Los Angeles Wildlife

by Claire Stringer

I had to bring my stuffed whale with me onto
the boat. Who else would I talk to,
with my parents on one side,
and their giant friend and his little tot
on the other?

With the sleek blue fleece pressed into my sweaty fsh
palms, I worried that my friend might get sucked under
the railing in the drizzle, tossed into the stormy sea,
like an unreceived life saver –- not
the minty kind that my dad always carried
in his chest pocket.

I hugged my whale close, my eyes wet
from the gusty winds and fixated
upon the big lug of a man, as he chewed
his food, and then spat it out
and fed it to the baby on his lap.

The infant crawled more liberally
about the ship than I would have liked.
The boat teetered and swayed
like those carnival rides I feared,
the rail containing us with as much promise shvl
as an old rubber band. I affixed
my body to my seat with a light sweat,
my soft whale
to my tightening chest.

After her venture about the boat,
inspecting the perimeter
like a sheepdog, the baby girl returned
to throw up all over her father’s pants.
He held her over the ship’s edge,
to look at the magnificent gray whale
that had just surfaced, docking
right next to us in the middle
of the sea.

His jeans were mottled with vomit,
the rough white floor painted
with twice-regurgitated carrot, and I
was far too nervous about falling into the murky,
surging spume to even consider rising from my seat.

Claire Stringer sometimes even eats oatmeal for dinner AND dessert.