In which some of our characters attempt the nearly impossible and fail accordingly.






Lyssa was trying to move a whale. Marty was trying to help her. The huge, lost beast didn't look like it was going to be moved anywhere, however, lying there slightly out of season and dreadfully out of its element on the sandy beach. Nearly fifty people in everything from wet suits to tattered jeans had come out on a typically awful almost winter weekend to try to save the whale, but they didn't have a chance. The stranded sea mammal was at least thirty feet long and almost as many tons. You couldn't push it, you couldn't pull it, and it wouldn't last forever on the sand. A marine biologist was trying to persuade the idealists they were wasting their time, but they ignored her with determination.

The useless effort demonstrated not only desperation but a high degree of organization. One detail of volunteers was occupied with keeping the whale wet (not difficult given the weather conditions), while others were digging sand out from underneath it in hopes that the coming tide would have a better chance of taking the whale back out with it. But the wind was working against them, nearly blowing them away, and blowing salt mist and sand with it. It was so loud, people had to yell at each other to be understood.

Lyssa and Marty were on digging detail. Myrine was working next to them, and Lily was busy wetting the whale. "Didn't Matt want to come?" Marty yelled above the noise of the elements. Myrine shook her head. "Why not?"

"No glory in it," Myrine yelled back. Marty wondered if Myrine really meant it, or if that was only her sharp tongue. Or maybe he hadn't understood her right. Myrine was an odd addition to the hardened idealists on the beach, a paradoxically pessimistic activist. She didn't even seem to have much hope that their efforts would be rewarded. He wondered why she did it.

He knew why he did; his reason was standing next to him digging with determination. It had to be a pretty good reason--he could hardly believe he was wasting a weekend this way. He was always properly liberal, voting Democratic and rarely missing an election, but he'd never been politically involved except for a stint in "student government" in high school. He went on his merry way and complained about existing conditions with the best of them, but he never did anything. And now here he was, getting sore shoulders and soaking wet, trying to move something which was obviously immovable, and all because he was inspired by an older woman who wasn't even the type to take your breath away. But what Lyssa couldn't do, the whale certainly could; to judge by the rasping way his breath was coming out, he didn't have much left.

Admittedly it was hopeless, but there was a certain fulfillment in aching muscles and salt-soaked hair when it was for a good cause. And it wasn't likely he would ever be called on again to participate in this kind of a rescue action in his lifetime--whales beached on the East coast, not the West. But East or West, he never would have started trying to shove whales around if left to continue on his merry way alone. He must be in love.

He leaned on his shovel for a moment and inspected the object of this emotion. Lyssa looked at him and smiled briefly, but didn't stop digging. More greying strands than usual had escaped from her bun, and the salt mist was making her hair nearly as curly as his. She was wearing jeans, an old sweatshirt and high rubber boots for the dirty work, quite a contrast to her usual flowing, flowery outfits. The pants made her look almost fat, but she was charming. More than that, she still believed in things; she hadn't given up yet and she never would. That was what he loved her for. And that was why he was here.

They had been working for a couple of hours and it was becoming obvious even to the more hardened optimists that the old Sperm probably wouldn't make it. The main thing now was to keep the beast wet. One huge eye watched them patiently. Marty noticed Lyssa lift a wrist to the corner of her eye and patted her shoulder. She nodded at him bravely and continued working. Marty's heart turned over in admiration. She was a woman with idealism enough for two. He felt like shouting he loved her, but the wind was blowing so hard it would have whipped the words away.

Marty was being upstaged by a huge sea mammal, but he was basically a good sport, despite the occasional lapses he had shown in his life. He wouldn't make the same mistake again. Anyway, who in his right mind could be jealous of a beached whale? Marty certainly couldn't. He might not be able to command the complete devotion of his Chosen, but he was intelligent enough to realize that complete devotion, however complimentary it might be, wasn't necessarily conducive to love. He loved Lyssa because she was so interesting, and she was so interesting because she insisted on shoving stranded whales around.

But what a way to spend a weekend.