(Part two of this short story can be found HERE)
They arrived at the stretch of shoreline where the whale beached itself and slowly made their way past a row of parked cars toward a cop who was directing traffic. The officer motioned them to a nearby parking lot that still had available spots while waving the next car forward. After parking, Jen, Ben and Edgar climbed out of their car and glanced around at all the other vehicles.
"Hot damn!" Edgar said as he stretched from side to side. "I can't believe how many people are here for this. I bet if they were using any other means of disposal, other than dynamite, the turn-out would be significantly less. Americans love to watch shit go BOOM."
"True," Ben said as he grabbed the blanket and binoculars from the back seat. Jen had her phone out and was replying to missed text messages while she waited for the boys to grab the rest of their stuff.
"Alright, we're good to go. Do I hold up on the handle when locking the door?" Edgar asked Jen. She told him no, lifted her purse from the ground, and the three of them began walking toward the beach. The smell of ocean salt invaded their noses as they navigated through the maze of parked cars. All around them, families were unloading folded tables and chairs as kids ran wildly after each other screaming. It was an energetic moment, and the excitement of so many people gathered in one place could be felt sibilating across ones skin. They continued walking and crossed the main road that had taken them to the parking lot. It crested on the other side and upon reaching the sandy embankment they could at last see the ocean. And there, approximately fifty yards below, rested an enormous grey whale, the curve of it's elongated back glistening against the sky, it's cream colored belly half swallowed by the sand. They made their way a bit closer until the horde of onlookers
became too thick to pass. They set their belongings down on the
outstretched blanket and settled in for the event.
"Would you look at that," Jen exclaimed. "That might be the saddest thing I've ever seen. And the poor thing's eyes are still wide open!" Edgar nodded in agreement as he peered around at the growing crowd. Off to his right, he noticed some commotion. A man was hissing wildly at another man, waving his arms in threatening gestures, as a woman appeared to be trying to pull him back. The angry exchange of words grew louder as nearby mothers began shielding their children from the uncertainty of the situation. A beer could be seen in the hand of one of the men, and as the incident escalated, alcohol began sloshing out of the bottle spilling onto peoples' blankets and belongings.
"Unbelievable," Edgar exclaimed, "that's the same asshole from the gas station!" Ben and Jen both turned to look, and sure enough, they recognized him immediately.
"Go figure, he's the only one here drinking."
"And the only one creating a scene."
"I pity the people who have to sit near him. May his face find the unkindly end of another man's fist."
The scuffle was stalled by an announcement that echoed from a megaphone down near the whale. "CHARLIE WHITAKER, YOU ARE NEEDED AT THE STICK RIG. CHARLIE, PLEASE REPORT TO THE STICK RIG." A moment of silence and then, "LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, WE WILL BE COMMENCING WITH DETONATION IN APPROXIMATELY 10 MINUTES. I ASK THOSE OF YOU SEATED ON THE LOWER DUNE TO RELOCATE FURTHER UP THE HILL, PLEASE. THOSE OF YOU OVER BY THE JETTY SHOULD KNOW WE'VE DECLARED IT A CHILDREN-FREE AREA, SO IF YOU HAVE KIDS, MOVE 'EM ON UP THE HILL, PLEASE. 10 MINUTES FROM NOW THERE WILL BE A FINAL 60 SECOND WARNING, FOLLOWED BY A COUNTDOWN OF 15 SECONDS. ALRIGHT, ENJOY."
After the megaphone screeched off a murmur of excitement could be heard growing amongst the crowd. Edgar took a swig from his water bottle and handed it to Jen. She took it and asked, "Why do you think the whale came ashore?"
"Several possibilities, really." Edgar answered. "Could have expired from sickness, injury, or old age and its body simply washed ashore. Some researchers, though, believe whales can sense the magnetic fields in the earth's crust, and that they navigate the oceans by following the magnetic field lines. Over time, those lines shift and move out in the ocean, and sometimes even intersect with the shore. If a whale happens to be following a magnetic line that has shifted inland, well, the result is not good."
"Yikes," Jen muttered, "maybe whales should use Rand McNally instead." Edgar and Ben both chuckled and looked onward. It was a sunny, cloudless day and the sparkling reflection of the ocean could be seen shimmering on the whale's skin as a group of men performed last minute checks on the explosives that were placed around it. A flock of seagulls circled above, their distant calls creating a chorus of lament for their fallen sea friend. A bird's mourning, though, is about as long as its beak, and once the sand settles and the humans move away, hunger will hastily replace grief. A channel 5 news van was parked nearby, it's telescopic camera pole extended high into the air. The crew stood around doing their own last minute equipment checks while the pretty, blonde-haired reporter practiced her dialogue while crouching and reading into the passenger side mirror.
"ONE MINUTE WARNING!"
The group of men cleared away from the whale carcass and clambered onto the bed of the stick rig as it's engine fired up and it rolled further down the beach. Ben leaned toward Edgar and said, "I counted twenty cases that they loaded onto that truck. If those were the empty dynamite cases, that's an awful lot of boom, brother. We might be in for a real treat."
Edgar noted the pile of white cases bouncing in the bed of the rig as it rolled to a stop and several men jumped back out. "Whale, I guess we're about to sea what otter happen!" They all laughed as the megaphone began it's fifteen second countdown.
"FIFTEEN... FOURTEEN... THIRTEEN..." As the umbers grew smaller the crowd simultaneously grew quiet while many of them placed fingers into their ears. "NINE... EIGHT... SEVEN..." The news crew scrambled to their stations and waited. "FOUR... THREE... TWO... ONE..."
There was a stillness so silent, not even the seagulls sang. Edgar could feel a pressure against his face, like two invisible hands wrapped around his head, holding it steady. The silence was interrupted by a rebel yell somewhere behind him, "Yeeeeeeehaaaaaw!" A child sneezed nearby, and then... the earth lurched and rolled beneath the people occupying it as a deafening explosion rocked the entire hillside, sending people toppling over en masse. The beach erupted into an enormous fountain of sand that blew so high it blotted out the sun. Senses were momentarily altered as up became down and down became up, and the onlookers could not surmise whether they had lived through the massive explosion. The shock wave that blasted the crowd produced a multitude of terrorized screams from the youngest of them, as families regrouped and sheltered themselves from falling debris. Sand and chunks of blubber that had been jettisoned a half mile into the sky were now raining down on the people and parked cars.
Edgar had grabbed the blanket they were sitting on and rolled Jen, Ben and himself up inside of it to help protect them from direct hits. The chaotic nature of what just happened began to settle in peoples' minds as the ringing of their ears started to subside and their thoughts were regained from the shock and disbelief. People stood up and looked around, checked themselves and their loved ones. Many were covered in splotches of thick, wet goo that reeked of rotted fish. Sand stuck to them. Where the whale had been was now a large crater, and all around it, the blown out carcass and spinal frame. Much remained, even though much had splattered the shoreline. The seagulls were nowhere to be seen. Car alarms could be heard all along the main road. An ambulance siren could be heard approaching.
"Hey guys, are you okay?" Edgar asked those around him. Everyone answered with weak yeses as they began wiping blubber and sand from their bodies.
"What the fuck?" said one man.
"They used an obscene amount of dynamite," replied Ben as he calmed Jen with a hug.
"That was so fucked," said another man.
The crowd began to disperse and make their way back to their cars when the megaphone squeaked on: "ANYONE INJURED PLEASE REMAIN WHERE YOU ARE, MEDICS HAVE BEEN DISPATCHED AND WILL ARRIVE SHORTLY. PLEASE REMAIN CALM." Edgar, Jen and Ben were already headed back toward the parking lot, their walk devoid of dialogue, when they came upon a row of vehicles battered by chunks of blubber. One of the vehicles was a lifted Ford F-250 pick-up truck; it's roof was completely caved in and all four windows were smashed out. The owner stood next to it, cursing wildly, his body entirely covered in whale fat, but you could still make out the shirt he was wearing: it pictured three rednecks with their butt cracks showing, all trying to fix a truck. Edgar managed a smile as he walked by and thought to himself, "I guess there's a god after-all, and it's name must be Poseidon."