“Look what I picked up at The Bay,” said Jack. He showed me a pair of gloves. Nice ones, leather, lined, fine stitching. Much nicer than ones I would have chosen.
“Very nice,” I said, “but isn’t it a bit early to be thinking of winter?” It was 28 Celsius outside the mall.
“Pays to be ready,” said Jack, “d’you know, in the Ottawa Valley, the only month you can be sure there is no snow is July? Besides it was a bargain; less than half-price!”
I said “You know, in Dutch, gloves are called ‘handshoes’ oddly enough.”
“Must have been a leftover from when Dutch people still walked around on their hands and feet,” said Jack. “Probably not that long ago.”
I said “What else is new?” Since I have up reading newspapers and have cable only for the internet, I rely on my friends to keep me informed of the major events and issues of the day. It’s less expensive that way, and I’m a much calmer person for it.
“Another bunch of whales …” began Jack.
“Pod of whales,” I couldn’t help myself from interjecting.
“Alright ‘pot’ of whales,” continued Jack. “About fifty of them beached themselves somewhere. Australia or Japan, I think.”
“If you’re going to report, Jack, you have to remember to tick off the five or six major aspects of a story: Who, what, where, when, why and how. It’s mainly the ‘where’ and the ‘why’ that’s lacking here.”
“The paper said that there’s a theory in this case that links the beaching of whales to upcoming earthquakes or tsunamis. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
I said “Could well be that they can sense things our finest instruments can’t. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence. But I doubt that for whales being on a beach is safer in case of an earthquake or tsunami, than being in the water. It doesn’t make sense.”
“Well,” said Jack, “you can’t deny that whales and dolphins are smart animals. Maybe by beaching they’re trying to tell us something, warn us – even at the cost of their own lives.”
“Fifty of them? Isn’t that a little overkill – over-suicide – in that case?”
“Maybe they can’t count too well,” said Jack. “But they seem to like people. Think of all those stories of sailors drifting in the sea who were pushed back to shore and saved by dolphins.”
I said “Suppose that dolphins think of human swimmers as no more than toys. Suppose that dolphins play with them and push them in any random direction. Some of the swimmers will be pushed toward land; others will be pushed further out to sea. Obviously we hear only about those swimmers that got back; the others probably drowned or were eaten by orcas. You never hear about those. It’s a bit like people saying ‘don’t you always find what you’re looking for in the last place you look!’ Of course, why would you continue looking once you’ve found the item. Same here: you only hear stories about those get rescued.”
“I don’t quite follow your logic here, but I get your point. Still, I prefer thinking that dolphins love people and want to help us when we are in trouble. Maybe I watched too much of Flipper on TV in my day. An animal with a nice smile like that has to be kind to people.”
I said “my advice, Jack, is to swim close to shore.”
Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.
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