Sunday, October 11, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 8

The boy’s foster parents were nice-seeming elderly people with greying hair. The boy thought they stood entirely too close to each other. The elderly man seemed like he had his arm permanently around his wife’s shoulder as if she might escape one day and he needed to hold her.

They smiled a lot and spoke slowly, as if the boy couldn’t understand them. The boy could understand them, but they spoke with the kind of formal diction that the boy heard on the radio and television. The boy himself became conscious of his patois which a kind of pidgin spoken by the locals. The boy knew how to speak in the formal dialect, like he did in school, but at home he was used to slipping into pidgin. He did not want to always feel like he was at school, even when he was home.

The foster parents greeted the boy warmly. They stiffly introduced themselves and awkwardly bent down to give him faint hugs. The woman smelled of jasmine (jasminum sambac) and hibiscus (hibiscus arnottianus), which the boy liked a lot. He had never met a woman who wore perfume before. The man smelled of dust, smoke, and dry leaves. He did not like the man much.

The foster parents’ house was quite large and fancy. It was even fancier than the hotel room that he had stayed earlier with his mother’s friend. The boy felt uncomfortable in the big, clean, cool house. He had no earthly possessions except his dirty clothes, which they promptly took from him unwillingly.

They showed him the bathroom (his own bathroom!) and urged him to take a shower. They showed him the amazingly white and large cotton towels he could use to dry himself. They laid out neatly pressed and folded clothing for him to put on. They apologised too much for not knowing his size. They promised they would get him clothes that fit better once they knew what he liked.

The boy looked at the shoes they had placed on top of the neat pile of clothes and was discouraged. He had never worn shoes except on Sundays at church. So not only was every day at home a school day, he presumed, every day would be like a Sunday in a stuffy church as well.

They left him alone, naked, in the bathroom. He decided he couldn’t escape easily yet, so he went along with the charade. He tried to fiddle with the confusing faucet in the tub and couldn’t get it to come on. He spent a long time with the knobs, turning them every which way but couldn’t get the water to come out.

He called out for help and they answered almost immediately. He assumed they were listening outside the door. The kindly an showed him how to operate the shower and apologised for not showing him earlier. The boy was sick of all the niceness, but he put up with it for now until he could come up with a better plan.

The boy did not have to go to school for a while since he was only temporarily at the foster home. Their house was in the city where there was a lot of noise from cars and people moving around constantly. The boy’s room was extremely quiet at all times, and he missed the bubbling white noise of the neighbour’s tank.

The foster parents took the boy to a carnival to win the boy’s favour. The kindly man won a plush banana and gave it to the boy. The boy was so grateful that he teared up and hugged the man with genuine feeling. He clung tightly to the banana for a long time and took it with him wherever he could.

The boy ate a lot of sugary and fried foods at the carnival. When they were sitting under a tent to watch an animal show, the boy felt ill. He told the foster parents he wanted to yak. They didn’t know what he meant, but something about his body language must have indicated what he meant.

The man pointed back toward the top of the aluminium bleachers. The boy walked up and heaved the contents of his stomach over the railing. It fell quite a way and splashed noisily on the cement below. Several people turned around, but tried not to notice once they figured out what was happening.
Feeling much better, the boy trotted back and sat with his foster parents to enjoy the show. They marvelled at his candid unselfconsciousness. Even though they secretly marvelled at the boy’s nature, they feared it.

They went to a restaurant the evening after the carnival. The boy had never been in a restaurant before, that he knew of. He was confounded by the menu and having to use utensils. He had held a fork and knife before, but not ones that were made of metal and weighed so much.

After pretending to enjoy a salad and his plate was taken away, he noticed a piece of lettuce sitting in a spot of dressing on the table. He aimed his finger carefully to shoot the lettuce off the table. He flicked it so fast that he couldn’t see where it went. He immediately forgot about it.

He noticed the foster mother was reacting strangely and the foster father took a napkin to clean her face. She was shocked and offended and kept looking accusatorily at the boy. He couldn’t figure out what her problem was. He saw another piece of lettuce on the table and flicked it into the restaurant aisle. This time, he tracked its flight as it landed on a waiter’s pants as the waiter rushed by. He thought that was hilarious.

The foster father wiped down the boy’s side of the table to remove any debris. The boy thought that was being a spoil-sport.

The boy had kicked off his uncomfortable shoes underneath the table. He got up to go to the bathroom in his socks. The foster father noticed and told him to put his shoes on. They boy did so, but took them off and hid them under a booth when he turned the corner. Coming back, the boy got lost and couldn’t find the seat. The boy wandered around and went into the kitchen to see what was going on in the back where all the waiters hustled and bustled.

There was a panic in the restaurant, but fortunately the boy was reunited with the foster father who was anxiously looking for him. They went on a search for his shoes, which were now inconveniently placed under a distinguished couple’s table. The foster father apologised profusely and seemed very embarrassed. The boy was glad he got his shoes back, not to wear them, but to have them. He was not used to owning a lot of things.

The boy realised that evening in bed that he was getting used to the silence of the big house. He also noticed that he didn’t mind being clean and having new clothes to wear every day. He was becoming more human, and more “normal”, if “normal” was like the foster parents. The boy saw lots of people who walked around the city who resembled the foster parents, so he agreed, they must be normal.

After a week, the social worker showed up at the foster parents’ house and told the boy his relatives had been located. His grandparents on his mother’s side lived on the mainland and he would go live with them. The social worker explained that she would take him to the airport and he would fly in a big airplane over the ocean and meet them.

The boy didn’t understand words like “grandparents” and “guardians” very well. He only knew familial terms like “mother” and “brother”. Beyond that, these terms were a mystery. The boy asked if he had to wear shoes on the airplane. The social worker laughed and said that he did have to wear shoes all the time on the mainland. The boy was extremely upset at this news.

She asked him to get his things (the two changes of clothes in a backpack and his plush banana) and they got into her car. They drove to the airport and waited for a long time to get on the airplane. The boy was calm only because he had no idea what was going to happen. The boy was comfortable not knowing what was going to happen. He was only uncomfortable and scared when he knew what was going on.

The social worker sat with him the whole time and laid her hand on his shoulder. He felt uncomfortable with the close contact and imagined her long fingernails were talons that would dig into his skin.

As he boarded the plane he was escorted by a flight stewardess. He held her hand and walked climbed the stairs onto the DC-10. He felt strong holding his banana but his feet were still uncomfortable in the confining shoes.

As he sat buckled into his seat, the boy noticed that he hadn’t thought of himself as a dolphin recently. He was satisfied that he no longer wanted to be a dolphin. He realised he didn’t want to die. His invisible armour was thick and indestructible and he welcomed whatever would come.

Friday, October 9, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 7 part II

He walked past the library and went to school, pretending as though nothing had happened. He had become the very acme of a good student: he paid attention, answered questions, and completed his cursive copying. He could use his dominant hand again and his handwriting was legible and quick again.

He looked for Robert and Mia during recess but they could not be found. He climbed into the space between the hedge and the building. He drew a face in the dirt with a stick. He tried to draw Mia but couldn’t remember her features. He drew some lines of long hair and thought that he had captured her essence fairly well. He wiped the dusty drawing away with his hands.

It was too painful to face the fact that he was terrible artist and that he couldn’t remember what she looked like. He came out of the hedges and moped until the last bell rang.

He took the slowest route home, via the shopping centre in the back of the library, and past the park. He spent a lot of time at the Pizza Hut, but he would “play” for a little bit at the games, then exit. He would wander around the back of the grocery store, then come back.

A stranger who saw him pretending to play gave him a precious quarter. He was so grateful that tears welled up in his eyes and he wanted the man to become his father. However, the generous father figure only smiled and left. The boy took a while to decide which game he would actually play with the treasure.

He played Space Invaders because it was easier to get to higher levels. The rhythmic pulses of the levels as the aliens moved one step at a time either to the right or the left, then down was soothing at first. As it sped up to a breakneck speed and the fortresses had all been bombed out, the game became too difficult quickly and it was over.

When he was sure the employees at the Pizza Hut were eyeing him closely, he left and wandered around the park. He sat for a long time watching a little league baseball game that was being played in one of the diamonds. He found comfort in sitting near activities and people that were the same size he was. Even though he didn’t identify with humans, he found that they were tolerable. Hanging out with them was preferable to going home at least.

The images of the morning played out in his mind and he couldn’t quite decipher what they meant. He wondered what was under the sheet in the stretcher. He didn’t wonder who was under the sheet because he would have to have guessed who it was. Instead, he pretended it was the sandwich rotting in his desk drawer, or perhaps a broken piece of glass or a mirror that was being carried into the ambulance.

He wondered who the woman was who held his brother protectively by the shoulder. He wondered, too late, what his brother was doing and where he was. This led naturally to him trying to recall where he had left the vampire blade. He would need to make new ones with Robert, he decided. He rubbed his rabbit’s foot unconsciously.

Dark clouds had formed and it was quite late. The baseball game broke up and the boy found himself alone in the darkening valley. A rain storm that was much heavier and later than the afternoon showers had moved in. The sky opened up and the boy realised why the park had become deserted so quickly.

He trudged home in the rain and rivers of water running down the streets. He stepped on something sharp and his foot bled. He stopped at a street lamp and examined the cut. It was small and his feet were tough from not wearing shoes, so he hobbled on.

He was glad it was dark when he passed by the house with the pagodas and koi pond. He relished the idea of the fish living under water, unaffected and uncaring about the rain pouring above them. To them, all was tranquil and smooth. He knew that it would be soon, very soon, when he would join his fellow dolphins in the sea. He would rest under the ocean calm and serene while the skies above and the people on earth raged on impotently.

His home was dark when he approached cautiously. He didn’t see any policemen or ambulances, but he could never be too careful. They might be hiding to catch him. Under the cover of the dark and rain, he snuck into the back yard and came in through the back door. The house was completely empty and silent.

He made a mayonnaise and bologna “wich” and munched it in the dark. He drip-dried standing in the kitchen. He went to the living room when he was finished and listened on the party-line. There weren’t any conversations, however, and it was too depressing to find out the time from the lady who repeated it so exactingly.

He was starting to see the world as more and more dreary. His world view was beginning to expand, and he was realising more things and seeing connections everywhere. His view was expanding and the world was shrinking. He was scared. Instead of sharks, he imagined vampires that looked like his brother coming from the shadows.

He went to bed and covered himself under his sheets. The sound of the tanks was comforting, but not enough to calm him completely. He tried keeping his body exceedingly still until he couldn’t help but fidget and turn. Then he would try to keep his legs straight and point his toes up until this muscles burned and he had to relax them. He believed he could work out a deal with an unknown force that if he stayed still long enough, he could have his mother and brother back, and everything would go back to the way it was.

The way that it was had been bad too, but at least he hadn’t been as scared of what was going on. The adults all seemed to know what was happening and how everything was. They talked to each other in strange sentences which he could parse the words, but not understand the meanings. They had a secret way of passing information and knowing everything. He wanted to know everything.

He started awake with a jerk and panic: he didn’t know where his vampire knife was. He was too afraid, so he had to stay under the sheets for a long time. His heart beat loudly and his breath was ragged from the nightmare. He listened intently to all the sounds around the house. He reasoned that it was better to die than to wait around for his transformation into a dolphin. He was too fearful to go to sleep and stayed up until the light brightened imperceptibly by degrees.

He went out in the dawn and walked through the thick fog that covered the whole mountainside. The white mist was so dense that he could barely see the chain-link fence in front of Mia’s house. The boy enjoyed the anonymity of the fog and walked toward the trivium, even though he couldn’t see it. He didn’t know that the risk of inheriting schizophrenia from a single parent diagnosed with it is a little more than ten per-cent, and with both parents is nearly fourty per-cent.

He turned around before he reached the trivium and walked back to Robert’s neighbour’s house. He opened the door and poked his head in. He listened for a while at the front door and finally entered quietly. He sat in the recliner and rested for long time until he could see the sunlight outside the windows.

He was getting hungry so he skip-walked to school and snuck into the cafeteria in the middle of the recess breakfast. He took three small hotdogs from discarded trays in the trash and ate them. He grabbed a coffeecake square from some kid’s tray as they turned their back.

He lived in this way for several days until the weekend. He established a routine of sleeping in his house after dark and going to school during recess and lunch to eat, then staying in the park or the shopping centre until late.

The weekend was the hardest because the school wasn’t open and there wasn’t any food in the refrigerator. He considered going to the woman’s house with the koi pond, but decided against it. Her house was too fancy and he didn’t want to make a mess.

He made a fatal mistake on Monday by going to class. The teacher cast worried looks at him and he knew he was busted. However, he thought he could pretend like nothing was happening and act casual until she would not notice him anymore. He rubbed his rabbit’s foot for good luck.

An assistant to the principal came in and called him by name. Not his Usagi name, he noticed, and knew that meant he was in trouble. He was escorted to the principal’s office and wondered how many swats on the bottom he would get from the paddle.

Instead of the paddle, the boy spent a long time sitting in silence in front of the principal’s desk. The man seemed nervous and distracted. He pulled out a few slender jars of medication from a drawer. He used a letter opener to chop some of the pills in half on a book. The principal sighed and cast worried glances at the boy over the top of his large glasses. Finally, he gathered the broken pieces of pills and shovelled them into his mouth, drowning them down with a glass of water.

They stared at each other for several long minutes. The principal asked the boy some questions, which the boy only nodded, shook his head, or mumbled answers to. The principal asked the boy where he’d been the past week, and the boy answered with half-truths about having played baseball, flying kites, and building forts in another country.

The principal listened and seemed to run out of questions to ask. A woman came in and sat down on a chair next to the principal. The principal introduced the woman as a social worker from the state. The social worker smiled and introduced herself. She asked similar questions to the ones the principal had asked and the boy answered. He was over his initial nervousness, however, so his answers were more embellished and exciting this time.

The social worker woman asked the boy if he knew that his mother had died. The boy was shocked and slumped in his chair. He had to confront an idea that he had been dodging for a week, namely that he could not find any signs of his mother or brother in the house this whole time. He had thought that he had grasped the situation of the world, and knew how everything worked. He was disappointed and upset that he had been blindsided by something that he should have known.

The social worker woman handed the boy several tissues, which he was grateful for. The principal seemed very uncomfortable and kept making coughing noises and shifting in his seat. The boy stopped sobbing after a while and asked if he were in trouble and if he would get the paddle.
Both adults were surprised and immediately moved to comfort him. The social worker took him out of the office and told him she would take him to a “foster home”. The boy didn’t know what that was, but nodded as if he did. She said that he wouldn’t be able to stay with his brother yet, due to “limitations” with the “fosters”.

The boy told the social worker that he did not mind being away from his brother since he was a vampire anyway and they were not related. The social worker was shocked and frowned. She took the boy to her car and told him they were going to drive a bit of a way to the “foster home”. The boy got into the car apprehensively and looked around him one last time.

The boy would learn later in life that change was violence. Change was inevitable. And therefore, violence was inevitable. He learned that fighting never accomplished anything, so he didn’t fight. When life asked him if he wanted beef, he would decline and ask for chicken. Death was also inevitable, and so death was just change. It was also violence, of course. The boy would wish for death but it only came slowly, dallying in front of him like Christmas.

He waved goodbye to the valley as it receded out the back of the car window. He bade farewell to everything he knew and bravely faced forward. He tried not to cry, not because he was brave, but because he had to ration his tissues and did not want to run out. He reused the tissues as much as possible but ran out of squares anyway. He used up all the tissues and then began wiping his nose on his sleeves.

He farted a long plaintive note, like the opening bassoon in The Rite of Spring. This is the sound a heart makes when it breaks: the wind whipping by the car window, a fart of moist, stinking air, and an outburst of grief.


I think the dolphin was you, dad.
No, they were dolphins.
I said, I don’t understand.
Here is what it means. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t there. It was someone else. They were dolphins.

Chapter 8

Thursday, October 8, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 7, Part I

The boy woke up in Alani’s house. Her house was appointed with a tropical Asian fusion motif. He had slept surprising well in the Star Wars sheets. The house was very cool and pleasant, almost cold, with an invisible air conditioning system. He was surprised and delighted when she presented him with a hot breakfast of scrambled eggs and breakfast sausage.

He felt like her house was more like a hotel room, although he had never been in one. He had seen hotels on television and had heard about how nice hotels were. So he imagined how a hotel room would seem, and then attached his experiences in her nice house to being in a hotel room. He associated all of the fancy things in her house as being fabulously wealthy: air conditioning, toilet paper hanging from a dispenser on the wall, towels folded neatly and laying in baskets in the bathroom, and curtains over all the windows.

After breakfast, he decided he would take off his sling. The doctor had said he only needed it for a few days. The television was on in the living room so he sat in a comfortable recliner and watched an episode of Wheel of Fortune. Alani came out and asked him how he was feeling. He nodded. On the screen, a puzzle phrase was listed with some letters and blanks that needed to be filled in.

O_T  O_  T_ _  _ L _ _

The boy spoke clearly, saying the solution and Alani started. She looked at the boy and marvelled at his intelligence. She was about to correct him for guessing too soon, but happy music and bright ringing tones blared from the television. The boy was correct.


She marvelled more at how he had figured it out and wondered what else he knew, even though he acted like a complete space cadet most times. She told the boy it was time to go to school. She asked him if he needed a ride to school. He declined because he preferred to walk.

He jumped up and solved another puzzle as he nearly ran out of the door.


He moved quickly up the street toward his house. He was suddenly impelled by a guilty feeling to return home. He had been living in the lap of luxury while his other had probably been lonely all night. He also wondered what had happened to his brother.

As he rounded the corner near his house and descended the incline, he saw pair of police cars and an ambulance with its lights flashing in front of their driveway. He walked casually on the other side of the street as if that wasn’t his house.

Two men lifted a stretcher covered with a white sheet down the stairs in the front of the house. There were two red straps that held something down firmly on the stretcher. The boy slowed down to watch as the stretcher was set down at the bottom of the steps. It was then wheeled down the driveway and loaded into the back of the ambulance.

The boy grabbed his rabbit’s foot and rubbed it for good luck. He saw a woman standing on the grass, holding his brother by the shoulders. She was the babysitter, he guessed. His brother made a gesture to wave at him, but the boy raised his index finger to his lips to tell his brother to be quiet. He didn’t want to get arrested by the police. The boy pointed down the street to indicate his direction and where to meet. His brother seemed to agree.

The boy tried to walk as if nothing was happening until he was a safe distance away, near the trivium. The boy did not know that a fatal dose of arsenic was approximately one milligram per kilogram per day, and that women most commonly commit suicide by poisoning. He started to run pas the trivium the same way he raced away from the pool with sharks chasing him.

He ran down the hill to where the sidewalk started. He was out of breath by then and so he walked. The dump had lost all interest to him. He saw only a pile of twisted junk and unimportant trash. He turned left and walked to the bridge over the stream. He inspected each nook in the bridge carefully to find an egg or other magical object. He rubbed his rabbit’s foot furiously but nothing happened. He didn’t find anything on the bridge.

There was no magic, and no luck either.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 6, part III

When it was too dark to see very far into the trees, he ventured back to the shack and sat on the edge of an overturned metal tub. There was light and smoke coming from the shack, but he did not dare enter. When the woman came out, she seemed surprised to see the boy there, then caught herself and smiled. She took off a white apron and the silvered oven mitts she was wearing.

The walked back down the steep path in the deepening darkness until they got back to the car. It had rained lightly and the top of the convertible was down. The woman said that the car was probably full of water. She said that when the car doors opened, water would pour out and the fishes inside would flap and writhe on the ground. The boy believed her and tried to peek over the top of the window to see the water inside the car.

He opened the car door gingerly and was disappointed when water and fishes did not pour out onto the ground. It was obvious to the boy that adults lied, but he thought that strangers he didn’t know might not lie as much. He was wrong.

She drove the boy to her house and told him to stay the night. She said his mother wasn’t feeling well and needed to be alone. The woman said she had Star Wars sheets. The boy agreed to stay because he was excited about the sheets. But the real reason he agreed was because he was scared to go home. He was surprised to see that she lived at the house with the pagodas and koi. He stared at the pile of concrete and metal in the empty lot next to her house and remembered his prediction about an exploding spaceship.

The boy briefly wondered what his mother was doing. After he had left her on the couch, the boy’s mother swallowed the last of the toxic mixture she had created. She dialled her dealer and business partner, Alani. Alani had come over as soon as she heard. Alani had told the boy’s mother that the Korean was no good and not worth the air he breathed.

The mother waved all that away weakly. She had only a little bit of time. She asked Alani to take the boy somewhere safe while she moved the Korean out. Alani agreed and said she would call later the next day.

The boy’s mother had been born very ill. She was very intelligent, as evidenced by her advanced degrees and current studies. She was in medical school and only needed one more semester of study to graduate with her M.D. She had actually planned for an event of this magnitude. The voices that had always spoken to her in her head had told her to plan for such events, because one never knew what would happen.

She had access to arsenic in the school laboratory and had gathered eight milligrams in a small Ziploc bag. The voices had whispered for a long time in the background, conferring with each other about the correct dosage. The voices knew everything she knew, and they had guessed that four milligrams would work. But she had doubled it to be sure.

They knew that she was taking a larger dose than they had asked for, but that was what they had planned all along. They knew everything she knew, so there was no fooling them. Only one of the voices dissented. She knew which voice that was. It was the voice that had always protected her children. The two times that she had held her youngest son in the bath and the loudest, most obnoxious voices had urged her to drown the rat. The little calmer voice had won out and saved the little boy.

However, in this case, the loud voices were correct and the mother knew that she would follow what they told her. She had had enough of this world and life. She was fed up with all of the strange attention from men, and their constant prodding, grabbing, and digging with their fingers. If they just asked nicely, she would be glad to oblige, but they never did.

She was also disgusted with the expense and hassle of her two useless children, more worthless even than the men who impregnated her. And if she had only had a girl baby, she might have lived to raise it. As it was, she knew that she had raised, by gross neglect, resilient monsters. They would be fine. Especially the oldest one who spouted nonsense about being a dolphin and how he was going to live in the sea.

The voices clamoured loudly during the car accident. She had ignored them. They yelled and abused her when the Korean had hit her and her boy when they danced in the living room. She had nearly given in and done it then. She sent the boys out for the whole day to give her time to take action. The only thing that had saved her was a pre-existing study session and vivisection practice that she had arranged in her house. By the time they were done smoking from the hookah and cutting the cat brains, the children had come home.

The voices were disappointed and they yelled at her and called her names. She didn’t care what they said, and she told them so. They retreated for a while and plotted revenge. They fed her poison about the Korean, her boys, her friends, her degree, and her status. She couldn’t bear to hear them anymore and she would yell at anybody around her to try to quiet them. She yelled at the Korean until he snapped and could nearly have broken her back.

The voices were smug and asked if she would finally take part in the medicine they needed. They knew that she knew what they knew, but they were better at hiding things than she was. She had agreed and mixed the scotch with the white metal. It didn’t dissolve, but she swirled it around and drank as much as she could. The voices were obsequious, needy.

The boy had come out with his ridiculous piece of paper and worthless book. She was supposed to feel better about a half-hearted attempt at a gift. The voices were offended. They shouted down the saviour voice, they even wrestled physically to shut the voice down. They demanded that the plan go through, the boy was just playing tricks with the written scrawl and tears.

She took the last gulp in front of the boy, as a symbol, a sign, a sigil that he would remember her and she would remember him. She had gotten the boys out of the house, the younger one was with a baby sitter during the day, and the older one was with Alani. The Korean wouldn’t be back for a few days.
The arsenic worked slowly, too slowly. Even the voices were doubtful. She knew that they were afraid. She knew that this was how she gained control of them. The parasites needed the host to survive, and she had attempted suicide a few times over the years to scare them, force them to leave her alone. She knew that they knew what she knew, but maybe she knew how to hide some things as well.

She was elated at their fear. She laughed at them. She even tried to laugh out loud. It hurt to do so. Her neck was sore and didn’t move much. Her eyes didn’t focus well and pointed in different directions. She nearly vomited and forced it down. She must not let the precious arsenic out. Some of it burbled up in her mouth and dripped on her chin anyway. She coughed.

The pain was intense and lightning flashed across the sky behind her eyelids. She jerked at the bright lights. Her arm swung and knocked the thick tumbler to the ground where it shattered. The coroner would make a note of the glass and would have it tested. She staggered unevenly to the bathroom. She filled a tub with scalding water.

Without even bothering with her clothes, she climbed in and soaked in the rising water. Darkness like clouds formed in her vision and moved in wandering circles. Lighting flashed again between the clouds. A light rain came in though a widow over the tub. The cool mist was refreshing on her face, flushed with the hot water.

The voices had stopped.

She slipped under the water briefly and jerked awake as if waking from a dream where one is falling uncontrollably.

She slipped under the water again and tried to smile, but it hurt. She winced and her eyes fluttered in the bright flashes of lightning.


Don’t cry, little one. Nothing that is true can be sad.

Chapter 7

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 6, part II

When they got home, the harangue continued in the living room, the kitchen, and the bedroom. The boy sat frozen on the couch, unsure how to escape. He still wore the sling and was told he couldn’t play outside for several days. But listening to the argument was frightening and he wanted to leave.

The Korean finally stood up for himself and demanded answers to some question that seemed important. The boy didn’t know what the Korean was referring to about “trust” and being a “tramp”. The boy knew that the Tramp was a cocker spaniel, but didn’t know how it related to the argument. His mother seemed fearful about this last line of questioning and she threatened the Korean over the terms.

The argument had reached a fevered pitch on both sides. The boy got off the couch and hid under the table in the living room. From below the table, he could see the legs of the adults, alternately facing, spinning, and sparring each other. His mother turned finally to go to the kitchen and the Korean, who had been pacing back and forth, decided that yes, yes, it was time for violence.

The Korean executed a Tae Kwon Do kick to his mother’s back and watched her fall to the ground in front of him. Her head had twisted so her face looked to the sky and her arms formed chicken-like wings at her side. She collapsed on the ground and the Korean moved forward.

The boy darted out without thinking and extracted his vampire bark blade. He held it above his head in defiance. The Korean looked at the “blade” and slapped the boy’s hand so hard he lost sensation. The bark flew across the room and the boy stood defenceless in front of the Korean beast, who snorted and twitched. His fists worked through the air, trying to lock onto a target.

Finally, the Korean left and slammed the screen door. The boy turned to the heap on the floor and tried to find her arms. He gently pulled at her to get her up, but she was inconsolable. She lay on the floor crying as if she wanted to stay there forever. The boy ran to his room and wracked his brain to find something that could help.

His mother liked books, perhaps he could give her a copy of Secret Under the Sea, featuring a boy and dolphin on the cover. It was his most treasured possession, but he would be willing to give it to his mother. He needed to wrap it, though.

He opened the roll-cover on his desk and found the homework from a while ago. He shoved it aside and took a piece of paper out from a stack of blank sheets. He searched for a pencil and opened the top drawer. He found a fuzzy bed of grey-green mould growing on a white and black bed of squishy material. That was what happens to sandwiches and milk, he noted.

He found a pencil in another drawer and thought of what to write.

i luve you mom

He wrapped the book awkwardly with the sheet of paper that didn’t quite cover the paperback and took it to the living room. He was triumphant with his success. His mother sat on the couch holding a large glass tumbler of brown liquid. Her legs were folded under her. Her head bobbed up and down as if it were unsure of where it should hang.

The boy offered his gift to her and she took it and read the writing. She wept silently and hid her face behind her arms. The boy cried too, suddenly realising he hadn’t been crying yet. He leaned over the couch to hug her and she gripped his neck so hard he almost yelped. Her hot breath and sloppy snot landed on his shoulder.

He pulled away involuntarily and asked if she was okay. She shook her head and finished off her drink in one big gulp. She waved the boy away and he retreated outside. He sat on a branch of the plumeria tree waiting for something to happen. He tried not to cry, but couldn’t stop. He cried until he was aware he was crying, and he was aware that the crying wasn’t genuine anymore.

A convertible car with the top down drove up and parked in the driveway The lady with the seeds came up and waved at the boy. She came up to him and tried to smile at him. She said his mother had called. She asked if his mother were okay. The boy nodded but his hitching chest and wet face belied the motion.

She nodded with compassion and reached out to pat his shoulder. He instinctively pulled back because he knew his shoulder with the sling would hurt. She noticed the sling and switched hands to pat his other shoulder. He was grateful for the gesture.

The went inside for a few minutes then came back out. She breezily told the boy to come with her. They were going to have a fun time together. The boy was hesitant but something about the woman was comforting and confident. He nodded and walked to the car. She opened the passenger door and he sat down. This was the first time he had ridden in a convertible and was excited to look around and feel the wind on his face.

His mood lightened considerably as the woman drove deep into the back of the valley. The roads narrowed until the car could barely get by the cars parked on either side. Eventually, the pavement stopped and the car drove along a bumpy and muddy road. The lady pulled over under a canopy of trees where the path ended.

They got out and the lady told the boy they were going to a special place. But the boy couldn’t tell anyone where they were going, she told him. It was a secret place they could hang out and be safe with friends. The boy liked being safe, so he agreed. She instructed him that they would hike for a bit. He was not to step on any plants or break any branches, for they didn’t want to have anyone follow them. The boy nodded. The lady impressed upon him the fact that this was secret and safe and no one should find out. He nodded again.

The boy assured her that dolphins know how to keep secrets. In fact, even when they go eee eee eeek eeek, nobody knows what they are saying. The lady agreed without seeming to understand.

They hiked up the side of a mountain path for a while before they turned uphill where the climb became quite steep and there was no path. The boy’s arm hurt but he couldn’t move it because the sling restricted him. He stepped on some ferns and the woman chastised him for breaking the plants. She rearranged the leaves to make it less obvious that it had been broken and led him by his good hand to help him up the steep incline.

They came through some trees to a clearing with a ramshackle hut made out of spare pieces of wood and tin. All around the hut, there were various old pieces of rusting metal and wood piles. In the middle of this mishmash of stuff was a white bathtub and the boy immediately went to it. Unfortunately, it was filled with black sludge and mud.

The woman told the boy to play for a while and he agreed. He had never been this far back in the valley, nor this high up the mountain, so he was intrigued by the area. The woman disappeared inside the hut. The boy busied himself investigating the trees and detritus in the yard.

He forgot about his surroundings for a few hours and self-medicated on some lychee (litchi chinensis) and carob (ceratonia siliqua) trees he found nearby. He decided this place would be great to come visit and play, if he could remember how to get here.

After ingesting the fruit, a large pressure developed in his bowels and pushed against his bottom. He searched for a spot to defecate and decided the best place was the bathtub in front of the shack. The boy sat on the edge of the tub with his bottom hanging over the tub and dropped a huge pooh into the tub. The stench was incredible and the boy was immediately ashamed of the disgusting mess.

He hoped and prayed that no one would notice his poop but the smell was unmistakable and spread out over a large area. He tried some magical incantations and made special wishes with his fingers crossed. Nothing hid the smell or made the pooh go away. The boy decided there was no such thing as magic. There was only poop on the tub that everyone could smell and see.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 6 part I

He kept trying to move his arm even though it was caught in a sling. His elbow hurt from keeping it bent. He was glad to get out of the van when they got home. Mia helped him walk up the steps and even helped him climb into his bunk bed. She waved goodbye and left. His mother came in later with a foul-smelling poultice for his shoulder.

He felt much better laying down. He blew spit bubbles to pass the time and began to think of Mia. A familiar sensation occurred in his private area. He fiddled with his penis with his good arm to try to make it stop. He masturbated for a while until he ejaculated nothing but puffs of air. The boy didn’t know this was the first of close to two thousand pointless and disappointing orgasms in his life.
He fell asleep and had nightmares of vampires riding bicycles and white cars running over small animals. He woke up sweating and restless several times during night.


Do dolphins really have clavicles?
Sure they do, look it up.
This is a sad story, Dad.
I know.

Chapter 6

The next day, the Korean boyfriend drove him to school. As they drove past the trivium, the Korean told the boy that the sun was ninety three million miles from earth on average. The boy didn’t know how far that was and asked. The Korean explained that it takes light eight and a half minutes to travel that far, and light is the fastest thing there is in the universe. The boy pretended to be impressed even though he was suspicious. Dolphins were faster, the boy was sure.

The Korean admitted that he was impressed with the boy’s surviving a car accident. He thought that this was how a real man was made: by bumps, bruises, and broken bones. The Korean congratulated the boy no less than three times.

The boy got out of the car near the school and met several students who fawned over his sling. He had to explain what had happened several times to everyone who came up to him. After a few retellings, the whole story had become very epic and his fellow students, even the older ones, were suitably awed by the boys adventures.

He met Robert in the breezeway and told the story of the bike and car. Robert was amazed. Robert had news of his own: he had been transferred to another classroom because of the incident with Mia. The boy expressed his disappointment, but Robert did have two good things to share. The first was that he wanted the boy to have his lucky rabbit’s foot. Robert had a second rabbit’s foot at home and he wanted the boy to have one since the day they had held onto it tightly together. The boy dolphin accepted it and snapped it to his shorts.

The second bit of news was revealed when Robert produced a pair of bark vampire blades from his pocket. His eyebrows raised above his wire-rimmed glasses and the boy cried out in amazement. Robert had taken the blades to a special place to perform an even more secret and special incantation on them. This made the blades even more suitable for killing vampires.

The boy took a blade and put it in his pocket. The first bell rang and they separated, promising to meet up at recess. In the classroom, the children’s regular teacher was back. She seemed to be in a good mood and didn’t mention her apparent breakdown nor her absence. She did notice the boy’s sling and asked how he was. He told the story again for the class and everyone was sympathetic and cordial.

During class the boy had a lot of difficulty writing with his hand, so he switched to his off-hand. This made his bad handwriting even worse, so he slowed down to a snail’s pace. The children were supposed to copy twenty spelling words onto line sheets of paper. The boy’s disability caused him to only finish about five or six words in the allotted time.

At recess, news of the boy’s adventure had spread and he was the equivalent of a war hero. He was a compassionate and humble leader and pretended to be embarrassed by all the attention.

After school, the Korean boyfriend and his mom were in the parking lot to pick him up. He was disappointed because he enjoyed the freedom of wandering the streets unsupervised. His mood was made even worse when he could sense tension inside the car between the adults.

During the car ride, his mother continued her tirade against the Korean. She complained that he didn’t have a job to provide for her school expenses, money to fix her car, and the kids’ hospital bills (the boy’s face flushed). She continued pointing out deficiencies, even jabbing with the fact that this car was borrowed. The car actually belonged to the Korean’s mother. Apparently, the Korean also lived in a flat with his parents. The Korean never spoke through the tirade, but the boy could see his wiry moustache quivering.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 5, part III

He was nearly able to master the bike by this time. His brother trotted behind him a long way whenever the boy rode the bike for a few hundred metres. They passed the house with the koi and pagodas and stopped to look at the large colourful fish.

The brothers separated at the sward and the boy fish on his bicycle rode along the asphalt pathway to the tennis courts. The courts were a perfect place to practice riding. They were completely flat, smooth, and offered a fence for easy launching and balance. After forty laps around the courts, the boy could ride a complete circuit without stopping.

Two men had been playing tennis when the boy had rode up and started practicing. They were clearly annoyed with him after such a long time. The boy thought their annoyance was amusing and resolved to continue riding in circles around the courts until they said something to him. The men never said anything to him, however, they simply hid their disgust and eventually quit playing. One of the men called out to the boy as he was riding past, asking if the boy oughtn’t be home by now.

The boy took that was a fortuitous sign and left the courts to ride the pathway back to the middle of the park. The boy couldn’t find his brother. He was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that he could easily ride the bike and tell it where he wanted to go. He was an expert biker now. He tried to do a bunny-hop, mimicking how older kids hopped their BMX bikes. The boy only succeeded in throwing himself off his bike, but luckily landed on the grass to the side of the path and was unhurt.

Chastised, he learned his lesson and had to run-hop-skip next to his bike to start riding again. He rode along the streets next to the park and followed the stream toward the shopping centre. This was similar to riding down the streets in front of his home, so he was very comfortable and was able to sail down the street a long way without stopping.

He reached the intersection before the shopping centre and was unsure what to do at the intersection. He was an expert pedestrian, but did not know the rules for bicycles. He knew to look for the red hand (don’t walk) or the green person (walk). But from the street, the signals looked different. He stopped riding and walked his bike up onto the sidewalk.

He walked to the corner and oriented himself as a pedestrian. This was much better and he knew what to do now. However, the sidewalk did not have a ramp to go down. So he rode back three car lengths on the sidewalk to use a driveway to go to the crosswalk. As he rolled helplessly down the incline, his feet couldn’t find the pedals. A car screeched near him and he turned the handlebars in annoyance.

He still couldn’t find the pedals, and suddenly he was thrown to the pavement. He wasn’t aware of any pain, but he did land heavily on his shoulder and cracked his head on the pavement. He sat up and climbed out from under his bike. A white car loomed above him. He didn’t know it was a Toyota Camry with the high front end that had pushed him forward rather than scooped him over the hood.

He was able to stand, which he took as a good sign. He noticed that the front wheel of his bike was twisted like a folded pancake. The gravity of the situation was beginning to dawn on him. He could hear some distant noises like bells ringing or bees buzzing. He covered his ear with one hand and found that he had a hard time lifting his other hand to his head.

Traffic stopped and people rushed to see what had happened. The driver of the Corolla came out and asked he was okay. The boy nodded, he was trying to pick up his bike, but it was wedged beneath the bumper of the car. Someone pulled him back and told him to sit on the sidewalk in the shade. He kept repeating that he was fine, but that he wanted his bike.

A siren approached and an ambulance pulled up. Two EMTs in blue outfits sat down with him. They checked his eyes, felt along his neck and sides. They asked him who he was and how to contact his parents. He didn’t want to tell them his name, and especially did not want them to tell his mother. He told them he wanted to go back home.

They asked him if anything hurt. He grabbed his shoulder on side that fell, and they pressed him in several spots where he cried out. They nodded to each other and pulled out the stretcher from the back of the ambulance. The boy was ecstatic to take a ride in the ambulance and delighted to get into the stretcher. They strapped him in and loaded him into the back.

A helpful person brought the twisted metal of the bike to the ambulance, and unsure what to do, the EMTs loaded it in next to the stretcher. The boy was absolutely thrilled. He would be able to have an adventure in an ambulance and then come home with the bike as if nothing had happened.

At the hospital, the EMTs transferred the boy to a hospital bed and left the bicycle outside at the entrance. A doctor came to see him and asked the boy the same questions the EMTs had. He finally revealed who he was and repeated a string of numbers he had been taught to memorise. He knew vaguely that it was an address and phone number, but the details were lost on him.

The doctor smiled and said that his name was the same. The boy didn’t believe him. The doctor asked the boy his birthday and the boy told him. The doctor smiled more broadly and said that was his birthday as well. The doctor joked that they might be twins. The boy was absolutely livid. There’s no way the doctor could have the same name and birthday. They didn’t look anything alike and the doctor was obviously much older than the boy.

The doctor chuckled and assured him that they shared the same birthday but not the same year. The boy wasn’t sure how that worked, but he calmed down somewhat. The doctor left and the boy was alone for a while. He rested comfortably on the hospital bed and decided this was the best place to come for a death, if he were mortally wounded. The walls were perfectly white and everything was completely clean.

He was used to walking and playing in dirt and mud, with trash and filth on every side. He was a bit disappointed, if he was honest, that he hadn’t suffered a death blow from the car. It might be easier to die than to face the fact that he had ruined his new bike and was going to get in trouble for that. He only hoped that they would let him out of the hospital so he could get home before it was too dark and his mom got suspicious.

The doctor returned and remembered the boy’s name. That was a convenient trick to fool the boy into believing the story about having the same name, he decided. The doctor told the boy he would need to take an X-ray of his shoulder and they had already gotten permission from his mother.

The boy paled visibly and the doctor was kind. He explained that his mother was obviously upset, but glad that her son was alive and unharmed. The boy didn’t believe any of it, and hoped the doctor was just trying to scare him. The doctor explained that boy probably had a fractured bone in his shoulder and they needed to see inside the bone to find out how serious it was.

The boy had heard about X-rays and had been taught to be very afraid of them. His mother had explained how bad X-rays were since she was a medical student. She had said that they were, in fact, evil, and made by the devil. The boy asked the doctor if they were made by the devil. The doctor laughed and said they were not.

The boy next asked a strange question, but one which the reader will understand. The boy asked if dolphins have bones as well. The doctor was confused, but answered that they did. Dolphins were mammals too, like humans.

The boy knew that, and he knew what mammals were. Dolphins gave birth to live young, and they had hair on their noses when they were young. The doctor beamed when he heard this, he said the boy was very bright and his mother must call him “son”. The boy agreed, failing to see the pun.

The boy then asked if they looked inside his bones with the X-ray machine, would they also see if there were any dolphin bones inside him. The doctor was still confused but answered that there were no dolphin bones inside him. In fact, the boy would be able to look at the pictures they took for himself.

The boy learned a new word that the doctor slipped out “clavicle”, and he learned that dolphins have one too. So the boy confirmed that he was a dolphin once and for all from a real doctor who had examined him. The case was closed and he felt that a lot of his life was explained easily now.

He rested back on the bed and was surprised when his mother came in, followed by the four men he had seen earlier in the car, also the pastor and even Mia. They all came in to give him the best wishes for his recovery. He was embarrassed with the attention and tried to shrug off the concern they expressed. He had some pain in his shoulder when he shrugged however, and everyone told him to lay still and not move until the doctors were finished with him.

Mia gave him a folded piece of paper. She had drawn a get well card on the way to the hospital. It was drawn on the same sheet he had typed his love confession. She had drawn a large heart around the words and also two stick figures holding hands. He was nearly in tears at that and tried to explain that he was in a lot of pain, that was why he was crying.

She gave him a gentle hug the bed and the boy quickly wiped his eyes with his good hand. Everybody left when the doctors came in to wheel him to the X-ray. He lay down on a hard table with an uncomfortable metal plate under his shoulder. He was covered from the neck down with a lead cape. Everyone evacuated the room as he was told to stay completely still. A buzzing noise indicated X-rays were flooding his body and then the noise stopped. He was wheeled back to the room and his mother came back to check on him.

She was tearful and maudlin. She said she never wanted to lose him. She explained that he was the first born, the most important. She said that she didn’t know what to do without him, if he had been hurt seriously or killed, she might never have been able to survive. That was a heavy load for the boy to bear but he understood at some level she was trying to comfort him.

She further explained that he was not alone, that everyone cared for him, as he saw, everyone came by and was concerned and loved him. He didn’t believe all of that but he did nod. He didn’t really believe the four men and the pastor cared much about him. There was some strange smell on her breath and she slurred her words a little bit.

She continued and said that she knew some homemade remedies for broken bones. She would be able to heal him as soon as he got out of the hospital with their dangerous “medications” and X-rays. The boy asked if she was a doctor, didn’t she want to work in a hospital? She answered that she was learning about “Western” medicine so that she could practice more traditional “healing arts” based on “Eastern philosophy” but that she needed the information that the “institutions” could provide to come up with her own methods.

The boy had no idea what most of that meant, but he nodded. The doctor came back and explained that there was a slight fracture of the clavicle, but there was nothing serious, and the boy could go home with simple sling. The boy asked to see his bone pictures, and the doctor showed him on a lighted box on the wall. He pointed out the fracture, although it was difficult to see anything intelligible at all. The doctor prescribed Tylenol for pain and bed rest for two days. His mother lectured the doctor on the dangers of acetaminophen and told him she didn’t need his toxins entering her son’s body.

The doctor shrugged and left. As the nurse came in to discharge the boy, the noticed that he was limping as they walked down the hall. She asked the boy what was wrong and the boy said his toe hurt. He pointed to the pinkie toe and it was definitely swollen. His mother was upset that he hadn’t said anything and the nurse told him he should have spoken up earlier. The boy tried to explain that it hadn’t bothered him until now when he had started to walk.

After a lengthy round of checking the pinkie toe and another X-ray (which his mother was visibly upset about), the toe turned out to be perfectly fine. The boy was released once again.
In the lobby, the forlorn bicycle lay in one corner. The pastor was waiting with Mia and he lifted the bike into the back of the VW van. The pastor said this was the second time he had helped them with a car accident, and the boy suddenly realised why everyone had come: his mother’s car was broken from the previous accident and she had needed a ride. So he confirmed for himself that their concern was false.

The adrenaline and excitement was wearing off, so the boy suddenly started to feel very tired and worn out. They might have given him something at the hospital because he was starting to feel woozy.

Friday, October 2, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 5 part II

His mother and brother were at home when he got there. His mother had known that it was a holiday and reminded him that he had been told about it a few days before. The narrator has already explained the strained relationship between clocks, calendars, time in general, and the dolphin boy.

The boys’ mother said that she had a surprise for both of them. The surprise for the younger boy was that he had gotten a super-cool Nerf American football. The boy dolphin was instantly jealous and asked what he would get. Surely, it would be the even super-cooler Big Wheel tricycle. The only thing that was way cooler than the super-cool Nerf ball was a Big Wheel.

The mother shook her head and said that they had to share the ball. The boy’s brother hooted and held the ball up in celebration. The boy grew furious and slapped the ball out of his brother’s hand. The super-cool Nerf ball was beginning to change into a hated, worthless piece of trash. The boys tussled over the ball and finally the mother broke up the fight. She led the boys outside to the backyard and presented a slightly-used banana-seat bicycle with high handlebars. His mother told him that the bicycle was his, that she had bought with the congregation’s money. It was a worrisome shade of pink, but that was a small detail.

The boy was simultaneously stung with shame and celebration: shame that he had stooped to petty jealousy over the ball and celebration that he had his own bicycle. His mother said that he had to learn how to ride the bike now that he was a big boy. He had skipped over the Big Wheel phase and was directly going to a big-boy bicycle.

He eagerly wheeled the bike to the front street and tried getting on the bicycle. It was a bit big for him and he had trouble swinging his leg over the bar while he held it. He also could barely touch the bottom pedal when he sat on the very tip of the banana seat. Nevertheless, he learned to balance while his mother held the sissy bar behind the seat.

After a few pushes with the sissy bar, and a few spills that involved scraped hands and knees, and mildly sprained ankles, the boy was able to wobble a few metres down the street on his own.
It happened this way: his mother would push him a few feet and he would pedal until eventually he picked up speed and then his mother would drop behind, breathless. He wouldn’t even notice she had stopped holding the bike and was riding all by himself. Whenever he turned to look for her, he would invariably wobble to a stop or fall.

By the middle of the afternoon, he was riding down the incline on one side of the street (so that he didn’t need a push), and turning around halfway to the trivium (bicycles stay up because they tend to steer into a lean, which keeps them up, not because of gyroscopic forces) in a U-turn to come back to the driveway. He would then walk the bike up the incline a bit past the house and start over.

Several times, cars would approach him from behind or in front, and he would move as close as possible to cars parked on the side. Each time he returned to the driveway after such an encounter, his mother would be in hysterics about “almost dying” from crashing into cars. The boy felt that his mother was overreacting and that, in the first place, dying was not such a big loss, and in the second place, he was well in control of the parameters of controlling the bike. He did not actually say as much, obviously, but kept these thoughts to himself.

After his mother had gone inside and he was getting better at riding in loops, a familiar car came up the street from the direction of the hill. The two boys immediately recognised it as the one that had chased them the day before and questioned them about the wire brush. They ditched their toys on the grass in front of the house and ran through the garage and up to the back yard.

They tried to creep around to the side of the house and heard adults yelling and arguing. The four adults in the car had gone up to the door and were now yelling at their mother. Their mother held her ground as she was entirely capable of defending herself and had done so her whole life. Even though her children were wild beasts at best, she defended them as strongly and vehemently as any mother should.

She argued with them about how they even knew that her children had made the scratches on their car. She argued that they had no proof of how they had scratched the car. Her arguments faltered a bit when she learnt that the whole street had been afflicted with scratches, but she regained her composure and still required evidence.

The adults from the car showed her the driver-side doors of their beautiful Ford Galaxie. She had to admit that the streaks were childish but still maintained that anybody could have produced them. The adults alleged that they had seen the two boys, the very same boys as were in front just now, holding a wire grill brush. The boys had run away and given them the slip the day before. Also incriminating them further was the fact that the boys had fled in terror when the car drove up on them just now.

Their mother correctly stated that the boys were trained to avoid strangers, which these men in a car clearly were. This was what they were supposed to do when strangers approached and she was proud of them for doing the correct thing.

The argument had died down to a conversation by this point and the boys were unable to follow along any more. Their mother had apparently made a deal with the four young men and they headed back into the house to find some recompense in a “party”. The boys hid around the corner of the house for a while until they heard music playing for a while, then they snuck to the front yard and gathered the bicycle and Nerf football. They walk-ran as fast as they could without drawing attention to themselves up the incline, then down the hill to the park.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Were Dolphins, Chapter 5 part I

The boy woke up and walked to school. He did not have to wear the purple sweater today, thankfully. He eagerly went to the hedge to retrieve his jacket and found that it was gone. He rooted around in the branches and leaves to make sure. He couldn’t find it no matter how hard he looked. He called out plaintively as if the jacket could hear him and would come running like a pet.

He searched the whole length of the hedge and couldn’t find it. In frustration, he kicked the hedge and hurt his big toe very badly on a trunk. He hopped on one foot and spun in pain. He hobbled to the neighbour’s house that was always empty and walked in. He tread cautiously even though he was limping. Fortunately, he hadn’t made any noise because someone was in the recliner watching the incessant television. The boy froze in fear watching the hand that laid causally on the arm rest.

After a long time that seemed like several minutes, the boy didn’t see any movement in the hand. So he carefully turned and walked out of the house. He cursed his luck today and walked past the trivium. Tomatoes, bananas, and cucumbers are botanically berries, but it’s a good thing the dolphin boy doesn’t know this because he doesn’t like to eat any of them.

He walked down the hill and stayed as far away from the road as possible to avoid dogs, cars, and people while still trying not to get too close to mongooses and snakes in the tall grasses. He was so preoccupied with this balancing act that he neglected to look at the town dump as he crossed the street to turn left. If he had looked, he would have seen three cows, two pigs, and one white unicorn on the top floor of a fifteen storey flat, leaning over the balcony with champagne flutes in hoof.

He walked farther past the bridge and over the stream, then hurried to the second path that led to the clearing with the metal barrels where the vampire blades were hidden. He searched in the dirt and leaves, but couldn’t find the knives. He was about to kick a sapling tree when he remembered the pain he had experienced earlier and stopped with his foot in the air.

He made a more thorough search of the surrounding area where he and Robert had hidden the blades. They were definitely gone. The only possible explanation for the disappearance of all these items was that the vampire was following the boy and removing all of his armour and weapons so that the vampire could strike when the boy was defenceless.

The boy walked unsteadily toward the school buildings, unsure whether he should attend school or ditch for the day. He was unaware of the deathly quiet and closed doors of the school buildings. He wandered the breezeway for a long while before he realised that there was no one at school. It was some kind of holiday that the boy had been unaware of. Rather than feel chagrined, he smiled at the thought of a whole day left to his own devices.

He walked back to the library, which wasn’t open yet. He climbed into a skip and played in the trash and papers for a long while. There were three skips inside a three-walled concrete area. He opened the plastic hinged-top of all three skips and alternately climbed and jumped into each. He shouted the name of a famous Apache from New Mexico as he landed.

The library had opened its doors and the boy went inside. He scoured the kids’ book section but had already been through all the picture books that were available. He was not interested yet in books that had only words in them. He met several children there who seemed to know about the holiday. He found several boys and they agreed to play a popular game the boy had invented.

The game involved going outside and grabbing a branch from a trumpet tree (cecropia obtusifolia), stripping the large leaf from the end, and forming a yellow, flexible sword. Taking their swords inside the library, they entered a conference room on one side of the library that had a large table and seats for twenty. They spread out around the table and one person (usually the leader, our hero the dolphin) would count down from five before turning off the lights.

In the dark, windowless conference room, they would swing their “swords” randomly and excitedly. Anyone who was hit by a sword could either “die” and leave or, if they felt like continuing, could go on and keep swinging their sword. The boy had learnt the trick to the game of detecting one’s enemies effectively: he would position himself near the corner of the large table and climb under. He could then watch as the shadows of legs moved past the lighted crack under the door to the room. Then he could time his attack for the unknowing victim based on the direction and speed of the leg-shadows that crossed in front of the door.

Whoever was left in the conference room after everyone else had yielded or “died” was the winner. The boy often survived to the end, but the game was not as fun without many players, certainly more than three. Thus, when the game dwindled down, it usually ended in a draw. They played several rounds of this game until the librarian kicked them out. She locked the conference room door and confiscated their swords (some of which were broken and hanging by pulpy threads).

The boy wandered along the street to the shopping centre and “played” some games at the pizza hut. In between games, he would grab a bag of saltines from the salad buffet and squeeze out some ranch dressing on a plate for flavour. He especially enjoyed crumbling the soda crackers to a near-powder before opening the packets, then pouring them on top of the ranch dressing to make a paste.

He made one such plate of paste and placed it on an open booth facing the back of the building. He went to “play” the table-top football game for a while and walked back to eat his food. He spotted two men standing near the booth. One of them wore a waiter’s uniform, but the other wore a suit, which meant that he was a manager. The boy tried to casually walk by the two men, and even pretended to be whistling with an utmost air of indifference.

The men saw through his lie, for the boy did not actually know how to whistle. They had also been watching him in the restaurant for a half hour. The manager asked the boy where his parent were. The boy replied that they were just over there. The man looked around the sparsely filled restaurant and asked for clearer directions. The boy said they must be just outside, getting something from the car. The manager told the waiter to escort the boy to find his parents and left.

The boy was relieved his lie had worked. He had pointed toward the front of the building so that he could make his escape. The waiter merely let the boy go past the entrance, telling the boy he should lie about his parents being there. Appropriately chastised, the boy walked home, deciding it might be about the time that school would have ended.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 4, part IV

The driver yelled at the children, who cowered in fear on the sidewalk. The driver and the passengers yelled at the kids, asking where they lived. The boys knew well enough they were not supposed to talk to strangers, nor ride in cars with strangers, and not to reveal where they lived. The adults in the car were insistent, however.

The boys did what they thought was best in this situation, they took off running toward the dump. The car followed them easily, but could not pursue them into the paths of junk. They hid behind a pile of refrigerators. With the threat gone, the boys decided it was a good place to hide and bide the time.

The boy dolphin pulled some cardboard boxes together to make a fort. They knocked over a TV stand on its side to form a drawbridge. A clothes washing machine made a good wall on the other side. The boys played cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, and Americans and Russians. The boy dolphin, of course, always got to play the part of the good guys. The good guys never got hurt or shot, but if they did, they shrugged it off. The bad guys, however, always took the shot and always died, just like real life.

Eventually, they tired of games and wandered listlessly through the rubbish. The boy sat on a porcelain seat, which he imagined to be a throne. The took a straight stick as a rifle and began sniping at things that he could see. For example, he shot the bird sitting in the tree on the other block. He shot the top of a church cross he could see in the distance. He shot several rounds at the peaks of the mountain on the northern edge of the valley.

His brother pointed overhead at a tiny jet in the sky. The boy took his rifle “slash” missile launcher and aimed carefully at the airplane. He steadied his shot and…fired. The blast of his powerful shot launched him backward off the throne. He fell on the ground, got up, and he stumbled and fell again. He picked up his weapon again for another shot.

As he looked up and his brother pointed, they saw a trail of white smoke behind the jet against the blue sky. The raised their fists and the boy shook his Kalashnikov in the air. They hooted and hollered at their magical ability to shoot down jets with tree limbs.

The clouds moved in very quickly after that, and the boys sought shelter under a mattress and box spring that leaned on an oven. They sat out the soft, warm rain and passed the time drawing in the mud and puddles with sticks.

The moved further through the dump and noted the decline of the sun. They were sure to be safe from the angry people in the car by now. They exited on the far side of the dump and walked in a zig-zag pattern along the streets to ensure they weren’t being followed. They got home when it was nearly dark. The house was empty and quiet.

The boy dolphin helped his brother go to bed but he himself stayed up like adult. He was loathe to turn on the lights since electricity was expensive and he wasn’t sure how to make the switches go on and off. Instead, he took out the wooden matches from a drawer and lit a candle on the table.

A fun thing to do on an evening like this was to play with the phone. So he sat in the flicking darkness and listened to voices on the party-line. The ghostly voices talked about subjects that were strange and mysterious. Sometimes they talked in foreign languages, or they sounded like foreign languages to him. Often, the voices would whisper, or at least, they would sound faint in the distance.

Whenever someone new picked up the line, there was usually a click, like a light switch being turned on. Whoever was talking, if anybody was, would stop and wait for the other person to identify themselves. Usually the person would clear their throat and cough to warm up for speaking. Then began an endless battle of “hello” and “who’s there” followed by “we’ll be off soon” or “no, you get off”, and so on.

The boy had learned to cover the mouthpiece with his hand so that no one could hear him breathing or giggling. The handset was nearly bigger than his head, so he had to carefully move it in such a way that it wouldn’t click or crackle, alerting people to his presence. The benefit of having the party line open for so long was that eventually the original callers on the line would hang up and he could stay on and no one would know he was there.

If no one came on after a while, the phone company would automatically close the call with a loud snap and the monotonous dial tone would go on. At those times, he would “flash” the clear acrylic switchhook up and down as he had seen adults do. This would bring on the operator sometimes. Invariably, the boy was too afraid to answer the exasperated “hello”s and the operator would close the loop to present the dial tone.

The boy would then hand up with one finger for a few minutes and try again. If he got the dial tone too many times, he would hang up for a while longer and then try again. If he still couldn’t hear any conversations, the boy would dial three fives on the rotary dial. The fives were slow and took a long time to chug chug chug back before he could dial the next number and wait again. But the next sequence of one two one two was very fast and fun to dial.

This dialled up a speaking woman who would read the time. This was perfect for a dolphin who didn't have a watch and couldn't read the time. She would say “At the tone, the time will be…” and she would say the time, “…precisely” (or “…and thirty seconds”) after which there would be a slight pause and a beep. Then she would repeat again, “At the tone, the time will be…” The boy listened as long as he could until the time service hung up or until someone picked up the line.

In the midst of all this fun, a loud ringing came from the kitchen. The people on the party line heard the noise even through the boy’s hand over the mouthpiece. He hung up in a panic and put his hands over his ears to protect them from the loud noise. His heart beat so fast that he saw stars in the darkness.

The boy tried screaming to silence the noise, but it continued. He begged God and Jesus to stop the noise. He made a bargain with them and offered that if they stopped the noise, he would believe in them and he would also stop listening on the phone. But the beeping continued for several minutes.

The boy approached the kitchen, but the noise was even louder as he approached. He could see a kitchen timer on the counter, but he didn’t have the courage to approach it. After a long time, the ringing suddenly stopped as the spring gave up its last.

The boy dropped his hands from his ears and silently told God and Jesus that he was done with them. He wouldn’t believe in them even though he had walked down the aisle (that was just to make his mother happy and to see what would happen), and he would continue to listen to the party-line whenever he could.

He walked into the kitchen and saw a glowing coil in the oven. Apparently, someone had left the electric stove on. Perhaps his mother was cooking something and had set the timer to remind her to turn it off. So she intended to be back by the tone, the time being, something o’clock precisely. The boy hurried to the living room and blew out the candle.
He went to bed so he wouldn’t be caught.
What does it mean?
It means that the party-line used to be a way everyone shared the same phone connection. Not like today where everyone has their own phone.
No, the dolphins.
Yes, they were dolphins.

I don’t get it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 4 part II

The man moved to talk to the boy’s mother and the boy realised that the man is the pastor from church. The pastor offered to give the mother and her two sons a ride home in his VW van. They gratefully accepted the help. They were glad to get off the sidewalk and out of the sun.

The boy was surprised to see Mia in the van and he sat next to her. She must have gotten a ride from the friendly pastor. They didn’t speak for fear of revealing the secrets of their tryst. The boy did, however, sneak his hand over to her side of the van bench seat to touch pinkies with her. She did not retract her hand, so the boy knew he was experiencing true love.

They drove past the trivium slowly. The boy, although he is a dolphin, does not know that dolphins sleep with one eye open. They are able to shutdown half their brain at a time to rest while the other half is active to search for danger. In this way, they can get enough sleep and remain safe in the ocean.

At home, the van pulled up in front of the driveway of the boy’s house and Mia ran across the street to her house. The pastor followed the boy and his mother inside the house without seeming to be invited. The boy’s brother stayed outside and played in the yard.

The pastor sat with the boy on the couch and told the boy that he is very proud of what he had done today at church. The pastor asked several questions about the boy’s feelings on topics. The boy was an expert at reading into questions the answer that were expected by adults. He produces satisfactory statements about his soul, God’s love for him, and the importance of belief.

The pastor explained that the boy’s mother had told him about bullying at school and he wondered how the boy felt about the topic. The boy answered with colourful language about how clever he was to avoid conflicts.

For example, the aggressive boys at school would ask their victims if they wanted “beef”. “Beef” meant a fight, so if the victim answered in the affirmative, they would get beaten up. If the victim answered in the negative, then the boys would beat up the person for refusing the generous gift.
The boy would avoid getting beat up by answering instead that he wanted “chicken”. “Chicken” was a word for cowardice. Then, he would run away, and he was quite fast.

The pastor mulled this information over and offered vague advice about acting like a man and standing up for oneself. At some point, it became clear that the pastor was merely passing time with the boy. He kept glancing in the direction of the mother’s bedroom door and checking his watch.
The pastor stood and bade the boy farewell. He told the boy to go outside and play for a bit while he talked to the boy’s mother. The boy nodded and pretended to leave by walking to the front door. The pastor knocked on the door to the bedroom and entered. The boy returned to sit on the couch and blew spit bubbles for a long while.

He heard the pastor and his mother talking about God loudly and seemed that they were arguing over something on the bed. Then, they sat in silence for a while. The pastor came out of the bedroom adjusting his suspenders and zipper. He was surprised to see the boy sitting on the couch, but quickly recovered.

The pastor pulled out an offertory envelope from his pocket. He placed the stuffed envelope on the living room table and told the boy that this is a gift from the congregation. The boy’s mother appeared in the doorway of her bedroom, looking dishevelled. The pastor turned and mentioned the envelope.

The pastor explains that this is a parting gift from the congregation. He says that he will be moving to a new city soon due to the “scandal” (the boy has no idea what that word means), and he will miss the “communion” (again, the boy has no idea) with his “flock”.

The boy’s mother waved her hand flippantly as if to flick the pastor out of the house. The pastor turned to the boy and patted his head condescendingly. The boy shrugged and continued sitting and blowing bubbles of spit. The pastor let himself out of the house.

The boy watched the pastor get into the van and saw him park it across the street in the car park at Mia’s house. The boy had never realised that that van was the same one he always saw in her garage.
The boy sat back down on the couch wondering what to do this fine Sunday. He went into the kitchen and searched through the drawers for something. He found a wire brush used to clean grills. He took the wire brush out to his brother and they walked down the street together. They stopped at cars parked along the street and painted designs into the sides and hoods of cars using the wire brush.

At first, they took their artwork seriously and drew pretty designs like birds, dogs, and stick figures. But as they moved down the street, they became sloppier with their craft and made crude circles, wavy lines, or X’s. They walked nearly all the way to the trivium and did not know the fact that lead in paint and gasoline was being phased out of use, even though lead is perfectly safe for the environment and humans in that form.

The boys eventually tired of the hard work of painting masterpieces on cars, and the boy began holding the wire brush loosely in his hand as he casually brushed each car they walked past on the street. They walked as far as the bottom of the hill when a car filled with four adults came tearing down the street and stopped next to the boys.

The driver yelled at the children, who cowered in fear on the sidewalk. The driver and the passengers yelled at the kids, asking where they lived. The boys knew well enough they were not supposed to talk to strangers, nor ride in cars with strangers, and not to reveal where they lived.

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