Animal Empathy

Yesterday, two men somewhere – Australia? – were attacked by a Fur Seal. Watchers on the shore say it was about five feet long and weighed eighty pounds. It had leaped out of the water and bitten one of the men on the upper arm as he sat on his surf board. He paddled to shore, trailing a bloody slick, and was rushed to hospital. The other victim’s surf board was mauled, but he escaped by kicking the enraged seal in the face.

In warm surf water, with Great White sharks around, surfers are merely recreational death stats waiting to happen. But sharks are meant to attack people, Seals aren’t. Sharks take no provoking to bite a human in half; they are all innate, calm, violence. Why did a Fur Seal try to kill these men? What drove a seal to such levels of rage?

At the bus stop this morning I stood for half an hour in the light rain. Drivers smirked when they saw me. There is no experience quite like standing on your own next to queuing traffic, waiting for a bus in the rain. Car drivers think you can’t see them. You are just entertainment. To them, I am a ‘bus wanker’. And I am a failure.

Anyone on a bus is forced onto it by circumstances. We all know bus passengers are at the mercy of one or more of the following – Age, mental illness, a drink driving conviction, poverty. We have no other choice, eh. It’s this supposed knowledge that caused many of the drivers today to look my way and laugh inside.

I stepped back from the road. They all looked the same in the cars anyway: evil. They were out to take bits from me if I let them. I began to stare right back. They were an ugly bunch. Businessmen drove cars that looked the same as their shoes, van drivers stored weeks of litter on dashboards, pensioners stared anywhere but at me. The noise – engines grating, brakes squealing, shit music – roared like a jet every time the lights turned green. The traffic flowed down the hill towards me like a sewer. It had sucked these fuckers out of their houses and jammed them into the current to wherever. Whirling eddies stalled and circled opposite the box junction. Foul shit, all of them.

The answers to the Fur Seal attacks came to me as I counted out the £2.40 fare in my hand: I was experiencing the same feelings as that poor Seal. I was zapped right into its brain. The Fur Seal was sucking fishing lines and plastic in the shit-strewn effluent that used to be sweet water full of fish. It felt ripped off and was tired of grinning, idiot, humans on surf boards, in boats, on the shoreline. It had put up with the supposed Master Race for long enough. Things were going to change. Down in the deep, the Seal made a promise to itself. Silhouetted up above him against the blue sky, a fat white surfer dangled his legs over the edges of his board and shouted to his friends about the girl he fucked last night. The Seal pushed up from the seabed, gathered speed, barred its teeth. Started the pay-back.

The bus pulled up. I walked to the open door, took a step up, opened my mouth, heading for the driver…

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