فصل 02

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فصل 02

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  • زمان مطالعه 10 دقیقه
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CHAPTER TWO

Far Out to Sea

The old man dreamed of Africa when he was a boy and the long, golden beaches. He lived along that coast now every night and in his dreams he heard the surf roar and saw the native boats come riding through it. As he slept he smelled the smell of Africa that the land breeze brought in the morning.

He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great events, nor of great fish, nor of fights, nor of contests of strength, nor of his wife. Now he only dreamed of places and of the lions on the beach. They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved their, as he loved the boy. He never dreamed about the boy.

He woke up, looked out the open door at the moon and unrolled his trousers and put them on. He went up the road to wake the boy. The door of the house where the boy lived was unlocked and the old man opened it and walked in quietly. He took hold of the boy’s foot gently and held it until the boy woke and turned and looked at him. The old man nodded and the boy took his trousers from the chair by the bed and, sitting on the bed, pulled them on.

The old man went out the door and the boy came after him. He was sleepy and the old man put his arm across his shoulders and said. “I am sorry.”

“Que va,” the boy said. “It is what a man must do.”

They walked down the road to the old man’s shack and all along the road, in the dark, barefoot men were moving, carrying the masts of their boats.

When they reached the old man’s shack the boy took the rolls of lute in the basket, the harpoon and gaff, and the old man carried the mast with the furled sail on his shoulder.

“Do you want coffee?” the boy asked.

“We’ll put the gear in the boat and then get some.”

They had coffee from condensed-milk cans at an early morning place that served fishermen.

“How did you sleep, old man?” the boy asked. He was waking up now although it was still hard for him to leave his sleep.

“Very well, Manolin,” the old man said. “I feel confident today.”

“So do I.” the boy said. “Now I must get your sardines and mine and your fresh baits.”

“I’ll be right back.” the boy said. “Have another coffee. We have credit here.”

The old man drank his coffee slowly. It was all he would have all day and he knew that he should drink it. For a long time now eating had bored him and he never carried a lunch. He had a bottle of water in the bow of the skiff and that was all he needed for the day.

The boy was back now with the sardines and the two baits, and they went down to the skiff, feeling the pebbled sand under their feet. They lifted the skiff and slid her into the water.

“Good luck, old man.”

“Good luck,” the old man said.

He fitted the rope lashings of the oars onto the thole pins and, leaning forward, he began to row out of the harbor in the dark. There were other boats going out to sea and the old man heard the dip and push of their oars even though he could not see them.

The old man knew he was going far out and he left the smell of the laud behind and rowed out into the clean early morning smell of the ocean.

In the dark the old man could feel the morning coming and as he rowed he heard the sound of flying fish leaving the water. He was very fond of flying fish as they were his principal friends on the ocean. He was sorry for the birds, especially the small delicate dark terns that were always flying and looking and almost never finding. And he thought, the birds have a harder life than we do except for the robber birds and the heavy strong ones. Why did they make birds so delicate and fine as those sea swallows when the ocean can be so cruel? She is kind and very beautiful. But she can be so cruel.

He always thought of the sea as la mar which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things about her but they always speak of the sea as though she were a woman. Some of the younger fishermen, who had motorboats, speak of her as el mar which is masculine. They speak of her as a contestant or a place or even as an enemy. But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favors, and if She did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.

He was rowing steadily and it was no effort for him.

“Today I’ll row out where the schools of albacore are and maybe there will be a big one with them.”

Before it was really light he had his four baits out at different depths and he was drifting with the current. There was no part of the hook that a great fish could feel which was not sweet-smelling and good-tasting.

The boy had given him two small fresh tunas which hung on the two deepest lines and on the others, he had a big blue runner and a yellow jack. Each line was as thick as a big pencil and was looped onto a stick so that any pull or touch on the bait would make the stick dip.

Now the old man rowed gently to keep the lines straight and at their proper depths. The sun rose thinly from the sea and the old man could see the other boats, low on the water and well in toward the shore. He looked down into the water and watched the lines that went straight down into the dark water. He kept them straighter titan any other fisherman.

I keep them with precision, he thought. Only I have no luck anymore. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.

Just then he saw a man-of-war bird with his long black wings circling in the sky ahead of him. He made a quick drop and then circled again.

“He’s got something,” the old man said aloud. “He’s not just looking.”

“Dolphin,” the old man said aloud. “Big dolphin.”

As the old man watched, a small tuna rose in the air, turned and dropped into the water. Another and another rose and they were leaping in long jumps alter the bait. After a while the stern line became taut under his foot.

He dropped his oars and felt the weight of the small tuna’s shivering pull. He could see the fish in the water as he pulled it in. The old man hit him on the head for kindness and kicked him under the stern.

“Albacore,” he said aloud. “He’ll make a beautiful bait.”

He did not remember when he first started talking to himself. Probably when the boy had left him, but he did not remember.

The sun was hot now and the old man felt it on the back of his neck, and felt the sweat trickle down his back as he rowed. Just then, watching his lines, he saw one of the projecting green sticks dip sharply.

“Yes.” he said. “Yes,” and he moved his oars inside the boat. He reached out for the line and held it delicately between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand.

Then it came again. This time it was a tentative pull and he knew exactly what it was. One hundred fathoms below a marlin was eating the sardines that covered the point of the hook.

This far out, he must be huge, he thought. Eat them, fish. Please eat them. He felt the light delicate pull and then a harder pull when a sardine’s head must have been more difficult to break from the hook. Then there was nothing.

“Come on,” the old man said aloud. “Just smell them. Aren’t they lovely? Eat them now and then there is the tuna. Don’t be shy, fish. Eat them.”

Then he felt something hard and unbelievably heavy. It was the weight of the fish and he let the line slip down, down, down. Now he was ready. He had three forty-fathom coils of line in reserve, as well as the coil he was using.

“Eat it a little more.” he said. “Eat it well.”

Eat it so that the point of the hook goes into your heart and kills you, he thought. Come up easy and let me put the harpoon into you. Are you ready? Have you been at the table long enough?

“Now!” he said aloud and struck hard with both hands, gained a yard of line and then struck again and again, swinging with all the strength of his arms and the weight of his body.

Nothing happened. The fish just moved away slowly and the old man could not raise him an inch. The boat began to move slowly toward the northwest. The fish moved steadily and they traveled slowly on the calm water.

“I wish I had the boy,” the old man said aloud. “I’m being towed by a fish. I must hold him all I can and give him the line when he wants it. Thank God he is traveling and not going down.”

Four hours later the fish was still swimming out to sea, towing the skiff, and the old man was still braced solidly with the line across his back.

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