Searching for Kansas

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Re: Searching for Kansas

Postby Elaine Glimme » Sat Mar 04, 2017 10:56 am

With an audible “humph,” Vivian entered the semi-darkness. The atmosphere reminded her of old-time libraries. You felt as if you had to whisper. They walked past tank after tank of sea creatures. Some were drab - browns, grays, and blacks. Some burrowed into the sand. Others floated rhythmically with the currents created by the filters. Vivian could recognize a lot of them; she remembered their scientific names, and, in spite of herself, she was pleased. And then there were small, bright fish, like tiny blue and red neon lights, darting in and out of the grasses planted in the bottoms of their tanks.
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Re: Searching for Kansas

Postby Elaine Glimme » Sun Mar 05, 2017 1:41 pm

Deftly, Austin steered her towards the main coral reef exhibit. The tank was huge - floor to ceiling and about forty feet wide. Bright orange starfish and brittle stars clung with their suckers to the sides and bottom.
The back side of the tank was a wall of rock interspersed with anemones. Pink, white, and orange animals, they looked like flowers planted among the rocks and corals, and their tentacles waved gently in the breeze-like current of this artificial sea. But the fish were, hands down, the stars of the reef. Deep blues, yellows and oranges - these fish were a masterpiece of living art. They floated and waltzed, along with the bubbles constantly rising from something hidden in the rocks and sand. Vivian’s eyes followed the relaxed antics of a clown fish, a funny, little, orange and white guy, completely at home, foraging among anemone tentacles for scraps of food. There was a rhythm in the tank. The bubbles pulsed upward through the water. The fish floated around as if they were dancing. Vivian leaned against the glass, suddenly tired, wishing she could become part of the dance. To not think about any of it - Alex, money, the mugger, the job, gutting fish - to just float around and eat the tidbits that dropped from the sky, that’s what she longed for. It was sort of like Eden, where God took care of everything, and Adam and Eve could walk around enjoying the scenery, picking an occasional fruit, and leaving the apples alone. Vivian could do that - leave the apples alone.
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Re: Searching for Kansas

Postby Elaine Glimme » Thu Mar 09, 2017 9:58 am

The most complex ecosystems on earth, coral reefs house hundreds of thousands of species, offer protection to the coastal lands of eighty-six nations, and provide income estimated at $375 billion through recreation, fishing and new drugs . . .

She stared at the tank. “It’s so beautiful. What does it look like in person? I mean when you’re down there in the ocean or in the river with your scuba gear?”
“Those are all tropicals,” said Austin, “and of course the local fish don’t have the spectacular colors. But it’s like being inside the tank, and it’s not just the tank; it’s the whole world.
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Re: Searching for Kansas

Postby Elaine Glimme » Sun Mar 12, 2017 7:02 pm

. It’s the biggest rush. And, when you come up, you’re so pumped with endorphins you just about feel you could fly.” She read on:
An early indicator that climate change is a real threat is the bleaching of our coral reefs. High temperatures cause the coral to expel the microscopic organisms that give them color. If this bleaching continues for too long, the coral dies and algae takes over the reefs.
The strong El Nino and rising water temperatures of 1998 devastated much of the world's coral reefs . . .

“Alex always said global warming was an excuse for balding scientists to get into gullible girls’ underpants.” She hadn’t meant to say that. The words had just jumped out of her mouth, as if they had their own mind. Or as if someone had taken over Vivian’s body and said them.
Austen thought for a moment. “It’s not an excuse . . . I’ve never made a move on you . . . And I have plenty of hair.”
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Re: Searching for Kansas

Postby SquarePeg » Tue Mar 14, 2017 5:17 am

Awesome. Funny thing, I think I'd've taken Vivian to the aquarium, too. She needs to spend some time in the jelly fish exhibit. That should calm her down.
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Re: Searching for Kansas

Postby Elaine Glimme » Wed Mar 15, 2017 9:53 am

Me too. That was my first thought. Baltimore National Aquarium didn't have a jellyfish exhibit in 2005. I checked. BTW their website has three gorgeous webcams. https://aqua.org/webcams And they (aquarium employees, not the webcams) were really helpful when I asked them questions. If I'm ever near Baltimore and have the time, I want to go see them.
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Re: Searching for Kansas

Postby Elaine Glimme » Fri Mar 17, 2017 9:43 am

Next to the caption, the Aquarium had displayed pictures of bleached corals.
And suddenly a wave of depression all but suffocated her, and she turned away wrapping her arms around her shoulders.
What was all this? Vivian choked back her tears. It wasn’t as if she cared all that much about coral reefs. ‘So this is what crazy feels like,’ she thought. She shrugged pretending everything was okay. Aloud, she said, “Whatever. Let’s find something more cheerful.”
“How about dolphins?”
“Much better,” said Vivian. They moved on.
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Re: Searching for Kansas

Postby Elaine Glimme » Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:35 am

The dolphin’s tank was a good sized swimming pool. From inside the building you could see both above and below the water line, which was a few inches above eye level. If you pressed your face against the thick glass you almost entered their world. All you saw was blue, and then a dolphin appeared. He’d burst through the water with a splash.
“They look as if they’re having a good time,” Vivian said. They did, indeed, swimming and jumping, and nodding their heads. As if all of life was a game. And every so often, they’d let out a cackle that sounded like a laugh, maybe laughing at the silly humans, having to stand on two legs.
“I wonder if they’d be happier out in the ocean,” Vivian mumbled. It was a big tank, probably a couple of millions of gallons, but compared to the ocean? “I feel like setting them free.” Vivian said suddenly.
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Re: Searching for Kansas

Postby Elaine Glimme » Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:43 am

“I was there when we saved those two,” said Austin. “And I got to help care for them on their trip to the Aquarium. They were just babies, caught in some cast-off fishing nets, and wrapped so tightly they’d never have made it out on their own. They’d have choked to death. Their mother was nowhere in sight, and she probably couldn’t have helped them anyway. So these two were raised here in Baltimore. They’re our kids, in a way.”
“I want to do something like that. Before I die. I want to do just one thing that matters.” How true! Up until then, she hadn’t done a single important thing. She hadn’t worked at a job, volunteered for a cause, raised kids, or even brought soup to a sick friend. Sending a check to some charity was the biggest kindness she could claim.
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Re: Searching for Kansas

Postby Elaine Glimme » Thu Mar 23, 2017 6:51 pm

They watched the dolphins for some time, then moved on to an exhibit called “Open Ocean.”
This was the shark tank. Sleek sharks. No one messed with them. They owned the ocean, their tails swaying back and forth propelling them. The sharks moved effortlessly. Vivian half expected them to be attacking everything else in the tank, but they just kept swaying.
“Have you ever swum with sharks?” she asked.
“Yes.”
“Were you scared?”
“Not really. Contrary to what some people think, most sharks don’t eat humans. But I’ve even swum with man eaters. I’ve never done the really stupid things I’ve seen other morons do, like swimming in murky water, or swimming at the surf line, where you know sharks are hanging out just looking for a meal. Some of my friends have done that, and one of them actually turned into shark food. But yes, I’ve swum with sharks, and that’s a totally different kind of a rush”
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Re: Searching for Kansas

Postby Elaine Glimme » Sat Mar 25, 2017 9:49 am

“Like kicking a mugger in the groin?”
“Do you have to keep talking about that? But, yes, I think so.”
They watched for a while longer.
“I want to swim with sharks.”
“Why?”
“Because I’m scared of them. If I swim with sharks, I can do anything. It would be like climbing Everest - sort of.”
“And?”
“And now I’m scared and I can’t do much of anything.”
“Except?”
“No except. I can’t do much of anything.”
“Except you beat up a mugger. I'll come for you tomorrow, and we'll go in to work together, at least for the first few weeks or so.”
“Thanks. I wish I didn’t care, but I do.”
Last edited by Elaine Glimme on Fri Mar 31, 2017 8:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Searching for Kansas

Postby Elaine Glimme » Mon Mar 27, 2017 10:25 am

He picked her up the next day. “Where can I take scuba lessons?” Vivian asked. “I want to go there. I want be in the sharks’ world. I don’t ever want to be scared of anything again.”
“Can you swim. Vivian?”
“Yes. Well, sort of.”
“Practice. Scuba classes start in the pool. Swim a few laps before and after class to build up your strength. You’ll be wet and waterlogged anyway. A few more minutes won’t matter.”
Vivian shivered and shook all the way from the car to the door of the lab. The temperature had dropped into the forties, and suddenly winter was threatening.
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Re: Searching for Kansas

Postby Elaine Glimme » Fri Mar 31, 2017 8:07 am

Weasel hadn’t appreciated being thwarted. It wasn’t that he cared that much about Vivian. He didn’t. She was beautiful, but then so were any number of the women he had been with. It’s just that he expected his plans to work, and this one hadn’t. Smiley didn’t have the brains of a hairbrush, and Weasel had counted on Smiley. Lesson learned.
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Re: Searching for Kansas

Postby Elaine Glimme » Sun Apr 02, 2017 1:16 pm

One evening Weasel found himself alone with nothing to do. He poured himself a glass of Scotch, and soothed his ruffled feathers by writing another letter to Alex.

Dear Buddy,
You never told me how hot your wife is.

He smiled, took a sip of the Scotch, and considered what to write next. You had to grab every pleasure that came your way. Weasel knew that.
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Re: Searching for Kansas

Postby Elaine Glimme » Tue Apr 04, 2017 9:51 am

A world away, Alex sat on the straw pallet that he used for a bed. Prison in Western Sahara had not been what Alex had expected. He hadn’t been beaten or interrogated or tortured. Mostly he was left alone.
It was the monotony of incarceration that got to him. That and the heat, and the unexpected memories of Vivian. That was the trouble with prison - there was nothing to distract his thoughts, and the pain of Vivian pierced his mind unexpectedly, unbidden. Sometimes he could will the thoughts away, and sometimes, they just stayed and tormented. And sometimes he wanted the thoughts and welcomed them even though they hurt him so much.
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