Wally the black bear took his constitutional every morning, walking along the shore of Lake Wimoshee, seeking something to eat– perhaps a fish in the shallows or a bush of berries to pick.  Today, though, was going to be quite different.

Wally picked up an enticing, marine scent he had never detected before, so he raised his head and scanned the shore ahead of him. With his trained eye and hunting sense, he spotted something a hundred yards away.  His brought himself up to a quicker pace as he hurried to investigate.

As he got closer, he still couldn’t identify what it was, and the scent was stronger – a fishy, smelly, watery smell that was certainly not native to Minnesota lakes.  Closer yet, and he could see a large, lumpy creature, laying half in the water, half on the shore.  The creature was apparently unaware of Wally’s presence – it was humming to itself and slowly munching on something.  The creature made yummy sounds that displayed pleasure with its meal.  This puzzled Wally all the more.

Wally approached the creature.  “Hey, buddy!  Whatcha eatin’ there?”

The creature turned casually towards Wally.  It made a face that Wally interpreted as a smile.  It spoke to him in a voice that was half bubbles, half guttural.  “Oh hiya!  This stuff?  It’s what passes for seaweed here, I guess.  Ain’t nothin’ like I eat at home.”

“What do you mean, at home?”  Wally asked.  “Where ya from?” 

The creature was as cordial as can be. “I’m Scooter.  I’m from Florida.  I’m what they call a manatee.”

Well, Wally was up on his geography and zoology, so he knew for sure where Florida was, and he had heard of manatees, but he was confused.  What was a manatee doing in Minnesota? 
“My name is Wally.  I’m a black bear.  Now what in the world . . . ”  Before he could say any more, Scooter stopped him with a wave of a flipper.

“I know, I know.  I can see it in your face.  Why am I here?  Simple, Wally.  Had to get away from it all.  I was tired of the boats, the mangroves, the hot sun – I needed a change, so I just started up one river to the next and the next and the next, and suddenly, I’m in this nice lake.  I flop myself in the water, I take in the sun here – which is so much gentler than what I get in Florida – and I eat.  Even brought my own duffel bag of kelp.  It is so much tastier than this goop you got here in your lakes.”

Wally blinked, trying to understand.  His anxiety for is new friend increased.  “But aren’t you far away from home?  Are you sure you can get back?  I mean, geez, Scooter, the winters here aren’t anything like Florida.”

“Don’t really care – at least for now, Wally.  I’ll get back there, but I’m in no hurry. I’ll know when it’s time to go home.  But for now, I don’t care.”  Scooter slurped another piece of his kelp.  He contemplated his next bite.  “Maybe the local vegetation will taste better if I mix it with my own.”

Wally’s concern rose another notch.  “Geez, Scooter – I gotta say, I don’t understand at all.  You’re so far from home, you’re not sure when or how to get there, and you seem totally apathetic about the whole situation.  You’re one strange kinda dude, Scooter, manatee or not!”

Scooter flapped a flipper in Wally’s direction.  “It’s like my Uncle Daniel used to say.  He had two morals about life, and they fit pretty well right now. Wally, maybe you should think about them, too.  It might lighten you up some.  You sure seem uptight for a bear that sleeps all winter.”

Wally shook his head.  There was no figuring out what this guy Scooter was all about.  “And what are those two morals, Scooter? 

Scooter took in a breath, mixed his kelp with the Minnesota seaweed, picked a bit of kelp from his teeth, and stood up as much as a manatee could stand up, and said, “That’s easy.  Wally.  But for now, I gotta go get more weed on the bottom of the lake.  Wait a sec, woncha?”  Scooter slipped into the water and disappeared into the depths.  In a moment, he surfaced fifty yards out, blinking water out of his eyes as he floated on his back.  “So here it is, Wally.  Uncle Daniel’s first moral is “No matter where you go, there you are.”  The second is just as good, “If you don’t care where you are, you ain’t lost.”.

He dove again and disappeared, leaving Wally to ponder the philosophy of manatees.