Whales

To say that Joey was passionate about whales would be a flawed statement. Having no prior interest in the creatures and possessing only those facts learned in short, trivial ocean units in science class, it seems strange that one morning he would suddenly have complete access to their ethereal songs drifting through the warm waters of the open ocean. When Joey woke that September morning and heard the whales calling out in his head, booming through the macrocosmic Atlantic sea, he couldn’t speak. This is normal. The channels that opened to the whales put on hold his own verbal pursuits, as if the human mind were unable to behold such different languages at once. The whales faded in, building up operatically while Joey lay perplexed in his bed. He spread out his arms and welcomed the sounds as distractions from his daily life, his parents, and his education. Cases such as this most frequently occur in children and it is believed that no species in particular is more recurrent than another. The typical course of an open auditory channel with an animal or group of animals varies from case to case, the only real consistency is the resultant, individual human silence. Joey could not have known he would become connected to the whales, or on the very same day another pathway opened between a young girl in India and family of silverfish. That story did not end well.

For Joey, life was still relatively normal. He was often satisfied to have completed another day as a young boy while listening to the stunning, drawn out conversations of the whales sounding out through his head. In silence, he continued to eat with his parents, oblivious to their worried glances at one another. He smiled at the bus driver on his way to school, where he could be left largely unbothered—his silence unnoticed in the loud, overcrowded classroom. It was different than having a persistent ringing in ones ears. Whales come from further off, and yet Joey felt them extremely close. Unlike a ring, or a buzz, these were large bells or distant horns. They may as well be coming from the body itself. If Joey had access to the oft-dismissed medical reports on his condition, he would have related to the description of their connection being like an underground network of tunnels, an acoustic labyrinth where sound would not be still.

After first searching for the source of the sound with no success, Joey began trying to understand what the whales were saying. He spent time distinguishing the old from the young, the males from the females, the lonely from the vibrant. Whales are slow. They are cold to the touch. Their giant heart beats only several times a minute and the passages within those muscles are large enough to swim through. Unlike the volatile three-hearted octopus, whales are very sincere. Sometimes their honesty is awkward and unproductive, which leads many to believe they are stupid. It takes a single whale a very long time to say something—hours even—because whales are in no rush. They still have plenty to talk about. Weather conditions, water quality, parenting techniques, and regular digestion seem to be favorites, although for one entire day Joey listened to the desperate pleading from a young male to mate with a certain female—an enlightening lesson on the cruelties of wild maturity.

His silence persisted. His parents waited anxiously for their son to speak and tried not to pressure him. They tried to be progressive and agreed that this was part of his developing personality. If he wanted to remain silent, then damn their need to hear his bright young voice before he was ready. Still, they would sneak into his room at night to investigate the cause of his quietude. His mother always checked his breathing first, then checked for drugs. Half empty cans of aerosol or suspicious pharmaceuticals would alternately horrify yet relieve her, but there was nothing. His father checked the bookshelf first, never sure if he was looking for backwards propaganda or sensible Buddhist literature, and checked his sons breathing last. Both parents found nothing, not even a word written down on paper nor an article misplaced from his boyish routine could clue them into his silence. They called the school, questioning a series of teachers who all said he was turning in his homework completed on time, and never disturbed the class. One science teacher confessed that Joey had eyes a particular girl, but appeared too shy to confront her.

****

To finish “Whales”, find it on Axolotl, Pear Drop, and See Spot Run.

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