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Nothing defines what I call "the Otter swagger" -- our wonderfully nonchalant approach to pretty much anything -- better than this incident, which took place during my senior year of high school. I had skipped lunch, as I often did, and snuck out in my car to have lunch at Mark's house.

Being a part-time-unemployed-college-student, Mark was just waking up around noon or so, so my lunchtime was his breakfast. As we sat and conversed in his kitchen, I began to notice small wisps of smoke drifting from the area directly behind Mark's head. Mind you, I was used to seeing strange things at Mark's house, mostly involving his brother (who even then was an Otter-in-training), his mom (whose impatience with our wacky ways has become the stuff of legends) or his dad (who... just did weird stuff). But I couldn't recall, to this point, ever having seen anything actually on fire at the Darin residence.

Nevertheless, I was an Otter, and as such, I had an unflappable demeanor to maintain. "Mark," I muttered, craning my neck forward to check out the source of the smoke, "your toast is on fire." Mark answered my non-emotional announcement perfectly. "Hm?" he said, almost as if I'd interrupted something much more pressing, and then, "oh," as he realized what was going on. He very casually stood up, made his way to the toaster and put the fire out. He tossed the blackened toast, and promptly resumed his half of whatever conversation we'd been having. Of course, any normal person would want to scream out "FIRE! FIIIIRE!" and proceed to call 911 and wave their arms frantically until the proper authorities arrived. But that just wasn't what we were about.

 


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