Abalone

The otters were playing poker with the abalone again. The youngest otter, Kelp Tecumseh Keystone Species, was doing well. He was up by five, although he had lost several tokens to his appetite. His remaining mollusks were in a slimy pile on his belly. He had folded his last hand and now forbid himself from nibbling any more. The otter floating to his left, Kelp Shoot It! Keystone Species, was down to his last abalone. The otter floating across from them, Kelp No Diving Keystone Species, was already eating his ante.

Kelp Shoot It! swept his bristled mustache across his fangs. “That’s two more in the pile, Kelp.”

Kelp Tecumseh Keystone Species looked up from his thick pile of eternally escaping gastropods. “I folded.”

“I wasn’t talking to you,” Kelp Shoot It! snapped. Kelp Shoot It! always got snappy when he was losing. Kelp Tecumseh knew this and enjoyed provoking him. With a mouthful of abalone, Kelp No Diving silently added another two to the pot (which wasn’t really a pot but the belly of a large sleeping otter whose name they did not know).

In one hour Kelp Tecumseh Keystone Species went all in. But the sleeping otter who constituted their pot chose that moment to dive with his purloined dinner into the kelp forest. It was predictable, they reflected, and not so unique an event. But sea otters, by and large, accept that fortune favors the bold or well-rested.

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