Unheard Melodies

“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard, are sweeter” 

 - John Keats, Ode On A Grecian Urn And Other Poems 


Chapter 2 Interferences

(Note: The nursing intervals for dolphin calves are very frequent, every hour.)


=== Key West / Marine Life Research Institute ===

Claude Carver checked in early to see how the dolphin mother and the calf were doing they had separated a couple of hours ago on Sunday. His assistant Olavunde – nicknamed “Ole”, greeted him at the basin, out of the twilight haze of the beginning day.

“How are they doing?” asked Claude.

“Alive,” Ole answered. He had obviously a hard time masking his annoyance. He was only still working here because internships were hard to get and the curriculum at the universities demanded them. Moreover, he had done the night shift from Sunday to Monday.

“No sounds?”

“None whatsoever.”

Why?  Claude stood at the basin and looked inside. Why did they not talk? He knelt down. In a few meters distance, the grey-blue back of the dolphin mother appeared and then vanished again underwater. “The mother should call her young, and the little one should call for his mother. We have recordings of similar patterns in the wild.”  If we only could get the full spectrum! So why don't they TALK? ”This is unnatural.”

“Separating them is unnatural,” Ole murmured barely audible, but still loud enough for Claude to hear it. “Maybe they lay low because they fear predators. A lot of animals fall silent in the face of danger.”

“But there are no predators; the basins are safe. They must know that. – When did you last feed the calf?”

“An hour ago.” 

“Then it's time again,” he said and stood up. 

They had different assortments of food in the little kitchen of the station, for the regular animals – dolphins and turtles – and the emergency cases of injured or abandoned ones brought to them or rescued in the wild. Special milk for dolphin calves was in cold storage; they only needed to put it in the microwave for defrosting and then bring it up to the advised temperature.

“So, what do you think of this interspecies communication project highlighted by Miss Dunnhill?” Claude asked while they were waiting.

The young African shifted his weight uneasily. He really did neither want to talk to his boss nor about this thing. “Well…. A lot of people in the rural regions of my home country still believe in wandering ghosts or souls, that could also inhabit animals…”

“I don't want to hear any folk tales. Scientifically, I mean!” The microwave pinged for the first time, and he adjusted the settings for the warming up.

“I'm not sure. I think I'm not qualified enough, Sir,” Ole evaded, bustling around in a corner. 

Claude stared at the slowly rotating plate in the microwave and the men now waited in silence. 

A few minutes later, Claude was in swimming gear and out at the basin again. Now the sky was colored in a bright red, and an orange stripe over the horizon announced the upcoming sun. The little dolphin saw him, waited apprehensively for a moment, but then swam closer, emitting soft clicking sounds. So you talk to me! Why aren't you calling your Mom? What is wrong? 

He held the calf with the help of a towel under his left arm and shoved the bottle into his snout. The youngster was in good shape, but very hungry. While the milk bottle slowly emptied, Claude spotted a huge structure on the roof of another house further away.  What the hell is that?

“Ole?!” he called, releasing the dolphin and getting out again. “Ole?”

The assistant showed up from the shed. “Yes?”

“That antenna over there, I never saw it before. What is that?”

“Looks like amateur radio…”

Marybeth rode on her bicycle down to the Institute, Zeus sitting in the basket in front of her and enjoying his life. Occasionally, he barked at a passerby walking his or her dog. The rising sun painted his red-brown scruffy fur with a bright orange touch. His pointed ears twitched. He was certainly a special dog, Marybeth thought. Just as Terry, the owner's dad, was special. She smiled in the morning breeze. It had been a wonderful weekend, with only just a little bit of work. (She could never completely part from her work, but it had only been a little, she excused herself.) Again, her thoughts wandered back to Terry. He was really nice and funny. He had composed a tiny bit of music especially for her – well, that was something, wasn't it?! Like in the old days, where the guys stood beneath a balcony to sing serenades! Now she almost laughed. What was she thinking?!  Girl, you're almost 42! Forget that nonsense!

After she had arrived at the institute, she shoved her bicycle into the shed and put Zeus on a leash, just in case, until she was on the boat with him. That was when she discovered Claude Carver just getting out of the basin. She had not seen him there very often, but then, she had to admit, she had been avoiding him.

What had been stupid , she told herself.  I don't need to avoid him. I can stand my ground, as I have done, in fact. I don't need to be uncomfortable or scared. He is not even my boss any more.   I'm paid by a research scholarship from San Diego, and he  – well, whatever, she did not care! He happened to sit in the same office as she did, and that was all.

With that in mind, she went direction jetty.

“Hello, Marybeth!” Claude reached for the towel.

“Good morning.”

 “You're here early. Eager to get some recordings of chatter between your dog and Roxanne?”

You can bet I am getting some . “Yes.” 

“Maybe they sing a duet for you.”

Marybeth was about to turn without another word. She would not let her good mood ruin by bantering with Carver! But then, she spotted the empty milk bottle. Now she got curious. “Which milk did you use?”

“Formula 7-b, as the calf is already over 19 months old.”

“It is responding well? I heard about difficulties with that one from San Francisco.”

“Only with calves younger than 16 months,” he replied. “And I might have found the reason why mother and son don't communicate. There was an amateur radio installed next door. I sent Ole over to convince the providers to take it off the air, at least until I'm finished with my research.”

She could imagine how the poor unsuspecting owners of the antenna were just roused from their sleep, of course not by Dr. Carver himself! Still, it was interesting, and she asked: “You think there has been interference? Sound pollution right here?”

“Sort of. And thus, the dolphins might have thought the respective communication partner was dead or out of reach anyway. So they stayed silent.” That moment, a faint high-pitched sound emanated from the adjoining basin, where the dolphin mother stayed.”See!” Claude's face lit up and he laughed. “What did I say?! I'm going to get my equipment!” 

He almost stumbled over the towel, and now Marybeth laughed as well. “Better you get some clothes, first!” While she walked on, she thought that this had been the first normal conversation they had in weeks.

Zeus jumped on board, barking happily. Hopefully, he would be as talkative when they had found Roxanne out there.  God, I wish humans could talk to the animals like Dr. Dolittle! But then…. I would be out of work… No, not a good idea.

She checked everything, made sure, Zeus was safe and would not fall overboard like last time, and then started the engine. Sadly, her colleague Becky had taken a few days off to care for her sick Mom. So, she would be alone out here today.  Will I collect enough data? Will it be attractive enough to convince the board of supervisors to give me the grant?

Marybeth shook her head and focused on the engine and the beautiful morning. Those thoughts about money were about to poison everything!


=== Later the day / The vacation home of Terry Barnett ===


Terry put his headphones off and stood up from the keyboard, stretching his back.  I'd need some workout , he thought, but first, he had to finish that piece, now that he finally had some tunes in his head! He looked around for his son and found Jordan sitting in the kitchen, busy with gluing his photos into the new album.

He should be outside, playing soccer or something with other kids… However, Jordan had no friends, not here and not at home. His camera and Zeus the dog were his only friends. Terry sighed silently. He had far too little time for Jordan, and the boy seemed to feel too much responsibility for him. This was not good. A child should not feel responsible to take care of his parents at this age! His boy should have fun. He also should do some stupid things perhaps, as throwing the ball into neighbor's windows. They had been to a therapist, after his wife - Jordan's Mom - died, and she had said the boy might feel guilty somehow and be anxious to lose his Dad as well. So he tried to be the extra good kid, watching over him…

This isn't right,  Terry thought again.

Now Jordan looked up. “Hi, Dad. Look, I've finished a few pages!”

At least, not only Zeus was in the photos, but Marybeth's two daughters as well. “Your new friends!” he stated.

“Yeah, they're cool. Nora is so funny, she always wants to put a cape or a hat or something on Zeus, like in Circus! – Can I go over there, Dad?”

“Why not. But be back for lunch, I'm going to order a pizza.”


=== Home of the Dunhill-Family, across the street ===


Judith stood upstairs, in front of the mirror in her mother's bedroom, and tried out her new outfit, a very tight top, and a very short skirt. Her Mom had not seen it so far, as she had used the birthday money she had gotten from her Dad. He sent money every year, and that was all they saw of him since their parents got a divorce five years ago. 

“Now, what do you think?”

“Mom will freak out, you know that. She hates it when you dress like that.”

“Aw! If it was for her, we would sit all day and study and study and study! I don't want to go to college. Why can't she accept that?! Why EVERYONE has to be a top scientist like her?!” Judith huffed and let herself fall onto the bed.

Her sister peered out of the window. “There's Jordan. He's coming over.”

“Oh no,” Judith rolled her eyes and huffed again full of the annoyance a sixteen-year-old could muster. “Not another one of his photo collections!”

“Come on, he's nice. I always wanted to have a little brother!” Nora ran downstairs to open it before Jordan had reached the doorbell. Judith wished she could be out on a boat, alone, like her Mom. Preferably on a cruise around the world…


=== Later Afternoon / Marine Life Research Institute ===

Claude sat on a folding chair next to the basins and happily watched the sound recordings form output waves on his laptop screen, as tapping feet behind him made him turn around. He discovered a little boy with a camera around his neck that seemed way too huge for him. How did he get in here? The Institute was not open for visitors.

The little guy answered, before he could speak the question aloud: “I'm Jordan Barnett. Got in through the fence over there. It's broken. I was looking for Zeus. Zeus, my dog.”

Ah, the biker's little son…  “Well, Zeus is still out there with my colleague. But I'm sure they'll return soon.” He focused back on his screen. He was not very comfortable with children and only hoped, the boy would vanish if no one took interest in him.

“That's your dolphin?” Jordan had just spotted the mother swimming a pirouette. “Can I take a photo?”

“Take care you don't slip. And stay away from the cables!”

“Oh, I know, it is for sound recording! Dad is a musician! I'll be careful!”

A musician? A biker-musician?! What next?  But for now, Claude was watching Jordan. That boy certainly knew what he was doing! He remembered how he had been sneaking through the dunes once, armed with a camera himself.

“I got this camera when Mom died,” Jordan said and shortly stopped his endeavor to get great photographs of dolphins. “And I have made so many albums already! Dad always says if we ever move, we'd need a truck for my photo stuff alone.”

“I also took a lot of photos of animals, when I was… a bit older than you, I think.”

“Of dogs? I take pictures of Zeus all the time! Or dolphins?”

“Seals and turtles, and plants. They did not move in the wrong direction, at least.” The sound of a boat engine ended the short conversation. “I think Marybeth is coming back, with your dog.”

“Let's run over to the jetty and greet her!”

“I don't think this is a good idea.”  At least not for me.  The boy, however, sprinted already past the basins.