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by L. H. Hall

Chapter 29 - The Baby


by L. H. Hall

Chapter 29

The Baby

We were going through a period of boredom. Nothing seemed to be exciting anymore. We needed something to add some spice to our lives. One day Debbie came in covered with red juice from some berries she had found. She knew better than to eat anything she could not identify, but we thought for a few days she would forever have big red splotches all over her body, but in a week or ten days she was back to her normal color.

One boring evening, I looked at Debbie with her splotches and realized we could use the red berries to add some color to our lives. We might be able to use it as ink, so the we could practice writing. If we looked around, maybe we could find some other dyes.

The first thing I did was to make a checker board and some checkers. That was exciting for a few days. I had to make another set, but within a couple of weeks it was hard to find enough checkers to play one game. Like everything else it got boring. Even the dolphins, though maybe not really boring, became just another thing we liked to do. The morning of September 8, we went to play with the dolphins, and one was missing. The others were there ready to go as playful as ever. They seemed to show no remorse over the missing one, but we were worried. The dolphins were more chatty than usual, like they were trying to tell us something. We played with them for a couple of hours, and even let them take us as much as a couple of miles from shore, but it just was not the same without number six there to feel cheated and left out.

When it was over, we said a sad good-by to our five friends, and received the normal air show from them. We really worried about the missing animal. We could only think of one reason she was missing. She must be dead.

The next day, being Sunday, we did not go to the beach, but I scanned the surf through the telescope in the west room, and through the binoculars. Only one time was I able to spot something that might have been number six. The other five were playing off shore normally. Early Monday morning as soon as breakfast was over, we went to the beach. A sixth dorsal fin was again visible through the binoculars, but it seemed different, maybe a little slower, maybe she did not porpoise quite as high, but she was there.

When we got to the beach, the other five came up to greet us but number six was not so anxious. We were sure she was the same dolphin, and she let us know she recognized us but for several minutes she kept her distance. We did not want to play with the others. We wanted to see why number six was acting so strangely. She had always been so active and playful. After several minutes of coaxing, she slowly moved into the shallows, and we saw her problem. Swimming beside her was a little two foot miniature. "She's got a baby!" Sarah screamed. We all wanted to get close to the new calf, but the mother did not quite know whether to trust us, or not. Finally, she allowed the baby to come near.

"Be very careful," I warned them. She could kill us all with one swipe of her tail. Don't give her any reason to think you might even accidentally hurt the baby."

"She's our friend. She wouldn't hurt us." Julie argued

"She's a mother first." Sarah reached out to touch the baby's nose. "She'll fight anything to protect her baby."

We stroked the calf whenever it was near enough, but we did not try to hold it, or even try to make it change directions, with one exception. Julie squatted down to put her arms around it one time, and just about the time her face was above the blow hole the calf exhaled, spraying Julie full in the face. The mother must have thought that was funny. She started chattering, and in a moment the other five were laughing at Julie.

"That wasn't funny." Julie wiped the spray from her face, laughing.

After that, the mother seemed to relax a little. As neat as the baby was, we wanted something more exciting. The other animals got tired of the baby getting all the attention, and were nudging us to play.

The new mother swam along with us at a safe distance but did not involve herself in the games. She stayed well out of the way, so we would not come flying through the air and land on her calf. The sun was well into the western sky before our stomachs reminded us that we were hungry. As we neared the shore a thirty inch fish went flying over our heads and landed high on the beach. Number six had supplied our lunch. We hesitated in the water to stroke the baby again before we went to the cave.

We were in the surf with the dolphins every day, except Sunday, for the next two weeks. The new calf had renewed our interest in them. By then, the calf was waiting for us, and wanted to play. Her mother had returned to the games of the adults, ever watchful that the calf stayed out of the way.

Sheba was remarkably less active these days. She still ruled the pups, demanding absolute obedience, but she had stopped hunting. The pups found their own food and supplied us with more than enough. Sheba waited for the refuse of what the pups brought, and what leftovers we fed her. Only if she did not want it, were the pups allowed to touch that. Often, when we went to the beach she would climb to a high point on the ledge where she could see us, and watch over us from there. When she did go with us, she let the pups take the lead. She stayed beside one of us or walked behind us. Sometimes she would even watch us swim from the edge of the patio. However, we never had any doubt that she would be there in a minute, and fight to the death for us, if she were needed. We even trained her to ride on the raft behind the dolphin when we rode the dolphins to the cove. Sheba was getting old. We talked often about how it seemed to hurt her to get up, or to walk, and about how lonely it would be when she was gone.

"Do dogs go to heaven?" Julie asked one day.

"I don't know. Maybe, if we love them enough." I answered. "I asked my dad the same question. He didn't know either, but he said he hoped so. He wanted to see his old dog Tippy again. He said, 'Heaven would be awful lonely without pets,' and he didn't think God would let us be lonely."

"I bet they do, and old Sheba'll be there too, 'cause she's the best dog in the whole wide world." Debbie gave the old girl a hug. "Aren't you, Sheba?"

The rest of us agreed, at least to the best dog part. She had surely saved our lives, fed us and looked after us. Debbie's birthday approached almost without warning. If I had not written it on the calendar, she might have let us forget it. It was the Friday afternoon before. We were sitting in the cave working. The girls were making skirts, and Jamie and I were busy with a mat for a lounge chair. Sarah put the skirt down, and looked at Debbie. "Do you know what Sunday is?"

"I know." Debbie didn't look up.

"Were you going to let it slip by without saying anything?" Sarah picked up a long grass leaf and worked it into the skirt.

"I don't need a birthday. I'll be eight when the time comes. 'Sides it's on Sunday. We can't do nothing anyway."

"Don't you want to have your turn being the Most Important Person for a day?" I looked at her.

"Not if I gotta get all those spankin's. Eight and eight's sixteen, an' eight more is--twenty-four, an' eight more is--thirty-two, an' ever' body'll gimme an extra one. That's thirty-six spankin's and four pinches on my poor bottom. That's a lot of spankin's. My bottom will hurt so bad, I won't be able to sit down for a week."

"I done it. It wasn't so bad," Jamie boasted.

"You wasn't spankin' you, neither. I saw how hard you spanked Sarah."

"So you're the one who hit me so hard. I'll get even with you next year." Sarah shook her fist at Jamie. "Debbie, think about me. I had to take forty swats and four pinches, and I sat down afterwards."

"Your bottom's bigger'n mine, an' tougher too."

"And I'll have to take forty-four, and I know you won't take it easy on me, like I do you." I knew how she felt. I was beginning to dread my birthday already.

"You're too big," Debbie protested. "You won't even get a spankin'. We can't even catch and hold you."

"Oh, yes, we will!" Jamie stripped the leaves from a vine.

"You held me down while Sarah was tickling me, and I was really fighting to get away. I imagine you can hold me to give me a birthday spanking." I pulled a vine tight in the mat.

"But I don't want no spankin'."

"Birthday spankings are a game, and we're gonna keep on doin' them, but I don't think we have to try to hurt people, or to scare the girls out of having birthdays. Right? Jamie." I glared at Jamie. He knew he'd better agree.

"Okay. I s'pose, but you ain't no little girl."

"I took it easy on you, Jamie. Think about next year when you're spanking me. I know I can spank harder than you can." I dreaded the day. "What do you wanna do, special, Debbie?"

"We can't do nothin'. I told ya. It's on Sunday. All I can do is get a spankin'."

"I'll bet Jesus wouldn't mind if we switched Saturday and Sunday this week. We'll move Sunday up to Saturday. Then, we can say your birthday is on Saturday, instead of Sunday. How would that be?" I wove a vine in and out of the warp vines.

"Could we go to the lakes Saturday, I mean Sunday evening so we'd be there all day Saturday?" Debbie giggled. "That sounds funny, Saturday coming after Sunday."

"I guess so. We'll have to have a cold camp, and either eat jerky for supper Sunday and breakfast Saturday, or eat supper early Sunday here at the cave. We'll still have a cold breakfast Saturday. That does sound funny, doesn't it? And it's hard to say too."

"We could go down to the beach at the cove early Satur--Sunday, build a fire on the beach, and carry some coals up to the lake in a bucket." Sarah put her work down again. "Maybe Jesus wouldn't mind if we played with the dolphins in the cove while the coals were getting ready either."

"I don't think He would mind this time." I started a new vine. "That's a good idea, Sarah."

"Do you think Sheba will want to ride on the raft?" Jamie stroked the old dog beside him.

"I don't know. We'll give her the opportunity. That gives me another idea. I'm gonna make a little raft for the baby to pull. We won't put anything on it, but maybe she'll have fun pulling it. Whadaya think?"

"What if she won't pull it?" Debbie asked.

"Then, I will have wasted a few short bamboo scraps and about a half hour of time. We've got plenty of both." I got up. "Come on, Jamie, we can finish this later. Let's make the raft now."

Jamie and I selected six Bamboo poles about two inches in diameter and three feet long, and a couple short one-inch cross pieces to keep the big ones flat. By the time I had the raft lashed together, Jamie brought me a half-inch vine about fifteen feet long. I tied both ends of the vine to the front of the raft. "Let's go see if she likes it. Does anybody else want to go?"

"Go where?" Sarah came out of the cave.

"To see if the baby dolphin likes her new raft."

"I was just gonna wash the sheets, but I can do that later, if it don't rain."

"It will." Debbie predicted. "You can bet on it."

"Then I'll wash'em tomor--no, tomorrow's Sunday this week. You've got me all mixed up. I'll wash'em next week when we get back from the lakes."

It took the baby dolphin a few minutes to get acquainted with the raft. Her mother had to show her what to do a couple of times; but then, she took it and headed out to sea. The next thing we knew, the raft was standing straight up on its nose. It disappeared momentarily, only to bob up and lay down again. After playing with it for a half hour or so, the baby was pulling it around as smoothly as her mother would.

"What do you think she would do if I lie down on it?" Julie asked.

"Try it, and find out." Sarah clapped her hands, a call the baby always responded to.

When the baby came to Sarah, Julie lay down on the raft that settled into the water. When Julie was ready, Sarah pushed the baby away. She towed Julie a little way, maybe twenty feet, before the mother nosed under the raft, flipped Julie off, then reared up and laughed at her. Maybe she was scolding her, but we called it laughing. At least the mother did not seem to be mad at her. We did not add any more weight that day.

When we got ready to go to the cave, the baby was still towing the raft. We tried to take it to put it up on the beach but she would not let us have it. She had the vine securely in her mouth and would not release it for anything. Finally we left it with her. We said our farewells and headed up the mountain as the raft headed out to sea. I assumed that would be the last we'd see of the raft, but it did not matter.

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Copyright 1995
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.

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