Originally written for a creative journal in high school on 9-16-06. I changed the point of view and the language as I was typing it up.
Out on the ocean, free as a little kid, free as a little bird. Short cut dirty blonde hair, not yet frizzy and unruly due to humidity or puberty, whipping around sea-salted face. No fears or worries about rogue waves or sinking ships, just a cotton shirt and loose jeans shorts. Perched on mother’s lap, though mother preferred the weight of the youngest daughter, playing with mother’s auburn hair turning lighter with age and with sunshine.
Father sat beside them, straight-backed in white slopping benches. Oldest sister kept her eyes out on the breaking white caps, her own dirty blonde hair loosening from her braid. Naturalists up front show diagrams and speak of whale song. They reveal a foot long plate of rough bristles that widens eyes. Bouncing on mother’s lap, excitement triggered. Mother reaches around tiny waste and plants her next to oldest sister. A puff of air and water heard and seen over starboard side, near distant. Feet jump off of white benches, run to side, see delight.
Blue-green peaks and troughs of ocean waves broken by bubbling foam. One or twenty giants to be seen, did not matter, any number strike memories deep. Between bubbling foam glassy carpets form a footprint of a feeding creature. Barnacled snouts break the surface tension, little fingers grip the railing, toes tipped to see over protective barriers. Splashing surface, noisy dinner, or perhaps lunch or afternoon tea? Bumpy heads grin with baleen plates, the bristly piece seen apart from owner, like a lost tooth. Wonders how much the tooth fairy might give for those, not even teeth. Look like dirty old toothbrushes meant to clean between the the cracks of bricks and bathroom tiles.
Krill, thousands of tiny things, far smaller than she, sucked into mouths with salt waters not fit to drink. Pressure, the tongue so large to fit a young girl’s room or five, pushes water out between the dirty toothbrush heads. Satisfied with one big bite of tiny animals, dives back down. Prickly, pressure sensation of anticipation in belly in knees and arms. Energy makes feet clad in pink sandals race to other side hoping they merely switched sides; believing animals think about fairness when entertaining humans.
On port side, peering over ledge with older children and adults pushing in from all sides. Sleek silver back glides from under the boat, tall dorsal fin flopped over like her puppy’s ears. It all glistens in sea water and the summer rays. Metallic living flesh. A lull on the ocean as whales dive deep, away from vessels. And then a Megaptera novaengliae breaches the surface, its giant weight thrown through the air, splashing down in cascades of water no cannonball into a pool could rival. Applause for animals making time for play in their watery home. The white underbelly gleams as it disappears beneath the water. White penetrates through the diatom-studded sea water better than other colors. The long flippers of pure white flesh glow like angel wings.
Resting atop water, bumpy head connects with soft back to long, scarred tail patterned by heredity and human activity. Thumbprint, identification. Young eyes believe whale eyes look at her. Look at her mouth hanging open in awe. Look at her hair mussed by the crowd. More will come, but not this close. Displaying acrobatics of the ocean but not stopping and looking. Girl feels the mammalian kinship; a heart as big as a small vehicle pulsing below the metal vessel where a hundred smaller hearts pulsed excitedly this afternoon. The giants of the sea revel in their playtime and she feels an awe of the ages.
This work by Sarah Holmes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.