was an octopus. He lived in a rock pile at the bottom of the
ocean. He was not a fierce and ferocious sea monster. He was
only about as big as a dinner plate. And he didn't like to
fight. In fact, he was rather shy. If something frightened
him, he scooted right into a crack in the rocks of his rock
pile and hid.
Oliver lived a quiet life. Sometimes he crawled along the
ocean bottom looking for clams and crabs to eat. Sometimes
he swam along like a little torpedo, catching fish. He had
eight tentacles to catch them with. But most of the time he
just hid in his rock pile.
One day, while Oliver was resting inside a crack in the rocks,
another octopus swam by. He was a much bigger octopus than
Oliver, and he was looking for a new home. That pile of rocks
looked like a fine place for an octopus to live. He swam over
to it and began to crawl along the rocks.
If there is one thing an octopus will not stand for -- even
a bashful octopus like Oliver -- it is another octopus invading
his home. Oliver stormed out to defend his rock pile. He glared
at the other octopus, and his skin quickly changed colors,
first pale, then dark. He was trying to scare the other octopus
away. But the strange octopus was much larger than Oliver,
and he refused to budge.
There in the water a great battle began. From the beginning
it looked certain that Oliver must lose the struggle, since
he was so much smaller than the stranger. But Oliver was determined
to fight to the death to defend his home.
The two octopuses wrestled and thrashed about, grasping with
their tentacles. Each was trying to get into a good position
to give the other a deadly bite.
Oliver fought on bravely. But little by little he was losing.
The other octopus was so much stronger.
Just as the large invader was about to slash at Oliver with
his beak, there was a sharp thud. Oliver felt the tentacles
of his enemy slowly loosening. He looked about. What had happened?
The large octopus had been shot by a skin diver, and now he
lay limp on the ocean floor. Now the man was pointing his
gun at Oliver too.
Oliver was almost too tired to move. So he tried his last
defense. Suddenly he shot a cloud of ink out into the water.
Too late! As the cloud of inky blacknesss whirled around him,
Oliver felt a tiny pain. And then the world seemed to end.
Oliver awoke, he was lying on the bottom of a tank filled
with sea water. A boy was peering in at him, his nose pressed
against the glass. The boy's father was a scientist, who was
studying sea animals.
Dad," called the boy. "He's awake now. Will he be dangerous?"
"No," his father assured him. He was just explaining that
octopuses are really shy animals, when Oliver spotted a pile
of rocks in the corner of the tank. With a whoosh of water,
he jetted across to it. In an instant he had slipped into
a crack between two rocks. Now not even the tips of his tentacles
a whole day Oliver stayed hiding in the rocks. But he was
getting very hungry. Finally he ventured out to catch one
of the crabs the scientist had placed in the tank. He scooted
back to the rock pile with it. But soon he was coming out
more and more often. The scientist's son Donny often came
over to watch him.
Now the scientist was ready for his experiments. He was trying
to find out how intelligent octopuses and other sea animals
are. And soon he found that Oliver was quite smart indeed.
Oliver learned to swim down a special tunnel, toward a light.
He would rather have stayed hiding in the dark, but he soon
found that the scientist had a tasty crab waiting for him
at the light end.
Then Donny helped his father tie crabs to round plates. Oliver
learned that he could often find a crab attached to a big
plate. But there was never a crab on a little plate. Soon
he could pick out the big plate even when there was no crab
at all. He also learned to tell the difference between a triangle
shape and a square shape.
But after a while, Oliver began to mope. He missed his home
in the ocean. He began to stay hidden in the rocks more and
more. He was not eating well, and he began to nibble on the
ends of his tentacles just like a child biting his fingernails.
The scientist tried to coax the little octopus out of the
rocks with treats of food. But Oliver did not cooperate in
the experiments any more.
guess I'll have to catch a new octopus," the scientist remarked
one day. "What should we do with this one?"
easy, Dad," said Donny. And the next day Oliver was back home
at the bottom of the ocean.
2013 The Silversteins