Chapter 2

Adam hovered in the tropical water and watched his dolphin friends through his mask. The trills, clicks, and whistles vibrated through the water. He floated in the center of their circle. Their ripples rolling into him were like his father’s pager when he held it as it vibrated. The mammals maintained their positions as they swam closer and closer to him. As they did the sounds became louder and louder. His entire body seemed to thrum. He could feel his teeth clicking together. A tingling started at the base of his skull and began to worm its way down his spine. It spread through his bones, burrowing into his marrow. His nerves started to tingle lightly as well. He had a need for oxygen but it was not overwhelming.
Sasha and Grolf were directly in front of him. He was so relaxed that he almost tried to breathe. He felt the thrum move down his arms to his hands. It spread through his rib cage. Despite the warm water, goose flesh decorated his skin. He did not understand what was happening but he liked it.
A few bubbles burped out of his nostrils. The dolphins were close enough to touch now. He felt the thrum roll down his spine. His belly grew fuzzy from the vibes. As the thrumming moved through his pelvis and toward his groin, he became aware of two things. One was some commotion near the surface behind him. The second and more obvious thing was the heat growing in his legs. Adam had never felt heat or cold in his legs since his accident. He had not felt anything other than occasional stabbing pains. His heart began to hammer in his chest with excitement. What was happening to him, he wondered?
Grolf and Sasha were the first to bolt. They swirled and swam away leaving Adam in a swarm of bubbles and confusion. He heard a muffled voice close by as the rest of the dolphins followed Sasha and Grolf. Then his father’s hands gripped his upper arms and he was hauled to the surface.

“Let me go! Let me go! What are you doing?” Adam’s mask twisted to the side from his struggles to free himself from his father. Sasha and Grolf were gone now.
“Adam, stop fighting me. I said stop fighting me. You’re only making it worse. Let me bring you in.” Adam heard his father but he refused to listen to him. He was too angry to listen. He wriggled and squirmed in a desperate attempt to be free. The stubbornness of both of them caused the ocean to foam where they were.
“I know how to swim Dad.” Adam was able to get his hands against his father’s chest.
“Dad, I can swim by myself!” He pushed away from his father as hard as he could as he shouted. His father stopped then. He treaded water and stared at his boy. There was quiet now. His father’s silence was a confused one. Adam’s silence was sullen.
“Adam, you were under the surface for so long I freaked.”
“I can hold my breath for a long time.”
“What were you doing with those porpoises?”
“They’re dolphins.” The frustration in Adam’s voice was obvious. He looked away from his father. He could see his mother standing ankle deep by the shore. She was holding his crutches. “I go swimming with them sometimes Dad. You’ve seen them before.” Adam began to swim back to shore. His father kept stride with him.
“You’ve never been out this far before Adam.” His son did not respond to this other than to reply, “I know.” His father did not speak again until they reached the shore and Adam’s mother helped him with his crutches.
“Adam, you have to realize that as friendly as those fish are…”
“They’re mammals Dad.” His father glared at him, silencing him.
“…As friendly as those dolphins are, you need to remember that they are still wild animals. You can never be too sure what they will do. They could have brought you out five miles from shore and left you there.”
They made it to the weather beaten boardwalk leading to the cottage. His mother draped a towel over Adam’s shoulders. The boy realized as he walked with his parents that their concerns were genuine. He could argue for the remainder of the vacation that Sasha and Grolf were his friends and they would never do him any harm. What good would it do though? Most likely they would get concerned that he had given the “fish” names. Adam could not fathom how they would respond if he told them that the dolphins had told him their names. He felt certain that keeping his ability to communicate with dolphins a secret was a good idea. It was his belief that as people got older they closed off their minds to certain possibilities.
When they reached the back deck of the cottage the tingling sensation he felt before was gone. Adam wondered if it was pure imagination anyway. With a sigh of resigned tiredness he eased himself into the chaise lounge on the deck. His father was already reading the sports section of the newspaper. His mother stood on the deck, her hands placed in motherly fashion on her hips. The bright morning sun had her eyes looking like slits. Adam knew she was studying him. She wanted to say more to him, perhaps ask him something about the dolphins.
“Are you hungry Sweetie?” He was relieved. Adam smiled in an attempt to mask his relief.
“Sure, Mom.” She nodded then, satisfied and swept into the cottage letting the screen door whap loudly behind her. He heard her mutter something about fruit salad.
While he waited for his mother to return with his snack Adam looked at his father. Reading glasses rested on the tip of his father’s nose. The forty-three year old man licked a thumb and turned a page. His dark brown hair only had a few gray flecks in it.
I’m sorry I disappointed you Dad. Adam only said this in his mind. I know you wanted me to play little league baseball. I know you were hoping I could shoot a puck or throw a football through an old tire from 40 yards away. Strong emotions like a ball of wires swelled inside him. They made his chest feel heavy and tight. The strongest of these was love for his father. This love felt tattered and bruised, however. Adam ached for his father’s approval. He wanted nothing more than to do things with him, physical things.
Hey Dad, let’s go bike riding. Dad, do you want to toss around the Frisbee? Adam knew he would never be able to do those things with his father. He believed his father was disappointed in him about his being a crip too. The burden he felt about this disappointment nearly overwhelmed the boy. The weight of failure clung to him. Why did he do what he did that day? If only he had waited.
He opened his mouth to say something when his mother returned. She was carrying a small bowl of fruit salad.
“Here you go Adam. Nice and fres…” She stopped. She noticed instantly in that mom way that her son was not all right. “Sweetheart, what’s the matter?” She looked around nervously, looking for a place to put the bowl of fruit. Adam took it from her.
“There’s nothing wrong Mom. The sun is just making my eyes water. It’s no big deal.” He was grateful that his voice did not crack. She gave him an even longer ‘Mom look’ then before. Adam, who was hungry, shoveled a chunk of pineapple into his mouth. He chewed dramatically for effect. It seemed to work. His mother tousled Adam’s hair. She sat at the table with his father. Adam slowly let out a quiet sigh of relief.
“Hey, Dad?” His father, who had been oblivious to this point worked on the crossword puzzle. Adam waited a few seconds. “Dad!” He said louder. His mother glanced up from her paperback novel. She watched and waited. “Dad?” Adam said it long and slow. His father finally afforded him a look. His eyes were full of annoyance.
“What is it Adam?” You can’t be asking me if I want to play catch on the beach boy!
“Do you think we can charter a boat and go fishing?” This was something Adam could do. His father looked at him for a moment. Then he looked out toward the water in thought.
“We’ll see.” He returned to his crossword puzzle. Adam blinked two times. He popped a cube of cantaloupe into his mouth even though he was no longer hungry. Melissa Carter glared at her husband.

That night Alan and Melissa Carter were back on the deck sitting in beach chairs. The moon, full and glorious, spotlighted them. It was quiet now. Adam was asleep in his room. Alan drank lemonade from his glass. The ice clinked as he put the glass down.
“The lobster was delicious.” Melissa said lazily. She was watching the moon’s reflection ripple and dance on the ocean’s surface. It was relaxing and hypnotic. She had a glass of ice water in her right hand. With her left hand she daintily traced her finger up and down her husband’s right forearm.
“So was the striper.” He responded. They had dinner in town. The place was a popular seafood restaurant located on the main pier.
“What is a rusty scupper?” She asked her husband. He let out a tired chuckle.
“I know that scuppers are the holes cut into the waterways and bulwarks on ships. They allow water to flow off the deck and back into the ocean. As for rusty scuppers? I am assuming they get rusty from so much water being washed over them. But, I cannot be sure because I never really looked close enough at one.”
“That is a curious name for a seafood restaurant.” Melissa remarked. Her husband nodded.
“It is curious if you’re familiar with the lingo of merchant marines and sea faring crafts. To most people like us however, it just sounds like an authentic seafood restaurant.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes. She was trying to find a way to bring up their son when her husband did it for her.
“Adam wasn’t too hungry tonight.”
“He has a lot on his mind Alan.” She turned and faced him.
“Like how stupid he was for doing what he did with those fish?”
“No, like how blind can his father be.” His head snapped toward her. She could see the dull confusion furrow his brow. The look drove her crazy. When they were dating, she found that look adorable. Now it just annoyed her. Melissa felt anger and frustration swell inside her. How can a man so obviously brilliant in so many ways still have no clue about his own son and his desperate need for his fathers’ love and attention?
“What are you talking about Missy?” She shook her head in part disbelief and part disgust. She took a deep breath. Melissa knew she had to word this carefully. If she insulted her husband it most certainly would make things worse. She knew he was thin skinned.
“Remember this morning when Adam asked you about deep sea fishing?” He shifted his eyes to the left, toward the water. She was about to ask him how he could possibly forget when his face lit up in recognition.
“Do you mean while I was reading the paper? What about it?”
Melissa leaned forward now, for emphasis. “Alan, our son wants to spend more time with you. He wants to go places and do things with his Dad.”
“We are. We went to dinner, didn’t we?” She looked at him with a blank expression.
“What?” He asked, clearly not getting it. She did not respond. She drank her ice water and stared at him. He rolled his eyes. He scratched the back of his neck and looked across the top of the swaying grass.
“There’s only so much Adam can do honey.”
“What did you just say?” Her voice was so low and venomous he had trouble hearing it. He did not have to hear. Her eyes say it all.
“You are the one who is always giving me dirty looks when I call him a cripple.”
“You’re always telling me to sit down and let him earn his lumps. Now, you’re so blind and ignorant to…” Melissa stopped. Her expression changed from one of deep anger to sudden awareness. She stood up. She put her glass of water on the railing and picked her shawl off the back of her beach chair. Rage washed away awareness. He stood up as well. He still clutched his glass of lemonade.
“What’s wrong? Why are you so angry?” She tried moving around her husband. She was too furious to speak. She needed to get away from him before she lost control.
He grabbed her upper arm with his free hand. “Talk to me.” He demanded.
“Okay Alan. You want me to talk to you. I’ll talk to you.” She paused for a split second. She locked his gray eyes with her brown ones.
“I thought that you just weren’t getting it; that you could not see the forest because the trees were in the way. I assumed that you were missing Adam’s clues and hints. You’re not. Your son embarrasses and disappoints you. Perhaps he even makes you feel guilty and ashamed.” She shook her head in bewilderment. “Let go of me please.” She hissed. He did.
“It isn’t like that Missy.”
“Isn’t it?” Nothing else was said. She could tell he was searching for the right thing to say and could not find it. His conscience did that for his guilty feelings, she thought.
Melissa pushed past her husband and went into the cottage. The screen door smacked closed like an exclamation point. Unseen, the silhouette of their fourteen-year-old son moved away from the screened window of his bedroom.


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