The Dolphin Pup restaurant was located on the Ft. Myers beach, one of many along restaurant row. Typical Southern Florida archetecture: a simple frame construction painted a bright, sky-blue pastel, trim done in hot-pink. The grounds decorated with a border of sea oats and wild grasses. An elevated porch jutting diagonally out from what would have been the right-hand corner had these walls been squared-off. A five step wood staircase led up to the porch. To the left of this entrance, facing the parking lot of unpaved whitesand, was a semi-circular atrium about 12 feet in diameter. The atrium had bay windows reaching from the ceiling to a sill five feet above ground.
Next to the drive, a pedestal sign announced in red neon: "DOLPHIN PUP"; in smaller letters along the bottom edge: "Sea Food". In between glowed a blue-green outline of the restaurant's name-sake. Out back, a screened-in deck, shaded by a large sea grape, overlooked the Intercoastal Waterway.
Upon entering the restaurant, a dimly lit bar was off to the right. A half-dozen small cocktail tables were illuminated by brass, oil-burning hurricane lanterns. Along the left hand wall was a long oak bar, complete with polished brass foot rail. Behind the bar, neon signs advertising various libations hung on the wall.
To the left was the maitre'd's podium, and beyond it, the restaurant's main dining room. The interior was intended to evoke images of the "Margaritaville" Jimmy Buffet sang about. Bare wood floor, brass ceiling fans lazily stirring the air, walls covered with fish nets with their colorful glass ball floats, sea shells, mounted marlins and tarpons. The cigarette burns,crudely carved initials, and old nautical charts on the table tops were all carefully preserved under a layer of lucite. Fake parrots perched in the rafters.
The Dolphin Pup had been famous for its blackened red fish, even before the yuppies developed a vogue for blackened-anything. This dish was prepared cajun style by a real cajun from Louisiana's bayou country: Jesse DuPlante. A carefully guarded DuPlante family receipe, and years of experience, had given Mr. DuPlante the knack for throwing a specially seasoned fillet into a red hot iron skillet to sear it black as charcoal, yet cook it to tender and juicy perfection. The restaurant's other specialty was key lime pie. Not the kind in graham cracker crusts, mounds of meringue carefully concealing the sickly green "Teenage Nutant Ninja Turtles" slime within. This was authentic key lime pie: vanilla wafer crust, creamy filling that didn't need to hide beneath meringue, baked a delicate golden-yellow. Just enough sugar to cut the intense tartness and acidity of the real key lime (gathered from wild lime trees growing out on the barrier islands) to a pleasent tartness not intended to suit every snowbird pallate.
The restaurant's name originated from a statue of a baby dolphin on display behind the atrium's bay windows. This very life-like statue was mounted on a wood base carved and painted to look like white-capped seas. The base rested on a wood stand set close to the windows. A happy moment frozen in time: a new-born dolphin, celebrating its new life, trying its fins for the first time, leaping into the sky in uncontainable exuberance.
Jone'e Friedenger had been a most extraordinary little girl. She was somewhat delicate in appearance, but she was, as her cousin Dan put it, a "little Valkerie" Very few children -- or even adults, for that matter -- had her strength of character. How unlike her younger sister, Amanda. Do or say something to hurt Amanda's feelings: she'd just run off and cry over it in her room. Jone'e, on the other hand, would stand her ground, look you in the eye, and tell you to go to hell. She stood up to anyone: kids her own age, adults, even teachers and parents. While some people, including cousin Dan, appreciated such a dynamic, self-confident personality, her father, Ron Friedenger, wasn't one of them. He thought her "pushy", "bitchy", "arrogant", "unlady-like" (the worst accusation).
As a young woman, the contrast could not have been greater. At 20, Jone'e had become utterly indecisive. Every decision, no matter how trivial, she deferred to others every chance she could. Any choice, no matter how mundane, parallized her into inaction. She had worked for a year under a supervisor who had taken an instant dislike for her. She had dedicated her major purpose in life to making Jone'e's every working day a living hell. Not once had Jone'e complained about the treatment she was unjustly receiving; she allowed this supervisor to use her like her personal doormat. After high school graduation, Jone'e took a year off, having no idea what she wanted to do in college. After her ninteenth birthday, she finally enrolled, a year behind her former class mates. It was not her idea, but rather simply to get her grandmother Maria off her case.
Jone'e and her boyfriend, Jimmy Doohan, were sharing a booth in their favorite Mexican restaurant. After polishing off a bowl of fried icecream, Jone'e announced: "There's no easy way to say this, so I'm just going to say it straight". She looked down, eyes closed, elbows propped on the table, chin resting on clasped hands, as she composed her thoughts, and worked up her courage. She sat up straight: "These last few months, I've been doing some considerable soul-searching. I'm afraid that we won't be seeing so much of each other -- I've decided to go away for awhile, probably quite awhile... I thought you should be the first to know."
Jimmy just sat there, stunned by what he was hearing: "What... what... are you trying to say? We're... through?" he offered.
"If you want to put it that way, then I'm afraid so."
"What other way is there to put it?(!)" he said, his voice rising. "We've been together for four years, and now, after all this time, you decide we're through? What happened to: 'I can't wait for graduation so we can start our lives together' (quoting a love letter she wrote a year prior)? What was that?" There was a hard edge of anger in his voice. Yes, Jone'e remembered writing that. Even at the time, it had been more excuse than promise.
"You must realize: I have a new life-plan and marriage just doesn't figure into it. Not now, anyway. I'm not ready to make a committment like that. All my life, I've lived with my folks, I've never really had a life of my own. I just can't go from 'the nest' right into marriage and motherhood, and all the rest without having a taste of freedom and independence. Is that really so hard for you to understand?"
"So, Jone'e, all of a sudden you have this 'new plan'. Well, I had a life plan too: I planned on spending it with you. How dare you! We were supposed to get our own apartment next year. Isn't that enough 'independence' for you?(!)" By now, they had attracted the attention of the other diners to this real life soap opera taking place.
"What would you have me say? It is my life after all, not yours, or granma's or mom's or dad's... If you really love me, you'd realize how important this is, if you cared anything for me, you'd let me do this. Please... let me go".
"Go to HELL: Jone'e!"
Jimmy got up, pulled some bills from his wallet and threw a few $20.00's at her. "Pay for the dinner and take a cab home." He charged out of the restaurant like a locomotive without brakes. He was in no mood to even notice how warm and pleasent the mid-July evening was as he drove home alone. "Damn her!" he thought, "Damn that fickle, scatter-brained cunt!"
By the time Jone'e arrived home, her father had heard all about it. Not too surprising, considering that the Friedenger and Doohan clans had grown quite close as well. The Doohans had hosted Jone'e's 21st birthday party. It was assumed that the two families would be united by marriage quite soon.
"I want to see you in my study right now", Ron said flatly, as soon as she entered the house.
Here was the moment she'd been dreading for five months now. It had taken that long for her to steel her nerves to do what she knew she had to do. These next few minutes were critical: either she reclaimed her life, or others would continue to run it for her. She sensed that there would be no second chances here. Ron leaned back in his chair behind his desk, affecting his most intimidating, authorative, father image.
"What's all this crap about you 'going away'?"
"You know, fishies gotta swim; birdies gotta fly, and this litle birdie..."
"Don't you take that tone with me, YOUNG LADY (Uhh-Ohh: those were dangerous words: they were almost always a prelude to finding herself across his knee, dress/skirt up or pants down, when she was younger.) I demand an explanation!"
"Seriously, dad, I'm 21 years old. I feel it's time I should be out on my own. Face it: your 'little girl' has to grow up sometime." she replied as calmly and as rationally as she could. Getting angry would play right into his hand.
Ron heaved a heavy sigh in disgust, crossed his arms: "What about your education? You just gonna throw away two years of college?"
"I enrolled in this bullshit..."
"Watch your mouth, Young Lady. You're not too old to have your face slapped."
"...rediculous liberal arts program that serves no purpose, except for those who're just there for the sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. The only reason I did that was because of granma's complaining. It's worthless, I'm learning nothing of any value whatsoever, and it's a complete waste of my time and that money I pay those jerks. I know I can do something -- anything -- else that would be worth-while. If I can be out there -- see what's out there -- then maybe I can return to college later, with a major, and make it count for something."
Ron sat there in silence, thinking over what she'd said. It wasn't quite what he was expecting. He got to his real point: "How could you do that to Jimmy? You know you really hurt him tonight?"
"Look, Jimmy's a nice enough kind of guy, sometimes he's even fun to be with. But I don't love him, not in the way he wants anyway. I know it hurts now, but that's nothing like the chronic, on-going hurt that is a bad marriage. And a marriage to Jimmy would be a bad one because it's not what I want. I'm just not ready for marriage. This relationship with Jimmy should have been ancient history by now. That was just a high school romance, nothing more, and I'm way out of high school."
"In two years, Jimmy will have his degree in Electrical Engineering, and get his career off the ground. He's a bright young man with a promising future. He'll be a wondeful provider and a good father. You're damn lucky to have such a fiancee. If you let him go now, you may not get another chance. I was planning on keeping it a wedding present, but our families were going to help you two kids out on a great start: a substantial down payment on a house of your own. I want you to call Jimmy first thing in the morning and make up. Plead temporary insanity, whatever, and apologise to him for your behaviour tonight."
Suppressing a flash of rage: "Let me see if I'm understanding this. I should marry Jimmy, even though I don't love him or want to live with him, just so that I can be 'provided for'? I should spend the rest of my life, having nothing I can call my own, being nothing but Mrs. Jimmy Doohan for the rest of my life? I don't think so, father!"
"You can learn to love him. After you're married and start a family of your own, you'll see things differently. Motherhood is woman's highest calling."
(Dammit! I'm not getting through to him!)
"If I wanted to be a whore, I'd do the job right. With my looks, I'm sure that I could turn $500 a trick, at least, as an independent operator. I'll bet the 'Chicken Ranch' or the 'Mustang' could use someone like me. Or I could pick up some lonely, middle-aged businessman down at the four-star hotel. Stroke his male ego, convince him that he still has what it takes to score with twenty year old chicks, and pretty soon, I'm the 'other woman' with the penthouse apartment, the fancy car -- anything I want -- for nothing more than a little talk of his ditching Mrs. Respectable and marrying me. Either way, men will support me and I get to keep my freedom in the bargain. I certainly don't need you as my pimp..."
"How you could even think to compare marriage -- Holy Matrimony -- with prostitution..."
"Without love, it's all too much like peddling ass for a living. I'm no whore, and I certainly am no gold digger. As for your sentimental nonsense about motherhood: it's just an animal function. I'd like to think that I'm more than a vagina connected to a box; that I can do more than incubate Jimmy's offspring. Allow me to propose an alternative: Jone'e earns her degree in Electrical Engineering -- whatever -- she's the bright young girl with the promising future..."
Ron leapt to his feet, rage barely in check: "So you have been talking to that damn cousin of yours again! Tell me, did 'Danny the Fox' put those ideas in your head? Is he the one who's behind this?(!) I wish to hell I'd turned down that promotion and kept this family in Memphis, and you away from that communist bastard!"
"Danny the Fox" was Jone'e's favorite cousin: Daniel Cronin. Between the ages of twelve to seventeen, Jone'e had shared secrets with Daniel -- including those that females seldom ever share with guys, not even fathers or brothers. Ron always referred to him as "Danny the Fox", partly because of his reddish mane, and because he didn't like him, using all the negative connotations that "fox" implied. Of course, the feeling was mutual. Danny hated Ron Friedenger with a passion. Even from the very beginning: Dan often said that the first time he shook hands with Ron, he felt like he needed to wash his hands. He hated the way Ron treated the girls: too quick to punish them with bare-assed spankings, the blatent favoritism Ron showed the boys. Dan explained to Ron that Furry fans did not take comparisons to animals as an insult, but rather as a compliment. Once again, Dan managed to piss Ron off to a fare-thee-well. To Ron, "communist" meant whatever he didn't like: environmentalism, trade-unionism, animal rights activists, and especially feminism -- from which he'd done his best to shield his daughters, and with which Jone'e seemed to have been recently infected. "The Fox" was the embodiment of all of that. And he was a Furry. Indeed, once when Jone'e was twelve and just beginning to expand her horizons, Ron overheard a conversation "The Fox" was having with Jone'e. He almost literally threw him out of the house. Christmas party or not, he would not have those ideas under his roof.
"No father, Danny has nothing to do with this. It's my choice, my decision."
"Dammit Jone'e, what's gotten into you?(!)"
Jone'e remembered: ever since her senior year in high school, she'd felt her life was going nowhere too fast. Her classmates were looking ahead with eager anticipation: college, career, possibly marriage and family. For Jone'e, the future was threatening. High school had been safe and comfortable. While a term paper may have been an ordeal, there was no need to look farther ahead than the next mid-term or final. There was no need to worry about anyone's planning her future for her. It was during her junior year that she met Jimmy. At first, they got along just fine, they had fun together, their respective families began to socialize and grow close. It was a nice high school romance. What Jone'e had not counted on was the presumption that they would marry after graduation, or, perhaps, after Jone'e'd been to college for a couple of years. Sure, in many respects, it would have worked out nicely. The families liked each other, Jimmy would have a pretty young wife, Jone'e would have an up-and-coming husband. Throw a couple of kids into the mix, and you had the "ideal" Middle Class family. No one considered that, perhaps, this is not what Jone'e might have wanted. For her own good, her father forced the issue. The only one who understood the underlying Freidenger family politics was Jone'e's grandmother Maria. This was the real reason for her insistance that Jone'e go to college: to delay her being pushed into marriage.
Early one morning last Feburary, Jone'e was driving her little red Hyundai home after getting off work at 2:00AM, just as she'd done five nights a week. As usual, the radio was on her favorite station when, for some reason, the electronic tuner jumped to another station. This one specializing in what she distained as "elevator music": oldies, and those soft "old peoples'" tunes. She intended to reset the tuner, but for some reason did not. The next song in the rotation was something called Born Free. She was certain that she'd never heard this song before. There was something so compelling about it that she found herself pulling off the road to give it her undivided attention.
Jone'e didn't sleep well that night, nor the next, even though she was off and had no classes scheduled for the next day. At 3:00 am and still wide awake, she turned on the radio and searched for that station. She reached over to the phone on the night-stand and dialed the number "Information" had given her. The DJ answered on the second ring, and she put in a request for Born Free. Being as this was in the middle of the night, the DJ put it on after the current song, and Jone'e recorded it on the radio's integral cassette recorder.
She played that song over and over again until everyone else in the house was quite sick of it. Despite that, the ditty seemed to be speaking to her. She could not get that one line out of her head:
Born free, and life is worth living
But only worth living
'cause you're born free
It finally dawned on her. Her uneasyness about her future, the on-going conflict between her true self and this synthetic personality she wore like a bad suit -- all of it -- she understood. Neither Jone'e nor Amanda had been "born free". The Freidenger boys, William and JB, were free to follow their hearts, but not the Freidenger girls. Jone'e had never had a real hobby, or anything she could say she felt passionate about. Soccer, rug-hooking, needle-point: nothing but passing fancies or fleeting interests. The boys had received all their dad's encouragement; the girls' achievements barely acknowledged. If the boys brought home bad marks from school, they were admonished to do better, backed up by groundings, suspended TV priveledges -- or worse. If the girls brought home the same atrocious marks, it was no big deal. Indeed, Jone'e had been an indifferent under-achiever all through high school. She barely did more than just avoiding flunking out. She had never received any encouragement to succeed since her father saw no need for it. All her life, she was being groomed to be the good girl, the "lady", the desireable fiancee, the good wife and mother. That was the only option allowed her. That was why her old man spent her entire youth forging her into his ideal of the good wife: passive, timid, dependent, self-negating, self-sacrificing. In her desire to please her father and/or avoid his harsh dicipline, she had made herself into all those things.
Half-way through her 21st year, the Little Valkerie was beginning to reawaken...
Jone'e had packed her car as full as she could with her clothes and other valued personal items. She'd resigned from her job with a glowing letter of recommendation for future reference, dropped her classes for whatever refunds she could collect. She closed out her bank accounts for some $5000 in traveler's cheques. This was it: all ties to her former life severed.
Her mother, Lauren, was nearly in tears as she gave her daughter one final big hug: "Where will you go?"
"When I find out, you'll be the first to know". Jone'e stepped back, hands on Lauren's shoulders: "Ma, don't think of it as losing a daughter. Consider it as gaining a new sewing room." Despite herself, her mother couldn't help but chuckle as she wiped her eyes. "Good luck, honey. If you ever want to come back your room'll be waiting, just like you left it." Secretly, Lauren believed in her daughter. If this is what she felt she needed to do, then she favored it far more than she allowed her husband to suspect.
"Don't do this Jone'e; end this foolishness right now. It's still not too late to make up with Jimmy. You can still enroll for next semester. Don't do this, please." her father begged.
"Ciao dad", was all she had to say as she drove off. Her parents stood side-by-side, watching the little red Hyundai head down the street, towards I-75. Ron was beginning to realize the extend to which he'd lost the love and respect of his eldest daughter.
At the entrance ramps, Jone'e chose to go south. With every mile marker passed, her sense of self-confidance and relief grew. For the first time in years, she really felt as if her life were her own. She still hadn't decided where she was going. After crossing the Tennessee line: Nashville? Memphis? No, she'd already lived there. Atlanta: seemed promising, but she decided to see what lay ahead. She spent that night in Macon; the next morning, crossed the Florida state line. Finally, there was no more highway left, and so she took the final exit into downtown Ft. Myers.
Royal palms, looking like concrete pillars topped with a spray of bright green lined the streets. An exotic picture-book land: egrets, blue herons, pelicans, the comical anhingas, crystal blue seas and white sand beaches -- the beauty of Florida's "Gold Coast" had her in its spell. Two weeks shy of her 22nd birthday, Jone'e settled in Ft. Myers.
Jone'e had answered an ad for a female room mate, and moved into a three bedroom, two-story beach house, sharing rent and house keeping with two other girls: Donna Stone and Kelly Penning. Donna, long legged, golden hair, sun bronzed complexion, with a pleasent oval face and winning smile. Donna favored casual wear of short shorts from cutoff, faded denim jeans, short sleeved button down shirts knotted below her bust, and bare feet.
Kelly, mouse brown hair with streaks of gold was a big girl, over six feet tall. She was somewhat heavy-set, yet still quite well-porportioned. Somewhat more conservative taste in clothing, favoring skin tight shorts and spandex. Very smart, Kelly had long been interested in all things scientific and technological. Her job as tour guide for Edison's winter home/laboratory suited her perfectly. (Although she believed Tesla to have been the better inventor.)
Their easy-going,laid back friendliness quickly over came Jone'e's initial shyness. Their first project was to make over their snowbird transplant into a Gold Coast girl. They introduced her to the advantages of skimpy bathing suits, outfits that fit tight enough to show the world the outline of her vulva, the proper way to wear thin, tight-fitting panties and to sit down in mini-dresses so that she could flash beaver without appearing to do so deliberately. And the attention from good-looking buff guys that was the entire point. Jone'e's jet black hair, 5'8'' and 120 lbs, and drop-dead looks soon fit right in.
"So, how'd job hunting go today?" Donna asked.
Jone'e, putting on a look of dissappointment, hung her head.
"Awww... that's too bad. You'll get 'em tommorrow"
Suddenly, she looked up with a look of triumph: "I'm in!" she squealed. "I must have really impressed Mr. Spanos. He says come in tommorrow morning to pick up my uniforms".
"All right! Glad to hear it, and good luck with the new job." Donna paused. "What was it again?"
"It's called the 'Dolphin Pup'".
Jone'e spent the next morning getting fitted for her waitress uniforms. The waitresses wore long legged, khaki trousers and red and white stripped pull-overs, with a gold name badge. The uniforms were intended to imitate a 19th century seaman's uniform. Three uniforms, cost deducted from the next several paychecks. This job was like her old one up North, but at a classier restaurant. There were few rules: greet the patrons at your station within 30 seconds of their seating, even if you weren't ready to take their orders, smile, and be polite. These weren't the most important, however. The A Number One rule for working at the Dolphin Pup was impressed upon her by no less than the owner himself: John Spanos.
The atrium was sealed off with a red, velvet rope. There was also a sign off to one side: "Do Not Enter", complete with the European "No Entry" symbol. Spanos made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that no one, but no one, was to cross the rope line, except for Mr. Spanos or his son Rick. Not the employees, not the patrons, not for any reason. Any violation meant immediate dismissal, no exceptions, no excuses. The waitresses had the extra duty to preserve the inviolability of the atrium. Jone'e could live with that. Such a rule did not seem too out of place. After all, the statue was probably a valuable art object, and such rules were common in museums and galleries. There were likely unseen protections as well, so there was no chance that she could get away with taking a closer look anyway.
Joyce Callahan greeted her as she started her first lunch shift: "'Afternoon, Jone'e. Just take it easy, no one expects perfection your first day. You'll do just fine." she encouraged. Joyce was in her late 30s, divorced, a career waitress, and the unofficial "house mother" to the other girls: Kimberly, Janie, Linda, and Sheri.
Jone'e started her shift by inspecting the settings at her station, making sure that all silverware and flatwear was clean, that the settings were proper. "Looks like you're up", Linda said, as three men in business suits approached a table in her section.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen, and welcome to the Dolphin Pup. I'll be your server, Jone'e. How may I serve you?" she said as she passed out menus. She dropped off their food orders at the bus station, and went to pick up their drinks at the bar. Her first serving went off quite well. No spilled drinks, food arrived right on time, the men suitably impressed enough to leave a generous tip. So it went through lunch and dinner: no disasters.
Jone'e got off at 9:00PM that night. Upon returning to the beach house, she wandered out onto the balcony and leaned against the rail. An evening breeze off the sea gently ruffled her hair. She stared off towards the unseen horizon. A couple walked hand-in-hand along the water's edge. A startled sea gull rose into the moonless sky. A cabin cruiser glided silently out on the waterway, its red, green, and white running lights giving its presence away. A line of lights low along the water marked the shoreline of Pine Island. Untwinkling stars filled the sky.
"So this is what freedom feels like?" she asked herself. "Feels pretty good", she agreed with herself. Even for a first day on a new job, the Dolphin Pup had been easy. Of course, the up-coming weekend would tell the tale. Not at all like the on-going, controlled chaos of Applewood's, the gin mill cum "family" restaurant where she used to work. There, it had been rough: schlepping heavy trays laden with drinks and slinging greasy fries and burgers. What was worse: the off-duty construction workers and roofers who'd drift in every afternoon to get loaded and take their minds off their drab, dead-end lives for a few hours? Or was it the families with the caterwauling rug-rats who couldn't go to a "real" restaurant with their brats every evening? Or putting up with the fanny-patters and the occasional ass-pincher with their indecent proposals? She trotted, not walked, but trotted, through Applewood's, as they were too cheap to hire sufficient help. She felt that she must've been putting a hundred miles on her poor dogs every day.
The atmosphere at the Dolphin Pup was gracious. This wasn't the place for feeding, but rather dining. It wasn't herd 'em in, slop 'em, and herd 'em out to make way for the next bunch. No video games and no rug-rats. The entrees were pricier, the clientele more upscale, the tips better. She had nearly $150 in her pocket right now from a slow day. Never could she remember such a good night at Applewood's. She knew she could get used to this job real easy. Yeah, she was going to really like Ft. Myers.
Jone'e was walking past the atrium on her way to the break room behind the bar, just as she'd done many times before. This time, however, something caught her eye. She stopped and watched the dolphin statue. For a couple of seconds, she noticed nothing, then she saw it. The dolphin's tail fin seemed to be moving, up and down, ever so slightly. It was a slight movement, just about visible. She wasn't certain that she wasn't just imagining it. She called Kimberly over: "Do you see that?", she asked.
"What? I don't see anything"
"I dunno, I could have sworn that it was moving", Jone'e explained.
"No 'fraid not"
"May be just my imagination, may be I've been working too hard."
"Or may be you're just plain crazy?" Kimberly replied, not seriously.
Jone'e knew that Kimberly had been there for three years now: "You ever notice anything unusual about that statue?"
"No, not at all. I'd forget about it if I were you. The rules, you know..."
"Yeah, I guess you're right" Jone'e went on to take her 20 minute break.
Jone'e entered the living room where Donna and Kelly were absorbed in some TV show. "How'd work go today?" Donna asked, her gaze not moving from the screen.
"OK, but now that you mention it, the damdest thing happened this afternoon."
"Oh?", Kelly asked, turning her attention away from the show. She was always ready to hear a tale of the weird.
"Yeah, it was right after the lunch shift, as I was going on break. You know that dolphin statue they have?"
"I was walking past it and I saw it move -- or at least I think I did."
"How do you mean?", Kelly asked.
"I saw its tail going up and down. It wasn't very much, but I'm sure I saw it. I tried to see if one of the others could verify, but it stopped by the time she got there. Isn't that how these things always turn out?"
"What was moving, just the tail, or the whole thing?" Kelly asked.
"I'm not sure, I did see the tail first. I guess I didn't think to notice"
"And?", Donna prompted.
"That's all...", suddenly it didn't sound so impressive anymore.
Donna could offer no new insights: imagination, trick of the light. Kelly did, however, have an idea. Since the Dolphin Pup is built on sand, perhaps the whole building shifted ever so slightly as it settled. Even if no one noticed, it could be just enough to rock the statue on its stand. Naturally, the tail, having the greatest radius of rotation, would move the most, and so it might look like that was all that was moving. Jone'e must have good eyes and observation skills to notice. Of course, such a slight motion would die out rather quickly. It was just an amazing coincidence for her to have been there at just the right time. It sounded reasonable, and neither Kelly nor Donna thought the matter worthy of any further consideration. Jone'e thought Kelly's explanation was probably valid, however, there was still something...
That Monday, an off day, Jone'e called her mother. It was one of the few calls "home" she'd made since "running away".
"Hi, ma. It's your wayward daughter. Sorry I haven't called more often, but, you know, job-hunting and getting settled in and all..."
"You still like it down there?"
"You betcha! The job's going great, and my new roomies couldn't be nicer. I wish you could come for a visit, you'd love this place."
"It does sound lovely. Perhaps, some day"
"How're the 'kids'?", referring to her sister and brothers.
"They're fine...back in school, you know... They miss you... We all miss you... Please, Jone'e, tell me: are you happy with what you're doing?"
"Yes, I can say in all truthfulness that I haven't been so happy in a very long time. I don't regret what I did, it's just that I wish I could make you all understand... especially dad."
"I think I do. You were always strong-headed and independent-minded. Try to understand: your father took it pretty hard, your going away like that..."
"He gave me no choice..."
"...He feels that you rejected not just what he believes in, but that you rejected him. I don't think you meant to, or that's what you did. You have to remember that he comes from a very conservative background. All he -- we -- ever wanted was for you to be happy. It's just that he believes that a woman's place is in the home..."
"MCP..." Jone'e replied in disgust.
"No. He's not", Lauren replied defensively. "An 'MCP' wants women kept out of professions, doubts their competence, is afraid to compete, or just wants them 'in their place'. Your father is none of those things. He sincerely believes that the home is the one place where a woman can be the happiest. In his view, men are the providers and protecters, and women are the keepers of the home and the children. He believes that this is in keeping with God's plan. He was simply doing what he believed to be in your best interests for a good life."
"Mother: listen to yourself. That is so 'Jurassic Park'! If he really cares about my happiness, then why doesn't he realize that I'm not wife and mother material? May be someday, but not now."
"...Your father may never reconcile himself to modern realities, but never doubt that he loves you very much. He's always wanted the best for you. Please, Jone'e, don't judge him so harshly. Indeed, you have a lot of your father in you: the both of you are sometimes too stubborn for your own good."
"I'll try" she said, if only just to pleasse her mother.
"I hope so, for your sake as much as his".
"Give the 'kids' my love".
"Sure thing, and do try to call more often. We do worry about you..."
Jone'e wasn't totally convinced that her mother wasn't letting Ron off too easily. After all, her loyalties were understandably divided. Lauren may be her mother, but she was also his wife.
Jone'e tried to just do her job and ignore the statue. However, it wasn't that easy. Whenever she passed by, she always stopped to look for the mysterious movement. So far, there had not been a repeat performance. Discreetly, she asked Joyce and the other girls if they ever noticed anything unusual about the statue. They all said that they had not. Once, she dropped into the kitchen to visit Jesse.
"Jesse?" she asked, not out of disrespect. The older gent had told everyone to call him "Jesse", not "Mr. DuPlante" ("Ain' no thing 'bout bein' older, jus' doan die fo' twelve months, an' yo's a year older. Ain' no thing.")
"You've been around here for awhile, what can you tell me about that dolphin statue?"
"Missy, yo bes' jus' do like Mr. Spanos say. Doan concern yo'self wi' t'ings that be none of yo' business." This certainly was not the response she was expecting. Jesse didn't usually lecture like that, nor did he pass up an opportunity to spin a colorful yarn.
"I was just curious, that's all"
"When yo' be here, yo' be on Mr. Spanos' time, an' he doan pay yo' o' me ta be curious. Be curious on yo' oan time."
It was obvious that this was an off-limits topic of discussion. However, Jone'e got the impression that he knew considerably more than he was telling. Had he seen something he didn't want to talk about?
A few days later, John Spanos dropped in for one of his weekly inspection visits. He left the day-to-day operation of the restaurant to his son Rick, but liked to keep a hand on the management.
"Mr. Spanos, if you can spare a moment?"
"Sure, what's up, Jone'e?"
"I hope I'm not out of line here, but I've been admiring that statue of yours, and I was kind of curious..."
Mr. Spanos laughed: "Not at all, it's there for people to admire. I found it in this little antique shop in Durango..." he paused, in recollection. "...that must've been the summer of '69. It was cast by a San Fransisco foundry specializing in 'lost wax' sculpture, sometime in the early '50's. It was painted by a famous wildlife artist of the time. How it wound up in Durango, I haven't a clue. When I opened the resturant in 1981, I knew it would make a good display as soon as I took a look at that atrium. Not much good for anything else. Been there ever since: the Dolphin Pup's dolphin pup."
"Thanks, Mr. Spanos."
"Not at all, and keep up the good work Jone'e."
Jone'e was satisfied, but not for long. Upon reflecting on what she'd been told, she realized that Spanos had talked a lot, but said nothing. San Fransisco foundry? What was its name? Early 1950s, what year? Certainly, as the owner, he would know these things? Jone'e wasn't sure, but didn't all foundries have some sort of identifying symbol ("proof marks", was that the correct term?) She was certain that "famous wildlife artists" signed and dated their work, so why not mention the name? Unless she actually took a real close look at that statue, she knew he'd given her nothing to go on. Or had he? What was that peculiar term he'd used: "lost wax"?
Next off day she had, found her in the library, going through yet another book on foundry practices and technology. Already having learned more about patterns, flasks, green sand moulding, crucibles, etc. than she cared to know, she finally found it: there was such a thing as a "lost wax" method. It originated in ancient India. The method consisted of a sculptor's carving the figure to be cast in hard wax. The foundryman would then add "gates" horizontal openings that allowed the mould to completely fill with molten metal, and "risers", vertical passages that allowed air to escape. A "sprue" that let the metal into the mould was added at a strategic location that did not mar the appearance of the finished statue.
Next, the hard wax "pattern" was encased in fine clay mixed with donkey dung to form the initial mould cavity. This mixture was intended to preserve detail. After this was sun-dried, harder and coarser clay was used to build up the mould. Finally, it was warmed to melt out the wax, hence the name "lost wax", then fired to vitrify it. The still red hot mould was then filled with molten bronze. At just the right time, the entire mould was plunged into water to cool and break the mould so that the red hot casting would not contract and break on its core. This, of course, completely destroyed the mould, so that just a single casting could be produced. The method's main attribute was that it could preserve very fine detail, even a finger print carelessly left on the original wax pattern could be reproduced in metal. The modern version used something called "investment", like a castable plaster. At least Mr. Spanos had known what he was talking about.
Given that, Jone'e figured that all the secretiveness had to mean that the statue was stolen. Now, she didn't figure Spanos for an art thief, but he had to have known that he was accepting stolen property, either in Durango, or elsewhere. The only question was why did he keep it on display, wasn't he concerned that someone, someday, might recognize it? Perhaps he figured that 1969 was so long ago, or he felt confident as he'd gotten away with it so far? Anyway, Jone'e figured that it wasn't her problem, and she wasn't the one who'd have all the explaining to do when that day arrived, and a patron walked through the door who knew where that statue really belonged. Perhaps the cook, Jesse, knew and that's why he put her off when she asked?
It was all starting to make sense now.
After several uneventful weeks, Jone'e was working the usual lunch crowd. She'd given up on expecting anything else "weird" from the statue, and had mostly forgotten all about it. As she was carrying a tray full of orders to her station, she became aware of a peculiar high-pitched tone. At first, she thought nothing of it. However, the sound increased in intensity, yet she could not locate its source. She was certain that she'd heard nothing like it. Was it a malfunctioning electronic device? Didn't such things as cell phones start to act up when their batteries were going dead? Could it have been simply distorted music leaking from a "Discman" or iPod? It grew louder still, and that wasn't it. For an instant, the thought occured to her that it could concievably have been some sort of animal in terrible pain.
"Jone'e... Jone'e! Get with it!"
"Huh... what?" she was suddenly aware of Joyce standing in front of her. "Your customers would like to be served while their food's still warm."
"You just froze there, and I have never seen such a blank expression on a human face before. Are you OK?"
"I guess so, must've taken an unexpected detour into la-la land."
"Now isn't the time for day-dreaming, Jone'e", Joyce admonished.
Fortunately, her customers were unaware of what happened. They were just glad to be served their lunch orders. From the bus station, Jone'e looked out over the dining room. The usual lunch crowd seemed no different than on any other day. Surely, someone must have heard those sounds? And yet, she saw no indication that they had, nor could she pick out snippets of conversation that referred to this phenomonon. No one seemed to have noticed anything out of the ordinary. Surely, she couldn't have been the only one to have heard it? Or could she? Whatever had happened, she was certain that it had not been a "day dream".
"Rise and shine! Up and at 'em!" Donna called out as she banged on Kelly's and Jone'e's doors. It was 8:00AM, and normally neither one of them would have stood for this. Today, however, was Road Trip Day. All of them had the same day off, and Jone'e's roomies had planned an excursion to the barrier islands. They piled into Kelly's Caravan and 45 minutes later were crossing a long causeway connecting island to main land.
They drove down the main street, lined on both sides with coconut palms and tall Australian pines, past the cute little shops and artists' studios, and the occasional mini-mall. They turned down a side street, pavement giving way to white sand, and pulled up at a marina. Donna rented a boat for some site-seeing.
A flock of brown pelicans had apparantly claimed the dock for a home. Some birds swam in lazy circles; others perched and preened on wood pilings and in the trees. It was amazing to see such large birds effortlessly perched on branches that looked too small to support them. Kelly explained: "These guys live here all the time, waiting for fishermen to come by and clean their catch. That way, they get all the heads and other yucky cast-offs: kind of like avian welfare".
"That's right", a dock-hand agreed. He fetched a live shrimp from a live well and threw it to the birds. The instant it left his hand, there was an explosion of flapping wings and churning feet, all racing to claim the morsel. Amazing, Jone'e thought, an entire ocean filled with fish, and they made such a fuss over one lousey shrimp. When Donna had cleared the harbor, they stripped off their street clothes as they already had on swim suits. Kelly slathered herself with sunscreen and passed the bottle to Jone'e: "You'll need this or that sun'll strip the hide right off you."
Donna explained to Jone'e: "They dredge these channels since the water's naturally so shallow, especially at low tide -- like now. If you don't stay to the inside of the channel markers..." as she pointed out a wood piling with a green triangle against a white background fastened to it, "...you could wind up stuck in the mud or run aground on a sand bar."
Jone'e spotted a couple of sleek forms gliding just beneath the surface, no more than six feet ahead of the boat. She leaped to her feet, exclaiming: "Dolphins!" Jone'e recognized them from having seen re-runs of Flipper, and had once been to a dolphinarium with her parents years ago. It wasn't the same as watching them from the balcony, nor seeing the captive dolphins performing stupid doggie tricks for dead fish. These were two free dolphins, up close. She watched the graceful creatures of the sea, so much like fish, and yet, so different. With no apparent effort they paced the boat, no danger that they could be run over.
"Looks like they're sticking to the channel, just like we are", Kelly said. A moment or two later, they veered off in unison, dived and dissappeared.
"Wow! Think we'll see any more?" Jone'e asked.
"Probably", Donna answered.
They came upon a wild shore. There was no effort made to clear this beach. No condos here. Coconut palms, felled by tropical storms, remained where they'd fallen. Creepers covered the sand, their long, tough tendrils wandering wherever they desired. Jone'e picked up a long, light tan, squishy thing about six inches long. Before she could ask, Kelly explained: "That's a mangrove pod. unlike most trees, mangrove seeds germinate while still on the tree. They grow into those pods and drop into the water. Currents take them to shallow water where the lucky ones take root and start another grove. Many aren't so lucky and wind up like that."
The girls explored and collected shells. Jone'e found a nice, large horse conch in excellent condition. A rare and prised find: "Beginner's luck!", Donna complained. They found a tidal pool filled with live starfish and hermit crabs wearing cast-off shells appropriated from unrelated species. There was also a live horseshoe "crab". Jone'e had seen lots of dead ones, but this was the first live one she'd seen. "Not really a crab. Horseshoe 'crabs' preceeded real crabs by a hundred million years or so." Donna explained.
They decided to pursue further adventures. As Donna started the outboard, Kelly said: "How 'bout lettin' Jone'e drive?" with Donna's instruction, Jone'e tried her hand at boating. And, yes, they did see another dolphin.They were about a hundred yards out, and a lone dolphin lifted half its body clear of the water, no more than twenty feet away, off to starboard. Perhaps it was coming up for air, perhaps it came up to get a better view of these pink-skinned landers who took to hurling themselves over the water in noisey contraptions? Jone'e would have loved to know what it was thinking.
Mangrove swamps: the tangle of the trees' stilt-like roots made these swamps virtually impassable. Here was the source of brackish red-brown water, looking like the foulest industrial run-off. Yet it was nothing more than harmless tannin. Low tide left behind mud flats that attracted lots of birds, unique water fowl, the most spectacular of which was the hot pink and white roseate spoonbills. At first, Jone'e had thought Kelly referred to them as "rosey-assed spoonbills", an apropos name as well. White, green, and blue herons, ibises, egrets, cormorants: all probing the mud for whatever the tide had left behind. Those smaller, longer-legged raccoons zig-zagged through the mangrove roots, an osprey glided over-head, on the look-out for a meal, and two alligators. One smaller cruising through the water, and a much bigger 'gator sunning himself on the bank.
The highland forest was quite interesting, especially the night-blooming cereus cactii. Jone'e naturally assumed that all cactii grew in the Southwestern deserts. Never before had she seen anything like the bromeliads, plants clinging to trees, sunsisting on nothing more substantial than air. Lots of wild lime trees, just like the ones that supplied the Dolphin Pup with the makings of key lime pie. The reddish barked gumbo-limbo was a tree that was so hearty that youcould cut it down, plant the stump, and it would re-root. Indeed, many of these trees were used to make "living fences", as the posts continued to grow. The melaleuca was another handsome tree, kind of like a birch, but was the curse of the ecosystem. These thirsty trees produced clouds of very fine seed that spread rapidly with a high germination rate. Around the early 1920s, these trees had been seeded from airplanes in an attempt to dry up the wetlands for reclamation. Now a considerable effort was under way to get rid of them. Jone'e was quite impressed, but what impressed her the most were the dolphins.
Her sudden fascination with dolphins surprised her. She knew, of course, that they were warm blooded, air breathing mammals, but little else. Up till now, they simply had not figured in her experience at all. Yet now, she felt a definite, growing, affinity for, some connection with, the marine mammals. Is this what cousin Danny meant when he talked about his snow leopard "fursona"? She had never understood what that was all about, even though she did like the pictures he drew of leopard "anthros". She made a mental note to ask him about it some day.
That evening, Jone'e fell into a deep sleep in no time. She dreamed about dolphins. There were six of them swimming and playing together in a small bay. The sun was warm and bright, the sky a clear blue, dotted by an occasional cotton ball cloud. The bright green foliage came nearly to the water's edge, leaving but a thin strip of white sand. Jone'e dreamed of a mother with a baby who couldn't've been more than a few months old. They played so gently, so peacefully, so lovingly -- the baby sidled up to mother and snuggled. She lovingly carressed the young one with a pectoral fin.
Suddenly, somethig was very wrong: a "matrix" of some sort descended from above, entangling the baby dolphin, and began to pull it away from mother. The mother grew increasingly alarmed, having initially been but perplexed. She pulled at it, but couldn't reach her child. She called to her companions for help. The baby thrashed about in panic, trying to return to mother. The mother dolphin surfaced.
Now there was a large white boat with a dark blue stripe along its side, and a tall flying bridge with a canvas canopy. Two men, one larger than the other, were both straining furiously at a fishing net. They pulled the baby dolphin from the water, and freed it from the net. They laid the little dolphin on the deck; it was completely helpless out of its element. The big man knelt beside it, one knee on the dolphin's back, just ahead of its dorsal fin. He had a long, thin silvery thing in his hand, gripped by a black handle, as it glinted in the sunlight. Suddenly,he thrust the thing into the dolphin's side, just behind the pectoral fin. When he removed it, a ribbon ofcarmine poured from the dolphin's side, running overthe edge of the deck, down the side of the boat till it spread over the green water.
Jone'e sat up in bed, her own screams awakening her. She screamed in the night, still too disoriented to even know where she was. Doors banged open, there were heavy foot falls in the hall. Kelly and Donna burst into her room, flicking on the lights. Jone'e sat there, face whiter than her sheets, a look of sheer terror on her face.
Kelly ran to her: "Good God, Jone'e, what's the matter?"
Jone'e recovered her voice: "It was... a nightmare", she replied in a near whisper. "God! It was horrible!" she added in an near scream, by now nearly in tears. Donna left the room.
"What was it?" Kelly asked.
"I don't want to even think about it, much less talk about it!"
Donna returned, glass in one hand, and a bottle of vodka in the other (the good stuff). She poured out a good amount, handing the glass to Jone'e: "Here, you look like you could really use this." Jone'e gulped it down in two swallows, despite the 110 proof. "Would you like for us to sit with you awhile?"
Donna's comment suddenly made her feel quite silly: just what you'd say to a frightened little girl. "No... no... I'll be all right". She hoped it sounded convincing.
It was nearly 3:30 in the morning, and still she could not sleep, despite the vodka. She couldn't trust her mind not to play another nasty trick on her. It finally dawned on her, what that strange sound she'd heard that day in the restaurant was...
The next day at work, as she was walking past the atrium, the sight of that statue made her shudder violently, involuntarily.
Jone'e surveyed the Dolphin Pup's Christmas decorations with a vague disgust. Only two days after "Turkey Day" and the halls were decked with boughs of holly, so to speak, for a holiday a month off. At least Rick had had the decency to wait that long. Christmas carols and decorations had begun to put in their appearance some places even before Halloween. Was it any wonder that some folks complained about "holiday burn-out"? Or that the actual Christmas seemed, more and more, to be merely anti-climatic, as compared to Christmas hype? Indeed, had Dickens known about this, he undoubtedly would have gone much easier on poor ol' Scrooge.
Jone'e had another problem concerning Christmas: would she spend it with her family, or spend her first Christmas away? Would she even be welcome back "home"? Surely, mother and the "kids" would be glad to see her, but she could also anticipate the scream-fests she would surely have with Ron. Another problem was even getting time off; the restaurant would be doing a brisk holiday business as this was "snowbird season". They'd need all the help they could get, and, besides, she was anticipating juicy tips as patrons, moved by the spirit of the season, gave more generously than they otherwise would.
Rick, pleased with her performance so far, moved her to the full evening shift. This meant more in tips. It also meant that she would have to help close up. The second week of December saw business really picking up as flocks of snowbirds began their south-ward migration. The Dolphin Pup's hours had been pushed back to 2:00AM. This evening, Jone'e, John Spanos and Joyce were the only ones left. Jone'e was in the main dining room, stacking chairs on tables. Joyce was somewhere in the bar, taking care of cleaning up, John was in the back. Jone'e was alone in the dining room. As she continued stacking chairs, she became aware of a peculiar sound, like wood creaking.
"Joyce?" she called out, quite unconcerned. However, Joyce did not answer, and was not in the room. "Joyce?", she called out again, this time a bit less certain. "John, is that you?", still no answer from either one. "Who's there?", now she was becoming a bit worried. "Who's there?(!)"
"Is anyone there?(!) ... Answer me!"
She stood all alone in the resturant, not knowing who, with God knows what intentions, might appear from the now darkened kitchen. Suddenly she realized that the sound was not coming from the rear of the restaurant, but rather from behind her, from the front. That was not possible, the doors had been locked, all the outside lights, the lights at the maitre'd's area, and in the atrium were all off. She looked around, now more curious than afraid, to locate the source of the sound. Nothing looked unusual or out of place there, as she and Joyce had tidied up that part of the dining room first. The sound seemed to be coming from the direction of the now darkened atrium. She tenatively headed in that direction.
She stood just outside the velvet rope and peered in. As there were no lights outside, and she was blocking off the remaining source of light, she could see nothing. Frustrated, she felt along the wall for the light switch. When she found it, she flicked the lights on. What she saw literally took her breath away in a raspy gasp. The statue was rocking back and forth on its stand so violently that the wood base and stand creaked with each oscillation. The heavy stand itself was beginning to sway. It appeared as if it could topple over any instant. A thought occured to her: "Kelly, you were wrong". She knew all about The Rule, still, she found her hand creeping closer to the latch holding the rope in place. Her thumb caught the button and she slid it back, unhooked the rope and let it drop. She took a couple of steps into Forbidden Territory, vaguely thinking of preventing the statue from falling...
YOU LITTLE BITCH!!!!
Jone'e whirled around quickly, to see John Spanos taking long, fast strides across the dining room, face red with rage. He pulled off his belt, doubled it, and wrapped it around his hand. Now, he stood, filling the entrance of the atrium. As he raised the belt, he screamed: "I'm gonna teach you a lesson!", as he swung the belt as if to hit her.
"I'm gonna teach you a lesson": that's what her father said as she was being led towards the basement "rec-room". Jone'e was 14, Amanda 12. They had gotten themselves into some serious trouble, having been caught ditching school. They'd believed that they could get away with it, that friends could cover for them. Actually, that worked out just fine; being delivered to their parents by the police was something else. He told her to sit down on the love seat next to the stairwell, and launched into a lecture. Jone'e went into parental ignore mode, and she was good at it: giving the appearance of undivided attention while actually not hearing a word. What got her attention was hearing that she was to be punished with a bare-assed whipping. Jone'e was told to remove all her clothes; that she would have to take her punishment in the nude as she was the instigator, was older, and expected to keep her younger sister out of trouble, not get her into it. Jone'e was at once relieved, now that her fate was settled, curious in that she had never received any other punishment than open-handed spanking (although threatened otherwise) wondered about the mechanics of this paddling she was to receive, and vaguely excited over undressing for corporal punishment.
"Either you get undressed, or I will undress you myself. If you choose to co-operate, I promise that you will be paddled till you can't sit down for the rest of the day. If you don't co-operate, then you will receive a whipping that'll keep you on your feet for the rest of the week. So what's it gonna be?"
"I'll... cooperate", she replied
"Have your clothes off by the time I get back."
As he turned go upstairs to retrieve the "equipment", Jone'e slipped off her sandals and socks. At least Ron had enough decency to allow her to undress in private. These she carried over to the side of the love seat and set them on the floor by the wall. She unbuttoned the front of her dress, slipped it off and draped it over the arm rest. Down to just her panties, she hooked her thumbs under the waist band, hesitated a few seconds before pushing it off her hips, then below the knees to step out. Completely naked, Jone'e returned to her seat, sat down, feet on the floor, knees together, hands folded in her lap. As she stared down at her bare legs, feeling the cushion against her ass, she wondered what sitting on the love seat would feel like afterwards.
She didn't have to wonder too long before hearing Ron coming down the stairs with Amanda and both implements: a "paddle" with a thin leather flap, instead of a solid wood blade. And a length of ratan cane, quite capable of searing asses, for non-cooperation. Jone'e made certain that she looked up, her eyes following him. He wasn't going to believe he'd won a victory by embarrassing her. Ron, continued across the room, ordering Amanda to have a seat on the sofa, laid his implements of punishment on a coffee table, and disappeared into the smaller game room. He returned with one of the card table chairs. He placed this near the game room door, back facing towards the center of the room.
"Come here, Young Lady", he ordered. She figured this was just another part of Ron's torment: making her walk clear across the length of the room. Jone'e stood up, fingers interlaced in front, but without really trying to conceal her genital region. She wasn't much concerned with that part of her anatomy anyway as her ass was feeling especially vulnerable. She was nervous, but refused to show it, as she kept her head up, eyes forward, and her steps sure. As she passed, Ron stepped behind her, took her by the arms to be able to grab her quickly if she tried running away. She didn't do that this time. Instead, she passively allowed him to steer her into position close to the chair. She could see that the back was slightly taller than waist-high. "Bend over", Ron ordered, as she expected he would. Jone'e didn't protest or hesitate as she immediately bent over the back of the chair, gripping the edges of the seat. She put her head down, eyes closed. The act of bending over smoothed out the creases under each butt cheek, and sculpted her ass into two symmetrical, smooth, unblemished ovals. Jone'e felt this too, the firming up of the muscle, the slight spreading of each cheek, and the extraordinary vulnerability of her ass. She figured that this was the point of making her bend over: to firm up her ass so that each swat would be more painful. Amanda sat watching, wondering what her sister was going through, knowing that she would be next.
"This hurts me as much as it hurts you", Ron announced the beginning of her punishment with his usual insult before injury. She did not have time enough to think up, let alone make, a suitably sarcastic remark, before there was the sharp crack of leather meeting bare skin, and a shock that brought stars to her eyes, nearly took her breath away, brought to realization just how different a spanking really was, and almost made her call out. Amanda involuntarily flinched at the sound of that swat: she could not believe that her sister wasn't crying or begging him to stop. How many boys would have the ballz to take a shot like that and not cry? Ron looked at the pink streak across the middle of his daughter's buttocks with near sadistic satisfaction.
For Jone'e, the first swat was really beginning to sting as the second arrived. She realized that he wasn't just hitting in an angry flurry of random swats, but was taking time to let the redness rise and to aim each swat. Jone'e was never told how many swats she'd receive, and so, didn't bother counting. After a few, it was no longer a case of stinging, as it felt as though she were sitting bare-assed on a hot stove. Ron made certain to apply the strap to the entire surface of her buttocks. Regardless, Ron did not succeed in getting any tears out of her. Once a light purple welt appeared on Jone'e's right ass-cheek, Ron gave her two more good swats, just to be certain, then figured that her ass was reddened enough to teach her the promised lesson.
"Stand up", was all he said to signify the end of her ordeal.
Jone'e stood up, straightened out her hair. Jone'e turned suddenly, confronting her father. She made no attempt to conceal her genital region, as she held both hands behind her back. She didn't say a word, but the look on her face said it all: "How could you do this to me?" She turned away, heading to collect her clothes.
"Where do you think you're going?" he said. "Amanda: you stand by the love seat, and you, Jone'e, sit down on the sofa."
"Can't I at least..."
"Are you sassing me again?"
Jone'e understood the implied threat there quite clearly. She did as told, even sitting on the padded sofa brought on more "pins 'n' needles".
Since Amanda wasn't as tall, Ron had other plans for her. He ordered her to stand close the side of the love seat. Standing behind her, he reached around to unbuckle her belt, unbutton the shorts and drop them to her ankles. He told her to lay across the arm rest, which she did, arms out in front, hands balling the cushion in her fists. Ron pulled her panties to her knees, pushed up her shirt, and gave her the same "This hurts me more..." routine as he strapped her bare ass. Amanda did manage not to yell and cry, though she did sob quietly to herself. Her punishment was slightly more lenient, but slightly.
When dismissed, Amanda pulled up her panties and Jone'e put her dress back on, this time without the panties. She could at least be thankful she'd worn something that wouldn't further inflame her burning butt. Amanda sobbed: "How could he do that to us?" Jone'e had no answer. Both of them were quite well aware that the only ones who got the ass whippings and spankings were the girls.
Up in her bedroom, Jone'e pulled up her dress, and checked the damage in the full length mirror. Never before had she seen such a red ass.
For the rest of that day, both girls avoided seats without cushions. And Jone'e's respect for her father was ratcheted down another few degrees.
Jone'e instinctively backed away from her enraged boss and his belt. The instant before colliding with the statue's stand, she glanced down, the dolphin's tail filling her field of vision. A thought flashed across her mind: "It looks like it's swimming, trying desperately to escape." She just barely brushed against it, sending the statue spinning to the floor. Spanos froze, horrified.
"Oh my God! I... I'm terribly sorry! I didn't mean to... It was... just an accident...", Jone'e was babbling, hoping against hope that her enraged boss wouldn't hurt her too badly. Then, the implication of what just happened dawned on her. She had merely brushed up against it, knocking over what should have been a mass of bronze weighing at least a hundred pounds. The statue landed on its side, not with a dull metallic thud, but rather with a sickening cracking sound. Perplexed, she slowly bent down to pick the fallen statue up; it weighed practically nothing. She saw that its pectoral fin had broken completely off, and turned it to survey the damage. At first her hands, then the rest of her body trembled. She softly whimpered as a blood-curdling scream well up from the core of her being. She had finally discovered the secret of the Dolphin Pup Resturant. She leaped up, and bolted from the atrium, almost knocking Spanos over, and ran out into the night.
A cop on routine patrol happened to hear her screams, saw the hysterical young woman in the waitress' uniform running across the parking lot. He made a fast turn into the parking lot, red and blue lights flashing, kicking up clouds of sand as he braked hard. The officer exited the car, catching the hysterical girl as she screamed: "They killed it ... They killed it ... They killed it.". The cop pulled her around to the other side of the car, away from the building, made her get down. The officer trotted across the lot, towards the open front door, radioing for back-up, and unholstering his side arm. Jone'e sat down on the sand, back against the patrol car, trying to calm herself down and organize her thoughts. After untold minutes, two more patrol cars arrived, lights flashing, and these new arrivals headed for the resturant. She looked up to see that all the lights in the dining room were now on. Joyce, looking perplexed and irritated, was standing beside the porch steps, puffing a cigarette, blowing the smoke into the night sky. A fourth car, this one plain, unmarked, no flashing lights, pulled into the lot. A man in a business suit got out and he, too, walked through the front door.
Finally, she saw signs of activity: a form appeared in the door, which she recognized as her boss. His hands were cuffed behind his back. One officer escorted him while another was reading something from a card he cupped in the palm of his hand. These cops put him in the back seat of the next car over. He paused just long enough to glare hatefully at the employee who'd defied and betrayed him.
The man in the suit walked over to her, identified himself as Frank Pierce, and flashed an ID that showed him to be with the National Marine Fisheries Service. "Miss...", he started, then spotting her name tag, "...Jone'e..."
"...Friedenger", she completed.
"Miss Friedenger, can you describe what happened?", he asked, as he began escorting her back towards the restaurant. She was none too eager to go back, but tried not to let it show. Jone'e entered the Dolphin Pup for the last time. The wood stand was still there in the atrium, but there was no sign of the "statue". She was relieved at that. How could she explain?
"I always admired that... statue. Tonight, I was alone, cleaning up the dining room. I knew it was against the rules, but I couldn't resist taking a closer look. Curiousity got the better of me. I accidentally knocked it off the stand when Mr. Spanos caught me and startled me. That's how I found out that... it was a...", her voice failed her.
"He had it freeze dried: instant mummification. No wonder it looked so true to life. Is that all?"
"Yes, sir. That's it"
"Are you sure you have nothing to add?"
"No sir, nothing more."
Pierce knew that was not the truth. She wasn't telling everything, however, he had enough, so let it pass. "If you think of anything else, let me know", he said, handing her a business card with his name and number.
"What happens now?", she asked.
"Most likely, your boss will be charged with violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a Federal offense. He could be facing up to six years in Federal prison. I wouldn't plan on returning to work here any time soon."
Ron Freidenger had some five months to re-think his relationship with his oldest daughter. He sincerely tried to do right by her. He truly wanted her to have a happy life. However, Jone'e had other ideas. He realized that she sought adventure, not the security home and family. Had he really been that bad a father? Could he have done better? How and when had he failed her? Or did he fail her at all? In his misunderstanding of her nature, had he lost her love and respect? This is what he began to fear, most of all. How could he win that back?
There would be no fancy wedding any time soon: Jimmy Doohan and Jone'e Friedenger would never be man and wife. Jone'e had made her choice: career, not marriage; independence, not children. She'd clearly demonstarted that she could make it on her own these past few months in Ft. Myers. She didn't need him anymore; she would never again be "daddy's little girl". He could accept this from his boys, he expected it of them: they would one day become men. Still, Ron didn't want to lose his first "little girl", so he decided to compromise and try his best to accept. If Jone'e came back for Christmas, he promised that there would be no more talk of marriage, or of Jimmy Doohan. Of course, she would have to see him, as the Friedenger's and Doohan's were still going to have joint Christmas parties. If she wanted to return to Ft. Myers, he would do nothing to stop her.
He also promised that she could have the Friedenger share of her aborted marriage present money and wedding expenses to do with as she wished: return to college, start up a business of her own, if that's what she wanted. Jone'e agreed to fly north for the holidays, seeing that she was once again without a job. Jone'e said her farewells to Kelly and Donna at the gate before boarding her flight. Jone'e did not see the article in the paper the next morning:
An early morning explosion and fire completely destroyed the Dolphin Pup restaurant. By the time fire crews arrived, shortly after 1:00AM, the wood frame structure was completely engulfed in flames. Remodling was in progress in preparation for a re-opening under a new name after the arrest of the owner: Mr. John Spanos. Miraculously, four employees working inside escaped without injury. Tragically, the fire took the life of Rick Spanos, the owner's son. Mr. Spanos could not be reached for comment. Fire investigators suspect that a faulty gas main...
Born Free: John Barry
Lyrics: Don Black
Copyright © 1966