to the lake. I picked up a ridiculously priced bag of fluffy kibble, and dropped it on the counter. The orange earthie looked up at the beg skeptically.
“Dat nawt skettis,” he said as we waited for the attendant.
“Skettis is food,” I said.
“Skettis awe skettis,” he replied. “Dat kibble. Pwomis skettis!”
“How the fuck would you even know?” I asked.
“Use git kibbew aww time,” he said. “Nice wady muumah gif fwuffies kibbew in wawm time. Nu come back after wast cowd time.”
“You shits can live longer than a year?” I asked.
“Fluffies can live for twelve years,” said the attendant. “Not that they ever do. This your fluffy?”
“No,” I replied. “I just promised him spaghetti if he helped me teach fluffies to swim. And he didn’t, so I don’t know why I’m paying for this overpriced bag of kibble for him.”
“Kibble’s not spaghetti,” said the man.
“I towd him dat!” replied the earthie. “Sketti is sketti! Kibbew is jus nummies, but nu skettis!”
“There’s some Chef Boyardee on the bottom shelf there,” said the clerk. “Cheaper than a bag of fluffy food, that’s for sure. Why were you teaching fluffies to swim? Water’s bad for fluffies.”
“Towd him dat too!” said the earthie.
I paid for the spaghetti and left. Now complexly out of cash, I opened the can and dumped it into a paper bowl the clerk had given me. As I sat and watched this stupid animal consume the can of cold noodles and sauce, I couldn’t help but wonder why fluffies were the way they were. It’s not like I knew a whole bunch about them, but it pissed me off that I’d lost fifty bucks hoping they weren’t as dumb as everyone said. It made me angry to think that these creatures, which didn’t even exist twenty years ago, had taken down an American city and still had an entire TV channel dedicated to their stupidity.
“Why the fuck can’t you swim?” I demanded. The earthie looked up from his meal, skeptical at the question.
“Wawa bad fow fwuffies,” he said before returning to the bowl. I wasn’t going to let this injustice stand.
“You’re coming with me, fluffy,” I said. “I’m going to teach you to swim even if it kills you.”
It was later that evening that I dropped the fluffy into my bath tub. Given their known proclivity for crapping everywhere, I wanted something easy to wash out. I hadn’t been able to make it to store to get what I’d needed for this exercise in stupidity, I just need the fluffy to stay put for a few hours.
“Dis nu home?” asked the fluffy. “Fwuffy haf nu daddeh?”
“I’m not your daddy,” I said. “Do you even have a name?”
“Fwuffy am fwuffy,” he said.
“Your name is Bob now,” I told him, plopping down a bowl of water and another of canned spaghetti. “I can’t call you fluffy. And you all you can do is float, so now you’re Bob.”
“Fuwffy am Bawb?” he asked.
“Yeah, just like the old joke,” I said. “What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs in a pool? Bob.”
“Fwuffy nu git it.”
“Shut up and go to sleep.”
I slammed the bathroom door behind me, leaving Bob to himself. I went to the computer to do some research on these stupid things before I wasted any more time.
It had been stupid to bring Bob home from the lake in the first place, but something told me that this floating fluffy was the key to proving Rajesh wrong. I’d already lost fifty bucks to this stupid endeavor, but what I couldn’t stand being was wrong about something that shouldn’t be true. Sure enough within a few minutes, I’d pulled up an entire website dedicated to fluffy anatomy and physiology.
“Fluffies are 30% fat by volume, and will have fat reserves up until the point of death by starvation,” said the website. “Fluffies cannot use this fat reserve in total starvation, and must consume at least 15 kilcalories per day per pound to use their reserved fat. It is suspected this has to do with the necessary fat reserves for their brain that allows them to speak, as fluffies on ultra-low calorie diets for extended periods of time lose the ability to speak at after losing fat reserves.”
So they were mostly fat. Or at least 30% fat. That’d be obese for any other creature on the planet, but they needed that much fat just to keep their worthless brains working. Further research revealed that their bones were hollow like a birds, and that a freshly removed fluffy skeleton would float. So why the hell couldn’t they swim? I kept digging into the wee hours of the morning, and finally found the information I needed.
Fluffy couldn’t swim for two reasons. First and most importantly, their fluff wasn’t remotely waterproof. Since it was hollow, it soaked up water like a sponge. A standard four pound fluffy could absorb almost a gallon of water into its fluff, meaning they’d weigh twelve pounds when fully soaked. A fully drenched fluffy would have trouble walking, let alone swimming. Various methods of waterproofing had been tried over the years with mixed results of “total success” to “fluffy caught fire due to hypergolic reaction.” A shaved fluffy would float, but would die of hypothermia almost immediately due to the fluff’s thermoregulation properties.
The second reason fluffies didn’t swim was because they had absolutely no idea how to hold their breath. In fact, if they submerged their noses in water, their instinct was immediately to take a deep breath. It was why the unicorn I’d first pulled out of the lake was like upturning a bucket. Fluffies swallowed and inhaled as much water as possible as soon as their faces were covered by water. Not only that, but the amazing immune system that prevented most illnesses and diseases in fluffies went into overdrive the moment water entered their lungs. It wasn’t a misplaced survival instinct; it was a straight up design bug. Water entering a fluffies lungs was a one-way street, and it killed them every time.
I finally went to bed around three AM, figuring I’d just let Bob outside first thing in the morning to resume whatever sort of life feral fluffies have. Rajesh and Steve were right after all. Fluffies couldn’t swim and me trying to teach Bob to swim was going to be a waste of time that would probably kill him. I harbored no real animosity towards the earthie, aside from the fact that he and his friends cost me fifty bucks. I suppose I could be mad about that but on the other hand, I did accidently drown about ten of his friends. A “no hard feelings” probably wasn’t enough to send him on his way with. Still I couldn’t keep him in my small apartment and I was pretty sure my lease specifically excluded keeping fluffies. I wasn’t really thinking about it the next morning when I bleary eyed stumbled into the bathroom.
I’m glad I was already using the toilet because I probably would have pissed myself otherwise. I’d forgotten about Bob hanging out in the bathtub from the night before. I took a moment to recollect myself.
“So I’m going to let you go,” I said. “You can’t swim and I had a grand delusion yesterday about trying to teach you how.”
“Bawb stay wif nu daddeh?” he asked.
“I’m not your daddy,” I said. “I’m going to put you outside and you’re going to go away to do whatever it is that fluffies do.”
“Buh nice housie? Wawm pwace?” asked Bob. “Nu daddeh?”
“Not. Your. Daddy.” I growled. “I’ll take you to a shelter, but that’s it.”
There was a fluffy shelter about five miles away, according to Google Maps. I didn’t know or care if it was a no kill shelter because that really wasn’t my problem. It only took about fifteen minutes to get there once I’d wrangled Bob from the bathtub to the car, which was no easy feat.
Bob was a big fluffy and much denser than he looked. Here I’d thought fluffies were weak and fragile with marshmallow foot pads. Every one I’d ever encountered were tiny things the size of a yorkie and weren’t more than four or five pounds. Bob was more like a corgi with hooves and he did not want to leave. Rather than fighting, he went limp and I had to manhandle him into the car. How this creature had gone from spritely to a sullen butterball in a span of a second I’ll never be able to guess.
The air inside the shelter smelled of antiseptic with the faint whiff of barnyard creeping in at the edges. Unhappy babbling filtered in through other rooms while a display of foals happily trotting around a playpen sat in the corner of the entryway. With Bob under one arm like a sack of potatoes, I approached the front desk. There was a smart looking girl behind the counter, with curly black hair and a smile that radiated calm. She looked at me for a moment, then to Bob, his orange fluff and grey mane rustling slightly in the air conditioning.
“Dropping off?” she asked, picking up a tablet.
“Uh, yeah,” I said. “Found this guy by Lake Martin.”
“Hewwo!” said Bob. “Pwetty wady nu mommah?”
“Does he have a name?” she asked.
“I’ve been calling him Bob,” I said. “I was going to teach him to swim, but…”
“Oh really?” asked the girl. “That’s quite an ambitious project.”
“Wawa bad fow fwuffies,” said Bob. “Fweinds take wongest sweepies cause daddeh twy make swim.” She looked over the rim of her glasses at me, the pleasant smile now an icy glare. She was shorter than me, but I got the sense she wasn’t above coming across that desk and throttling me.
“Were you drowning fluffies?” she demanded.
“Of course not!” I said. “Well not on purpose. I tried to teach a herd of them to swim but…”
“Fluffies can’t swim, asshole,” she said. “They don’t know how to hold their breath and wet fluff weighs them down too much to swim.”
“Well I didn’t know that yesterday!” I said, trying to defend myself. “I already lost fifty bucks on that bet, and I figured that since I’d accidently drowned most of his friends that Bob here…”
“Bob’s a feral,” said the lady, pointing at his feet. “I’m going to guess three, maybe four? You know what his chances of being adopted here are? They’re zero. Straight up zero. No one wants a pet that’s been living in the wild their whole lives. He probably doesn’t know how to use a litterbox, he’s not fixed, and he’s got ugly colors, so no one would even want him for breeding.
“Bawb ugwy?” he asked, holding back tears. “Pwetty wady tink Bawb ugwy?”
“Oh, I’m sorry sweetheart,” she cooed at Bob. “I didn’t mean it. You’re a handsome fluffy. I bet all the mares just love you.”
“Mawes nu wuv Bawb eitheh,” he replied, drooping his head a bit. The girl fuzzed Bob’s mane, then resumed glaring at me. The silence between stretched between us for far too long to even be awkward anymore.
“So,” I said at last. “Can I drop off Bob?”
“He’ll be destroyed in seven days,” said the girl. “But I’m sure you don’t care, you fluffy drowning lunatic.”
“What if I paid his adoption fee?” I asked. Why was I even offering? What did I care about Bob? Why did I care what this lady thought of me?
“Then he gets 90 days,” said the girl. “But it’s the same result if he doesn’t get adopted out. Which he won’t.”
“Bawb otay if jus be wet go,” Bob offered.
“I think I’ll just drop him back off at Lake Martin,” I said.
“You know there was a big capture there this week?” the girl asked. “Too many fluffies harassing lake goers. Nothing but traps, poison, and hunters out there at the moment.” The silence between us stretched on again.
“So how much is the adoption fee?”