This story is one of my favourites that I have written. It is very character-centred and entertaining, and the main character, Sol, kind of reminds me of myself.
“Hey, Sol! Wait up!” Sol heard footsteps pounding behind him and turned to see his sweaty elder brother, Joaquin, panting slightly, his long black dreadlocks bouncing on his back. “Mama Odie says that you can’t go down to the dock by yourself.”
Sol avoided his gaze, staring up at the splashes of bright graffiti on the rough wall. “Come on, Sol.” His brother grabbed his arm. Sol wrenched it out of his grip. “Oi!” his brother yelled.
And then Sol was running, his ukulele jolting against his leg, his feet skimming the cobbles, the bustling market a colourful blur. He swerved into a dingy alleyway, listening hard for any sign that his brother had followed him. Nothing. “Phew!” he sighed, sinking to the ground.
The boxes beside him rustled and he stiffened, staring nervously at the piles of rubbish. Then the quizzical face of a floppy-eared, wiry brown dog peered out from behind a bin piled high with rotting fishbones and half-eaten apple cores. ‘Oh, it’s you!” Sol exclaimed, extending his fingers and whistling softly. The dog trotted out of its hiding place and nuzzled its head into the crook of his arm. “Hola, little Chico,” Sol whispered, fondling the dog’s ears. He rummaged in his pockets and pulled out a stale piece of bread. The dog snuffled his palm and wolfed it down.
Sol stood up, inspecting his precious ukulele for any signs of damage. Apart from a few old scratches, it was still in pretty good shape. “Come, Chico!” he called, clambering over the plastic bags and into the salty sea air. The tranquil, turquoise ocean lapped at the shore, and Sol yanked off his leather sandals and let the warm, white sand smother his toes. He ran down the beach, shrieking delightedly, and then sat by the sea, watching the fiery orange sun sink slowly behind the horizon, strumming a gentle lullaby.
Only when the first twinkling stars peeked out from behind the wispy grey clouds did Sol reluctantly get to his feet. “Chico? Chico!” The sound of barking carried on the balmy breeze, and Sol jogged towards the bristling figure of the little dog, yapping dementedly. “Chico? What is it?” He squinted in the purplish gloom, narrowing his eyes against the glittering golden lights of the busy town behind him. A grey shape lay on the compact sand.
He edged closer, his heart thumping. It was a dolphin!
He reached out his fingers and touched its silken skin, gritty with sand. He had expected it to feel slimy and wet, but it was firm and satiny under his touch. The dark eye blinked, and he staggered backwards. It was alive! It flopped its tail feebly and gave a shuddering breath.
He glanced back at the sea. The tide was rapidly going out and the dolphin’s only chance of survival was disappearing with it. Sol knew he had to act fast. He began to sprint for his town, Chico running at full stretch at his heels. His chest burned and his legs felt like lead, but he knew he had to keep going.
He burst through the rickety door of the orphanage, skidding on the polished wood, and dashed into the kitchen, a stitch searing in his side. “Mama Odie! Joaquin! Come quickly!” he gasped.
“Sol?” Mama Odie advanced on him, brandishing her spatula threateningly and dripping spicy bean soup all over the floor. “No, you have to listen to me! There’s a dolphin! On our beach!” he yelled into the stunned silence.
“A golfinho? On our beach? But that is impossible!” she exclaimed “Maybe you’re imagining things. I know it has been hard for you since your papa died but-”
“No, no, it’s not, it’s there, I saw it, and it’s going to die! Morto! Don’t you understand? Just like my papa.” He was almost in tears now.
“Okay, okay.” She sighed, relenting. She glanced around and saw the children hovering by the grimy window. “Off to bed with you!” she shouted, waving the spatula in the air again. They scurried off to the bedrooms.
“Joaquin? You’d better come too.”
They set off, Mama Odie’s flowery apron flapping in the wind, the palm trees overhead swaying. When they reached the beach, Sol sprinted ahead, searching frantically in the dark. He spotted the dolphin almost immediately and headed for it. It was still breathing, but barely, its fins twitching. Mama Odie reached the dolphin next, heaving, and clutching her belly. “Oh my!” she kept repeating. “Oh my!”
She bent down beside the dolphin and ran he hands underneath it, wedging her fingers between its body and the sand. Sol watched anxiously from beside her.
She got up, not meeting his eyes. “What is it, Mama Odie? It’s going to live, isn’t it?” he stammered. “Well…we are going to need some help.” She murmured, more to herself than to him. “Not a problem, Mama Odie!” panted Joaquin, grinning broadly, who had arrived at last. And behind him was ten or so others.
Senor Francisco, the fisherman, Miss Maria, who ran the flower shop and planted a very wet kiss on Sol’s cheek, Jose, Antonio and Lucas, the three shepherds, and even Andromedia, who sold fruit at the market.
Miss Maria had brought some buckets, and she went about filling them up and passing them to Andromedia, who would pour them on the dolphin. “It’s to keep it wet.” She told Sol, smiling.
The night was beginning to get chilly, and the moon sparkled coldly in the inky indigo sky. Senor Francisco was bustling about with a fishing net, trying to untangle it with some help from Antonio, so they could lift the dolphin onto it and put it back in the sea. Sol sat down on a barnacled rock and shivered, watching the proceedings.
Already the rosy glow of dawn was creeping along the horizon, rays of aureate sunlight blushing the sky pink and orange. “Sol!” Mama Odie called over her shoulder. “We’re lifting the dolphin now.” He hurried over to her and grasped one corner of the net. Everyone wheezed and stumbled towards the sea, the dolphin struggling fiercely. He felt the cool water swirl around his shorts, then up to his waist. The dolphin began to thrash wildly, and he felt the net slacken as it slipped off and into the water. It plummeted to the bottom like a stone, Sol’s heart sinking with it.
Then it gave an experimental wriggle and exploded out of the water just beside Sol, who whooped and cheered as crystalline droplets splattered his arms and face. He plunged into the water, the shining silver streak that was the dolphin flashing around him. His dark hair drifting in the gently tugging current, he dove to the sandy bottom. He could see the blurred faces of Mama Odie and the rest of the people who had helped him clapping ecstatically above the surface. The dolphin gave a last twirl, like an underwater dancer, and swam away, its tail beating rhythmically.
He staggered out of the sea, coughing and spluttering, eyes streaming, elated. Someone threw a fluffy towel around his shoulders, and he let himself be led back to the orphanage in a mesmerized trance. They threw open the door, singing raucously, and he collapsed into a chair, a blissful grin still plastered on his face. Chico crumpled tiredly at his feet, his tail wagging weakly.
“Who wants some of Mama Odie’s famous pancakes?” A joyful bout of laughter resonated around the table. Sol gazed out of the window, at the cerulean sky and the flocculent clouds. Gulls wheeled in the endless blue, and Sol felt the blazing sun’s rays dry his damp clothes.
I am Sol and I will shine as bright as the sun.