Madison received a TJ Maxx giftcard for Christmas or her birthday and what the hell are clothes anyway? She headed straight to the sparse toy area in the story and found it: a ride-on inflatable whale. If you believe Madison, its name is Orca. Unbeknownst to her, however, I have dubbed the our new beach friend Chee Willy.
“We should have started working on this sooner,” Lynnette said a few minutes into inflating Chee Willy. Lynnette sat on the couch in the living room and worked her hand pump. Chee Willy lay limp and generally unimpressed on the carpet. Madison’s excitement and impatience manifested themselves in offers to help and physical contortions similar to jumping jacks. I did my part, lying on the floor blowing life into the much smaller tail – though no less important – section of Chee Willy’s frame.
We left the house before Chee Willy was fully inflated. Lynnette continued working her hand pump. She and Madison took turns inflating Chee Willy in the back seat. Over time, as I checked the rear view mirror or turned my head to check my blind spot, a smiling killer whale grew to obstruct my vision. The drive out to Ko’olina is somewhat lengthy, but Lynnette and I filled the time by lobbing thinly-veiled innuendo at each other. I will refrain from printing what my wife and I said. Suffice it to say, I love my wife. One of the reasons I fell in love with her is her willingness to play along with my stupid games. Chee! (Willy).
You may not know this, but I have an affinity for the killer whale that started in high school. My favorite player Rey Ordonez wore Nike cleats which I called “Orcas”. One summer before leaving on a baseball trip, my father asked me if I wanted anything. I told him I wanted these shoes. I loved them in part because Ordonez wore them, but also because they were hideous. I spent about a decade from 15 years old on wearing things specifically because they were hideous. To my surprise when he and Matty returned, they picked me up a pair. I never forgot that. I was so happy.
Second, I have always loved watching programs on National Geographic and Animal Planet which center on predators and their prey. Oddly, these programs highlight one of the biggest differences between Lynnette and me: she always wants the prey to escape, I always hope the predator gets his meal. Anyway, during the formative years of my life, I watched a program focusing on the hunting methods of killer whales. They attacked the shore under the cover of waves. They knocked at ice floes to shake of their prey. They played with their food. I was mesmerized. Since then, I’ve considered the killer whale as one of the most skilled hunters in the animal kingdom.
Finally, there’s this:
I saw this episode once during high school and it always stuck with me. I loved the absurdity of the it. No pool, just a water hose to keep the killer whale alive. And then three guys carry it away, presumably back to Sea World. Most of all, though, I loved the subdued “woo-woo” noise the whale made. When I became a leader at Pearl City District Park Summer Fun, I modified this noise into a louder, more drawn-out version and used it to call my group to order. Whenever I made the noise, they were to repeat it back to me and fall into line. You’d be surprised how well it worked. “What noise is that?” one of my junior leaders asked. “It’s the noise a whale makes,” I said. “No, it’s not!” she said. “Yeah it is, but we only hear what whale noises sound like underwater,” I said. Her eyes narrowed. “That’s what a whale sounds when it isn’t distorted by water.” She didn’t believe me. But she could offer no counter.
Madison loves Chee Willy. The only downside, she says, is that she can’t paddle with her arms or kick with her feet and stay on the whale. She’s basically adrift when riding on Chee Willy. Lynnette spent most of the day cruising on Chee Willy’s tail and making sure Madison didn’t drift into open ocean. It’s a good thing, too. Because as much as Madison, Lynnette, and I enjoyed Chee Willy’s presence at the beach today, there was someone who probably didn’t: