Will and the Whale: Part 4

Last episode

From the beginning

Will and Turtle stared at the sky for signs of the birds returning. At last, as the sun was beginning to sink toward evening, the blue heron’s majestic outline appeared in the distance. Will jumped to his feet and clapped. “They’re here!” he shouted. He skipped up and down the beach, too excited to stand still and wait. The heron soared in for a graceful landing on the wet sand by Will’s feet.

“We have located your house,” he announced.

Will and Turtle cheered. Now all they had to do was wait for dark. Will could sleep in his own bed tonight! He watched impatiently as the sun sank lower and lower. “Can we go yet?” he begged.

“Not until the sun is out of sight,” said the heron. “The sting ray only turns into a human after it sets.” Will sighed and waited another fifteen minutes for the sun to disappear. Finally it was time to go. Will shivered as he waded out to his waist and climbed onto Turtle’s shell. It was a relief when they joined up with the others and Will could sit on Tony’s back without getting his feet wet at all.

They followed the heron for a long time. At one point, the bird made them slow down and skirt around the far side of an island with a roving light on it. “That’s the wizard’s lighthouse,” the bird explained in a whisper, perching on Turtle’s back so the wizard wouldn’t spy him. Herons, he explained, should be in their nest this time of night. If the wizard saw him, he would know the heron was up to something suspicious. But they made it around the island safely, and soon they were speeding along again.

Suddenly one of the little fish who had been following them let out a yelp. The other small fish squealed and bolted every which way, leaving Will, Tony, Turtle and Bertha alone. “What’s happening?” Will asked.

“Piranhas!” said Bertha. Turtle scooped her onto his shell for safekeeping. Mouths poked out of the water all around them, snapping hungrily.

“Hurry!” called the heron from the sky. “We’re very close! You can out-swim them!” So Tony and Turtle put on a burst of speed, breaking through the piranhas’ ranks. The hungry fish battered the whale’s sides, but Tony didn’t slow down. Will didn’t notice when Turtle and Bertha fell behind – until Bertha let out a scream.

“They got her!” Turtle shouted.

The heron acted at once. He dove at the water, sliced in with his long beak, and pulled the piranha out of the water, still holding onto Bertha with its teeth. “Hurry, follow them!” Will yelled. Poor Bertha! Will hoped she would be all right. After all the help she’d been, after all her motherly comfort, it just wouldn’t be right for something bad to happen to her.

Will caught up to Bertha and the heron in the shallow water. “Is she okay?”

Bertha smiled. “I’ll be good as new, hon. You go to your house.”

Will looked up. There it was! His house! With its blue paint and red door and white shutters, just as it had always looked. Well, maybe a little wetter and more beat-up from its ocean adventure, but it sure was his, and Will had never been so happy to be home. He ran up the front steps and opened the familiar door.

“Mom! Dad!” he called. “I’m home!”

Then the lights came on, and a knot formed in Will’s stomach. This wasn’t his house after all. It was a very good replica on the outside, but inside, everything looked different. The walls were made of stone and lit by torches that made the shadows flicker and dance. A cold draft was coming down the hallway. At the end, Will could see an eerie blue light glowing in the TV room, but it sure wasn’t coming from a TV. In fact, Will thought he could hear thunder down there. Even though he was afraid, Will also felt extremely curious. Could there really be a thunderstorm in his living room? He tiptoed closer to see.

What he found was not exactly a thunderstorm. Will clapped a hand to his mouth to keep from screaming. The room was full of ghosts! And the TV and lights were flickering madly as the spooky forms flew around in a frenzy. Will backed away slowly, only to crash into something – no, someone!

He had knocked over a skeleton, which fell to the floor with a loud crash, scattering its bones across the hall. Now Will really did scream. The ghosts had noticed him by now, so he ran for the front door. But it was locked! So he ran to the safest place he knew. Up the stairs, around the corner, past the bathroom and into his room! He shut the door and locked it and dove under the covers. His bed felt just as safe and normal as it always had. Will squeezed his eyes shut and wished with all his might that he would wake up now, and find out it had all just been a scary dream.

Something was rattling the closet door. No, this was no dream, and Will was not about to stick around and find out what was in his closet. He opened the window and dove into the ocean.

“Will!” Tony said nearby. “What are you doing back in the water?”

“House was haunted,” Will panted. “It wasn’t mine – it was a fake! Are the piranhas gone?”

“They left as soon as you went in the house,” said Tony. “It was like they just appeared to chase you there.”

Something spooky was happening to Will’s window. He held Tony’s fin tightly as the flickering blue ghost light filled the window frame and floated out into midair! It didn’t look so ghostly now, though. Now it had a pretty solid human form with a long white beard and a billowing black cloak fastened at the neck.

“William Williams,” said the man with a voice like thunder. “I am the wizard.”

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I don’t care (I love it)

Prompt: “I don’t care about…”

The easy answer is “I don’t care about politics.” But that’s not as true as I want it to be. I simply don’t care for the way they are done in this country, and I am powerless to change that, so I avoid the whole thing. So saying I don’t care about politics is like saying I don’t care about the collection of dog turds left on the corner of our front lawn by a neighbor’s dog: yes, it bothers me, but no, I can’t do anything to make my neighbor’s dog poop in her own yard instead, so I simply walk around the evidence. Abstinence, avoidance, and cynicism are different from apathy. I care about politics.

I could try to tell you I don’t care about Miley Cyrus, but when I think about the teenage girls who look up to her, again I must confess that I care. The way I care about factories churning out smog in L.A. Just because I don’t have to breathe it doesn’t mean it’s not killing people, slowly and cancerously.

OK, another easy answer: I don’t care about sports. But when there is a big game and tons of traffic and I am trying to get into the city for a concert, I am suddenly forced to care about sports. When I am trying to throw darts with my friends and I can’t hear them talk over the noise of the TV and screaming patrons, I am forced to care about sports. When I schedule youth events at my coffeehouse and kids can’t make it because they have a game, I am forced to care about sports.

When my fellow Bostonians would hoist me into the Charles River for implying that my world will go on if the Sox lose games 6 and 7, I am forced to care about sports.

Turns out there are very few things in this world that I don’t care about, which is probably why I’m such a high strung individual. There’s a basic interconnectivity to all things that makes it almost impossible not to care. I can’t not care about Vera Bradley’s grandma-style totes without also not caring about dumb fashion trends as blanket subject. I can’t not care about pickles without also not caring about the pregnant women who crave them. And those preggers ladies deserve their pickles. I can’t just not care.

All right. For the sake of the randomly generated writing prompt, I will try to think of just one thing that I truly, dispassionately, do not give one single hoot about. OK, here it is. Waitresses everywhere, take note:

I don’t care which kind of bread you put my sandwich on. Just make it the way it’s listed on the menu.

Will and the Whale: Part 3

Read from the beginning

Previous episode

The next morning, after breakfast with the monkeys, Turtle shuttled Will back out into open waters. Bertha, the whale, and the other sea-friends were waiting for them. “Ready to find your house, kid?” asked the whale.

“You bet!” said Will. It had been a cold, uncomfortable night sleeping on the sand. Will missed his bed and his mom’s home-cooking. After two meals of coconuts, bananas, nuts and leaves, Will was ready for a nice hot plate of pancakes and bacon. Or macaroni and cheese. Or tomato soup, or chicken pot pie, or ravioli…

In spite of the breakfast he’d just eaten, Will’s stomach growled.

“Better climb up, then,” said the whale. “We’ve got a long way to go, and we can’t have your feet hanging off Turtle’s sides. I heard that the sting ray is on the hunt. If he sees your feet, you’ll be dinner!”

“Thanks, Mr. Whale,” said Will, gratefully climbing onto the whale’s back.

“Mr. Whale is my father,” said the whale, burbling water out his blowhole. Will guessed he was laughing. “Call me Tony.” With that, Tony, Turtle, Bertha and the rest struck out. They soon lost sight of the island where the cyclops family lived. Will was very glad to be among friends. The ocean was a very big place, and he was a very small person. What would he have done if Tony hadn’t found him?

A school of fish passed below them. “Excuse me!” called Turtle. “Has anybody seen a house?” But the fish were in too much of a hurry to answer.

A seagull swooped above them. “Hey, there!” shouted Tony. But the birds were not interested in talking to them.

A pair of dolphins, leaping through the air, paused in their routine to listen, but they had not seen Will’s house.

“Who’s that?” asked Will, pointing to a fin moving toward them. “Maybe he knows!”

“That’s a shark,” Bertha said, fear rippling through her sheet-like body. “Let’s not ask him.”

“We have to ask everybody,” Will said firmly, so Tony led the way, with Bertha and the smaller fish bringing up the rear. “Excuse me,” he said to the shark. “We’re looking for a house. Have you seen it?”

The shark swam in a circle, thinking. “What’s it look like?”

“It’s big, and blue, with a red front door and white shutters.”

“Oh, yeah yeah yeah!” said the shark. “I seen that. It washed up on an island a little way from here. I’ll show you the way, if you want. Name’s Lucifer. Right this way, amigos.”

“See?” Will said to Bertha as the friends followed the shark. “Good thing we asked!”

“I have a bad feeling about this,” was all Bertha said. And many of the other fish seemed to feel the same way. When they came in sight of land, Bertha and the small fish hung back. Will couldn’t see the house yet, but he and Tony and Turtle forged ahead after the shark until the water grew too shallow for the whale. Then they left Tony in the deep water and went on without him.

“It’s just around this peninsula,” said Lucifer. Turtle and Will followed him around to the far side of the island. Will still could not see the house. Suddenly he had a very bad feeling that Bertha’s bad feeling had been right. Out of sight of their friends, he and Turtle were alone and defenseless against the shark, who was now circling them with a hungry grin on his face. “Man, that was too easy,” he laughed. “You humans are so gullible. You fall for it every time.” The shark bared three dozen sharp white teeth.

“I don’t think so,” Turtle said, snapping at the shark. “Just try to get through me. I’m a snapping turtle. I bite back. And my shell will break your teeth. Still want to eat my friend for dinner?”

The shark’s grin shrank a little, now showing only about twenty teeth. He saw that Turtle had a good point. “Can’t I just have one foot for a snack?” he whined. “Please. It’s tough out here with the Sting Ray eating up all the meat. We sharks aren’t natural vegetarians, but with that guy around, we don’t have a choice. He’ll arrest you for eating the sea bass he wanted on his dinner plate. Better to eat seaweed than get thrown in the wizard’s dungeon.”

“So you’re only allowed to eat meat as long as the wizard doesn’t want it?” said Will. “Then you’re out of luck, Lucifer. The wizard brought me here magically just so he could eat me. That’s why I want to get home so badly. It seems an awful lot of people want to eat me around here.”

The shark thought about this, still circling but in a less threatening way. “I would definitely go to jail, then,” he said. “Even if I just nibbled your toes a little bit. Big trouble. Not worth it. Sorry to trouble you folks.” Lucifer broke the circle and made for the open water.

“Wait!” shouted Will. “So you really haven’t seen my house?”

“Kid,” said Lucifer, “I don’t even know what a house looks like. But for your own good, I hope you find it soon.”

The shark’s fin zig-zagged away and disappeared in the distance. Will slumped on Turtle’s shell. He had really hoped the shark had been telling the truth. But now he was nowhere nearer to finding his house than he’d been when he woke up on the island that morning. Will wondered where his parents were. Had they, too, awoken at sea? Were they afloat somewhere with the house, wondering what had happened to their son? Or maybe they had gone out looking for him and were just as lost as Will was. Or maybe they’d never come to this ocean world at all. Maybe they’d come home from work last night to find their house and their kid mysteriously gone. Will wished he could call them and let them know he was all right, that he had friends to help him get home. But there was nothing he could do for them, and not very much he could do for himself, either.

“Would you look at that,” said Turtle. Will looked toward the shore. A huge gathering of birds dotted the sand: grey and white seagulls, smaller, brown seagulls, pelicans, Canadian geese, tall sand cranes and squat ducks, strutting black cormorants and tiny, hopping sandpipers, egrets, kingfishers, and a dozen other breeds besides. A great blue heron had taken flight, his wingspan impressive enough to block the sun for an instant as he pushed himself skyward. After circling the island, the heron glided toward the spot where Will was watching from Turtle’s shell.

“We are having a clam bake,” said the heron. Then, shifting his weight bashfully, he asked, “that is, if you know how to start a fire. Otherwise it will just be clams without the bake.”

Will had learned to start fires in boy scouts, so he and Turtle took a detour to the island to help the birds. Will stretched gratefully. It was good to set foot on land again. The birds gladly shared their bounty with Will as thanks for his help with the fire, and Will ate his first proper meal since waking up in the middle of the ocean. Turtle wandered a little way and satisfied his hunger with some greenery by the water’s edge.

The heron wanted to know if there was anything else the birds could do to repay Will. Patting his full belly, Will couldn’t think of anything else at the moment. But then it was obvious. “I’m looking for a house,” he said. “My house. The evil wizard brought me here to eat me, but if I could just get back to my house, I would be safe. You can travel farther and faster than my friends in the water, and you have a better view from the sky than they do. Could you look for it?”

“Certainly,” said the heron. “I will send the troops out now. Meanwhile, you’d better wait here until they return. If the Sting Ray wants to eat you, then the ocean is too dangerous, at least during the day. Once we locate your house, you can travel there by night, while the Sting Ray is stuck in human form.”

Will thanked the birds and watched in awe as they all took to the sky with a thunderous flapping noise. Spare feathers rained down on the beach. The birds rose as one, like a great raincloud rising up from the sand, and then spread out in all directions until the sky was clear again. Will settled in on the warm sand to wait. When the birds returned, it would finally be time to go home.