Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Adam sat on the end of a dock overlooking the ocean. Down below the waves lapped the wooden pillars, making sure that the green, slimy algae stayed nice and fresh. The sun’s reflection rippled and flashed causing him to squint a great deal. In his left hand were a dozen pebbles. He picked one and tossed it into the water. Off to his right a bit, about twenty yards out, a dolphin popped up in a show of spray. It was nearly ten in the morning. Adam could not quite understand why he was alone on such a perfect morning. His parents were behind him, beyond the other end of the dock. In fact, they were beyond the stretch of pristine white sand and the tall grass that sprouted out of it. At the other edge of that grass that swayed like spoken poetry was the small cottage they rented, one hundred yards away. His parents sat on the back deck reading leisurely and sipping hot black coffee. Now and then one of them looked out at him before returning to their book.

     “Good morning Grolf,” Adam said to the dolphin. The dolphin in turn chirped, grunted, and clicked while slapping the water three times. “She’s expecting your third already?” Adam exclaimed with genuine glee. The dolphin spun itself around and trilled loudly. “May I speak with her Grolf?” Adam asked respectfully. The dolphin hovered for a moment, half suspended out of the water. Then Grolf nodded once and plunged out of sight. Adam waited for a few minutes. He saw sweeping, shadowy movements just beneath the surface. Then he remembered his pebbles and tossed a second one in with a plop. He did not know why the dolphins wanted him to use the pebbles. When he asked Grolf the dolphin simply ignored him.

     “Sasha!” He said softly. She was in a playful mood despite her condition. She squirted water at him from her blowhole and squealed. He giggled and waved his arms dramatically for effect.

      Sasha wanted him to go swimming. She grunted, clicked, and swirled. “Come swimming Adam. Come swimming. Grab my fin and go for a ride!” Adam looked back at the weather beaten cottage. His mom waved at him and he waved back. Then he looked at his crutches. He knew what jumping off the deck would do to his parent’s heart rate. It took a great deal of persuasion to allow him to work his way to the dock’s edge all alone. Above him, a circling gull cried.

     “I’ll have to go in from the beach Sasha. I can’t jump from here.” She stopped her dancing then to consider this news. She had no idea what a skateboard was or a car for that matter. However, she knew that both things contributed to Adam’s current condition. She knew because she asked Adam things. Sasha responded with more adamant trills and chirps while nodding the upper half of her body up and down. “Just push yourself off the dock my friend. You know we’ll support you.” Adam looked back at the cottage one more time.

      “You know I can swim Sasha.” He responded before looking back to her. The dolphin clicked and whistled before dipping low enough to spray for effect.

     “Get in here.” Adam sighed and then stuffed the remaining pebbles in the mesh pocket inside his bathing suit. He leaned back and grabbed his metal crutches. They were hot from the sun. With the crutches in reach, Adam scooted himself back two feet until just his ankles were beyond the bleached wood. He then grabbed the handle grip that jutted out half way down with his right hand and stuffed his arm into the C on top. Behind him, his nervous mother started to rise from her chair. 

     “Sit down.” Her husband ordered without looking up from his reading. She threw a disparaging look at him but settled back down.

     Adam moved the crutch so the rubber base wedged into the groove of the first plank. Feeling that it was secure, he moved the other crutch into his left hand the same way and tucked its rubber base into the space between two planks. He shifted his rump back and forth while pushing down with his arms. Sasha and his mother watched with equal intensity. Adam pushed himself up. If one of the crutches slipped he would come down hard. He bit his lower lip as he strained. In his arms, shoulders and back the muscles bulged and gleamed in the sun. Slowly his legs slid toward him. Halfway up Adam quickly moved the right crutch closer, then the left. His arms trembled and wavered with the stress. A bead of sweat trickled into his left eye causing him to squeeze it shut. He threw his head back and growled at the pain in his upper back and arms. Tori, his occupational therapist would always encourage him to vocalize his pain.

     Then, his legs were under him and Adam could let the crutches support him as he caught his breath. Sasha twisted right and plunged under the surface, bulleting toward the beach. Adam could put some weight on his legs but not without support. The pain that ripped into his spinal cord when he did so without crutches however made it unreasonable. There was a chance that the pressure on his damaged disc may be relieved, but the doctors said surgery was too risky.

     He hopped down the dock with quick and methodical ka-thumps. The sand would be much trickier.

     “I’m going swimming!” He hollered without looking at the cottage. He could feel their eyes on him. They were in a cove so there was no undertow or anything of that nature. He placed the crutches in the sand firmly. He swung his lower half off the wood and toward the beach to his left. The left crutch went first. The right quickly followed it. Dragging the metal pole out of the soft sand was difficult. Adam had to quicken his pace to maintain balance. He leaned forward instinctively and that became his undoing. He teetered and tried desperately to wrench the right crutch forward. It tangled in some dried up seaweed. His right side swept forward without the support. His leg was there and it supported him for a millisecond before excruciating pain bolted up his spine. Adam fell forward his arms entangled in metal supports flew out to break his fall.  He landed hard causing the soft sand to flare up in his eyes. “P-p-pth-th-f-f-f-f!”  The sand tasted hot and gritty. He was only eight feet from the edge of the water. The hard packed sand was only three feet away. He could crawl the rest of the way easily.  Instead, he pushed himself to the left and grabbed the lower two by four of the docks railing. He grabbed his crutch and propped it up.

     “I hate watching this Alan. Why won’t he let us walk him into the water?” His mom gazed at Adam. Her eyes were moist and full of love and compassion. His father looked at his wife over his reading glasses then glanced down at his boy. Adam was nearly up again.

     “Because at fourteen years old the last thing a boy wants are his parents dawdling all over him. Especially when the boy is crip…,” She whipped her head back at him, silencing him with furious eyes. 

     “The doctor said it may reverse itself.” He guffawed at that and it earned him another nasty look that quickly softened because she knew the chances of the disc reversing its condition was over a million to one.

     Down below their son was back on his feet, so to speak. In one hand, he grasped his crutches. In the other was his mask. He always left it hanging from a nail on the docks railing. When he was knee deep, he lowered himself easily. Then he tossed his supports on the beach.

     This was when the boy felt his best. He pushed himself into deeper water with his arms. Clouds of sand rolled silently over his fists. Adam felt his body relax. He rolled over and began to backstroke away from shore.  His legs never bothered him when he swam. They floated serenely along with the rest of him. When Adam did use his legs to swim there was almost no pain. He was not sure if it was the water pressure or the lack of putting weight on his spine. Adam did not care why it worked this way. He just enjoyed the freedom it afforded him.

     Sasha and Grolf dove, swam, pivoted and rolled. Several other dolphins frolicked close by. The mammals trilled and clicked like mad. Each time they turned, it was with their snouts toward the shore. Finally, there was movement from the shoreline. Sasha and Grolf barely contained themselves. Instead of blasting toward the shoreline and finding themselves beached, they both corkscrewed. On the surface a tiny whirlpool appeared. Adam aimed toward it.

     Adam’s strokes were steady and sure. The warm tropical water calmed him. It also helped wash away the tumble he just took. He was only twenty feet from shore when he felt something brush his left side. He laughed, delighted. The salty ocean water helped to buoy him. Two dolphins split on either side of him. The fins did not break the surface.

     Their wake caused him to sway in the water. For an instant, Adam thought he felt a tingling in his toes. He dismissed this right away however. He had experience with phantom pains and sensations before. He took a deep breath and put on his mask before dropping beneath the surface.

     Every time Adam sank below the surface, he marveled at the colors. The brightness of the aqua hue was breathtaking. The swaying plants on the ocean’s floor waved hello to him.

     Something shivered under a thin veil of sand below him, and then lay still again. As far as he could see the sienna sands looked fresh and clean. Tropical fish swam around lazily. Adam could not name any of the fish but their bright oranges, inky blacks, and flaming yellows were beautiful to behold.

     Suddenly his two friends were on either side of him. He grabbed hold of their fins and nodded. Sasha and Grolf clicked simultaneously and bolted like torpedoes. Adam’s heart hammered with delight. The two mammals easily rose to the surface so the three of them could gulp some air. They took an extra moment for Adam. Quickly, they were under again. Adam tried to see as much as he could as they flashed through the water. The entire time Sasha and Grolf chirped, trilled and clicked away at one another.

     How far away from shore am I? Adam wondered. When they surfaced for air the next time he glanced over his shoulder. The cottage was looking small. He was about to tell the two dolphins that they should turn back when they went under again. As soon as they were beneath the surface Sasha and Grolf corkscrewed away from their friend. He could not understand this procedure and a tiny speck of fear itched his mind. Adam could swim but he was not sure if he could swim that great a distance. He trusted his friends, however.

Sasha and Grolf both turned and faced him. They were fifteen yards away. Their tails slowly dropped while their noses stayed level with his head. It looked as if they were standing on their tails. His heart pounded away. Adam was fascinated, curious and frightened all at the same time. What were they up to now, he pondered. Then he saw movement from the corners of both eyes. He saw that he was in the center of a group of dolphins. All of them were holding the same pose, surrounding him. Adam felt weightless and completely at ease.

     All at once the dolphins sang as they began to swim toward him.

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