I suppose I had about eight winters the day it happened. It was between my eighth and ninth winters, anyway.
About three months earlier, Dad had suggested we break away from the pod and set out to find our own feeding waters. The pod had grown to such an extent by then, that there were times when the shoals of fish we found were simply not big enough to feed us all. Breaking the pod up into smaller units was the only sensible solution anyone could think of. There were more than two hundred of us before we broke away, and it needs an immense shoal of small fish to feed two hundred hungry dolphins as well as the others that follow us, knowing our ability to track down mega-shoals is unmatched in the oceans. If we could agree to split in half; two pods of a hundred members; our ability to find food would quadruple. That’s according to Uncle Gr’nant’sk’s calculations, anyway. And he should know – he’s the smartest dolphin any of us has ever met.
But the council didn’t agree. Strength in numbers was the only mantra they’d ever subscribe to.
So, Mum and Dad agreed that we’d leave as a family. Including siblings, aunts and uncles, there would have been twenty-seven of us. That’s enough to satisfy the strength in numbers requirement as well as increasing prey availability fifty-three-fold (again, according to Uncle Gr’nant’sk’s calculations).
Uncle Gr’nant’sk fell ill whilst we were making the preparations to leave the pod. Being weak, he fell behind and got himself caught up in some nets that the uprights were using to catch tuna. He didn’t survive that encounter.
That really shook everyone’s confidence. The entire family, excepting only Mum and Dad, decided that strength in numbers was everything. They knew that the feeding opportunities were limited and becoming more so by the season but chose to accept a small number of losses through malnutrition rather than, as one elder put it, leave themselves open to who-knows-what in a smaller group. There was a discussion, which turned into an argument which turned quite nasty. Dad said something I didn’t hear clearly (because Mum stuffed a flipper into each of my aural orifices) and managed to earn us what they called a temporary banishment.
Now, anyone who knows anything about large, and I mean really large pods will tell you that one of their chief characteristics is that they are always on the move, always on the hunt for those shoals whose membership can be counted in millions because that’s the size the pod needs to feed adequately. So, when they say temporary banishment, they should really add, “and good luck finding us when your exile ends.”
We left. Just the three of us. Evicted from the pod, ejected from the family, shut out of all our relationships.
At first, it was good. Okay, perhaps not-too-bad would be a more accurate characterisation. We played on the waves, raided groups of fish that were probably too small to be termed shoals and generally had a life that may not have been described as actually comfortable, but which was okay. We rarely went hungry for long and we had each other for company.
We found ourselves near an area where, according to Dad, the uprights were trying to find shoals large enough to feed their voracious appetites, and we should move away. Trouble was, Mum and Dad couldn’t agree which way we should follow. I’d never heard my parents argue before and it was frightening. Dad kept saying that his logic told him we should go one way, but Mum said her gut pointed her in a different direction. In the end, Dad followed his logic and went off towards the east, whilst I chose to follow Mum and her instincts heading south. We agreed to meet up in this same place after a few days to compare notes.
That was the last time we ever saw Dad.
It’s just Mum and me now, condemned to spend our days searching for our old pod and our family, hoping they’ll take us back.
If we can find them…
This was written in response to Kreative Kue 343 published on this site.