Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)
By Betty Castleberry
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Spout’s father led the pod confidently, finding squid and schools of small fish. The scars he bore were evidence of battles with males from other pods. Sonar never started the conflicts, but he never lost. He always chased the offenders away.
Propelling his body upward, Sonar forged ahead of Spout. She followed, watching the deep blue water give way to pale teal when they neared the surface. Spin joined them as they burst forth from the water, noses pointed toward the sky. The trio opened their blowholes, sending silvery spray in every direction. Then in an unrehearsed ballet, they jumped, making graceful arcs in the water. In sync, they stood on their tails and exposed their bellies to the warm sun. One by one, they dropped back into the water, and swam towards the comfort of the sea.
Young Spout took her place beside Spin. Click and Whistle, two young males, sailed past them, their bottle noses bobbing rhythmically. Spout was the youngest in the pod, but she was already learning how to socialize. She chased Click and Whistle, nudging them gently. They jumped and played until Spout tired and returned to her mother.
Sonar once again headed toward paler waters. Several members of the pod followed him upward. This time when they surfaced, a small fishing vessel floated along beside them. Seagulls orbited over the boat in pursuit of a handout. Spout shied away from the action and stayed close to Spin. They watched as Sonar approached the vessel.
“Look, Jake. Dolphins. Let’s see if they’ll come to us.”
“Cool, Nathan. Let’s try.”
Four tanned hands stretched out toward the water, motioning for Sonar to come to them. He pushed his nose forward, almost touching their fingers, then playfully turned away. The men laughed.
He circled the boat and approached them again. The voices from the vessel were animated. “I told you it was the same dolphin as before. Look at that big scar on his side. It’s shaped like an anchor. I know it’s the same one. Most of the dolphins just swim around us, but these are really friendly.”
“Don’t they all look the same?”
“Yeah, but I’m telling you I’m almost positive I’ve seen these dolphins before. The big guy there will probably let us touch him if we keep trying.”
As if on cue, Sonar swam to an outstretched hand. He allowed the hand to stroke his back before swimming away.
Nathan grinned from ear to ear. “He felt like rubber. Wait till I go home and tell Michelle.”
Spout felt a strong urge to do as her father did. Cautiously, she swam toward the hands. Several members of her pod were circling the boat, some coming close to the men, and allowing the hands to graze them. Feeling emboldened by the actions of her pod, Spout inched closer to one of the hands. She felt a light brush across the top of her head.
Jake slapped his hands together. “I touched the little one! I just knew it would be friendly.”
The young dolphin wasn’t afraid, only curious about the people. She wanted to be just like Sonar and the rest of her amiable pod.
Spout dove into the water, and reappeared near the boat several times, mimicking her parents. Then following her pod, she swam away, back into the sea.
Click and Whistle lagged behind briefly, entertaining the men with a few leaps. They could soon leave their pod if they chose, but they seemed content in the peaceful group.
The vessel chugged away, and Spout spiraled up out of the water a final time. When she retreated, she cut through the sparkling surface of the water and pushed downward, creating a blanket of bubbles around her.
Through the aqua shadows, Spout found Sonar and Spin swimming side by side. She eased in between them, basking in the security of her gentle pod.
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