فصل 05

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فصل 05

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CHAPTER FIVE

Shark Attack

He took all his pain and what was left of his strength and his long-gone pride and he put it against the fish’s agony.

The fish came over onto his side and swam gently and started to pass the boat.

The old man dropped the line and put his foot on it and lifted the harpoon as high as he could and drove it down with all his strength into the fish’s side just behind the great chest fin. He felt the iron go in and he leaned on it and drove it further and then pushed all his weight after it.

Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty. He seemed to hang in the air above the old man in the skiff. Then he fell into the water with a crash.

The old man felt faint and sick and he could not see well. But he cleared the harpoon line and let it run slowly through his raw hands and when he could see, he saw the fish was on his back with his silver belly up. The shaft of the harpoon was projecting at an angle from the fish’s shoulder and the sea was red with the blood from his heart. The fish was silvery and still and floated with the waves. The old man laid his head on his hands.

“Keep my head clear,” he said. “I am a tired old man. But I have killed this fish which is my brother and now I must do the slave work.”

Now I must prepare the rope to tie him alongside the skiff, he thought. This skiff will never hold him.

He started to pull the fish in to have him alongside the skiff. I want to see him, he thought, and to touch and to feel him. He is my fortune, he thought. But that is not why I wish to feel him. I think I felt his heart when I pushed on the harpoon the second time. Bring him in now and get the noose around his tail and another around his middle to tie him to the skiff.

“Get to work, old man,” he said. He took a very small drink of water.

“There is much slave work to do now that the fight is over.”

He looked up at the sky and then out to his fish.

“Come on, fish,” he said. But the fish did not come, instead he lay there and the old man pulled the skiff up to him.

When the fish’s head was against the bow he could not believe his size.

“It was the only way to kill him,” the old man said, he was feeling better and his head was clear, he’s over fifteen hundred pounds, he thought. Maybe much more.

“I think the great DiMaggio would be proud of me today.”

He fastened the fish, to the bow, to the stem and to the middle thwart. He was so big it was like lashing a much bigger skiff alongside. He could see the fish and he had only to look at his hands and feel his back against the stem to know that this had truly happened and was not a dream.

They were sailing together lashed side by side and the old man thought, let him bring me in if it pleases him. I am only better than him through trickery and he meant me no harm.

It was an hour before the first shark hit him. The shark had come up from deep down in the water as the dark cloud of blood had settled and dispersed in the mile-deep sea. He had come up so fast that he broke the surface of the blue water and was in the sun. Then he fell back into the sea and picked up the scent and started following the skiff and the fish.

Sometimes he lost the scent. But he would pick it up again and he swam fast and hard. He was a very big Mako shark built to swim as fast as the fastest fish in the sea and everything about him was beautiful except his jaws. His back was as blue as a swordfish’s and his belly was silver and his hide was smooth and handsome. Inside the closed double lip of his jaws all of his eight rows of teeth were slanted inwards. They were not the ordinary pyramid-shaped teeth of most sharks. They wore shaped like a man’s fingers when they are curled like claws. They were nearly as long as the fingers of the old man and they had razor-sharp cutting edges on both sides.

When the old man saw him coming he knew that this was a shark that had no fear at all and would do exactly what he wished. He prepared the harpoon and the rope while he watched the shark come forward.

The old man’s head was clear and good now and he was full of resolution but he had little hope. It was too good to last, he thought, it might as well have been a dream. I cannot keep him from hitting me but maybe I can get him. Dentuso, he thought. Bad luck to your mother.

When the shark hit the fish the old man saw his mouth open and his strange eyes. He heard the clicking sound of the teeth as he tore into the meat just above the tail. He rammed the harpoon down into the shark’s head and into his brain. He hit it with his bloody hands driving the harpoon with all his strength. He hit it without hope but with resolution and complete malignancy.

The shark swung over and the old man saw his eye was not alive. The old man knew that he was dead but the shark would not accept it. It ploughed over the water as a speed boat does. Then he lay quietly for a little while and went down very slowly.

“He took about forty pounds and my harpoon,” the old man said. He did not like to look at the fish any more since he had been mutilated. When the fish had been hit it was as though he himself were hit.

It was too good to last, he thought. I wish it had been a dream now and that I had never hooked the fish and was alone in bed on the newspapers.

“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” I am sorry that I killed the fish though, he thought. Now the bad time is coming and I do not even have the harpoon.

“Don’t think, old man,” he said aloud. “Sail on and take it when it comes.”

He knew quite well the pattern of what could happen when he readied the inner part of the current. But there was nothing to be done now.

“Yes, there is,” he said aloud. “I can lash my knife to the butt of one of the oars.”

So he did that.

“Now, I am still an old man. But I am not unarmed.”

He watched only the forward part of the fish and some of his hope returned.

It is silly not to hope, he thought. Besides I believe it is a sin. Do not think about sin. There are enough problems now without sin.

I have no understanding of it and I am not sure that I believe in it. Perhaps it was a sin to kill the fish. I suppose it was though I did it to keep me alive and feed many people. But then everything is a sin. Do not think about sin. You were born to be a fisherman.

You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?

But you enjoyed killing the dentuso, he thought.

“I killed him in self-defense,” the old man said aloud. “And I killed him well.”

Besides, he thought, everything kills everything else in some way. Fishing kills me exactly as it keeps me alive. The boy keeps me alive. I must not deceive myself too much.

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