It’s a beautiful summer day along the southern coast of the United States – just a hint of a cloud in the sky and the air as warm as the water splashing against the feet of the fisherman walking along the beach, looking for a place to throw in a line and catch dinner.
Ah, there’s a spot – some rocks to sit on, a place to put his gear and a back rock to rest against. This has been a long-anticipated day.
The Fisherman, John Altrick, is about 66 years old. He has spent his entire life serving the public. He has seen a lot and has just as many stories constantly running through his mind, yet he has no one to tell them to – no family left except for those who are much younger and uninterested in an old man’s thoughts. So he goes fishing and wraps himself in his own memories.
John puts his equipment down and sets himself up for the first cast with some shrimp as bait. He throws the line out and sits back to rest while he waits. Then, a strike. A small Tarpon starts jumping in and out of the water. He thinks it’s too big, he can’t handle it. He fights with the fish and the line breaks. He pulls in the line – new hook, new sinker, new leader, new shrimp – and throws it back out.
A half-hour passes, an hour, then suddenly he hears a squeaking noise out of the silence of the water. He looks around but sees nothing. He pulls in the line, puts on new bait, then throws it out again. He sits back and rests, enjoying the view of the ocean.
A dolphin about 10 feet offshore – squeak, squeak – this must be what he’d heard earlier. He’s just sitting there, relaxing against the back rock, when the dolphin stops in the water, hangs his body as they sometimes do, and looks right at John. This seems odd. John thinks that the dolphin is looking for some food, so he throws in a few shrimp. The dolphin doesn’t move.
“What would you be waiting for, Mr. Dolphin?” John asks with a smile.
“You, Mr. Man,” answers the dolphin.
John looks around; there must be someone in the rocks playing a game on him, a kid or someone. He doesn’t see anyone and laughs, “I must be dreaming.”
John looks back at the water and the dolphin is gone. He pulls in the line, re-baits and throws it out. Looking over the water, he spots the dolphin, stopped and hanging in the water. This is really something. I’m dreaming, but I’m completely awake. He pinches himself. He feels it. He’s awake.
“Mr. Dolphin, what can I do for you?”
“We can hear your thoughts. We will listen to your stories.”
This is nuts, I am speaking to a dolphin. There are dolphins that can talk, though. Maybe this one got loose from somewhere, some training facility. “How is it that you can speak, Mr. Dolphin?”
“I cannot speak, Mr. Man.”
“But, I hear you.”
“I hear your thoughts, Mr. Man, and I allow you to hear mine. You think I am speaking, but I’m not.”
“I have never heard of such a thing in my entire life, Mr. Dolphin.”
“It is a rare gift that I give you, Mr. Man.”
“But, why me?”
“We enjoy your stories, Mr. Man. Every time you come here, we wait for your stories.”
The ocean starts bubbling in front of John. One by one, heads of dolphins pop up, their bodies hanging in the water. They all look, silently, towards John.
I cannot believe this. There must be a ventriloquist around here or something, or someone doing this, playing this game on me.
“What is a game?”
“A game is an activity that people participate in – together or on their own – for fun and enjoyment.” He finally gives in and says out loud, “Who is here doing this? You’ve played a great joke, and you win. I’ll tell you the stories if you come out and show yourself.”
No reply. No one comes out from the rocks or anyplace else. John shakes his head and then hears, “Make game, tell story.”
He does not know what to make of it, so he lays back, watches the dolphins and begins telling stories. There is the story of the soldier, starlets, cats, the story of the model, the story of the fish. They love the story of the fish, and on and on for what seems like hours of pleasure for John.
After each story, the dolphins squeak and squeal and John begins to be able to recognize when they think a story is great. He is running out of stories and thinking about going home for the day.
“Fish story, make game.”
John tells the fish story again – a story about a fish that gets separated from the school. He is a lost baby fish for a long, long time. After many seasons of light shining through the water, he is found by his original school. Because of his education through living on his own and having to learn all of the tricks of survival, he becomes the leader in that school.
Suddenly, John feels something touching his right leg. He looks down and there are five youngsters sitting there in front of him, looking up at him. “Hey, mister, you were asleep,” one of the children said, “but those stories you told, were wonderful. Can you tell us the fish story again?”