Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Legs: Part II
It had been six months, and Jim had learned very little about the behavior of octopi.
Legs seemed to refuse to move from one corner of the tank and ate very little.
By the end of the six months, Jim had become desperate. He flew up to off the coasts of Alaska, where the breed was prevalent, and started to study them in their natural habitat, using scuba gear and submarines. The trip was funded by his benefactors, but they were getting tired of not seeing results and putting so much money towards seemingly nonexistent research.
After spending two weeks on location, Jim had some ideas as to how to make Legs cooperate more, including crustaceans that wild North Pacific Giant Octopi eat.
When he arrived home, he was shocked at how small Legs looked in comparison to the octopi he had seen in the wild. He worried that he might not live much longer if he did not start to eat more and get more exercise. Jim quickly ran more tests on Legs, as he had done before in the past, and like all the other times, Jim found that, even though Legs was acting strange, and looked too small for an octopus of his age, Legs was in perfect health.
Jim excitedly dropped in a live crab, shipped directly from the breed’s natural habitat, into the water. He sat waiting for an excited response from Legs, but like all the other crabs that Jim had put into the tank, Legs seemed to just observe it, and then continued to stick to the same corner of the tank.
Jim had called in, what he called, “so-called-experts-of-cephalopods,” but they too were unable to understand what was the problem with Legs.
Jim had started to become afraid. Although Legs seemed disinterested in him, he still felt a care and concern for him. He had become Jim’s family in a sense, as Jim had spent so little time with his family over the past seven months while caring for this wild, stubborn octopus.
On a stormy day in August, after another month after his return from Alaska, Jim climbed the ladder to the top of Legs’ tank. He was carrying a bucket of crabs and figured that he would begin integrating crabs into the tank so that they too become constant residents. He had began this process a week prior, and already there were small crabs hiding behind rocks and inside crevices. As he reached the top step of the ladder, Jim felt his foot slip. He panicked slightly, but at the last minute caught himself as he dropped the bucket of crabs to the floor below, and watched them quickly scurry in every direction around, what had become, his living room, with fish tanks in place of TVs.
Jim groaned and went to take a step down, but once again felt uneasy, but this time couldn’t find a hold to right himself. The world seemed to turn upside down, and the next thing he knew, Jim had fallen into the tank. He struggled to fight his way up and instead found himself looking at the tank floor. As he took a stroke to pull himself to the surface, he saw something shoot past his line of sight. It appeared to be a deep red. He quickly turned and saw Legs shooting towards him. Jim had never seen this type of behavior from Legs and at first was amazed, but then realized the fright in the situation. Legs might not have been one of the biggest octopi of his species, however he still weighed about 70 pounds, and had an arm-span of about 15 feet. Regardless of how small Legs was, if he chose to wrap his tentacles around Jim, Jim would most likely be a goner.
It was happening so fast, and Jim could barely take his first stroke to the surface before it was all over.
Jim felt something brush against his hand. He looked down and saw Legs lightly touching Jim’s hand with his tentacle, as though he were curious to know what it felt like. Jim hadn’t ever touched Legs with his bare hands before. For safety purposes, he had always chosen to wear gloves if a need came to handle him, but at that moment he felt the touch of the octopus, and although a part of him still told him to have some fear, he didn’t fear Legs. Instead he kicked lightly and looked at him in amazement.
He felt his lungs burning, and he disappointingly kicked to the surface to take a breath, take off his shoes and throw them out of the tank, and then he went back under. The experience was unlike anything Jim had encountered before. He had swam with octopi before in the past, but they kept a distance, but with Legs, he seemed almost as interested in Jim as Jim was in him. He swam up to Jim’s face and looked at him with one of his eyes while gently moving his tentacles to keep himself in place.
Jim still seemed frightened at what this octopus could do, but thought that if Legs had meant any type of harm to him, it would’ve done it already, so he reached out his hand slowly. The moment that Jim’s hand touched Legs’ head, Legs reacted slightly like Jim had expected. Legs quickly moved away from him, but then did the unexpected and returned and put his head to Jim’s hand gently.
The next two months saw a great improvement and research started to pour out of Jim’s house to his funders, and their funds kept coming, as did news broadcasters intrigued by the strange behavior of Legs.
Jim’s swims with Legs had become a regular thing, although with the use of oxygen tanks so he was able to stay under longer with him. Sometimes Legs would not pay attention to Jim when he was in the tank, however Jim noticed that whenever he was in the water, Legs would hunt and eat. The display was amazing, and he felt as though he were a part of it.
Legs grew more and more by the day, and by the end of the two months he was near his full size, weighing in at more than 150 pounds and more than 35 feet long if he stretched all the way out. He was a beast, but a gentle one at that.
Jim’s research continues to change the way that people think of octopi, and he hopes that he can continue the research, but his relationship with Legs is no longer purely scientific, but a friendship. Even at night, when thinking about going to bed, Jim will sit up and read on the couch next to the tank, and when he takes a break after a paragraph, he likes to turn around, and more times than not, he can rely on having Legs over his shoulder, clung to the glass, staying nearby.