Passegiatta Pt. 03byAdrian Leverkuhn©
"Yes, lovey, I must. It is a great need of mine to be as obtusely boring as I can possibly be, especially when you set to launch into one of your blasted tirades! You see, dear, it is my lot in life to serve you your portion of humble pie!"
"You two are simply amazing," the old man said. "I have known you both for twenty years -- have I not? -- and in all those years you have never changed. Never!"
"Nor shall we, Ludvico!" Malcolm said. "Now get on with it. I'm ready to hear this."
"My, my, professore! Such haste! Well, as I'm sure you know, accounts in the deepest mythologies depict dolphins as messengers of the old gods, but particularly to Poseidon, or Neptune as the case may be, and dolphins were charged to run errands for Neptune, often to warn sailors of impending danger . . ."
"Holy shit!" Goodwin said. He turned pale as memory overtook conscious thought.
"What?" Malcolm jumped at the exclamation and turned to Goodwin. "What on earth's the matter with you?"
"Something just came back to me." He looked shocked as deeper insight gathered in the air around him. "Right after I left the states, just as I was entering the Gulf Stream, a pod of dolphins came alongside. I took their photograph, as a matter of fact. Anyway, one of them seemed very agitated, slapped his tail a lot and swam alongside, standing right out of the water, swimming backwards and chattering away at me like he was trying to talk to me. That's what I thought, at the time. Anyway, about an hour later the entire sky behind me filled with dark clouds and lightning, and a really vicious storm came up on me. I mean fast. Barely had time to get the boat ready for it. Funny, too, though it was really strong it lasted only minutes, maybe a half hour at most, then it was gone. The sun came up a few minutes later, and then the dolphins came back. I had the distinct impression that they had come back to check on me. The same one swam beside me for several minutes. We stared at one another. I remember his eyes."
"I would like to see these pictures you took, doctore."
"Why?" Doncaster asked, now suddenly very intrigued.
The old man only smiled, took another sip of wine.
"You don't think it's the same one, the one out there tonight?! That's just not possible!"
"Not impossible, doctore Goodwin," the old man said. "Improbable, perhaps, but not impossible. What do you think, Malcolm?"
"No, no, Ludvico. I will wait until I have seen this photograph."
"Understandable, professore. But at any rate, while it may help to prove a point, several more need to be made before we achieve an understanding. This mystery has followed me all my life, so perhaps I can afford to wait a while longer."
Margherita looked around the table, feeling plainly confused. She had been holding Goodwin's hand for some time, at least until the wine started flowing easily around her, yet now her feelings were wrapped in turbulence, falling into a void. Their simple lovemaking earlier in the evening had grown into something distorted and otherworldly, and was even now turning into the grotesque parody of an academic lecture. She wanted to leave, to go out under the stars and cry . . . but there was something in Ludvico's voice that held her here, held her as if she was a moth to his flame . . .
"Well," Goodwin said, "you've got my attention. Do go on."
"Yes? I choose to believe there is something to this as well, my friend," the old man said. "Yes, we know from our history the truth of the accusation: dolphins help men. They do so with apparent purpose. Did you know, doctore, that alone among all animals, only dolphins look at themselves in a mirror with a sense of recognition? Self awareness, doctore! Awareness of others in the context of selfhood! Think of the implications! Where did this charge come from, this desire to aid humans in need? Dionysus? Why do they continue to be so inclined when faced with so much human malevolence to their kind? No, no, we will find no simple explanations to suffice, doctore."
Malcolm Doncaster was frowning now, deep in thought. He was searching his memory for . . .
"Now, before the next part of our dinner arrives, somebody must tell me exactly what happened in the sea tonight."
Margherita felt the overwhelming desire to run now, but she remained seated in her chair as if held there by forces beyond her control. She felt Goodwin's eyes on hers, felt herself grow hot and flush with embarrassment.
"Margherita," the old man said. "You must drink some more wine or this evening will grow intolerable for us all!"
"I am not so thirsty," she replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "Sorry."
"And neither am I, but there are things we need to say to one another tonight, and it is not so easy sometimes to talk with strangers. So please, Margherita, drink some wine. It is good wine. It will cause you no harm."
She tossed off her glass and held it out petulantly, waiting for it to be refilled. "It is indeed fortunate that this is a good Grigio, Ludvico. And because I get tipsy most easily, I hold you responsible for my actions tonight!" She tossed off this second glass and held it back out. "More!" she said, and Ludvico filled her glass.
Paulo looked mortified, as if he knew where this evening was headed. The implications terrified him.
A course of broiled fish was served, and everyone turned to the food as an escape from the hazy implications that drifted lazily in the air above the table like circling sharks.
The thought hit Goodwin and Mary Ann at exactly the same time, but she beat him to the punch. "Assume for a moment," she began, pounding on the table, "that the two dolphin we saw this evening are residents of this area. If that dolphin you photographed off the Gulf Stream is the same one that came to you tonight, I'd say the implications would be beyond staggering. Wouldn't that imply purpose?"
"Ah, si," Ludvico said. "Very much, purpose, yes. Perhaps more than purpose."
"How so?" Paulo asked.
"Well, a dolphin or dolphins from Portofino," Mary Ann continued, "ventures across the Atlantic to warn a sailor of an approaching storm, check up on him afterwards then disappear. This sailor then comes to Portofino where he is approached -- in the water, mind you -- by this same dolphin, and this dolphin compels two people to make love."
"Why, Paulo, the implications are clear as day!" Malcolm almost shouted. "That animal knew where Doctor Goodwin was headed months ago, perhaps before even Dr Goodwin was aware! That dolphin is, or was, protecting Doctor Goodwin! Has knowledge of, or understands the movement of people derived in a manner completely beyond our understanding! Margherita! What's wrong?"
The young woman was trembling, holding on to the edge of the table as if her world was spinning violently out of control. Wide-eyed, turning pale, they heard her whispering . . . "It couldn't be . . . it couldn't be . . . no, it must not be . . ."
Paulo shouted, slammed his hand down on the table. "No! Enough of this! Margherita! Come with me, now! We must leave!"
Her eyes full of remembrance, and terror, Margherita began to shake and cry. Goodwin instinctively put his arm protectively around her.
Ludvico stood and with both hands on the table leaned toward Paulo. "You must not interfere! Go if you must, but do not interfere, Paulo. There is too much at stake!"
The Doncasters looked at one another, then at Goodwin and Margherita. They were both rattled now. Mary Ann stood and went to Margherita's chair.
"Come with me, Margherita. Let's go wash up, shall we?"
Margherita came back to them, looked around the room to make sure of her surroundings, then left with Mary Ann.
"Paulo, sit down!" the old man said. "Sit, you fool!" He pointed at the table while he glowered at the young man. "And doctore? Perhaps you would be so kind as to go find this photograph? Would be a good idea, no?"
"By all means," Malcolm said, "go. In fact, I'm going with you, old sport. I find myself in need of some fresh air."
Goodwin pushed himself back from the table and stood. He looked from Paulo to the old man and back again, saw the contours of their faces and was rattled by the growing implications he could just now begin to fathom. "Yes. A good idea," he said absent-mindedly. "Yes, Malcolm, let's go."
When the others were all gone, the old man looked at Paulo with sad eyes, for sad thoughts filled his heart. 'So much to tell the boy. So little time.'
"So many things you could have been," he said almost silently, almost like a prayer. "Why did you have to become the fool?"
End Part III