I thought Vlad was full of shit. Or just yanking the tail of another tourist. Guiding must get mundane as factory work. Anything to spice up and here we have a toothpick fish, a glass frog, jesus lizard, decoy spider, a capybara—the largest rodent in the world, tastes better than chicken—and if you close your eyes and imagine a pink bisexual freshwater dolphin may appear. If you give into her seductions, she will drown you. Hopefully, you will orgasm first, but I have never succumbed, Vlad said, clocking our reactions. Told us it was time to get upriver.

In our canoe to the lodge, my wife and I decided to let the group paddle ahead, if the tide didn’t turn or no tidal wave arrived, I calculated we’d be fine finding the inlet, beaching, following the trail into the twilight, even make the buffet supper. Honeymooner’s what can you do? Our vessel had life jackets.

The critters and birds and wind on the jungle roof spun better than any dungeon techno Deejay, not that we get into juice juice juice juice juice juice much. We like a melody, but my wife was swinging her brown hips swirling around a trunk that rose through the green canopy so fat and high as a 25-story tower and I didn’t know what to do so I leaned back and tried to remember her show because nothing this good ever comes again when that fucking bullet ant sunk those venomous pinchers into my pinky toe, well.

I was told later about getting me unconscious into the canoe, upriver, to the lodge, Vlad helped get me into the helicopter, radioed the ambulance flight to the hospital in Manaus. I do remember the bill flattened my savings as fast as any express kidnap. But also, this mad soothing, womblike, underwater moment, all fleshy pink and soft, and thinking when I awoke nine days later that I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I’d live in that dolphin love forever and not care what my wife or Vlad or any doctor or any loved one said or imagined ever again.

7 Comments

  1. Robert Vaughan

    Hi David, this has all the elements of a tour de force- the untrusted guide, the honeymooners, the foreign landscape, the decision to choose the alternative route. And then… the turn, “that fucking bullet ant sunk those venomous pinchers into my pinky toe.” You can feel that bite, the pain and the way that the venom slowly moves into one’s entire being. I did wonder about the new wife’s immediate reaction (she seems to be omitted mostly in the last paragraph?) Those last two lines are so true, and lovely. No matter how close to death we have come, IT WAS ALL WORTH IT!!! And that pink, bisexual dolphin love. Oh yeah, baby. That is wondrous! Another gem, friend!

  2. Benjamin Niespodziany

    This one feels like a vision quest gone wrong. When Electric Forest takes a turn. “The critters and birds and wind on the jungle roof spun better than any dungeon techno Deejay, not that we get into juice juice juice juice juice juice much.” This is fanciful. Love the pacing and energy throughout this one. A haunted voyage, dripping with ayahuasca waterfalls.

  3. Koss Just Koss

    Love this, the details, the opening line (was obsessed with Vlad when younger). I’m still pondering bisexual dolphin love and might like to meet one should I ever venture close to the ocean again). Small suggestion: cut off the last two words.

    • David O'Connor

      Good eye Koss, I thought about those last two words for way too long and took the road more traveled, thanks for catching it!!

  4. Meg Tuite

    David!
    Another kickass ride! The stories of the guide! The dolphins!
    one suggestion: maybe delete:” Or just yanking the tail of another tourist.” You already have us there through the stories.
    And DAMN! That last paragraph is so gorgeous and wild and separates him from the group! agree with Koss on last two words.
    I could read your stories all day! DEEP WATERS!

  5. Lisa Alletson

    David, I’m fully in love with this story. I sailed down the Ionian coast with girlfriends this summer, on a rickety boat with a drunk captain who kept guzzling wine from our glasses. When my friend got badly stung by a big jellyfish out in the ocean, he had nothing to help her. Now I’m inspired to write that story.

    Your sentences are dense but with such great flow: “…but my wife was swinging her brown hips swirling around a trunk that rose through the green canopy so fat and high as a 25-story tower and I didn’t know what to do so I leaned back and tried to remember her show because nothing this good ever comes again when that fucking bullet ant sunk those venomous pinchers into my pinky toe, well.” Wow!

  6. Len Kuntz

    Hi David,

    This is so imaginative and rendered with what feels like abandon (“juice…”) but is in complete control, especially in how you circle back at the end with his wife, and of course, the dolphin, who is at the center of his search for identity, love and belonging. It’s really something else, something very special.

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