“All right, team,” Skipper 说 into his radio. “Good work. I’m returning to HQ.”
After jumping down from atop the Zoovenir Shop, he started toward HQ after a long afternoon of surveillance. But prior to leaping into his habitat, a scream came from Marlene’s. Dropping the radio, he leapt into her habitat and dashed into her cave.
“Marlene!” he called. “What’s the trouble?”
Marlene stood on her bed, holding her Spanish 吉他 like a bat and scanning the floor.
“It was right there! I saw it!” she screamed.
Skipper, still in combat position, awkwardly scanned her habitat. There was nobody there except the frightened otter. “Saw . . . what, exactly?”
Marlene shifted as if she feared answering his 问题 更多 than what had originally frightened her.
“Uh . . .” she started, gripping her 吉他 tighter.
“Marlene?” Skipper inquired, relaxing his stance. He approached her. “Something’s obviously spooked you. What is it?”
Marlene timidly ran her paw along the neck of the guitar. “Well . . . there was . . .”
“Was . . .?” Skipper urged.
Marlene sighed, lowering her guitar. “A 蜘蛛 . . .” she admitted.
Skipper tried not to smile and cleared his throat. “A spider.”
Marlene rolled her eyes. “I don’t like spiders, okay?”
Skipper shook his head. “You don’t have to explain yourself, Marlene,” he said. “Where did it go?”
“I tried to get it myself, but then it . . . moved,” Marlene admitted quietly. “I panicked and got up here. I didn’t see where it went.”
Skipper searched the floor. “Well, it isn’t in this direct vicinity. Why don’t 你 come down from there?” he asked, offering a flipper. Marlene checked the floor over for herself before taking it and stepping down. She glanced at him and rolled her eyes as she folded her arms.
“Stop looking at me like that,” she said, looking down.
Skipper smiled. “Marlene, 你 don’t have to be embarrassed. There are a lot of people with a fear of spiders.”
“I don’t have a fear of spiders,” Marlene argued, shooting him a look. “I just don’t like how they look at me with their beady little eyes.”
“Okay,” Skipper said, holding up his flippers. “You’re not afraid of spiders. 由 the way, it’s right there.”
“Where?!” Marlene screamed as she dropped her 吉他 and jumped into Skipper’s flippers. She scanned the floor to see it devoid of spiders.
“I’m sorry, Marlene, I couldn’t resist just one,” Skipper said, laughing.
“Put me down before I strangle you,” Marlene said. Skipper set her down and she shoved him before turning away with her arms folded.
Skipper sighed and tried to meet her eye, but she turned away from him. “Marlene, I was just messing around.”
“Well, I didn’t find it very funny,” Marlene snapped. “If 你 think I’m a fool for being afraid of spiders, just say it, but don’t make fun of me.”
Skipper felt a pang of guilt and his smile faded. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. It was insensitive. And I don’t think you’re a fool.”
Marlene scoffed. “Please.”
Skipper pressed his beak shut for a moment. “Hey,” he 说 softly, “look at me. Please?” Marlene sighed and looked sideways at him. “I’m sorry.”
Marlene studied him for a moment. She sighed again. “Fine. I forgive you, but . . . 你 just don’t know how it feels to have such a trivial fear that people would make fun of 你 for if they found out 你 had it.”
She watched Skipper as he broke eye contact and studied the floor.
Marlene’s brow pinched. “Do 你 . . . ?”
Skipper folded his flippers and shifted his gaze across the room. “No.”
Marlene put her paws on her hips. “You’re lying.”
Skipper looked at her. “I am not.”
“Then look into my eyes and tell me 你 don’t have a trivial fear of something,” Marlene challenged.
Skipper put his flippers on his hips. “Fine,” he said, looking dead into her eyes as instructed. “I . . . do not have a trivial fear,” he said, looking down at the floor through the last few words.
“Ha!” Marlene exclaimed, pointing at him. “You can’t do it. What is it?”
“Classified,” Skipper said, folding his flippers.
“Come on,” Marlene urged. “You know my fear. If 你 don’t tell mine, I won’t tell yours.”
Skipper studied her for a moment. “Fine,” he said, giving in. “But only because I hold the utmost confidence in 你 that this will not leave this cave.”
Marlene traced and X over her heart. “I 交叉, 十字架 my 心 and hope to die,” she said, holding her paw up with a satisfied smile.
Skipper nodded and narrowed his eyes. “Mm-hm. Yeah, you’re cute.” Marlene snickered. Skipper rolled his eyes and took a deep breath. “I . . . have a fear of, uh . . .”
“Of . . . ?” Marlene urged.
Skipper mumbled his response.
“Oh, come on. Just say it,” Marlene persisted.
Skipper groaned and threw his head back. “It’s needles, okay?” he said, looking back to her. “I’m afraid of needles. There, I 说 it. It’s over. We’re done. End of discussion.”
“No, no, wait,” Marlene said, holding up her paws. “Needles?” she repeated, genuinely shocked. “Of all things, you’re afraid of needles?”
Skipper, his flippers still folded over his chest, stared at her bitterly.
“I’m sorry,” Marlene said, laughing. “That was just completely unexpected.”
“So is your fear of spiders,” Skipper shot back.
Marlene shrugged. “Touché.” Then her eyes widened and she looked around. “Wait, where is the spider?” she asked, suddenly realizing it was still somewhere in her cave.
Skipper’s eyes widened as he saw exactly where it was—on Marlene’s back. “Uh . . . Marlene? How ‘bout stop moving?”
Marlene froze. “W-Why?”
Without taking the time to explain, Skipper grabbed the large 蜘蛛 from Marlene’s back 由 its abdomen. “Got it.”
Marlene turned to him and her eyes locked on the spider. She gulped as it wriggled its legs.
“That was . . . on m-me?” she choked.
“Well—” Skipper started, but he didn’t even get to finish before Marlene fainted. Skipper pressed his beak shut and looked at the spider. He frowned. “You really do have beady little eyes . . .”