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.

Monday, September 28, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 4 part I

Sunday was church day and the boys enjoyed the opportunity to go out in the car. Any chance to take a ride in the brown pony (for that was what it was called) was relished. Unlike other days, on Sunday mornings their mother was always up before them and prepared a breakfast of eggs and toast.

They put on their Sunday finest, which for the boy dolphin at least, didn’t fit very well. His white button-down shirt was uncomfortable and at least 5 centimetres too short at the wrist. His blue slacks were too tight to even close the buttons at the waist and showed his ankles. On these days he was even forced to wear sandals, even though they too were too small and his heels fell of the back.

Nevertheless, the mood was happy and jubilant. The sun shone brightly that morning as they drove along the street, past the trivium (ascorbic acid is known as Vitamin C), down the hill, across the bridge, past the library and shopping centre, and past the school. The church was farther, even, than this and the once-a-week pleasure of seeing something beyond the perimeter of the valley was dizzying to the boys. They boy dolphin was the eldest and so he enjoyed the privilege of riding in the front seat.

In the church parking lot, the boy went to his Sunday school to be indoctrinated with a lot of mindless babble he didn’t believe. Even at his limited experience and knowledge of the world, he didn’t believe the fanciful stories about creation, the garden of Eden, the great flood, and the Exodus from Egypt.

Now, the boy didn’t believe the stories he was told, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t able to rattle off the stories and could even embellish them with his own flourishes. For example, the story of Noah featured a sequence where dolphins helped guide the Ark when it was lost and the doves hadn’t returned with their branches yet.

Other than the embellishments, which were heavily frowned upon, the Sunday school teacher saw nothing but a clever, devout, and dedicated student of the Word. If he had known that there were sincere people in the world who actually believed in things like right and wrong, fact and fiction, things sacred and profane, then he might have tried to be more sincere, or at least, not let his insincerity out as often.

The only upside to the boredom of Sunday school was Mia’s presence. She would dress in white as usual, except that she had a special white dress that was almost like a wedding gown that she wore every Sunday. The dress was always tied with a pink sash and bow, which offset the white wonderfully. She also wore a blue headband that set her hair off her beautifully shaped forehead.
In between Sunday school and the church service with the adults, the children usually tucked in to loads of free doughnuts. Today, however, the boy grabbed Mia’s hand and they ran off behind a building where they could be alone between the wall and a fence.

The boy asked if she really were going to be leaving soon. She nodded and avoided eye contact. The boy asked if they could kiss like adults do. She nodded. He kissed her on the cheek, chastely. They stood for a while and he grabbed her hand. She was dejected and he was at a loss.

Finally, he asked if they could hump. She brightened considerably and nodded. She agreed that they should hump and she knew exactly how. She was an expert from watching the dogs. He nodded but was unsure how to proceed. His bluff had been called and he didn’t have the cards to show.

Fortunately, Mia knew what she was doing and lifted her dress to her shoulders. She told the boy he should drop his trousers. The boy easily undid his zipper and the trousers fell. Mia told him they should hug and he stepped forward and put his hands on her waist awkwardly. Mia moved a step closer so that their stomachs almost met. The boy asked if they should take off their underwear. Mia said that he could if he wanted to.

The boy dropped his underwear and was embarrassed to notice that he could see people and cars moving in the alley on the other side of the fence. He decided to ignore the shame an hugged Mia. They stood that way for a while and the boy asked if they were humping. Mia said yes. The boy asked if Mia should take off her underwear. She said that she didn’t need to – her mother always kept on a garter belt when she humped.

They separated and the boy pull up his underwear and trousers quickly to hide his tiny erection. Mia had noticed, however and covered her mouth to stop from laughing. The boy flushed with shame and left. Mia followed quickly, covering herself with her dress.

The boy went into the chapel where the service had already started. He walked along the side aisle to the pew where his mother usually sat. He sat down next to the aisle as his mother shot him an angry look. The boy was uncomfortable in his small clothing and was concerned with something strange happening in his pants. No matter how he pushed down the bump in his crotch, it would spring back up.

He tried to cover it up with a hymn book, but his mother, seemingly oblivious to his plight, swatted the book away from him. He wasn’t allowed to play with the book until it was time to sing. He kept thinking of his humping encounter with Mia and couldn’t help feeling like a conquering hero and mighty adventurer. When the singing started, he was glad to stand and hide the bump in his trousers.
During the singing, it was a ritual that the pastor asked for believers who wanted to accept Jesus Christ into their hearts could come forward to the altar. The boy had asked his mother about going to the altar and had mistaken his curiosity of “why” with curiosity of “how”. She had explained to him with proud tears welling up in her eyes that she would be so proud of him for walking forward.

The pastor said that anyone who came forward would be welcomed into heaven and if they repented of their sins. The boy didn’t know what sins or Heaven were, but he was morbidly fascinated with the people who trudged forward to accept Jesus. He decided to go up to find out what was going on with the accepting Jesus into one’s life thing.

He motioned to his mother to go forward and she nodded, nearly bursting out in tears. She motioned him on and he put down the hymnal and stepped moved across the pew to the aisle. All the people who moved their knees so he could go by smiled magnanimously and several old people congratulated him and tapped his shoulder in approval.

However, when he stepped into the aisle, he lost his resolve and wanted to turn back. It was too late, however, as nearly everyone in the church was looking at him, it seemed. He twisted his fingers together and smashed his palms in agitation. He willed his feet to move forward toward the stairs and was grateful to notice his erection had died.

After an interminable walk that seemed like an hour, he reached the steps and the pastor put his hand on the boy’s head and prayed something unintelligible. The singing stopped and the boy stood on the stairs with two other people who were accepting Jesus. The new pledges turned to face the congregation. The boy felt light headed and faint. He had never stood before so many people. It was difficult to breathe and he saw darkness closing in on the edges of his vision.

The pastor finished saying something, and then a deacon came up and walked the three converts to the other side of the stage and into a side office. They sat down and the deacon began interviewing each person in turn. The boy dolphin was very observant and well-versed in mimicry as dolphins should be. He was able to answer the questions that were put to him during his interview so that he sounded like he was a sincere and even ardent believer in Christ.

When asked what sins he wanted to be forgiven, he thought for a long time. He wasn’t sure what sins were, after all, but he knew that they were probably bad things that one felt sorry for. So the boy apologised for melting crayons in class on hot plate once.

The deacon and two converts laughed at that, they must have thought it cute. The boy, however, was indignant and ready to defend himself. He needn’t have gotten worked up, however, because the deacon patted the boy on the head and was told him that he was forgiven and God had a special place for him in Heaven.

The boy stayed in the side office until after the sermon was over and his mother and brother came in. His mother was overly emotional and proud of her son. She was over the moon with his devotion and purity of spirit. They walked out to the parking lot and many people the boy didn’t know congratulated him and shook his hand. He was embarrassed and stared at the ground and mumbled whenever this happened.

The ride back in the car was marred by an event the boy didn’t remember. He recalled the car braking quickly and his mother’s arm reaching out in front of him to stop him. The only thing he realised later was that his mother and brother and he were outside the car in the street. She was guiding them to the sidewalk where they sat down.

The traffic was snarled on the street and the rear of the brown Pinto was crushed. Fluid leaked out of the rear of the car and ran down the gutter. Their mother was talking to a group of people and the police while the two boys sat on the sidewalk.

A kind man appeared next to them. The boy looked up at the man but didn’t recognise him with the sun shining at his back.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

They Were Dolphins, Chapter 3 part III

The brothers crossed the parking lot and entered the grocery store. The idea of petty larceny weighed heavily on their minds so their actions were studiously carefree and devil-may-care. Even the simple act of going through the turnstiles to the store was fraught with danger in their minds.

The boys stopped in front of the toy section and examined all the cowboy guns, skipping ropes, plastic balls, rubber balls, blowing bubbles, canned slime, canned slime and eyeballs, egg putty, and fake money. The boy dolphin seized upon a toy kite that would be great fun to play in the park. It was sure to provide hours of distraction.

The boy had his brother watch up and down the aisle for any adults. He stuffed the plastic bag containing the kit kit down his shorts and covered the top half with his shirt. The kite reached from his shoulder to his thigh, and was very difficult to hide. After a few test walks, the boy found that he could walk more normally and could actually hide the kite better by shifting the top half of the kite under his armpit.

The boy sent his brother ahead of him to walk slowly and block any adults from getting suspicious. They walked slowly and calmly, stopping every few feet to see how interesting something looked. The closer they got to the exit, the more dangerous the mission became. The boy held his arm rigidly still like some kind of automaton. This kept the kite from shifting, but it also made him walk like he had a deformity.

As they neared the checkout registers, the panic and fear mounted. Every pair of eyes in the entire store seemed trained on the two boys as they meandered by. The urge to run was excruciating, but the boy fought through it. Several times, an adult seemed to cough or sneeze or call out and the boy would hop almost out of his skin.

The tension to reach the automatic doors just past the charcoal and firewood was nerve wracking. The boy was thankful he kept his arm rigid, else he would have been wringing his hands like a Rubik’s cube solver. Just past the doors, and on the freedom of the pavement, the two boys took off running. They were sure someone was chasing them, hot on their tails to catch them by the necks.

They darted around the corner of the building and hid behind a tree. Panting for a bit, they struck off as far into the brush as possible to the safety of the street. The boys were delirious with adrenaline, and were skip-running down the street toward the park. They were criminals on the loose and living a life of terrible crimes.

They reached the park by the time their excitement had flagged. The boy pulled out the kite and removed the wooden cross-bars and stretched the plastic coloured triangle over the bars. He was disappointed to see that the bag held only a few (perhaps four) metres of string wrapped around a plastic D-ring.

There was a nice breeze at ground level, so the boys tried to fly their kite. Yet, even though they were skilled kite fliers and knew how to pull and release the string to gain altitude, the kite would wobble and spin. Eventually, no matter how they tried, the kite would nose-dive into the earth. This part of the park was a popular spot for kites due to the trade winds, and the boys sought help from some older kids nearby.

The problem was one of a lack of tail for the kite, they were told. The tail provides weight to orient triangular kites upright. The tail also increases drag that flattens and stabilises the kite. One of the older children had a spare home-made tail made out of strips of rags tied together. Serious kite fliers didn’t mess with amateurish triangle kites, and so the boys were free to use it to get their kite flying.
Once the tail was tied to the kite, the boys flew their kite to the end of the string. It was so close, the tail (which was nearly two metres by itself) would drag on the grass when the wind sagged and the kite dipped. The older kids came to the rescue again, letting the boys borrow a roll of string that was nearly one hundred metres long.

With these enhancements, and the boys expert flying, the kite was soon a distant dot against the bright sky. The string rose up magically, curved under the weight of itself, and all but disappearing into the blue and white of the sky. The boys’ spirits were as high as the kite was. The boy decided that if there was a nuclear strike, he would allow the string to pick him up and fly him away to the next town, just past the mountain. Or, at least, farther past the valley.

Suddenly, the string jerked tighter and the boy’s reaction to release more string was too slow. The string went slack and started piling up on the grass. It took several minutes before the string fell back to earth. The kite had broken free, to their dismay. The boys ran out to the end of the string and mourned the loss of their kite. The only evidence that a kite had ever existed was the small red triangle of plastic flap that the string was attached to.

The older children laughed derisively and made fun of the boys. They make derogatory references to the mental capacities of the two boys, their heritage, and threatened to beat them up for losing the tail.
The boys quickly retreated and yelled back that they would chase the kite down. The boy dolphin was faster and had more stamina, so he left his brother behind. He reached the end of the park where the ground sloped down to a ditch filled with high reeds. The boy waded into the high grass, getting scratches and cuts across his legs, torso, and arms. His bare feet were squishing in mud up to his ankles.

The boy was frightened of the sounds of grass swaying and crackling of branches. He feared snakes, crocodiles, and mongooses that could be hiding. The first two were extremely unlikely, but the last certainly was possible. He had heard of children getting attacked by mongooses and having to go to the hospital. He willed himself to push forward and finally reached the other side.

He climbed up and out of the ditch into a residential neighbourhood he was unfamiliar with. He walked down one street, looking for a house that seemed likely to be where the kite might have fallen. He traced the arc of its flight through the air with his arm several times, and tried to gauge where it headed.

He willed it to show up around every corner he passed. He wished for it to appear on someone’s front lawn as he walked. He fervently prayed that he could have a rabbit’s foot so that he could hold onto it for good luck in finding the kite.

The boy saw one house that, from the shape of the roof, and the colours of the house, and the arrangement of the cars in front, he decided was the one where the kite had landed. He saw an adult man in the front yard and timidly asked if the adult had seen a red kite. Amazingly, the adult had seen the kite go by his house and landed in one of his neighbour’s yards, he thought. The boy thanked the man, and the man waved goodbye, calling the boy by name.

The boy jumped with fear and had to control his impulse to flee quickly. He merely nodded and walked farther down the street. The fact that the man knew his name meant that someone was going to tell someone else and someone else was going to tell his mother–for that was how adults spread information, magically–that the boy had stolen a kite and then lost it.

And to make matters worse, the boy realised he had lost his brother as well.

The boy oriented himself by the shapes of the mountain ranges on either side and turned toward the main street to head back to the park. He rushed back and looked for his brother where he had last seen him, along the edge of the park next to the ditch. His brother was not there.

The boy wandered the park in each of the places they frequented: the pool, the showers at the pool, the bridge over the river, the stream under the bridge, a drainage pipe next to the river, and the tennis courts. The boy tried one last place that they played and decided to stay there because it was a good hiding place.

He hid in a skip behind the public lavatories. The skip was full of disgusting refuse and was soaking wet with filth, but it wasn’t too bad of a smell, and besides, it would protect against bombs and radiation. He wept bitterly and hugged his knees inside the skip. He wept for his brother and mother, who were sure to die on his account. He hadn’t been able to protect his brother. And he was responsible for his mother in a way that he could intuit but not understand.

He wept until the grief was gone and the snot in his nose was too unruly to control. By the time he had cleared his nose on his sleeves and stopped crying, it was nearly sunset. The boy timidly stole out of the skip, expecting the world to be over. The park was mostly empty, but that was no surprise due to the hour.

There had been no bombs, no explosions, and no war. He was both relieved and disappointed. He imagined himself the lone survivor of the planet, a dolphin free to live his life in the ocean, free from any ties and responsibilities to the humans who were helping him. It would have been a suitable end to a short, but miserable, life as a human.

The boy made his way back home in the increasing dark so that it was actually night by the time he got there. The lights were on inside the house and the boy stayed outside in the dark in apprehension. He tried to gauge the best time to enter the house, when nobody would be in the living room.

He thought he heard a lull of silence, which was a good sign, and stole into the house. His mom and two other students were at the table in the living room, cutting cat brains on cookie sheets. They were studying anatomy of the brain, and the boy had seen similar scenes of vivisected animals before, so he was not alarmed. His mom didn’t seem upset and the boy was flooded with relief that her friends were there. She wouldn’t yell, scream, and hit him if there were witnesses around. She was also wearing huge aviator glasses which hid the bruise on her face, but looked incredibly strange at night.

There was a haze of smoke in the living room, coupled with a familiar acrid scent. The three women were happy and in giggling moods. The boy took that as a very good sign as well.

Acting as if nothing had happened all day, he said that he was hungry. His mom nodded to the kitchen. She was busy doing her schoolwork and didn’t want to take off her gloves. The boy nodded and went into the kitchen where he found his brother. They looked at each other, and silently agreed not to discuss what had happened that day. The boy could only assume that his brother had explained things in such a way that everything was copacetic.

His brother shared part of the rice, bologna, and Spam with him. It was the most delicious and wonderful meal of all time, and they wolfed the food down in silence together. The sound of running water eventually makes its way into the boy’s consciousness. It takes him a long time to remember the hose that was left running in the fish tank outside.

The two boys rush out in the darkness and scramble to turn off the hose. They can hear water rushing somewhere and dripping into a pool near the basement garage. The boy is able to turn off the water and pull the hose out of the fish tank.

Weekly writing output

Wordcount graph
Powered by