I Awoke to Discover I Had Been Transformed into a Dolphin
In stories, were such an event to occur, there would be comic
thrashings. I would have attempted to slap myself awake from a dream
with my inadequate fins. There would have been a flopping struggle
across the bedroom carpet to look at my dolphin-face in the bathroom
mirror. But none of that was necessary. When you awake and you are a
dolphin, the wet gray fact is immediately as clear as the fact of the
dawn in the window.
I often felt myself out of place in my previous life; to tell the
truth, the physical transformation was, if not expected, then at least
not unwelcome, even something of a relief.
I lay still for some time, fanning my fins, holding in mind each new
muscle, one-by-one, along the whip-curve of my spine. As the dawn
became day, I became aware of an entirely new sensation, a slight but
insistent itching, almost a buzzing, just above the surface of my skin.
A delicious, whole body thirst. Once I'd named the feeling, I needed to
be within water.
There was no use in delaying the inevitable—I would need
human assistance; I had to alert my family about my condition. The
words I attempted to call out were, of course, the squeaks and clicks
of my new nature, but they were adequate for the moment's purpose.
My father came first, and quickly, the tie around his neck half-tied,
his hands still working as he eased open the door and saw me. His hands
dropped. He left, retrieved my mother, who put the tips of her fingers
to her mouth, and understood.
The less said about the transport from my childhood bed to the backseat
of the Volvo, the better.
In the driveway, there was some conversation about water temperature
and bridge traffic as my parents leaned together over a map in the
front seat; I will miss such moments, overhearing my mother and father
making a plan, describing something that was not yet true that would
become true. I will miss my parents. I will miss looking out and up to
dark green trees in a car window. I will miss gravity. I will miss my
little sister. She let me rest my head on her knees during the drive
when my mother insisted. At first she wouldn't look at me, but then she
did. She tapped on my forehead with the tips of her fingers, like I was
It is not correct to say that no part of me lamented the
transformation. But the lamenting part of me was the human part, the
remnant, the part standing with my family on the edge of the wet part
of the sand, watching the strange silver creature, the dolphin, that
had flashed into their breathing space from waters endless as sleep now
returning to those waters.
The remnant can keep his fingers and his family, his new socks and his
summer air. I will keep these waters, these new motions, this voice.
Rob Roensch is the author of a collection of stories, THE WILDFLOWERS OF BALTIMORE.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
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