Dolphin Man

a story by J. Orlin Grabbe

He had tried everything and wasn't the slightest bit put off by the strangeness of the ad:

Wanted: Dolphin Man for important
project. If you walk like a dolphin
and talk like a dolphin, you're it.

He had always been of the opinion the key to successful job-hunting was making the right first impression. After all, once they hired you, employment policy and bureaucratic inertia usually kept even the grossly incompetent from being fired. So, as was his custom, he headed for the library to find a way to up the odds.

After a couple hours combing sources, he was still at a loss. How the hell was a dolphin supposed to walk? He had first taken the phrase "to walk like a dolphin" as some theatrical metaphor, like "to break a leg." Following a futile search in that direction, he then turned to books about dolphins themselves. Dolphins were air-breathing mammals, weren't they? Perhaps they came out on the shore and did some sort of strange dance on the sand -- hence the phrase "walk like a dolphin." To talk like a dolphin was even more puzzling. Had scientists succeeded in teaching dolphins to talk?

He had heard about the chimpanzees who had a vocabulary of one or two hundred words. The chimps even learned to make up their own phrases, like the chimp who had combined the signs for "shit" and "scientist" to refer to an attendant she didn't like.

He came across the name of a person who had done a lot of dolphin research. John Lilly. The best he was able to determine was John Lilly had only talked to the dolphins while floating in an isolation tank after taking ketamine. Should he show up for the job interview on ketamine? He waved away the idea. He wasn't even sure what ketamine was -- some type of anesthetic, apparently. Who knows, it might make him swim across the door sill and wiggle around like a dying guppy.

Another hour and he was feeling totally dejected. He didn't know any more than when he had started. He was meditating on occupational hazard and social injustice when he was startled by a visage gazing intently into his own.

"What drove you to the dolphins?" she asked. She awaited his answer expectantly. Her intensity made him afraid. He felt any error in his answer would be met by a slap of a ruler on the back of his hand.

"Something made you do this?" she asked again.

"Yes." He hadn't had a job for three months.

"I thought so," she said triumphantly. "You were probably a dolphin in a previous lifetime."

"Sorry?" he asked cautiously.

"I have a friend who channels dolphins. She lives down at the end of Manhattan near Wall Street, on the water. You know, where the witches used to hang out. Well, she channels dolphins. Maybe she can help you remember who you once were."

"I'm willing to try anything, if it will help me walk like a dolphin and talk like a dolphin."

She looked at him curiously and gave him the address without further comment.

"I'm here for the seance," he told the lady who opened the door.

"It's not a seance, it's a healing circle," she corrected him, "but welcome."

He looked around at the other people waiting in the living room. Their conversations were a little strange, but otherwise they seemed okay. The channeler had her hair shaved very short. Her head was kind of smooth and dolphin-like.

"First, each of us should state what his or her purpose is in being here," the channeler said.

"I'm looking for a job," he said. But, as they went around the circle, most of the others seemed to be "in transition." He decided he was the only one unemployed.

The dolphins, when they arrived, giggled a lot and talked in a high squeaky voice. They liked to rub their heads against him, and he enjoyed petting them, but he wasn't sure what he was supposed to get from all this.

Then each person took a turn in the center of the circle, and a spirit, not a dolphin, worked on each one's problems. The girl sitting to his left had lost the ability to emotionally relate to humans because many years ago in Atlantis, the spirit said, she had been so involved with working with dolphins she had isolated herself from her own species. As the dolphin girl went around the circle hugging each person to reestablish human contact, he began to cry because he realized how much he had missed her.

When the dolphin girl came to him, she said: "I know you, you worked with me then."

Now the spirit said, Come, dolphin man, and sit in the center of the circle.

Why are your eyes closed? the spirit asked. Open your eyes and raise up your head. He opened his eyes and looked at the channeler and saw her own eyes were closed.

I can see better that way, he said.

See with your heart. Now spread back your hands. Breathe in. How does it feel?

He could feel the warm sea water washing over him. He didn't know what to say.

It felt free, yes?


What? I can't hear you. Why do you talk into your collar?

Yes, he said louder.

Feel the freedom. Are you willing to choose freedom now?

Why not? he said to himself.


Yes, he almost shouted.

That's better. When you walk, hold up your head. When you talk, raise up your voice. Let others see your freedom and feel your joy.

The spirit was silent. Then: Breathe in now and give voice to your freedom and your joy.

He turned up his head to breathe in the moist warm air. At first the sound caught in his throat. But then as the spirit gave voice to the tone, his own came out full and clear.

The next day when he went to the job interview he walked with his head held high and talked in his confident dolphin voice, and laughed his dolphin laugh, and in five minutes the job was his.

from The Laissez Faire City Times, Vol 3, No 40, October 11, 1999