Third place: Asshole Dolphin by Jeremy Glazer

I know you people think all dolphins are great, but believe me, Meg is a straight up asshole. I should know. I have to work with her every goddam day, swimming around this shitty lagoon in Key Largo, rickshawing tourists on our backs for two minutes a pop. Meg is a total fucking sell-out collaborator. It’s dolphins like her that keep the rest of us down.

See, I think most people wouldn’t keep this whole animals-as-servants system going if they knew how much we hated it. That’s exactly why I tried to organize a little wildcat strike last year. The plan was to get us all to stop mid-ride and take our passengers under for a few seconds—not enough to hurt anyone, but just to make it clear that we’re not down with this whole situation. We needed solidarity for the plan to work though, and of course Meg wasn’t on board. She’s a company girl. 

When she said she wouldn’t do it, I almost whacked my tail into that fucked-up snout of hers. Charles held me back. It’s her ace, that crooked mouth. It doesn’t quite close, so it makes her look like she’s always smiling. That’s why she’s the favorite. Our handlers always have her do the introductory lap when people come in the lagoon because she makes it seem like we’re all so goddam happy to be here. Total bullshit. 

And Meg takes advantage of her status. She gets first dibs on who she’ll carry because after that welcome lap, she’s allowed to go over and wait by whichever person she wants. Charles and I get stuck with the leftovers. Charles is a dumbass, so he doesn’t care, but it pisses me off every time because I understand how clever Meg is. She knows people. She can see into them. And it’s not just the embryos and the tumors and the broken bones she sees—we all can do that. Meg actually looks into their souls. She somehow can spot and avoid those super-clingy riders, the ones who pay to swim with a dolphin because they don’t have enough love in their life or something. It took me a long time to figure out that the hardest rides to give aren’t about the size or weight of the passenger—they’re about longing. And Meg always leaves those longing-ass motherfuckers for us. It’s like she’s got a seventh sense or something.

I thought I had finally gotten the best of her one day last month. Charles was getting examined by the veterinarians, so it was just me and Meg. They put two morons in the lagoon right at the edge, a man and a woman. I spotted the woman’s cancer before Meg did. The lady’s insides were completely full, and I know those sick ones are the absolute worst. They are needy-times-ten, living out their bucket list, gripping you heavily as they try to look deeply into your eyes. I always feel like they’re pulling me to the bottom with them, and I wanted no part of it with this woman. Before the trainer could whistle for Meg’s parade lap, I hightailed it over to the man, cutting in front of Meg.

The trainers got the guy latched on to me and then they got the woman on Meg and we started the ride. I laughed to myself for the whole two minutes, even though Meg didn’t seem to be having a particularly hard time. I figured maybe the woman was Buddhist or something and at peace with her own impending doom. 

When the ride was over, I dropped my guy and swam away, but Meg wouldn’t let the woman out of the water. The lady had let go of Meg’s dorsal and was hanging on to the edge, but instead of swimming away, Meg had turned around and just kept nuzzling the woman’s belly with her janky-ass snout. I thought Meg was just trying to be cute, angling for more fish, but when she gave me the side eye, I should have known she was playing three-dimensional chess while I was playing checkers. 

The trainer finally pulled Meg off and gave his usual spiel to the lady about how dolphins are like swimming MRIs. He told her about the time one of our colleagues kept poking at the wife of a newly married couple until the bride finally had to admit she was pregnant and hadn’t yet told her husband. 

The trainer told Meg’s passenger that she should go get an ultrasound, just in case, a line which usually gets a laugh from women in their fifties. This time he got crickets. The couple didn’t say a word, just looked at each other. I figured they were too polite to tell the trainer that the woman was dying because it would have made him feel like the shithead he actually is. But I was completely wrong. 

This morning, the couple came back with TV cameras and everything. Turned out, they hadn’t known about the tumors, but because of one terrific dolphin, it looks like they caught the cancer in time. Everyone’s making a huge deal about what a hero Meg is and about the special bond between our two species. 

Special bond, my ass. 

Meg is over by the side of the lagoon, and they’re filming her doing stupid tricks and letting Tumor Woman pet her and give her kisses. She’s getting a boatload of extra fish for it, and Charles is hanging around, hoping for some scraps. 

And me? I’m just swimming circles at the far end, trying to plot my fucking escape.

Devious. Refreshing. Snarky. And, above all else, FUN. Humor isn’t always nuanced but it is here, and you simply cannot wait to follow more devilish dolphin adventures. 

jj Peña

Loved the candid voice of the dolphin! It was surprising, funny and I found the point of view refreshing. It’s not easy to do ‘funny’ in flash and I thought this piece achieved it nicely!

Susmita Bhattacharya

Jeremy Glazer is a writer and educator. His fiction has appeared in Tablet, Bellevue Literary Review, Tahoma Literary Review, and on the public radio program WLRN Under the Sun. He lives in Philadelphia and teaches at Rowan University. He’s working on a collection of short stories in and around schools.


Published by FJ Morris

Author & Director of Oxford Flash Fiction Prize. West Country bumpkin who can't kill anything but characters. Loves to grow big stories and big plants. Always looking for omens and four leaf clovers.

One thought on “Third place: Asshole Dolphin by Jeremy Glazer

  1. “She knows people. She can see into them. And it’s not just the embryos and the tumors and the broken bones she sees—we all can do that. Meg actually looks into their souls.”

    That sort of writing rips into me. Mr. Glazer, as a writer, is the detached, cynical narrator but also the third-eye of Meg. The psychological mind-fuck between the two is fascinating.

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