Magical Seas

Reads: 167  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Magical Seas (Short story: 3,200 words) is about a boy who discovers an injured Dolphin. While caring for the animal he is briefly transported into another dimension. The story takes place on an American military base in Cuba a short time after Castro becomes dictator. Struggling to understand his world, growing up in a dysfunctional household, the boy’s spirit is energized and his self confidence boosted by his encounter. More stories can be found at roaddogmetanoia.blogspot.com

Submitted: August 06, 2008

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 06, 2008

A A A

A A A


Magical Seas
The officer leaned forward in his tattered armchair. His right fist punched the air and silver lieutenant bars bounced on the shoulders of his sweat-stained white shirt. "God will strike these thieves and whores,” he said, “and everybody responsible for this brutal abomination.” Saliva flew from his mouth, riding rays of morning sunlight that streamed through a window.
His wife sat across the small room on a sofa covered with a print of dark red roses. She was sewing, closing holes in socks. From time to time she nodded in order to appear interested in her husband’s monologue. 
Their son, Mayo, sat politely on the edge of a wooden straight-backed chair bought at the Sears store in Havana. He completed the triangle, sitting between his parents, but off to one side. The boy was playing the Inside Outside game. Inside he prayed that his father would die, or at the very least fall asleep. Outside he appeared to be considering the disconnected thoughts streaming from his father’s flushed face.
"Batista was a tool of Satan," his father went on, "and the country I have pledged to defend kept him in power." He paused and rubbed his left shoulder board with his right hand, then drank from the glass that the boy had just refilled with rum and seltzer. "And this new one, this Castro, same cloth, different suit . . . but no one gives a rat’s ass . . . right this minute in the casinos of Havana, killers and pimps and gunrunners are laughing and drinking with United States embassy people." His lips continued to move but no more words came out. Slowly, his chin relaxed onto his chest.
"I didn't cause Cuba's problems and our government didn’t either," his mother said. She spoke quietly, a whisper, as if really speaking only to herself. She worried that her husband was talking like this in front of other people, other Navy officers.
"Mayo!" 
"Yes sir?" The boy looked anxiously at his father, who was suddenly awake and staring at him.  Mayo sucked in a chest full of air and held it. He had been here before and knew they were at a crossroads where the man could either turn violent or soon drift off to sleep. He thought about running.
The officer waved his glass in the air. "When you're older, remember what I'm telling you . . . not ten miles from here, around the edges of those lush cane and tobacco fields, women’s teeth rot out and their children die of fever and . . . ." He paused, the rest of his thought forgotten.
Gratefully, Mayo nodded. The turn had gone his way and his father’s words were slurring more now. With luck he’d stop soon, his head tilting to one side and his eyes closing and his breath coming slow and hard. 
Waiting in silence was a hard business. The boy’s attention drifted. He picked up a dog-eared book lying on the small table beside his chair. With his finger he absentmindedly traced the letters of the title, The Sea Around Us.  He had not read the book, but his father referred to it often. In addition to getting drunk and worrying about Cuba, his father sometimes got drunk and worried about the ocean.
"Mayo," his mother said quietly, "I want to talk to your father."
The boy kissed her and thought to say goodbye to his father but the officer’s chin was again on his chest and his eyes were closed.Mayo cringed as a board in the floor of the little house creaked, but he did not slow down and reaching the door, stepped out and softly closed it.He ran down the driveway and onto a palm-lined avenue and as he ran he took deep breaths of the fresh salt-spiced air blowing in from the Caribbean. The tightness slipped out of his chest and arms, pushed away by the temporary giddiness that comes with escape.
He rushed down a street of housing for enlisted men and their families, Quonset huts set down on tiny lawns and gleaming like mirrors in the southern sun. A boy about his age, Bobby Fry, twelve years old, stood on the corner.  As Mayo passed, Bobby fell in alongside. “Where you been?” he asked.
“My daddy was talking.”
"Where you wanna start?"
"Fat Turtle Cove."
"Think we’ll find something big? Like a whale bone, maybe a dead squid?"
"I dunno, maybe just shells. But I know they had bombing practice last night 'cause I heard it, so who knows what might wash up."
They reached the far back dunes and stood above a little cove where the waves lifted high off the swells and came ashore in long, unbroken lines. Down a quarter-mile of white sand beach littered with clumps of seaweed and driftwood and beer bottles gray-backed sanderlings worked the receding waters. A few yards out from the tide line gulls fed on a school of baitfish.
"What's that?" Mayo shouted. Something floated in the breakers near the rocky headwaters at the north end of the cove.
"Shark!" Bobby yelled and they broke into a run toward the thing, which seemed to flounder in the foam of the last wave.
Dolphin, Mayo realized as they reached the water. It was only a few feet out, and battered by the incoming waves. The animal's mouth gaped open and shut in a silent cry; its flippers moved as it attempted to find deeper water and each wave pulled it nearer to the threatening rocks. Mayo waded into the water and as he neared the animal he saw a nasty-looking gash running along its side, from head to mid-body, just above the flippers and along the black cape of its back.  Blood and a milk like fluid oozed from the wound and a jagged piece of metal protruded from the back extreme of the cut. "Maybe he caught a depth charge," Mayo said. He held his hand out near the dolphin’s head. The animal didn’t move so he touched its skin, just behind the eyes and above the cut. "Like Mama’s satin dress." he whispered.
"This is great," Bobby yelled, standing a safe distance behind Mayo. "He must be ten or twelve feet long. Nobody at school ever caught a fish this big!"
Mayo leaned close to the dolphin’s face and stared into its great, black eyes. His reflection stared back and behind this, deeper, something else. The dolphin moved its flukes slightly but did not try to get away. Mayo rubbed his eyes with the sleeve of his tee shirt and stared for another moment into the deep black pools, then forced himself to turn and look at the wound. Something needed to be done here, and he felt that he was about to know what it was that needed doing. He did not consider the reason for this, or even think about it in terms of suddenly knowing; he simply knew that whatever he did next would be the right thing to do 
"Listen," Bobby was saying, “how we gonna kill him?” He stood back a few feet and held his hands wide, estimating the size of the animal.
Mayo turned from the dolphin. "What?” Then, sharper: “What did you say?"
Puzzled at his friend’s tone, Bobby stared. “How `bout we get him stuffed and take turns keeping him.”
Not understanding, Mayo stared back. “We're gonna make him better."
"It ain't yours to say, we both found him."
Mayo looked at the dolphin. He turned to Bobby and stared until the heavier boy lowered his eyes. "He don't belong to nobody,” Mayo said, finally, “we're gonna help him."
Bobby flashed a look at him, then at the dolphin. "Ah, shit," he said, turning away and splashing the water with the palm of one hand. “If you want to, it’s okay, but it don't make no sense. It's just an old fish. It don't feel nothing, it can't think, and it's gonna die anyways."
"It feels," Mayo said. 
They were in very shallow water now, at low tide, in a pool less than two feet deep. And while there wasn’t enough water to float the dolphin, he remained upright and was constantly splashed and refreshed by the incoming waves. Mayo knelt beside the animal and watched its eyes. Now they moved slowly, half closing, then jerking full open again.
“We gotta get that piece of metal out,” he said.
“It’ll kill him.”
Mayo sat down in the pool on the dolphin’s right side, near its head. “We got no choice, if we leave it in he’ll die.”
Bobby looked at the big animal and shook his head. But in spite of his fear he cautiously leaned over the dolphin with his arm holding it tight, and his weight pressing against the long, sleek back.
Mayo took his tee shirt off and wrapped it around his right hand. Water lapped gently around his knees and the sun seemed a comforting arm laid on his shoulders. This is right, he thought. Then, careful not to wiggle it, he got a good grip on the piece of shrapnel. “Hang on,” he whispered, and pulled hard. The dolphin lurched once then lay quietly. The piece was nearly six inches long, but it was thin, like a spear point, and the three inches that were imbedded slipped out without further ripping of the flesh.
Removing it opened the wound, however, and Mayo watched fearfully as blood trickled out. He looked around for something to press on the gash to stop the bleeding. The sand was littered with gifts from the sea, shells and seaweed, and debris rejected by the waters: cans, bottles, a dead and rotting ring-billed gull. He held his folded shirt against the wound. "Let's put some seaweed on where it’s bleeding," he told Bobby.
"What good is that?
"It's what we have to do. It'll make him well."
Bobby gave Mayo an odd look, but shrugged his shoulders and began collecting the coarse, green plant from along the tide line. In a few minutes he brought a handful back. While Mayo washed the sand from the small bundle of seaweed, Bobby held the wet, bloody tee shirt and kept pressure against the wound. Then they tried to pack the stuff on the cut, but each time Mayo covered the torn skin the next wave washed it off again.
"We've got to move him," Mayo said after the fourth try, “get him to a place where he’s wet but the waves don’t hit him.”
"Shit, the thing must weigh three hundred pounds."
"Probably more,” Mayo said. “How we gonna move you?" he whispered to the dolphin. Again he looked into the black eyes and this time saw a field of stars. The stars became constellations and he wondered if he could walk among them.  He realized his eyes were closed and thought he might be dreaming. Then he was moving across the black void and he saw Orion looming ahead. He knew Orion because his father had stood on a dock at midnight with a drink in one hand and his charts in the other and pointed to the hunter, anchored by the bright star Rigel, and to his prey, Taurus the bull. 
Now he was no longer looking up but staring down at the constellation, and his view pointed to the star pattern of Eridanus, the river as it flowed from the bright Rigel toward Alpha in the south. He was moving very fast but there was no sensation or force attached to the movement, no wind on his skin, no breathless gasp as when the roller coaster flies downhill. Where Eridanus bends around hard south he saw the three suns, the largest Epsilon, and to his surprise around this great sun swarmed a planetary system—three, five, six planets Mayo counted – and he was suddenly above the third orb from Epsilon, a blue and green marvel not unlike earth. He drifted above an indigo ocean and it was filled with dolphins and whales of all sizes and in the air were great flocks of sea birds. The dolphins frolicked and the whales made flunders with their tails and Mayo giggled at their antics.
Then the ocean changed and what had been white was now dishwater-colored and the indigo had turned to red. Birds fell from the air and fluttered helplessly among the sea creatures, now floating with their bloated bellies turned to the raw sun. He felt his heart shudder and a choking fear took hold, pressing in on his chest, making him weak for lack of air. Then the ocean was gone and he was once again high above the mysterious planet, no longer afraid and breathing easily as he traveled safely among the stars. He rested there until he felt Bobby shaking him.
Bobby shook him harder. "Hey, Mayo. Mayo, you all right?" 
Opening his eyes, he pushed his friend’s hand away. Sloshing toward the tide line for a few steps, he turned and sloshed back. The safe feeling disappeared – if he did the wrong thing this dolphin would die, would end up like those fly-blown carcasses on the other planet. Fear knotted his chest again and left his forehead clammy and cold in the Caribbean sun. Turning to the dolphin, he put his hand lightly on its head. The clammy feeling eased and he felt his heart begin to slow. Caring for injured dolphins seemed suddenly to be an ordinary task, one for which the instructions were already in his head. He turned to Bobby. "Here's what we'll do,” he said. “We’re gonna get some rocks and smash up this seaweed, make a kind of paste of it, but first we’ve got to ease him into deeper water -- just enough to float him -- then we’ll move him to those rocks over behind the point so he’s sheltered from the waves.” 
"I don't know," Bobby mumbled.
With his arms partially around the dolphin, just ahead of his pectoral fins, Mayo began to lift and pull the animal. "Get behind him,” he gasped, “when the next wave comes in, push."
The dolphin not only allowed itself to be handled, but moved its flukes and pectoral fins awkwardly to add forward momentum. After nearly an hour of careful movement, with several stops to catch their breath, the boys had the animal resting comfortably inside the wall of rocks, cooled by a constant fine mist and occasional spray of water. They rested for a few minutes, looking at the dolphin and now and then at each other, then walked along the tide line and collected two large armloads of seaweed. The original idea of converting the tough, rubbery plant into a paste didn’t work. But after pounding the seaweed between two rocks it did seem softer and more pliable, so they packed the pulpy mess into a bundle and carried it back to the dolphin. They spread a layer on the animal’s wound and draped Mayo’s tee shirt over the poultice to hold it in place. Then they walked around the beach and surveyed the healing area. The large rocks sheltered the animal from the view of anyone walking along the beach.
"That stuff ain't gonna stay on very long," Bobby said.
"We'll come out early in the morning and doctor him again."
"Can't. My folks are going visiting in Miami for the weekend . . . and I've got to go . . . hey.” He stopped, grabbed Mayo’s shoulder and said with a big smile, like he had just thought up a cure for cancer, “Why don't I ask my papa if I can stay with you this weekend?” 
"Can't, my mom's sick . . . got a flu or something. But it’s all right. I'll come over here and check on him." Mayo felt guilty about lying, but he didn't want Bobby here. He didn't want to talk about things, he just wanted to be near the dolphin and think.
 
The next day was Saturday and Mayo came to the bay at dawn. All day he watched, alone, perched on a rock beside the dolphin, wet and cool from the spray, and put fresh softened seaweed on the wound every couple of hours. Sometimes he just dozed in the sun. Sometimes he thought he was thinking the same thing the dolphin was thinking and sometimes he wondered about the third planet from Epsilon. When he left at sundown he worried because the dolphin’s breathing was labored, and the wound was covered with white pus and seemed more inflamed than before.
On Sunday he went to church, his father nodding then suddenly jerking awake, his mother staring stiffly at the pulpit. They walked home together, a silent and awkward procession. 
Mayo wolfed down his lunch, but it was still nearly one o'clock before he got to the cove. As he came off the dunes, he stopped suddenly, a chill sweeping over him--a dozen dorsal fins swiftly cut the water in a wide whirlpool fifty yards out from the rocks.They’re coming to kill him, he thought, his mind racing towards panic. But as he stared several large, gray shapes rose from the water. Dolphins, not sharks, rising for air then slipping back under the blue Caribbean. He gasped with relief, realized he was crying and wiped the tears with the sleeve of his shirt. Taking but a moment to watch the graceful flotilla he ran into the water and splashed the dolphin’s side to wash away the sticky sickness. Tiny pockets of pus still oozed but a soft scab had formed. Mayo put his cheek on the dolphin's head for a moment, the feel of the satin skin cool and soft to his face. Reluctantly, then, he released him and stepped back. The dolphin followed him with his eyes and pushed his nose into Mayo’s stomach and moved it back and forth in a caressing motion. The tide was in and the animal floated gently in the rising pool. The boy held the dolphin and looked into his eye and his mind once again cut loose from its moorings and roamed freely around a heaven full of twinkling bodies.
When the animal moved again, Mayo opened his eyes. He was still standing in the impossibly blue Cuban ocean. The dolphin was testing his pectoral fins, ready to work his way to deeper water. 
With Mayo’s help, and with awkward pushes of his powerful flukes, the injured animal made his way out of the protective corral.  Slowly Mays backed toward the shore, eyes fixed on the dolphin as he moved seaward. When he reached the waiting squadron, all fins moved into a tight formation around the new arrival and headed slowly for open sea.
The boy watched until he couldn't separate the fins from the whitecaps.  Then, moving closer to shore, he sat down in shallow water, a joyous bubble swelling inside him. The dolphin was alive and free and Mayo was proud of his part in making that happen. But just under that happy bubble, pulsing hard, ascending, was a great lump of sadness spawned by the loss of a thing better and stronger and more magical than anything he had known before. The waves broke gently over his chest and he couldn’t tell if the salt water running down his cheek came from within or without.
-End-
 


© Copyright 2017 scott. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

More Literary Fiction Short Stories

Booksie 2017-2018 Short Story Contest

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by scott

Magical Seas

Short Story / Literary Fiction

Popular Tags