The Kidnapping of Orky and Corky II

Part One: The Newport Specimen

Killing time in Sunken City.
Gulls circling in the sky.
Lit up a spliff, my mind adrift,
when Cap’n sauntered by.

His nose was drawn to tendrils afloat,
as clear as any beacon.
He steered his ship hard toward my slip,
dropped anchor o’er deep-end.

He stroked his beard, adjust his cap,
then finally he spoke:
Hey there, young lad, be cool, he said,
and give this old man a toke.

They call me Captain Boots, said he,
because of my big feet.
A nickname from my childhood days,
some things you just can’t beat.

And soon we were joking and laughing,
like two old chums, fast and true.
I told him my trials, my troubles,
and he shared some of his too.

My name is Peter Vladovic, I said.
Dropped-out from Pedro High.
My Old Man wants to kick me out.
My Mom just sobs and cries.

My teachers call me delinquent.
They say that I don’t care.
What was my crime? It’s simply this:
I will not cut my hair!

The Cap’n look’d me up and down,
his eyes in recognition.
In you, my friend, I see myself.
Cast out in perdition.

What to do, with boys like you?
My folks had no idea.
Made me join the U.S. Navy.
Shipped me to Korea.

I know what your elders are saying, young man:
Don’t sit and smoke dope all day.
Find work, be smart, sell out, choose life,
do something, make some pay.

But unschool’d and poor, and brown what’s more!
What meager choice have Ye?
To work amongst the stevedores,
and pay their union fee?

Gut fish all day in a cannery?
That won’t last, my Son.
The daily catch, its waning fast.
They’re closing one by one.

But listen here, my young mon frère,
I have a better answer.
Come with me, out to the sea.
A life lived for adventure.

Return to school? Don’t be a fool!
I have a different outlook.
The sea can teach you things beyond
the facts in any textbook.

I’m shipping out, and need a crew,
I’ve got a new commission.
A trip to gather creatures
of the deep for exhibition.

And then the Captain stood up straight,
and raised a steady hand.
On yonder Point, men have a scheme
they call it Marineland.

An edifice, colossal,
it’s called an Oceanarium.
A giant pool, with bleachers too,
built like a football stadium.

They’ll pack ’em in, cheek to cheek,
like sardines in a tin.
Then charge ’em twenty bucks a head
to see some jumping fins.

But… without the perfect specimen
the venture just might fail.
They’ll need a great attraction.
They want a killer whale!

Some say whales can’t be caught alive,
but they don’t have my skills.
I know all that there is to know of
of scales and fins and gills.

A lesser man might balk or quit
but damn if I won’t try.
Come join me on this hearty quest?
I thought, and then said, Aye!

Why waste away in a classroom,
like an animal in a cage?
I’d see the world directly,
not in photos on a page.

So, Cap’n made me his first mate,
my rank he did promote,
although I’d never spent a day
aboard a fishing boat.

Old Boots became my master
and I, his protégé.
His command I swore to follow
without question, come what may.

~*~*~

Extraordinary was the tug
the Skipper did contrive.
A vessel built to go to sea
and bring ’em back alive.

A crow’s nest high above the decks,
huge engines down below.
A winch to haul in giant nets.
Her name: Ger-on-i-mo.

A twenty-four foot gang-plank
extended from her bow,
from there to snare the mammoth beast
with a lasso, like a cow.

At dawn we launched from L.A. Harbor.
The tide was rising high.
Set course due west toward Catalina,
under azure cloudless sky.

Our passage ‘cross the channel blue
was swift, without delay.
I took an instant liking to
the bracing ocean spray.

And as we neared the island cliffs
Old Boots sprang into action,
barking orders left and right in
strong commanding fashion.

We netted off a smallish bay
just north of Avalon.
to fill with sharks and rays and fish,
our hunt was finally on.

Our work at first was improvised,
for we were pioneers.
But soon we mastered our technique
for fishing without spears.

We snared them in the open sea,
then drove them back to shore.
And every time we’d bring the catch,
they’d send us out for more.

And Boots’ word proved right and true,
I learned more in a day
than in a year back at my school.
My work seemed more like play.

Each day brought new adventures,
new wonders to my eye.
Each golden sunset finished with
a green flash in the sky.

But as the days turned into weeks
with no sign of a whale,
the pressure from the Captain’s boss
it soon began to swell.

Heated words and pointed fingers
were exchanged on the dock.
Talk about attendance
kept us working ‘round the clock.

And I began to wonder about
the bargain had I bought.
Our task, it never seemed to end,
they’d take whatever caught.

These fish that we were catching,
to where did they all go?
Increasingly I thought perhaps
I did not want to know.

And then one night, I stood the watch,
the Cap’n shared a smoke.
Starlight danced on glassine waves,
flying fish leapt about our boat.

The lunar tide tugged at my soul,
lulled into solitude.
Our tiny floating universe
all bathed in quietude.

I looked the Cap’n in the eye,
confessed to him my doubt.
What karmic debt did we accrue?
What was this all about?

The Skipper’s face grew serious,
deep thoughts inside his head.
He leaned back in his pilot’s seat
then finally he said:

These waters which upon we sail
flow from the Silent Spring.
Commerce spreads over the land,
polluting everything.

Believe me Son, that in this case
ends justify the means.
The fact is modern life today
demands efficiencies.

A luxury few can afford,
to walk upon a beach.
Time outside to feel and think
is always out of reach.

These sights that you and I enjoy
for free out here at sea,
for most come second to demands
for productivity.

And others lack the interest.
Nature moves too slow.
At best they’ll watch a porpoise flip,
performing in a show.

It’s better people see a whale
bound in captivity,
than never free because they lack
the curiosity.

Experience must be packaged.
Nature commoditized.
Attention spans adjusted to
reality televised.

And then we both fell silent,
a breeze jostled our boat.
I thought on Captain Boots’ words
and buttoned up my coat.

Something ‘bout my Master’s speech
didn’t sit just right.
But though I felt I should say so,
I kept my mouth shut tight.

~*~*~

At dawn we heard the radio call:
Orca in Newport Bay!
Alone, it strayed into the port.
Be quick, come right away!

The Cap, he pulled up anchor quick,
due south we steamed, posthaste.
A chance to nab a killer whale
he surely would not waste.

The ship’s hull took a beating
as we bounced from wave to wave.
The sea felt tense and nervous
the sky grew dark and grave.

Upon arrival I did spot
a site that left me awed:
A throng, at least a thousand strong
along the Esplanade.

They pointed toward our quarry
in the shallows of Back Bay.
We spied a shiny dorsal fin,
white flukes went on display.

It fixed us in it’s giant’s gaze
and circled round the boat.
All seemed to sense the moment
for a duel was afloat.

Our battle stations taken up,
the Captain on the bow.
I gripped the throttle and the wheel,
cold sweat dripped from my brow.

Maneuvered the Geronimo,
in place for our first pass.
Then Boots flashed me the signal
to begin our slow advance.

The Captain waited for the whale
to come up for some air.
And I had never seen before
his intense hunter’s stare.

He leaned far out over the rail,
the boat and beast converged.
The ocean’s surface boiled up,
the killer whale emerged.

And Captain made a skillful throw,
the crowd let out a wail.
Half were rooting for the Cap,
the other for him to fail.

The rope arced toward the whale with speed,
on target to enclose,
but when he turned quick to the right
it glanced right off his nose.

I steered the ship hard to the port
to chase after our prize.
I saw the people on the shore,
the bloodlust in their eyes.

With lasso ready once again,
the Captain gave command.
And when the whale appeared again
the rope flew from his hand.

His second throw was straight and true,
Old Boots, he earned his crown.
Around the blackfish’s pointed snout
his snare did tighten down.

And then a tug of war ensued
between two mighty teams.
I pulled the stick hard to the stern,
the whale reversed, full steam.

The cete did thrash and flail about,
let out a piercing cry.
Then it tried to ram the boat,
and flashed it’s big red eye.

His rope began to slip and jerk,
the Captain’s face was stern.
The muscles on his arms did quake,
his hands began to burn.

But Boots was most tenacious.
determined to best his foe.
He cried out, If I beat this whale
I’ll get a TV show!

He fought for two straight hours,
his big feet planted firm.
On shore the leering throng had doubt
he’d make it to full term.

When suddenly the line fell slack,
the whale gave up the ghost.
It seemed to lose it’s will to fight,
the Skipper had the most.

A net was quickly wrapped around
the spent and tired whale.
And only then I realized
we’d sentenced it to jail.

Marineland bosses, most ecstatic,
were waiting on the dock.
With cranes the whale was hoisted high
just like a giant rock.

’Twas loaded on a flatbed truck.
The whale seemed to to deflate.
It looked much smaller on the deck,
in water it seemed great.

The truck departed for the park,
encumbered with it’s load.
The sad beast let its tail fall limp
as they drove out up the road.

My mind was filled with questions.
Why did the whale stray there?
Could it be sick? Did it have ich?
It’s breathing seemed impaired.

The Cap, he had no answers,
he didn’t seem to know.
He just kept saying to himself,
I’ll be the next Cousteau!

We sailed north quick, toward our home base,
and tied off to the dock.
We bounded to the stadium,
a sprint more than a walk.

The handlers in full panic.
The whale squealed out in pain.
It circled ‘round and ‘round the tank
just like a hurricane.

It’s torment could be felt by all,
it would not be confined.
It rammed the wall, 
convulsed, and wheezed
then left this world behind.

The Captain sighed, time skipped a beat,
then Boots turned on his heel.
We’ll head back out, at once, he said,
no stopping for a meal.

I stopped the Cap’n in his tracks,
we both stood face to face.
And then I told him that I felt
our souls were in disgrace.

I’m sorry Cap, you’ll have to make
this voyage without me.
In truth I doubt I have the will
to return to the sea.

This death weighs on my conscience.
To myself I’ve been untrue.
You’ll have to find a new first mate,
I’m going back to school.

~*~*~

Parts two and three… soon… maybe…