Grace and Tranquility



Grace and Tranquility are recent graduates of Swan Training School and are back in Yellowstone National park as new members of swan society. Their job is to swim the quiet rivers of the park, displaying all the qualities of mature young adults, preening, posing gently in the smooth backwaters of the river bends, projecting an air of beauty and refinement you’ve come to expect from swans.

Those of you who are quick studies will notice that Grace is doing what she was trained to do but Tranquility, her classmate, seems to be missing. This is unfortunate because swans, although beautiful when seen alone are of course doubly beautiful when displayed in pairs and the normal procedure would be for the two of them to show up at their appointed places and work the river together.

It seems that Tranquility, always a willful child had a few problems at Swan Training school and nearly missed her graduation due to some disciplinary problems. A quick note here. Sometime, back around the first of last year, we at The Institute made a startling discovery of the existence of the Swan Training School and wrote about it after infiltrating the school to get the inside story of how young swans are made. You can read about it here . The training we found was harsh and rigorous. It’s a difficult road for young swans and the molding process used at the school is designed to break down individuality and force a form of collective thinking that produces a “Finished Swan”. Many make it through but some don’t. Tranquility was one that had some trouble.

The training nuns of Our Sisters of the Immaculate Plumage, the nuns who run the school, despaired of Tranquility ever being able to graduate. They were quite firm with her and found her resistant to many of the aspects of swan training despite the measures used to get her “to get her mind right”. Finally they resorted to extreme training procedures, ones similar to those used in a large celebrity religion where there was shunning coupled with intense group crisis intervention methods, until nearly at her breaking point Tranquility agreed to be a “Good” swan. Nervous but convinced they had reached her, the nuns of the Fallen Plumage allowed her to graduate.

One of the events the recently graduated swans look forward to is Spring Break. They’re allowed to spend the two weeks prior to reporting for swan duty to attend the mass gathering of all the young swans at Padre Island and there enjoy the fellowship of their peers, laughing and singing and frolicking in the Texas sun. Being young swans they are expected to comport themselves in a manner that reflects well on swandom in general, which of course most of them do. But then there’s Tranquility.

It was a bad idea to send Tranquility on Spring Break. She fell in with some bad swans. Some really bad swans. Swans that had gone to Spring Break several years ago and never left. Once Tranquility met these kindred souls there was no looking back. Grace did her best to try and convince her to return and take up her life as a Yellowstone swan but her entreaties fell on deaf ears, Tranquility had found her place. Grace left soon after, winging her way back north until she reached the Yellowstone river, assuming her place as a  resident swan in a quiet stretch of river as it flows through the Hayden valley.

Tranquility on the other hand is still down at Padre. She works part-time in an Ink shop called the Quill and Skin pushing tats on unsuspecting young swans who will probably never make it back to their places either. She is very different appearing now and her ex-classmates and the nuns who taught her would never recognize her. She has dyed her wings feathers an emerald-green on one side and fire engine red on the other. Her peers have named her Traffic Stopper. Her long neck is shaven down one side to better display the Kanji tattooed there, the symbols supposedly saying her name, Tranquility, but due to a session with a drunken tattoo artist they say Hotel Bicycle instead. This was pointed out to her, but high on several prescription pain killers she simply shook her beak rings in irritation and went on her way. To her they will always say Tranquility.

Grace on the other hand can still be found at that very wide bend in the river, the one near Mt Mary trail, arriving every spring to take up her place and display the beauty and of course the grace of swans. She thinks of Tranquility often, wondering what her life is like now, but hasn’t had any contact with her since that fateful trip graduation year. Tranquility has been invited to the 3 and 5 year reunions held at the swan school but so far has not responded to any of them. The nuns presume her lost.