Whale Daze ‘72

When the sperm whale carcass washed up onshore we held a festival we called “Whale Daze ‘72!” There were games and rides and whale-shaped funnel cakes. There were trick shots and bearded ladies. There was a tilt-a-whirl and a chili cook-off. There were ill- attended readings of Moby Dick.
The whale seemed embarrassed by all the fuss. It hid its head in the sand and rotted. With no head we thought it looked like a mini-Hindenburg. Oh, the whalemanity! we cried. We leaned against the whale and tried to look the way Steve McQueen would look if he were leaning against a dead whale.
After a week the whale deflated. Its skin began peeling off like steamed wallpaper. Clusters of ants plugged the holes like living bandages. It smelled real bad.
We held our breath. We abandoned the beach. We took to the hills and watched the whale with binoculars. We waited for it to make its move.
Finally the sheriff borrowed an engineer from the National Guard. They drove out in a dune buggy. The sheriff and the engineer drilled one hundred and twenty holes in the whale. They filled each hole with a stick of dynamite. The engineer twisted the fuses
together like he was making a balloon animal.
The explosion went okay. Vertebrae shrapnel shattered our windows and slabs of blubber crushed our cars, but the beach was clear. Whale slurry coated our skin and tangled our hair, but nobody died.
Chunks of whale remained for months, though. At first they repulsed us. Then they became part of the community like anything else. When they were finally gone we checked our watches. Where does the time go, we asked one another. Remember the whale?

Christian Hayden lives and writes in Chicago, IL. He is the winner of the 2013 William Richey Short Fiction Contest. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Word Riot, Yemassee, decomP, Buffalo Almanack, and others.