Saturday, September 19, 2015

They Were Dolphins Part III

After recess, the students and the boy settled back in class and discovered without much surprise that a different adult was substituting for their usual teacher. This teacher as an older kind man the kids had met before. The children knew that he was fond of children and would let them do as they pleased. As such, they were extremely well behaved because they liked and approved of him.

Without any explanation, the class continued as if nothing had happened earlier in the morning. The substitute teacher was not academically rigorous, and so he set about getting the students involved in a painting project. Each child donned a cheap smock to protect their clothing and the class were divided into groups of five to paint on a team easel. As the newspaper tarps were laid out over the desk surfaces and the paints were poured out into jars, the boy dolphin was bored and distracted. He wandered between teams, pouring extra paints into each jar surreptitiously in order to change the colours.

The arts and crafts corner of the classroom contained all sorts of knick-knacks like cotton balls, fuzzy pipe cleaners and sugar cubes. The last of these were grabbed by the boy and he began dropping the cubes into the paint jars of the various teams while they were being stirred. As the paints were stirred, the cubes would break apart and the paint would thicken and become gritty.

The boy wouldn’t have been caught except that he was emboldened by not being caught. Finally on the tenth or eleventh cube that was stirred into the paint jars, the children, and eventually the substitute teacher, noticed that the paint was lumpy and coarse.

Several of the children knew who was doing this, and some of them tried to protect the boy by pulling him away and pretending to be preoccupied by painting on the easel. The boy would have none of it, though, as he was still covered in armour from the morning’s excitements. He stood defiantly refusing to paint and even held several cubes of sugar in his hands.

The boy was eventually given up or discovered, or perhaps had just reached the limits of what the lenient substitute teacher could tolerate. He was given a hall pass and told to go to the library to read so as not to be a disruption for the class.

The boy once again found himself in the breezeways, wondering what to do. He was about to dart across the lawn to go to the forest when he was caught by an adult wandering the school grounds. The adult apparently knew of his summons to the principal in the morning, and possibly was even on his way to get the boy when the adult discovered him.

He was taken into the administrative offices outside the principal’s imposing office and told to sit. A nice woman noticed him sitting and asked him how he felt. He guessed she was the school nurse but she did not have a nurse uniform on. He replied in monosyllables that he felt feverish and light headed. She asked if he had any trouble breathing and he stated he did not. She asked if he had any cuts or bruises and he nodded and pulled up his trouser legs to the knee. There was a large white and red boil on the inside of his thigh just above the knee.

Immediately, he was rushed into a small examination room with a cot covered with crinkly exam paper. The boy doesn’t feel particularly sick, only a little feverish and is confused by the concern being expressed over him. He doesn’t know how the boil got there, but he remembers it bothering him the night before when he went to bed. He says so and the nurse woman without the uniform assures him he will be fine.

Being told he will be fine makes him fearful. As he is left alone on the cot with his leg raised up on a pillow, trouser leg pulled back to his thigh uncomfortably, he begins to envision how he will die and what it will feel like to do so. He imagines that it will not be worse than being so far from the sea these years as a human, and he is prepared for his death since he feels that his best years as a dolphin are behind him.

Resting his arms behind his head, he decides that it will be better to die from a white boil on his leg than to continue living out of the sea.

He is left alone until the wait is unbearable and he rings a buzzer on the wall to call the nurse. He says that he needs to use the restroom and she tells him he can go down the hall. The boy walks to the boys’ restroom and enters a stall. He strips off all his clothes and tries to inspect his  human body for any other defects other than the boil. He is unable to check his back, but assumes it is fine by patting himself with his hands.

Then he sits on the toilet with his elbows on his knees, fists jutted under his jaw. He sits there for a long time until the nurse comes in and calls his name from the door several times. He scowls in his safe stall zone and ignores her. His name is Usagi, the rabbit. He is not called by the name she uses.

The nurse calls him several more times and checks his feet beneath the stall. She calls him again, more urgently each time. He wishes she would leave him alone to think. Finally, the nurse enters the stall next to his and stands on the toilet seat to look over the partition at the boy. She asks him what is wrong and he mumbles something about the horse crossing a bridge and rabbits writing poetry. He can barely hear the nurses voice because she seems to be receding along with everything else in the restroom.

The noises that echo off the tile walls grow into a deafening thunder as he covers his ears and screams to drown out the noise. He can see the shock and concern on the nice woman’s face, and so he stops screaming and drops his arms. Fortunately, the walls of the stall retract from their distant position far out there and the noise subsides.

He gets dressed and opens the stall door, then follows the nurse back to the examination room. He is disheartened to see his mother in the office. He knows that her look of concern is only a thin veneer over her hatred for having been bothered to come to school on his account. He doesn’t know what adults do during the day, he assumed that they go to school like other kids, and he wonders what subject they were studying when her principal sent someone to get her.

Friday, September 18, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 1 part II

Past the trash heap, turning left, the road crossed over a real bridge under which a stream or creek trickled. Whether it was a stream or a creek depended on the size and stature of the observer relative to the waterway. The bridge had a low guardrail, about hip height to an adult human but to a boy dolphin the metal railing was at shoulder height. Beneath the railing were concrete pillars spaced every few feet and this allowed a good place to duck under the railing and lean one’s head out over the stream below.

In the stream there were crawfish and tadpoles, as any good carnivorous water creature should know.
Continuing on from the bridge, the library and the shopping centre were across the street to the right. The children would walk on this side of the street to get to school, but they would invariably walk back home on the other side. All the more to stop at the library to do their homework or stroll the shopping centre looking for mischief to get into.

At last, the boy reached the wire fence of the school boundary and noticed that he was early by the lack of children in the playground. Dolphins have no sense of time, and he was no exception, but it was better to be early than late and he was never, ever late.

He ducked under a bowed section of the fence and hurried along the back perimeter of the school. The fence gave way at the back to a wooded section that was unfenced. Beyond the woods, no one knew what lay there. However, there were a few pathways beaten down over the years by many feet, and these furtive paths seemed intentional as if they knew where they were going and how to get there. Otherwise, why would the paths exist at all, and why would many people pass that way?
He followed the first path he knew best to his favourite spot: a small clearing in the middle of the thin trees where the rusted hulk of an automobile sat. The roof was completely rusted away and the tyres were gone. The car’s make and model was unrecognisable from any other car the boy had seen that rolled around the streets in the town of the valley. The paint was completely gone and the car was now coloured the deep rich brown blood of rust.

He liked this spot because there was no one else here, and indeed, he often thought no one knew this place even existed. It was extremely pleasant to stay inside a protective pregnant lagoon where nothing betrayed the presence or even changing of time. Not even the trees or their leaves rustled or moved. One could not even hear the silent sound of the rust eating the metal of the car slowly over eons.

He liked to imagine the automobile was his, and he could drive it with his flippers and fluke: a car built for sea mammals. He would drive the car through the forest, across the bridge over the stream back there, and up and over the rickety appliance swaying bridge (backing up if needed for the brown horse, of course), and then down the other side to park in front of his three storey house.
The first bell rang in the distance and the boy stopped making car sounds with his mouth and zoomed back toward the school buildings.

Inside the classroom, the students could tell that the teacher was in a foul mood. She was an unattractive woman who seemed to be every bit of her elderly 25 years on this planet. Perhaps the cause of her mood, or perhaps even because of her mood, the children were particularly rambunctious and refused to settle down.

The boy was a natural leader, although like all good leaders, he never knew he was a leader. He set the tone of the misbehaviour because he was situated in the centre of the centre column of desks. He was an expert at making fart noises with his mouth in such a way that no one could tell where the fart noises were coming from or who was making them. The other children, especially the boys, copied him inexpertly and were often caught by the teacher and given disapproving looks. This only made the students more bold and laugh and hoot louder.

The boy realised that they were pushing their collective luck, and the teacher’s patience besides, so that he finally settled down and from his example, like schools of fish, the other children settled down too. The teacher was handing back the previously completed and now graded homework assignments. She stopped on one particular sheet and her lip curled up in ugly distaste at what she read there.
The boy had signed his name Usagi which means Rabbit. The class erupted in laughter at the fake name, and the boy grinned in satisfaction at his prank, conceived of more than two days ago, an eternity, and executed with deft precision, hidden in a pile with all the other normal papers, and then discovered only at the last, final moment for all to enjoy.

The class erupted once again but even more loudly in laughter and raucous merriment. The boy sheepishly, but it was only an act of course, raised his hand to take ownership of the paper and anoint himself the moniker Usagi. What was clever most of all was that he had called himself a rabbit but was actually a dolphin. The two animals could not be more diametrically opposed, and no one would ever discover the ruse:: a dolphin boy in rabbit’s clothing.

The teacher’s face twisted even more repellently and hideously than before. She was completely fed up and grabbed the metre stick that hung on the wall from a nail, then swung it over her head and smacked it loudly on the boys desk. The laughter stopped instantly and children within three desks covered their ears too late to stop the ear-splitting snap of wood on wood. The boy raised his arms up reflexively to shield his face, but fortunately nobody was hurt or struck by the stick and the violent force of the snap.

The teacher swung her hand up again with a now half-metre stick and all but brought it down again before she realised she had completely lost control and gone too far. She lowered her hand slowly and demanded the other half-metre piece from his desk be handed to her. He reached out for the stick on his desk and the teacher violently threw the remaining sheets of paper in her other hand at him.
The papers fluttered around his desk but none reached him or touched him. He held out the stick he had picked up and handed it back to the teacher. She took it and turned hurriedly to retreat back to her desk. Silently, quickly, two boys in the next row where the desks opened toward the aisle, slid out of their seats and half-kneeled to pick up the scattered papers.

This violent display had a strange effect on the boy. He suddenly felt invincible and untouchable, as if he had been net to a bomb blast and survived unscathed. In a very real sense, he had. Close calls of this kind can have either a strong negative or positive effect, and the boy dolphin in our story had taken a huge dose of confidence from the event. A thin layer of invisible armour was applied to his sleek grey skin, making him stronger, more attractive, and bulletproof.

The children who had gathered the papers from the floor effortlessly collated and merged their piles right-side up and then sat down again. The teacher had been screeching, apparently, this whole time about the rowdy children and how all the bad things in her life should conspire to happen at this one moment when she didn’t need it to. She pointed an accusatory finger at the boy in the centre of the room and admonished him, especially, as a devil and a force of grave evil in the classroom. This was patently false, he knew, because the devil didn’t exist, just as he knew that God did not exist.
The fact that she yelled shrilly and impotently across the room, from the safety of her own large desk implied that she knew she was wrong and the boy coasted nicely on happy chemicals tracing through his blood stream. He rode the natural high and grew even more thickly applied armour over his body.

Finally he realised that he was being sent out of the classroom and needed to visit the principal’s office. At this, his armour started to crack a bit. The principal was a mean man, prone to anger, and all the students spoke of a large wooden paddle with holes drilled into its face hanging above the desk in his large office. Of course, none of the students who spoke of the paddle had actually been to his office and seen the paddle, but it was certain that it existed. There were conflicting reports about whether one needed to drop one’s trousers to get the full impact directly on skin or not. It was argued endlessly in some circles whether ‘twas easier or better to get a paddling with trousers on or off.

Seeming to confirm the rumours, the students had each witnessed instances of a child, always a boy, coming out of the principal’s office slumped over like an old man, weeping openly and generously for all to see. Surely no person could withstand the impact of that large, unseen paddle. Surely the noise that echoed in the witnesses’ ears at the time confirmed the sharp impacts of the vicious device. And even though tears among boys are strictly forbidden, any boy who came out of the principal’s office crying and weeping was forgiven for the display because none among them could possibly do better.

The boy got up from his desk slowly as his shield sloughed off and approached the teacher’s desk apprehensively. She was still shrill but not screaming. She flung a piece of paper that was a hall pass at the boy, and he picked it up from the corner of her desk where it landed. Now riding a different set of chemical cocktail in his bloodstream, he walked out of the classroom in shock and disbelief.
He caught a glimpse of the face of one girl who sat in the corner near the door. The look of concern, shock, bewilderment, and amazement had a dreadful effect on him, and his eyes started brimming with tears. He fought them back, however, because dolphins can’t cry.

Outside the classroom, he wandered the exterior breezeways aimlessly, clutching the hall pass. His mind began to race as he considered what to do. He couldn’t go to the principal’s office: that way lay death via the bum smacking maniac. He had on corduroy blue pants that were likely to hurt a great deal, and leave a striped impression besides, if he were swatted.

He steeled himself silently for the punishment, yet nevertheless resolved to get out of it somehow. Along the back of one row of buildings, there was a short hedge of bushes that lined the buildings just below the windows. The boy knew that there was enough room between the wall and the bush to form a hidden sanctuary that would screen him from all pyring eyes while he decided what plans to create.

Climbing behind a hedge and crawling in the dirt next to the building, he sat on the ground and hugged his knees close pondering the best course of action. Slowly, a plan dawned on him that was surely infallible. He would simply wait for a while hidden from view and then he would appear back at class at some point, pretending to have been struck at least twice, perhaps three or four times for good measure, and appear contrite.

He even fake cried a few times to himself to show himself how he would do it. He had mastered the art of catching his voice in his chest mid-sentence, at the most emotional moment of course, so that the impact of his words and the sincerity of them could not be denied. He was already a dolphin living as a boy, so this was an easy task to put on airs and pretend to be an emotional human.
With all of his careful planning occupying his attention, he started suddenly when the first recess bell rang and he decided to join the other students on the yard. He quickly buried the principal’s office pass under a fine layer of dust and crawled out to join his mates.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

They Were Dolphins, prologue and chapter 1

He sings. He sings songs that dolphins have sung for eons. He sings of the vast cerulean ocean and the white-capped waves of seafoam. He sings of the blue skies filled with wispy strands of fleeting clouds. He sings to the graceful fish who dart hither and thither, shooting bright flashes of fish lightning from dark fish clouds. He sings below the water and above the waves before he crashes down again.

He sings of heart-breaking vistas of blue and gold and green, barely glimpsed from far away. He sings about the beauty of all living creatures and the interconnectedness of all things. He sings to trees and forests, and fruit trees and swaying kelp. He sings bright flashy notes and trills that draw curved lips of his fellow dolphins, sharp teeth bared in glee.

He sings of things that a dolphin knows not, including mysterious metal boxes in the sky that fly above the friendly birds. He sings of flotsam, strange pieces of unusual wonder that float between the vast dark see and bright wide sky. He sings of jetsam, pieces of boats that carry strangely shaped pink and brown animals that sometimes point their tails straight down in the ocean. He sings of lagan, the eventual resting place of all this junk at the bottom of the sea.

He sings of the faint stench near the shore where dead things float. He sings a dirge of mourning for the things that do not last and never could. He sings about the futility of swimming hard against currents for hours or days into exhaustion and ending up nowhere. He sings of loneliness of the silent depths where even the wrath of a hundred year storm is silenced and stilled and no creature moves for thousands of kilometres. He sings for the dark impenetrable depths that crush the soul.

He sings too much, and yet not enough. His singing isn’t heard but it is noticed when it is gone. He sings of waiting for death.

Chapter 1

The boy who was a dolphin walked to school. The way to the school was along a long street that sloped on the side of a mountain, then went down a very steep hill, followed a creek, and at arrived at the mouth of a valley. Along the street for the first leg there were residential one-storey homes on either side. They were mostly drab and dully coloured with peeling paint and exposed wood highlights. There was no sidewalk along the route, so the boy walked in the grass. He disliked the wet sensation of the dew on his shoes.

Halfway down the street there was a magical triangle of grass and two palm trees where three roads met. The ancient Romans called such a fork trivium, but he is unaware of this bit of information. The grassy triangle was a favourite meeting and playing place for the local children. The boy had never been up the street that goes higher in the mountain but vowed to find out what lay beyond someday.
Going down the steep hill was fun and if any children met up on the road in the morning, they would eye each other warily and then, as if spurred onward by an imaginary starter gun, they would sprint downhill at breakneck speeds. Fortunately, there were sidewalks on either side of the street starting at the top of the hill so that the children did not need to run in the street. However, the hero of our story would often run down the middle of the street following the cracks in the asphalt as if they were smaller roads drawn onto a grey map.

At the bottom of the hill there was a long stretch of undeveloped street blocks that were a wild mess of tangled bushes, vines, gardens, and even the town dump. The boy imagined the piles of discarded furniture, appliances, and toilets were stacked in a meaningful way, rather than the haphazard mess that it was.

He often told the other children stories of structures that he had seen in the dump: tall skyscrapers built of refrigerators and oven ranges, long winding walls stacked deep with washing machines and rusted hulks of automobiles, a swaying bridge slung between narrow towers of precariously stacked televisions, sofas, and mattresses. This last structure, the bridge, was captured in the perfect moment as a brown horse climbed gingerly up the steep stairs on one side and crossed the bridge of discarded effects to reach the other side of the block.

The children laughed at the boy’s stories and called him names and made fun of him. This was only natural, he reasoned, as he was a dolphin and humans were different and couldn’t understand him.

Weekly writing output

Wordcount graph
Powered by