We come in awe to watch him stack the dolphins. Yes, the water is inviting, the warm sand is sensuous, and staring across the flat blue ever escaping horizon is livening. But it is the dolphin stacking that brings us out of our safe and defensible homes, through the muddled parking lots, to the edge of our tense ocean.
He waits for the dolphins to swim individually into the shallows; then he and his assistant carefully slide the animal up onto the beach, roll it eight or ten feet inland. From the positioning of the first dolphin, everyone in the audience is trying to guess how long the initial row of the coming pyramid will be, how many fin to fin will be summed to make the base. Bets are exchanged. Cash is wadded in hands and held overhead as witness to witness amounts are gestured and hollered and guessed.
The crowd is often stunned by the simple mathematics which demands that, if the dolphins hold still and are of suitable size, the pyramid will be as high in rows as its base is wide in members. Some come just to see the pyramid formed; some to place their bets; some to see if the mathematical potential, through artful selections and placements, is achieved.
The man and his assistant work as if no one were watching, sometimes moving a dolphin out of original sequence, sometimes placing one from the middle of a line over to the end, or holding a dolphin back for some other tier. The dolphins themselves appear suspended, their lives stopped until the man is at last finished with them. Nonetheless, their eyes are quick, they adjust their interlocking fins, they now and again vocalize.
When the lone dolphin comprising the top tier is placed, the crowd swells with applause; those at the back, who could see nothing anyway, turn to start home. By the time the long suffering first dolphin – the original piece of construction material – has been placed back in the water, the audience is gone and even their footprints are being lost quickly to the shriveling sand.
The great argument is whether the size of a pyramid is determined by the art of the man, or the conditions of the dolphins. Myself, be it heresy or not, I believe the dolphins plan the pyramid size and present themselves in coordinated order: the last arriving for the base row of the pyramid signals the man – an eye roll or burst of blow or a surprisingly fickle fin. No matter. Judgement, talent, interpretation, translation – it is art, and all sides of the opinion agree that it is art. It is appreciated, and that is enough.
A few of us wait at the shoreline, watching the dolphins swim silently back to wherever they wait for the next performance. Then we watch the man and his assistant remove themselves: short, childlike steps, dry. Stick figures without the dolphins, plain wire onto which to hang a sobering nobility.
Ken’s collections of brief fictions, “Constant Animals”, “Avenging Cartography”, “Revenge of the House Hurlers”, and “Engaging Cattle”; and poetry, ”The Book of Robot” and “Victims of a Failed Civics”, can be located at Amazon, most online booksellers, and through links at www.barkingmoosepress.com. He spent 33 years in information system management, is married to a world record holding female power lifter, and has a family of several cats and betta fish. Individual works have appeared in “Café Irreal”, “Analog”, “Danse Macabre”, “The Cincinnati Review”, and several hundred other places.