This one comes to you from South Africa (yes, I know, terrible name dropping, but it is my job. I can’t help it). I was lucky enough to be in Hermanus which, by all accounts, is the best place in the world to do some shore-based whale watching. Having been there, I can’t argue with that claim. I saw several Southern Right Whales frolicking happily in the surf with their calves. Sensational. I also saw some unbelievably stupid people leaning way too close to the edge with their gigantic camera lenses. Don’t they know those things change your centre of gravity?
Confession: I usually like to write my #fridayflash story and leave it to brew for an hour or so before giving it a quick stir and only then pouring it out for your enjoyment. No such luxury this week as I haven’t the time. Does it show? I hope not.
Looking back on those day’s events, and believe me, I’ve looked back on them often enough, I don’t think the whale meant to actually swallow my husband.
I’ve spent ages at the library and on the web researching this and I’m pretty sure that Southern Right Whales, (they’re the ones we were looking at that day), are what they call baleen whales; these are the sort which sift plankton out of the water using plates (made of baleen) with bristles attached. So they never chew their food. Or rip it apart. Like a Great White Shark.
Jerry saw some of those the day before when he went cage diving; I stayed on terra firma enjoying the view of the Cape from the guest house’s veranda. We could see the whales even from there: little puffs of smoke drifting across the waves as they came up for air. Apparently those ‘puffs’ can be a couple of metres high. See, there’s not much I don’t know about these creatures now. And when I look at the photos Jerry managed to take, I can’t deny it’s good to have some knowledge about them; makes it more interesting.
We’d walked to some cliffs where the whales like to come and play in the surf. They do it every year, mothers and calves, rolling around in the seaweed and flapping their huge tails in the foam. I was transfixed by it and quite content with my position on a bench, placed there, presumably, for exactly that purpose. Jerry of course just had to get as close as possible. ‘There’s always a better shot’, he used to say. Didn’t matter what it was: a rare bird; an unusual sunset; frost on a reed in the middle of a frozen lake. He was never satisfied until he’d filled the camera with hundreds of pictures. Pictures he’d then force me look through the minute we got back.
With that huge lens sticking out from his face he was totally oblivious to everything else; including anyone who was also trying to view those whales that day; anyone who might have been there first, for example.
But that was Jerry; he’s that idiot who pushes his way through a crowd at a book signing in case they run out of signed copies; or the inconsiderate bastard who edges in front of you in an art gallery to read the blurb on the wall, ruining your moment with the painting. He did that to me. A lot. So I know how it feels.
The wind was blowing off the sea so he won’t have heard the names they called him. I did. “Asshole” was one; “tosser” another. There was also “hijo de puta” and something in Afrikaans which I’m certain was as rude as it sounded. Whatever it was he deserved it.
He spent ages hanging over the edge of that cliff, clicking away; long enough for everyone else to give up and disappear; long enough for my toes to go numb in the cold breeze waiting for him to bloody finish; long enough for me to think this was the last time.
He was still taking pictures when he went over.
They found his camera hanging off a rock halfway down the cliff. Some of the photos are really rather good. The last one especially so: the whale is watching Jerry with one, huge, mournful eye. If you look carefully you can see Jerry reflected in it. Zoom in a bit more and you’ll find me just behind him.
That’s how I know she swallowed him. He was sucked in with all that seaweed and water just before she dived. I often wonder how far she swam before realising there was something indigestible in her mouth. She’ll have spat him out eventually. And why not? I couldn’t stomach him any more either.
© flyingscribbler 2011