CHRISTOPHER AND THE DOLPHINS

By

Gail Gardner

 

Christopher wasnít happy. He was mad at Mommy. He was mad at Daddy. He was just plain miserable. Here he was in bed with another bad cold. He couldnít go out and play with his friends. He petutantly kicked at the toys and books that covered his bed. Mommy had brought him his favorite lunch which he refused to eat, tried to read to him his favorite book which he didnít want to listen to, she sung to him, but he put the pillow over his head.

She had finally sighed, tucked his favorite stuffed animal under his arm and muttering "Just like his father." as she stroked his fever damp hair from his blue eyes. Mommy smiled at him. She could usually make him feel better, but this was the third bad cold this month and he hadnít been outside to play for ages. Even Daddy wasnít here. He was off in the Seaview and wouldnít be back until tomorrow. He sniffed, and a lone tear trickled down his cheek and into the pillow. It wasnít fair...he fell asleep still sniffling.

Gwen tucked the blankets around her son. She sighed. It was so hard when your child was sick. The doctorís seemed to think that it wasnít a serious problem, maybe just an allergy or something kids pick up. What did those quacks know? She was a mother, her baby was hurting and she wanted him well, now! She wiped her own tears away from her face and leaning over to kiss his soft curly baby hair whispered, "It will be all right dear. We will be here." She quietly left the room leaving the door open so she could hear him if he called out to her.

hhhhhhhhh

Chris wasnít in his room anymore. He was in the cove, down behind the house. He looked around. He wasnít supposed to be down here by himself. Even though he had been swimming for years and years, Mommy and Daddy said he was too young to be here on his own. But he hadnít seen his friends for ages and ages. He didnít even have to whistle the attention call. They were waiting for him.

"Krrrissss! K-krisss!" they called him to join them, their laughter and joy at seeing him was too hard to resist and Chris waded into the warm water. It was funny but he didnít even feel that he was wet. He grabbed the dorsal fin of his best friend Chkk, and they dove under the water. The colors underwater seemed bluer and brighter than ever. The two other adolescent dolphins were singing and the song stirred little gold and silver spots in the water, just like a school of small minnows. They began to play tag with the little boy who suddenly found that he could swim as fast as his friends. It also seemed natural that he didnít need to surface for air a lot like he used to do. Soon all four of them were arrowing out to sea.

"Faster..." Chkk called out to Christopher.

"No, me faster!" Fwee laughed and darted ahead of the swiftly swimming little boy.

"No, no, Twiie faster." the young dolphin put on a burst of speed and flipped her tail at them. "Slow as a tortise you are."

"Hey, you guys are talking!" Chris said and stopped, treading water.

"Nooo" Twiie giggled and circled the boy "You are listening."

"We should tell the teacher..."Chkk cocked his head to one side and grinned at his friend Frriss.

"Ah heck! I wanna play." Chris pouted. "Iíve been in bed for months. Letís have some fun."

"Teacher said..."Fwee began.

"Letís go see your Daddy!" Twiie said suddenly. "Teacher is there. We can do both!"

"But Daddy is far away on the Seaview. I am not even supposed to go out of the yard by myself."

"Hey. You are with us, the Cove Pod. The swiftest, fastest, bestest pod of dolphins in the warm seas."Chkk boasted.

"Three dolphins are not a pod." Fwee said.

"Yeah, but we got Krriss, here. Four is a pod." Chkk countered.

"The initiation, he canít be a pod member unless he passes the initiation." Fwee insisted.

"Whatís an initiation?" Chris asked.

"Itís tests that dolphins have to pass to join a pod. One, you have to catch enough fish to feed the pod."

"Thatíll be a good trick, Chkk eats enough as the great ones, the whales."

"Do not."

"Do"

"Do not, do not. Minnow nipper."

"Clam lips."

"OK.OK. Iíll catch you some fish." Chris said just to stop the two from fighting. They sounded just like Uncle Leeís kids. The three dolphins then waited quietly and expectantly.

"Ummm. Uhh. How do you catch fish?" Chris finally asked.

"Ohh floppy fins. He donít know how to catch fish." Twiie said.

"How can you live if you donít catch fish and eat them?" Chkk asked astounded.

"Mommy makes food. I can make my own sandwiches though and use the microwave." Chris said proudly. "I can make cookies."

"Hey, those were the round things you brought us once werenít they! They were super. Kinda like crunchy squid."Chkk said.

"You guys got the burnt ones..." Chris confessed.

"But they were good." Twiie said, not quite understanding the word burnt. Thatís as good as catching fish for the pod. Iíd say he passed the first test."

"Hey! "Fwee protested.

"I say he passed. Two against one, we win." Chkk whistled.

"Ok, but there are the other tests." Fwee reminded them. "But letís get on our way to find Krrissí Daddy. We have a long way to go."

"Yeah! We can surprise him! Daddy likes surprises! I havenít seen him like forever." Chris enthused. He talked to him every day on the videophone but it wasnít the same as being swung into the air and hugged by Daddy. His Daddy was the best Daddy in the whole world.

hhhhhhhh

Gwen smoothed the damp hair back from Chrisí forehead and was concerned to feel the heat radiating off of him.

"Chris..." she said softly, "Baby, you want to open your eyes for Mommy." His eyes opened, but they seemed focussed on something far away. "Chris?"

"Daddy?" he muttered and tossed onto his side.

"Daddy will be home soon, dear."

"I wanna surprise him." her son muttered and fell back asleep.

She smiled. She had found a willing accomplice in her son for unravelling her very proper and controlled husband. The last surprise had been a mangy cat brought home by the both of them that promptly had a litter of twelve kittens on his best uniform jacket. They had finally found homes for most of the engaging animals. Some, were probably taken by direct order from the Executive Officer. Maybe, she and Chris could put some whipping cream in his running shoes again. That was always good for a laugh. Food fights at the Morton household were becoming regular occurences.

hhhhhhhh

The four of them had been swimming for some time now. Fwee, who was the best swimmer had been teaching Chris how to do leaps out of the water.

"You gotta think that the water canít hold you and the air will. Sort of like changing places." Fwee tried to explain. "The really good teachers say that if you work hard at it, the air can hold you up like the water."

"Thatís called flying. My Daddy and Uncle Lee do that in the flying sub. It can go in the water and fly in the air." Chris had been flying once in the flying sub. It was pretty neat even though it made his stomach feel funny.

"Yeah, but you gotta do it yourself, not inside a big clam." Fwee said smugly.

Chris tried many times and after about a jillion times he managed to leap out of the water.

"Man that was fun." he said. "Is that the second test?"

"Uh huh." Fwee said. "You werenít very good. Iíve seen babies do better..."

"But, I did it, didnít I Fwee." Chris knew he wasnít a baby any more. He and Daddy had a long talk about it just before he got sick again. Daddy explained that Mommy knew he was a big boy, but that now and then when she called him baby, it didnít mean he was one. After all, Daddy called Mommy "Babe" sometimes and she didnít mind. Much.

"Yeah..." Fwee agreed.

"So, whatís the next test?" Chris asked his friends. They were practicing swimming in formation. A pod should swim in formation.

"You gotta be able to tell where we are." Twiie.

"We are in the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara..." Chris said hesitantly. "Weíve been swimming a long time now, betcha weíre halfway to Australia..."

"Fic ossn? Sn frbra? Strrrla?" Twiie sounded confused.

"Yeah. Thatís how people know where they are they look at maps. Pictures with places on them." Chris tried to explain to the three dolphins, but they became even more confused.

"Ok. You can also tell where you are by looking at the stars. My Daddy is a sailor. He says that you can always tell where you are by looking at the stars."

"What are strrrs?" Chkk asked.

"Iíll show you." Chris said and he and the dolphins rose to the surface. None of them were surprised to find that the sun had set and the night sky was full of brilliant stars that seemed to reflect on the surface of the sea like millions of diamonds or a school of silvery minnows.

"See! Thatís the North Star. It is always in the same spot. And over there is the Big Dipper and if you look over there thereís the Little Dipper."

The three dolphins looked at him in awe, their jaws opened in surprise. "You...you know the names of the High Ones?" Chkk said quietly.

"Wow." Twiie said her eyes rolling.

"Do they talk to you?"Chkk asked.

"Talk to me? Of course not, stars donít talk."Chris said and wondered why his friends were so serious all of a sudden.

"No. But they listen. They talk to the elders and the great ones." Twiie said solemnly she sang softly.

The way to knowing is in the world

The world is in the song

The song comes from the high ones

Who sing forever and in all the ways

Of the Kin who are two and one

"Thatís pretty Twiie." Chris said. "You sing like Mommy. "

"Thatís us, you know." Fwee said, "We are kin. We used to be together a lot more. Swim together in pods. At least thatís what the teachers told us."

"Well, we can be the first one in long time."Twiie said. "We got Krriss."

"But he didnít pass the third test. He didnít know where we are."

"Yes. I did. Weíre in the Pacific Ocean between Santa Barbara and Australia. And I know the names of the stars which you didnít. So there."

"Look Fwee, " Twiie said reasonably. "If we want to be a pod and a pod with a kin in it we gotta do somethings that they do. Itís not fair if he has to do everything the way we do. He is uh different." She eyed Chris critically. Once you got over the four straggly tentacles and the strange flat face he wasnít too hard to look at. He kinda grew on you.

"OK. Letís vote." Chkk said. "I say he passed.

"So do I."Fwee said quickly. "Twiie is right."

"So, Krriss passed his third test."Twiie said and lept into the air and the other three followed her in jumping in and out of the water. Chris found that he could do it better and better all the time.

hhhhhhh

Gwen wrung out the wet washcloth and began wiping down her sonís face and arms again. He was tossing feverishly around the bed. His temperature had risen again and she was beginning to be alarmed. She had the doctor on the cell phone that was glued between her ear and shoulder.

"Dr.Barnes. I am not over reacting. My son is getting worse. I know that fevers peak in the evening. Iíve sat with him through this before you know. Yes, heís been taking the antibiotics. Yes, Iíve been giving him plenty of fluids. No. He has not eaten. Jello? You have to be kidding.

If you think tomorrow will be alright...OK. Thank you Doctor."

She made a nasty face at the phone. Why was their regular pediatrician Dr.Hollowell gone on vacation now when she needed him. Jamie would be here tomorrow with the Seaview, maybe he could take a look at Chris. Feeling slightly better she went back to trying to bring her sonís fever back down. She sang to softly and lovingly to her son who seemed to calm down and fall asleep again.

hhhhhhhh

"You have to sing." Twiie said. "Itís the test."

"Why?" Chris asked. "We are singing now, arenít we?"

"Noo. We are talking. Singing is singing." Fwee said.

"You know uh singing " Chkk said as they raced forward into the night. A bright moon seemed to spread a highway for the three dolphins and boy to swim along.

"I donít understand..." Chris felt confused. He and Mommy would sing together sometimes. They really enjoyed singing the songs from Sesame Street. He sang a couple of them for the dolphins. They liked them, but said that it wasnít real singing.

"Can you show me?" He asked. "You sing."

"Twiie, you sing. You do it best."Chkk urged her.

"Well, Ok." She was silent for a while and Chris watched her carefully. He felt a funny feeling in his chest. Then it stopped.

"Did you hear it?" Twiie asked him.

"No. I didnít hear anything." Chris shook his head.

"Well, then did you feel anything?" Twiie asked.

"A funny feeling, here." he pointed to his heart.

"Have you ever felt it before? You know in the upper world? Surely, you have it there too." Twiie felt shocked. Did the kin forget singing? No wonder they werenít with the pods anymore.

Chris thought hard. He kept his hand on his heart. It didnít seem to slow down his swimming any.

"When Daddy comes home after being away...and Mommy holds me in her lap and reads to me...and the time I skinned my knee and Uncle Francis made it better and bought me an ice cream. And Muffy and Cream Cheese come and sleep on my bed. "

"Yes." Twiie flipped her tail. "Thatís how they sing to you, but how do you sing ?"

Chris thought a moment. He never thought about it that way. He was quiet for a while. "I guess I sing when I give Daddy an extra hug. When I remember to feed the cats and give Cream Cheese some cheese, and thanking Uncle Francis for the ice cream. I take care of Mommy when Daddy is at sea. I think what you call singing we call love."

The three dolphins sighed happily. They were worried for a while. They didnít want to think that the kin had become so far from the truth that they had forgotten to love. That would have been too horrible to be true. They would have become...kinless.

"You know I love you guys, too." Chris said and hugged Fwee who was startled but found the sensation nice.

"Ooooo. Thatís a nice song." Fwee said.

"Me.me.me."Twiie slid her sleek gray body near Chrisí. He gave her a hug and she wiggled in appreciation.

Chkk hung back a little shyly. Chris hugged him and whispered. "Your my bestest friend in the whole world."

"We gonna be partners?"Chkk asked hopefully.

"Sure. Like Daddy and Uncle Lee. Theyíre friends like always and forever."

"Always and forever. Thatís a good song." Chkk agreed.

hhhhhhhhh

"Howís the little guy doing?" Lee Crane asked his friend as he relieved him from con for the evening watch.

"Gwen says that he has been restless all day." Chip said.

"Pain in the butt, huh?" Lee grinned. His kids were like that too when they got sick.

"Yeah. Gwen looked tired." He smiled at his best friend. "She said to say hello and thanks for sending your better half over. By the way, the kittens are not returnable. Itís not my fault that your kids couldnít make up their minds which one they wanted and took two home. One each. Be thankful they didnít decide that you needed one too."

As if understanding what was being talked about, a large black and white cat with a half-shredded ear and a definite cast in one eye jumped up on the chart table and deposited a large fat mouse on it for the officerís approval. The former mother of twelve then began to wash her paws and face thoroughly.

"Good girl Bouncer. You caught another one of them nasty mice. " Chip scratched the scraggly looking, but well-fed feline between the ears. She gave a loud meow and jumped down off the table to do some more hunting.

"One more Morton enemy bites the dust." Lee laughed and picked up the mouse. "Why doesnít she eat them?"

"Tell me Lee, if you had a choice between eating a mouse and Cookieís poached salmon in cream, or his liver with bacon, or Yankee pot roast..."

"Good God. Can we afford to keep that cat? Itís eating better than we are."

"Try feeding thirteen of them..." The two friends eyed each other and burst out laughing.

"Seriously though Chip, if you want to take the flying sub and get home early to Chris and Gwen, just let me know." He put his hand on his friendís shoulder and squeezed.

Chip Morton looked at his best friend. "Thanks Lee. Iím sure theyíll be alright, but just knowing that I can get there if they need me helps a lot. Thanks."

The two men were silent for a moment. They didnít need the words. They knew. They were there for each other.

hhhhhhhhh

"Havenít I passed all the tests yet?" Chris began to whine, just a little. "Shouldnít we see the Seaview soon? I want my Daddy."

"Flippers and fins." Fwee said impatiently. "Youíve passed all the other tests, now there is only one more."

"Yesss!" Chris said. "Then weíll see Daddy! Boy will he be surprised at all the stuff I can do now!"

"Krriss..."Chkk began slowly and brushed up against his friend and partner. "The last test is...hard."

"Yeah." Twiie said, "Itís, itís scary."

"And." Chkk looked at the two other dolphins and then turned to Chris. "You gotta do it alone. We arenít supposed to be with you."

"All by myself?" Chris suddenly felt scared and lonely. "What do I have to do?"

The three dolphins looked nervously at each other. Finally, Fwee nudged Chkk with his nose. "Youíre his partner...you gotta tell him."

"Well, you have to go into the dark place, by yourself and...you canít see, or whistle to feel what is around you and then you come back." Chkk explained vaguely.

"Iím not afraid of the dark." Chris said bravely. If he felt afraid all he had to do was see the two kittens asleep on the end of the bed and hug his stuffed sailor bear to know he was safe.

"Yeah, but..."Twiie began.

"You ainít supposed to tell..." Fwee warned.

"Ok. Where is that dark place? I can be brave, just like you guys. My Mommy and Daddy are brave too." he said proudly. He remembered his Mommy climbing the tree in the backyard to rescue Muffy who thought it was a good place to go, but wasnít too sure how to get down. He held the ladder so he was brave too. Daddy was an ossifer on the Seaview, he was always brave.

"Itís right over there." Twiie nodded towards the ocean floor where a craggy rock formation had a small dark hole in it that led to a cave.

"Where did that come from?" Chris wondered, it just seemed to appear.

"Itís always there..."Chkk said. "Itís a part of us. Weíll have to go there many times..."

"You will be here when I come out wonít you?" Chris said. The cave was looking very dark and very small.

"Of course." Twiie and Fwee said.

"Always and forever." Chkk said and brushed against Chris. Chris gave Chkk a hug and swam by himself down to the dark cave.

hhhhhhhhh

"Captain! Captain!" Lee Crane woke up immediately. He was being shook awake by Chief of the Boat Sharkey.

"What is it Chief? Whatís wrong?" He couldnít feel anything wrong with the Seaview, she seemed to be running smoothly at full speed for Santa Barbara.

"Sir. Itís Chris Morton. Gwen just called, heís been taken to the hospital by ambulance. Heís got a real high fever and has been sick. Mr.Morton, well sir, heís pretty shook up."

"Get the flying sub ready to launch." Lee Crane was already pulling on his shirt and trousers.

"Yessir. Already have. But sir, I gotta tell you I donít think Mr.Morton is in any shape to fly her."

"Youíll fly him in?" Lee Crane looked at Sharkey knowing how the older man had a close relationship with young Chris Morton.

"Thatís why I woke you sir. Mr.Morton wonít leave unless you tell him to."

"Stubborn..." Lee Crane shook his head. It was part of being a parent, both he and Chip had learned, the sheer terror knowing that their childrenís lives and souls were dependent on you.

They had survived alien invasions, sure death at the bottom of the sea, and other unmentionable horrors, but strength and courage faltered when it came to their children. They both agreed that their wives handled the stress much better than they did and loved them all the more for it.

hhhhhhhh

Chris entered the small dark hole cautiously. It was really dark and he found it hard to breathe. He used his hands to feel the rough rocks that surrounded him. There were funny sounds all around him. There were beeps and whistles and hums and the funny sound like people talking, but really odd and slow. No wonder the dolphins found this scary. They depended a lot on their hearing.

The tunnel seemed to get bigger and he saw funny little lights begin to wink and blink around him. He tried to grab one, but it dissapeared. Then something bit him. It wasnít a bad bite. More like one of the kittyís chewing on him, but in this dark place it scared him.

"Owww!" he cried out. Then something large and dark rushed by him. The wave sent him tumbling head over heels in somersaults. He hit one of the walls and hurt his arm. He whimpered, this was scary. He felt confused and didnít know which way he was supposed to go. What if he got lost? The dolphins werenít supposed to come after him. Would Mommy and Daddy know where to look? He wished that he knew where he was, maybe it was cheating when he passed the test by thinking about maps. Maps didnít help him here in this dark cave. Maybe if he could see the stars...He looked up and saw that the bright little lights had stopped moving. He looked again carefully and saw that some of them looked like the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. He followed the lines of the Big Dipper and sure enough there was the North Star just where it always was. It beamed down a ray of light that lit up an opening on the other side of the cavern. Chris knew that was the way he had to go. He held his hurt arm close to his body. It didnít hurt so much any more, but felt uncomfortable.

hhhhhhhhhh

The ambulance ride and rush to the Emergency room of the Santa Barbara Hospital had been terrifying. When Chrisí temperature had risen over 104 and he had been sick, Gwen had to take action. She tried to still her feelings of helplessness. Chris seemed to be able to sense her unease at any time.

Before the ambulance came, she had a few moments to make a call to Chip on the Seaview. Just talking to him made her feel stronger and able to cope with this emergency. She and Leeís wife had discussed their feelings about raising kids many times. It was scary to think of the responsibility and the care needed. They agreed that without the calm strength that their husbands gave them, they would never be able to cope, and they loved them all the more for it.

She was allowed to sit with him when they gave him a shot of antibiotics and set up an IV. Chris whimpered at the shot and fought when the nurse put the IV in, but other than that he was too quiet. Gwen wanted the perpetual motion machine back. The little boy that left her exhausted at the end of the day, tired but happy. She held his hot little hand in herís.

"Itís alright, Chris. Iím here. Mommyís here. I love you Christopher." She leaned forward and kissed his forehead.

hhhhhhhh

Chris realized that he wasnít alone. Swimming along side of him was a large dolphin. He didnít recognize her, she was a lot bigger than his friends. But, he was happy not to be alone anymore. She began to swim faster and Chris had to work hard to keep up with her. She began to leap out of the water and Chris had to jump after her. They seemed to spend more time in the air than the water. Suddenly, he found himself jumping onto a beach. He lay there for a moment panting with the exertion. He stood up shakily. He had been swimming for hours with the dolphins and it felt funny to be standing and have the gravity pull at him.

"Now, we are in your world Chris." The large dolphin hung over his head in the air lazily waving her fins to stay in place.

"Youíre in the air!" Chris said astonished.

The large dolphin looked around and winked at him. "Well, so I am. Itís not so strange. After all you were in my world. Didnít you notice that you didnít need to breath air and that you could swim as well as your friends?" she laughed. Her laugh reminded him of Mommy.

"Umm. Yeah. But it felt easy."Chris said.

"Easy for you. Easy for me." She turned herself so that she was looking at him upside down.

Chris giggled. "You look funny."

The dolphin stood on her tail so that she could look at Chris in the face. "You look pretty funny to me, too." She nudged him in the armpit where he was ticklish. Chris giggled again.

"Youíre like my Mommy." He said.

"Thatís because Iím your motherís partner. We sing together." The large dolpin opened her mouth and sang:

The way to knowing is in the world

The world is in the song

The song comes from the high ones

Who sing forever and in all the ways

Of the Kin who are two and one

"Thatís the song that Twiie sang!" Chris remembered.

"Itís also your song, Chris. You have a long journey before you. One that will have many tests like you have already experienced." The dolphin was suddenly quite serious. "Some you will have help with, others you will have to do alone."

"Do I have to?"Chris felt a little frightened. Going into the cave had been real scary and his arm still hurt where he had bumped it.

"No, you donít. It is your choice." She was quiet, but Chris could feel the warm feeling in his chest and he knew that she was singing to him. She loved him. He raised his eyes to hers and he loved her, too.

"Iím still a baby, sometimes, but I can be brave too! When do I go? Can I see my Daddy first? Will Mommy miss me?" He felt sudden tears sting his eyes.

The dolphin came closer and he felt as if she was hugging him.

"Your journey will not begin for many years yet. You have to grow strong and learn much of your ways and ours before you start. But, I promise you this, you will never be alone. You have your Mommy and Daddy, your partner Chkk, Twiie and Fwee. You will have many more friends all around your world and ours who will be talking to the High Ones for you and wishing you well." She seemed to glow with a silvery light and he could see stars in her kind eyes.

"Now, Chris." she said softly, " it is time for you to go home. Your Mommy and Daddy are waiting for you."

Suddenly very tired. Chris yawned and lay down on the warm white sands of the little beach. His eyes closed.

hhhhhhhh

Chip Morton opened the door of the hospital room. His wife, sitting by their sonís bedside, raised up her white face to him. He could see that she had been crying.

"Honey!" He called out and then she was suddenly in his arms. "Iím here dearest. How is he?"

"I - I donít know." she clung to him desparately. "He is so sick. I should have done something...if only."

"Shhh. Itíll be alright. He has us and there are so many others here for him. All of our friends are praying for him and hoping the best. He canít help but get better. Heís a fighter, just like his Mother." He smiled weakly at her. Where did she get the strength?

Gwen leaned thankfully on him. Everything felt so much better when he was there. He was her strength.

The two of them sat together next to their sonís bed. After a few minutes his eyes began to flutter open.

"Chris.." his Mommy called his name.

"Címon sailor." his Daddy used his pet name.

"Mommy...Daddy. I went for a swim with the dolphins...they talked to me...Iím hungry. Whatís that thing stuck in my arm. Can I go home?" Everything came bubbling out at once.

"Whoa, take it easy, sailor." Daddy laughed. "You have been having dreams."

"But, it really happened. I went swimming in the ocean with the dolphins. We went half-way to Australia. Chkk is my partner..." Chris gave a big yawn.

"It was a good dream then." Mommy said and pulled the blanket up around him. She tucked sailor bear under his arm. "Go to sleep, baby. When you wake up, youíll be home."

"Not a baby..." Chris said sleepily, his eyes closing.

"No, dear, not a baby anymore." Mommy smiled and began to sing to him.

hhhhhhhh

Down in the cove, near the Morton house, three dolphins waited patiently for their friend to come and swim with them again. The Cove Pod had many adventures waiting for them and a lot to learn from each other.

Chkk jumped high in the air and sang "Always and Forever Krriss, Always and Forever!"