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“We’re surrounded by humpback whales on all sides,” one of our guides from the Virginia Aquarium said over the intercom.

I shivered and squinted through the light breeze that was coming off of the ocean.

For a second, I couldn’t see anything except for the sun shining off the water, but then a small spout of water erupted a little off the side of the boat.  A few seconds later, a small, dark bump emerged from the water.  A tail flicked up, sending bright droplets of water flying into the air, and then slid back into the gray waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

A few seconds had passed.  The whale was gone.

Our guide called out, “One o’clock,” and the woman beside me sighed.  “All the whales are on the other side of the boat,” she said.  She–like quite a few others–would part from the frigid railing to go into the boat’s cabin, where it was warm and refreshments were sold.

It was after all of the seats inside the cabin had filled and the boat had rotated several times in an attempt to allow both sides to see as many whales as possible–three spouts appeared.  One of them was only a few feet from where I stood at the railing, just out of range of the droplets the whale’s tail sent into the air as it surfaced.

It was too fast–I couldn’t snap a picture in time.

By the time the boat headed back for shore, I felt as though I’d been standing there on the rolling waves of the Atlantic for most of my life.  It was my first time at sea, and–though I’d heard, of course, how small the ocean makes one feel–I was almost disoriented by the prospect of returning to dry land.  When the boat reached the inlet next to the aquarium where we’d boarded, and my feet touched down on the dock, the world seemed to solidify in a way that it never had before.  The air warmed, and the sun struck the tour group as we pointed our feet toward the motorcoach, blinking.


M Caldwell View All

I've been writing stories since I was 5. My first book was "Turtle Salad"--I wrote and illustrated it. I was horrified because Sally the Turtle ate a fish.

When I was 8, I wrote to JK Rowling to offer some ideas for the Harry Potter series. Her assistant wrote me back, saying that Rowling only hopes to inspire young readers, not to take their ideas. While I totally understand now, I was pissed then. I vowed to become a better writer than JK Rowling. I've been working toward it ever since.

Now, I'm a 21-year-old sometimes-poet studying writing and French at the University of Mount Union. My work has appeared in the University of Mount Union's Agora and Calliope, Hiram College's Echo, the University of Miami's Mangrove, the Lala, Popular Culture Studies Journal, and the Cleveland Magazine.

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