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Harry Wald

translated by Gitiddu Chitarro

The object was stranger than it had appeared in the
x-rays. He lifted it with the tweezers, then delicately
cleaned off the blood using a shred of gauze. Its
appearance was that of a bullet, but fuzzy with twisted
little hooks. In all his career as a surgeon he had
extracted from the bodies of his patients the most
unthinkable finds, but never something similar to the
fragment of metal that now shined under the lamp, nor so
He turned it in the cold light of the lamp and then let
it ring in the iron basin held out to him. He sensed,
rather than just hearing, the gurgle of the aspirator and
the rhythmic pumping of the oxygen regulating mask. Of
the narrow, spartan operating room he knew every remote
murmur and clang, but now sounds and odors remained in the
background. He had been concentrating on the extreme
physicality of the present, of the act of cutting, of the
creaking hull beneath him. Then he sought the gaze of the
woman who was helping him; it was friendly, attentive, but
not curious. He sighed and took to closing the folds of
flesh. He worked in a hurry, suturing with able hands the
clean incision in the stomach, then the one on the side.
With extreme delicacy they turned him over. She opened
the water channels and the sea water raised in the tub
until it lapped against the belly of the patient.
The sun was low in the gulf dawn. From the boat, he
pondered, there was only one real view; not that of the
Mediterranean, which uniformly tapered away, far off in a
gray strip, ill-prepared for the imagination. Instead,
one saw the panorama of things known. Dense with low
houses, the little riviera town fronted the sea in a
challenge, by now aimless, eyeing in placid ease the
submerged specters of Arab pirate ships, an age old habit,
and awakening slowly from the multitude of green shutters.
As he puffed his cigarette in the cool air the ash
brightened, for a moment almost transparent. A mile off
the coast, the large motor-yacht bobbed silently.
Two hours had gone by since the operation and the
surgeon was on the deck of the wide flat cruiser, by

appearance poorly maintained. Beneath were sleeping the
old and powerful 370 horsepower Sterling on-board diesels
which could launch it over the waves at nearly 60 nauts.
While he removed that object from the stomach of the
patient he had thought, at that very moment, there must
have been a man hidden in the stinking cabin of a fishing
vessel at some point on the coast; a man who would await
the outcome of the next night with the patience of a saint
and the conscience of a sinner, while hour after hour the
thought of a new car, of a designer watch was going to
grow inside him until the end of that long day; until,
hoped the surgeon, this man would know himself for certain
to have gone mad.
"There's nothing else to do for now," said Rachel,
approaching him, "other people would get involved, and we
don't want that. If you don't hear from me by one
o'clock, send the coordinates. After.....after, I'll
return along the coast just outside the port. I'll be here
by dark."
"You'll find it."
The woman descended by the rear ladder with fluid
movements. Her feet made no sound plunging into the
rubber raft. The winter sun, a few degrees above the
water, was by now clearing the ashen sky out of the gulf
and reflections formed little splashes of light over their
heads. The surgeon shut off the deck light and the signal
"One day," said the biologist, by now invisible below
deck, "one day they'll stop us."Even from the bridge, he
could smell her penetrating scent, a mix of sun block,
gas, disinfectant. He felt himself breath deeply,
"I know. You'll find it," he repeated containing his
uneasiness. "OK, whenever you're ready."
The motor started and the raft passed perpendicular to
the waves, toward the open sea. He stood listening to the
rumble until it was swallowed up by the sound of the
water. Then he opened his eyes, and fixed his gaze on the
sinister metal object in the palm of his hand. Some
In a corner of the cabin there was a fiberglass
container, with a cover attached by hinges and a little
spider inside. And far away, beyond the coastal
mountains, spread the cities with millions of inhabitants,
with traffic jams, streetlights, skyscrapers,
supermarkets, culverts and polluted air. The surgeon
turned to the tape recorder microphone. "Identity
confirmed as Billo, male, strenella [species of dolphin],
born in the Tyrrhenian sea."He paused, his face not
showing any emotion. He touched the swollen, blackish
contusions just above the front fins. The tips of his

fingers sunk in, leaving marks like teeth in the flesh.
"A damned weird thing," he said out loud. Then he rewound
the tape and stopped it at the end of the first sentence.
A shudder. The dolphin was fighting the light anesthetic.
Perhaps he would live. "I hate loosing," he thought, "it
holds no honor, especially when the defeated is an old

But he had thought about it, pushing away the anger,
and had discussed it with Rachel.

What had the scene been like? The site of the
execution. Everything always starts at night. The dolphin
was perhaps swimming near the tuna when it began to hear
the sound of the diesel engines. A fishing vessel, fast,
a mile away, maybe less. For him it was not difficult to
establish it the distance. He had approached just under
the surface, staring at the green and red navigation
lights. It was coming more or less in his direction,
angling, but would not have passed closer than half a mile
from him had he not decided to come closer. The water
lapped against the hull. The night was calm, quiet. The
man at the helm was perhaps drinking coffee, observing
radar and sonar. Meanwhile, kilometers of netting
descended under the surface of the water opening up like a
gigantic hand, ready to destroy, to suffocate. Billo had
gone under, perhaps made curious by the movement. A new
type of net, with many little sinkers fuzzy with hooks
that bit the water in every direction, made to thrash the
flesh, slow down the pray, make one lose even less time in
hauling it aboard....
With a sigh he sat at the vast table beside the still
sleeping dolphin and he flipped up the computer screen.
The Internet connection brought him to the offices of
naval registration. There she was, BLUE, and she had a
clean record, officially titled to a Liberian company.
Anonymous. The money earned in thirty years of work
allowed him this and more.
He cast a glance at the control panel of the radio
impulse display. He pushed a button and the screen lit up
with flashing white dots on a blue background. Dozens of
dolphins, in every part of the Mediterranean, were
carrying the minuscule transmitter. If a point stopped,
Blue went to see why. The surgeon pulled the bullet-like
object out of his pocket and spun it in his fingers. It
was light, very light. One of the hooks stuck in under the
skin of a fingertip. A drop of blood rose, dark and
thick. A strange, cursed nightmare, he thought. He
placed the object inside the anti radiation cylinder of
the metal analyzer. It was not lead, but aluminum; the
hooks were an alloy of titanium and stainless steel.

He transferred the data to the computer, from which they
passed to the sophisticated sonar under the hull. He set
the search radius at fifty nautical miles. Nothing left
but to wait. Then he returned to his patient.
He had been thrown back in the water as useless. Blue
had approached the old dolphin who was floating on his
side. They had pulled him aboard. To the surgeon it was
not important that the law had re-established dragnet
fishing rights. Justice was more important than the law.
At noon the wind came up. Clouds arrived from the west
to obscure the sky, and the air became cold as the sea
foamed with thousands of whitecaps. The winds blew in the
funnel of the waves; the sound propagated on the surface,
greeted the seagulls and reached the little fish within
the upper meter of water, all the while shouting in the
ears of mariners. And as the wind billowed the sails,
making them sing, it distanced itself toward the inland
mountains where it would arrive fragrant and refreshing.
The surgeon put on the yellow rain-gear and went out on
deck. The blood of the sea circulated in the currents,
transporting globules of multiform and varied life. Among
the intelligent organisms, the cetaceans distinguished
themselves: whales, orca, dolphins. They were the brains
of the immense marine body, at the top of the evolutionary
scale, and destined to rule it.
At around 3 o'clock the detector revealed gamma rays
emitted by the proper concentration of the three elements:
a mass of metal forty miles to the west, twenty from the
coast. The net had to contain hundreds of those
instruments of death. The surgeon grabbed the radio
microphone and set the proper channel.
"Yes," the voice came clear.
"We're there"
The surgical practice was precise and systematic, a
necessary violence. Extract a tumor, scrape out roots and
remnants. To remove the cancer from an otherwise healthy
body was not much different from striking a pirate ship,
because at the helm was a clump of insane cells which gave
death to the organism which permitted its existence.
She returned four hours after dark.
The raft came alongside, she climbed aboard. Tall and
athletic, she still wore the scuba suit.
He helped her get the gear off in the heated cabin
where she changed in silence, catching the aroma of the
vegetable soup which simmered in the galley.
"Sip of wine?"
"Maybe a little tonic water."
The glasses clinked musically
"Had a good trip?"
"A little bumpy on the way back."

"I'm not surprised," commented the surgeon, "there's a
storm arriving from Spain."
"I sank the ship."

Fleece coat and pants, bare feet, fine silver hair on a
rugged face.

"How's the dolphin?"
"He'll make it"

She had submerged with the explosive charges, magnetic
disks which she had attached under the boat. She had
given them a warning by radio: Five minutes to abandon
Through the transparency of his wine, the surgeon looked
at the object full of twisted hooks sitting on the wooden
"One day they will stop us," he said slowly.
"I know," she smiled.

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