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Thread: Flipper Does Tahiti

  1. #1
    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    Flipper Does Tahiti

    Flipper Does Tahiti

    People know more about marine mammals now than they did several years ago. That’s because of a love affair. The love affair started with Flipper. Two factors started it. One was the invention of great sea-parks like Seaworld. When they emerged in the sixties, people began to realize that dolphins were not fish. That was half of it. T.V. and a dog was the other half. A very popular T.V. series in the fifties and sixties was Lassie. It ran for years. (the series not the dog.) Finally it was replaced in the public’s mind with Flipper, and a dolphin became man’s new best friend. Like Lassie he was loving, kind, and obedient. He got his human family (who somehow spent an inordinate amount of time in water) out of numerous scrapes.

    They were always saved by Flipper. He chirped, looked cute, had that smile that dolphins do, and always saved the day. There were Flipper dolls, Flipper blow-up toys, and for swimmers (can you see this coming?) Flipper flippers. That’s how it was in the states in the seventies.

    Now let’s go somewhere else.

    Tahiti. Somehow we’d got our butts to Tahiti. Why? I said it was Paul’s fault. Gauguin had run off there and I wanted to know why. I figured if it was good enough for Gauguin, Captain Cook, and Somerset Maugham, it was good enough for me. That was my excuse.

    For Kristina it could have been the fragrant vanilla plantations, the lush tropical scenery, or the pounding surf. But it wasn’t. She needed no excuse. I was the kind of a guy who needed an excuse; she was the kind of a girl who didn’t. We scraped up the money and there we were. But we had cut it real close. Too close. We had to leave by tomorrow or be out of funds. So we were laying our francs on the rattan table counting them up. We needed to eat.

    “There’s four francs and change,” she said. I laid down a curled-up five-franc note.

    “Here’s another five,” I said.

    “Good,” she said, “That’ll be enough. No more avocados!”

    We’d been stealing avocados off trees. They’re plentiful in Tahiti, and grow so large the branches bend under their weight ‘till they touch the ground. I often wondered how many Gauguin had eaten when he was down and out.

    “Let’s get ready,” she said from pure hunger, “ Now.”

    I put on my last clean clothes while she slipped into and blue and white dress printed with hibiscuses. She started to brush her hair in the dresser mirror.

    I approached her with the small round mirror from her make-up compact. On it were four white match-heads. There wasn’t enough to make lines.

    “This is it,” I said.

    She knew what I meant. This was the end of it. It’d been with us all the way from Santiago, via Easter Island. The quality was there. I can never fault German chemists, ex-Nazis or not. We certainly weren’t going to bring it back to the States. We decided to do it here, on our last night out. I rolled up the five-franc note and handed it over. She started to bend over the mirror, her blond hair touching, hesitated, and looked up.

    “Cheers,” she said. Then she handed it to me.

    “Cheers,” I replied, and finished it. We called this a two-in-two.

    I unrolled the note and placed it in my pocket.

    I relate this incident not to paint a picture of two depraved tourists out seeking thrills but to demonstrate our festive mood. Considering the amount involved the act was purely symbolic. Not being able to afford champagne with dinner we were doing the best we could with what was at hand. It certainly wasn’t enough to destroy either our appetites or serenity. It may have influenced what happened at dinner however, I can’t be sure. Only you can be the judge of that. We were certain it would add sparkle to our last night in the Society Islands. We walked out, happy feet stepping on white flagstones set in green grass, between brown coconut trees, and headed to the restaurant.

    They had tables outside, twenty-five yards from the beach. The sun had just gone down leaving an afterglow in its place. Moorea sat off quietly in the distance. This part of Tahiti is protected by a reef so there are no breakers, just wavelets lapping the white coral sand. The only other sound is Trade Winds sneaking between the palms, which is hardly any sound at all. We sat down at a table with a white linen tablecloth and examined the menu. We decided on French onion soup. With that we’d get a baguette and fill ourselves. The waiter appeared. Not exactly a stereotype, but close, with a slim build, slick-hair, and quite formal in black and white. He should have been waiting at a sidewalk cafe on the Champs Ellysees.

    “French onion soup for two,” I ordered imperiously.

    Kristina started to laugh. We’d eaten cheap before and she knew we would again. It had become a joke between us, a cheap joke at that. We’d traveled the world together on a shoestring, always in cheap hotels, always starving, just to see it, to see its wonders.

    The restaurant was nearly empty. We were savoring the quiet. There is something in French Polynesia that soaks into you. It’s right, it’s calm, it’s beautiful. But you have to be quiet. You have to let it soak. Then, after a while you feel, “I’m right, I’m calm, I’m beautiful.” Man or woman, it just soaks in.

    The soup and baguette arrived and we dug in. After my first taste of soup I bit a piece of bread and thought,
    “Nothing can bother me here.”

    I was wrong.

    People were approaching. We heard voices. Two small voices and one grown-up one. Bursting from the shadows were two girls about nine and one mother. Like us they were Americans. One girl had blond hair like the Mom. From that, and the fact she was being exceedingly bratty we assumed she was the daughter. By bratty I mean loud and demanding. Tahiti hadn’t soaked into them yet. They had just arrived and were still carrying as their baggage the noise of America. Mom was continually searching through her purse, probably for her valiums. Thus occupied she didn’t notice the beach, the sea, the palms, or anything else. Just the contents of her purse. The waiter gave them the menu and strolled off. We sipped our soup and ate our bread.

    The waiter returned. Mom asked him what they had.

    “We have…” he said, and proceeded to list every single fish in French Polynesia, ending in the magic word, “Mahi-Mahi.” Blond daughter seemed to hear this word only. It probably appealed to her sonicaly. It does have appeal to the ear. So she started,

    “Mahi-Mahi Mommy, I want Mahi-Mahi,” she held up her arms, clenched her fists, and began to scream it over and over. It became for her a chant. And she would have her way.

    “Mahi-Mahi Mommy, I want Mahi-Mahi.”

    This begun to grate upon our ears. It broke the continuity of our evening. You know how I hate broken continuity. At this point I leaned over to Kristina,

    “What’s Mahi-Mahi?”

    An expert on seafood, she knew all the fish by their common names. But this was no fish.

    “It’s dolphin,’ she replied in a whisper.

    “Oh,” I said gravely.

    Mom was now trying vainly to offer alternatives to a child she'd spoiled long ago. It was no use.

    “I want Mahi-Mahi,’ the child chanted at the top of her lungs.

    Mom called the waiter over.

    “What’s Mahi-Mahi?” she queried.

    He thought quickly.

    “Oh,” he replied, “It’s marinated in lemon, butter and garlic. It’s very good.”

    I think that he somehow knew about American T.V.viewing habits, and this knowledge had informed his response. Still, this seemed to satisfy her. Her next comment was,

    “We’ll,” she said pointing to her daughter and herself, “have Mahi-Mahi. And she’ll have,” she said pointing to the other child, “chicken.”

    “Very well, Madame,” he replied curtly, and strolling off, disappeared.

    By this time our last supper in Tahiti was spoiled. It was ruined, over with, and nothing could save it. Again I was wrong. Kristina would see to that.

    As their plates were started on ours were being finished. Our last bit of baguette was being dipped in the last drop of onion soup. It was over. I could no longer hear waves lapping the white coral sand, nor the winds whispering as they slid between the palm fronds. Feeling quite finished I sighed, dropped my napkin on the tablecloth and helped Kristina with her chair. Turning to leave I stepped behind Mom, then past her. Noticing Kristina wasn’t behind me I turned to see that she was just four steps away, almost directly behind Mom. She could easily catch up. But then she slowed, at the same time bowing her head near Mom’s ear. The two girls were greedily stuffing themselves now and so, silent. As soft as it was spoken I could still hear her whisper in Mom’s ear,

    “By the way, Mahi-Mahi is…dophin.”

    She crossed behind her, then in the other ear said even softer, “Yeah,…You just ate Flipper.”

    That’s what I liked about Kristina, benevolent and informative.

    I grabbed her hand as we prepared to walk back into the shadows. Again I heard the waves lap white coral. Again palms rustled and swayed. I turned to catch one last glimpse of Mom.

    Mom was still sitting, staring silently at her plate. She hadn’t moved an inch. Tahiti was regaining her silent Beauty at last.

    I guess it was soaking into Mom.

    Something was.

    ©StevenHunley2009 Mutiny on the Bounty - Dance scene on Tahiti
    Last edited by Steven Hunley; 03-25-2018 at 02:00 PM. Reason: need caps

  2. #2
    TheFairyDogMother kiz_paws's Avatar
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    Go Kristina, GO!
    Really enjoyed this story, Steven!
    Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty
    ~Albert Einstein

  3. #3
    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    San Diego Calif.
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    Somehow the true ones are always the best. You have a wealth of details to choose from. The French cuisine, the Polynesian outlook and culture, the setting, the colors. Gauguin chose the Marquesas only because He got kicked out of Tahiti. ( I think, but that may have been in Maugham's Moon and a Six Pence) Yes, Kristina radiated confidence. You know, the Young and the Bold.

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