Jack says I'm writing a bestiary. So. Let's continue.
Beast #367: The Nutria.
Apparently this is the same thing as a coypu, which I'd already heard of.
They make nutrias by taking a beaver and whittling down the tail till it looks like a rat's. Then they dye the teeth bright orange, and that's your nutria.
They've worked their way up the coast, or maybe out from the interior, all the way to Washington. Reports conflict as to why they were brought here in the first place. It might have been as a food source. They eat them in South America. Might have been for their fur.
"What kind of fur is this?"
"Ah. Is that like a weasel or more like some kind of cat?"
"It's like a beaver, but with a skinny tail."
"You mean like a rat?"
"Well, it's somewhat larger."
"You mean like a giant rat? I don't think I want a rat coat."
It's probably why they started calling them nutrias instead of coypu.
"Coypu? That's vaguely obscene. We'll call 'em nutrias. Makes them sound nutritious. Healthful."
"What's it taste like?"
"A little like chicken, and a little like guinea pig."
You see why this never caught on.
They're running wild in Oregon, already in parts of Washington.
Nutrias are aquatic rodents, like beavers and muskrats, without the industriousness of beavers and twice the size of muskrats.
Chuck had a friend who kept one of them as a pet. It was a rescue animal. Rescued from the Coat-n-Burger, a place where you could pick your nutria from a pen at the front, then they'd skin it, make you a coat, and serve you a burger made out of the meat. A team of seamstresses and cooks worked in the back. They could turn a nutria into a burger and coat in 20 minutes. The secret is that they give you the burger to work on while they're tanning and sewing the coat.
Nobody ever questioned how they could turn a nutria the size of a basset hound into a full-length coat. The nutria has the stretchiest skin of all the rodents. It's 30% Spandex. That, and the extra from the rats in the alley. Mostly for cuffs and collars.
At any rate, Chuck's friend had a pet nutria. More or less housetrained. Nutrias will only crap in the water, so all you have to do is fill your bathtub up about halfway, and the rest is pretty much automatic.
Thing is, the nutria is also the randiest of the rodents. Chuck's friend fell asleep with her arm stretched out to the side. She woke up to find that the nutria had climbed up onto the cushions and carefully placed its dick in her outstretched hand. She stared at it for a second, and the nutria raised its eyebrows up and down. Then Chuck's friend screamed—just a little scream— and ran into the bathroom to scrub her hand with a brush and spray it with Lysol.
The nutria ran away the next day after chewing through five boxes of cereal and eating half of each one.
Your nutria swims in lakes and rivers with only its nostrils and bumps of eyes showing above the water. You'd mistake it for a floating log until it was too late. It swims from a place of concealment near watering holes and places where people come to the river's edge to bathe and wash their clothes. It swims up next to you, then before you know it you've been rogered, and the nutria is hundreds of yards away under the water.
All of the nutrias at the Coat-n-Burger were liberated one night in a lightning raid by black-clad PETA commandos. Half of them—the nutrias, not the commandos—got run over on the highway in front of the restaurant. The rest escaped to ponds and swimming pools in the neighborhood. Think about that the next time you're out sunning yourself, and keep those hands inside the deck chair.
Next time: the Reeves's munjac, or perhaps Bosman's potto.