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Fiction #491
(published June 17, 2010)
Seymour the Seasick Seal
by Michael Pelc
Seymour was not like other seals. Oh, he wanted to be, of course. After all, who wouldn't? Seals always look like they have so much fun the way they splash around in the ocean all day long with nothing better to do except maybe lie out on some rocks when the sun is shining and the weather is warm.

Now Seymour liked to lie out on the rocks just like all the other seals who lived off the coast of Maine back in the 1880's. It's just that the wave-splashing part of being a seal didn't appeal to him very much. Perhaps the fact that he would get seasick every time he went in the water had something to do with it.

Because he was different, the other seals teased Seymour a lot. Once, when he was lying on the rocks sunning himself and minding his own business, they splashed water all over him. Then, when he started to get sick to his stomach, they started calling him names like "Wimpy Seymour." So he ran home to tell his mother.

"Mom," said Seymour to his mother, "the other seals are teasing me again. And it's all because I can't go swimming with them—you know, on account of how I get seasick and all like that."

"Now, Seymour," said his mother, "if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times: if you can't be like everyone else, then you'll have to find a way to be yourself."

It was true. Seymour's mother had told him at least a thousand times before that he should be himself. The problem was that the only self he knew was the self that was a seal. And the only seals he knew were seals that liked to play in the ocean. He didn't know any other kinds of seals.

Then one day Seymour was reading the newspaper when he came across an article on how the President of the United States was going to commission something called "The Presidential Seal." Right away his little seal whiskers, which had been rather droopy throughout most of his life, perked up and began to quiver and bristle with excitement. Could it be that he had found another kind of seal, a kind that doesn't splash around in the water all day? A kind that doesn't have to worry about getting seasick? After all, he had seen lots of pictures of the president, a man named Rutherford B. Hayes, and he had never seen a picture of him in the water.

So Seymour packed all his belongings in a suitcase, slung it over his shoulder, blew his mother a good-bye kiss and headed for the door. But before he could reach it, he had to turn around. It seems that seals, being built the way they are, really don't have much to speak of in the way of shoulders. As a result, his suitcase had remained on the floor behind him pretty much where he had slung it to begin with.

"Try your nose," said his mother.


"Try carrying your suitcase on your nose."

"Oh," said Seymour, and he picked up his suitcase, balanced it on his nose, and started walking all the way to Washington, DC, which is a very long walk when you start out in Maine and you're a seal with really short, funny-looking legs that don't work all that well when it comes to walking, and you have to be careful about things you come across along the way like bicycles and little boys with slingshots and horses pulling great big rumbling stagecoaches. Not to mention the occasional stray dog or two, who would have liked nothing better than a meal of nice, juicy sealburger for dinner.

Several weeks later, having somehow avoided the bicycles and slingshots and stagecoaches and all the other obstacles along his way, Seymour found himself standing in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the home of the President. The one man in all the world, as far as Seymour knew, who could change his life forever. The man who could make him a Presidential Seal.

So he drew a deep breath, brushed the dust off his sealskin, waddled on up the front steps and knocked on the door.

"I'm here for the job," said Seymour when the President opened the door.

"Job? What job is that?" asked the President.

"Presidential Seal," said Seymour, just as proudly as he could.

"Oh, my," said the President, "I'm afraid that's not really a job."

"It's not a job?"

"No, I'm afraid it's more like a drawing."

"A drawing?" said Seymour, sounding very dejected. He knew, with his seal fins, that he would never be very good at drawing things. So he put his suitcase back on his nose, turned around and started waddling back to Maine.

"Hey, wait a minute," said the President. "What's that you're carrying?"

"Oh, nothing, really. It's just my suitcase, that's all."

"Yes, I see that. But HOW are you carrying it?"

"Oh, on my nose. I balance it there, you see."

"Hey, Phineas," shouted the President to someone inside the White House, "come out here and look at this!" The President's good friend, a man named Phineas T. Barnum, just happened to be visiting for the day.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Well, okay, so it isn't really history because none of what I've written here is true, except for the part about Rutherford B. Hayes commissioning the first presidential seal, but it does lead nicely into the moral of the story, which is:

When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade. Anybody can do that. Learn to balance those lemons on your nose.

Michael Pelc lives in Florida with his wife, who collects stuffed seals.

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