“Ott Toby,” by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Aug 20th, 2016 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Toby was an Ott. Ordinary in his coloring, he appeared all green with an array of filled orange circles. His nose, as was typical, was red (Itts, in contrast, he taught us, are pink with purple specks and gray proboscises.)

Our Ott arrived late one summer. Bernie didn’t see him, and, when he consequently sat on Toby, he disappeared. Toby’s ears, too, went missing, but Betsy claims that Toby’s selective hearing predated that happenstance.

Shortly after Bernie vanished, Bermkie and I were directed to spruce up our new friend. For a while, we remained confused about the function of his tabs and slots. So, that first time, he wound up with a curly do when he had wanted a straight fly away. We forgave ourselves instantly; it’s tough to stand close to a critter that smells like a locker room because he’s habituated to living among fungi. That he ever got groomed remains a wonder.

Besides, initially, we didn’t know that Otts enjoy their fermented ingesta and that they push themselves towards naps while ruminating among mushrooms. Regardless, our knowledge gap proved negligible since we became mesmerized by Toby’s Kandi Kid coloring and by his interest in our butterfly picture collection. None of Bella and Billy Rated’s children of had ever before interacted with such a creature.

Months passed. Initially, Toby accompanied us when we photographed the reds and yellows that sipped at buttercups or flew to mallows. Later, he tried to farm those nectar eaters, believing that he could nurture them with clouds and stars. When they died of starvation, he was happy, anyway since he ate them.

We were miffed. I admonished Toby to leave the butterflies alone. Bermkie pulled out great hassocks of grass and threw them at our odd Ott. Everyone else cried.

Time passed. All was swimmingly well with Toby until he asked us to bake a pizza for him on fire circle rocks. He had witnessed Bartha frying eggs accordingly and wanted to emulate her.

It was hard to deny Toby. He had constructed compost beds for us, had journeyed to the marketplace with us, and had helped us tap the sweet trees. Yet, after that culinary mishap, both Bartha and Toby wound up with yolky faces.

Bartha had necessarily been involved because she deemed Toby too short and too volatile to use matches. When Bermkie delivered Bartha’s news, Toby had tried a mind meld on Bermkie.

Thereafter, Bermkie took more and longer naps. Toby also emptied Bermkie’s closet, the contents of which he tossed onto the nearest road. Crows called out in delight as they carried away bits of Bermkie’s clothing and harnesses.

Bermkie just shrugged. He got our folks to give him their credit card to replace his gear and fed Toby extra gumdrops in gratitude.

That appreciation evaporated, though, when Toby asked Cathy Callwell to the autumnal social. Cathy, who Bermkie thought was his girl, believed her standing on computer-mediated information exchange sites would improve if she were photographed with an Ott.

Initially, Bermkie took to sleepwalking and to making Meep-like sounds. Eventually, he thought to ask both Sally and Ally Jenkins to escort him. One comely girl on each arm, he entered the dance hall, where Cathy unequivocally ignored him. In no time, two nice-looking sisters were left stranded near the fruit punch.

In the end, Toby, who was sated with having his face spread all over YouTube, apologized. It took some time, however, for Bermkie to forgive Cathy’s disloyalty.

During the weeks those two were figuring out their relationship, Toby’s Twitter numbers dropped; he didn’t know you had to keep after social media. Toby mewed and grayed. He remained miserable until I allowed him to dab his many limbs with my lone bottle of cologne. When I warned Toby that applying scent while living in woodlands would bring stinging, biting insects, he salivated, and then dumped the rest of my liquid all over himself.

To the Rated Family, bugs’ multifaceted eyes and noses-slash-mouths-slash-tongues are of small consequence. Toby, though, found those unfurling, little tubes fun to eat. When he tasted all of the flyers drawn to his stink, he saved their orifices for last.

The more he ate, the more he needed to poo. Bartha’s Perazzi persuaded me to be his outhouse chaperon. At least we had an extra Sears Catalog to read.

After using up my cologne, Toby claimed Breena’s lighter fluid. He mixed that juice with Bermkie’s indelible ink and flung the results at our walls.

Flutter byes with orange wings and brown spots, with grey wings and white dots and with wondrously large iridescent, green wings were attracted to that mess. Toby ate glutinously, while I applied a soapy mixture.

Outdoor temperatures dropped as did Toby. He got scatterbrained, increasingly forgetting to wipe his appendages before entering our home. Bermkie, who took pride in our hardwood floors, demonstrated a new style of anger. Had it not been for a well-timed call from Cathy, Toby might have gotten splattered alongside of the ink and lighter fluid mix I was still scrubbing.

As winter approached, Toby dozed more and chased winged lovelies less. Bermkie, too, was absent; he seemed to have been adopted by Cathy’s family. That left Brent, Bartha, Breena, and me to clean up after our careless Ott.

When awake, Toby collected autumnal flowers, hoping to attract insects. Out home became strewn will leaves, twigs, creepy-crawlies’ carcasses and bit of Ott fur. I don’t know why Toby shed in the winter.

One night, Bermkie returned to announce that he and Cathy were going steady and that they planned to wed. Toby responded by curling up under the dining room table, wrapped in Mama Bella’s best quilt. He lay immobile, not dead, but ready to hibernate. It had taken the last of his reserves to imagine, a loud, why a pretty miss might want to marry someone from a family that was B-Rated.


Defenestration-KJ Hannah GreenbergPlayfully quaint KJ Hannah Greenberg gets high on adverbs, mixes more metaphors than a platypus has pockets, and attempts to matchmake words like “balderdash” and “xylophone.” Her newest collection of short fiction is Friends and Rabid Hedgehogs (Bards & Sages Publishing, June, 2016).

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