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Narrative of the Whale Truck Essex THE whale died somewhere in Kansas and it's a miracle we even got that far. The owners lost interest when attendance fell off and they began cutting back on the krill. The last shipment in Topeka had been a clear as weak consomme-its tail barely quivered when we pumped it into the tank. I looked around for the telegraph office while Peter and the Whale Girl watched the convertible. WHALE IS DEAD, I wired, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Squires had kidnapped it the night before. When we got up in the morning the truck was gone. Two treads of yellow dirt leading off down the highway, a black stain where the tank had overspilled . I'd been awake all night going over the latest charts.... It was complicated, I'd been putting it off.... It was 6:00 A.M. before I determined the whale wasn't breathing after all. That's when I ran out to tell Squires and that's when we found out about the kidnapping. We had a milkshake in the drugstore. The man behind the counter said it was 1,242 miles to the sea. He had taken his kids there when they were small. After about an hour, I went back to the telegraph office. They'd already replied. WHERE IS WHALE NOW. The bastards, I thought. Just for that I'm not going to tell them. We were in Alberta when the whale first got sick. There was a 95 NARRATIVE oF THE WHALE TRUCK EssEx 96 sleevelike opening in the tank near one end. For a quarter you could stick your arm through a plastic valve and touch his skin. It was smooth-! never felt skin that smooth. A lot of them would make a face and quickly draw their arms away but Squires claimed he enjoyed being stroked. We were in Banff for Indian Days. A rash broke out on just that one spot. White and pink rings that started to spread. We made them wear dish gloves after that. I got a prescription from a local vet but it only made it worse. Squires was the technician. The ·girl wore net stockings. Pete handled the food-we all took turns driving the truck. What I basically had to do was monitor its heartbeat, digestive functions, respiration. Every once in a while stir the krill. Depending on my charts Squires would adjust the thermostat and oxygen flow to the appropriate level. The tank was forty-three feet long. There were springs on the end so he could nudge the glass without its breaking. He'd do this a lot, especially around feeding time. By making a quarter roll to his right away from the viewing platform he could get some space to move his tail. But it wasn't much and by the time we got across the mountains he had given up moving at all. His brow would rise and fall slightly when he exhaled but that was it. His spout was above the water, we kept it wet with a spray from a nozzle mounted on the roof. When it was cold his breath would freeze it shut and Pete would have to climb up there with a torch. A revolving green and blue strobe was mounted outside the glass near either eye. These, coupled with the bubbles of oxygen being pumped over his forehead, may have given him the illusion he was at sea. Sometimes his eyes seemed screwed up in pleasure like a eat's. When we camped near a stream that looked clean we would change some of the water, mixing it with bags of salt we kept locked in the pickup. NARRATIVE OF THE WHALE TRUCK EssEx There were signs mounted along the walkway near each part of 97 his body. Signs like you see in zoos, with spotlights aimed at the appropriate subject. "Flipper," one would say, going on to explain at great length the functions of the flipper. You would walk from sign to sign past unlighted intervals of blank, rippled skin and it made it seem like we had five or six animals in there, not just one continuous one. The refrigeration system had broken down in Montana. We came close to losing him right there. I found some dry ice, Squires did something with the wires. But it must have been a turning point of some kind. Squires started to brood. We moved/ the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780822978855
Related ISBN
9780822962533
MARC Record
OCLC
568748238
Pages
160
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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