Hard up for cash, the whales began renting out their stomachs to summer vacationers. It was a novelty, staying in the belly of a whale, like the teepee-shaped motels that still exist off the highways in some parts of Arizona. The whales would come right up to the shore and allow tourists to step into their patiently opened mouths, drag wheeled suitcases and whining children over their plankton-flecked baleens. At night, the hastily installed generators—for the tourists’ laptops and hair dryers and light fixtures—caused the whales to hum and glow like bobbing lanterns at the edge of the beach. By day, the whales huddled in pods as their tenants splashed and sunbathed, occasionally summoning one of the animals over so a pair of flip-flops or sunglasses could be retrieved. The older whales refused to participate, at first, in what they perceived to be a grave wound to the species’ dignity, but they died off or came around as the young whales gained influence, their pockets flush with easy money.
Cassandra de Alba, The Whales
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