THE BEACHED WHALE
Once a whale beached itself in a furniture showroom recliner. It happened on a day when crowds of bargain hunters had been drawn to the store by advertisements of “once in a lifetime” deals. The sales staff, though somewhat irritated by the whale’s choice of the most popular item to stretch out in, tried to carry on with business as usual, as if a leviathan weren’t stretched out right there in front of them. That was, until the clientele began to complain about the snoring. Then the staff took it in turns to creep up and cautiously poke the whale from a safe distance with whatever came to hand, most often a floor lamp or bunk bed ladder. Throwing pillows at the deadbeat cetacean was suggested, but the idea was abandoned as not likely to have much effect, to say nothing of reflecting adversely upon the store’s image. While pulling the rumblous hulk off the recliner and back outside was obviously beyond the might of staff and managers combined. In the meantime, the whale continued to blow away blithely, almost as though singing to itself. All through the day, with eyelids dancing and a smile lifting the corners of its slack jaw, the whale slipped from one dream to another, finding deeper pleasure in each by turn. There were carefree frolics in the dreams and league upon league of wish fulfillment in every direction, plus plenty of blubber-smokin’ sex in some of them. But all these delights passed in their turn, without leaving much of a trace on the surface of the whale’s mind. By contrast, what began to play an ever-larger part in its slumber were satisfactions of another sort. Formless at first but steadily regurgitated from the depths of the unconscious came every scaly, toothed, shelled, or tentacled creature of the sea, their massed total swelling the whale’s bulk ever further as each snore and snort made room for more in a spreading measure of self-contentment. The alarm of all who witnessed this nonstop waxing of the whale that threatened to pin shoppers to the walls cannot be overstated. The recliner and most of the rest of the furnishings in the store had steadily disappeared from sight, and still the whale continued to add to its ballooning girth. After the bounties of the sea now redigested in dreams came those of the land and air, as anything that walked or flew or simply stood rooted to the earth was sucked in and packed away. Nor were any of the inanimate resources of nature spared. Soon the entire sum of existence might disappear into the rumbling abyss of this single loafer’s snore, its smile of contentment broadening all the while. Would the crowd now trapped in the store by the tumescent whale find themselves sucked into its dark satisfaction like everything else? How inconvenient! One minute shopping away without a care and the next powerless to save yourself from another species’ heedless self-indulgence! What gave a whale the right to act as if nothing mattered in this world but its own desires and creature comforts, irate shoppers demanded to know. How dare it! Wasn’t that a right reserved to the human species alone?
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans