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Sounds of Dolphins

                                    Michael Fischer

It’s With the Bottlenose They Do It
Sounds of Dolphins plays on the Boombox in the children’s ward basement where the kids eat fried state bologna platters and take Slow Learner, Proper Etiquette, and Music Therapy classes. The Music Man has pushed the green cafeteria tables and chairs doubling as school desks to the side and spread blue tumbling mats on the cold, dirty floor, where The Scared Boy, Twitch, Terrell and Ben lay with closed eyes across from the girls, Angela, Cecilia, and Tamandra. A loose mat thread tickles The Scared Boy’s neck.

It’s been two weeks since his commitment, and The Scared Boy never talks beyond yes or no. Twitch often serves as translator: “He’s sorry,” Twitch said to James, The Oldest and Toughest who chest-punched The Scared Boy on his first day for staring. James has run away twice in two weeks and is currently at-large—“a fugitiver,” Twitch said during Proper Etiquette, the day James disappeared again.

Already, the girls are laughing at The Music Man, who says, “Dolphins are highly communicative.”

“They can kill a shark,” Twitch says. “In Slow Learner’s I learnt it.”

“Please be quiet,” The Music Man says.

“It’s with the bottlenose they do it,” Twitch says.    

The Scared Boy opens his eyes.
“Please be quiet,” The Music Man says.

Demon Child
The Scared Boy was once The Demon Child who stood ear-pressed against his mother’s Greenleaf Gardens bedroom door. His neighbors were college students like The Music Man, who tossed gutrot beer cans from crooked balconies and splintered stoops. The Scared Boy heard his mother speak dolphin to Disappeared-Father over the phone.

“I can’t handle our demon son,” she said.

“What you want me to do?” Disappeared-Father said, The Demon Child imagined.

“Help me!”

“Can’t,” he said, then hung up, The Demon Child imagined. His mother cracked the door.

“You’re going away,” she said through the crack. “You’re going where they cure the devil’s curse,” and The Demon Child became Disappeared-Father and punched the door.

“Just like your daddy,” she said from the other side, and again The Demon Child punched and was Disappeared-Father who hit everything before finally disappearing.

“Demon Child,” she said, “I’m calling the Law.”

The Demon Child said next time, It would be her face.

“Just like your daddy.”


‘The Music Man is suspicious,” Terrell said upstairs on the boys hall, before the session.

“He trying to hypnotize us always,” he said. “It’s a set-up. They want to hypnotize us so we’ll snitch on folks.”

Ben agreed, but Twitch laughed and whispered no one could ever get him to snitch, even on Terrell for sneaking into Angela’s room that night.

“That’s ‘cause you know I don’t play,” Terrell said, and then looked at The Scared Boy. “Right?”


Seaweedy Cold

“Dolphins are highly communicative,” The Music Man says, and turns down the volume. “They talk across miles of ocean. Any of you ever visited the beach? What was it like?”

“I have,” Terrell says. “It’s lots of girls there in bikinis.”

The basement laughs, even The Scared Boy—everyone except The Music Man, a blond-headed college intern: “Those are not positive thoughts.”

“What you mean they ain’t positive?” Terrell says.

“Unless you have positive thoughts to share,” The Music Man says, “please be quiet.”

“So,” The Music Man says, “any of you ever visited the beach? What was it like?”

“I have,” Angela says.

“What was it like?”

“The last time was okay. I flew a kite with my father. It was real windy, the string snapped, and the kite plopped in the ocean. My brother, he got stung by a jellyfish and the water was seaweedy cold.”

“Is that all?”


“Are you sure?”

“What you want to hear?” Terrell says to The Music Man. “Goddamn, dude. Hey, I been to the beach: it was beautiful, just like in them movies. We took a walk, me and my girlfriend there, Angela. We held hands and stuff and watched the sunset and thought deep shit and looked out at the horizon. It changed my life. I even breathed in and out, in and out, real slow, like you say us to, before kissing Angela. That good? What I win?”

The basement laughs, except The Music Man and Marcus Bacon, the awake-now tech at a green table pushed to the side.

Holistic Healing Paradigm
Yawning-Marcus Bacon leads cussing-Terrell upstairs.

“Fuck some dolphins!”

Twitch, Ben, and the girls on the mat roll from laughter, except The Scared Boy, who thinks: Seaweedy cold, seaweedy cold. Seaweedycoldseaweedycold.

The Music Man stands above The Scared Boy’s curled-up body, the only one not rolling and laughing.

“Ever visited the beach?”


“What was it like?”


“Are you awake?”

The girls giggle.

“He’s a strange bird,” Cecilia says.

“What was it like?”

It was the best, The Scared Boy thinks: mama and daddy, before he disappeared, swam me to a sandbar. Further was a dolphin.

“He don’t talk,” Angela says.

“He’s a strange bird. Don’t waste your time.”

“You are withholding positive thoughts,” The Music Man says, looking down, “and resisting a holistic healing paradigm.”

“What the hell this man blabbering now?” Angela says, and The Music Man radioes Yawning-Marcus Bacon.

Fuck Flipper!

The Scared Boy is on Solitary for refusing The Music Man’s holistic healing paradigm. In his Asbestos Confinement Room, paint peels, air gusts under the door as another slams, and Marcus Bacon sprints past to help restrain a boy from choking out another boy.

Terrell, next door, also on Solitary, bangs his Asbestos Confinement’s Room’s wire screen window with fists and screams, “Fuck some dolphins! Fuck Flipper!”

The Social Worker

Over the phone, The Demon Child’s mother spoke dolphin to The Social Worker about the door-punching and threats. The Demon Child stood ear-pressed with bloody knuckles.

“Just like his daddy,” she said.    

“What happened?” Ms. Brodie said, The Demon Child Imagined.

“A demon child.”

“But what happened?”

“A demon child,” she said. “I raised a demon child.”

Strange Bird

The Scared Boy is also The Strange Bird. In the hospital, he never talks beyond yes or no, unlike highly communicative dolphins that speak across miles of ocean.

But I can fly, The Strange Bird thinks in his Asbestos Confinement room, and flaps his wings.

Holy Ghost Alternative School

The Demon Child flipped in Holy Ghost Alternative School, a converted, shotgun parsonage.

“Why you talking to yourself?” The Teacher said.

“I’m not!” The Demon Child said, and the class laughed.

“We have plans,” he said. “Beautiful plans. Me and The Devil.”

“Hush,” The Teacher said. “Don’t flip again.”

“Me and Satan will run the country.”

“Man, shut the hell up,” The Bully said, and The Demon Child flipped his desk and ran to Greenleaf Gardens.

“Your son flipped again,” The Teacher said in dolphin to The Demon Child’s mother over the phone.

Once home, The Demon Child hurled a rock through his mother’s bedroom window and said:

“I’m Flipper! I flip desks! I flip rocks! I will hang from a tree, and my legs and arms will flip flip flip when the noose snaps!”

Kissy Pretty

The Scared Boy loves spine-flipping words. Once, The Scared Boy visited the beach with his mother and Disappeared-Father, and on the sandbar, the seaweedy cold water ankle-swirled and a dolphin jumped.

“See that?” Disappeared-Father said.

“Yes,” The Scared Boy said.

“He’s pretty,” his mother said.

“Kissy pretty,” The Scared Boy said.

Disappeared-Father frowned:

“You queer.”

Moo-Cow Chocolate Milk

Suppertime: Yawning-Marcus Bacon slides a fried state bologna platter, green apple, and cartonated, Moo-Cow Chocolate Milk in The Strange Bird’s Asbestos Confinement Room.

“Eat,” he says. “No dessert tonight.”

“Fuck some bologna,” Terrell screams. “Fuck a damn Moo-Cow!”

The Strange Bird sips his damn Moo-Cow.

The Law

The Demon Child’s mother spoke dolphin to The Law.

“What’s the problem?” The Law said.

“My possessed child,” she said, “has me locked in my room.”
Before The Law arrived, The Demon Child’s mother hid her Magic Mirror and Straw in the medicine cabinet. Every night, The Demon Child watched his mother’s Magic Trick on the kitchen table. “Watch the lines disappear,” she’d say, and The Demon Child would cry.
The door-busting Law cuffed The Demon Child.

 “Uncuff him,” his mother said. “Not in my house,” but The Law pushed The Demon Child to the car and in the backseat.

“To the bin of loonies,” the Law said to The Demon Child.


After supper, The Music Man visits The Strange Bird in his Asbestos Confinement Room. Yawning-Marcus Bacon stands in the door.

“Hello,” The Music Man says.

The Strange Bird leans against the paint-peeling wall.

“Why do you resist healing?” The Music Man says, but The Strange Bird chews a fingernail, a habit Mrs. Jenkins, The Bad Nurse, has called unhygienic. “You got a hygiene problem,” she’s told The Strange Bird. “Nasty nasty nasty!”

The Music Man waves. “You hear me?”

“Answer him,” Marcus Bacon says.

“No,” The Strange Bird says.

“Why do you resist healing?”

“Fuck a healing!” Terrell yells.

The Music Man shakes his head.

“Fuck some dolphins! Fuck Flipper! I hope Flipper dies and goes to hell!”

“Quiet!” Marcus Bacon yells.

“You can’t resist healing,” The Music Man says to The Strange Bird. “Eventually, you must accept the paradigm.”

“Fuck a paradigm, bitch!”

“One more warning, then I’m coming up in there,” Marcus Bacon says.

The Strange Bird turns, then looks out his wire screen window at a Grounds Privileges Lady passing the children’s ward on the cracked campus sidewalk, her face lipstick-smeared.

“Look at this ugly bitch strutting the street!” Terrell screams, and Marcus Bacon tells The Music Man to leave and radioes back-up for a Patient Restraint Order.

“Fuck all y’all!” Terrell yells, and slaps his window at The Grounds Privileges Lady. Feet pound the boys hall.

Lipstick Lady
In his Asbestos Confinement Room, The Strange Bird thinks, I can fly, I can fly out the window! 

“Fuck all y’all!” Terrell screams.

Yawning-Marcus Bacon and his back-up fasten the straps. The wall thumps, then the door slams, and The Strange Bird wonders why people like his mother, Disappeared-Father, Yawning-Marcus Bacon, and The Music Man never listen: “Kissy pretty,” he’d said when water sprayed out the dolphin’s hole and he remembered a school film, The Charity Dolphin, about a dolphin that kissed wheelchair kids and baby burn victims with his shark-killing bottlenose.

“It’s a set-up!” Terrell yells, and The Strange Bird sees the Grounds Privileges Lady strut past the children’s ward in the other direction.

“The Lipstick Lady,” The Strange Bird says to no one and flaps his wings, less scared and ready to squawk beyond yes or no.

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