The Manatee Army

16 August, 2011 at 17:41 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

He pressed his hand to her slightly clammy forhead, he couldn’t tell if she had much of a temperature today or not. He wished passionately his wife was there, she was so much better at this sort of thing than he was.

“You don’t have too much of a temperature today.” he said.

“It’s the manatees Daddy,” she said. “They took it away with them.”

He had to smile at that, he’d had no idea what a manatee was when he made up the first story of an invisible manatee army protecting his ill little girl, he’d just liked the word. As it turned out so had she and she’d demanded a picture of the strange creatures so she could better picture what her invisible army looked like. When he’d told her of the argument with the Dugong tribe that lived next door she’d asked for a picture as well. She had spent days, floating in a of fevered state of awareness, staring at the sea cows’ images until she had quite frightened him when she told him that she could ‘sort of see’ her army dancing their lucky get well dance around her bed.

“Tell me a story about the manatees, Daddy.”

He sat next to her on the bed and put one arm around her. It had become quite a refrain of hers. She especially liked the ones which ended with a manatee dance. Manatees’ dances were magical and caused all manner of ills to be fixed. It was by dancing that the manatees had taken away her temperature. It was also by dancing that they had eventually made peace with the Dugong tribe next door.

“Tell me where they took Mummy, Daddy.”

He was unable to speak for a moment. The question he’d been dreading had been already answered to be replaced by something unexpected. There was no doubt in her mind where Mummy had gone, the manatees, the answer to everything, had clearly taken her. But how could he tell her a manatee story when there was no happy ending?

She was looking up at him expectantly from the bed. He cleared his throat, wanting to explain to her that life on a remote island had seemed so exciting from the mainland, so romantic and that that was why they were here. He wanted to explain too that they hadn’t counted on meningitis, nor concentrating on the illness of their little girl to the exclusion of her mother.

He cleared his throat again.

“Once upon a time, when the manatee army was very busy they saw a very pretty lady who was very, very sick…”

One day, when she was older, he’d explain it all to her, but today there would be manatees instead.

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