Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Fiction for May 15, 2009

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Shelley Ledfors, on her blog, The Veil Thins. If you’ve clicked here from there, then you already know about the list of terrific writers participating in Friday Fiction this week.

As promised, today’s posting is the third part of Allison. If you’re new to this story, you’ll probably want to go read
Part I and Part II before reading this section. Part IV will post on Monday, May 18, and I expect to conclude with Part V on Friday, May 22. Part III is a bit long, but it really seemed this was the most natural division point.

Part III
By Rick Higginson

Marta waited until Erin finished giving Allison her morning meds, before crawling up to them. “Well, Allison; what would you like to do today?”

The girl looked surprised. “You mean, I get to pick? I just thought I’d get to hang out with the Pod as you did your normal stuff.”

“I’m not sure that would be much more fun for you than it would be for us. What did you hope to be able to do while you were here?”

“Oh, wow,” Allison said. She seemed hesitant to ask. “I was hoping to have a chance to dance with some of the guys in the Pod, and to see the cavern where you all used to live.”

“We can arrange both of those. What else?”

“Well, we already played Marco Polo, and I didn’t even know about Movie Night, but that was awesome, and then spending a night in the sleeping rooms with Leanna keeping me warm like she helped you keep Mr. Cardan warm. Would it be possible to hide beneath the dock and wait for a boat to come in? Or are any boats scheduled to arrive while I’m here?”

“Diego is on his way to the Island this morning. We could watch for him to arrive.”

“Oh, could we? That would be perfect, since it was Rev. Hyland that you and Mr. Cardan waited for under the dock.”

“I’m not sure the water outside is warm enough for you to be out there that long, sweetheart,” Erin said.

“We might be able to do something about that also,” Marta said. “Josh?”

Josh looked up from the coffee he was preparing, and came over, stirring the cup as he did. “Need something?”

“Do we have a wetsuit that will fit Allison?”

He sized the girl up with his eyes, while twisting his mouth to one side the way he always did when considering a problem. “I think we do, and I think we also have dive booties and fins that will fit her as well. Come on, Allison; let’s go see what we can do.”

Allison and her mother headed off with Josh, pausing long enough at the coffee maker for Erin to pour herself a cup. When they had left the room, Marta looked around.

She spotted Charles on one of the computers, and went over to him. “I’m going to take Allison out to watch Diego’s boat arrive,” she said, when he noticed she was there.

“Is it okay if I come along, too?” he asked.

“I thought you’d want to. Charles, you do understand she can’t stay out here with the Pod permanently, don’t you? She has to head back day after tomorrow for another round of her treatments.”

“I know; maybe it’s crazy, but when we were playing Marco Polo yesterday, it was like I’d known her all my life. I mean, with everything she’s going through with the cancer, she is still just so incredibly alive, you know?”

“I noticed that, too, and it’s probably why she fits in so well with us. Still, I want to remind you that, just because she’s an unusual situation, doesn’t mean our rules are suspended for you.”

“I know that, too, and I think that, even if I thought to risk breaking the rules and suggested it to her, she is so devoted to what she believes, she would never agree to it.”

“I didn’t think I really needed to remind you, but I think Erin will appreciate knowing that I didn’t just take it for granted.” She gave him an approving smile. “I think Allison will like it if you take her out to watch for Diego’s boat. I’ll go along so that the rules are maintained, and you two are not alone together, but I’m sure she’ll enjoy it more if she’s waiting with you.”

“Marta, she asked me to kiss her good-night last night, and I did. That was okay, wasn’t it?”

“I don’t know if Erin would agree, but I think it was quite okay.”


Allison floated in the shade of the dock, watching seaward for a boat that they, as yet, could not see. The wetsuit was a good idea; not only was she staying plenty warm, but the neoprene made her float better. Between it and the fins, treading water was much easier than it had been the day before.

Not that there was even the least chance of her sinking with Charles holding onto her. He floated just behind her, with his arms wrapped gently about her waist, occasionally whispering assorted tidbits of trivia about the Island and the sea life surrounding it.

Several dolphins stayed close, and they seemed to pay a great deal of attention to her. One larger one, especially, never strayed far from them.

“This is Andromeda,” Charles said. “Dolphin pods are matriarchal, and she’s one of the dominant females. She’s very protective of all of us.”

“Why is she so interested in me?” Allison asked.

“I’ve read that some scientists think dolphins can ‘see’ inside our bodies with their sonar, so she might be able to sense your cancer. Dolphins have been witnessed taking care of their sick and injured, so she might be staying close in case you need help.”

“Kind of like all of you take care of each other,” she said. “Is that why you’re out here, Charles? Are you just staying close to me because I’m sick and might need some help?”

“Why are you out here, Allison? Are you just here because we’re all freaks that were given tails by Dr. Marcel instead of legs?”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

He turned her around to face him. “I’m out here because you are one of the most alive people I’ve ever met, and I enjoy your company. Now, what about my question – did you want me to kiss you good-night last night, or did you just want a merrow to kiss you good-night? Would you like me if I was just a normal boy you knew?”

“Something strange happened when the doctor told me I had cancer,” she said. “Kids that never looked my way before started talking to me because they felt sorry for me, and some of the friends I had all along quit talking to me, because they didn’t know what to say. It was like, all of a sudden, I was no longer Allison; I was cancer.”

“Am I Charles, or am I a merman?” He gently lifted her face, and she looked into his eyes again. “Are we defined by the things we have no control over, or are we the people we choose to be? I don’t know much about cancer. I don’t know anything about how they treat it, or where it comes from, or what would be different about you if you didn’t have it. All I know is, I like you, Allison, and I really hope you like me for more than just my tail.”

She kissed him, without waiting for any further invitation. His first response was surprised hesitation, and then he reciprocated the affection.

“There’s Diego’s boat,” Marta said, from beside the Bitter Pill. She chuckled. “It’s not the first time his arrival has interrupted kissing beneath this dock.”


Somewhere, Erin was certain, a classical music instructor was rolling over in his grave. Maybe several instructors, and possibly even Bach himself, she thought. Joshua Cardan and Diego Hyland performed a clarinet duet of the Minuet in G, but by their lack of seriousness, they might as well have been playing Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

At that moment, it sounded like the most beautiful music she’d ever heard. Allison was in the Family Room pool, dancing in the manner of the Pod, and it looked like every merman would take a turn spinning her about in time to the music.

The girl could not have beamed more if she’d been chosen as Prom Queen, and although she was so tired that her dancing was mostly just being carried through the motions by the boys, she refused every time she was asked if she wanted to take a break.

If they weren’t doing all the work, I would make you take a break, Erin thought. It’s just so wonderful to see you so happy, though.

There was a touch on her ankle. “Would you like to dance, Erin?” Charles asked.

She shook her head. “I don’t really know how to dance like that, and besides; this visit is for Allison.”

“You’ll never learn if you don’t try, and Allison is afraid you’re not having any fun. All you’ve done since you arrived is sit back and keep an eye on her, and she said that’s pretty much what you’ve been doing from the day she was diagnosed with cancer.”

“That’s kind of the lot in life for the parent of a child with cancer. There’s so much they have to endure that all we can do is watch helplessly from the side.”

“This is something you don’t have to watch helplessly from the side. I think your daughter would love it if you got in the water and danced with the Pod.”

“I’m not dressed for swimming, either.”

“Would a bathing suit be much different than the shorts and tank top you’re wearing?”

“They might get a bit transparent when wet.”

He laughed, and rolled on his side to look up at her face. “Every merrow in the Pod is naked; do you think it’s going to be a problem if anyone here sees your underwear through your clothes? Even if your undies became transparent, too, no one here would notice, and if it did bother you, you can always wrap a towel around yourself when you get out of the water.”

“All those girls out there; surely you really don’t want to dance with someone old enough to be your mother, do you?”

“There’s always one more excuse for not dancing, but if this were the last time Allison would have a chance to see you dance, would those excuses matter?”

She considered his question for a moment, and then kicked off her shoes. “You had better never be that persuasive with my daughter regarding something she shouldn’t do.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he said, rolling onto his belly to crawl to the water. “Besides; I won’t get in trouble with Eva and Marta for persuading you to dance.”

Letting Charles tow her out to the deep part of the pool, she remembered the line from an old song. I hope you dance, I hope you dance…


Marta crawled through the quiet Family Room, peeking into each sleeping room as she made her circuit. She lingered at the door of the third one. Allison slept near the center of the room, with Charles little more than an arm reach away. Gretchen was perhaps just a bit closer on the girl’s other side, while Kelli, Mark, Brenda, and Rachel were jumbled together in the corner.

All in all, not much different than what she saw in the other sleeping rooms. Everyone seemed worn out that night, and no one stirred as she made one final check on her Pod.

The dancing earlier had been nice. That Josh and Diego had taken the time away from whatever business it was that had brought the pastor to the Island, just to play the Minuet on their clarinets, had been an especially thoughtful touch. The only drawback had been, with Josh playing, he couldn’t get in the water himself.

He waited for her by the pool, mask and fins in hand, smiling in the dim light as she crawled up beside him. “Ready?” he whispered.

She gave his leg an affectionate rub in reply, and slid into the pool ahead of him. When he joined her in the water, and had his mask and fins in place, she took his hands and dove for the exit tunnel. They surfaced once under the moonlight outside, surrounded by dolphins, and then dove again for the natural tunnel into the old chamber.

Once inside the dark cavern, she waited while he placed the mask on a rock ledge above the waterline, and then floated with him close beside her in the deeper water.

Wrapping his arms around her, he brought his lips close to her ears. “You are still the most beautiful, and the most human, person I have ever met,” he said.

She kissed him in response, and then harmonized along as he sang the tune of the Minuet for their dance.

To be continued – look for Part IV on Monday

“I Hope You Dance” by Mark Sanders and Tia Sillers, performed by Lee Ann Womack.


Joanne Sher said...

Oh, Rick. I'll definitely be back Monday. Just wonderful.

Shelley Ledfors said...

Love these. I'm glad you're posting them twice a week!