34 - Not Like a Bicycle

The Guardian Dolphin

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I took Alfred's place that morning. It was the least I could do.

I worked as a short order cook when I was younger, and that was basically all they needed. It was fun to be in a restaurant again. The smell of natural gas and coffee and hot grease. The sizzle of meat on the grill. The strange almost hypnotic cycle of putting orders on, taking them off, cleaning in between.

Though the truth is, it was mostly just cleaning. I don't think we had three customers all morning.

Young Officer Barnes loved my pancakes, and they weren't even my best recipe—just what I could do with the commercial mix Alfred used.

The place really needed attention.

Ann took over around noon, to give me a break, and I walked up the beach until I found a deserted stretch, just a little beyond where I had washed up. It was around a bend from the restaurant, so I had some privacy. There were a lot of large black rocks at one end, and I hung my cook's uniform on one of those.

It felt good to get out of that uniform. Alfred was a size smaller than me. Two around the midriff. For some reason I felt heavy, like my body weighed a ton.

I waded out into the surf, and lay down, almost gingerly. I was still a little sore from the night before, but mostly I was cautious. The surf wasn't very big, there. I wanted a relatively safe place to try again.

Forty minutes later, I dressed and headed back to the restaurant.

It wasn't like riding a bicycle.

* * * * *

Just about then something was happening in town that became important later on.

Chief Oakes was sitting in his private office, with his feet on his desk, cradling a phone receiver to his ear, and looking at the picture of me and William at the party. He had decided to take a personal interest in the case.

The phone was ringing on the other end, and the Chief was daydreaming about the good old days—specifically about the time I had that little talk with him that saved his marriage. It was that memory that had caused him to look up the old file on me. What he found in the file had led to this call.

The ringing stopped, and a voice answered.

"North Hills Psychiatric."

The Chief swung his feet off the desk.

"Could you connect me with records, please?"

"Just a moment."

There was a brief pause, followed by another voice.

"North Hills. Records."

"Deborah?"

"Yes?"

"This is Chief Oakes."

"Oh! Hi!"

"Do you remember a patient you had there-a Jonathan Smith?"

"The dolphin guy?"

The Chief leaned forward.

"Yeah. The dolphin guy. When was he released?"