Updated: Sep 1
There you are, fourteen years old on Cockle Strand in Crookhaven with your friend Ella. You're simmering with excitement while pulling your lifejacket strap tight. 'I've no intention of getting into the sea.' 'Don't worry, Ciara, we just look like we are.' Ella pulls a curly tendril of hair, her long copper hair glinting with sun-kissed highlights. And you skilfully gather your hair, tying it high on your head, pulling a few strands, so they fall naturally around your bronzed face. Then you rub your lip gloss. Your clear blue eyes dancing with excitement. You're on the cusp of adolescence, a new stage in your life. You see the boys playing football but look away. Your toes curling in the sand with the flutter in your stomach. You raise an eyebrow at Ella. Look cool. Ignore them. Ella keeps walking to the seashore. You follow her, standing back to avoid the ebb of the sea as it splashes onto your red painted toenails Were the boys impressed? Did they think, Wow, cool girls going sailing? Loud adult voices to the left, 'I think it is trying to beach itself. It must be sick and want to die.' A man and woman ankle-deep in the sea staring into the water. 'What's that?' you lean forward watching the glistening waves move. 'I think it's a fish.' 'Christ Ella, we're not going near that. I hate fish.' Ella walks into the water to the man, and he turns to Ella with a wan smile, 'Poor thing, it must be sick. They do that when they are sick, they beach themselves to die.' Ella squeals, 'Quick, Ciara, it's a baby dolphin.' In an instant, you drop the shackles of teenage consciousness running into the water, ignoring the biting sea at your ankles. 'Oh my God, it's so cute.' And your hand goes to your heart, 'That's so sad it wants to die.' 'Aye, girls, so sad, but it's nature's way,' the man says, the woman nods, 'Yes, so sad.'. You look at the dolphin and then at the beach. You see an old man get out of a white van, and he wades to you. He looks at the baby dolphin, 'It doesn't want to die,' he points across the sand to the ocean, 'it's trying to get across the beach to the ocean. It can smell the water. Its Pod is over there, it probably came into this inlet by mistake, and now the shortest way to its Pod,' he points to the beach, 'is over that bit of sand.' You look across the narrow stretch of beach to the vast ocean, staring into the horizon and think of its poor mother frantically looking for her baby. You look back at the baby dolphin and think how lonely and scared it is without its mother. Your heart aches. It wants its mother. It wants to swim with her. Maybe you think of the time when you first went swimming with me. You were so tiny and light and clung onto my back like a remora fish. Your heartbeat on mine. He turns, squinting, looking to the top of the inlet and back to the baby dolphin. He nods at the couple, 'I'm Maurice.' And rubs his white stubble, 'I've an idea.' He goes back to his van, a little golden-haired girl stands beside it. He opens the back doors and drags out a grey sheet splattered in coloured paint, throwing it on the sand. 'Girls, he shouts, 'Will ye get two long sticks? On the shore are a few washed-up branches.' You run to the shore and run past the boys to the debris. Your hair falls free along with the shackles of a cool teenager. Then, with the sticks, you and Ella give them to Maurice. He rolls the edges of the sheet around them. Girls, 'Listen carefully.' You both stand transfixed to his words, 'Have you seen the ambulance people carry someone on a stretcher,' You both nod. 'We will put the baby dolphin onto this stretcher, and as quick as you can, bring it to the back of my van,' 'he points to the open doors, 'and we will put him in into it, and my granddaughter, Clara will keep pouring water on it, and I'll drive across this bit of sand to the ocean.' Your eyes wide, your heart fluttering again. 'It'll only be a hundred yards, so it'll only take a few seconds, 'But we have to be quick.' The dolphin is still trying to get up on the sand. You and Ella hold the stretcher under the water, and the man and woman encourage the dolphin on it. Then, as quick as your legs can move, and with all your strength, you and Ella run to the van with the dolphin. Maurice is in the driver's seat, the engine rumbles, the man helps lift the dolphin into the van. Clara is in the back of the van with a bucket of water. You, Ella, and the dolphin are in the van. The van doors flap as it moves. In a few seconds, the van stops, the engine is still running, and Maurice is at the back door. 'Girls, grab aside each.' The man and woman reach the van, panting. They help pull the stretcher, and you all run to the water. As soon as the dolphin is in the water. It swims out to sea to look for its Pod, to look for its mother. You and Ella laugh and hug, looking out to sea. But, then, you draw in the salty air and ask ‘'I wonder, will it find its mammy? I hope it finds its family to swim with them again?' And you sigh. Are you swimming with the dolphin now? Maybe you are swimming with Fungi, and perhaps, someday, I'll get to swim with you again.