The Phoque Scene

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If you've ever seen an elephant seal kept waiting on the telephone, you can imagine the Speak-Your-Weight-Machine now.

'Pinniped?' he bellows

'Errr... it's still me, I'm afraid', comes the plaintive reply.

The whole Pier shudders as the colossal creature butts the transom in frustration.

'Where is he, Alberta?' Speak reverberates, with barely-suppressed fury.

'He's in the bath', stammers the albatross. 'He spent the whole afternoon filling it with ice-cubes.'

The SYWM breathes deeply, and resolves not to ask why. 'Did you tell him that Shazz needs him?' he asks, with all the patience he can muster.

There is an audible gulp from the other end of the line. This mighty bull's gentlest tones still resonate like thunder.

'Did you tell him that it's the 200th edition of the Post, and it's the International Day of the Seal, and that hundreds of Researchers are eager for him to say something profound?'

'Yes', answers Alberta in a whisper that belies a twelve-foot wingspan. 'He snorted a bit at that last part. And then he just said that... that you're a seal too.'

Boom. The structure won't take much more of this.

'Go to him one more time', says Speak. His voice is slower and quieter now, and loaded with terrible evenness. 'Tell him that if he doesn't come to the phone, then I'm going to kill him.'

Lots of people say this kind of thing lots of the time, but they don't say it like that. The albatross is whimpering tearfully at the bathroom door. It bursts open to reveal a bundle of blubber with blazing eyes.


'Copy, please, Pinniped', sneers Speak, unable to conceal his pleasure over this minor triumph.

'And why can't you write it yourself?' the little seal snaps back.

'Because you're the gifted one', replies the other, managing to make even humility sound insufferably smug.

'Well I can't write it', declares Pinniped, simply. 'Because I can't think of anything to write about.'

There are different kinds of silence, and all of them can be heard sooner or later out here on the polar ice. The current example is of the stunned variety.

'You could write about what it's like to be a seal', suggests Speak, failing by some margin to hide the desperation in his voice.

'Did that already.'

'Life at the Pier, then?'

'That too. Repeatedly.'

'Man's cruelty to the seals?'


It's always cold here, but just now it's growing colder by the second.

'You mean you've already said everything there is to say about being a seal?'


Speak stifles a simmering growl. 'You're just being trite, Pinniped', he hisses.

'Can't stand the fellah', replies the blotchy one. Only Alberta is there to see the wink.

'Disconsolate' is added to the silence collection. There is a click followed by a brrrr, and a grinning Pinniped replaces the receiver.

'You're cruel to him sometimes, you know', chides Alberta. But there is a something in her tone that reveals a flicker of reluctant admiration.

Pinniped raises an eyebrow, and the grin becomes a softer smile.

'We're cool', he says, carelessly. 'Which reminds me. I'm going back to that bath, before it melts.'

The Pinniped Portfolio


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