Day 4/5

(I started this story yesterday during biology because I knew I wouldn’t have time to write it in the evening, so I’m just going to say it’s yesterday’s and today’s story)

Most people I knew were still asleep this early in the morning. Or at church, I guess, since it was Sunday. It didn’t really matter to me.  I was quite alone, on the coast, scooping up rocks and throwing them back into the water–you weren’t allowed to take them home with you, though you used to be. I know that because I have a bucket full o rocks and shells and some sea glass sitting in my room from when I was really little.

I wasn’t at the beach to pick up and throw rocks, though. It was my Sunday morning ritual, I guess: come to the beach on my bike early in the morning and pick up trash from the Saturday night bonfires and such. I didn’t much like those parties, and I usually didn’t go to them even if I was invited. I cared about the beach, though, so I took a trash bag and some gloves with me every week–plus a stop watch to keep a record of my community service–and collected trash.

I was contemplating the recycling-value of a beer can that had been half-buried in the sand when I heard a pitiful sound. It was some kind of weak screeching bark, and it was horrifying to hear, but I jogged down the beach toward it. I was shocked when I found the source of the noise–so much so that I dropped my trash bag. It was the strangest animal I had ever seen, but I acted before I started wondering about it–I dialed the marine life rescue hotline that I sometimes volunteered at and told them my location and what had happened.

“It looks like a dolphin, but nothing I’ve ever seen around here. About three feet long, looks like its left fin is caught in… a net or something? Come immediately. I’m between tours three and four.” I sat by the creature, starting at its sad form in wonder. I had seen my share of jellies, one little squid, and even a couple baby leopard sharks, but never a dolphin. And I’d never heard of a dolphin like this one–kind of stout, with an oddly long snout, not like the bottlenoses we usually see around here.

The team showed up in their bright yellow windbreakers and lifted the thing onto a stretcher. I hopped into the truck with them and we sped off to the aquarium.

“Doesn’t it look weird, Dave?” Dave was one of the younger volunteers who I knew well. He was a friend of mine.

“Yes… Well. We’ll talk to Dr. Shain before we jump to conclusions, won’t we?” I nodded. He was staring at the dolphin furtively.

The ride to the aquarium was quiet and when we got there, the veterinarians rushed the animal to the clinic. I sat around and looked at the fish and sharks and, my favorites, the octopuses.

“What do you think?” asked Dave, sinking next to me on the bench in front of the cephalopod display.

“About the dolphin? I dunno. It’s not a bottlenose, but I’m not really an expert,” I said, watching a reddish octopus squeeze through a crevice in the artificial coral.

“Oh, I am!” I turned and saw Dr. Shain running into the room. His lab coat was flapping behind him and he skidded to a stop by the bench. “I’m an expert!”

“Right. Anything you can tell us?” asked Dave.

“Well… I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but it… Okay, well, if it’s what I suspect it might be, this is pretty big news.” He was looking around restlessly, rubbing his hands together and pacing in every direction.

“What the hell is it?” I asked. I guess when you get a genius, you get a lot of annoying quirks, and one of Dr. Shain’s was his habit of only saying half of what he’s thinking, which often leaves people confused.

“Well… It looks like… I mean I think… Okay, I think it might be a Chinese River Dolphin.” His eyes were wide with anticipation of our reaction. They soon fell in disappointment. “Guys? Guys! Don’t you see what this means?”

“Um… That it swam from China?” I tried weakly.

He looked disgusted–at my ignorance, apparently. “It’s supposed to be extinct! And we found one! I have to check its DNA to be sure, and consult with some other scientists, but seriously, guys, this is a big deal.”

“Extinct?” said Dave. Dr. Shain grinned and nodded emphatically. “Um… wow.”

“It was on the Hundred Heartbeats To Live list! And then they all died!” He sounded a little too excited about that fact.

“Um… So, how is ours doing? I mean, is its fin okay?” I asked, remembering the gruesome way it was bent and tangled in that net.

“Oh. Ah…  Yeah, the situation looks okay. I mean. I think our vets can handle it. Look, I’m already sending some pictures of it to my colleagues from the conference last month! C’mon, guys, why aren’t you excited about this?” said Dr. Shain. He was bouncing on the balls of his feet.

“I’ve got shit to do, anyways,” I said, mostly ignoring him at this point.

“Hey, where are you going?” asked Dave.

“Home. See you guys later.”

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