Mr. Cornelius Otter sat drinking beer with Mr. Wallace Beaver inside the River Bank Tavern. Otter lit a cigarette and shook his head. “Man,” he said to his friend. “I wish I had what you had.”
“What, teeth that don’t stop growing?” Beaver shoveled a paw-full of cashews out of a bowl and into his big face, chomping down on them with his orange teeth.
“No, the wife, the kits. Christ, man, you’re building your own house now.”
Beaver kept grabbing cashews, shoveling them into his face, and shrugged his furry shoulders. “I’ve been pretty lucky, yeah, but it’ll happen for you one day.”
“I don’t know,” said Otter, hanging his head sulkily and staring down his snout at the suds of beer in his mug. “Maybe I’m passed all that—maybe I’m too old. Christ, I’ll be six years old soon.”
Beaver finished chewing, grabbed the empty nut bowl and gently tapped it on the bar, signaling the bar tender’s attention. The tall crane stopped polishing glasses and mumbled something through his long beak while he refilled the bowl. “Well, Ott, what is it you’re looking for exactly?”
Otter began to speak, but stopped. He shook his head, drank some beer, and said “You’ll think it’s silly.”
“It’s…just…it’s an otter thing, I don’t know that it’ll translate.”
Beaver held his paws out and said, “How long have we been friends? We used to share an apartment, remember? That dump down by the waterfall, you’re my best friend. You can tell me.”
Otter drank, wiped the frothy beer suds from his whiskers and said, “I, uh, I want to find someone to eat clams with the rest of my life…someone to break open clams on my stomach.”
Beaver tried but failed to hide the puzzlement wrinkling his furry face. In order to fill the awkward conversational void, he filled his cheeks with another handful of cashews. He seemed to be thinking.
“See, I told you that you wouldn’t get it.”
“No, no, no. I…uh…I get it…it’s a thing you do…you, uh, you break open the clams while you’re lying on your back.” Beaver felt like a fraudulent friend. Otter had probably done this or told him about it when he hadn’t been listening. Beaver drank down the rest of his beer and gestured at the crane for two more. The crane put down his crossword puzzle and set to filling two fresh mugs.
“I guess what I’m saying is, I want something…serious.”
“Have you tried Tinder?” Beaver asked.
“I know a lot of people on it. Keith, you know, my brother, met his wife on there.”
“I don’t know, Beav, it all seems pretty stupid to me. Besides, people on there just to roll around in the river grass, anyway.”
“That’s how it used to be, now it’s respectable. Like I said, Keith met his wife there. I know this other guy met his wife on there, too. Come on, just download it and try for a few days. If you don’t like it, you can quit.”
Otter took out his phone, found the app, and let his paw hover over the download button. “I don’t know,” he said. Beaver reached across him and tapped the button. Otter sighed, hung his head, and looked over at his friend. “How is it you know so much about Tinder, anyway?”
Otter matched with his first animal after two days of swiping. The premier match, a goose named Sandra, appeared to be very attractive. Otter was very surprised because animals this attractive never fancied him out in the real world. He leered at one particular photo of hers, one in which her heaving, plumed breasts were nearly popping out of a clam-shell bathing suit. What a fine tussock that is, he thought. Their conversation began like this:
Otter: Hello, how’re you today?
Sandra: Hey! How it going?
Otter thought it odd that Sandra had dropped the ‘s’ and the apostrophe, but decided to ignore it. He typed a reply.
Otter: I’m doing well, just waiting for the work day to finish. What do you do for work?
Sandra: Your handsome! I think you and I would really get along well together. I’m busy now but will be free later. We should meet up! How’s that sound?
Otter felt a hot sweat hanging on his fur and looked around his office to make sure no one could see him on the app. This goose was moving very quickly, much more so than he would’ve expected. Disturbingly, she apparently didn’t properly grasp basic English grammar. But still, maybe he’d been wrong for criticizing Tinder so harshly before. He also couldn’t help but be very flattered by her compliment. No one except his mother had ever called him handsome. He couldn’t help but notice, however, that she hadn’t really answered his question. Huh, he thought, maybe I’m just so handsome that I’ve short-circuited her brain.
Otter: Sure, I would like that. Maybe we could meet up at the River Bank Tavern for drinks?
Sandra: I’ve been burned a few times…dudes turned out to be frauds and creeps. Would you do me a favor and click on this link? It doesn’t cost any money, it just helps me verify that you are who you say you are.
Otter looked at the link and cocked an eyebrow. This seems very suspicious, he thought. He remembered, though, that online dating was often the habitat for sexual miscreants, animal-nappers, and the like. Besides, he thought, you couldn’t be too careful in the world today.
Otter’s bank called him 20 minutes later and alerted him to a charge to his credit card with suspicious origins. Someone or some organization had tried to take $57.34 from him. Otter was dumbfounded, said he had no idea how that could’ve happened.
“A lot of times these people use online dating sites to commit fraud,” the bank customer service representative told him. “Have you joined any online dating sites recently, sir? Has anyone asked you to enter your credit card information into a database?”
Otter’s paw tightened around his cellphone and he cleared his throat, lowering his voice. “Yes, I have.”
“Just don’t give your credit card information to anyone in the future, sir.”
Otter almost quit Tinder after the bot had stolen from him, but desperation won over and he kept swiping. He went on his first Tinder date a few days later with a ferret named Gloria. He met her at a bar named The Collective located under the bridge. Otter had never been to this bar before and he felt a little uneasy surrounded by people in red kerchiefs and olive-green jackets and berets. The most alarming item in the bar was a large oil portrait of the canine philosopher Karl Barx, flanked by red banners, hanging high upon the wall. This made him nervous.
Otter offered to buy Gloria’s drink, but she snapped at him, “I don’t need your bourgeois offers of chivalry—I’m an independent woman with a career and her own means. I can buy my own beer. As a matter of fact, I can buy your beer. Now, what do you want to drink?”
“McAllister’s?” Otter asked, nervous and unsure what he’d gotten himself into.
“Don’t tell me you actually support that bloodless mega-organization, that corpulent capitalist corporation that kills the jobs of comrades, good working people, across the world.” Gloria blushed a little and adjusted the knot on of her red kerchief. “You’ll have a Hammer & Cider or you’ll have nothing.”
“That sounds good.” Otter lit a cigarette so he wouldn’t make any more blunders.
Otter left The Collective an hour later with a sympathetic kiss on the cheek and a fistful of pamphlets about The Collective’s political ideology. As he swam home, Otter couldn’t help but feel disheartened. So far, all Tinder had gotten him was credit card fraud and a lecture about the values of Barxism. He didn’t think he’d been contacting Gloria or the Collective any time soon.
Four days later, Otter hooked up with a beaver named Beatrice on their first date. After they were done, he looked up at the night sky and at the tall blades of river grass blowing, rustling in the cool wind around them. Beatrice breathed heavily beside him. Now that the distraction of sex and orgasms had subsided, Otter felt very guilty. This wasn’t how one acted if they wanted something serious, someone to crack open clams with for the rest of their life. He looked over at Beatrice and sighed. Then a terrible thought crossed his foggy mind. “Beatrice,” he said.
“You’re on the pill, right? Didn’t you say you were?”
Otter didn’t care too much for judgmental glare the rabbit working at the all-hours pharmacy was casting his direction. As he paid for Plan B, Otter forced an awkward smile for Beatrice. Paid for, Otter handed the pills to Beatrice and they slowly walked out of the pharmacy and into the condemnatory glare of the half-moon.
Two weeks and no pregnancies later, Otter decided he was going on his last Tinder date. He was done with it, the whole retched thing – the swiping, the messaging, all of it. He was tired of matching and not matching. The endless parade of rejection and disappointment had grown to be too much for him. Still, he decided to go out on one last date for the sake of closure.
Katie, an otter, met him at the River Bank Tavern for drinks. She wore big eyeglasses with red plastic frames. The lenses magnified her grey-blue eyes, which were magnificently shiny, like a well-polished rock on the river bottom. She had long, beautiful whiskers that held the pale light of the Tavern like sparklers burning in a pale summer dusk. Otter couldn’t help but also notice Katie had a very nice bottom concealed under her floral print dress. I bet she’s good at sliding down river banks, he thought. “So,” he said as he nervously turned his beer mug in his paws, “what are you looking for on Tinder?”
Katie shook her muzzle nervously, moving it in small figure eights. “I don’t want to say. It’ll sound silly.”
Otter thought of the bot, the Barxist weasel, and the late night pharmacy run. He’d certainly run the gambit of horrible Tinder dates. “No, I’m sure it’s not. You can tell me.”
She removed her big glasses and wiped them on her dress, cleaning the lenses. She restored them to her snout and sighed, drumming her paws on the table softly. “I don’t know. I just want to find someone to eat clams with the rest of my life. Does that sound silly?”
Otter almost choked on the mouthful of beer with surprise. He held a paw up in front of his mouth and felt himself consumed in a cosmic, cozy current of positivity. A cable of warmth run up his spine. He smiled and stroked the beer suds out of one of his whiskers. “No,” he said, trying to play it cool. “I think that’s…otterly fantastic.”
They laughed and laughed some more, drinking their beer and each other’s pleasantness.