“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard, are sweeter”
- John Keats, Ode On A Grecian Urn And Other Poems
Terry stood at the porch of Marybeth's house and tried out new tunes with his guitar. Marybeth had just joined him and watched the jumping dolphins in the distance. Now, Terry paused, gestured out to the sea, and commented “Nice fish!”
Marybeth did not know if he meant it or only joked. She did not know him well enough. However, she did not want to offend him or act like a school teacher reprimanding a child…
“Beautiful dress,” he said now. “Tell me something: why do you try to communicate with dolphins? Do you think they can help us solve the problems here on the surface? Economic disasters, failing governments, diseases and stuff like that?”
“I don't know. Maybe. But even if not, they could provide so much new insight! It could change our view of the world completely!” She realized that she had used almost the same words as Claude when they had prepared a presentation for a school meeting months ago. And back then, it had been such a hot day. They had been sitting next to the basin, the legs in the water. Why do I remember this now? How weird!
She startled. “Yes?”
“What do you think about it? Is it the sound of summer and freedom?” He played a short sequence.
“Oh, it sounds nice!” Probably it was dull and uninspired to say that. The sound of summer and freedom? To her, that was the chatter of the dolphins. She felt a bit bad, but Terry did not seem to notice the awkward moment. He played again. “I watch you and the tunes come into my mind!”
“Well – that's just…. Great! Maybe you should play for the dolphins?”
“Why not? I had a cat that loved country music. She used to curl up on the radio! Back then, when I planned to start a band, I would've named it the Black-Cat-Gang.”
“What held you back?” Marybeth asked.
Terry laughed. “Jordan! I mean, not that I consider him a hindrance or something, but a little kid and touring with a band don't exactly fit together. So I started to compose music for advertising, mainly. I still hope for a big score with a movie or tv-series, though!”
“I understand. I toured the world with a backpack, helping in environmental projects and stuff like that. When Judith arrived, it was all over.”
“So you took that dream job at this dream place instead?”
“Oh no, I was in Minnesota, at the zoo in Saint-Paul, first. But after the divorce, I decided to move as far away as I could. And bring the girls as far away as I could…” She sighed. “Well, let's not talk about it!”
From inside, Nora and Judith watched the scene. “They are in love, no doubt,” Judith said.
“The only problem is, he has to leave soon,” her sister replied. “Jordan told me his dad has only rented the house for yet another four days. Then other vacation guests will arrive.”
“So we have to come up with something. They can't go. Or Mom will stress us the rest of our vacation with refreshment courses and preparing classes!”
“What if… if they move over to our house? I mean, we have plenty of space! That is, of course, if Terry has no urgent appointments back in Boston.”
The next day, Marybeth was on the boat again. She sat next to her recording equipment, watched Zeus' body language as he ‘talked' to Roxanne, and made notes in her journal. The position of his ears, of his tail, the dolphin's fins – everything was important, because just as humans, animals did not only talk with a system of sounds. Did Roxanne and Zeus REALLY communicate as she suspected?
I'd need a comparison. Claude has hundreds of hours of dolphin sounds on tape. Maybe it was wrong to turn him down. We SHOULD work together …. But then, there was the application for the grant… Either he gets it, or I do for my research. I won't give up my research to be number two in his papers!
Zeus barked and Roxanne danced a pirouette. When the dog lifted a paw as if waving goodbye, the dolphin dove away from the boat. Marybeth waited a few minutes, but the dolphin was obviously no longer in the mood to share their company. On the other hand, it was later already. Time to steer home and grab something better to eat than chocolate bars!
She was sure to find Jordan waiting again, but today the boy was nowhere to spot. So she took her backpack with the equipment and then Zeus' leash. The dog barked happily and looked at her with this pleading, helpless glance only dogs begging for treats could muster. “Hey pal, I'm sure, Jordan is waiting for you outside, and he has something delicious for you!”
Walking down the jetty, Marybeth heard the boy's voice. Yes, there he was! Standing at the edge of the main basin, next to Claude!
“Hello!” Jordan yelled and waved, holding up his camera with the other hand. “I took so many photos, the film is almost full! Look how they play!” He pointed to the water, where a larger and a smaller smooth grey back just showed up side by side.
“I took the barrier down this afternoon,” Claude explained. “Mother and son celebrate their reunion.”
Just now, they were jumping in perfect unison. What an amazing sight! The water splashed up to the three people. Marybeth sighed, and then, she had to laugh. “My God, I had just got into some dry clothes!”
“Why should you any better off than we are?!” he answered.
For an instant, their eyes met – and suddenly, she had the impression a warm, gentle wave washed over her and dragged her away into another enchanted world... He smiled, and she did not realize that she smiled as well.
Zeus whined and got on his rear legs to put his front paws on Marybeth's waist. “Uh!” She caught herself. “Time to go home and eat, I know, I know! – Jordon, do you ride with me?”
“No, I go to the drugstore first, hand in my film for development! Then I take the bus!”
“Good, I keep Zeus, then, he's eager to run a bit, and he can do that next to my bicycle,” she decided.
“And … how's your dog-dolphin opera coming along?”
“We've made more ‘cute photos', and I still don't want to join your application, if you want to know that, Claude. – Yes, yes, Zeus, no standing around any longer! I'm going! Bye, see you tomorrow!”
Claude looked after her until she was out of sight. Everything comes down to that damned money! Cute photos, ha! Everyone can shoot cute photos! That will not give you any research grant, he thought angrily, but the next moment, he was not angry at Marybeth or the whole money-squabbling-thing anymore, but at himself. He did not exactly want her to fail in her application! To be honest, he did not know what to wish and what not, at the moment.
I should have said something nice to her, not bringing up the ‘interspecies communication' again! But he slipped all too easily in that sarcasm. It had served him well since he was a skinny, nerdy kid at school who had no other defenses. Now he just could not get rid of it. And even if , he thought, slowly walking back to the office, she is just as allergic when I say something nice… And for that one little moment, it had felt different, though… He shook his head. It has been a long day, that's all. She is not interested in boring academics ‘without scientific ethics', but in bike-riding musicians!
Marybeth had promised her daughters to dine with them in one of the new restaurants, and she was also glad she did not have to stand in the kitchen. However, when she saw her two girls, she knew they were up to something. They were just too compliant, not arguing, Judith not wearing any makeup or nail polish. They asked about her work – and they were never interested that much in her work! They ordered a salad – and they never ordered a salad in a restaurant where there were so many other unhealthy things to eat!
“So, what do you want?” She put her fork aside and looked straight at them. She was hoping they did not have to come forward with any things involving any law enforcement….
“Want? What, Mom?” Judith looked innocent as an angel from Sunday school.
“Come on. You're behaving too nice for NOT wanting anything.”
They acted busy with their salad until Nora finally said: “We're thinking about something Jordan said this morning.”
“And what might that be?”
“He said he had heard his dad saying that he would like to stay a while longer so you can use Zeus for your research….”
“But he can't,” Judith chimed in. “Because the rental contract for the vacation home ends in a few days. So they have to move out.”
“Unless…. They can find another place to stay.”
Marybeth was listening and waiting. Where were they going with that? After a few minutes, she knew it! “So it was Terry's idea to move in with us?”
“It's what Jordan said.” Judith poked in her salad and defiantly took a giant fork full of the green stuff. “And we thought, why not? And you can keep Zeus.”
Yes, and that's ALL that matters to you, right?
The ringing phone startled Marybeth from her sleep. She looked at her clock. Five AM! Claude's assistant Ole was at the other end of the line, and he was quite nervous.
“The wreckage we were monitoring, south of the bay, seems to have broken apart and drifted right into the birthing place of dolphin group B!”
“I'm on my way!” She slipped into her clothes, left her daughters a note on the kitchen table, and hurried to her bicycle. Thankfully, there was practically no traffic in this area at this hour. So she could ignore red lights and other restrictions. Marybeth was glad for once, that Roxanne was still in the protective area next to the Institute... At least, SHE could not be in danger!
At the Institute, Ole was already waiting. While she packed her diving gear and the oxygen tank, he briefed her. But there was not much to tell. The coastguard had phoned him, and a tourist boat had also reported strange activity and agitated dolphins in the area. Hopefully, ho one was hurt!
She stormed down from the office and nearly collided with Claude. “Ole called me,” he said. “I'll get my equipment, wait for me!”
“I can go alone!”
“It is against the regulations, alone in a hazard zone, you know that, Marybeth!”
She rolled her eyes. He was right, though.
A few minutes later, they were on the boat, changing into diving suits. Ole, who did not yet have his C-card (=diving license), would stay on board and watch, in case of any emergency.
Under normal circumstances, Marybeth loved it to move through the softly swinging seaweed, swim over the cushions of submarine flora and fauna. After so many hours spent diving, it was still a fantasy world full of wonders to her, with something new to discover every time. Some bizarre coral tree, or a big proud sea-anemone. Now, however, there was no time for this! Besides, it was still too dark, and the ground had been disturbed too much, so the sight was very bad. They had the flashlights switched on. The otherwise so friendly, multicolored world seemed to have changed with a dark spell into a realm of horror. From which the rotten part of the old wreckage just emerged, covered with plants, one of the empty window frames gaping like the mouth of a monster.
Claude gestured her to swim to the right, while he moved forward on top of the wreckage. While she turned, she discovered the graciously circling forms of two dolphins above her. Another was further ahead. But where was the pregnant lady???
Suddenly, the ground shook. A ball of sandy, muddy water spread in front of her. When the view cleared a bit, Marybeth saw that a part of the old structure had bent over and …. Blocked the way for the missing dolphin!
Claude signaled her with the flashlight. He was right on top of the trapped animal, holding onto the rest of what had been the old boat's bridge. He tried to drag the junk aside, but it stuck. Marybeth swam closer. They had to hurry and free the dolphin so it could get up to the air and breathe! She reached out through a hole and touched the dolphin. As far as she could see, the animal was unharmed. Otherwise, there would have been already sharks in the area. She pushed against the wreckage, while her partner still dragged and ripped – but so far, it proved rather stable. She leaned in with all force she could muster. The damned thing did not move an inch! They were running out of time! Taking the last option, Marybeth pushed with her back, ignoring Claude's signals to move away. It was too dangerous. Again! Pushing, dragging… and there, finally, it slipped away - and the dolphin was free! She raised her arms in a gesture of triumph.
That was when she discovered the tiny bubbles coming from Claude's oxygen connection. She made a warning sign, but he had already discovered the problem.
Marybeth had wanted to wait a moment and then take a few photos with the underwater camera, so they could determine later how to get rid of the wreckage permanently. Now, following his gesture, she saw the thin rivulet of blood next to her right leg. Shit! That meant they both had to get up now fast! Holding onto each other to combine forces and minimize the danger to get lost in the sandy waters and attacked by sharks, they pushed up to the surface.
When they broke through, the sun was just about to rise over the horizon. They shoved the masks back and took a deep breath of fresh morning air. Marybeth laughed, exhausted, but still full of joy. “We got her free! We really got her free!”
Claude grabbed her arm. “I told you we make a good team!”
They were not far from the boat. Ole had already seen them and waved.