That morning, Father told me he was going to Mr. Wong’s to talk business. Father’s gray hair was slicked to one side. It was actually a helmet. Sometimes he took it off and where his brain ought to be, there was a machine like a paper shredder that he would feed newspapers at breakfast.
“I will return tonight,” he said.
“Will Mother look after me?”
“Your mother is sick. Leave her alone. And don’t answer the door.”
While Father was at Mr. Wong’s, someone came to the door. They knocked and called, “Hello! Is anyone there?”
I was not to answer the door, so I opened the window beside it. Outside stood a young woman.
“Hello,” she said. “Would you like to save the whales?”
“They’re dying. Are your parents home?”
“Father is at Mr. Wong’s. Mother is sick.”
“Well give them this as soon as you can. There isn’t much time.” She passed a brochure through the window. “And here—” She gave me a whale-shaped foil balloon tied to a ribbon. “Remember,” she said, “all life is connected. Hold onto that and don’t let go.”
I sat on the floor all day and held the ribbon. The whale bobbed above me and shared its Wisdom From Under The Sea. I asked when Mother would get better. It did not reply.
Father returned late. I told him about the dying whales. He scolded me for opening the door. I told him that I had opened the window and not the door. He snatched away my balloon, strode to the open window, and shoved it out. “Goodbye!” cried the whale. “Goodbye!”
Then Father lifted his helmet and devoured the brochure. He made a face like he disliked the taste. “Go to bed. Now.”
While I brushed my teeth, Father went into his room. Inside, I heard mother cry out like she was hurt. I went into the hallway. Water gushed from under their door and over my feet. I was scared and went to bed. In the middle of the night, angry yelling woke me and I got up. Lava poured from under my parents’ door and I cried out in fright.
Father opened the door. Behind him, in the room, I saw a tropical jungle beach, with waves crashing and bats swooping back and forth.
“Your mother is still sick. Do not think on it. Go to bed. Now.”
The next morning, the floor was clear of water and lava and nothing came from under my parents’ door. Father ate the economics section for breakfast.
“Good,” he said, digesting. “Good. Now, I’m going to Mr. Wong’s again. Don’t answer the door today.”
“How is Mother?”
Father had left.
When I went to my parents’ door, I peered through the keyhole and could see the beach from the night before. But when I opened the door, it was just my parents’ room after all. At first, it looked like someone was lying under the covers, but then the bed was empty and all I saw was a foil whale balloon floating up and up and up.
I realized there was no roof.