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Authors: Carlos Eyles

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A Dolphins Dream

BOOK: A Dolphins Dream
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A DOLPHIN’S DREAM

By

Carlos Eyles

 

 

Copyright © Carlos Eyles, 2011
All rights reserved

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locals is entirely coincidental.

DEDICATION

 

To the incredibly generous and kind Harvey Stoltz who wholeheartedly befriended me in typical Fijian fashion.

Books by Carlos Eyles

 

Inner Experience of Diving
Diving Free
Sea Stalking
Last of the Blue Water Hunters
Dolphin Borne
Secret Seas
Sea Shadows (photography/philosophy)
Blue Edge
Reflections in a Silver Sea (poetry/photography)
1

 

The sun had not yet broken the horizon and a thick, warm, tropical breeze brought the smell of smoke, carrying the faint stench of the Third World on its vapors. Michael Compton disembarked and was directed toward an antiquated air terminal, an American remnant from the last Pacific war.  From all appearances the war might still have been in progress, for armed militia stood at every entryway. The military coup than had occurred in May in the capitol city of Suva was apparently very much alive. Although the American consulate had cautioned its citizens to stay out of Fiji until the country had settled its affairs, Compton had dismissed the warning in the belief that the remote island of his destination was far removed from the conflicts in Suva. Now he was uncertain, for the weapons were real and the soldiers, though unmilitary in their bearing, appeared formidable in their camouflaged battle fatigues and snappy maroon berets. 

The Port of Entry window was unmanned and Compton waited along with a growing number of tourists behind a blue line crudely painted on the floor. A small, dirt brown Indian stood near the window. Dressed in sandals, bright blue cotton pants and a white shirt that leaped with large red flowers, he spoke in idle conversation with a Fijian soldier who was leaning nonchalantly on his automatic weapon. The Indian appeared to be in no hurry to receive his charges and the impatient fidgeting of the growing queue could not inspire any sense urgency. When finally he seemed to be left with no other pressing business, he blithely assumed his position behind the POE window.  

Compton handed over his passport and the Indian examined it with care in these times of “national security” concerns, first looking at his photograph and than at him, then back at the photograph. Although a shade under six feet, Compton’s ample midsection betrayed his height, and with large, rounded shoulders and thick arms that found their way into soft hands, he was the picture of the American tourist gone to seed. His salt and pepper hair was thick and cut short, and behind bone-rimmed glasses his eyes were a blue of deep water, the same hue that hung in dark circles beneath them. Save for a bright, open smile that exposed perfect teeth, his features appeared to have weathered turmoil, and reflected in deep lines the worn countenance of one who had been traveling his entire life. The Indian stamped the passport and issued a one month visa permit. A soldier directed him to an inspection area, where he opened and placed upon a long metal table one large backpack, a still larger bag containing diving gear that included mask, fins, buoyancy compensator, regulator, wet suit, assorted gauges and a dive computer.

“Scuba diving,” said Compton.

The inspector pute pieces together in his mind and smiled broadly, nodding to his cronies in understanding. “Diving,” he replied confidently.

Nearby, the Fijian soldier smiled as the inspector waved Compton through. “Big sharks in Fiji,” he said to Compton, who smiled weakly in response. The soldier then gleefully repeated himself, “Yes sir, big sharks.”

Compton carted his gear to the departure area and threaded his way through a milling sea of brown faces to the far end of the terminal and Sunflower Air Lines, where a yellow shirted Indian, sitting on a baggage scale, buoyantly declared that he wasn’t open for business. Compton retreated to a far wall and sat against a hard back wooden bench. A group of Indians had gathered nearby, a family it appeared. They crowded about a young, dark skinned girl with long black hair and ebony eyes who tearfully embraced each member. All the men --  brothers, uncles, grandfathers -- were openly weeping. She wiped away their tears with a stained white scarf while her own tears freely flowed.

Behind the Indians a Fijian family stood in a circle. A large black man with fearsome eyes held a light skinned baby in his arms, and was fondly stroking its head and shoulders. He passed the child to an old woman who caressed the baby in the same manner. She, in turn, passed it the next member of the family. The child was handed from soul to soul, blissfully receiving the affection as routinely as a breath.

The air was filled with heartfelt goodbyes and warm embraces. The atmosphere had more the feel of a church than of an air terminal. The love managed to reach Compton in the way of the observer, unattached yet making him cognizant of the warm effect it was having on him. Such an unfamiliar sensation, particularly in public, brought him a curious pleasure and there came the strange sense that he had, for reasons he could not yet fathom, correctly chosen this stopover in Fiji.

He became curious as to the relationships between the Indians and the Fijians. For that, apparently, was at the crux of the recent upheaval.  All those in uniform were large, well-muscled Fijian men with crude tattoos stringing their arms. Most were over six feet tall and quite handsome with full, sensual mouths, soft brown eyes and woolly hair done in a tight Afro style. The Indians were as unlike Fijians as hawks to butterflies, small in stature, with straight black hair neatly combed. Their eyes were wide and soft, yet alert like prey whose primary defense lay in flight. They wore freshly laundered clothes that, in their obvious poverty, appeared incongruously clean.  Compton observed no animosity between the races, who chatted freely among themselves and he wondered what all the fuss was about.

The Sunflower ticket counter suddenly acquired three yellow shirted Indians and Compton made his reservation for the earliest flight out to the island of Taveuni. He then called Taveuni Charters to confirm his arrival.

It would be another thirty minutes before boarding and he returned to his bench to observe in relative obscurity the tender comings and goings that were still unfolding in the packed terminal. The open displays of affection drove into fortressed regions of his psyche, bringing a pain that welled from a place nearer his consciousness than was comfortable. The contemplation of such matters was not within him and, in typical fashion, his mind deftly shifted into the mundane, which presented a ceaseless array of self-involved subjects with which to occupy itself. It was in this fashion that time passed pleasantly and without labor until his flight was called. 

Yet another remnant of that now ancient war, a twin prop piston-driven plane, at least fifty years old, lifted its dozen passengers unsteadily over Veti Levu’s sectional farms, smoking cane fields, dirt roads and odd patches of dense greenery, all that remained of what was once a lush tropical rainforest. The plane bounced and wobbled into island cloud cover and then broke free after gaining altitude into crisp, clean air above the sparkling South Pacific. The antiquated craft rolled and rattled with every updraft, straining, it seemed, just to maintain altitude. The tittering nervousness of two young American women was pacified with the masculine reassurance of their companion. “It’s just like the cyclone ride at Magic Mountain.” Compton’s reaction was quite different. He had the feeling of time travel, the bouncing plane, the crew hunched over their controls behind a partially drawn curtain. Shades of Indiana Jones. It was the feeling of youth again, of embarking into the unknown to territories that were wild and full of mayhem, where all was new and terrifying. Compton corrected himself. New perhaps, but hardly terrifying. And probably not much mayhem going on either. Though there was unease, not so much in the plane ride, he realized, but in himself. An unease that had been his traveling companion since whimsy had compelled him to take the freelance job in Australia.

Islands of coral lay speckled brown in the jeweled, lapis sea, each trimmed in ivory and emerald, gems set in an oceanic belt that stretched to the far horizons. There were over three hundred and fifty islands in the Fijian Archipelago, the majority of which had never been set foot upon. Compton attempted to release his inborn tension with a long exhale as he surveyed the scattered islands. The breath brought an unexpected liberation and again he felt pleased over his impulse to visit this part of the world. He was not by nature an impulsive man but when the travel agent made the suggestion of an open-ended ticket that included stops in Fiji and New Zealand en route to Australia, he, as they say, seized the moment. Something he could not remember doing throughout his adult life. His last impulsive act was to become a certified scuba diver in the summer of his second year of college, before the world turned somber with achievement. In that rocking plane, he pondered the grand chasm that lingered in amnesia between these two events. It brought a sickness that drove his thoughts elsewhere, anywhere, and returned his eye to the jeweled blue wilderness of the Pacific. His attention rested on a single island, perfect in its isolation and hue. It seemed to convey a sense of peace, of freedom from the demons of a life in exile from itself. Really, he thought, that’s all I’ve been looking for, just a little peace. 

After forty-five minutes the plane dropped sharply. A woman passenger squealed when it made a tight loop over a valley of dense jungle. Settling low, it crossed a narrow beach and skimmed over the tops of a grove of coconut trees. A dirt runway appeared, carved out of the grove, and the plane lighted smoothly on the grassy plain. It bumped and shuddered to the end of the runway, turned, and taxied back to a weather-beaten unpainted shack.

Among dour-faced Indians and darkly handsome Fijians outside the shack stood a tall, attractive, fair-skinned woman in her late thirties. She waved and came forward, introducing herself as Allison Scott, wife of John Scott, owners/operators of Taveuni Charters. Though somewhat lanky in appearance, she moved with the fluid grace of an athlete. Sun bleached blue eyes harbored loosely thrown stones, and her blond hair cut short, its wispy ends fluttering about her neck, softened her face in their frailty. Together they loaded Compton’s gear in the back of a late-model pickup truck and headed down a rutted dirt road that ran parallel to the coral encrusted coastline. “This,” said Allison, “is Taveuni’s thoroughfare.” After a pause she asked, “How long will you be staying with us?”        

“Not long,” replied Compton, who was gazing out his window across a glassed-out sea whose colors appeared surreal and remarkable in their vivid casts.

“I’m on my way to Australia,” he said absently. “Just stopped for a dive and a quick look at Fiji.”

Allison drove on without comment while Compton continued to stare out to sea if in search of something.

“Stop,” he said. “Stop the car.”

Allison braked and pulled the truck over to the side of the road. Compton opened the door, still focused on the sea, his tongue licking his lips as a child when fully engrossed. He stumbled out of the truck and across bleached coral and black lava to the shoreline, where he stood transfixed. Allison waited in the truck for several minutes, then growing impatient, got out and tracked down her charge who had wandered south, never taking his eyes from the water. When she caught up to him she put her hand on his shoulder and at her touch Compton started, wheeling around as if awakened from sleep.  “It’s so beautiful,” he said. “The colors. The water. The sky.”

“Are you all right, Mr. Compton? You look a bit peaked.”

He turned to her, smiled and nodded, “Yes, yes, I’m all right. It’s just… Well, I guess I haven’t been down to the sea in a very long time. I’ve forgotten just how beautiful it is.”

He was having difficulty composing himself. The water had drawn him like a magnet and when he ventured close he very nearly came to tears and had no idea why. The power of the sea had always appealed to him, but never in this way. He was at a loss to explain its influence to himself, much less else.

“I’m fine,” he said in dismissal, turning for the truck. They walked back to the vehicle in silence. Allison had seen varying degrees of this sort of behavior from visitors upon their reaching the island, particularly from American and German women. They were all so emotional with regards to the sea, but not the men. This one was a bit of a wreck, she concluded.

Back in the truck, bouncing along the dirt road, the silence became awkward and Compton, very much feeling the discomfort of the quietude blurted, “Right now I could use some peace and quiet, no phones ringing, no car horns, or the even the static of a television.”

“Well,” she said a bit taken aback, “we can fill some of those requests. But we do have a phone and a car with a horn, but no TV.” She paused as Compton’s attention drifted back to the sea. “How much diving do you intend to do with us?”

BOOK: A Dolphins Dream
6.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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