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

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